Ever wonder what you should be saying to a printing customer? How do you start a dialog without sounding dry and boring? Are you tired of asking, “You don’t have any printing today, do you?”
Questions should generate a conversation that is a two way street. You want to find out what your customer does and the customer wants to find out what you do. A good question to use would be, “What printed material do you use to communicate to your customers?” That question would be quickly followed by, “May I see samples?”
As the customer outlines what he uses to communicate, a printer will see what printing is done, how often it is done, and find out how effective it is. A savvy printer should be able to identify what printed communication products might be missing, how the current printed products can be improved, and how the printed products can be coordinated to provide a bigger impact on the customer.
What? No newsletter? That might be something that would help the customer sell more. Are all of the customer’s products described in one brochure? Perhaps a brochure should be created for single products so the reader is less confused and the product can be more targeted. Are post cards needed? Is everything printed in one- or two-color? Would it have more impact in full color? Does the printed matter match the website? Is the design coordinated with everything in the company? Getting the conversation going can allow a printer to point out a number of services that he could provide, including graphic design.
At the same time, the printer can be demonstrating his expertise. The printer should be able to provide the customer with samples of what he is using to communicate with his own customers. The printer can lead by example. If a printer is going to talk about printing marketing pieces for a customer, he should have his own marketing materials to show as examples.
When was the last time you asked yourself “What printed materials does my company use to communicate with customers?” What marketing materials do you have? What printed pieces do you use to tell your customers about your company and ask them for the business? Does your printed material make you look like a professional printer?
The recent Print 09 show in Chicago again touted the need for printers to become marketing service providers and to add an array of variable data and mailing services to the product mix. Yet most printers I visit don’t have any marketing materials for their own printing companies. How can a printer begin to promote his company as a “marketing service provider” when he can’t even get his own mailing out on a monthly basis or use any of the marketing tools he wants to sell?
The printers who are successful in becoming market service providers aren’t successful because they have new products and services to sell. It is because they actually use the marketing products to promote their own businesses. Successful printers put pressure on the market with direct mailings, 1:1 printing, personalized URLs, multi-channel marketing, cross media promotions, and transpromo activities. But they also do one other thing that is lacking in the printing industry at large. They actually get out in front of the customer on sales calls, demonstrate their expertise, and sell something.
Making a delivery and asking the receptionist if she needs any printing isn’t a sales call. Sending out an occasional newsletter and hoping that someone will call or stop by the store isn’t marketing. Just visiting potential customers without a plan isn’t going to bring work into the shop on a regular basis. If that is all you’re doing, you are just going to have to hope you get lucky.
During the recent downturn in the economy, I have worked with some printers who continue to succeed. They are succeeding by keeping pressure on their markets with marketing and advertising. They are targeting the customers they want. They are using the Internet to help develop their prospect lists and to deliver targeted information. They are on the telephone daily setting up appointments to get in front of customers and learn about their printing needs. They are networking through local organizations, Twitter, and LinkedIn.