Digital Original: Your First Marketing Customer Should Be You

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?

Proactive Marketing

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.

You don’t have to becoming a marketing service provider to make money in the printing business. If you just use the tools you have around you to communicate with your customers, you will be ahead of your competition. But the key is to have that personal contact so customers can put a name and face with the information they are receiving. The personal contact lets the customer know they are dealing with a professional.

Microsoft Publisher Still Strong

The Microsoft Publisher Service Provider Program was changed with the release of Publisher 2007. Commercial printers can’t get a free copy of Publisher anymore, but Microsoft is still providing support to professional printers. Printers with Publisher problems can get special help online. Microsoft has two sites that offer information and provide direct support. If you have a problem with Publisher you can visit and for help. Microsoft promotes the use of PDF when submitting a Publisher file to a commercial printer.

Most customers providing printers with digital files are not trained graphic designers nor do they have printing experience. It is up to printers to teach their customers the correct way to submit files. My recommendation: Have someone on staff who knows Publisher and then have them train the customer. A blog site and Twitter can be good tools to get information to customers about how to use Publisher to create files for commercial printing.

MacFixIt Now Free

MacFixIt, an online source of information on Mac-related repair and troubleshooting advice is now available free. CNET recently purchased MacFixIt and plans to expand the information available at the site. The URL for the new site is

Businesses Slow To Adopt Social Networking

Social networking may be getting a lot of ink, but businesses are slow to adopt it as a marketing resource. Discover Financial Services’ Small Business Watch recently took a poll that asked how businesses use social media. It reported that only 38% of those responding were members of online social networking communities. Only about 45% of those who did belong used it to promote their business. If the poll is representative of small business, printers will still have to use other means to get leads. A simple and inexpensive way to find out what businesses are around you is to use Google Search. Search for a type of business that typically uses printing, and see who is close to you but not using your services. Just find your location on the Google map and then use the “Search Nearby” feature. You may be surprised by how much business is right in your neighborhood and you didn’t know it. When you click on “More Information” you can find out if the company has a Web presence.

John Giles is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList.” He is Technology Director for CPrint International. Contact him at 954/224-1942 or You can also find John on (Search for JohnG247) and You can also visit his website at and link to his blog.