When was the last time you made a sales call? I’m not talking about a delivery where you happened to see the buyer and ask them about new business. I’m talking about an appointment with the key people in your customer’s business to talk about what new services you could give them.
The reason I ask is that printers are talking about how they are going to increase their sales by using social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to “market” their services. What they aren’t talking about is the sales calls they are making to their new contacts. Are printers counting a “tweet” as a sales call? Social networking is great if you will follow up on the contacts you make with a real world sales call and ask for new business.
The real purpose of the social networks is to serve as a lead generator. You can join these networks and begin building relationships with other members in the group. Hopefully, the association can lead to more business.
Some printers expect the social contacts they make to break their door down bringing in orders. In reality, it will be up to the printer to get out of his office and make a face-to-face contact with the customer. Of course, some printers have developed customers over the Internet, but they have never met them. However, this is the exception; not the rule. The social network gives the printer enough information about the prospect so the sales call won’t be a true cold call. The printer can use the relationship that was started online as the foundation for turning the prospect into a buyer.
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 about 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. One of the most surprising facts was that 62% of the small business owners reported they do not have a website for 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 is to use Google Search. Search for a type of businesses that typically use printing, and see what 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 that you didn’t know about.
If you are worried about what to talk about with the customers, just look around you. You should have a website that will make buying printing easier for the customer. You should have information on how your customer can submit files, eliminate problems, and cut costs. You should have customer portals and Web-to-print services. You should be offering variable data services. Today’s printer has more to talk about than just price, quality, and service.
Don’t fall into the trap that some printers do and believe that the Internet is the answer to all your sales problems. As Discover’s poll shows, only half of the businesses really use the Internet. The other half still work the old fashion way. You will be making your contacts with them at your local Chamber of Commerce, clubs, business organization, and churches.
Printers will want to talk with customers about all the costs related to ordering printing. In a recession, everyone is concerned about lowering their costs. Lowering costs is more than just cutting prices. You need to tell customers how you can help them. It might be beneficial for the customer to order smaller quantities with more printer follow-up to assure the customer doesn’t run out. You might want to teach a customer how to create his own files to help lower prepress costs. The document libraries can help customers centralize their printing and reduce the related administrative costs. Printers should be looking to help the customer save money with the ordering process.