Digital Original: You Can't Tweet Your Way to Profitability

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.

How Social?

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.

Think Creatively

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.

For most customers, the cost of printing is more than just the cost of putting ink on paper. Be creative and offer customers ideas and examples of how your services can reduce their overall costs. Just broaching the subject will help raise your value in the mind of the customer.

You don’t want to let customers guess what you do. You don’t want to have to guess what customers need. You don’t want to hope they read the mailing you sent them. You want to get in front of them with your message. Ask any print industry consultant and they will tell you the best salesperson is the owner. If the owner is networking in both the cyber world and the real world, and then getting out to see customers and prospects to ask for new business, then the company has a strong chance of surviving the recession. If the owner just sits in his office, makes deliveries, or becomes bogged down in production, the company’s chance of success drops dramatically.

Having Publisher Problems?

Even though Microsoft Publisher has gotten easier for printers to work with over the years, some printers still have some issues. Markzware has upgraded it Publisher to InDesign conversion software. The Adobe InDesign user simply clicks on “File” in the toolbar, then “Open,” and selects the appropriate Microsoft Publisher file for conversion. This simple two-step process initiates the conversion and opens the document in Adobe InDesign. The solution can help a printer avoid having to recreate the document from the ground up. The program costs $200. The company offers special discounts if you purchase the application bundled with their other conversion solutions.

Font Problems Resolved

Smasher 1.7 is a preventive maintenance utility that helps Apple Macintosh computers eliminate corruption to font caches and temporary files. This is the number one cause of font related problems and workflow interruptions. Insider Software, maker of FontAgent Pro, says it has improved Smasher’s support for Adobe Creative Suite 4, QuarkXpress 8, and Microsoft Office 2008. According to the company, this is the only program that runs automatically to help avoid font problems. The program costs $49.95 and is available from www.insidersoftware.com.

Check Printer Offers Business Services

Deluxe just doesn’t print checks anymore. The company is offering a variety of services to small business, including logo design, website development and hosting, direct mail campaigns, social networking, promotional items, business forms, and signage.

The company’s latest offering is a free email marketing tool called EasyContact. Its aim is to make it easier for small businesses to do email marketing. EasyContact allows users to send to 100 email contacts per month for free. Additional plans allowing users to expand their mailings to a larger group are priced below the competition.

Deluxe expects small business owners to use EasyContact to create e-newsletters, special promotions, event announcements, and general business updates. To find out more, visit www.deluxe.com.

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

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