Owner to Owner: Tracking the Year of Potential, Part 3

Highlight Printing owner Lisa Bickford set a goal to build her company’s sales by 35% this year. In this series of every-other-month articles, which will conclude in January 2010, she shares her strategies, setbacks, and successes.

Still hopeful…still workin’ it hard…and not hit as badly as most printers. I guess that’s really it in a nutshell. Here we sit on the cusp of month five in this series of articles, and I need to take a deep breath and share with you all that has happened, where we are now, our goals for the rest of the year, and how we plan to accomplish them.

Where we’ve been these last 2 months:
Business: While we seem to be getting a new client or so every week, June and July were our two crummiest months of the year so far. We are almost certainly not going to hit our 35% growth goal for this year. And although I have not given up complete hope of that (it would really only take a few new solid accounts), we would have a lot of ground to make up in order to accomplish that feat. Truthfully, at this point, we would feel like huge winners in the marketplace if we came out even with last year—which we still believe is attainable.

We had to make the tough decision to trim staff a bit, including one salesperson (great guy; bad timing to get started in print sales). I am sure the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is not unique in this, but there are consolidations, shop-closures, and re-organizations going on all around us. We are not and will not be one of them.

Sales/Marketing/Strategic Planning: We’re still working our tails off in these areas. The two big things we have done in the last two months are to launch a weekly e-newsletter and create two business alliances—one with a promotional products company and one with a Web development company.

We have done a good job keeping up with our online networking and online marketing, but could be doing a better job of blogging. Our in-person networking efforts have been rewarding and are paying off, but we are spread quite thin.

Our goal for this last two months was to shift a little emphasis away from the online foundation we have built and to get more face time with existing and potential clients. Mission accomplished, but we will want to do it even more in the next two months. And we finished our largest community service project of the year, which gives us a smidge of exposure, too.

We’ll continue to push hard the next two months:
Business: We are hoping September, October, and November have their normal up-tick in sales. If so, we still have a decent shot of matching last year’s volume. We have more accounts on the accounts list than at the beginning of the year and it seems like things are opening up a bit and that people are starting to refill their inventory of printed items.

Oh, and haven’t we heard from a couple of sources that the recession is over? While I have sometimes struggled to stay positive when those around us are struggling to keep their doors open, it really does look like things might be getting slightly better. Slightly.

Sales/Marketing/Strategic Planning:
• Give a little love to our existing customers. We wouldn’t be here without them and we need to make sure they know that. Actions will include face time, a “thank you” barbeque, phone calls, etc. Our clients will hear from me and will know we are strong and able to help them as they pull themselves out of the recession.

• Keep working on getting new customers. We will continue to work harder than we ever have before in the networking, sales, and marketing areas. As our efforts are indeed paying off, we have no intention of letting up! However, since it’s just me now (no salesperson), I will have to be especially smart about how I spend my time.

We hope to focus on more in-person, traditional sales efforts, with a particular emphasis on pursuing our “dream” accounts. We will continue with online marketing and online networking, and will renew our efforts with direct mail. We have more community service projects in the works and we will continue to work on some signage to increase exposure on our high-visibility building. Oh, and we are entering some industry competitions for the PR we could gain from that.

• Thank our staff. I am going to make it a priority during the next few months to make sure our staff knows that we couldn’t have weathered these storms as well if they weren’t here. They have been particularly flexible with regards to their job duties and supportive in their encouragement of pursuing new business. Honestly, the best on the planet. No, you can’t have ‘em!

Final thoughts:
We think the “print is going away” argument is greatly overblown and, frankly, we are tired of hearing it. Yes, things are definitely shifting, but going away? No way!

We are saddened by the closing of many of our industry friends, but those of us who survive will be in a stronger position to be survive—and thrive—for the long haul. (I cringe even saying this; not wanting to imagine the difficulties of closing a shop that almost certainly is wrapped up in an owner’s personal life and finances, and all the difficulties the employees will have while being unemployed.)

And we are excited to go to Print 09 this year. Nothing gets the heart pounding like walking into the Heidelberg booth and hearing the humming, whooshing, slight thumping noise of those awesome pieces of iron! Printing…it’s a beautiful thing!

I look forward to reconnecting with you all in November.

One last note:
This is worth mentioning again: There is not enough being done to promote the benefits of print. As printers, we need a super strong, “Got Print?” program in every piece of marketing communications we do…similar to the “Got Milk?” program. (Okay, so we probably are not allowed to use exactly that campaign, but you get the idea.) If you agree, and are looking for a resource for this info, see: http://theprintcouncil.org.

Lisa Bickford is owner of Highlight Printing in Minneapolis, MN. Contact her at 612/522-7600 or lisab@highlightprinting.com. Visit Highlight Printing online and read Lisa’s blog at www.highlightprinting.com. Follow her on Twitter as Printing_Mojo or join her on LinkedIn.

Read Owner to Owner: Tracking the Year of Potential, Part 1:

And Owner to Owner: Tracking the Year of Potential, Part 2: