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Web Marketing: Bringing Together Form and Function

It recently occurred to me we have a struggle in our industry when it comes to utilizing the Web to its fullest potential. The challenge that seems to be facing so many of us is understanding the role a website plays in the day-to-day environment of a printing company. The same challenges exist across every type of printing company from digital printing, quick print, small commercial, and everything in between.

I am often asked, “Should my website be a marketing vehicle or should my website be a Web-to-print tool?” My answer is always a resounding “Yes.” Your website should serve in both capacities, as a marketing vehicle that also facilitates workflow. As a matter of fact, in our studies, printing and graphic companies that are embracing the Web and using their websites as a marketing tool combined with Web-to-print (W2P) capabilities are seeing, on average, a 30 percent increase in revenue from existing clients. A 30 percent increase—that’s no chump change! I don’t know about you, but if I could see that kind of revenue from my existing clients I’d ask, “Where do I sign up?”

So what does it mean to have a marketing website with W2P technology? I like to think of it like a car. The marketing side of the website is the body (the sex and sizzle) that says you have to have me, while the W2P is the engine under the hood—the horsepower. After all, do we really want a good looking car that has no horsepower? On the other side, who wants a car with a lot of horsepower that doesn’t look good?

What happens when these two concepts come together harmoniously? You’ve got the car of your dreams. Wait, we’re talking about a marketing and W2P tool. On the marketing side you can begin to capitalize on how individuals, specifically print buyers, are using the Web. You can learn the trends that are shaping these buyer’s habits in today’s environment. When it comes to the W2P side, you have the ability to focus on your target audience and how they purchase your products and services every day. This allows you to focus on selling more, which leads to increased profitability.

Marketing Website

In order to make your website a marketing workhorse, it is important to realize the days of traditional marketing are gone. That’s right—gone! Today’s way of reaching your existing customers and potential customers is a culmination of old and new. Using components of traditional marketing (which includes direct mail, printed newsletters, and printed advertising) in combination with electronic forms of advertising (email marketing, social media and, of course, your website), you have further reach to existing customers as well as new ones.

Printed marketing materials drive people online, perhaps to a website, perhaps to a landing page with a special promotion. Electronic communication serves the same purpose (email marketing, search engine optimization, blogging, etc.). The magic formula to successful marketing in today’s environment is in knowing how to reach your customers based on how they want to be communicated with. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Once you drive these wonderful print buyers to your website, what happens next? Does your website make them feel welcome, regardless of where they came from? Is it easy for them to find what they need? Surprisingly, the most common need of a print buyer who comes to your website is to get your phone number, address, and hours. If someone isn’t looking for one of these three things, they may want to send you a file, learn about a product or service, or perhaps they want to log into their account.

While you have this captive audience, have you done what you can to market your company and cross promote the diversity of the services you offer? While most of us feel fairly confident knowing what our customers want, it never hurts to get their opinion. When asked, many customers are more than happy to share whether your website makes them feel welcome and if they would likely visit again.

These are the hurdles I find many printers experience when creating and or maintaining a marketing Web presence:

  • One over-worked steward holds the key to managing the website, preventing updates from happening as often as desired.
  • No one is completely trained on how to use the website, let alone understand its capabilities.
  • The staff does not engage with the website on a regular basis and, if asked, may not know the content on the homepage.
  • There is a lack of understanding of how SEO works to drive traffic to the website.
  • Analytics are rarely looked at, if ever, to know how people are finding and engaging with the website. Analytics are that which can be managed can be measured.

W2P Website

W2P is what many view as the more technical side of the world. Some experience paralysis by analysis and avoid this topic altogether. There are many excuses as to why more printers aren’t embracing W2P. Common reasons can range from “customers aren’t asking for it” to “I don’t have the human or financial resources to implement this technology”. Or even worse, an investment has been made in the technology and the customer didn’t embrace it, leaving the technology to sit idle with no return on the investment.

The truth is there is a technology that fits just about every printing company’s size and budget. As for your customers not asking for it, I’ll defer to Steve Jobs: “A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

Using your website as a W2P tool allows you to reduce a drain on your resources and incorporate your website into your business management strategy. This technology will set you apart from your competitors.

Integrating W2P into your marketing website allows you to offer something personalized and unique to each and every one of your customers. One misconception is that W2P means you sell printing online. That’s not exactly true. W2P is technology that allows you to more easily facilitate orders (in many instances for items that you’ve already created for a client) directly into your workflow without requiring as much time from design and production. Reduced resources can often mean an increased profit.

Integrating your website into your business strategy and combining a marketing site with a W2P tool can help you build customer relationships that last. Every step that you can save in a low-margin process, or every customer you please by having a technological capability they want, leads to increased revenue and long term success.

At the end of the day your website is the core to all of the marketing that you do. It should be integrated into every aspect of your business to maximize the ROI, which drives profit to your bottom line. It’s time to get your engine revved up.

Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence. She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from NAQP for her service as a consultant and educator to the industry. Contact her at