To begin a conversation about growing your print services business, let’s paraphrase the bicycle theory of business. Just like riding a bike, if your business is not moving forward, it is likely to fall down. It may not be a big crash, but if this month’s business is identical to last month’s, and next month’s business is the same as this month’s, then you are likely to at least get a couple of skinned knees and bruised elbows from lack of movement. If you aren’t moving forward, you will fall down.
Forward movement—or business growth, in this case—comes in many speeds, shapes, and sizes. We recently conducted a survey with print service providers asking what keeps them up at night. One of the top three responses was how to make the transition from printing as we’ve known it in the past to becoming a marketing service provider. Growing from a print service provider (PSP) into a marketing service provider (MSP) is simply making a choice to move beyond filling print orders.
A Natural Progression
Consider for a minute what you are providing when you fulfill a print order. Your customers walk away with tactile materials (such as business cards, direct mail, newsletters, etc.) to fill some type of a communication or functional need. Often, these materials are intended to deliver a particular message to current and potential customers. How did that need transform from an idea to a printed piece? It started because the customer had a need and someone on your end helped create the vision, which transformed into a printed piece.
And that’s the conversation you want to be a part of as a marketing services provider. The bridge from a PSP to an MSP is all about the S. Your added value services and better customer service help to build a stronger brand. But what does that really mean? The sooner in the ideation process you nab a client, the more you’re helping them make strategic decisions about their marketing. You’re becoming a partner and providing a service that many of your clients can’t afford otherwise.
You need to get into the conversation early in the process if you want to help print buyers with more than printed materials. Your role as an MSP, is to guide the client in creating consistency. Make sure the messages that appear in print have a similar look and feel to your client’s website, landing pages, and all other forms of marketing that have been created for the campaign.
Printing companies that are transitioning to MSPs are the ones who walk the talk. They are using all forms of integrated marketing, including using their websites. They send email marketing on a regular basis. They engage in some form of social media and one-to-one marketing. When you market yourself first, customers will see what a good job you do creating a message, developing a strategy, and deploying an integrated plan. This, of course, makes it easier for your customers to understand how you can help them.
In becoming an MSP for your own business, bring in employees and have a round-table discussion about your own brand and your own marketing. Ask key questions such as, “What is our brand?” “What message do we want to send?” “How do we communicate that message?” and so on. As you become successful with your own marketing, you will become more confident and competent as a marketing consultant.
Here are a handful of areas you can focus on to get you started:
Post case studies on your website. Find a success story you were involved with. With that client’s permission (company name can be left out), offer a narration of how the marketing plan originated, evolved, and was executed. Don’t forget to send links to the study in email marketing pieces, on your LinkedIn profile, etc.
Build social media and email tools into your own marketing plan. Your e-newsletter should have short stories, tips, tidbits, photos, quick reference lists, and any other eye-grabbing content. Include links back to your website. Focus needs to be on how you help people, not what you create.
Create and implement landing pages. A landing page is targeted toward customers with specific needs. A good landing page delivers exactly what they’re looking for, without clutter or other distractions. In other words, if a customer wants more information about your marketing services, he or she should be able to click on a link that takes them right to a webpage describing those services, along with an easy way to contact you for more information.
Create direct mail pieces with QR codes. QR codes are two-dimensional images that contain three-dimensional information, so that anyone with a smartphone can scan the image and receive data directly on their phones or be taken directly to a landing page with further information. The point of this is to show customers that you can create QR codes and that you can help them integrate QR codes into their marketing strategy.
Ultimately, successful MSPs show how traditional print and new marketing need to live together to create an integrated approach. The results are partnerships that grow from providing solutions early in the strategic planning process and throughout the execution of the plan. As you grow your MSP business, you will see your print work increase substantially as a direct result of the integrated print and online solutions arising from your own marketing strategies. Your business will move forward with greater velocity—you will keep that bicycle upright and full speed ahead.
Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence (www.myprintresource.com/10007416). 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 Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.