Inspiration is a huge part of keeping print relevant. As the owner or top salesperson (or both!) in your organization, you have the daunting task of providing new solutions to your clients’ newest problems. If you, as the stated marketing expert, are not inspired (also read: passionate, convinced, driven) by the ability of the solution to effectively solve the problem, the deal will not get closed.
Whether the solution is something as complex as a multi-channel campaign or as straightforward as explaining the merits of using premixed ink on your digital press to reduce costs by 75 percent on spot color jobs, inspiration will carry you forward through the highs and lows of the sales process and see you through to the end.
Print’s Value Proposition
I was recently looking over a production release video for a new all-electric car, and the following opening statement was made by the CEO: “We are not trying to build the best electrical car; we are trying to build the best car…period.” This struck me uniquely appropriate to our industry and inspired me to ask a few questions.
• Are we stuck talking about the differences between digital vs. litho or, now that drupa 2012 has passed, toner vs. inkjet?
• Are we so mired in the details of how things get produced that we stop talking about the benefits and, instead, focus on the process?
• Lastly, how much do customers care about the process improvements within print vs. the benefits of print?
I believe the answers lie with the customers and clients who keep your business running. If your customers are brokers/print management companies, such as InnerWorkings, WorkflowOne, or Proforma, perhaps process differentiators such as using three colors to achieve CMYK output are the key to enhancing wallet-share with these groups. However, if most of your business comes from end clients who look to you to solve their marketing problems then, as the analogy of building the best car goes, we need to shift the conversation to delivering the “best marketing solution” and not just the best “printing technology.”
A Matter of Perspective
Now, before you castigate me as a non-print guy, I am not saying that print is not the best marketing solution for certain situations. Rather, that the key is to sell print as a solution to your clients’ marketing problems.
I am aware of printing companies that are growing in today’s economic climate by selling only print, but they are selling it as a solution and not as a technology/process. What is the difference you ask? Simple: margins! Companies that sell print as a solution command a significantly higher margin than companies that sell print as process. Of course, there needs to be a balance between margin and volume in any successful company, and I am sure you will find the right balance in yours.
My consulting work has taken me around the world, and it seems that print/marketing companies that produce sales between $3 million and $10 million are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these new solutions-based opportunities.
Smaller (read: more nimble) company size, extended reach through electronic/social media connections, and a well qualified labor pool all benefit solution sales-based organizations. Nonetheless, solution selling is challenging. In companies of the afore mentioned size, not only does a single person or small team need to create the solution, but also identify the prospects, sell the solution, and possibly even be a part of the implementation and reporting cycle.
These long and arduous sales cycles require a level of unwavering inspiration and passion. However, these approaches are required to generate new streams of sustainable print that will help your business grow.
Until next month, keep printing, my friends!
Sudhir Ravi is a serial entrepreneur who runs a variable data print practice within TVP Graphics at Streamwood, IL. Do you want to continue the conversation? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-772-3191. Conect via Twitter @ThinkVariable.