Paul Gardner of Print Transformational in Salt Lake City notes: “I never cared too much about where a customer came from, but rather how long they stick around. For me, the single most important criterion in defining a good customer is repeat business. The longer we work together, the more help I can be to a customer and the more likely my company is to make a profit from the relationship. This doesn’t necessarily exclude a customer who is shopping for a great price from becoming a great customer, but if the lowest price is the customer’s only criteria, the relationship is almost certain to be short-term, likely unprofitable – and probably not much fun.”
Dan Spurlock of Kwik Kopy in Philadelphia says “Good customers come from those who search you out and you are able to identify their problem and solve it quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction – not the customer looking for the best price but the one looking for the best solution.”
“We lean towards clients who understand value add selling and selling solutions, not products,” says Roger Buck, marketing director at The Flesh Company. “A well run company will pay its bills and take advantage of discounts offered. The same profile is less likely to drive you down on price to increase their margin. I’m curious about how many companies have actually gone through a process to determine a ‘best customer’ profile then acted on the data.”
So, printers have their own ideas about what makes good customers and where to find them. To get input from the print buyers’ perspective, I turned again to Margie Dana, who stages the annual Print & Media Conference and the Print Buyers Boot Camp in conjunction with Graph Expo. In her experience, good customers are educated in the printing process and understand how important it is to communicate specifications and key details and to allow enough time for the job to be done correctly. They are good negotiators but they are fair and don’t expect something unreasonable. They make their expectations and desired results clear. They understand that print is a customized manufacturing process and they keep up with technology and new media. They are loyal to their best printers but smart enough to look around all the time. They speak the language of print and are not afraid to ask questions. They are friendly, professional, polite, respectful, and remember to say thank you. “The best ones love print, paper, ink and design” adds Dana.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who buys your printing exhibited these ideal traits? Perhaps some do, and those are the ones you need to hang onto and develop because they also are the ones who are more likely to refer new customers who are most like themselves.