Printers with an eye toward expansion—or perhaps even survival--need to look beyond the iron on their shop floor, as marketers and print buyers seek creative methods to engage and target their audience. Savvy printers are doing just that, supplying highly innovative solutions that cross multiple...
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What the Customer Wants
Dana recommends having a “heart-to-heart” with your big clients—your top 20 percent revenue draws—to learn what these customers are looking to implement within their marketing strategy. “Printers should be finding out what would be valuable to the customer—it all comes down to knowing your customer’s marketing segment,” says Dana.
But, and here is where it gets complicated for printers, especially those just making their first forays into cross media platforms—it requires that the printer know the strengths and weaknesses of these specific strategies. For example, when does it make sense to use augmented reality, QR Codes, text advertising over mobile computing, direct mail, etc.?
Staying on top of the latest developments in cross-media communications needs to be an on-going effort. “We strongly encourage service providers to keep themselves informed by attending webinars and conferences and subscribing to marketing oriented publications,” says DeLooze.
All printers, but especially those looking to move into new media platforms, need to start moving in business circles outside of their own industry, joining marketing associations, attending trade shows that attract agency and marketing personnel, argues Dana. “That’s where they are going to hear from marketers, and learn what they want and what their challenges and pains are,” says Dana.
“I only see a handful of printers at the AMA (American Marketing Association) meetings and conferences,” notes Dana. “This is where the people are who are making the marketing decisions. It should be a requirement for sales personnel to attend these events. It’s not about what equipment you have; it’s about relationships. It’s about where to expand your expertise. There’s opportunity there, but it takes education and focus.”
Dana continues, “Find out what your customers need. Bring a group of your top customers together every six months or year, like a customer advisory board. Tell them this will help make sure you give them what they need. Ask them what other media, besides print, they are looking to incorporate in their marketing programs. Be very strategic and focused on what you are asking them.”
To Train, or Not to Train
Printers moving into offering other media platforms are often faced with the choice of training existing personnel—hoping they can adapt to the new model—or hiring new salespeople. “We have seen some PODi members succeed with training existing sales staff, but it requires a strong commitment level from upper management,” says DeLooze. “Whether you are working with seasoned veterans or new hires it’s important to provide sales personnel with support to help them succeed, such as on-going training opportunities, value-based pricing models, and effective sales materials.”
Service providers who successfully move into providing cross-media services have a real passion for understanding their customers’ needs and working together to develop a solution, says DeLooze. “ In the PODi community we also find that these providers are great evangelists…whether it is educating customers about the marketing possibilities or sharing insights with other printers at our AppForum conference or in Webinars.”
When looking to expand what they offer customers, printers should look to tap into the good history and good will they enjoy with their customers. “I compare printers to hairdressers,” says Dana. “I don’t want to leave my hairdresser; people don’t want to leave their printer. You already have the relationship—you’re delivering the quality of work, you know your customer’s idiosyncrasies. That is a strength printers should capitalize on.”
Build on the relationship using social media, advises Dana. Get closer to your customer and find out the marketing techniques they are using other than print. Make sure your own storefront is up-to-date and is designed to entice new customers, and reflects your company’s complete swath of services.