The ad agency vertical is a potentially lucrative one for printers. But breaking into it requires skill, tact, and aplomb—in addition to lots of really good printing.
“The most important thing is to get samples into the hands of the designers,” says Deirdra Teodorczuk, sales manager for the fashion and advertising verticals for Konica Minolta Business Solutions. “My experience is that even a small agency needs high-quality printing. The ones who have the eye are the designers, and they’re the ones who know the colors.”
A big part of it, in fact, is the color matching, she adds. “You may have somebody who facilitates the buying. They may say, ‘Send this out and get 10 or 100 copies,’ but if they come back and the colors don’t match then the designers are not going to be happy with the samples, and they won’t want to work with you.”
Making it through corporate briar patch to the designers may not be easy. An agency might already have an established printer, or could be used to handling the printing chores inhouse More often than not, it’s the facilities management and mail room people, or even an IT director, who is in charge of outsourcing printing and accept meetings with vendors.
“It’s a challenge,” Teodorczuk concedes. “They’re not the front line. They’re doing the work in the background, so they are not usually the ones meeting with the vendors.” A typical approach is to meet with them and ask to have the designer sit in. “And then the important thing is to bring samples and get them into the hands of the designer.”
“Obviously, there are lots of ways to do it,” says Doug Hazlett, vice president of marketing for Sandy Alexander in Clifton, NJ. “We do a lot of business with advertising agencies, and there are a lot of ways to go after them. It’s a very good target audience because they usually have multiple clients, also.”
Originality & Service
Hazlett recommends a couple of strategies, which he has found to be quite effective. The first hinges on the fact that creativity is highly important. “The advertising agencies tend to have print people on staff, and they’re always looking for something new. We have actually done some 3-D mailers that have done very well with clients, so I think creativity is very crucial.”
In fact, one of the things that sets this vertical apart from so many others that commercial printers service, Hazlett believes, is its emphasis on creativity, which is often an agency’s life blood. “It depends on the size of the agency you’re talking to, of course, but people go to agencies lots of times for ad campaigns and their creativity. So I think it’s of greater import.”
Another obvious plus is providing excellent customer service. Advertising agencies, he points out, “usually have larger clients and they’re usually looking for someone who can take it and run with it for them. So being able to provide everything under one roof and having great customer service are both very important.”
Being able to schedule a meeting with the proper person or team members at any agency can make or break an opportunity. According to Hazlett, commercial printers should initially target the agency’s printer buyer, whom he terms “very important” to decisions involving vendors. “I always contact the print buyer.” But if one of the things the printer is pushing is its creative services, then clearly sitting down to share thoughts with the creative director can prove to be of extreme value.”
Mistakes to Avoid
As in so many businesses with client relationships, politics must also be factored into the equation. It’s a game that not everyone plays with skill. “Be careful about stepping on anyone’s toes,” Hazlett warns those looking to earn their seat at the table. “Make sure they manage the relationship well between their agency and its client. Don’t step on the agency’s toes dealing with the client.”