Digital Original: Customer Research is at Your Fingertips

The Internet is a wonderful tool, especially for a printing salesperson. If a salesperson wants to become an expert in a particular field or niche, the information that is needed is only a few clicks away. Using Google, Bing, or other search engines, a salesperson can learn about the customer, the customer’s products and services, and the customer’s industry.

Every industry has websites dedicated to discussions about the trials and tribulations of how to survive in that particular niche. In our industry, we have All of the printing associations have websites. If you knew nothing about the commercial printing industry, a few hours of visiting the various sites and reading the blogs would give you a basic understanding of the issues of the day. You would start to get a feel for the print industry.


Use the Available Tools

Your customers have websites that support their industries, too. What issues are lawyers facing in growing their practices? A Google search of that question took me to The Family Lawyer magazine and its article on “The Five Most Threatening Issues Facing Your Law Practice”. The article outlines the stress caused by increased competition from the Internet, the increasing number of lawyers, and other factors. It also offers a number of suggestions on how using marketing to overcome the problems.

The site also has an internal search function that pulls up dozens of articles relating to how to market a law practice. Many of the solutions involved managing databases, doing mailing and advertising, and educating customers about their services. Almost all of the solutions had a component relating to print or mail. A print salesperson with an eye for marketing could craft a message directed at lawyers that would get him in the door to talk about solutions to a lawyer’s pain point: getting new clients.


Take a Second Look

Do you call on customers who are involved in fund raising? Many printers believe that non-profit means an organization doesn’t have any money and the only way to get the work is to cut price and profit. A visit to the website will quickly dispel any thoughts of cash poor organizations. The site includes copies of the latest IRS Form 990 for each organization. This document reports what the income is for the organization and where it gets its money. It provides a breakdown about programs, management, and fundraising expenses. It also tells you how much the top staff gets paid. Studying IRS Form 990 can give you information you need to know what products and services you can sell to the organization and at what price. Many printers have been surprised to learn what some organizations and their staffs do financially.

There are dozens of websites dedicated to non-profit fund raising professionals. These sites report the latest news for the industry and spotlight trends in fund raising. One trend is the targeting by mail of Latino donors because Hispanics are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country. Issues such as database management are discussed. Databases can be difficult to maintain for small fund raising organizations, so they are looking for outside assistance. If a printer were to review the trends and issues, he could find the pain points of the fund raising organizations in his own backyard and offer solutions.


Go Get ‘Em

Name any industry sector or niche and you’ll find resources on the Internet to help you sell printing, design, and mailing services. You can even find complete marketing plans suggested for an industry sector that highlights the best practices that use a printer’s services.

No print salesperson should ever go into any sales call cold without knowing something about the customer and his industry. The information is there. You just have to take the time to research it.


John Giles is a consultant and technology director for CPrint International. He is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList”. Contact him at 954-224-1942 or You can also find John on Twitter at @JohnG247 and LinkedIn. Read his blog at Order John’s books from Crouser & Associates (