Most experts recommend that a business must have an online presence to compete in today’s business world. The weakest link for most printing companies is sales. A strong inbound marketing program using social media, blogs, and websites can improve the top-of-mind awareness of a company and it can help retain existing customers, but it rarely creates new sales from new customers until someone directly interacts with the prospect and sells him or her something.
Printers need to realize that inbound marketing is only one piece of the selling process and must be coupled with outbound selling. I recently worked with a young, social media-literate print sales person. Hired to get new business for the company, she spent hours each day on creating a social media network. She was active on LinkedIn. She had a blog. She was constantly sharing content with her social network. But after almost a year of inbound sales activities, she wasn’t writing any print orders.
Sales people are measured on selling activities and results. Usually, more selling activities resulted in increased sales. If a sales person is making calls and engaging prospects directly, sales will come. What the sales person missed was that the passive process of engaging prospects through social media only works if your prospect is actively searching for a solution or a continuous consumer of online content. The real strength of inbound marketing is it helps you identify the right prospect to call. It builds relationships to get you in the door and helps keep current customers. A cold call becomes a warm call. The sales person was missing the key ingredient: she never got face-to-face with a prospect and asked for the order.
Print companies need to have both inbound and outbound marketing programs. Printers are in the communication business and they need to be knowledgeable about how to integrate a customer’s print message with his web message. Printers should have an interactive website where customers can place reorders and find information about the proper ways to submit files. Printers should be creating and pushing content to prospects that helps make print buying easy. Printers should be engaged with customers on social media and serving as a local resource. And they should be making sales calls.
Too many printers hope someone sees their online information and will call to buy something. Instead, printers need to plan what they are going to sell, who they are going to sell it to, and how are they going to sell it. They can then focus their online and offline content and develop a stronger call to action. Successful companies use social media to start the conversation and engage the prospect and then follow with an aggressive sales effort of direct mail, email, and direct calls to ask for the business.
Social media sites provide tools to measure the metrics of use, but printers also need to monitor the metrics of their outbound selling activities. The measurements should be done on a regular basis and tracked. How many outbound sales calls for new business were made over a certain period? How many direct mail and a call-to-action emails were sent to customers and prospects? How many face-to-face sales calls were made? What was dollar amount of sales resulted from the selling activities?
For inbound content, printers have an advantage. Most of the industry-based website providers also provide online content that a printer can use in their local market. The content is used to start to engage the prospect, but the printer must integrate the content into the outbound selling message. Content can help a printer create a presence as an expert in the local market. A printer must be ready to back it up when in front of the customer on a sales call asking for the order.
Inbound marketing isn’t going to work without an outbound component. No tweets or Facebook postings or blogs are ever going to replace the direct sales call in a job shop. Printing is a custom manufacturing business, and most businesses aren’t going to trust faceless online entities with their important printing needs. It is up to print management to make sure there is a face in front of the customer to reinforce the inbound message and close the sale.
John Giles is a consultant and the technology director for CPrint® International (www.cprint.com). He is the author of 12 Secrets for Digital Success and The DTP PriceList. He can be reached at 954-224-1942 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find John on Twitter.com at @JohnG247 and Linkedin.com. His blogs can be found at http://johngilesiii.blogspot.com/ and at www.quickprinting.com. To order John’s books, visit www.crouser.com.