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Websites Build Your Brand —Morgan

December 2006
HEADING UP the largest network of print buyers in the country, I’ve had the unique experience of talking to hundreds of major print buyers about how they source prospective print suppliers. Universally, when print buyers explore a prospective supplier, the first thing they do is research a printer’s Website. If the supplier’s Website doesn’t provide the information they are looking for, it’s probably also the last investigation a buyer may conduct on the company.

So, as a print supplier, you do have a working Website, right? It’s really no longer an option if you want to grow your business.

Your Website should properly tell the story of your brand—the type of clients you are trying to attract, the services you offer, how your establishment is different from your competitors, the quality that you produce, the geographic areas that you service, etc. Your company brand is the collection of the perceptions in the mind of your customers and prospects.

First Impressions Count

It’s that nebulous, roll-everything together, picture of your company. A printer that doesn’t manage its brand well could be instilling unwanted or untrue ideas about its own company. Other than your company name and logo, your Website is the first and, therefore arguably, most important part of managing your brand.

Unfortunately, from the print buyer’s perspective, most print suppliers have inadequate Websites and miss opportunities each day to capture new clients. If your company is one of the many that needs a Website “face-lift,” here are some things to consider.

First, don’t wait until your Website is perfect before launching a new site or a redesign. The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to add as you go, and test what’s working and what isn’t. It’s better to have three Web pages that really work, then to put off the Website redesign until everything is perfect.

When a prospective print buyer looks at your site, here are some of the main things they are looking for:

• the size of your company and location;

• a sense of security in doing business with you;

• what makes you different from your competitors;

• your capabilities and services;

• proof that you can deliver on these services, i.e., your equipment list;

• how to contact you; and

• who else has entrusted you with their business.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so use photographs or a virtual tour to tell your story. While a few pictures of your presses are helpful in showing that you really do own the equipment you say you do, consider that photos can also create a sense of security about the size of your company (aerial photographs if your plant is impressively large), cleanliness of the facility, photos of the management team, specific services such as inventory management, samples of what you produce, etc. Be sure that the photos are recent and meaningful to print buyers.

Make your location(s) prominent. While some print buyers are more willing to work with suppliers outside their area than others, all prospective buyers will want to know where your plant is located. It helps them feel more secure in working with you.

It’s important to demonstrate the stability of your company with information about how long you’ve been in business and some history about your operation. But a word of caution: while a limited amount of information about the history of your firm can reassure a prospect and can instill a sense of security, don’t get carried away.

A listing of the milestones in your company’s historical timeline—that you bought your first web press in 1975 and that you added electronic prepress in 1984—is not only a “yawner,” but could also turn off the prospect. Keep the primary focus on the customer, not on company-centric information that doesn’t help them make a decision.

Having said that, do promote any awards that your company has won or certifications. This type of information is impressive to many buyers.

There are also a number of ways to engage customers with your Website. One way is to help them see themselves working with your establishment. Buyers are more willing to take the leap of faith and work with you if you can demonstrate that other well-known buying companies have also done so. Well-executed customer case studies, photos of print samples, and customer testimonials will do more to convince prospects to do work with you than the longevity of your company.

Provide References

Customer testimonials are particularly effective. And focus those case studies, samples and testimonials on the type of client that you want to attract. Describe on your Website the type of customer who is the best fit for your organization.

Perhaps the hardest thing for any print supplier to communicate is how they are different from the competition. The research that my company, Print Buyers Online.com, has done with print buyers indicates that while the majority of print suppliers believe that they are creating meaningful differentiation from their competitors, their clients and prospects just don’t see it (or agree with it). The best way to determine how your company is different from your competitors is to ask your top clients. You just might be surprised to learn what is meaningful to them.

One simple mistake that I often see in solution providers’ Websites is the “Contact Us” page. Instead of providing generic contact information, such as an e-mail address like info@xyzprinting.com, humanize your business by offering a specific individual as the personal contact, with a phone number that goes directly to that individual. Better yet, add the photo of the person.

If you offer an online “Request for Information” form (which should not be the only way a prospect can get in contact with you), make the form easy to fill out. Ask how the prospect would like to be contacted (phone, e-mail, etc.), and then respect their choice. I would also suggest that you display contact information for all of the contacts in your company that a buyer may want to get in touch with (customer service representatives, management team, sales reps, estimators, etc.). Allow the prospect/customer to search for members of your team by name, department and position.

Unless you have Web-to-print capabilities, enable clients to order online or allow customers to create online catalogs for reprinting specific print projects, don’t spend the time building a form for quote submission. Print buyers simply do not use a printer’s “Request of Quote” form. They have their own bid sheets, print management software tools and systems. Don’t ask prospects and clients to accommodate your workflow, particularly with quote submission. It’s your job to accommodate theirs.

A print buyer consciously (and often unconsciously) makes decisions about a prospective supplier based on their Website. Take a look at your own site and consider how your company may be perceived—from a print buyer’s perspective. PI

—SUZANNE MORGAN

About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is president of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free educational e-community for print buyers and their print suppliers (www.printbuyersonline.com). PBO has more than 11,000 members who buy $13 billion a year in printing. PBO conducts weekly research on buying trends and teaches buying organizations how to work more effectively with their suppliers. Morgan can be reached at smorgan@printbuyersonline.com.
 

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