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Promote and Prosper —Morgan

June 2007
JUST LIKE the proverbial shoe-maker, whose son never has shoes, many printers (who are, in fact, in the communications business) are the worst at promoting their businesses. However, print buyers do expect their suppliers to competently market their services, and they judge them accordingly.

Print Buyers Online.com surveyed 94 top print buyers and asked: “How important is a printer’s collateral material in identifying them as a prospective supplier?” Seventy-two percent of respondents said “very important” or “important.” Effective marketing is clearly worth the investment because print buyers judge the quality of the printer’s services and products by the quality of the printer’s marketing communications.

As the head of the largest print buyer’s network, I have the opportunity to review a plethora of marketing communications from printers. Here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them:

• The perfect promotion that never gets sent. I’ve seen printers finesse the production of their collateral materials so much that it takes a year to produce. The best communications offer a continual dialogue. It’s about quantity as much as quality. When planning your marketing communications, instead of investing all of your time and money on one piece, plan for smaller and more frequent promotions.

Buyers no longer judge a printer’s collateral material on the number of pages and amount of copy. They certainly look at quality, so be sure to keep that up, but buyers will go to your Website for more detail. If your company isn’t known for its marketing brawn, then start out with something easy to manage, like a series of well-produced postcards. Then build up to more complex pieces. The point is to get something out there.

• Great idea, bad design. It almost goes without saying that your promotional materials shouldn’t have printing flaws, such as hickies or offsetting. (It’s disappointing how many sloppily produced print promotions I still come across.)

In addition, it’s important that your promotions are well-designed, particularly if you’re selling to advertising agencies and designers who have a natural bias toward communications that are aesthetically appealing. Invest money in good design. Buyers make decisions about your company from more than just reading your words.

• The unsigned letter. I recently received a promotional letter from a printer promoting its digital and variable data capabilities. The letter effectively demonstrated the difference in response rates comparing a typical direct mail campaign to a well-conceived, variable data campaign. This letter was replete with a personal URL address. Unfortunately, the communication’s effectiveness was dampened by the signature. In closing, the letter was signed: “Sincerely, XYZ Printing Marketing Department” (without a person’s name or signature).
 

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