Marchand--Digital Investments - Production vs. Client Comm.September 1998
We've had a network, a LAN, since the late '80s. Internet access and e-mail were brought to the desk and home of every single employee more than six years ago. Our Web site has been up for almost as long. Not bad for a small firm with hardly more than a handful of employees.
Does our location in the Gulch have much to do with our use of technology? Perhaps we're earlier adopters than we would be if we were located in some other setting, but not necessarily. I recently encountered an ad agency located in Montana and a marketing firm in Oklahoma. Neither serve clients in industries that are early adopters, yet both are making sophisticated use of digital communications.
Is my firm's work better because of our use of digital communications? In some areas, the answer is an unambiguous yes. We work with clients in geographically remote locations, all across the United States and abroad in Europe and Asia. In a few days we'll do our first video conference. Our perspective has been changed by this—broadened and deepened—making us undoubtedly better at strategic thinking for our clients.
Perhaps more important, our access to data is exponentially increased. As a result, the speed and quality of our research work are substantially improved. The marketing communications—print and digital—that we develop for clients benefit in time and quality from the same capabilities.
Similar claims can be made for several printing companies located in some unexpected areas. I recently visited one in northern Vermont, and two others in southeastern Pennsylvania. All three companies have been as quick to install advanced communications as they have been to develop their digital production capabilities.
How printing companies interact with their customers often gets lost in the rush to adopt new production technology. Yet printing customers are often concerned about the ease and effectiveness of communication with their print providers. If good communication is self-evidently valuable for marketing and sales to prospects, it is often of even greater importance to your work with established customers.
About the Author
Jacques Marchand may be phoned at (415) 357-2929. His firm, Marchand Marketing, provides strategic consulting services, positioning and marketing communications to help companies in the printing industry increase sales. E-mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the firm's work for clients is also available on its Web site, www.marchand.com.
Remembering the Obvious:
- Our customers don't use e-mail.
- We have a close relationship with our clients. They prefer to be visited and phoned.
- Web sites are just glorified billboards.
- We're too small to afford a Web site and e-mail.
- Nobody's making money on the Internet.
There may be many good reasons for smaller and midsize printing companies to resist the use of digital communications, but none of the preceding refrains are among those reasons.
Lead your customers. Don't follow them. Get there before they do and then help them get on-line. The growth in the number of people using the Internet, at home and at work, continues to be exponential.
Web sites, when carefully and creatively developed, are useful tools for job-related communications, both to and from customers. Initial contact via the Internet is an increasingly familiar way for providers and customers to find one another. Getting started can be a low five-figure cost—nowhere near what you're used to spending on equipment.
Don't ignore the obvious. E-commerce is a vehicle that will continue to grow. Find a place for your company in this new world.