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Make Your Business Enchanting to Clients –Michelson

April 2011
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Mike Stevens is not your typical printer. The first member from an extended family of blue-color, union automotive plant workers in Michigan to graduate from college, Stevens—armed with a business degree, but no knowledge of printing—decided to purchase a Fargo, ND, quick printing establishment in 1983. As a customer who bought business cards and direct mail to keep his name as a used car salesman in the forefront among buyers, Stevens found himself drawn to the hectic front office atmosphere and the sounds of running equipment whenever he visited the print shop. So, when the opportunity came, he bought Express Press using $30,000 he had saved from selling cars.

But, just the second day after Express Press reopened under Stevens’ ownership, Fargo was hit with a major blizzard that brought the city to a standstill. “I didn’t have any extra cash, and needed to be open because I needed daily sales to make my payroll in a few days,” he recalls. “I managed to get to work, thinking I could complete a few of the unfinished jobs in progress so I could invoice them for cash. But, I quickly realized I didn’t know how to operate a single piece of equipment.” The only thing he could think to do was call his father—by then a retired auto worker living in Florida—for help. Arriving just 48 hours later after driving 1,500 miles, Jerry Stevens actually wound up staying on for the next 23 years to help his son build the business, serving in various roles. He finally retired at age 77, only to die 16 days later, on his way back to Florida.

Mike Stevens’ personal story of the “enchantment” he felt from a loving father who came to help rescue a son unprepared to run a print shop ended up in best-selling author Guy Kawasaki’s latest book, “Enchantment, the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.” In the book, Kawasaki tackles the tricky art of influence and persuasion techniques that can make a business enchanting to customers in today’s digital age.

This includes, as one reviewer noted, embracing sales and marketing “push” technologies like presentations, e-mails and Twitter as active ways to enchant buyers, as well as “pull” technologies like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn to passively draw them in.

Stevens sold his quick printing business to a local competitor in 2006, but continues to run a marketing services company for printers called MarketingIdeasForPrinters.com. His core group of customers (typically shops with seven to 30 workers) hire Stevens’ various spinoff firms to build, host and optimize their Websites; develop e-mail and direct mail marketing campaigns; and provide daily content for printers’ social media efforts, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blog posts. Over the years, Stevens says he has assisted more than 7,000 printing firms. He also pens a marketing ideas blog (Gutenblog.com).

Stevens feels too many small business owners lack the proper discipline to actively manage the sales and marketing efforts of their shops. Too often, he says, they’re bogged down helping out at the front counter, operating a press, making deliveries or keeping their computer system running. Nor do they know how to earn the trust from customers necessary to achieve the lasting enchantment that Kawasaki tries to teach.

The book details how to implement real-life changes that can make a printing firm enchanting—like Stevens eventually did, before he accepted an offer that he couldn’t refuse to sell his shop. But, he didn’t then ride off into the sunset. Stevens remains committed to giving back to an industry that has forever captured his devotion.

Mark T. Michelson

 

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