7 Ways to Stand Out in a Crowded Printer World
Seth Godin stresses in his book—"The Purple Cow"—that every business must be exciting to make the customer experience special. He uses the analogy that seeing brown cows in Ireland quickly becomes boring, but how exciting it would be to see a purple one. Now how do you make your printing operation exciting compared with the 20,000+ other printers in the country?
What makes your printing operation exciting? What makes you different? What do customers say when asked where to buy print? How do you get your customers to talk about you instead?
Every printer says it meets deadlines, has the highest quality, offers the best service. That is boring. Everyone does that.
Think for a minute. What makes people say, “Wow! Now that is different.” or “That is so cool they do that.”
Here is what other printers have done to be exciting. Some are little things. Some big. Some strategic. All are different.
1) The Academic Printer—One printer was thrilled to learn that customers appreciated its educational marketing seminars and newsletters. Customers learned a ton and valued that special focus. The company positioned itself as an expert at marketing. Customers knew it did much more than print through its actions. Educating its customers put the printer in a class all by itself.
2) The Cookie Printer—Famous Amos Cookies: That’s right. Last year during a panel discussion, a printer shared how customers became disappointed when it stopped dropping off cookies when delivering jobs. Customers enjoyed the gift. Those tiny, 30 cent bags of cookies went a long way. A local printer did something different and customers noticed and remembered. It's the simple stuff.
3) The Tweeting Printer—Pick your space and magnify it. A printer chose to put a ton of effort into Twitter and social networking within its business community. He picked business groups that did not have a printer participating and started hanging out with different groups virtually and face to face. The printer went to Tweet socials, where tweeting people get together face to face to socialize and see people. He shared marketing and printing ideas of interest to the groups. He picked the right audience that would appreciate this knowledge. Now and then, the printer would throw out a promotion. Over the course of a year, he became well known in the business community. This printer picked a focus and kept at it.
4) The Holy Printer—One printer started a division that focused on bulletin templates for churches. It went vertical and became the standard for small- to medium-size churches throughout North America. The company made it easy for a small church to offer a professional looking weekly bulletin, including unique parish information on the inside and a beautiful cover.
5) The Pie Printer—A printer offers a “Pie in July” promotion. There are several other versions of an annual event like this. Some give hams out at Christmas. Others, a big jar of chocolates. It is a fun customer-appreciation promotion. Customers have an opportunity to come by, see your place, pick up a pie, and get a great discount on an order. It makes it fun. Not boring.
6) The Spoon Feed Printer—This is my printer. The company trained us on how to standardize certain components of our direct mail pieces using InDesign templates. It gave direction on what we could do to ensure the file was ready for production. The idea was to educate us on how to get the files right the first time, reduce our costs and streamline the process for both of us.
When we went out to three printers to choose a supplier, it was the only one that offered this idea. Now we do all our direct mail with the company. Other printers put costs into redesigning and cleaning up our files each time. They did a great job on service and offered great quality. Doesn’t everyone do that? Boring.
What we wanted was a little education upfront so we could keep costs down and keep the important things in mind as we created jobs. The printer benefited as well, because it got files right the first time. Everyone won.
7) The Radio Host Printer—A printer takes out a radio spot each week to speak about marketing ideas for small- to medium-size businesses. It has become well known by not doing the typical advertising and marketing things all the other printers did. Boring. Granted, not every printer has talent to pull this off, but this printer does. It leveraged its strengths and gifts to be different in the cluttered printing and graphic communications industry.
Things to consider as 2011 approaches:
Think about the talent you have on your team. What could you leverage to be different? What niche is not filled right now that you could dominate? If you don’t know where to start, conduct a 2011 planning survey with your customers, probe a little and uncover your Purple Cow or “Purple Cow Candidates”.
It is important to choose one thing, do it well and carve out your space as the “______ Printer.” Now you just need to fill in that blank, execute the plan and have fun doing it.
Good luck in 2011.