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Carl Gerhardt

Business Sense & Sensibility

By Carl Gerhardt

About Carl

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

 

It's Not Over When It's Over

 
We have all heard the famous Yogi Berra quote, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Of course, he was talking about baseball, but it has great application to business, too.

I often think about that quote in reference to jobs or projects in our business and relationships with our clients. Too often, when a job is completed—printed, finished, mailed and billed—we tend to think “it’s over” with that particular job or project.

The fallacy in this thinking is that it is not consistent with being a true solutions provider. How can a job or project be over unless we measure the results or, in some fashion, determine if the solution we provided the customer yielded the expected outcome?

Calculating ROI on a simple printing project or job is difficult at best. While it should be possible with something like a targeted direct mail campaign, it is still challenging to track results.

Bob Milroy, our president and former chief marketing officer, often quotes statistics that show direct marketing customers are really poor at tracking program results. They talk a good ROI story, but when it comes down to it, they simply don’t “get it done.” That provides a great opportunity for us to do it for them.

As we move toward being solutions providers, it is critically important to set up a plan with the customer to measure results in a practical way. Perhaps we can build in project tracking and measurement for customers and conduct it on their behalf. If we do this, we must build in appropriate charges to cover the time and expense of the metrics.

Common sense and sensibility must be applied to such an effort. A comprehensive marketing plan that incorporates mailing, Web and e-commerce tools, such as pURLs, may need a more sophisticated and quantifiable measuring process.

Conversely, a simpler project—such as updating or redesigning a website or brochure—may only require  follow up with the client to determine if it netted positive feedback from internal and external constituents. A plan and agreement with the client on what the metric will be and then following up to ensure expectations were met or exceeded should be the rule and not the exception.

Regardless of whether your firm is becoming a true solutions provider or simply the best printer in your market, you should develop the mindset that “it’s not over when the job is over.” It’s over when you follow up with the metrics—regardless of how complex or simple they are.

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