It seems that the concept of thinking differently and focusing on customer-centric communications hit the spot. When I returned from speaking at the Dscoop6 conference and the Marine Marketers Annual Meeting—both held in sunny and warm Florida—I had a number of calls and e-mails that offered commentary on the concepts presented in my last blog entry.
Overall, the comments supported the idea and the need to think differently (90 percent in favor, 5 percent against and the balance undefined), but nearly everyone asked, How?
• How can they think differently when price drives every discussion?
• How can they offer customer centric communication when they don’t know what that means?
Agreed—very good questions, very interesting insight and the potential for discussion is clear.
My reply to the price is issue is, Why do they, the printer, let price become the discussion point? At Dscoop6, NAPL’s Andy Paparozzi mentioned in his presentation that when printers ADDED services they did NOT see an upward trend in business, but when printers INTEGRATED new services, they realized a gain across the board.
Here is the statement directly from Andy: “They (printers) knew from the outset that variable-content digital, database-management; one-to-one cross-media marketing programs, fulfillment, etc. were new businesses, not simply extensions of their core lithographic businesses...The winners have integrated their services into a compelling value proposition that helps clients communicate more effectively with their clients. Companies that simply add without integrating are no more insulated from commoditization than when they were offering ink-on-paper alone.”
As I see it, talking price is like adding services—a standalone idea that does not have much worth. But when you integrate the price discussion with a FULL line of customer-centric services, you can redirect the course of the discussion.
Last year, I was assigned to develop a study regarding print buyers and why and how they select printers. The survey was for a local group of printers in a market that drew on the New York City metro area, but the survey base was national in scope. What I discovered was that price was the fourth item of importance as to why a print buyer selected a printer. The third reason was added value and integrated capabilities; providing a better value to the print buyer.
So the next question is, What services are needed and can be integrated into the service mix of the printer? These integrated services must, to use a marketing term, “touch” print buyers and their customers.
This same study indicated that the majority of print salespeople utilize PowerPoint presentations that focuses on the printer and the services it offers, and few focused on the print buyer’s need. Square peg into a round hole, yes?
Perhaps price becomes the issue because the average printer is offering the same old, same old. If that is the case, then you certainly need to think differently.
Thinking differently does not mean you need to spend lots of money, change your shop around or rebrand and change your name. No, thinking differently is a simple effort. Here is the secret, at no charge and my gift to the industry for years of great support:
Think in terms of customer-centric communications; think about what the customer needs, and you are thinking differently. It is not what you have, not the equipment you offer, but the solutions you offer based on the client’s needs.
Think about the vertical your clients plays in. What are the trends industry and the next big thing for that vertical. Printers need to start to thinking of themselves and the services they offer as an enabler. Not the end result of a process that they may get cut out of, but as a key element in the new chain of communication, for which print is not the end-game, but part of the entire game. Thinking differently will be part of the new chain.
Actions are needed as well. I would say about seven out of 10 printers that hire me to move them into the world of customer-centric communications never act upon what I recommend. The reasons they choose not to act are nearly always the same:
1) This is not us.
2) We are uncomfortable with this change.
3) We feel it would be lying to our customers. (But calling yourself a marketing services firm is telling the truth? Come on and get real.)
I am a sailor, and for a racing sailor a basic tenet is never to venture too far from the fleet when competing in a race. The logic is, if a wind shifts occurs, then all benefit or all suffer.
There are times when you need to venture from the pack, and this is one of those times for printers. If you don’t tack away from the pack, every one will be tied at the finish line...in this case, tied to the same price-based customers.
Venture out with a well-planned strategy and you will be sitting in the wining circle long before your competition.
!yltnereffiD knihT [Hint: Use a mirror, if you must.]
You can enable the future by engaging with me and we can think differently together, firstname.lastname@example.org or (917) 597.1891.