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Founder, Print Buyers International (PBI)

Margie's Buyer Insights

By Margie Dana

About Margie

Margie Dana, a former print buyer, is the founder of Print Buyers International (PBI) and its member-based organization, Boston Print Buyers. These professional organizations cater to print customers worldwide through education, an annual buyers conference, Print Buyer Boot Camps, and networking opportunities.

Margie's perhaps best known for her weekly enewsletter, Margie's Print Tips, which she's published weekly since 1999 in an effort to build bridges in the industry. For years, Margie has been a popular speaker at industry events here and abroad. Her clients include print company executives who rely on her to help steer their marketing campaigns and make their online efforts more customer friendly.

 

What Print Buyers DO Want

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Earlier this summer, a printer e-mailed me to ask if I had a handy list of what print buyers want. A “simple list” is what he actually called it. There’s nothing simple about such a list, because print buyers are not all the same.

My last blog post was a list of 22 things print buyers DON’T want. Today, let’s be more positive! Here’s my list, in no particular order, of what print buyers DO want:

Value—They’re no different from any other customer of any other product/service in this regard.

To be kept in the loop—Let them know about the status of their work in progress, particularly deadline-related issues, potential problems, etc.

The TRUTH—This should be at the top of the list, I guess. Buyers always list “honesty” among the top three qualities they seek in a print rep. Don’t hide the truth, don’t obfuscate things, don’t switch papers without their knowledge, etc.

Alternatives—Even though some customers say they don’t want your suggestions for production tips that will improve their product and/or save money, I’d offer them anyway. You’re not just an order taker, are you?

Creative ideas—Building on point #4, offer customers creative and innovative ideas that relate to their materials, their company, and their particular industry. I think this will make you more memorable than anything else.

Project management tools—Do you have software or other products that will streamline processes for customers? It’s something every buyer wants.

Printers who take responsibility—Sooner or later, everyone screws up a job...or a deadline...or a small detail that got forgotten. How you deal with mistakes or delays is very important to customers. Now is not the time to play dodge ball. Own it!

Accessibility to sales and service reps—Surely everyone knows this one. It’s something you have to live with: customers want to be able to reach you whenever, wherever. Sorry.

Respect—Whether they’re new in the field or more seasoned than you are, print customers deserve your respect. Don’t condescend or intimidate. Don’t drop in without calling first and setting up an appointment.

Breaking news about technology—Keep up with industry trends/technology and share such information with your customers. It’s a perfect opportunity for a regular or even irregular e-mail news blast. Be the print partner who keeps them in the loop.

Partnership—It may not be a universal ideal, but most professional print buyers do want to work with you as if you’re partners with them. Think on their behalf. Don’t just get in touch to ask for more jobs. That’s a ridiculously outdated position, BTW.

Heads up—When you know there’s a problem looming with their work, or when your shop is going to be shut for a holiday, or when you, their rep, is about to leave for vacation, let them know. Remember, avoid surprises at all costs.

Professionalism—Always, always, always, act, look and speak as the professional you are.

To be heroes in their managers’ eyes—What can you do to help make this a reality? How are you adding value to their print/media campaign, that will really WOW their bosses?

Print’s ROI—Can you help your customers determine the ROI of print? How can you help them know just how effective print is?

Peer camaraderie—Don’t be a printer stuck in the way-back machine and keep your customers apart from one another. Print buyers love to meet their peers and talk shop. Make it happen in your own plant or take a group of customers out for a get together. Not a sales pitch, a relaxed lunch or dinner.

Advice—What does your company know about other media and how they interact with print campaigns? Do you offer such strategic thinking? Do you know if it’s something customers struggle with? I suspect many do. How can your firm help?

Instant everything—Estimates, returned phone calls, proofs, turnaround of print jobs, solved problems, answers to every question.

Clear invoices—I know you want to get paid quickly. Make your invoices simple to understand. There shouldn’t be any surprises, either.

Introductions to the top brass—The more senior the print buyer, the more important this is. Make sure your CEO knows key customers. An occasional call, maybe an annual lunch. Popping in during a press check is a welcome break.

To be the best in their field—Serious pros take tremendous pride in their work. How can you help them get and maintain that edge?

Information about your services—Never assume your customers/prospects know all you do. They don’t. Make sure the information about your capabilities reaches them. Having it “sit” on your website won’t cut it. That’s passive. You must be active.

Hope this list inspires you. Better yet, I hope you can check off all the ways in which you and your printing company can already say, “Yup, we do that!”

Industry Centers:

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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Margie Dana - Posted on September 03, 2010
Shelly, Thank you. I've asked print buyers this question many times - How do they prefer to be contacted by printers they've never met? - and they consistently tell me: direct mail. Write a letter that's not your standard, run-of-the-mill sales rep letter. Make it interesting. Describe why and how you offer something different. How do your products/services relate to this buyer? Of course, it should be well written and typo free. :) Now, if you happen to have a prospect's email, would I be tempted to use it, and introduce myself via email? Yes. When you send him/her something in the mail, the key is this: make it relevant & distinctive. Good luck, and thanks again for your post. MD
Shelly Rushton - Posted on September 02, 2010
Hi Margie, I have over 20 years in the print business from operating printing equipment to estimating, purchasing and customer service. I can definitely relate to the customer service aspects and understand the buyer's need for information, speed, accuracy, guidance and cost effective solutions. Now I am in a sales role and can definitely fit the bill on all of the above but there is just one thing that I'd like to know...How does the prospective buyer want to be contacted? I know that when I was in estimating/purchasing, drop in sales reps were often just as bothersome as the cold caller...but how does one contact a potential client, that's not in your network, for the first time with out being intrusive to the potential client. Most very effective sales reps say that cold calling is still the most effective, outside of referral of course!
Jim David - Posted on September 02, 2010
Great list Margie. Need to read this list each morning!
Bruce McCurley - Posted on September 01, 2010
This is a list that should be pasted to every sales rep and CSR's forehead! Items 2, 7, 8 and 18 are especially troublesome when you have to drag the information out of them -- if your contact person is not in a meeting or out of the office. Too many suppliers are still stuck in the 1990s when press time and paper were very difficult to find.
Margie Dana - Posted on August 31, 2010
Thanks, Shelly, very kind of you to say so :) Have I left anything off this list? Add your own 2 cents...
Shelly Rushton - Posted on August 31, 2010
Thank you! As usual, your insight has been very resourceful!
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Margie Dana - Posted on September 03, 2010
Shelly, Thank you. I've asked print buyers this question many times - How do they prefer to be contacted by printers they've never met? - and they consistently tell me: direct mail. Write a letter that's not your standard, run-of-the-mill sales rep letter. Make it interesting. Describe why and how you offer something different. How do your products/services relate to this buyer? Of course, it should be well written and typo free. :) Now, if you happen to have a prospect's email, would I be tempted to use it, and introduce myself via email? Yes. When you send him/her something in the mail, the key is this: make it relevant & distinctive. Good luck, and thanks again for your post. MD
Shelly Rushton - Posted on September 02, 2010
Hi Margie, I have over 20 years in the print business from operating printing equipment to estimating, purchasing and customer service. I can definitely relate to the customer service aspects and understand the buyer's need for information, speed, accuracy, guidance and cost effective solutions. Now I am in a sales role and can definitely fit the bill on all of the above but there is just one thing that I'd like to know...How does the prospective buyer want to be contacted? I know that when I was in estimating/purchasing, drop in sales reps were often just as bothersome as the cold caller...but how does one contact a potential client, that's not in your network, for the first time with out being intrusive to the potential client. Most very effective sales reps say that cold calling is still the most effective, outside of referral of course!
Jim David - Posted on September 02, 2010
Great list Margie. Need to read this list each morning!
Bruce McCurley - Posted on September 01, 2010
This is a list that should be pasted to every sales rep and CSR's forehead! Items 2, 7, 8 and 18 are especially troublesome when you have to drag the information out of them -- if your contact person is not in a meeting or out of the office. Too many suppliers are still stuck in the 1990s when press time and paper were very difficult to find.
Margie Dana - Posted on August 31, 2010
Thanks, Shelly, very kind of you to say so :) Have I left anything off this list? Add your own 2 cents...
Shelly Rushton - Posted on August 31, 2010
Thank you! As usual, your insight has been very resourceful!