Are You on the Same Page as Your Customers?

Leave it to kids to remind us that that we need really good listening skills.

Our young neighbor Jack, who’s all of 7, came biking by our house early Saturday morning. “We’re leaving for the Cape in about an hour,” he yelled over, with evident glee, “and we’re staying for a really long time!”

“Wow, that’s great!” says I. “How long?”

“Till Monday!” says he.

Ha! I was expecting him to say, “The whole summer!” (Or at least a week or two.)

The joke was on me. But Jack taught me a couple of things we can all apply to business.

First of all, when a print customer says she needs something printed ASAP or even “right away,” you need clarification. For all you know, she’s thinking same day or next day—or maybe to her, next week is fine. If you don’t ask, you’ll assume it means what you think it means. Wrong!

Likewise, when you’re discussing delivery dates for jobs or proofs, sometimes the date itself can mean different things to different people. “Friday” might mean end of day to you (5 p.m. your time), but a client could be thinking morning or early afternoon, so she can check out her samples or distribute some to her team.

Call it a misunderstanding or plain-old miscommunication, but whatever you call it, it can create real headaches for both you and your customer.

I remember the time when a critical direct mail campaign was scheduled through my printer. The company handled the mailing as well as the printing. I’d received the postage estimate earlier (natch) and, thinking everything was hunky dory, calmly waited for the mailing to take place within the week.

A few days later, I called my print rep to make sure everything was copacetic.

Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched her new business in 2013 as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. Now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content.

You may know Margie as the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event production business, she’s still publishing her Print Tips newsletter. She looks forward to helping companies create and style all of their content so their potential customers sit up and take notice. For details and to sign up for her Print Tips and new marketing blog, visit or e-mail Margie at
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  • corey

    I have to say that is a great stance. I totally agree with it all. Its funny that you mentioned that last statement. I end every email or conversation on the phone with this " if there are any questions or if i can help in any way please don’t hesitate to ask." What do you think?

  • Robert Bloecker

    At my company in Vegas, we do a ton of convention printing, and we have had to actually come up with a set procedure where "timeframes" are involved. When is your show? When do you arrive? What hotel are you staying at? When can we have files? When are you available for proofing? You get the idea. As a las vegas printing company, has had to completely make "time" a integral part of our sales process, and we get more and more customer feedback about how great and professional it is. Customers can tell we are used to dealing with Convention printing situations, and thank us for our professionalism.

  • Evan

    "And how about ending every critical conversation about planning a project with this: “Do you have any questions at all for me? Don’t hesitate to call or email me if you do.”

    In all my years in this business, I don’t recall any sales rep saying something like that to me."

    That’s so very sad…