Are Promo Materials Immaterial?

I once had a boss who used to say—“The cobbler’s kids go barefoot.”—every time I asked him for a brochure or some materials I could drop off while prospecting for new business. It took me awhile to figure out that what he was saying was that it is a common phenomenon in business that you are so busy performing the work for your clients that the very thing you need for YOURSELF never gets done.

Poor cobbler’s kids. Their feet must hurt. And poor print reps. How do they get the word out about what they do without something that they can leave behind?

I decided that the topic of marketing materials might make for a healthy debate with all my devoted followers. So here is the question:

Can you have an effective prospecting plan and land lots of new business without something printed that tells the world who you are and what you do?

I think you can. But I also think that you shouldn’t. Here’s why. With an effective prospecting plan, you have to touch a prospect a number of times in a number of ways. I am a fan of letters, phone calls, e-mails, dropping by and sending postcards.

“Why all the work?” you say. Because you have a lot of competition out there, and you have to be creative and persistent to be heard above the din. The vast majority of sales people give up way too easy, without having tried anything other than one or two phone calls or e-mails.

I am a BIG fan of the drop by. If it is at all geographically feasible for you, I recommend that you start dropping in on prospects as part of a well-though-out prospecting plan.

But if 8 times out of 10 the prospect does not step out to meet you face to face, what do you leave behind? A business card? OK. Some candy? Sure. A scratch-off lottery ticket? Nice idea.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • http://Gigi Gigi

    We do have some printed marketing materials, because really, that is what we do. And I think it is important that we do, and that the quality be the best we can produce.

    The one area where we spent quite a bit of time and money was on our estimate proposal package. (Our sales are based on 2-3 year contracts versus 1 off jobs.) That is where I hear quite a bit about the impact it makes.

    Even if we don’t get the work that time around, our proposal binder is usually sitting on their shelves. Its almost too nice to throw out, so it stays as a reminder of who we are.

  • http://StephenEugeneAdams Stephen Eugene Adams

    I think the major hangup is the content creation aspect of designing a good drop-off piece. Not too many printers are that creative so they think of all sorts of other priorities to do than put together a great marketing piece. Being a member of the Alphagraphics franchise system in Phoenix, we do have access to a lot of pre-designed pieces, but when my sales people ask to create a custom piece for some aspect of what we are doing, the project takes forever because there is always something better to do (such as responding to blog posts).

    As we move into becoming marketing consultants, we will have to solve this creative piece of the puzzle.

  • http://DaveWacker Dave Wacker


    Great topic and so true! We’re in the process of revamping our entire prospecting strategy and self promotional materials are on the top of the list which also includes a very targeted cross-media campaign. In today’s world, it seems you can’t have enough touch-points.

    Regarding your one comment, “I am a BIG fan of the drop by” – please explain. My experience has typically led me away from this method as the majority of prospects seem to be annoyed at the idea of ‘dropping by’ without an appointment and expecting them to see you.

    Keep up the good work!

    Dave Wacker
    Intech Printing & Direct Mail, Inc.

  • http://Kelly Kelly

    While it is true that a lot of people don’t appreciate uninvited guests, I still do it. Here’s why…if they don’t want to see me, they will typically tell the receptionist that they are not available and even have him/her tell me that they don’t see people without an appointment. That is fine. I am still ready with a small leave behind, which demonstrates that I go above and beyond. And, sometimes, I get someone saying, “I’m really glad you stopped by today – I have something for you to take a look at.”

    I would never not do something because I had a bad experience once or even many times. You never know. GO FOR IT! What have you got to lose? Besides a sale, that is?


  • http://Brian Brian

    Great post Kelly,
    We have fallen in to the “we gotta get the customers work done before out own” trap several times. If we aren’t constantly promoting and marketing our company, then how are we supposed to grow. Don’t have time? Well invest in paying your press operator some over time to stay late and get the brochure or marketing piece printed after business hours. Not great on content writing?

    Like you said, barter with a designer or copywriter you have a relationship with. Advertising is the most important factor in ANY business. Why do you think you are printing all of these advertising materials for other companies? Maybe because they are needed to get more sales? Just a thought :)

  • James Cooper

    The marketing strategy differs from business to business. Some businesses really do well with just direct marketing and some need to run the adwords ad. But once any business gains reputation they need not do any marketing further. Thanks Kelly for some valuable points.