How a Printer Broke My Heart

We sat next to each other at an industry event, just a small meeting with maybe 30 people. Speakers took the microphone one after the other as we sat at the same round table, he and I, enjoying a nice dinner and learning about cross-media marketing. It was something like the 20th time I’d listened to such a presentation, with a speaker imploring us all to jump on board the Multichannel Train and not be left behind.

I’ve been riding this train for years now and presumed that most everyone in our business was right alongside of me. What do I know?

Anyway, in the interest of learning about my dinner mate that night, I asked about his company—where it was located, what the shop did, and so on. Then I got around to the one question I was dying to ask: How do you promote your services?

“Word of mouth, mostly,” he replied.

Not known for having a poker face, I forced myself to nod, utter a gentle, “Really?” and carry on with dinner. He was with the company owner, and I had never met either of them before. It seemed rather inappropriate to challenge strangers over a plate of chicken and rice. I was too shocked, honest to Pete.

But my heart sank at his words. I so want to believe that service providers in this industry are branching out of pure WOM marketing. To me, getting involved in Web marketing is a no brainer.

You’ve got a website (I hope), right? It’s got a blog or two—or should have.

You have an email newsletter and/or a traditional customer newsletter that you send on a regular basis?

Please, PLEASE say yes.

You take part in LinkedIN Groups, surely—or at the very least, you snoop around a few key ones, seeing what your competition and prospects/customers might be saying.

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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  • Tom Jones

    Word of mouth is still the best advertising there is. However, the printer better be savvy in cross marketing including social media if he wants to get new clients and serve his existing clients well. Quite frankly, there aren’t enough hours in a day to keep up with all the marketing streams for myself. I checked my FB page and I haven’t added any content in years. I do a fair amount of direct mail with VDP and targeted emails are effective. A blog? Whatever for other than other printers? I get newsletters from my vendors and suppliers and chuck them right into recycling without so much as a glance. In fact, I get annoyed when I get mail from vendors and three days later there are email newsletters with the SAME EXACT CONTENT only in a 10 foot high constant contact page. Cross marketing has to be thought out. Can’t just throw it out there because it’s the new flavor of marketing which is what a lot of people do. The first thing I ask any client (including myself) is: what is the purpose? what is your goal? Cross media should be complementary, not repetitious.

  • Eric Coulson

    Great article… and some great points in the comments section!

  • JonChapman

    Great article and sooooooo true!!

  • Linda S

    Word of Mouth – I was at a seminar yesterday where they suggested that social media is the new ‘Word of Mouth’ – so maybe he’s okay, then again maybe not since he would have most likely expounded on all the exciting things he’s experimenting with – if he was. I suppose you could have asked him (the owner) how that was working for him –

  • Dosso Mebeti

    wom is efficient but we should definitely add other marketing tools that work because directed towards the right customers.Thanks for the article!

  • Kelly Mallozzi

    My guess is that many printers put marketing on their list of things to do and it always falls to the bottom of the list. It’s too daunting. They don’t know where to start. And there are always a millions other things they want and need to do (like hopefully SELL) But your list is a great starting point and I hope some of you out there put at least one or two of them ON THE TOPS OF YOUR LISTS! Please don’t break Margie’s heart any more than you already have!

  • sophwell

    WOM is valuable because a sense of authority comes with the recommendation. Printers have lots of competition, and your potential clients want to trust that you are up to the task before they test your capabilities. The key to marketing in printing is not just telling your clients how well you do your job, because they can probably figure that out by looking at previous work. If you want to get noticed, you have to tell them how to do their job better. You will be more convincing if you are using the techniques and strategies you recommend to them.

    When I started my business, I created a presence on my web page and on twitter as a way to validate to potential clients that I was a knowledgeable resource. I didn’t know if potential clients would discover me online. Recently, a colleague let me know that the online marketing course she was taking with a college in another state was referencing my blog in their class notes. A week later, a college student in Singapore emailed me for details about a direct mail piece I had blogged about. And yes, I have gotten local business from people finding me on google.

    I’ll have to give some thought to that jumbo postcard thing.

  • Brent Clarke

    I think there are a couple reasons many printers resist these tools. The first is lack of familiarity and the second most important is tangibility (or lack there of).
    As you outlined Margie, there is a huge array of tools out there. To try and harness all of them would require a full time marketing department just to manage them, but your comments are excellent, pick one and try it! Personally I believe doing nothing is far worse than doing something and having it fail. At least you learned what not to do next time.
    However I think one of the biggest issues is tangibility. Most of these tools require some cost, whether its upfront or on going costs, software tools, supplier services or ink and paper. When a printer buys equipment or the newest "gadget", he gets "something" immediately. He gets that immediate gratification. If its a gadget and goes on the shelf in 4 months and is never used again, it may not have offered any ROI but at least it’s still worth something, Isn’t it?
    Those that believe in marketing will try different options and once some success starts to come will further invest but in a tight economic environment, when success doesn’t come immediately, to many it feels like throwing money into the abyss.

  • Diane Toomey

    Reminds me of an aspect of printing sales: you put yourself out there over and over yet feel like you are shouting into a vacuum – not even an echo comes back most of the time. Mary Beth is right about results being difficult to measure. However, I am encouraged listening to Marketing Ninja Christopher Penn on the podcast Marketing over Coffee, along with the producer, John Wall. They can get quite technical, but i feel it helps me to stretch. You can also find their group on LinkedIn. Thanks for the topic, MD! – Diane Toomey

  • aspireforbill

    What is it about Marketing, Margie? Printers know they need it and even ask for seminars on the subject, but when it comes down to showing up, they’d rather learn about the latest gadget. Could it be that they don’t where to start or is it that they know what to do but are too lazy? Perhaps it’s just too expensive. I share your frustration.

  • Sabine Lenz

    WOM is wonderful, but at this day and age not enough. As mentioned by some in this post – pick one marketing item and get started.
    And pls, do not design your own material. There are ample of great designer out there that will be happy to barter with you and provide you with some great looking, snazzy marketing material.

  • Ira Blacker

    Great post and boy do I understand as i used to have a life. :-) Between two blogs per week, daily posts on FB, Tweets, Plus1, LinkedIn, I have given all. However it pays off, as who is "talking about printers anyway".
    Please check out some of my blogs and they all connect to the social media:

  • Bacchus Bacchus P

    There are so many threads to follow within the social media world. It can be overwhelming. It seems one of the most important benefits of participating is building a personal connection – adding a human element.
    Your writing voice is great Margie!