Printing Is a Game of Numbers!
Printing is a game of numbers, a game of metrics. From the very earliest stage — the bid — estimate numbers rule the process. Press size, sheet size, number of colors, screen size, dpi, live, trim, bleed — all rule the process.
So why, based on my research, do so few printers consider numbers when they enter the new business equation that supports the print game, the marketing game?
Marketing programs are, in most cases, deemed successes or failures based on their “numbers,” the metrics that define Return On Investment (ROI) or Return On Resources (ROR).
Oftentimes, while printers and print providers of all sizes do look to marketing to generate new business, they do not focus on the numbers that will determine the success of the undertaken marketing program.
Here is an example: A print provider based in the Midwest develops a lead generation program, utilizing a staff of four full-time sales people and four part-time sales people. The printer in question believes that the organization has the “person power” to follow up on the effort. But the printer bases its follow up on magic, unrealistic (imaginary) numbers and has, in some ways, doomed the program before it hits the mail or has made that cold call.
Phone-Based Sales Calls
Start by recognizing that any sales call is a process. There is a pre-call prep stage that includes research and qualification; a call stage; a return-the-call stage; the actual-time-on-the-phone stage; a follow-up call stage; and an evaluation stage. During this process, you need to be following the IX Mutant Print-for-Profit Muses that I have outlined over the past nine months (Relevance, Interaction, Integration, Engagement, Dialogue, Content, Context, Metrics, and ROI) to be fully, completely successful. With the average sales (B2B) call lasting just over 1.5 minutes, correct use of your prep time becomes critical, as does the defining of your goals and objectives. If you consider the estimated eight cold calls it takes to reach a prospect, your contact capabilities need to be based on a realistic understanding of the time and effort it will take “to go live,” or actually speak with the selected prospect.
According to my research, 46% of print sales people never follow up after the first call. Industry Guru Matthew Parker indicates his research shows the number to be 48%.
So going back to my example, the actual involvement of four full-time people and four part-time people is an incorrect assumption. What you really have are regular employees who will fit making calls into their schedule and four part-time hires who will make as many (questionable quality) calls as possible. Very little concern is given to the time (numbers once again) it will take to make the required quality-based initial connection and perhaps, more importantly, the follow-up calls that are essential but are often never made.
A Game Plan Is Needed
Going back to our example. The printer in question must include in its numbers the time it will take to make a quality phone-based sales call and the supporting process to prep, follow up, develop the dialogue, and engage with the prospect. To make the numbers work most effectively, the printer needs to start by carefully “honing” the prospect database used to make sure that quality phone calls can be made with some sort of predictable response rate.
When I was hired to conduct a forensic marketing review of a real-life situation similar to our example, I suggested that instead of buying a set of database lists based on minimum quantities (15,000 names), the print provider should have used the IX Mutant Print-for-Profit Muses: Relevance, Interaction, Integration, Engagement, Dialogue, Content, Context, Metrics and ROI to assist in defining and honing the databases and realistically developed and ENFORCED a call program based on the metrics of making initial calls and successful follow-ups on a valid live prospect—i.e., knowing the numbers.
Know Your Numbers – Out Bound
A critical part of the marketing process is an understanding of the numbers, but most assume it is the end-of-term (end -of-program) numbers that are most important. Sure, these end-of-game numbers are critical, but they are DIRECTLY impacted by the start-of-program numbers and the baseline numbers, which need to be relevant (one of the IX Muses) to the success of the program and your business.
Long-term industry professional Nick Patrissi and I developed a study that indicated that sales people spend less than 20% of their time making sales calls, developing leads, and researching prospects. Again Industry pro Matthew Parker’s research indicates sales people spend less then 18% of their time performing these sales-related duties.
Metrics Is a Multi-lane Highway
I look at metrics as a multi-lane highway, a sales path that offers multiple lanes of traffic with passing lanes built into the highway. There are slow lanes, speed-limit lanes, and. of course, the very critical passing (or sales) lanes. The “traffic” the multi-lane highway can handle is the first measurement you should develop. What that means simply is realistically estimating your “making-the-call” numbers based not on what you think or hope your sales team can handle, but on what they can actually accomplish based on your DEFINED GOALS AND OBJECTIVES.
Before you plan your new business lead-generation program, you need to determine the capacity of your sales team much like you look to the capacity of your shop around the busiest time of the year. Does your sales team have the capacity to make it happen? Most don’t. Think time management and use sales tools and CRM software, but, most importantly, develop your pre-planned response numbers based on real-life, workplace impacted numbers. Base your plans on realistic numbers, a real world assessment of the true capabilities of your sales team.
Know Your Numbers – In Bound
Every media used has a baseline response rate. For example, direct mail response can range from just under 1% to up to double digital response. Response rates and their definitions change based on the media used, the goals of the program, and the demographics targeted. Response metrics also are not cumulative. Media differ, and the way independent media “lives” is not always supportive to all media. In short, not all media are created from the same mold, and, in turn, you cannot use the same ruler to measure your results.
Consider the conversion percentages, those calls that turn into sales as the key. These are the most important numbers since they are what your payback will be based upon. Conversion rates are traditionally much, much lower than response rates.
Response (attribution) metrics are needed and are, of course, important to understand the success or failure of your program. But the cost to generate that response is perhaps even more important. You need to consider your Return On Investment (ROI) or perhaps a better more updated term is Return of Resources (ROR).
ROR is the complete cost when all parts of the sales process are considered. Out of pockets, external expenses, internal expenses, printing, mailing, and fulfilling need to be on your list.
Also understand that your goals and objectives will positively and most likely negatively impact your ROI and ROR, so you must consider the outbound numbers with great concern.
Set a Realistic ROI
If you are looking to build your brand, then expect low ROI and low ROR numbers. If you are looking to develop new business, the early planning stage of your effort will impact your ROI and your ROR. Being realistic is important. In the past, an overall growth rate of 3% for this industry was considered to be great. Based on programs I have developed, it did not seem to matter how much more money you threw at the problem; the rate stayed nearly the same. Strategy, planning, and deployment make all the difference — the conversion factor.
Patience Is Golden
Yearly growth is only one of the many numbers, or metrics, you need to know. Media response rate and the quality of that response rate, based on the selected media, are also important. Other key numbers to consider are conversion of a lead to a sale, as well as what that sales or conversion is worth in the short term and over the life of the account.
What is the length of your new business sales cycle? Mine is about 14 months. How long is your closing cycle? How long does a client stay a profitable client for you? All these points and more must be included in your numbers.
If you as a print provider wish to grow, then you need to develop an ongoing lead-generation, new-business sales effort that is based on the IX Mutant Print-for-Profit Muses. But perhaps more importantly, you need to understand that while the success rate of your business may be based on industry baseline numbers, in many cases, your numbers, your metrics, your ROI and ROR, will be a unique as your services offer.
Remember your company is unique and any off the shelf, one size fits all program WILL NOT work.
Many thanks to all those that followed me along these nine months and Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Need to better understand the numbers? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me directly at the number most important for me (917) 597-1891.
Thad Kubis is an unconventional storyteller, offering a confused marketplace a series of proven, valid, integrated marketing/communication solutions. He designs B2B or B2C experiential stories founded on Omni-Channel applications, featuring demographic/target audience relevance, integration, interaction, and performance analytics and program metrics.