Make Eye Contact with Print Buyers

An odd thing happened in today’s Zumba class. We had a substitute teacher; someone I’d never seen before. Her dancing was just OK—no great shakes (go ahead…laugh)—but there was one thing about her style that really put me off.

She never made eye contact. Never ever.

Facing the mirror and standing at the front of the room, she dutifully led us through 15 songs. She kept her gaze focused on something up and off to the distance. There was no connection between teacher and students. What…So…Ever.

It reminded me of the judges’ comments on “The X Factor,” when they criticize singers for failing to make a connection with the audience during their performances. Their voices were great, but the performances were empty.

There’s a lesson here for print service providers. Do you make eye contact with your customers? It’s important to let customers know you are paying attention to them, that you know who they are, and that you’re focused on them.

If you fail to focus on them, they’ll sense it and look for another printer who does. Your products may be satisfactory, but there’s no reason for them to stay with you. You’ve made it easy for them to stray.

Make a personal connection with customers. It’s easy. Here are my seven ideas:

  1. Know customers’ names, and use them when speaking to them.
  2. Make your web content, sales letters and promotional materials about “You” and not “We” or “I.”
  3. Call top customers from time to time to ask, “How are we doing? What could we do better?”
  4. Send handwritten cards for a holiday or after a major project.
  5. All customers are not the same. Send classy, targeted promotional materials—i.e., use VDP.
  6. Be familiar with your customers’ companies and industries so you can serve them better—and converse with them about it.
  7. Consider sending every customer a short, five-question “How are we doing?” survey at the beginning of the year. Invite their honest evaluation of your services. (But make sure you’re prepared to act on the results before conducting any customer survey.)

Print buyers know whether or not you’re paying attention to them. If you treat your customers as an anonymous group, they’ll sense it and feel disconnected. It amounts to ignoring them. If and when they leave you for someone else, they’ll feel no guilt, for in their eyes, they meant nothing to you.

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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  • Michael Katz

    Great point Margie! Amazing how powerful the human side of business is (and how many businesses forget to use it). Thanks for the reminder.
    – Michael

  • JR Shooter

    It’s amazing how many people when you talk to them completely forget who you are or do not make eye contact. As a print broker , I am trying to drum up more business, so I have joined a BNI networking group in order to see how I can expand my clientelle. Every week we stand in front of a group of people and talk about who we are as a business, what we do and how we do it. Since going to these meetings once a week I have better learned how to talk in front of groups and connect with them. In the process I have brought in more business. So thank you very much for reinforcing the new ideas I have learned lately, like eye contact, and using a persons name!

  • Linda S

    So what 5 questions do you suggest for the "How are we doing" survey?

  • Mary Ann Fong

    I suggest that if a print provider decides to send a targeted variable data promotion, they should have each and every salesperson comb through their own lists, looking for "turn offs" — like Dear Mary when the person’s name is Mary Ann. . . It wouldn’t take that long, and could have loads of return on the effort.

  • Karen

    Mary Ann makes a good point. Last week I received an email from a printing rep I’ve been dealing with but haven’t given work. Decision was made when he addressed the email to ‘Kathy’ – that’s not my name.

  • Susan Beyer

    Dear Margie…thanks for your nice comment on Philip Beyer’s blog this week. Enjoyed your blog here also! Not sure why some people can’t make solid eye contact when they talk. For me, if I was in a Zumba class, I might rather the instructor didn’t pay TOO much attention to my out-of-shape dance attempts. Far be it from me to ask her, “How am I doing? What could I do better?” Her strategy of avoiding eye contact might actually be brilliant: suppressing raucous laughter!? Anyway, loved your article; will keep it in my good business sense folder. Thanks, again!

  • Marc Zazeela

    Margie – I believe making eye contact is very important in any business (or personal) relationship. Folks who don’t or won’t make eye contact are often regarded with suspicion and that does not make for a solid foundation.

    However, making eye contact does not mean you need to employ a penetrating stare. That might be just as bad, or even worse.

    Personally, I get a little nervous when I speak with someone who does not look me in the eye.