Self-Promo Pumps Profits —Sherburne
SPEAKING WITH print service providers, I always find it interesting to learn how they justify investments, particularly in digital printing technology. In many ways, it can be a chicken-and-egg scenario. While most realize that eventually they must get into digital printing in some way, shape or form, do you wait until you have volume locked up, or do you purchase the equipment with the plan to generate the new business?
Sometimes, printers will have outsourced volumes that justify procurement of a new digital device. But other times they simply see a new market need that must be addressed in order to stay competitive. Seldom do they seem to factor into this decision their own marketing needs.
I recently came across a very different story, though. It has been a year since I last wrote extensively about self-promotion. This seemed like a good time to revisit that topic, especially in a scenario that blends self-promotion with the generation of new business in a proactive and creative way that puts a totally different spin on the concept of value-added services.
In 2003, Bill Brown and his wife Kathy moved to Monument, CO, from Southern California and were looking for a business in which to invest.
“We stumbled across Tri-Lakes Printing,” recounts Brown. The business had been in existence since 1984, and it was operating with a black-and-white ABDick 360 duplicator using electrostatic plates. Little investment had been made in technology.
The Browns immediately set about updating the technology by adding a two-color press and CTP. They had a two-year plan to add a four-color press. The Browns were so successful with their new business that they were able to acquire the four-color model in just six months. But two years later, they realized they needed even more capability and, in November of 2006, they replaced their four-color press with a Presstek DI press.
“When we bought the business,” says Brown, “it was only generating $450,000 in annual revenues. We ran the operation with the two of us and three part-time employees.”
Today, Tri-Lakes employs 10 full-time people, three of whom are graphic designers, and generates annual revenues of $1.5 million. They are building a new 10,000-square-foot facility that will increase production space from 1,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet.
“It will be a state-of-the-art center,” Brown says. “It will include a design center and will cater to our retail business, since we get a lot of people walking in to make copies.”
So how did they grow their four-color volume—and their revenues—so quickly?
A Creative Approach
When Brown made the investment in his first four-color press, he explains that one of his concerns was having enough volume for the press. “We decided to take a creative approach,” he says. “We became a publisher and are now producing a community magazine (The Image) six times per year, with 11 signatures and 165,000 impressions. The magazine is mailed to 13,900 homes. We sell advertising to generate revenue, and we include interesting articles, recipes and some fun stuff.”
For example, various items are hidden within the magazine, and the first 10 people who come into the shop having found the hidden items receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant. “It has been a big hit. People look forward to receiving the magazine. They even call us when they don’t receive it.”
Tri-Lakes is now using the DI press to produce the magazine, touting its increased quality and faster turnaround times in the shop’s own magazine ad.
Building on the treasure theme, the Browns also conducted a direct mail campaign promoting advertisers. It had a treasure chest theme with clues leading to six different businesses. The first person to solve the clues received a gift certificate. The magazine’s advertisers love the innovative marketing approach embodied by this campaign and are thus more willing to advertise. This, in turn, brings more revenues and recognition to Tri-Lakes.
The Browns haven’t stopped there. “We have created a marketing piece that really shows off the quality of our four-color printing—with sunflowers, the sky and even a cheeseburger.”
The Image’s December cover also showcases Tri-Lake’s printing capabilities. Its striking metallic look and heavy ink coverage is eye-catching, to say the least.
Kudos to the Browns for bringing a creative marketing approach to their business that combines print production and self-promotion in a way that created a brand-new revenue stream—advertising revenue—while building brand awareness and market recognition in a fun and innovative manner. PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known journalist, author and strategic marketing consultant working primarily with the printing and publishing industry. She is a frequent speaker at industry events, a regular contributor to printing industry publications and has written three books, which are available for purchase through the Bookstore section on Printing Impressions’ Website (www.piworld.com). Sherburne can be contacted at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com .