Coping in This Economy --Morgan
THERE IS no doubt about it; the present economy has had a negative impact on how much print is being purchased by buying companies. At least, that’s what 75 percent of the participants in Print Buyers Online.com’s recent Quick Poll survey stated. So how can you, as a print supplier, keep the clients that you have while encouraging new business relationships? This article addresses several tactics that you can take to remain afloat in today’s troubled seas. Go Beyond Demographics. It’s time to update your marketing plan. To uncover information that will help you put together a strong- er one, get to know your print buyers beyond the who, what and where. Most of your repeat clients will be more than willing to provide you with the information you seek, if you ask them the right questions.
An easy way to get started is to sit down and come up with a brief survey that will capture the information you need to fine-tune your marketing efforts. Once you launch the questionnaire and compile the results, you will recognize buying trends. Only then will you know how to continue giving your customers what they want—and eliminating what they don’t.
To encourage the highest participation, don’t forget to provide your buyers with an incentive to participate. You’d be amazed by how many people complete our surveys when they are offered a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Another way to go is to purchase Starbucks Cards, which are available in $5 to $500 denominations and can be custom-designed to include your logo, contact information and message. So not only will you be providing incentive—you will be reinforcing your brand each time a recipient orders his or her morning café latte.
A caveat to the above: If you launch a survey that rates your performance, quality of services, sales reps, etc., I recommend not providing an incentive. It could sway the results because people will be less likely to criticize your organization when they receive a gift.
Reward Your Referrals. People love to get recognized for their good deeds. A simple token of appreciation will encourage your satisfied clients to continue sending more people your way. And that is one heck of an ROI.
But don’t forget to make it easy for people to help you. It is critical to make forwarding your information as simple as possible. This can be done through “forward to a friend” campaigns in weekly e-letters/e-zines or creating an area on your Website for a quick copy-and-paste section. The trick is to get people to pass on your information—and be able to have a warm referral instead of a cold call.
I encourage you to take this one step further and ask for your referral’s positive comments in writing, along with a quality headshot. By doing this, you can add their testimonials to your Website, which will generate trust among those who have not yet become clients.
Showcase Sustainability. In a recent Print Buyers Online.com Quick Poll survey, 73 percent of our print buyer members believed that sustainability and environmental efforts have become more important in their company in the past year. Vanguard print suppliers have fine-tuned their services to provide more green initiatives and are educating their clients on why green is the way to go. And 61 percent of our print supplier members believe sustainability in print will soon become an industry standard.
If you are working to create a more eco-friendly workplace environment, showcase your efforts! You may be surprised by the rise in sales that will follow. If you need help getting started down the green path, our sister company, Print Communications Professionals International, has just published “Best Practices for Sustainability in Print.” Learn how you can stay on top by visiting www.pcpi.org.
Share Your Story. In this Internet age, people are seeking out the human element more than ever. One simple way to become more approachable is to tell your story. As human beings, telling stories is a part of our innate condition—and it can be an extremely compelling way to communicate with consumers. Take Intelligencer Printing, for instance. Here is what they have to say on their About Us page:
“We proudly boast of our 220 dedicated employees, many of them with us for more than 25 years, many of them from the third or fourth generation of the same family on staff. Such stability, two centuries of experience and a unique perspective on craft ensure special dedication to every Intell client and every Intell product.”
Develop a voice that will serve your organization’s overall mission, while illustrating your uniqueness in a memorable way.
Get Social. The new way to connect with buyers is through social network sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flikr and Twitter. These sites digitally map individuals’ real-world social connections and facilitate the exchange of information, and organizations can gain direct access to millions of users. And that means unlimited potential for creating brand awareness.
At work and at home, people are tapping into their social networks to see what their friends are up to and what causes they can support. By joining such e-communities, people will be repeatedly hit with your logo and company information for minimal or no cost.
Expand Their Minds. The average consumer is also becoming more and more Internet savvy—and they expect you to be able to keep up with them. As a printer, your goal should be to get potential clients to your Website—and engage them while they are there.
This will ensure repeat visits, and eventually develop brand loyalty.Here are a couple of ways to get them to keep coming back: Offer podcasts, send out e-letters, launch surveys, provide educational videos, establish forums, host Web-inars and write blogs.
The more you can interact with your market, the better. But don’t forget to ensure you have the staff on hand to keep things moving, which brings me to my next topic:
Don’t Let it Get Stale. From e-letters to videos to blogs, it is imperative that your information is relevant and timely. There is nothing worse than receiving a weekly communication that is repetitious, while offering no added value. Your audience will soon get bored and opt out of your distribution list.
Keep in mind that less is more. People don’t have a lot of time to spend reading things, and they appreciate quick advice. Sometimes a two-paragraph tip will generate more interest than a two-page report.
Cover Their Tracks. Keeping tabs on your clients is an important step in meeting their expectations. By keeping good records, you will be able to notice trends in their buying behavior—and provide them with services they are predisposed to purchase.
One easy way to do this is to track where they go on your Website. Note which landing pages are the most popular, and assign these areas the preferred real estate on your site. Also see which of your blogs or Webinars get the most traffic.
Take Off the Blinders. When people take the time to write feedback regarding your blog or article, post what they say, even if it contradicts what you believe, or it is a negative opinion about your company. This demonstrates to your readers that you are listening, you appreciate their input and you are taking their advice under consideration.
Create an open, engaging community, and people will keep coming back.
With so many diverse tools now at hand, don’t forget to streamline your strategies, so that every piece of your marketing puzzle delivers the same message. Your goal should be to create an overall sense of who you are—and not provide incongruous messages in the process.
If you create a community that is open, engaging and current, you will get people to keep coming back—and bringing their friends and colleagues along with them. PI
About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is founder and CEO of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free community of more than 12,000 print buyers whose member companies purchase more than $14 billion a year in printing. PBO conducts research on print buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with print suppliers. Morgan can be reached at smorgan@ printbuyersonline.com.