The formula for success is C+A+M=PG, noted the marketing consultant. Capture customers continuously, then Amplify customer relationships and Maintain customers for life to achieve perpetual Profits and Growth. He also advised attendees to educate—not sell—customers.
Even as the industry advises marketers to become more customer centric with one-to-one, variable data communications, several speakers noted that too many print providers still don't take that approach in their own businesses.
"Become your customer. Make them the center of your world," urged Sue Hershkowitz-Coore of SpeakerSue.com, a noted business speaker and sales trainer, in her keynote address. "Make the promotions you send to customers and prospects about them, not your company. Focus on what they need to become more successful."
How customer relationships are changing was also a topic raised during a panel discussion featuring three next-generation companies. Included were Andrew Hrywnak, president of Print Three in Concord, Ontario; Chris Tews, vice president of Graphix Products in West Chicago, IL; and Michael Marcian, director of marketing strategy at Corporate Press in Landover, MD.
The panelists were asked about offering creative services and the danger of being seen as a competitor by agency customers. Corporate Press has designers on staff, Print Three has a sister company that is a true ad agency and Graphix Products freelances out creative work.
All three agreed that care must be taken in maintaining these relationships, but said they've found agencies don't necessarily have the specialized expertise required for doing variable data printing and cross-media campaigns. Their advice was to position your company as a resource for ad agencies and to only pitch services that complement a given customer's in-house capabilities.
One of the hot topics at the conference was a bit surprising—wide-format digital printing. Multiple speakers and audience members worked for companies that have recently made significant investments, despite the economic downturn and the technology having been touted as an opportunity for years. Part of what's driving the current surge is UV ink-jet systems in a flatbed or hybrid configuration because of the productivity in printing directly on rigid substrates for applications such as POP displays.