Promote and Prosper —Morgan
JUST LIKE the proverbial shoe-maker, whose son never has shoes, many printers (who are, in fact, in the communications business) are the worst at promoting their businesses. However, print buyers do expect their suppliers to competently market their services, and they judge them accordingly.
Print Buyers Online.com surveyed 94 top print buyers and asked: “How important is a printer’s collateral material in identifying them as a prospective supplier?” Seventy-two percent of respondents said “very important” or “important.” Effective marketing is clearly worth the investment because print buyers judge the quality of the printer’s services and products by the quality of the printer’s marketing communications.
As the head of the largest print buyer’s network, I have the opportunity to review a plethora of marketing communications from printers. Here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them:
• The perfect promotion that never gets sent. I’ve seen printers finesse the production of their collateral materials so much that it takes a year to produce. The best communications offer a continual dialogue. It’s about quantity as much as quality. When planning your marketing communications, instead of investing all of your time and money on one piece, plan for smaller and more frequent promotions.
Buyers no longer judge a printer’s collateral material on the number of pages and amount of copy. They certainly look at quality, so be sure to keep that up, but buyers will go to your Website for more detail. If your company isn’t known for its marketing brawn, then start out with something easy to manage, like a series of well-produced postcards. Then build up to more complex pieces. The point is to get something out there.
• Great idea, bad design. It almost goes without saying that your promotional materials shouldn’t have printing flaws, such as hickies or offsetting. (It’s disappointing how many sloppily produced print promotions I still come across.)
In addition, it’s important that your promotions are well-designed, particularly if you’re selling to advertising agencies and designers who have a natural bias toward communications that are aesthetically appealing. Invest money in good design. Buyers make decisions about your company from more than just reading your words.
• The unsigned letter. I recently received a promotional letter from a printer promoting its digital and variable data capabilities. The letter effectively demonstrated the difference in response rates comparing a typical direct mail campaign to a well-conceived, variable data campaign. This letter was replete with a personal URL address. Unfortunately, the communication’s effectiveness was dampened by the signature. In closing, the letter was signed: “Sincerely, XYZ Printing Marketing Department” (without a person’s name or signature).
That type of closing made the communication very impersonal. Ironic, since what the printer was selling was the benefits of personalization. So, if you are going to take the time to create and send a promotional letter, be sure to make the addresser an individual (not a department), and don’t forget to include a hand-written signature. A scanned signature is acceptable.
• The “we-can-do-it-all” promotion. I was once a printing sales representative, so I know how tough it is to “get your foot in the door” with a prospective customer. It’s tempting to paint your services with the broadest of strokes, hoping that something will resonate with the prospect. Many printers’ marketing communications reflect this type of thinking. The problem is: Buyers overlook these printers because they can’t figure out how to peg them. Or, those printers are never top of mind because print buyers can’t recall what that printer actually produces.
In contrast, I received a marketing kit from a Midwestern printer that really stood out. In five short paragraphs, I knew exactly what the company specialized in. This service provider focused on promoting only four types of products. By saying that they are a trade-only manufacturer, they clarified who they work with and who they don’t. They concisely stated how many presses they have, the stocks they are able to run, the maximum ink units and the “sweet spot” with quantities. They stated their plant location and mailing capabilities.
Their promotion was effective because they communicated their capabilities, both specifically and concisely, in less than 200 words.
• Anonymous print samples. Print buyers love to see samples of a printer’s work. These samples show them not only what a printer produces and the quality of their work, but it also gives buyers creative ideas for their own campaigns. One of my biggest pet peeves is when printers don’t label their samples with identifying information; samples get separated from other promotional material.
For instance, buyers will often pull samples from a printer’s marketing kit and put them in their “ideas” folder. Loose samples can easily fall out of pocket folders. Print buyers flipping through their archives often come across the perfect print sample, but can’t track down who produced the piece. Then, both printer and buyer lose out. So, be sure to put an identifying label on each sample with your company name, Web address and phone number. Personalizing the label with the sales rep’s name would also be a nice touch.
These are just a few of the pitfalls to avoid. For more ideas, join me on PRINTING IMPRESSIONS’ new blog, “Connecting with Print Buyers” at www.piworld.com/morgan. We’ll explore how to sell to print buyers more effectively, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and share your opinions in an informal forum.
I hope to see you there! PI
About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is president of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free e-community for print buyers and suppliers (www.printbuyersonline.com). PBO, which has 11,000 members who buy $13 billion a year in printing, conducts research on buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with print suppliers. Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.