Why Printers Should Make the Effort to Join Marketing Organizations
The longer I’m in this business of helping printers market themselves, the more I come back to one overarching principle: you have to see and be seen. While this is the basic point of any company’s marketing efforts, it’s especially critical for commercial printers.
I felt compelled to make this point as a fervent admirer of printers everywhere.
Printers Are Mysterious Manufacturers
Commercial printing is an unknown industry to outsiders. For the most part, printing plants are way off the beaten path. Yes, there are retail storefronts where folks can walk in to order their print materials, but I’m not talking about these. I’m talking about the big commercial printers that have ginormous facilities in industrial office parks. Nobody sees you unless they’re already a client or a supplier.
You’re like the cloistered Carmelite nuns I recall from my childhood near Convent Station, N.J., who lived their private, separate lives out of society’s view. We didn’t need a secret password to gain entrance to their building, but when we visited the nuns, there was always a thick wall between us. We only spoke with them and were not allowed to see them. Are you like that?
Commercial printers tend to lead sheltered lives. That’s got to change. Since prospects don’t come to you, you must venture forth and find them.
My Money Is on Marketers
Many of my previous columns for PI have centered on marketers because I’m convinced that’s where the heart of corporate America’s print purchasing activities resides. The research on print buying behaviors and trends that I’ve done for the past several years with my colleague John Zarwan couldn’t be any clearer on this point.
Forget about the titles of corporate employees who might be in charge of print buying for the moment. Focus on the fact that marketing departments make the decision about how to promote their company’s products. They’ll analyze and assess the value of different channels (it’s never just one channel anymore), including print, for future campaigns. They’re usually the ones in charge of creating materials for company events, even if someone in purchasing ultimately works with the print provider. Marketing holds the key.
Printing knowledge has to be there, in the marketing departments, so that the decision-makers and the creatives have the information they need to make their channel selection and shape their materials. Developing a game plan for playing a more significant role with marketers should be a key goal for commercial printers.
And since most printers are still hidden away like those cloistered nuns, the first suggestion is to get out more. Mingle with marketers. I have a couple of specific recommendations:
• Look into the DMA (Direct Marketing Association). If you’re not a member or haven’t attended any of their events, let 2017 be the year you begin.
• See if there’s a direct marketing association near you. Although the DMA itself doesn’t have chapters, there are several vibrant direct marketing groups in this country. Here in greater Boston, our local group is NEDMA, the New England Direct Marketing Association, of which I’ve been a member for years. The program content is excellent, and printers are often in the audience. Printers deliver sessions, both at the annual conference and at smaller events. I could not find a comprehensive online directory.
Similarly, look at the AMA (American Marketing Association) to see if it offers events and other opportunities for your company to participate in. You can find a link to local AMA chapters from the Membership section on its homepage.
Why Join Marketing Associations?
I’ve been advising printers to get involved with these groups for years, even though many print CEOs fail to see the value. I can think of five good reasons.
Education. You’ll learn about marketing trends just by attending sessions. These groups cover the full range of marketing-related issues, from direct mail to marketing technology, to email marketing to mobile marketing, to omnichannel marketing to data analysis, to lead generation to channel strategy.
Printers should be as conversant in these subjects as they are when discussing ink and paper. And not only can you learn for your own professional development, but chances are you’ll come across companies or individuals to partner with.
Networking. You’ll meet new businesspeople in the field. Local marketers, direct mailers, creatives, copywriters, Web developers and print purchasers attend these events. You’ll expand your professional community and hopefully develop profitable relationships.
Business development. You’ll meet potential customers. The more often you attend, the deeper the personal relationships. When these relationships develop, it’s easier for prospects to consider you for upcoming projects.
Advertising. You can definitely support a marketing association in different ways. Many have a range of sponsorship levels. Investigate all of your options.
De facto marketing. By virtue of your presence alone, you’ll expand the awareness of your company and its capabilities. Your name and your company’s name will appear on attendee lists, sometimes even on a group’s website if they list the registrants of their events. You can participate in audience discussions and socialize during any meal and refreshment breaks.
If commercial printers are interested in understanding marketing trends, technologies and behaviors, there’s no better way to accomplish this than by getting involved with one or more professional marketing groups.
This is the No. 1 piece of marketing advice that I’d give to printers: get out there to see and be seen.
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She is as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference.
Although she has exited the event business, Dana is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com