Lessons from a Computer Nerd
There are some things I think I'm pretty good at—like writing, editing and knowing how to market small businesses. Then there are things I have zero aptitude for. Computer hardware and software skills are at the very top of this category.
So when my five-year-old MacBookPro stopped behaving last month, I spent hours on the phone with Apple tech support (Note to self: never download and install a new iOS just because someone on the phone tells me to) and with real people at my local Apple store (five visits in 24 hours).
Today I have a new hard drive installed and, because I knew enough to back the Mac up, I reloaded all of my documents and programs on the nearly new laptop.
Everything worked fine except for my Gmail account. No matter how many times I checked and double-checked my account settings, I couldn't get mail to come or go.
It was time to bring in the Big Guns. For me, this means Martin Kadansky, my computer nerd. Martin has the computer gene I am missing. He's an MIT grad who's brilliant and methodical. I trust him 100 percent. He's as fluent in PCs as he is in Macs and, despite his busy schedule (evidently everyone needs a nerd), he booked time with me over the phone on a Saturday. Using Logmein, he quickly had access to my laptop, and within an hour he figured out the problem and fixed it.
What does this have to do with marketing? I'm getting to that.
After Martin fixed my e-mail problem, I asked him a few random questions about laptop batteries, Mac operating systems and RAM. That's when he showed his true value to me. In the last 20 minutes of our phone call, he taught me stuff I never knew:
- To think of my laptop battery like a muscle: if I never use it, it won't last as long as it should or could. My laptop's almost always plugged into an outlet, so I rarely let it run on just the battery. He advised me to work on battery power regularly.
- To replace my old surge protectors every three years. He told me they degrade over time. Who knew?
- Although I have an external hard drive and backed everything up before the hard drive failed, he suggested I buy a new external drive and use it from this point forward, so if anything happens to the laptop, at least I have all of my old documents and programs.
- To clean up my Spam folder at the point from which it "springs;" that is, on Gmail. It's Gmail that decides which e-mails are spam, so once I clean it up there, I'll have cleaner inboxes.
- I learned about when to upgrade my Web browser and when not to do it.
Here's the thing: these simple techie tips are highly valued by me and probably common knowledge to him. This is the stuff he knows and does for a living. He might think I'm a dolt for not knowing them. Well, I think he's a genius and a lifesaver. I took extensive notes, which I saved. I also and immediately shared these tips with family members. I went online and ordered new external drives and surge protectors.
What's common knowledge to him are important and valuable insights to his clients. I gladly pay for them.
There's an important lesson here about marketing your printing business.
I know from listening to printers and other business owners about The Fear of No Content. How can you possibly come up with topics week after week, even month after month, to use in a blog, an e-mail newsletter, video promos or direct mail?
This fear holds many back from marketing their companies. I get it. But every printer has inside knowledge about running your company, managing employees, troubleshooting common problems and making products better than the other guy that your customers would love to know about. Just like Martin knows about his business.
You just have to think like a customer.
If you can train yourself and certain members of your staff to write down all of the common-sense tips, explanations and shortcuts you have in your heads from years of experience in the printing industry, you'll discover how much you know that probably a lot of your customers don't. In essence, you'll be building a hefty and comprehensive directory of content for marketing purposes.
I suggest you start with broad, general topics about your specialty. Below these, fill in more specific subcategories. The knowledge nuggets will flow, as they did with Martin and my Mac maintenance, and you'll be creating bits of valuable content for clients and prospects. You can stockpile and use them as needed.
I get Martin's newsletter and read it right away or store it in an e-mail folder to be read later. I know that much of his content relates to me. What is it worth for you to have customers and prospects feel the same about your own newsletter or blog?
Stockpile Your Content Ideas
Here's just a hint of what I'm talking about. Start "big" and, over time, jot down additional facts in these topic areas that would educate, inspire or "wow" some of your prospects.
Broad topics would include things like Printing, Presses, Proofs, Prepress, Paper, Ink, Design, Typography, Finishing, Mailing, Fulfillment, Trade Customs, Scheduling, Estimating, Special Effects, Bindery, Industry News, Best Practices, Customer Service and Cost Issues.
Once the big topics are identified, drill down to more specific subtopics that you feel comfortable covering. Think of this as a work in progress that will be done over time, not something you must complete in a week or a month or even a year.
It should be a document that's open and sharable. You want the contributors you've identified to have access to it in real time and be able to add and edit their own sections.
In time, you will create a content library that's rich and overflowing with knowledge ideas you can use over and over as you market your firm.
Maybe you're already interacting with individual clients the way Martin dealt with me; that is, you readily share insights and knowledge in conversations or office visits or on-press.
This knowledge can be put to broader use, if you gather all of these tips into a company content directory. This plan means you'll create a massive, customized content resource. You'll never run out of topics to write about.
Writing about what you know, in your own voice, is a valuable source of marketing content. Do what comes naturally and become a hero to your customers. PI
About the Author
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's 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's exited the event business, she 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
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