Market Using A Microscope
While describing quite specifically how we should be using our forearm muscles in a certain pose (that’s yoga for you), she said, “I’m bringing your attention to this so that you understand why it matters.”
It was a point both subtle and significant. She drew our attention to a tiny adjustment. Now I do the pose correctly, feeling the effect, and it’s only because she pointed it out.
We should keep this in mind as we market to customers and prospects. Why do we tend to “think big” when it’s usually the small stuff that sets each of us apart — and can really drive home a valuable lesson at the same time?
I think about this when submitting a proposal. What makes my skills any different — let alone better — than all of the other freelance writers? If I only touted the “big stuff,” such as years of experience, numbers of clients and published work, well, so what? My competitors all have skill and experience.
So I point out my specific industry knowledge and experience, which makes me different. Being a subject matter expert, or SME, sets me apart. On top of that, I started a new blog last year to demonstrate my content skills. This new marketing effort has a teeny, tiny focus. The smaller, the better.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … Market It
Now think about this in relation to your own printing business. How do you separate yourself from all of those other printers? What concepts do you use to explain why you’re different?
I believe that many printing companies work from the seats of their pants when it comes to marketing. Without a marketing expert on staff, they practice a catch-as-catch-can type of marketing. This might entail creating a postcard or letter campaign, running promotions that they advertise through site banners and in social channels, and counting on sales people to sell more services to existing customers and make more cold calls to prospects.
This is one difficult way to do marketing. No strategy. No plan. No focus. In the printing industry, where there are tens of thousands of competitors, there’s merit in narrowing your focus when you’re creating marketing materials. This is especially true for content marketing.
Content marketing involves regularly publishing original content that inspires and enlightens your market in ways that shine a light on your company, and in channels that attract your prospects. It means you need to come up with new content ideas often. Maybe it’s daily. Most likely it means weekly or monthly, but even this schedule requires you to dig deep for ideas that will be interesting and engaging.
Coming up with topics is the single most difficult part of content marketing. It’s harder than finding a writer, harder than identifying the right kinds of content, harder than deciding which channels to use and harder than sticking to a schedule.
This is where marketing through a microscope really comes in handy. Because you can’t fall back on the same “big ideas” month after month in your newsletter or blog, and you certainly can’t do so in daily social posts. What’s the solution? You have to bring your readers’ attention to the small things that set you apart, expose your value and help them.
How Small Can You Go?
Approach your blogs, newsletters, direct mail campaigns and even snippets of social shares, through the narrowest of lenses. I have a couple of suggestions on how to go about this.
- 1. Think about your customers and their most common challenges.
What questions do a lot of customers and prospects ask? The answers will point you to specific issues that are common to your customers, perhaps even common to the broad community of print buyers.
Think about print customers in general. What small adjustments to their 1) files, 2) specs, 3) bid requests, 4) paper selection, 5) review of proofs, 6) press OKs and 7) delivery instructions could they make (or should they make) to improve the results, make the process more efficient, or reduce costs?
- 2. Think about how to help educate your customers so they are better print customers. Period.
The best approach to this idea is pretty simple. Complete the following sentence with as many answers as you can: “If my customers only knew that by ___, they’d get much better results with their projects because ___.”
The answers you arrive at through this simple exercise will provide the basis of content marketing ideas. Involve your sales, service and production staff to submit their own answers, and you’ll have enough topics to fill your “content warehouse” for a long time.
Let me suggest a few hypothetical topics to get you started. For this column, I looked through my industry news stream to get ideas that I think many print customers would find interesting. Maybe your most experienced customers know it all — but maybe not. Certainly, newcomers will benefit from learning from you. Here are three examples:
- Focus on “In-Line.” Write an article or blog about the definition of “in-line” and then add more pieces about the benefits of using it in your mail operations. How about, “Producing Direct Mail Pieces In-Line Shaves Days Off Of Your Production.” What does the term mean? How does it benefit customers? What processes can it do that used to require multiple steps? Provide some examples of how it’s used. Printers who offer this should maximize it.
- Focus on Personalization Examples. Maybe it could be a post called, “Customize Your Print with Digital Wizardry.” I was blown away by an article about Liberty Bank’s mail campaign. It was one sentence about inserting personalized maps into every brochure that caught my eye. This is the sort of tiny detail I’d use to market variable data printing (VDP) capabilities.
- Focus on Data Hygiene. If your company excels in VDP, why not create a series of posts (“Cleaning Up Your Customer Data Easily and Painlessly”) that deal strictly with data hygiene? Share small tips about how to maintain a database. Touch on different types of databases. Be a resource. Become the database expert. When they need personalized print, they’ll turn to you.
Bottom line? Focus on the little things. It’s these tiny service “add-ons” or company qualities that distinguish you from your competition. You can get a lot of mileage out of one slim idea.
Practicing yoga forces one to be mindful of every muscle’s movement and position. Why not take this same approach and draw your market’s attention to manufacturing details that will make their products that much better? PI
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