Out of Sight, Out of Mind —Dana
NEARLY TWO months ago, my husband asked me to return something I bought from Amazon. (Okay, it was a cover for his Kindle, but that's another story.) He left the box on his dresser. All I needed to do was reseal, label and mail it.
Weeks went by. When he noticed the box hadn't moved, he reminded me again. While my intentions were good, there the package sat, collecting dust and totally forgotten.
It sits there to this day.
Had I done one little thing—put the box in a spot where I'd see it every day—it would have been sent back to Amazon long ago, and I'd have a sweet little refund.
There's a terrific lesson here for printers: if you're not putting your name in front of prospects where they can easily see you, you've only yourself to blame.
My goal here is to give you plenty of ideas for keeping your name in your prospects' and customers' line of vision. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Decide that you just can't compete with all of the new media out there, or find effective ways of using several media to promote yourself.
As someone who's studied the print buying industry for two decades, I cast my vote (strongly) for the latter. The truth of the matter is this: If you don't keep your name in front of your market, they might forget you exist.
Most printers don't have on-staff marketing managers. You're likely struggling to keep your business profitable until the economy improves. Developing a marketing strategy is just not a priority. What if I told you that there are lots of easy ways to keep your name in front of potential customers, and that it can be done without costing you a bundle?
I sat down to compile such a list, and I came up with 30….so far. Granted, some are way out there. Some are pricey, and some are free. Some will appeal to you; others won't. Pick the ones that match your style, your budget and your market.
30 Diverse Marketing Ideas
1) Phone. Cold calls aside, talk with customers even when there's no work in production. It takes the "sales" out of sales calls.
2) E-mail. Keep in touch with helpful, business-related e-mail, which is less intrusive than phone calls. Make sure your digital signature is complete with all contact information and your URL.
3) Website. Every company needs a Website. It doesn't have to be deep, but it must showcase your strengths, provide contact information, and make it clear what your products and services are.
4) Monthly newsletter. There's no regular marketing vehicle more important than your newsletter. It can be printed and mailed—and posted on your Website, or just e-mailed—and posted on your site. Newsletters need not be long. They should be at least three parts informational to one part promotional. Send them to clients and also to prospects once you get their permission.
5) In person. Every time you meet with a customer or prospect, you're promoting your firm.
6) Direct mail. Simple postcard campaigns are effective. A well-designed corporate brochure is also recommended. Get a writer and designer involved; I beg you.
7) Letters. Sales letters can make a strong statement, but only if they're well written, original and clearly define why your company is different.
8) Samples. Print customers like getting samples from prospective printers, especially if they're relevant to their needs.
9) Plant tour. Offer a tour to a small group of new clients from time to time. Encourage questions. Don't just talk about equipment; talk about applications. Try to have the company president there, as well.
10) Educational sessions. If you have space for 10 guests, host 45-minute sessions on educational topics from which customers can benefit. Identify common challenges. You'll be an invaluable resource. Keep it simple—coffee and donuts are fine.
11) Invite conversations via your site. Websites should be engaging. Build in a form to encourage visitors to submit questions. Make sure you have someone in charge of answering them.
12) Invite customers to buyers' events. If there is an event from which your customers will benefit, ask one or two to go as your guests.
13) Send articles. I like it when service providers show they're thinking of me by sending me articles that are relevant. It's easy. It's free. And I remember who kept me in mind.
14) News releases. You won't believe how easy and effective it is to write your own news releases and e-mail them to your customers and the media. For excellent information on this, read "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" by David Meerman Scott.
15) Open house. Have an annual open house to celebrate…anything! Print customers enjoy meeting their peers.
16) Customer survey. Doing a survey every year or two will not only keep your name in front of clients, but will also show them that their feedback matters. Web-based surveys (like Surveymonkey) are affordable and easy to use.
17) CAB (Customer Advisory Board). Ask four customers to form your CAB. Have a quarterly lunch to solicit their ideas about how you're doing.
18) Linked In. Set up your LinkedIn Profile and start making connections. If nothing else, you'll show up in a search on that site.
19) Twitter. Laugh if you want, but Twitter's a great place for printers to shine. Use it to share your smarts, not to blatantly sell.
20) Thank you note. From time to time, send handwritten notes to your clients. They will always get opened and read.
21) Thank you lunch. If your customers are allowed to let you take them out to lunch, do it to thank them for their continued business.
22) YouTube videos. Not for everyone, I grant you that, but what if you have an employee who's not camera shy and who can explain a process that would speak volumes to prospects?
23) Blogs. A blog is the relaxed sibling of its buttoned-up relative, the article. You can create a blog for free, but it demands decent writing and a long-term commitment.
24) Write articles. There's probably a business newspaper in your city or town. I guarantee they're looking for content. Contact the editor and examine the possibilities. Once you get published, send out a news blast to customers.
25) Join marketing associations. Find the nearest affiliate to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and consider joining it. If you're evolving into a marketing services provider, it's a natural.
26) Speak at an association meeting. See above item. These associations host lots of events, including annual conferences, and often send out a call for speakers.
27) Participate in buyers' events. If there are conferences that attract your ideal market, consider exhibiting there. Even if you don't exhibit, attend them to hear discussions among print customers and to network.
28) Sponsorships. Look into associations, events and Websites that attract your prospects. Find out various sponsorship options.
29) Print ads in local community publications. Are there schools and community organizations that need printing done? Could you do it in exchange for advertising?
30) Banner ads on Websites. Start looking at the Web through the eyes of your prospects. Identify key sites that are magnets for your best prospects. Can you place ads there?
These are just 30 different ways for printers to keep their names in front of customers and prospects. Others include promotional items that carry your "brand," like calendars and pens, and print ads in magazines. Today, you need to promote your services across multiple media. You never know where your audience may be looking for you. Be there just in case they are. PI
About the Author
Margie Dana is the founder of Print Buyers International (www.printbuyersinternational.com), which offers educational and networking opportunities to those who work with the printing industry. She produces an annual print buyers conference (www.printbuyersconference.com) and has written her popular e-column, "Margie's Print Tips," since 1999. Dana speaks regularly at trade events worldwide and offers consulting services as a print buyer specialist. She can be reached at mdana@printbuyers international.com.