What Clients Really Want: Ideas that Dazzle, Information that Educates
While you're featuring presses on your Website, or promoting new equipment in direct mail campaigns, your top competitors are giving their prospects—and your customers—what they really want: ideas that dazzle, information that educates and service that makes them feel important.
Very few print customers care what presses you use for their jobs. Over time, as the workforce gets younger, this will matter even less. Clients expect you to print well, just as they expect you to communicate with them, produce jobs efficiently and deliver the finished goods on time.
This is the unspoken agreement we have with every print provider:
- Do what you promise.
- Do it well.
- Don't screw up.
This is the ante you have to put up if you want to be in this business. It just gets your foot in the door.
If you sit down and talk with corporate buyers, or ask the right sorts of questions in your customer surveys, you'll get to the heart of what they want and the attributes that will create loyalty in their printer relationships.
During years of convening print buyers for conferences, brainstorming sessions and dinner events, I've had the honor of hearing them talk about the industry. They never talked about equipment. They didn't talk about prices.
The core behavioral traits of this community haven't really changed. Today, when I'm speaking with, listening to, or reading about professional buyers, the conversation is much the same.
A Nod to the Knowledgeable
Recently I tuned into a Webinar hosted by Printing Impressions, featuring three professional buyers from different industries. Moderator Mark Michelson declared it a "blue ribbon panel." (Full disclosure: I recruited two of the participants.)
The focus was "Print Buyers in the Digital Age." All three were articulate and savvy, with many years of print buying experience. Panelist No. 1 was the procurement specialist for one of the largest insurance companies in America. The second had extensive experience in the printing industry before jumping the fence to the customer side. Now, he's a senior manager for a global coffee company and coffeehouse chain. The third participant was a vice president in corporate marketing for a New England-based company that provides services for credit unions.
Though the questions were not pointedly, "What do you like about your print partners?" you got a good indication of their printer preferences if you listened.
I thought I'd share the key points from that Webinar, as I found the conversation quite telling.
Looking Beyond Price
One of the biggest fallacies among printers is that customers choose on price. It's a discussion that always comes up if there's an audience of printers, and print buyers have always said they don't choose by price.
This trio was no different. It may be an issue, but price isn't the deciding factor. Remember that all three panelists were senior buyers. I have a hunch that a panel comprised of new print customers might respond differently. They lack the knowledge and experience to critique print quality. With inexperienced customers, as well as consumers, price is a key factor.
New Ideas, Please
Today's experienced print buyer is looking to be dazzled—and educated—by your ideas and suggestions. If they're looking at you as a partner (and most do), they're looking for alternative ways to produce their materials. They value innovative thinking, especially when it improves or distinguishes their materials.
One panelist said she looks for printers who can best complete the job—printers who have their own idea or who can improve an idea. She depends on printers to help her succeed.
"Have you considered this?" is the perfect mindset for printers in 2014. It's all about bringing something new and fresh to the table every time you meet with a customer or a prospect. During a phone call with Mark Resnick, president and owner of The Printer's Edge in Florida, we discussed ways for printers to stand out.
"I think of it like this," he said. "I never go to someone's house for dinner empty-handed." It's the perfect analogy. Bring something out of the ordinary to every customer and prospect. Samples show creativity and capability. They also indicate you're a thinker. To me, it's the winning ticket.
Avoid the #1 Mistake by Print Salespeople
All three panelists during the Printing Impressions Webinar shared their distaste for printers who fail to do their research, who show up for a first meeting, and proceed to talk and talk and never listen, or even ask questions.
By the time you get a face-to-face with a prospect, you should have done your research on the company, the industry and the person. All of this homework will have informed you to the point where the samples you show in that meeting are 100 percent relevant to the person and company.
Never Too Close for Comfort
The panelists revealed something very interesting: Two out of three prefer to work with local printers. The reasons mirror sentiments I've heard for years.
Corporate print customers like to know the people who print for them. They want to visit your facility and see what you can do for them, especially during their evaluation of your firm. Press checks are still important to them. They prefer not to travel for them. They want to get to know the production employees. All of this interaction contributes to their decision about working with you.
Choosing local vs. regional, national or even global printers depends on customers' fulfillment needs. One of the Webinar participants said he prefers working with local vendors but has gone across the country, as well. And the buyer with the global coffee company said his company has lots of shipping points that are far away from his West Coast headquarters. His distribution goes out of Chicago, so printers are generally within a few days' drive of that city.
Particular Press Not Important
Print production is so much better than it used to be that customers are not so concerned about which presses you have. While some customers will always want to know—so they can tell you have the capacity to handle their work—most will not focus on equipment. As one participant put it, "I don't care what equipment they use. If you can consistently, repeatedly meet my quality standards, we're good."
The opinions shared in this Webinar mirrored opinions of the broader buying community. That's why they're significant and why they should be of interest to printers. Apply them to your business development plans and marketing strategy.
Don't lead with your heavy metal. Lead with your creativity, your personal service and your commitment to serving your customers as individuals.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