Are Your Samples Costing You Clients?
Many people reading Printing Impressions are probably aware of my Print Production Professionals group on LinkedIn. What isn’t widely known is that I also have a Buyers only subgroup with over 1,500 members from some of the biggest companies and brands in the world. Most of the time they are pretty quiet and busy doing 15 projects at once, but every now and again and they get pretty vocal when the topic hits home. The latest, samples they receive from printers.
Instead of just repeating what they had to say, in this blog I am going to offer printers some valuable navigation advice to avoid sample request land mines. Please note per my blog “Coffee Is For Closers” here on PI, in NO WAY am I offering or equipped to give sales advice. I am however more than qualified to offer relationship advice! Think of me as your Print Buying Dear Abbey...
Like anything else you do with a customer, sample requests should be collaborative. It’s unfair for buyers to make general sample requests when they have something specific in mind they want to see, and it’s a waste of your time and money to send a package that is irrelevant to their needs.
If you don’t already have a sample system in place, try to make sure all requests are addressed by a qualified human being who can have an intelligent discussion with the requestor about their business, and the type of work they are looking to see. This is a great way to open a dialogue that focuses solely on the needs of the requestor. Listening is a skill, and it’s appreciated.
Sending samples also becomes a great opportunity for you to value add without SELLING! For example, a hand-written note in the package—“Deborah, here are the direct mail pieces we discussed. I’ve included a few samples we didn’t that highlight additional personalization opportunities. Looking forward to hearing from you.” Leaving the ball in the buyers’ court, until a reasonable amount of time has passed before a follow up, helps buyers feel comfortable with you. Comfort goes a long way.
If the buyer is just trying to get a general sense of what your capabilities are, keep in mind they can’t really make informed decisions on the quality of producing a complicated piece from a tri-fold brochure. A few clicks on their company Website should give you a good idea of what they print—especially if they are an ad agency or marketing firm or designer with an online portfolio, and a good eye can deduce a ballpark cost per piece. Showing you understand their needs without a million questions also shows you “get” them, and will work well as a partner.
The opportunity for the value add here is to include—“I saw some of the amazing work on your site, and I’ve sent you some samples I believe are very comparable. I also tossed in a few that have additional finishing’s we do in house so you can see how a little pop can make a lot of difference.” Bringing ideas to the table in a helpful manner versus being seen as up-selling could be why you are chosen over another provider.
In some cases, buyers are directed to use specific printers by their clients. We don’t like that. We know you have a relationship with the client, and we don’t know if we can trust you not to throw us under the bus if something goes wrong, or if you will “complain” about the way we do things, or really anything that having a direct relationship with our clients can open up. It doesn’t matter that you were there first, if we can move you out of the picture without causing a client issue we will try, and sometimes this is done by calling in samples hoping that we can point out why “our” vendor(s) are better.
This one is a tough situation, but if you can communicate that you are aware of it, equally vested in having us as a long-term client, explain why the client trusts you with their work but you also understand there has to be trust between us, things will go a lot smoother. In this case, send all the samples of work you have printed for the client so the agency can “improve” upon it and solidify their worth. A valuable resource for inside information will be embraced rather than discarded.
Speaking of valuable resources, I’m sure you have a closet filled with overages that you send out when samples are required, and just a handful (if you are lucky) of the award-winning materials propped up on a shelf under a spotlight next to a plaque. If those overages are dated, it’s worth updating them, especially if they have a copyright or other information that would tell us the piece is 10 years old—we do look.
Samples can be the gateway drug to a long-term addiction with your business, or it can be the thing that kills potential clients on the spot. I have 1,500 buyers jonesing for a good supply of print, and more important, a free taste of the relationship that could potentially follow.
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international speaker and blogger, host of Podcasts From The Printerverse, cultivator of Print Production Professionals the No. 1 print group on LinkedIn, Girl No. 1 at Girls Who Print, host of #PrintChat every Wednesday at 4PM ET on Twitter, the founder of International Print Day and the founder of #ProjectPeacock. She is the recipient of several industry honors and sits on the board of the The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, and is an advisor for the Advertising Production Club of NYC.
Deborah has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer and now works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers and members, and achieve success with their social media, content marketing, event marketing and sales endeavors.