No matter where a print customer works (company, organization, or agency), what umbrella they stand under (marketing, production, design, or procurement) or how much experience they have, they share some common expectations from their printers. I’m not referring to the obvious – of course they expect excellent print quality, pricing, and on-time delivery.
Regardless of how much or how little they spend on print every year, print customers prefer to work with printers who have certain qualities and who handle their accounts in particular ways. They want reps who are honorable businesspeople, who accurately represent their companies, and who can be trusted to do what they say they’ll do.
These are the qualities I’m singling out. This is my list of 10 implicit expectations that all print customers have:
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T. They expect and deserve respect for their knowledge and job responsibilities. Whether you’re speaking with a new buyer or a savvy one, printers should never patronize customers or condescend to them.
- Honesty. Integrity. Professionalism. These 3 personal qualities will get you far if you possess them, or sink you like a pair of cement shoes if you don’t.
- Collaboration. Developing a print job is a process that often involves multiple stakeholders on the buyer’s side. Customers welcome print partnerships that are collaborative. Decades ago, it may have been about Getting the Sale. Not anymore. Help your customers by providing expertise. Listening is a big part of it.
- Appreciation of the ROI of print and its place among digital media. Today’s sales reps have to speak to broader communications issues, help clients measure print’s ROI, and converse intelligently about other marketing channels. How will you address (and solve) customers’ web-based communications needs? Print doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
- Creative ideas & suggestions. In my mind, if a printer doesn’t make suggestions and offer ideas that make my job better in some way (Quality? Efficiency? Format? Cost-effective? Easier to mail?), that’s an open invitation for your competitors to swoop in and take your client right out from under your nose.
- Strong communications. There’s no excuse for not keeping in touch with clients, particularly with an active job. Response time matters. Take your pick (or better yet, check with your clients to determine which channel/s they prefer): phone, text, email.
- Forget your daddy – who’s your back up? Customers assume there are people on your team to watch over their work in your absence. This means when you leave for a day, a long weekend, a week or even longer, they know their work won’t suffer or be ignored.
- Instant everything. Print customers are no different from other customers in this regard. Fast response to their queries, fast turnaround on RFQs, fast proofs, fast delivery. You name it; we want it now.
- Extreme value. Value’s a funny, squishy term, isn’t it? But as customers, we all know when we feel we DIDN’T get the value we expected. To help make sure you’re delivering value to your customers, ask them at the outset what they expect from you/your company – and how they define a successful relationship. It will not be the same for everyone.
- High level of technical expertise. Customers presume their reps understand the manufacturing processes they’re representing – enough to help guide their decisions and make recommendations that will ensure success. This encompasses all of the parts that make up the whole: prepress, press, formats, paper, post-press/finishing, mailing and fulfillment. (Tall order, right? That’s why your team is important.)
Here’s the tricky part: these are implicit expectations. We customers presume you’ll deliver on all of them. Will you? Does this list represent some of the qualities you strive for as a print rep? What else can your customers expect from you – and do you make them known when meeting a prospect?
©2014 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.