Mark’s the president of The Printer’s Edge, a fine finisher in the fun city of Orlando (too many f’s?). He’d gotten in touch with me weeks before the call, in response to my post about a less-than-perfect prospecting letter from another company. Mark read that post and sent me his own prospecting letter. I called to thank him, and away we went…to a 30-minute chat about print customers today.
What in God’s name do these customers want? It’s certainly a common question among printers. I hear it all the time.
As we danced around the topic, we discussed how hard it is to impress a new prospect (and current customers) in an old manufacturing industry that’s clogged with other printers and burdened with the pressure of digital competition.
Do you make a visit bearing a company brochure and your business card? Maybe a beautiful presentation kit? How about a PPT? None of these ordinary solutions thrilled me.
Then Mark gave me the analogy I’ve been waiting for. “It’s like going to someone’s house for dinner,” he said. “I never go empty handed.”
It’s something I identify with, because 1) I’m Italian-American, and we NEVER go without bringing food or drink, and 2) I’m hypersensitive to this particular social custom. If I don’t have time to bake a pie or biscotti, I’ll bring a fine bottle of red. I usually overdo it, to be honest.
For a host, I want to show my thanks with a delicious contribution to the meal or party.
For your print prospects or customers, you need to delight them with something fantastic.
They don’t care much for just your brochure on its own. Think about all those other print reps dropping off similar materials – they tend to make similar small talk. It’s time to be different. Show them why your company is different.
In mid-September I listened to a webinar featuring three seasoned print buyers discussing their current buying practices. They represented three industries (insurance, financial services for credit unions, and a global coffee company/chain).
When the moderator asked what kind of input they wanted from their printers, they said they wanted ideas. They depend on their printers to make suggestions along the lines of, “Have you considered this?”
Back to you and your customer visits. Should you bring or send samples? Absolutely! Just be sure to do your research first. Samples must be relevant and interesting. They should highlight your best capabilities. If they demonstrate something unusual (a finish, a fold, a substrate), you’ll score Big Points.
In a word, print customers are looking for innovation. Dig deep into your work; find the best examples of how you can help their businesses succeed. Then bring it.
I read an insightful post about the paper-and-pulp industry last week, written by Stephanie Neil for Automation World. She wrote about how International Paper is handling change. Referring to the 100-year-old papermaking industry, their SVP of manufacturing and technology, Tommy Joseph, said, “There is nothing new in the overall process. There is not a new way to make paper—it is a tried-and-true process.” He went on to say that their opportunity lies in maximizing efficiencies and investing in new technologies and capabilities.
This next bit stuck in my mind:
“With the help of automation and software vendors, companies like International Paper are proving their technology prowess. Because, quite frankly, Joseph adds, ‘the pulp and paper industry gets a bad rap. We have to be innovative.’ ”
The same can be said (in fact the same is often said) of the printing industry. You have to be innovative. It’s what the market wants from you.
In the summer of 2013, my colleague John Zarwan and I did a study of 315 print buyers. We looked at many factors, including gender, age group, type of company, and years of experience. It was a diverse group.
As I prepared this post, I revisited that 40-page study. One page included a chart we built from the data, called a Summary Profile of Print Buyers. In one question on that survey, we asked: Aside from printing, what do you expect from your print providers? We gave them a long list of answers to choose from.
One response rose high above the rest, as 76% indicated what they want. They want new ideas. Have a look at this chart.
So the next time you go visiting print prospects and customers, don’t go empty handed. Bring them something fantastic. Think of it as a printer’s version of a fine bottle of red.
(c) 2014 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.