Promoting Your Business
How to leverage old school traditions with new school opportunities.
Let’s face it: Sustaining a profitable print shop from year to year is tough. Not only is it challenging to earn new business in the marketplace, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain existing business. Each year seems to bring more competition to the market with seemingly fewer dollars to go around. So, how do you confront these challenges to ensure a profitable future for your company? There are several different answers to this complex question, but one important approach is to effectively promote your business to your existing customers as well as your potential clients.
Creating strategies to bolster your business can be daunting, but it’s a critical part of success. The good news is that you now have more options than ever before. The following are some ideas you may consider when determining how to effectively market your print shop. There will always be the tried-and-true, traditional approaches. But there are also some new-age strategies you should broach for your specific marketing plans.
It may not be all that exciting to discuss some of the “old school” techniques for promoting your business, but in reality, connecting with customers through traditional means is still vital. In spite of the various marketing approaches the digital world now offers, there’s still no substitute for a face-to-face interaction with your existing clients or potential customers. It’s best to meet with them in person as frequently as you can.
Understandably, this can be a challenge. Like you, your customers are very busy and may not want to schedule an extended amount of time to sit down with you. They’re often so busy they’re even reluctant to have lunch with you on your dime. So, get your creative juices flowing when considering opportunities for face-to-face interactions. Here are some ideas that have helped Ferrari Color get in front of our clients, even for just a few minutes:
Schedule a short visit to drop off some samples of new products. If they have questions, you can schedule an appointment for another time. Often, a brief stop with a few new products will turn into more prolonged and productive time spent with your customer.
If your customer is not local to your business, it’s still a great approach to send them samples of existing and new materials for cutting-edge applications. These touch points, even though remote, can become critical links to your clients.
Deliver a completed job personally to your customer. This, of course, may not work if they’re out of state, but where possible, delivering a job provides you one more opportunity for a personal visit.
If you have a complex project you’re working on, invite your client to your shop to discuss the particulars to ensure that you have the correct details before moving forward. For example, this year we worked with one of our largest customers on a very complicated project that spanned several months. During the project, we invited the key personnel to our office for a catered lunch. This provided the opportunity to discuss the progress and details of the project, and ended up being extremely useful as the project progressed. This type of update can happen in person, via video conference, or on the phone. The point is, every personal interaction counts.
World Wide Web
As mentioned previously, the digital world in which we all operate offers a number of different ways to promote our businesses. A great place to start is your company website. Too often, a company will pay a significant sum of money to develop a robust website, then ignore it for the next two or three years, if not longer. Your website must contain relevant and up-to-date content. Statista reports that 3.17 billion people are now using the internet, and 2.3 billion are active social media users. We will get to social media momentarily, but ponder the fact that more than 3 billion people are using the internet! If you don’t think any of them are interested in your website, consider the following statistic: Search Engine Land reports that 85 percent of consumers have used the internet to find local businesses. You must realize that in our digital world, many existing and potential customers are looking at your website for vital information – long before they’ll bother to pick up the phone. If your content is dated or irrelevant, then you’re doing a poor job of promoting your business and, ultimately, your company is losing sales.
Under the direction of our former marketing director, our website was a fairly low priority and carried very little relevant content. As a result, we rarely received business references from our website. A few years ago, we hired a new marketing director whose focus immediately went to our website and social media outlets. We now update our website regularly with fresh and pertinent content. As a result, we receive business references on our website links on a regular basis. The change has been remarkable.
Another way to keep your customers up to date on your shop is to send regular email blasts. The same principles identified with your website apply here. Your content needs relevant information your clients are interested in. But be wary of the pitfall of sending too much too frequently. Saturating your customers’ inboxes with emails will risk making your content feel like spam. Also, avoid the tendency to use your email blasts to boast. It’s nice to share some occasional success stories with your client base, but it’s much more effective if your direction is focused on the product and potential applications for your customers. Relevant content means information that expands your customer’s knowledge base and will help them understand better options for their own projects. Successful email marketing campaigns will undoubtedly tie your customers closer to your business.
Social media outlets may be the most challenging way to promote your business. However, in today’s world, it can be an extremely useful and effective way to provide positive exposure. Consider this: Feedback Systems, in collaboration with Sales for Life, PeopleLinx, Sales Readiness Group, VorsightBP, and Sandler Training, completed a survey two years ago and found that nearly 75 percent of companies that engaged in selling on social media reported an increase in sales within 12 months. For example, Facebook used to be a site to find old friends and keep in touch with your extended family. Now, it boasts more than 2 billion monthly active users and is used daily as a center for e-commerce. Your company should have an active Facebook page with great content and multiple links to your own website, as well as to other relevant sites.
Your social media approach can also include an active Twitter account, Instagram page, Pinterest board, or weekly blog. Studies indicate that more than two-thirds of consumers now rely upon social media for customer service – and they expect 24/7 support. Even as an “old dude,” as my kids would describe me, I always search out alternatives to customer service interactions, such as chat links. It’s much better than waiting 20 minutes for someone to finally answer a phone call.
Forces of Change
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by this ever-changing world in which we live. Every business in every industry is affected by the changes we have experienced in the past years. And it will continue to change. Don’t panic and suddenly decide that you must spend significant amounts of time, money, and manpower on every social media outlet possible within the next few months. If you take the shotgun approach to digital marketing, chances are high that you’ll be mediocre across the board. Instead, identify one area that you wish to try out. Develop an excellent plan that will stay true to your company brand and deliver great content to your customers. As you succeed in one area, move to another and experiment with different approaches to your digital marketing plans. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
The reality is we operate in a very different world than we did 10 years ago. People sell differently and people buy differently. I never would’ve imagined I would buy a car on the internet. But the last vehicle I purchased was done completely online – custom ordered exactly the way I wanted it, manufactured to those specs, and delivered to my local dealer. The first time I drove it was when I signed the paperwork and was handed the keys. If you believe your business to be resilient to the changes in consumer habits, I can assure you with a high level of confidence, that you are wrong. By properly balancing your important face-to-face client interactions with new digital marketing outlets at your disposal, you’ll be able to build a successful approach to promoting your business to your current customers, as well as to those future customers that are so important to maintaining success in the coming years.