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Dec 1, 2004 12:00 AM
A couple of months ago at Graph Expo in Chicago, I gave several presentations at the NAPL booth. I outlined four basic, elementary strategies to promote and market printing companies. As I repeated the presentation, I realized that I never had actually written about the four simple ways to establish a marketing program.
So here goes:
1. Establish a database
The first thing you must do is establish a database of your current and prospective customers. It should include each and every contact at the account who has the ability to influence print buying. It is extremely important to keep the list current.
2. Vital customer contact
The second strategy is to communicate with those people on a regular basis. Whether you create your own newsletter or purchase a generic newsletter designed for printing companies, regular contact with customers is vital. I can highly recommend Touchpoint Communications Group as a provider of newsletters or contact for Web sites. (I’ll discuss your Internet presence below.) I have no connection with the company, but group president Pat Whelan has been doing this sort of thing for a number of years. He can be reached by phone at 978-446-0606 or at www.touchpointcg.com.
If you have a digital press and can implement variable printing, augment those mailings with occasional postcard mailings promoting your company. By the way, content for these mailings (which I’ll cover later) can be repeated in all promotional efforts.
3. You’re the expert
My third suggestion is to establish yourself and your company as printing experts. Whether you advertise in local media or not, make a point of meeting the editors of daily newspapers and publications in your area. Tell them that if they ever need a source who is knowledgeable about printing, you’d be happy to assist them. You’ll be surprised at how many contacts you develop. Journalists are always looking for sources to confirm or deny story leads, and quotes from reliable experts who have knowledge of a specific subject. It’s a way to get your name in print without spending big bucks. I’ve established a rapport with a number of national publications, and it’s been extremely beneficial over the years.
4. Won over by the Web
The fourth and final promotional vehicle is one I wrote about in the October issue of American Printer ("Time to spruce up your website," pg. 42). It’s the development of a Web site that customers will visit regularly and refer to when they have questions about your capabilities. About 10 or 12 years ago, I urged readers not to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in the creation of a site on the Internet, which was far from an effective marketing tool. But, as the old Virginia Slims ad campaign proclaimed, "You’ve come a long way, baby." I don’t want you to think I’ve flip-flopped on the subject. The Internet has come a long way in the past five or six years, becoming a communications vehicle that is viable and important.
During the past several months, I’ve worked with two organizations that are in the process of updating and refurbishing their Web sites. It’s a long, arduous process, but it is well worth the effort.
Following the October issue’s publication, I received nine e-mails from companies asking me to critique their recently redesigned or new Web sites. One came from a business that was launched earlier this year. Brett Hartman, president of Hartman Graphics Services, LLC (Coppell, Texas), has created a terrific site at www.hartmangs.com. Visit that site for some very good ideas. Another outstanding site of the many I visited is from president Roy Fuerstenberg of Documation (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), a firm that touts itself as "America’s Association Printer." The company can be found at www.documation.com.
On the other hand, I visited a site that could qualify for the "Web Site Disaster Hall of Fame," if there were such a thing. I won’t give you its Web address, but you can’t find the company’s phone or address anywhere on the site. Of the seven categories listed on the left-hand side of the home page, "Coming Soon" appears on three of the links. Give me a break. Why even bother to develop such a worthless effort? (If you’d like to see what I’m complaining about, e-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll forward the URL to you.)
Earlier, I promised to give you tips on content that can appear in mailings or on your Web site—content that is prepared easily and that can be changed on a weekly basis. My suggestions are rather simple. One is to promote your own clients in a "Customer of the Week" (or month) spot. Make sure you alert the client beforehand and obtain permission to run its company profile. The other idea is to promote special printing jobs on a regular basis. The job can be one with which you are particularly pleased, one that has produced unexpected response, or one that was difficult but accomplished its objective.
If you implement these ideas and they are helpful, I’d love to know the details of your successes. You can send my commission to your favorite educational facility or association.