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Dec 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Vinocur's Perspective

I've often wondered why so few printing companies advertise, promote or publicize their services. I’ve also questioned why most, especially the smaller ones, have no managers with the word “marketing” in their titles.

I’m a big fan of movies and visit my local multiplex at least three times a month. For years, it has been running advertising slides prior to the trailers. Most are for local businesses and the cost is only $1,500 a month, but I’ve never seen an ad for a local printing company. In addition to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, I receive one local daily and one weekly newspaper, as well as three local bimonthly magazines. I’ve yet to find one ad from a local printing company. Our local phone book shows about 40 printers in our town and the other five nearby suburban boroughs, yet only three have display ads. I keep asking myself, “Why?”

So I thought I’d encourage readers to make their number one New Year’s resolution to find a better way to get their company’s capabilities more well known in local communities. Here are a couple of ideas on how to do that.

Paint it red
I suggested this first idea to a friend a number of years ago, and he implemented it with great success. My idea was simple. Local diners use paper place mats for each customer. Visit those diners and offer to print those at no charge. Allow the diner to use the center of the place mat, and sell ads in the surrounding area. The mats are 12 x 18 inches, which is a total area of 216 column inches. Charge $200 an inch per month with discounts for an entire quarter. (For example, a five-inch ad would cost $2,500 per quarter.) Make sure the printing company has at least a 20-inch ad on the mat. Subtracting that and the diner’s 20-inch area, there is a total of 176 column inches to sell to local retailers, generating, with the discounted rate, close to $45,000 per quarter in revenues. My friend added about $180,000 to his bottom line. It was a new income source. The most difficult part of the project was finding a salesperson who was only looking for part-time work.

Hits where it hurts
I spotted another effective marketing tool in the Northeast. A printer made arrangements with the local daily newspaper to papers distributed each day in waiting rooms at nearby hospitals and large medical practices. Each had a label attached offering a 10 percent discount on initial print orders. It appears business people get sick, too. The offer was good only if you ripped off the label. On a recent visit to the doctor, I noticed several labels were gone. I called the printer, and he told me it’s been one of the most successful promotions he’s ever used.

Friendly reminders
A florist I’ve been doing business with for more than 20 years has a handy marketing ploy. Every year, about two weeks before my wife’s birthday and our anniversary, the company calls to remind me that it’s time to place an order. Not that I really need to be reminded after knowing my wife for nearly 53 years and having been married for 49—yet, it’s the kind of thoughtful reminder that even printers should use for reorders.

Speaking of marketing, Sony is planni ng to introduce a new “reader” incorporating a new technology that renders text on a screen more crisply. Its battery is good for 7,500 “page turns” and the text size is adjustable. My guess is that no executive from the company attended the 2001 Women’s National Book Assn. meeting. The keynote speaker forecast, “Within a few years after the end of this decade, e-books will be the preponderant delivery format for book content.” As the New York Times wrote, “The great e-book fantasy burst shortly after that speech, along with the rest of the dot-com bubble.” In 2003, Barnes & Noble closed its e-book store and Palm sold its e-book business to a Web site company. The cost of Sony’s reader is $350. Didn’t any executives consider that a lot of money to read books you can get at the library for free?

This column wraps up 2006. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all AMERICAN PRINTER readers, especially the loyal readers of this column, a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season. Next month I’ll begin my history lesson covering the past 20 years in the printing industry.

To read more of M. Richard Vinocur’s Perspective columns, visit our Perspective Archives.

M. Richard Vinocur is president of Footprint Communications. E-mail him at