It’s easy for commentators and journalists to tell printers how much better they’ll feel when they’ve become marketing solutions providers. Being successful in selling entirely new added-value services requires much more than calling yourself a “marketing solutions provider.” It requires an entirely new skill-set, a new way of thinking, and entirely new kinds of people. Here are three things to keep in mind as you transform your business.
1. Fight hard (and systematically) to preserve the sales you have.
Too many companies focus entirely on building new kinds of sales, and see their existing book of business erode even more quickly than it should.
The new kinds of sales come more slowly than they had hoped, while costs remain largely unchanged. Meanwhile, their traditional sales wither – partly because of shrinking demand, and partly because their salesforces lose focus on defending their existing sales base.
You’ve got to focus on preserving the sales you already have, and on extracting more sales from existing customers and existing salespeople.
2. Work relentlessly on becoming more cost-effective and efficient – to become as low-cost an operation as possible.
Most companies are so excited about becoming more glamorous that they spend their time inventing new titles for their businesses – like Marketing Solutions Providers. They forget that the economics of printing remain manufacturing economics.
There’s just not enough profit margin (or value-added) to waste. Printers must become more efficient and cost-effective. This isn’t a new condition, but there are more complex steps to take as your company begins to change in fundamental ways. You’ll also have to spend extra effort to ensure that you keep every dollar of production in-house, and look for ways to bring even more services in-house.
3. Making your customers feel good doing business with you.
The single fastest step you can take in transforming your company will be in changing the ways you deliver your services – making customers feel good about doing business with you. And as you reconfigure your company to make customers feel good about doing business with you, build new sales around enhanced services that often have little to do with ink (or toner) on paper.
New kinds of sales will require an entirely new kind of selling effort. In fact, they’ll require you to create quite a different kind of company – with a different range of services, different capabilities and different kinds of people.
Is your staffing appropriate for your likely sales volume? Really?
Do you have the right kinds of people to do business in the new ways you’re planning?
Is your plant operating efficiently? Really?
Are your workflows helping or hindering you?
Your company will be different in almost every way – except that you’ll still be operating in a tough competitive environment, and the underlying economics won’t be changing for the foreseeable future. So you’ve got to be relentless in asking these kinds of questions.
Remember: It takes time to build marketing credibility.
It isn’t easy to get comfortable in a wholly-new marketing role, and it’s even more of a challenge getting clients to believe you’re a credible marketing resource. Merely changing the tag-line on your business card isn’t enough. Nor is telling your existing salesforce “go out and sell marketing services.”
Bob Rosen is president of R.H. Rosen Associates, a New York-area consulting firm that specializes solely in the graphic arts.
Editor’s note: Bob Rosen will team with NAPL’s Joe Truncale to offer change management lessons learned from the industry’s top-performing CEOs at PRINT 13. manroland is hosting this invitation-only evening event on Sept. 9; for more information contact manroland.