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5 growth opportunities to consider in 2011

Feb 8, 2011 12:00 AM

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In any company, having a solid marketing plan is essential for growth in 2011. In October, 2010 a group of printers focused on growing revenues by first taking a hard look at their capabilities, customer needs and customer opinions of them. They were not focused on acquiring their weaker competitors to grow, but were looking for creative ways to expand beyond print. I had the opportunity to work with them as they prepared their business plans and worked together as a group.

In November, they decided to run a print buyer study, asking their customers a series of marketing and opinion questions. This was not a customer satisfaction survey, but a marketing study to get the pulse of their customers. The goal was to determine where to focus their business to grow in 2011.

The goals

The printers wanted to ask their customers direct questions. They wanted confidence in the data at the macro level and to know how they stacked up in the industry. They wanted a roadmap and qualified sales leads going into 2011. They wanted answers to the following:

How good were they when compared to all marketing vendors, not just printers?

What were the most effective marketing strategies to get the attention of buyers?

How likely would a marketing professional be to consider them for strategic marketing services?

Where were customers sourcing non-print marketing services?

What percentage of the non-print marketing services were they winning?

What was most important when customers chose a creative marketing provider?

How customers made decisions for creative marketing services?

How were their customers embracing internet social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?

The campaign

The five executives decided to standardize questions to increase the confidence levels of collected data and to benchmark themselves. The survey was e-mailed to customers to increase response rates and turn the project quickly. While they loved printing stuff, they understood the importance of using the right media to get the job done. The survey was launched in November, three weeks later the results were complete, and the information reviewed as a team in early January.

The results

Let’s approach the results in terms of a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. While this article is to highlight growth opportunities, we need to look at other areas to determine the probability of success. Scores varied by printer, but below are trends that I think you may find useful when planning for 2011.


Product and customer service quality:  The quality of product and service were in the high 90s. This is an incredibly high standard. Competition is good if you are a print buyer. It is expected that a printers will have stellar customer satisfaction and product quality or they will go elsewhere pretty fast.

Awareness of variable (personal data) printing and wide format: Customers had a very high awareness of variable data or personal printing as well as large format (signs, banners, wallpaper). Over the past few years the marketing and selling efforts drove awareness.

Customer loyalty and receptiveness:  Over 50% of customers were very receptive to these printers offering marketing services beyond print. Only 15% flagged these businesses as only printers or in the manufacturing business and not marketing businesses. The high satisfaction in the areas of service and product quality has driven up loyalty and the opportunity to go beyond print.


Lack of marketing expertise:  Printers are so close to marketing, yet still have a huge effort ahead. In some cases the printer’s customer e-mail list had 30% bad e-mails. This is a customer list. This is a symptom of a bigger issue which is managing an important asset in marketing; your customer information. Also, awareness that these printers were offering marketing services or creative services was in the teens. 12% to be exact. Many printers are still trying to get out from under the printer label and gearing up to offer services beyond print, but there is still work to be done.

Lack of resources:  To grow beyond print there must be an investment in online media, marketing strategy, marketing tools, and marketing processes. Most printers are delaying this investment.

No track record:  41% stated they made decisions in marketing services based on “track record”, yet most of the printers in the study could not hang their hat on a complex marketing strategy. A project implemented with a customer that resulted in a solid ROI where they used multi-media and a full marketing tool kit to execute.


Customers need strategic marketing help:  75% stated they had a need for strategic marketing and 76% do it in-house. What an opportunity to come in and help if you have a proven process. Become the consultant helping them and be the first to help them executive all the printing, banners, trade show materials, and mailings. A true partner.

No formal decision process:  76% stated they had no formal bidding process, but went job to job. Again, bringing discipline to the marketing process could cut the competition out of the decision making equation.

Social media on the rise:  63% of the customers stated they were active or aggressively talking about a strategy for on-line social media. If you can’t “beat ‘em” “join ‘em!”. Few companies can state they are certified social media experts. Why not become one and become more of a player in marketing decisions?

The printers are in the best position:  These printers discussed raising the bar on the quality of their marketing plan, execution, monitoring, and ROI measuring. Think of creating a marketing plan you would be proud to show anyone. Make it your best selling piece. You may be already there and have a success with a large customer. Make a case study and spread the word on what you and they accomplished. Remember, track record is the No. 1 consideration when choosing a creative marketing service provider. Show your record.

Large format and promotional products:  Some of these printers were not positioned to invest fully in the marketing service model, but were surprised that overall 28% were buying signs, banners, posters elsewhere and 55% buying promotional products. Just engage your customer to get those orders. Some of these printers were losing over 50% on several services they offered. Just go for client share to grow within your accounts.


E-commerce:  Over time, this will become more of an issue as new print buyers demand speed, convenience, and on-line technology. Some printers have embraced this and quickly grabbing marketing share with low margin, technology driven buying processes. The typical printer needs to at least have a good solution.

Saturated market:  These printers were getting all the business or were at least bidding on every print job. There isn’t much growth left in print unless you acquire a printer or win over their customers. There is more capacity than ever so print buyers are in the driver seat for lowering prices.

Other printers moving quickly beyond print:  There was only one printer in the group that received high marks on marketing services. It is a huge commitment to make the move beyond print, but the threat is there for a competitor to come in with a complete solution and jump into the driver’s seat with your clients.

Good luck with your marketing plan in 2011!

Michael Casey is president & founder of Survey Advantage, a strategic partner with several associations and franchises. Through partnership with MIS providers, Survey Advantage offers automated customer survey services. Contact him at (401) 560-0311 ext. 103 or