About Patrick Whelan

Patrick Whelan is President of Great Reach Communications Inc, the leading provider of high quality customer engagement newsletter programs for the printing industry. Patrick has spent the last 17 years providing marketing programs and advice to over 400 print providers throughout North America.

10 Marketing Ideas for Printers in 2018

A new year ushers in new opportunity. Be the catalyst for growth. Embrace, refine and rejuvenate your sales and marketing efforts. Following are some of my all time favorite (and effective) marketing suggestions for printers.

  1. Print newsletter

Your ability to retain customers has the greatest impact on growing sales. An informative company newsletter is one of the best ways to make that happen. It’s long been proven: Skip print, results go down. Use print, results go up. Print is taken seriously and breaks through even where e-media do not. That’s why a company newsletter is critical for customer retention. It is also effective at creating demand for your services through education and, perhaps most importantly, promoting your brand as a thought leader. Content is king.  Produce and distribute one at least every 90 days.

  1. Email newsletter

Email is a great way to add touch points to your marketing strategy. Opt for less content (375 words max) and follow best practices. Use a third-party secured sender. Add a sign up on your website and post the content to your site as well as social media. Monthly or bi-monthly should be your target distribution frequency. Be mindful, however, that with spam filtering, not all of your emails will reach their intended targets. That’s why print should be part of the mix.

  1. Utilize a blog

Google’s Hummingbird and Panda algorithm likes relevant fresh content. If you’re looking for new sources of leads, inbound web traffic represents a great opportunity. Make the content relevant to your audience and the SEO will happen organically. Once a week? Even a monthly update will generate results. Just as important as the SEO benefits, great website content promotes thought leadership which in turn, fosters trust and credibility. Make sure to share your blog out on social media as well (particularly LinkedIn).

  1. Social media

Very simple—customers now expect this. They seek to work with tech savvy progressive companies rather than “old school” ones.  If you’re not utilizing social media or not updating it consistently, your brand looks bad and you create a competitive disadvantage for your company.  Social media allows you to connect with your audience in a more personable manner. This helps foster trust. Your social activities now affect your SEO as well. Don’t ignore this. In addition to the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), make sure you also have a Google + page for your business. It’s a fact that Google plays favorites. It’s easy to set up.

  1. Direct mail

Create a direct mail campaign and distribute it to a targeted list. Use a list source so that you’re reaching out beyond just your in-house lists. Consider rolling this out on a weekly or monthly basis. I have a client that is targeting 200 names per week for two months. The offer is a half-hour lunchtime review of the recipient’s current marketing activities and challenges. The mail package includes a menu from a popular restaurant from which the recipient can select their lunch. A follow-up report is delivered a week later. The company is creating face-to-face interactions with companies and persons they have never had previous contact with. By rolling this out, they have the opportunity to gauge results and refine the offer (A/B testing).

  1. Webinars

This is a great way to way to project your company as an expert and thought leader. If you’re talking about it, it is assumed you know about it! Even non-signups will be influenced by the invite and promotion. Limit these to just 30 minutes. They are easier to produce and more enticing to the recipients than longer Webinars. A quarterly basis would be a great interval. Even twice per year. Subject matter is easy to come up with and develop. Stick to ways you can help them grow or manage their business.

  1. Write a letter

Yes, it’s old school and you don’t see this often, which is one reason why you should do it. The other reason is that it’s an easy and personable way to help foster trust and credibility. Talk about recent success stories (mini case studies), community and charitable involvement, and other information that is relevant to the recipient such as USPS rate increases or new regulations.

  1. Website resources

According to Forrester Research, todays buyers would have gone through up to 90% of their buying journey before they make the first contact with the vendor. Simply put, having up to date, relevant, engaging content (blog) gives you a competitive advantage over those that do not. Having the information reside on your site will also help with SEO. The content can be short. One page is just as effective as three. Create short case studies or mini white papers. Post  content from company newsletters. Always share your new content out on social media.

  1. Host an event

Host an onsite or offsite customer (and prospect) event. These can range from purely social (customer appreciation) to educational (customer education) events. My suggestion would be a hybrid mix of both. Fun and helpful is always the best combination.

  1. Have a Plan

Planning is critical. If you want successful results, you will need to create a plan and commit to executing it. I’m happy to discuss any of this. Don’t allow your company to be out-marketed.

5 Steps to Gaining Confidence in Selling Marketing Services

Did you notice the heavy focus at Print 17 on selling multi-channel marketing campaigns? It’s no wonder. These campaigns offer a great opportunity for growth. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more companies fail than succeed at doing it. Why is that? Lack the knowledge and confidence. It’s far too easy to stick within one’s comfort (knowledge) zone. To most companies, that’s ink on paper.

Think about how confident you are discussing and selling print. Imagine having the same confidence with multichannel solutions. That confidence would be a game changer, and gaining it is easier than you might think. Here are five steps to planning and setting up a process for developing the confidence to succeed.

  1. Start to think like a marketer.

Think like a marketer and watch your confidence soar. Many of these opportunities are free. Join marketing groups on LinkedIn. Subscribe to three to five marketing newsletters—and read them. (There are hundreds to choose from.)  Join the DMA. Attend marketing events and conferences.

  1. Tap the experience of others.

Always be looking for marketing examples that enlighten and inspire you. Look for solutions you can promote to your target audience. You are bombarded with marketing messages every day. Make note of ones that stand out and why you like or dislike them.  Keep an eye out for great packaging, direct mail, retail, email, social media, vehicle wraps, and client retention programs. Those from CVS and Kohl’s come to mind.

  1. Take a multichannel approach to your own marketing.

The best way to promote your multichannel marketing services is to use them yourself. When it comes to trust and credibility, seeing is believing, right? I see this almost every day. Print providers successful at selling marketing services are utilizing a multichannel approach in their own marketing.

  • Start with the 90-day rule. Touch clients and prospects every 90 days with print.
  • Be in their inbox. Add a monthly or quarterly email component as part of your push strategy.
  • Pull them in with helpful blog content.
  • Connect and engage with them on social media.
  • All content should adhere to the 80/20 principle. Eighty percent of your content should be customer-focused. Twenty percent should be company focused.

“Know me. Trust me. Like me.” Let this principle guide your marketing efforts.

  1. Focus your efforts on a single solution.

There are tons of options under the umbrella of multichannel marketing. Being a “mater of all” is difficult. In fact, it is often the reason these efforts fail. Focusing on one solution provides a much shorter path to expert status and confidence.

  • Pick a service and give it a name.
  • Develop a tag line, followed by a bulleted point description that focuses on the benefits.
  • Add customer testimonials as you get them.
  • Use this content to create a sell sheet and product page for your website.
  • Promote (push) this content via direct mail, email, social media, and blog.

Focusing on one multichannel service—and doing it really well—will make all of the above a very easy task.

  1. Develop a client retention service.

Client retention services offer a great selling proposition, and there is a wealth of content to support their importance. Customer retention is also scalable. Once you sell a customer retention program, it provides recurring revenue. Consider re-marketing or focusing on specific vertical markets, such as nonprofit fundraising or higher education recruitment, but keep in mind that a singular service focus providers tends to be an easier path to success than vertical markets.

Success with multichannel marketing will depend on your attitude. Think of developing your expertise as an opportunity, not a daunting challenge. Learning marketing is infectious and refreshing. Gaining expertise leads to confidence and enthusiasm. That translates into sales and success.

Always be reviewing and adjusting your efforts. Keep an open mind and listen to your customers and prospects. What are their challenges and obstacles? Your job is not to sell print (although that is ultimately what you want to do), but to help other companies. Print is a tool to get where they need to go. So are email, mobile, social media, and other channels.

When you start to adjust your mindset, you will gain knowledge and insights. Use this knowledge to navigate the future of your service offerings!

Planning For Growth in 2018

December is a great time to reflect, review and plan. Here are some thoughts to help grow profits in 2018.

Your first plan is execution. Years ago, in college, I often heard professors state that the most common cause of small business failure is a lack of planning. That may be true, but with regards to marketing, my many years of consulting with the print and mail industries have led me to believe that the biggest challenge companies face is an inability to execute business plans and initiatives. Like dieting (another area where I have a lot of experience), planning is easy, and execution is hard. This doesn’t mean planning isn’t critical. It most certainly is. But planning efforts are a waste of time and dare I say–often a short term–feel good placebo in the absence of a commitment to execute.

You should have one-year goals but restrict your detailed plans to 90 days. I’ve seen clients have great success with 90-day quick plans. And if that’s still a challenge, then shorten it to 30-day plans. Like sales quotas, 30 days leave little leeway to get off track. If you do, there is a much greater urgency to get back on track. Your ability to execute plans will dictate the amount of structure you need to add to your execution plan.

Always be learning! I loved this quote from the recent SGIA 2017 show:  “Today’s printer is a brand marketer, a technological expert, a designer, and a business strategist. Oh, and you print, too.”  Each of these fields requires effort and continuing education. Commit time every day to reading and learning. Increased knowledge in these areas will enable and inspire you to offer more effective solutions to your client’s challenges. I’m particularly impressed with several of the mail and marketing solutions now available to service providers. They each make it easier to differentiate your brand with innovative, effective solutions. But if you’re not eager and open to learning, you will miss out on many of these opportunities. Early adoption is key.

Make sure that your website is better than your competitors. If you won’t tolerate a poorly performing employee or a poorly performing MIS system, then why is there such widespread acceptance of a poorly performing website? Plan at least quarterly meetings to discuss and implement improvements. Make sure that new content is posted at least monthly. Add short (60-120 second) videos that highlight recent projects, success stories, services, tutorials, etc. and share them out on social media to pull in additional traffic. View your site as a one-on-one conversation with your best customer. Too many read like an instruction manual, which many people don’t read. Make sure it has a human element and feel to it. Showcase key personnel with short bios. Every company, new and old, has an interesting story to tell. Tell it. Storytelling is a hot buzzword in marketing these days. It will continue to be so. We’re getting used to having more and more information available to use. In addition to trusting you, nowadays, people want to know you and like you as well. And they also expect you to have a social media presence that is accessible via your website.

Have a customer and prospect communication plan in place. Outbound, inbound, social and face-to-face. I’ve spoken at length in previous columns about the importance of client retention and communications. Touch your audience with customer-centric, high-value content using both print and email. Communicate in a personable manner on Facebook. Promote thought leadership and expand your reach with LinkedIn. Commit to doing at least one in-house or off-site customer-centric event to facilitate face-to-face engagement between top management and clients. It’s not enough for them to just interact with sales and customer service reps.

Remember, small things can have a significant impact! Review some simple (but critical) elements of your business operations. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, used to say, “the first bite and the last bite are what people remember most.” For printers, this means the receptionist or auto call routing system (I’m shocked at how cumbersome some of these are) or delivery person. While these are often two of the most overlooked and lower pay scale positions, they establish the first and last impressions your company leaves. Think about that.

Reach out to me if you would like to discuss any of this. I love exchanging thoughts with printers and mailers. And my sincere wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season to all!

Grow Your Business by Utilizing Drip Marketing

You offer great quality print, mail and marketing services at a fair price. But is that enough to gain new business? Not if you aren’t able to successfully communicate your value to your audience. The prospects perception is your reality. It’s your job to form that perception.

So what does it take to convert a prospect into a customer? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of time and exposure. How you say it and how often you say it are as important as your value proposition itself.

This is the philosophy behind drip marketing. Send a postcard on Monday. Blast an email on Thursday. Mail a marketing letter the following week. By continually putting your message in front of people, you stay top of mind and foster credibility. When they’re ready, they’ll select you instead of the competition.

It’s not just about staying visible. It’s also about keeping your competitors at bay. It’s a common marketing adage that customers can only keep three to five brands in their heads at one time. To get your brand in there, you have to push another brand out. And once you get in there, you have to stay in there by keeping your competitors out.

What makes a successful drip marketing campaign? Repetition. You can offer discounts and promotions, but most importantly, it’s about building relationships and creating conversation. To do this, you need solid content that positions your company and your brand.

Keep the Conversation Interesting

Print marketing doesn’t have to be dull. When developing copy for communications such as postcards, mailers, and customer newsletters, think beyond the product promotion. Mix up the writing style to capture interest and create engagement. Sure, you are trying to sell products and services, but you’re also trying to deepen customer relationships and reinforce brand image.

Here are 5 styles of marketing content that you can use in your promotional mix.

  1. Educational

This is straight talk on products and services that most marketers are familiar with. This includes case studies, customer testimonials, and tips and tricks.

  1. Humor

In addition to breaking up the “same old, same old,” humor increases retention. It’s why brand marketers use it so often.

  1. Shock value

Shock value can grab attention and increase retention, as well, but it has to be handled carefully. Not only does shock value capture attention, it’s a great way to get people talking about you.

  1. Social conscience

Content that reflects your brand as environmentally sensitive, good citizens, and concerned about social issues can be a powerful tool for promoting your brand. Most, if not all print providers have some level of community involvement. Talk about it.

  1. Truly unique

Try to create content that is unique—content readers won’t get anywhere else. Do you have a service or offering that your competitors lack? One printer is offering an Adobe training series for creatives. Events like this help them stand out.

So break out of the mold when it comes to content. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Stand out                                                                                                              

In addition to great content, utilize folds, shapes, and the many finishing techniques that can really help your print communications stand out. At the same time you will also be helping to promote these techniques and services. Soft touch, raised, spot varnishes etc. can have a huge impact on the recipient.

 Be consistent.

Drip marketing is about consistency. Make a commitment. Create a marketing schedule. Then stick to it.

 Follow up.

You can drip, drip, drip, but at some point, you need to give a call to action. Follow up by phone, email, or other media.

Drip marketing can take many forms, including postcards, newsletters, marketing letters, and email. Regardless of the media used, the goal is the same. Engage your customers. Position your brand. Foster trust and credibility. By doing so, you will stay top of mind, keep your competitors in the corner, and boost your sales at the same time.

Client Retention: The Case for Customer Engagement

Commercial printing has always had a sales-focused culture. When it comes to growing their businesses, printers have always invested heavily in sales training focused on prospecting and closing techniques. While these skills are important, the ability to retain existing clients has a much greater impact on your ability to grow sales.

All growth begins with client retention.  As former Allegra Chairman Carl Gerhardt noted, printers need to avoid wasting time and money on complex marketing plans until they have a solid customer-retention plan in place.

Studies show that most print providers need to add 25% new customers every year just to maintain current sales levels. No wonder growth can be so difficult. It’s hard to move the boat forward when it’s leaking out the sides! If you are not proactive about customer retention, most acquisition efforts will help you tread water, but not actually grow your sales.

Here are some additional statistics to ponder:

  • Acquiring new clients costs 5x more than retaining existing ones.
  • 68% of customers leave because they think you are indifferent to them.
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 75%. (1)
  • Repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers. (2)
  • 80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agree. (3)

When customers leave, so does your reputation. Satisfied customers refer business. Former customers rarely do.

Existing customers need to know they are working with a stable, trustworthy business that understands their needs. Unfortunately, printers are often so busy pursuing new customers that they forget about their existing ones. As a result, their customers become restless and the competition is happy to pick them off. Don’t let this happen.

Here are 7 ideas for retaining your customers and building customer loyalty:

  1. Stay engaged, whether you are actively selling them something or not.

Maintain contact electronically, in print, and in person. The most effective way to lose customers is to lose touch with them. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

  1. Deliver content that provides real value to them.

Identify their pain points and offer solutions. Provide helpful, thought leadership. Not only will this strengthen your relationship and promote you as a trusted resource, but it will also differentiate you from your competition—most of which is not communicating with high-value content.

  1. Be multichannel.

Use print, email, website, social media.  Content is king. It’s what you will be judged on relative to what your competitors are doing.

A note on website content: 67% of potential customers seek product and services information online first, and 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. (4) Your website isn’t the only one they’ll visit. Potential customers will visit another three to five sites beyond yours.  Your website content (blog, resources, company info) has to be great. It must stand head and shoulders above the competition.

  1. Be willing to admit mistakes.

Providing a great product and services does not guarantee that customers will stick around. It merely fulfills the customers’ minimum expectations—one which the competition also promises them. But delivering a bad customer experience doesn’t guarantee customer defection, either. If you resolve a complaint quickly, 9 out of 10 customers will do business with you again.

Almost 50% of people are less inhibited about complaining once they get online, so consider using email and landing pages for customer satisfaction follow-ups after every job. Everybody messes up once in awhile, but being caring and proactive can help turn a negative customer experience into an opportunity to build an even stronger customer relationship.

  1. Don’t forget the truly personal side of engagement, too.

Face-to-face interaction can’t be beat.  Consider adding on- or off-site educational events, quick “lunch and learns” in group settings or even one-on-one, and customer appreciation events. If you can’t coordinate everything in-house, consider using outside help.

  1. Send letters and thank you notes.

Everyone sends a holiday card, so reach out on birthdays, special events, and anniversaries (including those of major achievements).

  1. Connect on LinkedIn and leverage updates and published posts to promote thought leadership and stay top of mind.

In the end, it all boils down to this: Are you doing things that other providers are not? If they are, are you doing them better? Does your direct mail (newsletters, postcards) provide more value? Does the design stand out rather than looking canned? Is it easy to reach you, particularly from a mobile device?  Do you make it easy to do business with you, such as providing contact information on email signatures, responsive website design, and online resources such as available envelope sizes, conversion charts, postal information? What materials do you leave behind when you visit a client or prospect? We inherently don’t trust sales literature—Millennials in particular—so utilize customer-focused communications.

It cannot be said enough. Utilize the time in between delivering jobs to communicate. You will effectively stand apart from your competitors and strengthen your position as a trusted provider of the services you offer.

 

(1)www.bain.com  (2) Laura Lake, (3) Bain & Company from Harvard Management Update. (4) 2016 Marketing Think./ Deborah Corn.

Growing Print Sales in 2018

Happy New Year! We are almost ten days into the new year. What changes have you instituted to increase sales effectiveness and grow your business?

  • Companies that had double-digit growth in the last year supported their sales staff with printed and digital communications. (InfoTrends Reports)
  • Consistency is king with marketing initiatives. Brand exposure plus brand positioning equals competitive advantage.
  • All growth begins with retention. Data indicates that 60% of customer loss is due to lack of communications.

“We started with Great Reach one year ago, and the response from our customers and prospect has been overwhelming. One customer called and wanted to know about “drip marketing” that was in a newsletter three months ago. Great Reach is our marketing department.”

If you would like info regarding our turn-key, exclusive marketing solutions for printers and mailers, please reply to this email or visit us on the web. We make marketing easy, affordable and highly effective.

Patrick T. Whelan
pat@greatreachinc.com
Office 978-332-5555 Cell 617-513-2067

P.S. Check out my latest featured article in Printing News: http://www.printingnews.com/article/12382492/marketing-matters-10-marketing-ideas-for-printers