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

3 Marketing Ideas for the Fall Season

1. Sell your customers on the role print plays in an effective marketing strategy. This article in Forbes will help: “The Art Of The Leave-Behind.”

2. Print companies that had double-digit growth last year supported their sales efforts with marketing collateral (Infotrends). Content is king. Educational, engaging, thought leadership promotes credibility and sticks around. Sales literature does neither.

3. Sell client retention programs. Why?

  • They o­ffer a truly unique selling proposition.
  • Program selling rather than job selling
  • A wealth of content to support retention over acquisition spend.
  • Scalable program regarding frequency, channels, and media.
  • No learning curve for sales staff.

It’s easier to sell a retention program than other traditional marketing programs. More details in this September Printing News article. I also offer a program to help with this. Happy to provide a free consultation.

4 Quick Marketing Tips to Grow Sales

I want to tell you about four quick tips I recently shared with my clients. The first is a key take away from research produced by InfoTrends (Lisa Cross and Kate Dunn) that identified best practices from print providers that experienced double-digit sales growth in the past 12 months.

“While engaging potential customers in person is essential, it is also important to support those efforts with printed and digital communications to create a productive sales force.” (Source link)

Here are some interesting statistics regarding website content:

– Blog content has a life expectancy of 2 years, which is a longer shelf life than all other forms of virtual content. YouTube and LinkedIn are 20 days and 24 hours, respectively.

– 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. (Source: 2016 Marketing Think)

– 67% of prospective customers check you out online first. Does your site promote you as a thought leader and as a credible resource for your services?

Let’s talk about how blog content can help you gain and retain customers!

Patrick Whelan
pat@greatreachinc.com
978-332-5555

5 Things to Consider Halfway Through 2017

Here are 5 things to consider halfway through 2017. Summer is a great time to plan for growth!

• Millennials love direct mail, as do others. Are you using it as part of your marketing communications?

• Existing customers cost less (retention vs. acquisition) and spend more. A 5% increase in retention can lead to a 75% increase in profitability. Communicate often and effectively.

• When customers leave, so does your reputation. Think about referred business. How many come from existing customers compared to former ones?

• Promotional materials need to be replaced with problem-solving, goal oriented, and trust building communications. It’s how you stand out from other service providers.

• Website content matters! Thank you, Deborah Corn, for sharing the following statistic: 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. (Source: 2016 Marketing Think).

We offer turn-key, exclusive marketing communications programs for printers and direct mail companies. Contact me if you would like some info and samples of how we can help you grow.

Patrick Whelan
pat@greatreachinc.com
978-332-5555

Tips for Improving Your Customer Communications

My colleague, Matt Hunt, recently attended the Email Innovations Summit. It featured a number of dynamic speakers from well known companies to small startups talking about their experiences with email marketing and customer communications. Email marketing can be a powerful sales tools but only if done right.

He put together a short list of top takeaways, which includes tips on personalization, data sources, relevance, and automation. A few simple adjustments to your campaigns might be the ticket to getting more responses and providing relevant communications and information to your customers.

If you would like to receive this free, quick read report, simply send me an email I will be happy to send it to you.

Patrick T. Whelan, President
pat@greatreachinc.com
978-332-5555

3 Quick Thoughts on Marketing Print and Direct Mail Services

I wanted to share a few thoughts on marketing your print and direct mail services:

1. “See Me, Trust Me, Like Me” is your marketing objective. Outbound marketing to stay top of mind, inbound (website) to promote trust, and social media to foster “likeability”.

2. “The customer’s perception is your reality.” 80% of the buying process is complete before a prospect makes contact with you. 67% of the buying process is done online. Do your marketing efforts promote trust and credibility?

3. “What is the biggest opportunity for brands? Website content. Relevant, useful, and complete content serves many important purposes beyond transactions.” -Loyalty360

When it comes to growing sales, these things matter. If you would like to see samples of our area exclusive turn-key solutions that address these needs, simply reply to this email or visit our website. I will also send a copy of our Customer Retention Quick Plan.

Patrick T. Whelan, President
pat@greatreachinc.com
978-332-5555

What is Your Customer Retention Strategy?

Happy New Year!

A very simple and extremely important message for the start of 2017!

• Develop a customer retention strategy and execute it. All growth begins with retention. Retention programs produce a higher ROI than new customer acquisition efforts.

• Deliver value by helping your clients develop customer retention programs as well. It’s much easier than it sounds.

• The #1 reason customers defect is lack of communication. A cross media (don’t skimp on print) communication program is an easy and effective way to strengthen and protect existing customer relationships. In the process, you will also help cultivate new ones.

I’m happy to share my step by step roadmap for developing an effective customer retention strategy. Send me an email or give me a call, anytime!

Patrick T. Whelan, President
pat@greatreachinc.com
978-332-5555