The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same

Sorting through old files, I recently came across a copy of my January 2004 Marketing Briefs newsletter to printers. I was struck by how different (simpler) things were then. No mention of SEO, social media, content marketing or even email (we launched that in the Spring of 2004). At the same time, I was struck by how much things had not changed. These are the same fundamental ideas that need to be at the core of your marketing strategy today. Planning and commitment to execution have always been the keys to marketing success.

Simple Marketing Ideas that Printers Should Consider

Don’t view marketing as a department.
From receptionist to delivery person, every person plays a pivotal role in your marketing. Good companies are successful at creating a customer-centric culture.

Observe the 90-day rule.
Every client and prospect should hear from your company at least every 90 days. Good marketers shorten this to every 30 days. If you’re not making meaningful contact at least every 90 days, you run a high risk of having your message drowned out by that of your competitors.

Always feed the sales funnel.
Leads become prospects, prospects become customers. The amount of prospects you generate is proportionate to the amount of leads you are able to input into your sales funnel. The amount of customers you generate is proportionate to your ability to promote your value proposition with your prospects. Having a structured, systematic approach to this will yield the greatest results.

Stay committed.
Marketing doesn’t take time off, and it’s not something to be relegated to the “when I have the time” category. You need to structure the time or delegate the tasks to someone else who then needs to structure the responsibility into their time. Marketing works. But to reap the rewards, you first need to commit yourself to the tasks.

Know when to market.
Always! Research showed that companies who maintained or increased their marketing efforts during a recession averaged subsequent growth rates that were14 times greater than those that cut back or eliminated their marketing.

If you’re struggling with your marketing or just have a question or thought you would like to share, feel free to reach me anytime.

Source: “10 Commandments of Marketing” by Jay B. Lipe on

2014: The Outlook and Opportunities for Print Providers

This is a copy of the end-of-year letter I recently sent to all of my clients at Great Reach Communications. I wanted to share this with everyone because I think it contains valuable, actionable advice that can be utilized regardless of whether you are a client or not.

Business growth in the next year won’t come from an improving economy, and it won’t come from finding the next great salesperson.

Client Retention: Overcapacity continues to define the industry. Too many providers and too little work means the competition is trying harder than ever to win over your accounts. Engage your customers frequently. Your newsletter program is perfect for this. If getting it printed is a challenge, talk to us about an e-newsletter.

Lead Generation: New sources for generating prospects are needed. Leverage online marketing and SEO to attract and cultivate prospects previously beyond reach. Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm makes this easier than ever. Add a G+ page, utilize our new blog content, and watch your page rankings improve. We went from page 5 to page 1 in just two weeks. This requires no work on your part. Talk to me about how this works.

Content marketing. Content marketing has exploded in popularity. Marketing is now more about creating conversations than campaigns. The company with the best content wins! Engage your clients a minimum of every 90 days. Ideally, every 30 days.

Social media. Social media is now expected. If you are not fully utilizing it, you are at a disadvantage and your brand’s perception will suffer. If you are struggling with this, have us do it for you.

Thought leadership. Keep promoting your company as a thought leader. Your brand’s perception plays a big role in determining who gets the job.

All this takes is a plan. Let’s talk and create one, then communicate regularly to monitor and keep things on track.

10 Marketing Ideas to Help Printers Prosper in ’14

white-paper-downloadTake the challenge and be the catalyst for change in 2014. Try at least four of these ideas for six months and see what happens. I’d love to hear your results and get your feedback. We can help you implement several of these if you choose.

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.

2. Email newsletter
If producing a print newsletter isn’t achievable, produce an email version. 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.

3. Start a blog
Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm is a game changer. Good, fresh content will generate strong SEO for your company website. If you’re looking for new sources of leads, inbound web traffic represents a great opportunity. Blog content doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be loaded with key words. Make it relevant to your audience and the SEO will happen organically. Once a week? Perhaps every two weeks? Even a monthly update will generate results. Aside from SEO benefits, good website content has a very positive effect on your brand. Make sure to share your blog out on social media as well.

4. Social media
Very simple—customers now expect this. 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.

5. 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).

6. 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. Promote to your in-house list via social media and consider an outside list source. It’s a great way to help create demand for many of the marketing services that you may offer.

7. 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.

8. Website resources
Just like I’m doing here, create content that people can either download or request from your website. The key is to collect data. 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. Consider using content from company newsletters or getting employees involved in helping with content creation. This strategy will drive web traffic, allow you to collect data, and promote thought leadership.

9. Use Twitter
It’s a powerful tool for marketing. It requires little content and it’s very easy to reach a large targeted audience. It can be an effective way to start conversations and is yet another way to reach people you had no access to in the past. #printchat every Wednesday at 4PM ET is a great source of knowledge for this.

10. 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. My company also provides some of the above-mentioned tools on an area-exclusive and cost-effective basis. Daily, I see companies doing some or most of these initiatives. Don’t allow your company to be out-marketed.

Regards for a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

Patrick Whelan

Newsletters for Printers

5 Easy Ways to Differentiate Yourself From Your Competitors

The most important thing you can do to grow your sales is to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Differentiation isn’t just about what you deliver as a product or service. It starts before that and involves positioning your brand as a thought leader and trusted resource. Foster the perception that your company has the most skill and knowledge regarding the products and services you offer.

A few quick things that can help you achieve this:

• Communicate often. Utilize a series of high-value content related to the services you provide and that is directly attributed to your company. Every 90 days minimum. Every 30 days ideal. As Rio Longacre says, “It’s selling without really selling.”

• Be unique. Sending out the same materials or having websites that are similar to your competitors helps to commoditize your services. You’ll end up selling on price.

• Avoid the “old school” image. Talk about and offer services that are perceived as being leading edge. Assure your clients that you are staying abreast of the latest trends and technologies (mobile, personalization, drip and trigger campaigns) .

• Embrace social media. Regardless of what you think about it, utilizing social media properly has a huge impact on how your company is perceived. It also allows you to connect with your audience in a more personable manner. It humanizes your company. Don’t discount that.

• Keep you website up to date. Having old, dated content on your website is a brand killer. It’s the first place prospects go to gather information about your company. First impressions are critical. Updating your website content on a consistent, established basis should be a company policy. If you take the approach of “I’ll get to it when I can get to it”, you will get left behind in 2014 with Googles new algorithms.

If your looking to grow in 2014, contact me directly to discuss what you can do differently to generate new revenues.

Patrick Whelan

Google’s New Algorithm is Good News for Printers

Most printers are seeking additional sources of customers these days and a search optimized website may provide the solution.

A month after implementation, Google announced that it has replaced their search algorithm. “Hummingbird,” as it’s known, is not merely an update to their previous one–it’s a complete replacement. 90% of search results will be affected. Some claim it’s their biggest change in a decade.

While SEO experts and marketers may hate it, most printers are presented with an opportunity. I’m going to avoid a technical discussion and try to explain this as simply as possible.

Google has shifted away from “keyword” search and moved to conversational search, also referred to as “long tail keyword” search. By analyzing all of the words in a search query, Google gets a more accurate feel for the “intent” of the search and seeks to match it up with the true intent of content on websites. Hummingbird levels the playing field by seeking out meaningful content that need not be optimized with lots of keywords and phrases. Content that is relevant to a printer’s services and their clients’ needs will almost always naturally contain the key phrases and words that Hummingbird looks for.

I’m not saying that Google’s intentions are completely altruistic, but for printers it’s accurate to say that the new algorithm will reward those that post genuine content to their site and penalize those that try to “trick” Google by utilizing a host of SEO techniques.  If the intent of your content is to provide your audience with meaningful information relating to your expertise, then it will match you up with people seeking your expertise.

Going forward, having updated, relevant content and sharing them out on your social sites (search is now social) including a G+ page (Google plays favorites) will provide an adequate level of SEO. Posting links to mass distributed, third party attributed articles will not help.

I would strongly encourage all printers to start a blog on their website, add content on a consistent basis, get a G+ page for your business and share your content out on all of your social networks.   Bottom line is that you no longer have to be an SEO expert to get great results. At the same time, if you ignore the need for good SEO, you risk falling behind competitors who, because of its ease, will be quick to take advantage of these changes.

If you are struggling with producing relevant content or trying to implement an effective marketing strategy for 2014, please reach out to me directly or via the form on our soon to be replaced website,

For a more in-depth discussion of this, print industry SEO expert, Katherine Tattersfield recently posted a fantastic article. Email me and I will forward you the link.

Most Often It’s About Trust, Not Price

Brand is simply a mental creation to help people understand one company and its services over another. How aware are people of all your services? If you still hear “I didn’t know you could do that”, chances are your branding efforts are failing.

Position your company as the go-to resource. Strong branding reduces the perception of risk. Ultimately, that will have more influence over who gets the job than anything else. 75% of buying decisions are based on emotion. It’s all about trust. Price is often just an easy excuse.

Building your brand is a journey, not an event. There’s no such thing as a quick branding campaign. If you want to sell solutions rather than transactions, you need to make a long-term commitment to cust­omer engagement, extending your reach, fostering trust and staying top of mind. A simple, straightforward strategy and a commitment to execution is all it takes.

Content is a very powerful branding tool. Create content for humans and not for search engines and the SEO will take care of itself. Quality content that engages the audience generates knowledge and effects emotions. Both are critical for effective branding. Leverage social media as well to help promote your content.

Branding isn’t complicated but it’s also something that can’t be ignored.

Do you have a marketing plan in place for 2014? We offer a suite of customizable, area exclusive direct mail and online marketing tools. To request samples and info, click here. Or email me direct at

8 Thoughts on SEO for Printers to Consider

When it comes to SEO, it’s my practical belief that most print providers should focus on producing (sharing, posting, mailing, etc.) well-written, engaging content and let the SEO take care of itself. That being said, here are some things to consider:

  1. If you’re focused on beating the system and hoping to get over on Google, you’re wasting time that could be used to promote thought leadership by writing about things you know about. You will never outsmart Google. Good SEO has always been about good content.
  2. If your content resembles a Wikipedia page (jumplinks, keywords repeated verbatim throughout), think about how impersonal that makes you look. Being perceived as fake or phony is a brand killer.
  3. Create content for people, not search engines. If it’s relevant to your customers, then it will contain keywords that are beneficial for your SEO as well.
  4. Google plays favorites. Having a Google+ account and Google Authorship are good for SEO.
  5. Yesterday, Google announced changes to its Ad Rank (pay per click) formula. These are generally considered to not be good for small businesses.
  6. Using free articles commonly found on the web (Mashable, Forbes, Regan, etc.) may be fine for social media purposes but it is not an effective website content strategy.
  7. Google likes sites that add fresh content, but quality trumps quantity.
  8. I’m a huge fan of infographics. However, infographics provide no SEO value.

Great Reach Communications is a content producer specializing in providing printers and mailers with direct mail and online marketing solutions. You can reach us at or 978-332-5555.

Patrick Whelan

Five Things You Need to Know About Content

These days content marketing is the big buzz. I’ve spent the last 18 years providing content marketing solutions to the print industry so this is an area of expertise for me.

If you are currently utilizing or plan on utilizing content to help grow your business, here are 5 quick things to think about.

  • Search is now the primary method of information discovery. It’s the first place people go when they want to try something new. Is your site rich with unique engaging content? How often is your content updated?
  • 85% of searches are organic search. This means that 85% of the people who find your site will also find other sites (your competitors). How well does your content compare to that of your competitors? In a sea of marketing noise, your content needs to stand out and position your brand as a thought leader. This is absolutely critical.
  • Search continues to drive more meaningful traffic than social. But social still drives significant value because it triggers search traffic. Are you also utilizing content for social media marketing efforts?
  • Google doesn’t like to look at the same content. If you are using one of the in-the-can industry websites it will not perform well on searches. Make sure to be supplementing it with unique content such as a blog page.
  • ZMOT. The zero moment of truth. It relates to all of the above. Google it and learn about it or contact me to discuss.

Some information above was gathered from Direct Marketing News. Joe Ryan. Interview with Tom Gerace, CEO of Skyword.

Five Mistakes That May be Hurting Your Sales Numbers

  • Ignore the need for maintaining a social media presence even though, according to Pew Research Center, 69% of adults now use social media. Let’s face it, more and more of your clients EXPECT you to have a social media presence.
  • Ignore having a blog or have your blog/web content be all about promoting your services. Promote thought leadership and in doing so, you will be promoting your services.
  • Update your social media, blog and website infrequently. These are called “marketing graveyards” and they make you look bad. At the very least, they make you look worse than your competitor who isn’t making this mistake. Differentiation plays a critical role in determining who gets the job.
  • Create or utilize content that isn’t directly relevant to the services you provide. While I think you can make some exceptions for social media, there can be no exceptions when it comes to your outbound (newsletters) and inbound (blog/website content) marketing.
  • A website that has poor navigation (stick to the rules of predictive behavior), uses lots of very common and generic stock photography, has lots of audio, flash, multimedia, etc. Poor contact info (particularly generic email addresses such as sales@, info@) is another common error.

If you have a question about your marketing or are struggling with it, feel free to reach out to me at anytime.

Patrick Whelan
Find me on LinkedIn

Growing Your Business From the Inside Out

That’s my way of suggesting that print providers focus more on retaining existing customers before looking for the latest and greatest way to acquire new ones.

Here are some stats to consider. I’ve added my thoughts after each one:

80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree. (1)

Great customer service requires a customer centric culture. It’s not easy to accomplish but it’s not impossible either.

68% of customers leave because they perceive you are indifferent to them. (2)

Everyone seeks recognition. Do your customers hear from your competitors more often than they hear from you?

50% of people appreciate the convenience of electronic interaction over face-to-face. (3)

How accessible are your email addresses from your website? Do you maintain contact with customers via social media? Are you present in their inbox with timely and relevant communications?

A 5% improvement in customer retention can increase business profits by 25 to 125%. (4)

Imagine how much more business you’d have today if you had retained just 5% more of your customers annually over the last four years!

The easiest way to lose a customer is to lose touch with them. Even a dissatisfied customer can be retained with proper engagement. Sales and retention are similar in that they both rely on strengthening relationships and fostering trust and credibility. The key is to continually engage and communicate.

(1) Bain & Company from Harvard Management Update
(4) Gartner Group and “Leading on the Edge of Chaos”