Focus on Marketing and Branding Instead of Selling

Today, as in the past, there are too many service providers chasing too few jobs. Many still believe that the answer to survival is finding a new salesperson who promises a large book of business or perhaps a better motivated and skilled sales staff that excels at prospecting, time management, and closing. The answer, however, lies elsewhere. Today’s providers can generate greater revenues by focusing more on marketing and less on selling.

Companies need to support their sales staff with effective marketing tools. Branding is at the heart of these activities. Last year, an InfoTrends report (Lisa Cross and Kate Dunn) identified best practices utilized by print providers that had experienced double-digit sales growth in the prior 12 months. “While engaging potential customers in person is essential,” the team writes, “it is also important to support those efforts with printed and digital communications to create a productive sales force.”

If you want to have a competitive edge, you need to differentiate your brand. Well-perceived brands have a tremendous advantage over those perceived as just being average. From the customer’s perspective, promising great product, price, and service is the minimum. It’s average. Grow your sales effectiveness by establishing your brand as a recognized leader.  “Your brand is a promise and your work is delivering on it” – Seth Godin.

According to a LinkedIn study “The State of Sales 2018” (download here, your brand’s awareness and perception account for more than half of your sales engagements. For 52% of buyers, the top factor for engaging a vendor is whether the salesperson represents a well-known company with a strong professional brand. Stand out. Be top of mind. Be the company that your prospect remembers.

When it comes to being remembered, don’t take this for granted. There are lots of brands out there, but in each category, the average person recalls only three to five of them. In order to get in their heads, you have to push another brand out. Once you get there, you need to stay there. This requires repetitive engagement with quality, thought leadership, and relevant, helpful content.

Your brand is what your customers and prospects perceive it to be—not what you claim it to be. Eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agree. (1) When you consider that as much as 80% of the buying process is complete before the prospect initiates contact with you, you gain a greater understanding of the role branding plays in sales performance.

For 67% of prospects, the first place they go is to your website. You are what your website content says you are. This is where most sales are being won or lost. People now expect you to have a blog. In fact, 81% of B2B decision makers reported using online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions (2). A blog should be up to date and contain useful, thought leadership information.

Set your website address as your default page when you go online. Constantly looking at it makes it easier to make incremental, ongoing improvements and updates to your site. View your site as a one-on-one conversation with your best customer. How your site compares to the other three to five sites the prospect will evaluate will likely determine what the prospect will do next.  Your site needs to foster trust and credibility. At the end of the day, most people will give the job to the company they trust the most. Price is often the excuse.

Content is king. Take a multichannel approach. With the customer now controlling the sales process, being in the right channel, at the right time, with the right message is critical. This is easier than it sounds.

Generate great, useful content, then push it out via print and email and share it out via your website and social media. This is a simple but effective push, pull, inbound, outbound marketing strategy. It’s not hard, and it doesn’t require a lot of resources. What it requires is a commitment to execution. Start with a 90-day plan. I am happy to advise on this at no fee.

(1) Bain & Company from Harvard Management Update.
(2) 2016 Marketing Think. / Deborah Corn.

Carve Out Your Competitive Advantage in 2019

In every field, extraordinary benefits go to those seen as being in the top five percent.      (Seth Godin)

Create a competitive advantage for your sales staff by taking a proactive approach to branding and marketing. Your brand is what the customer perceives it to be.

  • Be an early adopter. Informed Delivery from USPS offers marketers some great opportunities. Be among the first to educate clients and prospects about it.
  • Marketing today is about providing value as opposed to asking for something.
  • 67% of prospective customers check you out online first. Lack of any content is bad enough, but lack of updated content is even worse.
  • Blog content has a life expectancy of 2 years. YouTube and LinkedIn are 20 days and 24 hours, respectively.
  • Know MeTrust MeLike Me. Top of mind and great content will take care of the first two, but you need a social media presence to cover the third.

An updated “10 Marketing Ideas for 2019” is now available! Just send me an email and I’ll forward you a copy.

3 Simple Ways to Grow Print Sales in 2019

Commit to growth in 2019! In many cases, this also requires a commitment to being a change agent. The following are three things to consider as you plan for a successful 2019:

  1. Have a marketing plan. Your brand needs to be in the right channel, at the right time, with the right message. A 90-day quick plan is easy to create, execute, and evaluate. Get through Q1 and then evaluate. Your plan should include at least three of the ten ideas in my report. Click here to receive the full report. 
  2. Embrace new services and opportunities. Many print and mail providers are standing out by offering enhanced marketing services that tie direct mail with digital marketing in one seamless workflow. There are many solutions available that are nearly turn-key at a low cost. DirectMail2.0 and Snailworks are just two that come to mind. Even services like USPS Informed Delivery offer an opportunity to stand out with enhanced services.
  3. Retain customers. All growth begins with retention. Not only do you need to have a customer retention plan for your own business, but you should be offering retention solutions to your customers. It differentiates your brand and provides a unique sales proposition. The good news is that this plan can be incorporated into your 90-day marketing plan. If you would like a copy of my Customer Retention Plan for Printers, please click here.

“We started with Great Reach a year ago and the response from our customers and prospects has been overwhelming. One customer called and wanted to know about drip marketing that was in a newsletter 3 months ago. Great Reach is our marketing department.”

From all of us at Great Reach, have a wonderful holiday season!

The Opportunities for Print Providers

Don’t rely on business growth to come from an improving economy or from finding the next great salesperson. Print providers need to be the catalysts for growth. They need to utilize marketing to differentiate themselves and give their sales staff a competitive advantage.

Client Retention:
Overcapacity continues to define the industry. Engage your customers frequently. Customers seek reassurance of appreciation. Utilize a multichannel approach. Engage your clients a minimum of every 90 days. Ideally, every 30 days.

Lead Generation:
New sources for generating prospects are needed. LinkedIn is the second biggest source of incoming traffic to our website. Traffic = requests. Support your sales staff with content for LinkedIn and watch your sales grow.

Content marketing:
Marketing is more about creating conversations than campaigns. But if your content isn’t relevant and engaging, you risk just being part of the marketing noise. Dynamic, engaging content goes a long way to helping foster trust and credibility.

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. Be perceived as being progressive and tech-savvy.

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


Where Most Print Sales Are Lost

Credibility and trust begin at your website. Your website is the first place that 67% of prospects visit. Even existing customers are influenced by your site. Many sales are lost there. Conversely, having an active website will give you an advantage over many of your competitors.

I just went to a printer’s website, and this was on the landing page:

Sent by Great Reach Communications

2014? Really? Are you even still in business? (They are.) Why would a prospect entertain doing business with this company? It’s too easy to move on to the other 3-5 brands in their recall.

And if you utilize one of the popular “in the can” websites for printers, then there is a great need to stand out and differentiate with some custom content.

Content builds trust and trust grows sales. Take a simple, yet practical approach to marketing. Post relevant, thought leadership content to your website and share it out via social media. Blast it out with email, too. Ideally, push it out with print, as well (it makes a big difference). If you can’t commit to doing this yourself, then invest a small amount of money and have a company like ours do it for you. In the 24 years I’ve been working with printers, the need for content has never been more critical.

For a limited time, I am offering a free 5-point review of your website through the end of March- simply contact me today!

Patrick Whelan

5 (More) 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.

1. Write a letter

These days, a personable, hand-addressed letter is marketing gold. Yes, it’s old school, and you don’t see this often, which is one reason why you should do it. Identify and mail to 5 prospects per day.

2. Company newsletter

Your ability to retain customers has the most significant impact on growing sales. An informative company newsletter is one of the best ways to make that happen. It also provides critical top of mind awareness for your brand. Both print and email should be utilized.

3. Website resources and a blog

The first place prospects visit to form an opinion of your company. Their perception is your reality and having up to date and relevant, content gives you a competitive advantage over those that do not. Make sure to share your blog out on social media and push it out via email.

4. Social media

Very simple—customers now expect this. It’s no longer enough for people to trust you. These days, they also need to like you. Social media can help facilitate this.

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. I’ve seen clients using solutions such as Mind Fire and Direct Mail 2.0 (and others) for some pretty slick and effective marketing.

If you don’t have the resources (time or financial) to execute a consistent, effective marketing strategy, then consider outsourcing. We offer cost-effective, turn-key, exclusive marketing solutions to the print and direct mail industry. Click here to request samples and a free consultation.

“We started with Great Reach a year ago, and the response from our customers and prospects has been overwhelming. Great Reach is our marketing department.”

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.