Commentary & Analysis
Marketing Your Services: It All Starts with a Plan
By Rosemarie Monaco It isn&
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: September 20, 2004
By Rosemarie Monaco It isn’t enough just to let your clients know you have a new capability, you have to tell them why they need it. September 20, 2004 -- I remember a time when printers never had to worry about marketing. Print buyers came knocking at the door. Consolidation, competition and alternative media have turned the tables. Now printers need to do the knocking. Marketing Your Services is a series of articles intended to help you with your marketing effort. It all starts with a Plan. The Marketing Plan The beauty of having on-demand printing capabilities is that now you can offer clients new products such as variable-data printing. But is having the capability enough? Too many printers add services only to be disappointed when sales don’t follow. Think of the plan as a contract between you and your business. It isn’t enough just to let your clients know you have a new capability, you have to tell them why they need it. You also have to present your case powerfully and convincingly. First and foremost your argument should be part of an overall marketing plan. Just as you invested in new equipment, you have to be willing to invest in the marketing effort. It is the safeguard you need from having your new digital press sit idle. Keeping it Simple Writing a marketing plan does not require an MBA, nor does it have to be painful. In fact, the simpler you keep it, the more likely you are to achieve your goal. What is important is that you commit to your goal in writing. Making it concrete is far more productive than lamenting over it in your head. Think of the plan as a contract between you and your business. Most plans begin with a mission statement or primary objective. If you want to increase business 30% over the next year, that’s all you need to say. Or perhaps you prefer to quantify your objective in terms of the number of new jobs you want to bring in. Make it realistic. Doubling your business will require a far greater investment in time, money and other resources than increasing it 20% or 30%. Positioning Your Company If your company is known primarily for selling at the lowest price, you will be hard pressed to convince clients that you can deliver the highest quality. Positioning goes hand-in-hand with establishing an identity or company image. It is a key element of a marketing plan. How potential clients perceive you will basically determine what you can be most successful at. For example, if your company is known primarily for selling at the lowest price, you will be hard pressed to convince clients that you can deliver the highest quality. And it is a position you can rarely reverse. If you are known instead for focusing on customer service, prospects will think of your company as one that cares about its clients. Positioning will also allow you to differentiate your company from the competition. If you zero in on a product or service no one else can deliver, and make that your flagship, you will have positioned your company as an innovative leader. Differentiate Your Company There is a simple exercise you can do that will help you identify a position of differentiation. Make a list of all your competitors. Create a chart, put your company and all your competitors along the vertical axis. Put all the products and services you can think of along the horizontal axis: quality, price, customer service, short run, on demand, variable data, fast turnaround, finishing, etc. For all the companies check off which of these they offer. What you will see emerge from this is a glaring hole—an area in which most of your competitors are weak and in which you can excel. This is a good place to start to develop a point of differentiation and positioning for your company. Another way to identify a unique positioning for your company is to survey your clients and prospects. You need to ask only one question: “If you could have any new or improved service or product from your print partner, what would it be?” Make it multiple choice. That helps the respondent to start thinking about it. Since it is only one question, list as many possibilities as you like. Ask them to rate these in order of importance. Always include “Other” as the last item with room to write as much as they want. It is always a good practice to survey customers periodically, even if you are not using it for a marketing plan. It shows them you are interested in their opinion and will help you identify weak spots in your organization. Please provide feedback, suggestions or comments to Rosemarie at firstname.lastname@example.org.