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Ken Schmidt, Formerly of Harley Davidson, on differentiating your printing company

Published on September 17, 2012

Former Director of Communications for Harley Davidson Ken Schmidt talks about what's important in differentiating your printing business when dealing with major companies.

Ken Schmidt, I'm the sole proprietor of Ken Schmidt Company, but I'm also the former director of communication with Harley Davidson Motor Company. I spent 28 years now in the motorcycle industry working with Harley Davidson and working with just about every major brand in the world talking about how to create meaningful differentiation in the markets, how to compete at a higher level and how to change cultures of our businesses and build our brands through leveraging basic drivers of human behavior and essentially getting people to feel good about themselves.

The fact of the matter is that I think anybody who buys print, especially for a larger concern pretty much knows who the players are and who the big players are and I can pretty much tell just based on the name of a company where I've seen them or where I met somebody somewhere along the line what they do and I also know that pretty much across the board 99 out of 100 printers are very, very good at what they do, otherwise, they wouldn’t be in business and I wouldn’t be meeting with them in the first place.

I take that as the given, so if a printer is coming to me trying to create preference for their business for me and they’re speaking the same language that those other 99 companies are using, presenting themselves the exact same way, showing to me the same kind of collection of core competencies, whatever that is. I'm seeing no reason to do business with you. Basically what you’re doing is telling me things that I already know and take for granted. Life is too short and I'm way too busy to jump in bed with people who are giving just what I want or what I expect. I want somebody who is going to add tremendous value to what I do as an employee in that business or as a consultant in that business. I want that firm I'm partnering with to make me look so good that everybody above me is raving about how smart I am, how brilliant I am, how everything that I'm doing is strategic and spot on, well thought out, very well executed, awesomely produced, awesomely performed, very well received. That’s what I want. The print part is the given. What else do you have for me?

I'm getting pressure from above. I'm getting pressure from every side to move more into direct mail to attract more people that we’re not currently doing business with and we get more pressure to have more of a presence online and we’re getting more pressure to merge the online and print side together. Technology is evolving way faster than my brain can possibly process. Printers, you guys do this every day. Your companies have had a tremendous scope to your approach of business in terms of your deliverables and your understanding of all that. Turn me onto that. Make me look smart. Share your brain power and your experience with me to make me look good to the people up above me. You’re going to be way more desirable to me as a partner.

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