By Barbara Pellow January 11, 2006 -- In 1990, I had the opportunity to participate in the introduction of a new breed of production digital print technology, the Xerox DocuTech. Since the inception of "print on demand", owners of printing firms have expressed their frustration with the inability of their sales forces to properly articulate the value proposition for digital printing and drive volume to digital devices. With the introduction of digital color, the situation was further exacerbated. Owners voiced concerns about the lack of a skilled sales force and the fact that sales people could not reach the right contact level in corporations and advertising agencies to develop new business. Marketing is every way you touch a prospect or customer. As I have watched the saga of digital printing unfold over the past fifteen years, it has become clear that the issue isn't sales skills or the maturity of the technology or the quality of the print. It is an inability of printers to effectively marketnew products, services and solutions. Defining Marketing My starting point for building an understanding of what marketing means was to do a quick web search. By taking a look at some dictionary and trade definitions of marketing, you can get a better feel for what marketing is truly about: American Marketing Association's Definition The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives. American Heritage Dictionary's Definition of Marketing The commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer. Merriam Webster's Marketing Definition 1 b: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service 2: an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer. Marketing Definition from MSN Encarta Dictionary The business activity of presenting products or services to potential customers in such a way as to make them eager to buy. Marketing includes such matters as the pricing and packaging of the product and the creation of demand by advertising and sales campaigns. These definitions are wordy and don't express the true passion I personally have for marketing. Marketing is every way you touch a prospect or customer. While it includes tools such as paid advertising, it also includes dozens of smaller variables--everything from how your receptionist answers the phone, to how an order is fulfilled, to the positive or negative buzz about your products and services. Marketing discovers what customers want and need as well as the price they are willing to pay. Marketing knows where to find the customers most likely to buy and builds the foundation for sales through multiple channels. In short, marketing creates the sales opportunity. Have you done any MARKETING lately? Print service providers must assess whether they really have done any effective marketing to build their businesses. There are four components to successful marketing and the development of sales opportunities. All four of these key components must be given careful consideration--for each can affect whether you fail or succeed in your marketing efforts. Identification of the right target market Development and delivery of product and service offerings that meet customer needs The message: a clear articulation of the value proposition Effective selection of media to reach the target audience Consistently, successful marketing requires knowledge and mastery of these four factors which, together, produce desired results. It's simple multiplication . Target Market x a quality product/service offering x messaging x media = quality lead generation. You remember basic multiplication: zero multiplied by any number, no matter how large, always yields zero. You can have the highest quality printing and a terrific message, but if it's aimed at the wrong target market, you won't get quality leads for your sales force. The Four Marketing Components Google's Web Definitions says that target markets are defined segments of the market that are the strategic focus of a business or a marketing plan. Normally, the members of this segment possess common characteristics and a relatively high propensity to purchase a particular product or service. Because of this, the members of this segment represent the greatest potential for sales volume and frequency. You can have the highest quality printing and a terrific message, but if it's aimed at the wrong target market, you won't get quality leads for your sales force. Historically, printers defined their target market as "companies needing printed materials." To provide a differentiated value proposition, print service providers need to take a more segmented approach. The needs that a bank has are very different from those of a manufacturer or a training company. Print service providers need to identify the strengths of their own firms and map them to market segments that they are best equipped to serve. You may be best equipped to provide financial printing delivering full color 401K statements, or your specialty could be the manufacturing industry providing web-to-print support for distribution networks. Firms like VistaPrint have built businesses to serve the small business entity. The most successful print service providers understand that market focus is essential to both sales and manufacturing efficiency. The task is determining, as closely as possible, exactly what those ideal markets are, and 'targeting' the business's product, marketing efforts and dollars toward them. Once they have clearly defined a target market, print service providers need to assess if the product or service their firm is offering will meet the existing needs or demands of the segment. What percentage of the segment really needs or demands the services your firm provides? Can the product and services be priced profitably and competitively? What is the specific value that the product/service offers to the prospect? Print service providers need to objectively evaluate their product-from the prospect's or existing client's point of view. Cleveland based Great Lakes Integrated actually formed a customer council of its biggest clients to ensure that its offerings were properly aligned with the needs of the customers it wanted to serve. The message includes the offer you're making, how you say it (the words), and how you present it (design elements). It is your articulation of the value proposition you are delivering to prospects and clients. Printers once defined their target market as "companies needing printed materials." To provide a differentiated value proposition, they need to take a more segmented approach. Have you made an enticing offer? Does your headline grab the attention of your hottest prospects? Is your offer/value proposition easy to read and professional? Once again, you must put yourself in your prospect's shoes. How will your message be perceived by him or her? When you look at print service provider web sites, the typical statement relative to their offer is, "We specialize in digital and direct-to-press offset printing as well as large format inkjet, digital prepress, complete bindery, and fulfillment and mailing services." Contrast that to the Lavigne Press web site, where the message to clients is, " We are not just about great-looking printing. Our mission is to help you deliver the right message to the right people at the right time and at the right cost. We call this Return on Communications Investment (ROCI), and nowadays this mission goes far beyond printing. There are lots of great quality printers to choose from, but our clients work with us because we help them increase their ROCI. And we look forward to the opportunity of helping you increase your ROCI too." Finally you need to determine the right media mix. The purpose of planning a media mix is to maximize the rate of exposure and to improve the effectiveness of an advertising, direct mail or Internet campaign. How will you get your message in front of your hottest prospects? This element of your marketing is just as important as the other four. Spending the money for a professionally written and designed ad will do you no good if you place it in the wrong publication. Direct mail has no value if it isn't read, and your website is useless if no one visits it. It is not one specific media or another, but the right mix that reaches your best prospects and customers. The Bottom Line Marketing is the process of focusing on who the customer really is, and what the customer actually wants to buy from you--rather than what you have to sell. The real reason prospects and customers will do business with you is that you have a differentiated value proposition. The key to marketing is to see your company as you are seen by your customers. The key to marketing is to see your company as you are seen by your customers. If you're satisfied with your company's results and feel that the future of your company is secure, then you may have all the marketing you need. If you feel better results are needed, that you should be selling more print products and value-added services, or your profits should be higher, or you should be doing a better job of satisfying your customers, then you need to reassess exactly how you are approaching the market. Ask yourself if you have identified the right target--the appropriate products and services for your chosen market segment--are communicating a clear value proposition and using media effectively.