Professor Printer, I Presume?
By Margie Gallo Dana
June 25, 2007 -- Where does your customer, the person who buys printing from you, learn about printing and related graphic arts? Not from the news. Not in the schools. Not from any one trade publication, either. Pick up a mirror and take a good, long look. Then pat yourself on the back, Professor. Print buyers' #1 source for print industry updates and information is their print provider.
If you help keep your customers current with printing practices, you will be more than a print provider. You'll become an indispensable resource for them.
This teaching role may be a burden to some sales reps. To others, it's a terrific opportunity. If you help keep your customers current with printing practices, you will be more than a print provider. You'll become an indispensable resource for them.
Printing companies can deliver customer education in many ways. Some are expensive; others are not. A well-thought-out customer education program will take the burden off of the individual sales reps.
Such a program will help establish a printing firm as customer friendly. It will help differentiate you from your competitors. Let's take a look at a few different ways in which you can accomplish this.
The most economical way to educate your customers is to talk to them regularly about what's going on in the industry – about issues that affect their particular job or their own businesses. Turn a sales call into an educational call. Better yet: don't sell, enlighten! Offer to make a short presentation to your customer and his or her colleagues about a particular new technology.
The most economical way to educate your customers is to talk to them regularly about what's going on in the industry – about issues that affect their particular job or their own businesses.
Read an interesting article on the industry or a particular process? Share it with your customers. It's quick and effective. Let them know that you're thinking about them, and not just about the next order.
I'm a big fan of keeping in touch with customers on a regular basis. Newsletters are natural marketing vehicles, whether they're printed or electronic. The best ones educate customers. The weak ones are a poor excuse for pitching products and services.
Have your designer create a professional, distinctive look, and make sure the copy is professional. Always include a list of what services you offer. (Trust me, customers don't know the full scope of your offerings.)
By the way, you need to be totally committed to a newsletter for the long term. If you abandon it after a few months, you'll tarnish your image.
Seminars and Trade Shows
Host a customer seminar at your facility. Bring in breakfast for a group of customers (mixing customers is a great idea--print customers like meeting their peers), or do a "lunch & learn" session. Pick a topic that every print buyer can benefit from, supply handouts, have an open dialogue so that you take their questions, and end the session with a plant tour. These sessions needn't be choreographed to death. No one expects you to be a professional speaker. What's key is that you deliver solid and valuable information.
Customer education in this industry is vital. Right now, it's still in the hands of every commercial printer.
If you have an opportunity to participate in trade shows or conferences that draw print customers, go for it. Customers like seeing print providers in settings other than a typical sales call or client meeting. Most printers do such a poor job of self-promotion that many prospects don't even know who the local printers are.
Customer education in this industry is vital. Right now, it's still in the hands of every commercial printer. Luckily for printers, most of them already have the knowledge. They just need a smart plan to share it.
Please let Margie know what you think. Email her at [email protected].
Margie Gallo Dana is founder of Print Buyers International, an international organization focusing on the needs of print buyers, while creating a forum that unites buyers with printers and suppliers throughout the graphic arts industry. She can be reached at 617-730-5951 or by email at [email protected].