There is a buy side and a sell side to every transaction. As a consumer you’re on the buy side and you want to be as informed as possible to make the best decision. As a print business owner you’re on the sell side and can get frustrated by the competitive research your customers do before they do business with you.

Up until recently the sell side had all the information, controlled the cadence of the selling cycle, and was relied upon by the buy side to “teach them” as they sold them. This is not our current reality. The internet is providing almost unlimited resources to the buy side of the transaction. Some are comfortable with this others would like the buyer to remain ignorant of alternatives.

Prospects can and do conduct research, more and more they are turning to online sources first:

  1. Searching for business products and services online
  2. Exploring recommendations on sites like Yelp
  3. Looking in their social networks for recommendations
  4. Reading white papers, attending webinars, and consuming other online content

How do you compete in a more educated market?

You have to be prepared for your prospects and customers to find you online, understand who you are, and then be able to engage with you. I like to say the sales process follows this simply process; know me, like me, trust me, pay me. Traditionally this cycle was completed in person and/or on the phone. Now this cycle can be completed online without talking to or meeting anyone.

The tools required to compete in this new market:

  1. Your search engine optimized (SEO), mobile-friendly website
  2. Amplification of your message through social media channels
  3. The curation and monitoring of customer referrals (Yelp, Google+, etc.)
  4. A content marketing strategy that feeds an inbound marketing strategy

Don’t assume you can’t compete online against bigger and more well-funded brands online. Customer’s preferences are trending towards more self-service, more transparency, and more online engagement. Gone on the days where we require customers to call us and then exchange a couple e-mails, wait for two days for a quote. Customers want immediate service, transparent pricing, and the ability to do as much as possible on their own when it’s convenient for them! Don’t invest in your online presence because a consultant or a software vendor tells you to – go online because that’s where customers are moving to conduct a growing percentage of their business.