Why Content Marketing Makes Sense for Printers

Most Print Marketing Efforts are kind of Lame

With a few notable exceptions, most of the printers I’m talking with these days really aren’t doing much in the way of marketing. When they do make an effort to reach customers and prospects, it’s usually by way of a one-shot postcard campaign or an occasional price special advertised to their friends on Facebook.  For the most part, there’s no plan and no continuity. Also, most printers don’t really think a lot about the message. The “price, quality, service” message that they use doesn’t differentiate them from their competitors and conversations with customers become price-based.

This results in sales and marketing processes that don’t communicate value. Leads aren’t nurtured and developed into prospects and customers. Rather, jobs are quoted and the methodology is something like “bid, pray, and capitulate.” It’s no wonder that many printers feel their customers have them shoe-boxed as commodity providers when both their sales and their marketing efforts reinforce this perception.

Printers badly need a way to move the topic away from price.  Over the next several posts, I intend to write at length about a strategy that printers can use to begin to change and expand the conversations with their customers and prospects – it’s called content marketing.

Defining Content Marketing

Content marketing is a buzz-phrase. If you read any marketing prognostications for the coming year, most of them will tout the continued growth of this strategy. Content marketing is all the rage, but it also makes good sense.  What is it?

First, for all practical purposes content marketing and inbound marketing are the same thing. Sure, we can split hairs, but the general idea is to provide information to an interested audience that will attract them to your business.  Content marketing presumes that there is a group of people that want information about the services or products that your business offers and may desire to purchase them. It’s intended to provide them with the knowledge they need to make a decision to work with you. This stands in opposition to traditional “outbound” marketing which basically blasts a message in hopes of creating demand, a desire, or a need for a product or service.

Second, the content marketing concept really isn’t new.  If you’re thinking to yourself that print has conveyed this kind of message since the days of Gutenberg, you’re absolutely right.  What has changed is the media mix. Until very recently, print was the principle means of conveying informational content. Now it’s one channel of many, and effective content marketing strategies are multichannel.  Yes, Mr. and Ms. Printer, if you adopt a content marketing strategy you will be using online media to market your printing company.

Third, content marketing is practical and persistent. Traditional marketing strategies focus on broad market segments and try to blast through the noise to get attention. Think about the last obnoxious car commercial you saw (see below). That’s outbound marketing.   Content marketing is a much quieter approach. It focuses on information first and creates a positive impression of the company over time.

The most important aspect of a content marketing strategy is interaction. The objective of this kind of marketing effort is to establish a conversation with prospects and customers, and all of the channels used (including print) should be designed to facilitate the dialogue.  Content marketing messages encourage questions and the channels provide a way to respond to the audience and to build their confidence in the expertise and capabilities of your business.


Why traditional marketing doesn’t work

For a laugh, take a look at the video.  Wayne Reaves was a local car dealer in Middle Georgia who for a decade made a name for himself with preposterous commercials like this one. The outraged chicken fit the tone of the business and was probably pretty effective in cutting through the noise in the days when TV, radio, newspaper, and outdoor were the primary advertising channels.

There was less competition for attention in those days. Since then, the number of advertising channels has multiplied exponentially. If you’re a major insurance company, TV advertising makes sense; but the budget you’ll need is probably several times the gross revenues of the average printing company. Can you reach a local audience by radio? Sure, and a few of them may pay attention.  Is radio the most cost-effective way to reach that audience? Probably not.

There’s another problem and it has to do with message. With all of the static out there, how much message can you really get across with conventional advertising?  Advertising won’t even register with most of the audience. They aren’t interested. For the few who are, you get about a nanosecond of attention. They might remember your company name.

With time and a concerted and consistent effort, a content marketing strategy can help you build an audience that tunes in to at least some of the information you provide.  Better yet, there’s the potential that they’ll respond directly to that information and establish a dialogue that leads to a business relationship. This is a better way.

How does Print fit in?

Direct Mail from GoogleThe fact that print does fit into the content marketing mix is the best reason for a printer to adopt the strategy. At the risk of preaching to the choir, it is the attributes of longevity, persistence and tangibility that make printed content an integral part of the strategy.  As an example, Google regularly uses direct mail to convey information to small businesses about their Adwords SEM program. Is it ironic that the worlds largest online business would use direct mail to reach potential customers? Perhaps, but would they continue the initiative if it wasn’t working?  Even in today’s information-bombarded environment, print tends to stick around for a while. A print newsletter or magazine may circulate for weeks and has the potential to be picked up several times by several people.

Actually, understanding the value of print may be more intuitive than understanding the value of print providers. If there is a need to educate audiences about the benefits of using print in the marketing mix, there is a greater need to re-educate them regarding the craft and creative capabilities of print producers.  Printers are increasingly viewed as commodity suppliers and a good many printers think of themselves this way (see Is Print Really a Commodity?).  At the very least, print is a custom manufactured product, tailored to meet very specific purposes.  That’s a good message, but the explanation of how creative uses of print can enhance the marketing efforts of a potential customer is a much better one. This is a key content marketing topic for printers and also a great way to begin to steer the conversations away from price and towards benefits with real value to customers.

Next time: Where does the Content come from?

In the next post, we’ll begin to dig into the details and take a look at an important question: Where does the Content Come from?  The availability of topics to talk about is another reason that content marketing is such a promising strategy for printers.  Next week we’ll look more closely at idea generation and what goes into interesting content.

Need Some Help?

DP Marketing Services can help you plan and implement a content marketing strategy for your printing company. For more information, take a look at our Content Marketing and Publishing Services page. We’re always glad to answer questions . . . contact Richard Dannenberg by phone at 478-719-4029 or email at richard@dpmktg.com if we can be of service.

21_20logo21/20 Marketing Hangout with Richard Dannenberg and Spencer Powell

We’re starting something brand new in January. Each month, I’ll be hosting an online talk show with Spencer Powell of TMR Direct. The topic is marketing for printing and direct mail companies, and you’re invited to join and participate. Each month we’ll take on a new marketing topic and viewers can submit comments and questions via Twitter. The first episode is scheduled for Thursday, January 23, and the topic is Content Marketing Basics. Learn more about 21/20 on the Registration Page for the chat.


1 Comment

  1. What an awesome article, Richard! In some ways, printers may have an advantage in terms of content marketing because many have in house designers. Small businesses in other niches rarely have their own creative departments.