Marketing your printing company. It’s important. With 14 years as owner of an Alphagraphics shop in Macon, GA, DP Marketing’s Richard Dannenberg has some insight into the challenges of operating and marketing a print services operation in a time when content is moving steadily towards other media.
The news isn’t all bad, though There’s no doubt that print will continue to survive. It will even continue to be a primary means of communicating a marketing message, but reality is that print’s days of exclusivity are over. Informational content is migrating to digital formats at an increasing pace, and this transition isn’t likely to change directions.
What does this mean for print providers? Essentially there are three choices:
- Become a low cost provider. This means massive capital investment well beyond the reach of most small and mid-sized printing companies. Large printers have an advantage and many of them have already reached critical mass with established online presence and broad print capabilities. The fact is that it will be difficult for the rest of the print world to match the costs and pricing of the Vistaprints and 4Overs, who are already well established in the market.
- Find a niche. Search “letterpress ny” on Google and you’ll get a feel for the degree of specialty that several big city shops have developed around an “old and outdated” printing process. (A favorite letterpress site is Cranky Pressman – take a look.) This is a good strategy, but requires either a large population base nearby or a well-formulated marketing strategy. Guess what? We can help with that.
- Branch out – either into new areas of print or into other services. Wide format and signs are certainly an option, but the level of competition is high and profit margins are dropping. Many printing companies are looking closely at an additional set of services – they’re becoming marketing service providers (MSPs).
It may feel a little funny, but of the three choices, the MSP option probably makes the most sense for many small and mid-sized printing companies. If your company falls into this category, you already have many of the capabilities required to succeed – you can manage content, you have a workflow system to manage your customers’ jobs, you are technically savvy. Many of your customers are moving away from print, but in many cases are not doing a good job with creating content, scheduling social media, or integrating inbound marketing with their other marketing activities. There is an obvious opportunity for printers to keep accounts and gain a new kind of business, but it takes a few new skills to play in this arena.
There are other products and services that make great sense for small and mid-sized printers: wide format, signs, digital print, and mailing are natural additions. All of these can become valuable profit centers, but the “Field of Dreams” strategy doesn’t work any more. You can build all you want, but without a good marketing strategy you can’t count on customers to automatically appear on the bleachers (or your doorstep).
How Can DP Marketing Help?
That’s where DP Marketing comes in. We can help you communicate the benefits you offer and build relationships with customers new and old. If you’re inspired, we can help your printing company develop the skills, the infrastructure, and the message needed to compete as a MSP. We’ll work with you in several specific areas:
- Image – your customers may see you as old school. If you’re going to sell new services, you must market well. DP Marketing will help you put together a strategic marketing plan for your printing business.
- Selling – there’s a big difference between “quoting a project” and selling your ability to create and implement. If you decide to become a MSP, you may be talking to a completely new audience. DP Marketing can help you retrain sales staff to move from a “commodity project” mentality to a more deliberate consultative sales approach.
- Capabilities – for most printers this means both people and technology. We’ll help you understand your market and add services in a logical way, expanding first into areas that complement print, then into other digital services that your customers need.
There’s one other aspect that’s worth considering. There are new ways to market. Inbound marketing strategies make great sense for print providers. The characters and projects encountered in your printing business are a great source of content that is interesting to your target audience and you can share your own marketing successes with customers who might be very interested in letting you help with a similar campaign.
If you’d like to learn a bit more, we’ve addressed some of some specific capabilities of interest to printers here on our website. We hope you’ll take some time to look around. If you’d like to talk about marketing or if you have a specific project in mind, we’d love to schedule a time to talk with you. If you fill out the contact form on the sidebar, we’ll give you a call or email; and you can certainly call us at your convenience.