Some of you probably don’t remember Ross Perot. Long ago, when Presidential debates were still fairly dignified, Perot ran as an independent candidate against Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George H.W. Bush. Perot had been a corporate executive prior to running for President in 1992, the founder of Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which later sold to GM for $2.4 billion.
As a political candidate, Perot was refreshingly direct. He was also a colorfully distinctive speaker, with a high nasal Texas twang that provided comedic substance for SNL’s Dana Carvey long before Tina Fey ever ran for Vice President. Expressing his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the debate with Bush and Clinton, Perot warned that reducing the trade barriers with Mexico would produce “a giant sucking sound going South.”
You may or may not agree that Perot’s prophecy came true, but his Texas phraseology certainly caught the public’s attention. This week’s idea isn’t about politics, though. It’s about another “giant sucking sound” – the imaginary noise made as all of the time wasted on social media goes down the drain.
True Confession: Wasting Time with Social Media
I have blown an enormous amount of time with social media. Like most small business marketers, I’ve capitulated to the latest and greatest wisdom from the sages, and I’ve added a bunch of detritus to the floor of the social media forest. There’s a DP Marketing Google+ page that’s been abandoned property since 2014 and a LinkedIn page that to my knowledge has never been visited by anyone . . . including me.
I should have been more skeptical, but I ignored the giant sucking sound. Because I was convinced that a social media presence was an important part of my marketing mix, I contributed steadily to the blighted landscape of boarded up social media properties.
I’m not the only one though. Chances are good that you own a few decaying social media relics of your own.
Forget social media presence. Think social media strategy.
Social media presence is the vortex that makes the noise. It’s not necessary, practical, or even possible to have an active presence on every social media channel. You’ll get nowhere fast if you try to be everywhere at once. A passive presence certainly isn’t any better – people who do stumble into your blighted properties think your business is also abandoned.
A social media strategy is much better than a presence.
Here are a few questions to consider as you figure out your strategy:
- Where is the audience? You’ll want to choose the channels where your prospective clients hang out.
- What do they want to know? Listen first and gauge the conversation. Then provide answers to the questions.
- How easy or difficult will it be to get traction? It’s easy to create a post or a page, but more difficult to get engagement. For small businesses, direct personal touches may be a better strategy than impersonal company page posts.
- Can I make a connection? Especially for B2B businesses, it’s the contact that counts. The social channels are just the communications media. Relationships have to be developed.
Over the next couple of weeks, I intend to demolish a few abandoned social media properties, and I’ll be refocusing my efforts on listening and communicating over a couple of channels that make sense for my business. I’ve set some goals and created a calendar for content that my target audience should find useful. I’m also going to ramp up efforts to increase direct connections with folks that I’ve met via social media over the last year or so.
Business is a cobweb of human relationships.
Perot said that, too. Whether or not you like his politics, you have to appreciate his clear-spoken business wisdom:
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.
It’s easy to get sucked in by the latest social media trend, but ultimately it’s people that matter. For small businesses, the most practical approaches to social media and other marketing activities are the ones that make contacts, cultivate relationships, and develop clients.
This article was originally published in DP Marketing’s Weekly Idea Newsletter. We send an interesting marketing article to our clients and friends on a semi-regular basis. Here’s the subscription link if you’d like to add your name to the list.
Part 1 of this series about digital marketing for printers looked at the benefits of understanding the current vernacular of marketing. Marketing-related projects make up over 60% of the work in most print companies. Developing an understanding of the integration of print and digital channels can gain you a seat at the planning table with your customers. Part 2 of the series considered good reasons to develop digital capabilities and the kinds of capabilities that could be included in a basic marketing services strategy. Small and Medium Sized businesses need help with implementation of marketing tactics. Printers are generally good at details – they may already have some of the skills in place to manage marketing services and other capabilities can be added gradually. In Part 3, we look at the most practical way to get started with marketing services – use them in your own marketing efforts.
Champagne is much better than dog food.
Champagne is good. It’s bright and bubbly and optimistic. Drinking your own champagne sounds much more hopeful than eating your own dogfood, another phrase that conveys a similar meaning. For this article, we’ll stick with champagne, applied in moderation to prevent a hangover on the morning after.
The last two posts have discussed the reasons why printers need to understand digital marketing and some basic considerations for entering into the realm of “marketing services.” Champagning, applying your newly acquired marketing skills and capabilities in your own marketing efforts, is the best way to demonstrate their effectiveness to potential clients. It also affords the opportunity to learn as you go, gaining from practical experience and by measuring the results of your efforts.
Health Benefits of Champagne?
There’s another sound reason to drink your own champagne. In this case, it’s good for you. A solid marketing program will help your business reach it’s goals.
That’s an incentive, but there’s also a commitment involved. When you add a new piece of equipment in your shop, it must be used consistently to produce a return on investment. Your marketing program works the same way – it must be implemented consistently to produce positive results. That means a commitment of time, money, and priority.
Keeping the commitment requires a plan. Printers fail at marketing because they don’t assign priority to their own efforts. Despite great intentions, marketing frequently falls to the bottom of the project list. A marketing plan will keep you on track. If you’d like a straightforward approach to marketing plans, there’s a free marketing plan template available on this website.
The concept of commitment seems self-evident, but as you begin to work with clients, you’ll find that lack of commitment will be the primary reason their initiatives fail. You’ll want to continually stress the need for planning and consistency, and demonstrate your commitment with your own planned and measured marketing program.
Which marketing services come first?
Making a move into marketing services may require a paradigm shift away from a production focus and towards a customer-focused mentality. Remember that the services and capabilities you add are intended to provide solutions to difficulties that your clients face. Do you know what those difficulties are?
Basic research should be a part of your plan. Consider a focus group or a series of structured interviews with key accounts and prospects. You’ll want to get a feel for your clients’ strategies, but also dig into the specifics. You’re looking for the problem areas.
A few questions to ask:
- What are your marketing goals?
- Which strategies have succeeded in the past year? Which have failed? Why?
- What marketing channels are you currently using?
- How large is your marketing staff? What tasks do they handle? Do they need additional resources?
- Where are the problem areas? What channels present implementation challenges?
- What new initiatives are you considering? How will they be accomplished?
There’s a second line of questions that is also important. You’ll want to find out if your customer’s difficulties are unique or if there is a larger audience that might be receptive to services you might provide.
- Are their needs common to their industry?
- Are there similar businesses that face the same problems?
- How can they be reached with information? Trade associations? Industry groups? Social media channels?
Remember that the purpose of these interviews isn’t to sell print. In fact, this kind of research probably shouldn’t be assigned to your sales team. Make sure to explain that you’re seeking information and looking for new opportunities to provide support that your customers will value.
The best marketing tactics for printers
Your research will help you identify some areas of opportunity, and should also provide you with information about how different groups of clients prefer to communicate and where they go for information. That’s key information that will assist you to select new capabilities and to begin your “champagning” efforts.
It’s likely that you won’t (and recommended that you don’t) begin with anything too esoteric. You’ll probably find that many of your clients need help with the basic elements of digital marketing and you’ll need the basics in place for your own efforts. Here are some obvious places to start your marketing efforts and to demonstrate your capabilities:
- A current and functional website – Your website is the hub of your marketing activity. It should be responsive for mobile and enable easy communication and engagement with your company, including online ordering and the ability to create customer catalogs. Include lots of informational content and continually update the site with new information, including video. Your website platform should enable easy setup of landing pages – destination urls from your other marketing activities that include calls to action, offers, and allow you to collect contact information.
- Gather the Data – You should also gather data through subscription signups, and your regular business activities. Identify key data points and use a CRM to track leads and customers.
- Print, of course – Naturally, print will be a part of your marketing program. You’ll want to coordinate and reinforce your messages across the channels you choose and develop content that can be used online and in print. Make sure to always have a call to action on print collateral and direct mail. Send readers to a website landing page where they can complete a form to receive an offer that they will value.
- Email – Make sure to map your strategy and consider the needs of your clients. Current best practices indicate that targeted emails to segmented lists work best, but that requires lots of time. Continual email blasts with sales promotions are likely to be counterproductive.
- Social Networks – You don’t have to have a presence on every social media channel. Go where your clients gather. Hint: Facebook paid advertising and promoted content works pretty well for many printing companies
Pop the cork and pour a glass of bubbly, but don’t drink it too fast! Commitment, research, and planning will greatly increase the prospects that your new service additions will succeed, but there’s one final attribute that you’ll need. It’s patience. Give your new initiatives some time to get traction. You’ll need to remember and to remind your clients that marketing is a long-term investment, measured over months and years.
Cheers and good luck! Hopefully you’ve received a few good ideas from this digital marketing for printers series. If you’d like to read further, there’s more information in our e-book, The Printer’s Marketing Primer. Click the link or the sidebar ad on this page to download this free resource.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or if you’d like to discuss ideas. There’s never a charge for the first conversation and I’d love to learn about your print business.