Social Media and Dunder Mifflin

dwightIf you were in the printing business in Macon, GA, Wednesday was paper salesman day. Over the years, my printing company was privileged to have working relationships with some fine salespeople who represented their companies well.  None of our sales guys resembled Dwight (at left, from The Office, for those who missed the title reference). In fact, there were several periods of time when the quality of our salesman was measurably superior to the quality of the company he represented.  We always  purchased paper from two suppliers.  There were times when the alliances shifted, usually due to a corporate reorganization of some kind, but the salesmen were always welcomed.

In a conversation with a competitor one day, I was surprised to hear that he considered one of our “paper guys” to be a real pain.  He actually went on to describe, with colorful language, his dislike for one of the group who “always comes in my shop jabbering about something new.”

“I guess he can’t see that I’m just not interested in all of that new stuff,” was the competitor’s closing remark.

The LinkedIn Conversation

I followed a thread this week on LinkedIn that reminded me of that conversation many years ago. The comment was entitled “Stop Serial Posting,” and it was directed toward several consultant types that post frequently in the print-oriented groups on that network.  The general thrust of the objection was that it was much easier to write an article than to manage the day to day difficulties of an ongoing printing concern, therefore the opinions of the consultants were of little relevance.

I’ll bet that most of the folks who chimed in with this objection don’t have time for their paper salesman either.

What are they missing?

Information.  No brainer.  Some of the “new stuff” the paper salesmen jabbered about became pretty valuable to our operations.  Part of a consultant’s job is to understand and evaluate new trends and information.  They also do a pretty good job of translating it in small bites, so that those in the trenches fighting the war can get a taste of what’s going on away from the battlefield.

Insight. When you run a small business, it’s easy to get stuck in the microcosm of your own daily grind.  Our paper salesmen could talk about what others in similar businesses were doing.  Many of the consultants provide similar insights.

Ideas. The obvious value of the insight is solid ideas that can be put into practice. My company got into the wide format business through a tip from one of our paper salesmen, who steered me to one of his other customers already in the business.

It’s for free.

Sure, the consultants would love it if you hired them to work on a project or help you with a sales plan.  Many of these folks earn a good living doing just that . . . they charge a fee when working with business owners like you. Guess what? The information they provide on the social networks is free.  Shouldn’t you take advantage of that?

The disgruntled competitor’s business disappeared in the early 2000s.  I can’t say that his opinion of  the paper folks was directly responsible, but it was typical of his attitude toward any change. He was in the trenches, doing the work, and there was nothing new for him to learn.

Extrapolate. There’s no mystery to this short lesson.  You must stay current to manage a business. Information, insights, and ideas are valuable.

What do you think?

Since 2008, the upheaval in the print industry has been massive and the pace of change is still rapid. You’ll continue hearing more from me and plenty of others about that, I’m sure.  Here are a few questions to spur comments and conversation. What do you think?

  1. How do you keep up with change?
  2. Do you find social media to be a valuable source for information?
  3. What other sources are important?

The Last Part

DP Marketing Services is a new business that provides marketing services and support for printing companies.  Part of our mission is to help our customers keep up with current marketing trends and practices.  We hope you’ll take a look at our website while you’re here.  If you’d like to talk about your business, we’d be most happy to get in touch.  You can contact Richard Dannenberg by phone at 478-719-4029, by email at, or you can fill out a contact form here on the website.