It’s Time to Talk about Something Else

header image stuck in rut

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of room for improvement in the way small and medium-sized printers go to market. We’re stuck in a rut. Many smaller printers don’t market at all. Some are trying, but only a few are succeeding. There are scores of problems – owners that have so much to do that they can’t do anything, the propensity towards perfectionism, and the constant sales pressure to fill the machines. But there’s a bigger problem. When we do make a stab at marketing, lots of us are simply saying the wrong things.

Old Transistor Radio

People Aren’t Tuning In

Today’s post is about message. Whether you subscribe to current marketing theory or not is immaterial. There are a couple of persistent rules that have always applied. First, to reach potential customers, you have to talk their language. Second, you must say something that interests them. Lots of what printers talk about may make sense to us, but it’s not worth much to the clients we’d like to attract.

Here’s my favorite example. It’s standard website text that goes something like this:

Family-owned and operated, XYZ Printing Company opened in 1980 as a commercial printer catering to small and large businesses in Anytown, USA. We’re a leading provider of quality printing offering services in prepress, traditional offset printing from 1-color to 6-color, digital printing, and bindery. We pride ourselves on superior service and competitive prices and are confident we have a solution that fits your project and budget.

My apologies to the printer who actually has that blurb on their homepage, but it’s dismal. My friend, Matthew Parker, identifies the quality, service, price message as a malady that infects print sales pitches, but it’s equally devastating to the marketing message.

Here’s another example, an unfortunate blurb, taken verbatim from a printer’s blog:

If you print it, they will come. Think about the most cutting edge brands out there. Now think of their flashy new websites. The imagery is gorgeous and the use of type throughout is utterly genius. A great way for a brand to build website traffic would be through the use of print. Print could emphasis the beauty of their website with the use of vibrant colors, and be the catalyst that brings the masses to view the new page.

Perhaps it’s a creative idea and the writing’s not all that bad, but the message is simply off target. It’s not believable. In today’s digital world, it’s highly unlikely that cutting edge brands will model their web presence after a  print design. Plus, the Field of Dreams message should really produce instant skepticism.

There are other examples of poor messaging:

  • Product lists
  • Going on about the benefits of wonderful equipment
  • Trying to convince the audience that “print isn’t dead.” It isn’t. They know that.

We’re missing some really good opportunities

The fact is that print is very much alive and there are some pretty good signs that the appeal of our media is actually increasing. Why?

  1. Some print products just work – Labeling and packaging are good examples, but other standard print products like programs, invitations, POP signage, and event posters are simply the most effective and economical solutions to get messages across at the right time and the right place.
  2. Marketers are experiencing difficulty with digital channels – the complexity and cost of digital marketing is increasing while effectiveness is decreasing. It takes more time, more effort, and more money to cut through online static, and the problem is getting worse.

Let’s dig into point two with some numbers that will interest you. Email marketing is commonly perceived as inexpensive, but email volume has increased steadily at 3% per year. According to MailChimp, small business open rates (1 – 25 employees) are around 22%, but click-throughs average less than 3%. That’s dismal, too. According to a study by the Radicati Group, businesses receive an average of 122 emails each day. They categorize 76 of these as “legitimate,” which means that the remainder are either spam or just irrelevant. Event when a message gets through, how much attention will it receive? And how long does it stick around?

The same problem is affecting the content marketing efforts of your target clients. Mark Schaefer stirred up the marketing community last year with a blog post (and a subsequent book) about Content Shock, the difficulty content marketers face from free online content that is expanding at a rate of 100% every 9 to 24 months. Making inbound marketing strategy work is requiring more time, more quantity, higher quality, and an increased effort to engage audiences. A strategy that is perceived as low cost can actually be quite expensive when the hours are tallied, and honest marketers are worrying about declining ROI from their efforts.

The Message: What Print Can Do

Print is at least a partial solution to these problems, but we’re not really getting the message out. Printers need to talk less about products and old school features and benefits and more about why print works and how to use it. Here are a few suggestions for clear messages that can provide solutions for clients and prospects:Digital and postcard image

  • Case studies – Enlist a few favorite customers and develop one page case studies that dentify the challenge, methodology, and results. Alternately, share the results from some of PODi’s free case studies.
  • New techniques for using print – How to use personalization, segmentation, and targeting that isn’t creepy. (Follow my tweets @rwdberg and you’ll see a lot about this!)
  • How to test direct mail designs and formats – Here’s a great example from TPI that should provide some ideas. You might also want to share Trish Witkowski’s excellent Fold Factory videos.
  • How to integrate print with other marketing channels – Take a look at the Integrated Print Center website for all things print and digital combined.
  • Direct mail strategies – You’ll get some straightforward ideas and topics from TMR Direct’s excellent website and blog.

There’s a lot more to talk about. Short-run digital print makes A/B testing and narrow targeting a very viable option for marketers. Well planned and executed print campaigns can easily match and exceed the ROI targets for digital campaigns. Print is a solution that can bring success to the marketing programs of both small and large brands, but it’s not top of mind with today’s digital marketers. That’s the big opportunity.

What Are You Waiting For?

It’s up to you to get the message out, and there’s no better way to do it than by example. Demonstrate the value of print by using a combination of print and digital messaging in your own marketing efforts. Use the “show and tell” method to teach clients and prospects why print makes sense. That message is both understandable and interesting. It’s past time for small and medium-sized printers to lose the jargon and flowery nonsense and to begin sending clear messages about the value of what they do. If you need some help getting started, just get in touch.