Printing companies are slowly coming around to the fact that they can win more customers and make more money by adding services that are more relevant to the needs of the customer rather than their own. Some call it objective marketing; a few are calling it automated marketing; but the majority of these printing companies prefer to think of themselves as ‘cross-media solutions’ providers. The trouble with this is that nobody outside of the printing industry has a clue what they are talking about.
Cross-media solutions is jargon that was pushed around when web-to-print was in its infancy and was quickly adopted by the printing industry trade press. Other industry suppliers quickly followed suit and before you knew it everybody was talking incomprehensible bollocks about something they didn’t quite fully grasp. Therefore by the time a dedicated cross-media magazine and a trade show was launched off the back of it, nobody had a clue what was what. Little wonder that neither the show nor the magazine are around today.
As printing people we tend to like new technology. We’re great at being the first, or an early adopter. We run around like mad things telling customers how we can now do this or that, but we never stop to think that the customer doesn’t actually give a crap what piece of shiny new kit we have, nor what it can do. He, like you, just wants new customers for his business and he certainly doesn’t have a clue what cross-media printing is, nor would he want to.
I think one of the key problems is how we are sold this new technology and how it is subsequently sold-on to the end customer. Take personalisation for instance. If a printer buys a new all-singing-all-dancing digital production engine complete with personalisation software, why would his customer care? The customer just wants his problem solved which usually ends with him selling more products. As print people we tend to get too hung-up on solutions. We need to think about the problem the customer is having and come up with a way to resolve those problems. And - shock horror - the ideal solution might not require anything to do with cross media or personalisation, it might just turn out to be a good idea.
For example, what if the customer was renting portable toilets to outside events companies? He couldn’t care less about personalised printed marketing collateral that is linked to a personalised webpage. He would probably be more inspired if you were to suggest a range of themed printed vinyl wrapped toilets that could be matched to each and every type of outdoor event, and even if you are not yet able to supply the theme wrapped bogs I am certain you could find someone that you could farm the work out to at first. What you might find is, as you begin to delve deeper into your customers business, that he has other business interests that you could help him out with. In basic terms it means never saying no to work. The answer should always be “yes we can” even before you inquire about the problem.
Printing companies need to grasp this concept by the horns to be ready to work with the customer to develop a strategy that will meet the objectives of the customer and not those of the printer. It goes without saying that the printer will still pick-up some of the printing, even if the campaign is mostly email and website driven, but by doing so he will also go a long way towards creating a ‘sticky’ customer who is more than likely to remain a loyal customer who will call upon his services more often in the future.