We are all big kids at heart and we all like to think we’ve got things sorted, but what if we are sometimes wrong? Could you recognise your own errors?

 

A few days ago, I was sitting in a showroom of a leading digital manufacturer, waiting for a potential customer to arrive for a demonstration. I had time on my hands which I tried to fill by catching up on a few emails.

 

The table next to me was occupied by two employees of the manufacturer, one from the USA, the other from the UK.

 

As they talked, I found myself listening in, because I am nosey like that, (so be warned, if you find yourself chatting near me…..I am giving you a damned good listening to!) The conversation was around a presentation to be made to multi-brand dealers, of which we, Smart Print, are proud to be one.

 

“We need to make sure that we include a few slides on our heritage!” said one.

 

“Good point, they need to appreciate who we are and where we came from.” added the other.

 

What followed was twenty minutes fine-tuning three slides about the heritage of said company and when they had finished my ONLY thought was ‘So what?’

 

Their focus was on selling themselves to me. My focus is on how I sell their products. And nothing that they mentioned in their presentation was going to help me. Nothing!

 

They had fallen into the old school-yard routine of ‘my dad is bigger than your dad’, focussing on who THEY are, where THEY came from and how pleased and privileged I should feel to be able to sell their products.

 

Come the day of their demonstration, I doubt very much that they will understand how wrong they get it, because they are just not tuned into what is important to their customers.

 

This isn’t new with manufacturer marketing departments and it certainly isn’t new with manufacturer sales-people.

 

I know a few manufacturer marketers who are truly inspirational presenters, Kevin O’Donnell of Xerox and Mark Stephenson of Fuji, to name two.

 

Both are knowledgeable and informative with a focus on printed applications that allow you, the print provider, to make money. Yes, they are trying to push the products that they represent, but rarely do they adopt a ‘my dad is bigger’ methodology. Why? They don’t have to and they don’t need to.

 

Both live and breathe in the here and now, without the need to put down the opposition. More pointedly they both know their competition very well, strengths, weaknesses and limitations allowing them to promote their own USPs.

 

So, what about you? How/where do you focus your competitive threat?

 

If you have fallen into the trap of providing a plant list on your website ask yourself what this means to your existing or new clients? Are they thinking ‘so what?’

 

If you have provided references from Global companies ask yourself….so what?

 

How does this relate to the majority of your clients and what does it say about you?

 

The reality is that NO ONE CARES. Sorry, but yes, I am shouting at you.

 

 

We are all living for the next job, eager to impress and win valuable new business, but what about protecting your customer base?

 

Your customers need to know that you will continue to supply a reliable service at an acceptable time and an agreed price.

 

They need to know about ‘new things’ and how that can help their business to grow.

 

They want to have confidence that YOU are the best provider of their print needs and that you are going to make them look good.

 

Do they care where you came from, your heritage? Well, it’s nice to know but it won’t sell any more print.

 

There are still some jobs where bigger, faster, cheaper are the reasons that you won the work, but do you really want them?

 

These jobs don’t change because of the nature of what they are…10,000 full colour A5 leaflets to be dropped through the letter-boxes of a targeted area.

 

Nothing wrong with that. As I have said many times, I am a fan of so called junk-mail, because it keeps machines ticking over. I just don’t have a interest in bread & butter; I want jam & cream!

 

So, what is the answer?

 

Get your show-off head on and swap ‘my dad is bigger’ for ‘my dad is smarter’. A clever dad won’t slave a day over 10,000 leaflets with a low revenue and profit margins. Clever dad aims to work less and earn more.

 

These are the areas that digital print was created for:- 

 

Short-run personalised packaging doesn’t require an iGen, you can already do it, just ask Antalis.

 

Variable data doesn’t require hideously expensive software, you can already do this too, just ask EFI.

 

On-line ordering doesn’t need £1000s of investment and dedicated staff, just ask Vpress.

 

Textured substrates, NCR, envelopes, never-tear and metallics are already available to the digital print provider and when you mix them up you start to create.

 

Ask yourself how many samples of these jobs you have on your website, or just inside your shop front? This is what your customer is looking for, personalised everything because ‘It’s all about me, me me!’

 

You probably took some time to build an event stand in your foyer, (there is a whole new discussion about the profitability of wide-format) but did you also put some small wedding favour boxes, with a picture of the bride next to the invitations package? Oh! you don’t do wedding stationery. Why not? Because it’s short run and fiddly?

 

That might be the case but have you seen how much you can charge for short run and fiddly these days? Especially with a picture of ‘me’ on it. Vanity pays, and nowhere does it pay so well as the wedding stationery market. Don’t believe me? Go visit a local wedding fair….and take some of your business cards with you.

 

When you extend your own samples to meet the need of the market, you are moving from ‘bigger dad’ to ‘smarter dad’. If you are not sure where to start then get in touch with your local digital printer salesperson and ask him “What is new then? What have you got to show me? How can you improve my business?”

 

If he starts talking tin, cut the visit short and call another one.

 

If he turns up with a bag of printed applications that you haven’t seen before, then give him a ‘right good listening to’, because his dad is already ‘smarter than your dad.’