These days it seems there are as many marketing strategies to promote a print business as there are tools to keep the presses running.
With such a variety to choose from what are the most effective to guarantee printers get themselves noticed in an overcrowded marketplace. Does a printer really need to be on every social media platform? Is a lovely glossy brochure and a humorous calendar at Christmas still the best way to sway clients to come over to your place for their print? Is it a case of just because you can doesn’t mean you should?
What’s the secret to winning new work?
Richard Pinkney from the Leeds-based decorative print specialist Celloglas says, actually, it’s a bit of everything. “Sometimes clients come to us, sometimes we go to them. Having a good website is essential as it reflects your brand, what you stand for and is sometimes the first ‘meeting’ a potential customer has with you. People use ours to request samples. Once we know what they’re interested in, it’s a good way to get in touch and offer help and guidance. Attending exhibitions can be a great way to have that first conversation. Engaging with people and having the chance to discuss ideas can spark some excitement, which can then lead to an appointment or pitch.”
For Webmart founder Simon Biltcliffe, it’s about leveraging the power of successful case studies: “We use telemarketing, exhibitions, and email shots. But you need to do your research first. You can’t just blindly phone people and say ‘do you want some print?’. Try and find their pain point and a solution for it.
“This is where case studies are pretty handy. Engage with them to find out what it is you can help them with and come up with a case study that shows how you’ve already helped someone with that problem and then try and get an appointment on the back of that.”
Manchester’s Seymour Sign & Print wins a lot of its work from referrals, and word of mouth. “We work with both local companies and have a number of national and international customers,” says company director, Dave Hammond.
“We’ve established ourselves by providing a reliable service with an honest no-nonsense approach. We’re often introduced to customers when others have failed to deliver or provided poor customer service. It’s surprising the number of times we arrive to a meeting, to be met with surprise that we actually turned up.”
Social media: essential or the emperor’s new clothes?
The question on many people’s lips is: ‘do you use social media and if so, how do you make it work for you?’ Chris Stuart, director of family-run design and print firm IPrint Cheshire in Knutsford, was the first one to put his hand up in favour of digital: “It’s extremely important. I feel social media is becoming the place to get noticed. I think any company without a strong regular social media presence will be quickly left behind. It is an amazing and usually free media to attract attention and interact with potential clients.”
Pinkney from Celloglas, believes it’s the best way to strike up conversations with potential customers: “Social plays a big part in our marketing mix. It enables us to excite designers and brands about the finishes available. Sometimes the stumbling block can be lack of knowledge of what is actually possible, so we can have fun with it to help share our products. We use it as a way to spread our news, further and wider than print media, and use it as a way to engage with journalists as part of our PR. Social comes into its own for us, however, when we run events – it’s been hugely successful when used in the run-up to and during trade shows, bringing new visitors to our stand and striking up conversations with brands we’d love to work with.”
Tony Kenton, from Ithastobebrilliant, a London-based agency, is a little more sceptical and sounds a note of caution: “Businesses need to remember ‘don’t put anything on social media that you don’t want shared socially’. The person looking after it needs to understand the brand. Most of the time it’s given to a young person in the creative team who uses Facebook socially themselves. Social media is good for establishing the character of the people and the company. But you need to think about the content, the call to action and the audience.”
The Webmart team heads online when in search of new clients: “I think it’s very important in terms of both looking, learning and finding new customers. But you’ve got to understand what you’re doing with it. You can’t just attach yourself to everybody otherwise your Twitter feed is a waste of time. If you get the right people on your feed, it’s a great way of finding things out. Equally, if you’re posting things make it relevant, punchy and short and interesting,” says Biltcliffe.
Seymour Sign & Print also sees social as an important part of its marketing: “Social media is increasingly important, it enables us to quickly display our work, providing credibility and engaging existing customers, and prospective customers alike. We’re quite proactive on it as a lot of our work is visual social media makes it easy to display this. Social media is also great for existing customers to share reviews and feedback, boosting confidence with prospective customers. An active social media presence displays what a diverse and active business we are, compared to companies on social media that rarely post, or repeat the same articles,” explains Hammond.
However, once you get into paid-for territory, the results are less positive: “We’ve tried advertising on social media, but found the quality of leads poor, and attracting more price-conscious leads – paid-for advertising on social media is no longer part of our marketing strategy.”
Is printed marketing still relevant?
For Kenton at Ithastobebrilliant, printed pieces are important, but digital has definitely taken over: “As much as a brochure is great and portable – so is an iPad or a smartphone. Brochures are thicker and heavier than screens these days. The beauty of digital is having imagery that can change depending on who is reading it and when they’re reading it.”
Perhaps understandably, Pinkney at Celloglas disagrees and favours print: “It’s a great way to display the quality of your print, but making it stand out is key. Being a print finisher, we have many techniques and applications we can use to catch attention. What we do is very tactile and visual, so using a physical item as a marketing tool is very important to us.”
IPrint Cheshire’s Stuart feels strongly about using traditional marketing literature: “Brochures certainly need to be a thing for printers as if we do not promote the use of the print no one else will.”
Biltcliffe believes buyers today prefer digital: “A website is more important – it’s what everyone looks at. Look at people who are buying print these days and you’ll see that most are in their 20s and 30s, they are used to getting things off the net.”
A website is the new shop window
Seymour Sign & Print moved away from a retail unit on a main road over seven years ago and has never looked back, as the firm’s website is the new shop window. “At the time I remember people thinking it was madness. Even in those seven years, we’ve seen a huge increase in website enquiries, more and more people are finding us through the internet,” reveals Hammond.
Pinkney from Celloglas agrees: “A website is extremely important. It’s a chance to tell our customers all about what we do, and it allows us to reach a far wider audience than we ever could without one. We have an inspiration page, which gives ideas to potential customers. You want a site that’s easy to navigate and visually stimulating, and something that allows you to communicate your brand and how good your product is.” The trick, then, is to marry the flexibility and reach of an online showcase with the unique tactile qualities and cut-through of physical, printed products.
What’s the secret to your continued success?
Like in any business in any industry, we all want to know the secret to other people’s success
“It’s word of mouth. Look after your existing clients is the most powerful strategy. Exceed their expectations.”
Simon Biltcliffe, Webmart
“Marketing is all about letting people know about you. I spend two or three days per week building up networks and going to networking events which will pay dividends in the future.”
Tony Kenton, Ithastobebriiliant
“This year we’ve sponsored the Manchester Storm Ice Hockey club. We’ve forged a strong relationship, and have supplied various items directly to the club, and are heavily involved with the club’s ‘Business 200’ networking events, which has been a great source of new high-quality contacts. “
David Hammond, Seymour Sign & Print