While some old-school printers may be still relying on the size of their machinery to wow customers and win new business, more and more printers are moving from shouting about their technical prowess to focusing their attention on developing a distinct brand personality and tone of voice to ensure that they are treated as serious creative influencers.
But how do you go from selling the size and spec of your kit to using your business’s unique selling point?
Know who you are and be proud of it
The team at Ruddocks, a Lincoln-based family-run firm, which offers print and design services is adamant that the secret to success is to spend time working in the business first to find out who you are, as managing director Paul Banton and his staff have been doing for a number of years. Banton says: “We probably started to refine who we were about five years ago, but over the past 18 months we’ve spent a great deal of time on our tone of voice and branding. We defined what our values are and really started to understand them and to live and breathe them and put them into a context.
“From that we’ve refined the customer journey we offer. We’ve looked at what makes us who we are and what makes us different. Then we’ve worked hard to make sure that our tone of voice reflects our true personality.”
The rather flamboyantly named Leopard Print is a design and print management company with offices in Cornwall and Kent and takes no prisoners when telling new clients what their business stands for: “We have always believed that we need to be ‘people people’. So, across all our digital marketing and social media platforms I work on, I write as if I’m speaking directly to clients in my own tone,” smiles sales and marketing director, Taor Morris.
“We are all people at the end of the day, not robots. When I started working for my father’s company 13 years ago, I had the company car wrapped in Leopard Print. We are originally from South Africa, so I try and keep our branding and wording in line with our roots as well. There is no better way to be spotted. I live and breathe our brand and I am known at networking events as the ‘Leopard Lady’.”
Not every business feels the need to be quite as extrovert in their journey to share their personality, as demonstrated by Calverts, which is based in central London. For them it’s about finding out who you are and making that work for you: “Calverts is a worker co-operative, a design agency, and one of the last traditional printers in central London. We try to present that combination in a cohesive and engaging way through our own branding and communications; particularly in print where we can use interesting formats, processes and papers to fully express our personality,” describes Arthur Stitt, project director at the company.
Don’t be boring
With many printers still trying to wow their customers with the size of their machines, for Stitt at Calverts there are better ways of engaging with customers and prospective clients. “We choose not to use pictures of printing presses in our marketing mainly because it’s a bit boring. That’s not to say we don’t use our technical skills to win new clients. For example, we encourage site visits, press-passing, and workshops where clients and potential clients can see the presses and processes in action and get a feel for who we are and how we might work together.”
Banton too is adamant that pictures of your kit are really old-fashioned. He says: “Too many printers still talk about the technological aspect of the industry and their website will have pictures of a linen tester and Pantone book spread out on it.
“I hate all that because it’s not what people want to know about. What is more important is that we get our personality across. We work with people – not machines or equipment. People need to understand you as a person and get along with you as a person and not what bit of kit you’ve got.”
For Morris it’s important that customers have a reliable point of contact rather than know all about the latest machine that has just entered the market. She says: “We can offer the whole spectrum of print so what people get drawn into with us is that they just have one contact to speak to, to order all of their printing collateral.”
Social media has proved to be an important tool for Calverts, which has won business with clever use of it, but they believe what you do and say online still needs managing and properly. “A happy customer will tell their friends and followers, in the same way an unhappy one will.” says Stitt. “The instantaneousness of social media can raise expectations that print operates in the same speedy way, which is fine for cheap throwaway flyers but detrimental for quality publications,” he adds. “We have won business through social media, often through word of mouth first, then via a message on Twitter or Facebook. Personally, I follow campaigns on crowdfunding platforms and we’ve produced some very nice work via those. We tend to put our best work on Instagram.”
Ruddocks has been using a range of platforms for years and defining what works well on which social network is a learning curve: “We use social media a great deal but it’s hard to quantify how much business we get from it. Interestingly what we’ve discovered is, if we ever talk about a project on social media it gets some interest. Then if we talk about our staff or customers that really gets engagement. The likes, the hits, are phenomenal. Only recently a member of staff celebrated 30 years with us, we posted that story and we got hundreds of likes and comments on Facebook, over several days. Posts about staff members, something they’ve achieved or something they’ve done, that isn’t necessarily related to the business directly – gets us loads more engagement. It goes back to it’s all about people,” explains Banton.
For Leopard Print social media is extremely important. Morris says: “It has been an excellent platform for us, not only for brand awareness but to also win work and to network. There are lots of people out there, asking for our services. When I say our, I don’t mean necessarily for Leopard Print, but for all printers as a whole. People ask, and I answer. I don’t do cold calls anymore because on social media you can find people that are already asking for a service, it’s wonderful.”
A big believer in the power of social media when harnessed properly, Ruddocks’ Banton goes on to say that the key to social media is to stop looking at it as necessarily a way to win new business: “We’re not using social media to win new customers directly. We’re using it to create and strengthen our brand and our values and our reputation. Then we use these leads to build good business relationships. Facebook works really well with people stories and the work we’re doing in the local community. Twitter is really good for sharing news about what our clients are doing. We generally use Twitter to like, comment and promote what our clients are doing to help get their message out there, and what this does is gives us an association with them. We don’t talk about ‘look at the great work we’re doing with a certain client’, instead we’ll talk about what that client is trying to do. It’s difficult to identify which platform works best. For us we use Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram to just showcase projects.”
What advice would you give printers wanting to develop a stronger brand and personality for their business?
Ruddocks“If you’re interested in growing your business getting as much custom as you can from anywhere sell them high, stack them cheap, be upfront about that, that’s okay. But if that’s not who you are don’t pretend to be it. And vice versa, don’t say we’re going to give you the most amazing customer service and experience if you’re not really interested in the customer. Know who you are and live and breathe it.”
Calverts“Know who you are. Specialise. Be genuine. Be consistent.”
Leopard Print“Just be yourself, people buy from people, it is about going out there and building relationships with people. If your logo/ brand has a certain colour in it, wear that colour in your tie, or top or shoes. Show that you have thought about your brand. It is a real talking point. Once you hand over your business card it gets the conversation started, people do notice the little things.”