At Print13 event last month, Howie Fenton and Andy Paparozzi of NAPL delivered a presentation on “The Secrets of Leading Digital Companies” in which they propose that industry leaders are characterized by a willingness to change. They talked about changes as seemingly simple as buying a new piece of equipment to complex challenges like acquiring a company or moving into new areas of service. The latter issue was a major focus of the talk as more and more companies are diversifying their services in order to add value to customers.
“Despite economic challenges and structural changes, between January 2000 and March 2013, Leaders’ sales are up 54.2%, while the industry at large is down more than 21%,” according to Paparozzi. The leaders are better at recognizing the need to change and are better at implementing that change and, I suspect that these changes extend beyond the operational aspects of the new technology or service that they have adopted. Which leads me to the topic of this post: you can’t change what you sell and expect to sell it the same way.
The very factors that are causing printers to offer new services, channel complexity, tidal waves of technological change, shifting demographics and intense competitive pressures are the same factors that are causing major changes in the buying behaviors of their target clients. Consider that:
- Today’s business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete (source: Corporate Executive Board)
- 10% of print sales originated online and this trend is expected to reach 18% by 2014 (source: InfoTrends)
- 4% of B2B executives have made purchases of over $100,000 via their mobile device (source: Google and Forbes Insight)
This means that multi-channel marketing is not only a service printers should consider offering to their customers, it is one that printers absolutely need to be using for their own business development. Many printers, even relatively large ones, have operated without significant marketing resources and often with no dedicated marketing department. Now, more than ever, they need to consider the buyer’s full process from awareness through purchase and all of the potential touch points along the way. If buyers are researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, and benchmarking pricing before ever having a conversation with a sales rep – it’s marketing that has to close the gap by making sure that their company is on the buyer’s radar during this research process.
Marketing support and lead generation will become increasingly critical as service portfolios and related selling tactics become more complex. Printers may need to look at making investments in marketing as well as redistribution of sales resources to include focused selling teams and inside sales support.
Marketing support is what helps keep your pipeline full and your sales people efficient enabling them to focus on what’s important once they get in front of the customer. However, your strategy also needs to consider that literally getting in front of buyers is getting harder and harder. In 2011, American businesspeople took a total of 445 million trips and over 124 million people telecommuted in 2012. That means that part of your sales and marketing strategy needs to include making it easy for “on the go” executives to find information about you from their mobile device, making it easy to engage with you from their mobile device and making it easy for them to track the progress of their business with you using their mobile device. Buyers are transacting big business directly from their smart phones – how will your site show up on the small screen? Don’t overlook mobile and get your sales force comfortable with Skype.
Printing leaders are diversifying their offers. Printing leaders are better at change and therefore their sales growth is nearly double that of the industry at large. Printing leaders understand that to diversify your capabilities requires a complementary diversification of your sales and marketing tactics as well. Selling has evolved along with the industry. Today, how you sell is as important as what you sell – and the leaders know that too.