Navigating print services through the uncharted territory of integrated communications is the topic du jour for our industry. The goal is to keep print relevant as part of the marketing mix, while delivering higher levels of ROI. It is a print centric view that is evolving to “marketing centric” and dare we say transforming to “customer centric.” This is where The Container Store (www.containerstore.com) got it right with this consumer.
My wife and I have been customers of The Container Store for at least 15 years and have always been impressed with their innovative products and outstanding customer service. If you need organization products, they are the place to shop.
One of their product lines is “Elfa”, a premium modular shelving system for closets, pantries, office work spaces, etc… We have used Elfa for several of our closets and have found the system to be easy to configure and simple to install. The Container Store frequently keeps in touch with us and sends us a variety of small catalogs and sale announcements throughout the year. Remember, we shop there frequently and consider these mailings to be informative and not junk mail.
Recently, they sent us a mailer that was targeted to their “best customers” and included two 25% off discount cards to purchase Elfa (one for us, and one to refer a friend). My wife usually keeps these discount type coupons in the car – just in case! I can’t tell you whether it was this mailing, previous mailings, or our general great customer experience that got us in the door, but what sold us was our experience once we started shopping for our next closet system.
Why don’t people buy a product such as a modular closet system? Not enough information? Too expensive? Don’t know how to configure it? Don’t know how to install it? There are many objections that can lead to risk aversion and impact sales of complex customizable solutions. So what did they do so well that I decided to blog about my experience? First, the sales person was exceedingly friendly (a common trait for their employees), and did an outstanding job and gathering our requirements (even when we weren’t sure what they were). They have a custom built computer aided design and ordering system that allows the employee to quickly design the closet to any custom configuration. This includes a variety of shelf sizes, types, and accessories. You can view the configuration from different angles while also taking into account items such as vacuum cleaners and other types of objects that you might have to configure around.
Next, they submit the order to the production environment. They cut the shelving units to the size(s) you need for your custom configuration, and collect all of the parts you need to install it yourself (you can opt in for a separate installation service). Did I mention “while you are waiting”? Every part is labeled to match a custom build document that shows you exactly how to install the configuration. Yes, let me repeat this. Every part is labeled (variable data printing) to match a custom build document (variable data printing) that shows you exactly how to install your configuration.
Furthermore, the company also sent us an email summarizing the order and providing us a link to a micro site that offers a variety of documents and videos demonstrating how to install their product. Have they thought of everything!
How did they get my business?
1) Outstanding customer service
2) A focus on lifetime value of customer
3) Generous and useful incentives
4) Periodic reminders of their new products and offers
5) Well planned objection handling
6) Ability to deliver a custom solution, quickly, accurately, and with clear and concise instructions
7) Every customer skill set was considered
8) … and must I mention again “outstanding customer service”
Did I mention that all of the parts are returnable, even the ones that are custom cut to your closet?
The Container Store certainly uses print aggressively as part of their marketing arsenal. They should be applauded for their print strategy. But this isn’t what took me from impulse to purchase. It was the whole package, integrated communications, their sales process and tools, the strength of their brand, and our consistent experience over the last 15 years. Print certainly played an important role, but it was a supporting role.
We need to remember this point and consider how we re-position print services when making the transformation to marketing services and integrated communications. You can’t engage a marketer with a print-centric posture and claim that VDP can deliver great results and expect the marketer to sign up as a client. In the case above, VDP was covert and subtle. It gently nudged us along into a sales cycle.
A savvy marketing service provider will help the marketer with a package of integrated solutions that should include print based direct mail (catalogs, letters, gift cards, coupons), email marketing, traditional and mobile websites, micro-sites, social media, and let’s not forget sign and display graphics. They will offer solutions not only focused on customer acquisition, but customer satisfaction and lifetime customer relationship.
This is a comprehensive solution set that may be too complex for many print providers to fulfill. However, this doesn’t mean that you are out of the game if you can’t deliver all parts of the solution. Understanding the value of print as part of integrated communications will help you secure a seat at the table. But, asking for ad-hoc print jobs and talking about VDP and digital printing will most likely not keep you around for lunch. This is where we tell you that it is critical to be a partner to your customers and truly understand how you can support their goals and objectives.
It really is all about the customer, right?