Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

Getting Ready for the Business Development Race

Monday, December 15th, 2014

A difficult economy means that your customers are taking longer to decide if they want to spend money with your printing company. This “wait and see” game may go on for months, perhaps years. In the meantime, your business has its own objectives to meet, and bills to pay. Reducing expenses can only take an organization so far to profitability.

Realize that you are engaged in the race of business development. Take the time now to consider these thoughts for taking your printing company to a higher level of success in every aspect of your sales and marketing efforts.

First ask and answer the question “what business am I really in?” Am I a quick printer? Digital printer?  Commercial printer? Graphics company? Communications company? It sounds so simple, but is it really? Over the course of the last few years, entire markets have appeared and grown, others disappeared. Your customer base has likely changed, if not in size, perhaps in scope. Take time to think about the past, your present and the future. What needs do you address? What problems do you solve for your customers?

Secondly rethink your competitive advantage related to your core business. Do you have a competitive advantage? Are there breakthrough opportunities on the horizon? Do you have the resources to successfully communicate your unique selling position? What is it that you do better than anyone else?

Related to the second thought, determine exactly who your best customer is. Is this a customer of the past, present or future? Whom do you want to be doing business with? What is it about this type of customer that makes them desirable? Write down those characteristics because this exercise will define your ideal customer, the one that will move you towards your business goals.

Very few individuals in business have ever taken the time to write a business plan, a document that allows them to think through their entire business, the competitive external environment and in the end, requires them to develop a course of action that will move them forward. Develop a One Page Business Plan that can be used as a communication tool to everyone in the company.
Lastly analyze your source of past business and determine what tools were employed to gain those customers. In short, the rule states “determine what marketing works best for you then do it better each day.” Time is money, and money is tight, so stick with what works.

Top 10 Best Practices for QR Codes

Friday, December 12th, 2014

I have recently updated my brandable white paper “Best Practices for QR and Other 2D Barcodes.” From watching implementation of these codes (the good, the bad, and the ugly) over the years, this is my Top 10 list. Do you agree with it? What might you add or delete?

1. Create marketing campaigns, not QR Code campaigns.

QR Codes are a response mechanism, not an end unto themselves.

2. Have a strategy.

Slapping a QR Code on something is not a strategy. Using a QR Code on a product display to show the product in use, provide a coupon, or link to customer video testimonials? That’s a strategy.

3. Make it serve a purpose.

Know why the code is being used. Don’t just add a QR Code to “go mobile.” Know the purpose it’s intended to serve and then make it happen.

4. Make the QR Code worth decoding.

What’s the value for the person scanning? We all know the value for the client. But what about the target audience? What’s in it for them?

5. Optimize for mobile devices.

Don’t assume that because 69% of U.S. consumers own smartphones that content doesn’t have to be mobile-optimized. It does.

6. Optimize for mobile lifestyles.

For example, if you’re going to send people to a survey, don’t ask them to input lots of information by hand. That’s hard to do on a mobile phone.

7. Follow best practices for (technical) implementation.

Certain steps will make QR Codes more scannable than others. Know what they are and use them.

8. Test, test, test.

Just like any other campaign, test the links, test on different phones, test on different browsers. What’s the end user experience?

9. Include multiple paths for response.

 QR Codes are great tools, but not everyone will want to use a QR Code. Provide other ways to respond to the CTA, as well.

10. Include brief instructions for using the code.

Some day, this won’t be necessary. For right now (with the exception of select audiences), it is.

Do you agree with this list? What might you change? Please chime in!

For more information on the white paper, which includes greatly expanded discussions on this Top 10 list, you can find it here.

 

4 Essential Tips to Guarantee Sales

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Today’s business world is more competitive than ever, and many organizations are finding it difficult to keep producing sales.

So, what can you do to change this and boost sales for 2015?

You need to update your sales team’s skills to deliver what your audience wants and needs. To succeed in growing your business for the new year, make sure your sales reps brush up on:

  1. Conversations and relationship building
  2. Social media
  3. Collaboration vs. selling
  4. Adaptability

These 4 essential skills are the key to turning around your sales for 2015. To learn how to effectively use these skills to close sales, please download your copy of 4 Essential Sales Skills, free for The Digital Nirvana readers.

LeadGen: Are you targeting the right people?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Lead generation is critical, not just for your clients, but for your company, as well. Just as it is with your clients, it starts with targeting not just the right companies, but the right people within them. Are you sure you’re targeting the right ones? How much does job title matter?

According to an infographic released by LeadJen, a B2B lead generation company, it matters a lot. In a survey, it found that director-level professionals in marketing organizations and those with functional responsibility for sales are most likely to respond to prospecting efforts from marketing technology vendors (which we can assume would include print service providers).

Marketing Functions Most Likely To Respond To Lead Generation
Function

% Response

Biz Dev/Sales & Marketing

26%

Executive/Strategy

21%

Other

15%

Branding/Creative

1%

Marketing Technology

10%

Digital/Email/Web Marketing

14%

Social Media

5%

Marcom/PR

8%

Source: LeadJen, May 2014

It also found that, while the plurality of appointments (49%) are set with budget owners (including the director, vice president or CXO), 22% of appointments are set with managers specializing in marketing functions such as digital, e-commerce and social media. “These marketing managers, even without direct budget control, have a clear influence on spending decisions,” notes the report.

What days are best to set up appointments?  Tuesdays and Wednesdays were the most likely to yield appointments, and between 2-3 PM was the most productive time to find prospects sitting behind their desks.

What do you think? Does this data match up with your lead-generation experiences?

 

Your Fantasy Sales Team

Monday, December 8th, 2014

With the start of a new year the common questions revolve around “what are we going to do different this year in hopes of better results?” A good place to start is by examining your sales team. Look at team members and create a depth chart, complete with all their stats. Many of you already do this with your fantasy sports teams. Look at the chart, what do you have? Do you have the right folks playing the right positions? Are they on top of their game? Are they being coached properly?

If you were building a team from scratch, what would you want it to look like? This can change from company to company based on the culture, the markets served and the diversification of the products and services. My guess though is that this team might include those who:

  • Are well versed in the vertical markets that you value.
  • Have good business acumen.
  • Knows how you make money and is focused on uncovering opportunities where you can be successful, profitable and deliver ongoing value.
  • Has both the empathy to connect with a buying organization as well as the drive to connect the necessary dots to build and sell a solution that differentiates you from the competition.
  • Understands the importance of ongoing account management but works within your guidelines to allow the internal support team to manage that aspect of the relationship.
  • Is committed to being the best at what they do.

There’s a good chance that there is overlap between your fantasy team and your existing team – great. Where there isn’t overlap is where you need to make changes. It may involve a new approach to your training and continuing education program and it could mean moving some to different positions. It could mean a new strategy – new plays. We all know finding new sales people has gotten harder and harder so this exercise might help in defining the attributes that you’re looking for in your next rep. In the race for talent, just looking for “more of the same” probably won’t get you to where you need to be.

5 Reasons to Incorporate QR Codes

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Looking for reasons to encourage your clients to add QR Codes to their print materials? Here are five you can start with. Can you think of more?

1. It’s a smartphone world.

It used to be that you couldn’t assume that consumers had smartphones, so reach for QR Codes was considered to be limited. However, as of March 2014, comScore reported that smartphones are 69% of the U.S. mobile phone population.

2. Mobile is an addiction.

We don’t just own cellphones. We are addicted to them. According to Edison Research, 94% of consumers admit that their cellphone is always within arm’s reach. [1] In a separate survey, 75% admit to using their mobile phones while in the bathroom. [2]

QR Codes connect print to mobile. Enough said.

3. QR Codes reach 30-40% of consumers.

Regardless of which data you view, QR Code scanning is holding steady at one-third of U.S. consumers. That’s a lot of people. Vibe reports that 31% of smartphone owners in the U.S. have scanned a QR Code to get special in-store deals (October 2014). More than one-quarter (27%) have scanned QR Codes in the store itself (September 2014). Just the other day, I read InfoTrends research that showed the percent of mobile phone owners having scanned QR Codes recently as 43%.

4. QR Codes prompt purchases.

Of those Vibe respondents scanning QR Codes in-store, 40% said they made a spontaneous purchase based on the information they received. Another 42% reported that the information helped them feel better about a purchase they were going to make. ExactTarget reports similar numbers. It finds that 43% of smartphone owners have scanned a coupon or QR Code in the past six months. Of those who did, 90% found them to be useful. [3]

5. QR Codes = coupons.

More than one-third (34%) of the ExactTarget respondnets report scanning a coupon or QR Code with a mobile device while shopping in a store. The primary reasons? To get coupons or deals (69%), obtain more information (48%), and to see if there is a better buy elsewhere (44%).

QR Codes aren’t new anymore. They may not be exciting. But they are useful tools that should be in every marketer’s toolbox. If they aren’t, then maybe this is an opportunity that you are missing.

5 Ways Your Print Business Can Make More Money in 2015

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

There is a strong market out there for printers right now, so it’s the perfect time for you to make the most of the services you’re offering.

The answer to the nagging question about what print and mail providers need to do to grow their business lies within two simple words: provide solutions. That’s right! In order to grow your print and mail businesses in the age of digital marketing, you must first focus on the services that you already offer customers.

You already have the resources. Now is the time to focus on change and growth.

By following these 5 simple steps, you’ll discover how your business can make more money using the resources you already have available, and be on your way to a profitable 2015.

Please take a moment to read and share this article at http://ilink.me/Grow2015. Do you have any other tips or suggestions to help boost business growth for 2015? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Hearing the Voice of Our Best Customers

Monday, December 1st, 2014

In his blog “How to Protect Market Share,” burnsattitude.wordpress.com, Kevin Burns writes the following: “A recent survey of senior executives showed 80% believed that their organizations offered a superior customer experience. When surveyed, only 8% of their customers actually agreed.”

Maybe those executives are in industries that are growing rapidly, have work to spare, and only limited competition, so they can get away with being so out of touch. We aren’t. Every one of us is in a pitched battle for market share. We don’t win by assuming we know what clients think of us or what they value most. We win by verifying—by hearing clearly and regularly the voice of our best clients.

We recently asked the heads of some of our industry’s most successful companies how they hear the voice of their best clients. Here’s some of what they told us:

• Meet frequently on an owner-to-owner/executive-to-executive basis—“meeting and meeting, listening and listening,” is how one owner puts it—to hear the client’s voice directly and unfiltered by anyone—including sales reps.

• Team selling, subject matter expert selling, and consultative selling to keep the sales process focused on what’s most important to the client, not the sales rep.

• Hang out physically where clients hang out. Attend their trade shows and industry events, read their business and trade press, joint their associations, etc.

  •  Hang out physically where clients hang out. Attend their trade shows and industry events, read their business and trade press, joint their associations, etc.

• Hang out virtually where clients hang out. Know where in the social media world clients hang out—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a forum or list serve—and hang out there, too.

• Use the NAPL eKG Competitive Edge Profile™ (http://napl.org/ekg/ekg-competitive-profile-more-info/) to measure how they rate compared to the competition in the areas most important to their customers, to identify competitive strengths and weaknesses, and to aggressively build on the former and correct the latter.

Leaders agree that there is no single best approach to hearing the voice of the client. To the contrary, different clients will be responsive to different approaches. The one thing they agree we can’t do: Sit back and assume we have it all figured out.

What are you doing to hear the voice of your best clients ?

Clients Okay with Sloppy Databases? A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

We all know that it’s a good idea for marketers to clean, update, and de-dupe their mailing lists on a regular basis, and as their print provider, this is something you should be encouraging them to do.

Yesterday, we received a piece of mail that reinforces the importance of this practice. It was addressed to one of the former homeowners “or current resident.” Okay, fairly common practice, except that the homeowner had passed away 20 years ago. We’d purchased the home from his widow.

On the positive side, we aren’t related to the former homeowners and have no emotional reaction to his name on the direct mail piece. But what if his wife had still been living there? Can you imagine what her reaction would have been? Or other family members if they still resided there?

Not a good way to promote your brand.

If your clients are resistant to a full data cleanse, perhaps at least they could be convinced to run it against a list of the deceased.

7 Steps to Selling Your Business

Monday, November 24th, 2014

1. Determine a Realistic Price Range — If you price your business too high, you’ll scare away buyers. If you price it too low, you’ll risk selling at a bargain basement discount. Your goal is to figure out a range that’s realistic. Get a valuation done as that can be used to help market your company.

2. Understand the Tax Consequences — Taxes can take a huge bite out of the money you receive for your business. You’ll need help from a CPA or other tax expert.

3. Prepare for a Sale — The getting-ready process, of course, includes sprucing up your business premises — everything should be attractive and orderly. But more important is getting your numbers in good shape. Consider recasting your tax-return numbers for prospective buyers. This involves, for example, adding back to your profits discretionary expenses.

4. Seek Potential Buyers — Finding buyers may not be easy. Usually you’ll need to reach out to a big pool of potential buyers. The more interest you get, the better offer you will get. You may want to engage a consultant or broker to reach more buyers.

5. Negotiate The Deal — Once you attract an interested buyer, you need to work out the terms of the sale. The key issues are whether you want the whole business or some of the assets? How will you be paid? What are the terms of payment? Will you continue with the business as an employee or independent contractor? Will you have to sign a non-compete? If the deal is an installment sale or earn-out, how will the buyer guarantee or collateralize the payments? Of course, you need to have professionals help advise you through this process.

6. Sign a Sales Agreement — Once you’ve worked out the key terms with the buyer, you need to put the deal in writing. The deal should be written by a professional and reviewed by a business lawyer to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

7. Plan for the Closing — The closing is the meeting at which you transfer the business to the buyer. To reduce the chance of last-minute hassles, make a checklist of all the papers you’ll be bringing and all that the buyer is expected to bring.

 

It’s More Than Just Price: How To Position Your Service Value

Friday, November 21st, 2014

At the end of the day, price is the elephant in the room. On the business front, it traditionally carries the most weight in any Leadership Team’s decision-making process. We know the budget-savvy CEO will ask herself: why pay extra for a service when it’s offered half price elsewhere? This tends to be the case in many business transactions.

However, other points of value have increasingly entered the conversation: turnaround reliability, industry specific knowledge, creative innovation, etc. If a service provider is able to effectively communicate their multiple points of value, chances are that budget-savvy CEO will pay a little more for the higher quality service. The webinar “Transforming Price into Value for Your Service,” hosted by InfoTrends’ Barb Pellow and sponsored by Canon Solutions America, breaks down how service providers create meaningful conversations in order to achieve long term partnerships with clients. John Smilanich, National Sales Director at First Edge Solutions, expands on Pellow’s overview with concrete examples on how his company has solidified their position as a partner versus vendor. The webinar covers topics including: what buyers want, price versus value delivered, the evolving definition of ‘value’, and how to communicate that value.

Specifically, I found the section on the differences between ‘vendors’ and ‘partners’ to be quite helpful in understanding how to position one’s business goals to a client. As outlined, vendors promote or exchange goods and services for money; however, partners go a step further to participate in a relationship in which each member has equal status regarding a project. Vendors have customers; partners have clients. Vendors provide data, but partners take their provided data and interpret it, analyze it, and make recommendations. Vendors take orders and make sales, where as partners work to build mutually beneficial relationships and to determine why their clients want what they ask for.

Once the service provider has determined what role they want to play, i.e. vendor or partner, it is important to present additional components of value to the service already requested. Helping the client understand these additions in real dollar value can only strengthen the service provider’s position against a competitor’s. As Barb highlights: “Value is now associated with setting up the business model. You now help set up project data bases, manage campaigns, and help execute or market the campaign.” To accomplish this, John suggests to “make it as individual as possible.” By defining your buyers and by defining your niche, you create a knowledge base that down the road surpasses the weighted value of ‘price’.

Not only were Barb and John’s tips helpful in breaking down the price barrier, but their examples, case study references, and self-assessment questions offer tremendous insight on how to increase value proposition. If you’re looking to broaden your communication skills and positioning insight, this is a must see!

Transforming Price into Value for Your Services from Canon Solutions America on Vimeo.

If Consumers Aren’t Scanning Codes, Maybe They’re in the Wrong Venue

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

According to ExactTarget, more than one-third (34%) of smartphone owners report scanning a coupon or QR Code with a mobile device while shopping in a store. Forty-three percent have scanned a coupon or QR Code in the past six months. Of those who did, 90% found them to be useful.[1]

So why do we hear so much complaining that QR Codes aren’t being used? Is it because they are being used in the wrong venues?

Retail LocationsEven as QR Code use becomes more common, it is location-dependent. JiWire Insights has found that 80% of consumers use their mobile phones to enhance their experience while shopping, but where they do so varies considerably.[2]

  • 31% use them in retail shops
  • 21% use them in restaurants
  • 19% use them in service locations
  • 15% use them in financial venues

Even within each venue, there is variance. Overwhelmingly, use is found in clothing retail (28%), convenience stores (18%) and specialty stores (12%), followed by electronics (9%). After that, it drops precipitously.

If consumers are shopping in auto, discount, big box, DIY, grocery, sporting goods, home furnishings, or beauty, the phone is used much less.

So when it comes to encouraging the use of QR Codes, consider the market vertical. If your clients are in some of the lower mobile-use verticals, they should make sure the scanning value is clear and perhaps provide some kind of incentive.

 

“Tuck-In” as Relates to M&A

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Presently there are two major methods in which a merger or acquisition occurs in the graphics industry. It is either strategic or a tuck-in. Today I will address the tuck-in method.

A tuck-in occurs when a Buyer is seeking to merge with or acquire a company whose earnings are weak or non-existing. The Buyer is seeking to purchase the Seller’s customer list and sales revenues, along with other intangible assets and “tuck in” the Seller’s production into their own facility. Typically the value of the transaction would have the Buyer offering the Seller a percentage of their trailing 12 month sales revenues. The amount offered might be in the range of 20% to 30% of sales depending on the quality of the customers; large concentrations of sales with a few customers; the gross margin the Buying company believes they will receive utilizing their equipment at the Selling company’s prices; and the likelihood that the Buyer will be able to retain the business. This amount will be paid over a 3 to 5 year period on the retained business year by year, with a cap equal to 20% to 30% of the original trailing 12 months’ sales. An upfront amount will be negotiated and paid at closing.

The acquiring company may or may not retain the Seller’s sales personnel, customer service representatives, or other key inside personnel.

The Seller will retain all of the equipment not needed by the Buyer, working capital, and long-term debt. The Seller will then proceed to have an orderly liquidation of their business. In most cases, the Buyer works with the Seller to make this as painless as possible for both the Seller and the customers.

 

Could You Have Saved This QR Code Fail?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

If a marketing project using QR Codes fails, it’s not the fault of the QR Code. Just like the failed QR Code I scanned yesterday. By scanning this code yourself — just as a doublecheck — before the job printed, could you have saved this opportunity?

Interstate QR Code2It was on a marketing piece that came home with our daughter’s school pictures. It said, “Check Out Your Picture!” with the picture of our daughter and a QR Code to scan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I scanned it.

In their defense, the QR Code was personalized to my daughter, so I was taken right to an order form for her pictures. But it was a non-mobile page that looked like the order form I’d used to order the school pictures in the first place.

Why would I scan a QR Code from my daughter’s school picture packet to be taken to a page to order school pictures?

Upon further examination, the marketing piece was aimed at encouraging friends and family to order their own school pictures, but this wasn’t abundantly clear from the marketing piece. It was also designed to cross-sell me, the parent, on other gifts with my daughter’s picture on it, but since the landing page looked like a school packet order form, I wouldn’t have known that.

What should have happened?

1. I should have been sent to a mobile page. Instead, when I first got to the page, I was greeted with the text,

Today yo

Would you like to

because, of course, the page wasn’t designed for a mobile phone.

2. The landing page should have offered me a choice — re-order prints or purchase related gifts.

This would have made it abundantly clear what the value was to me, the child’s mother, who had already ordered school pictures.

This company went a little extra distance by personalizing the QR Codes in the first place. If you’re going to do that, then take the extra step of sending parents to a mobile-optimized page making the value clear to them.

If this use of QR Codes fails, it’s not the fault of the QR Code.

So here’s the question. If you had been printing these marketing pieces, would you have scanned the QR Code off the proof — just to see what happens on the back end? Could you have saved this fail, saved the day, and been a hero in your customer’s eyes by taking the simple extra step?

Inkjet Update featuring Canon Solutions America at Graph Expo 2014

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

For those of you who missed last month’s Graph Expo, you might want to check out this clip to catch up on the latest offerings from Canon Solutions America. The 5-minute overview features Michael Poulin, Director of Product Marketing at Canon Solutions America, and Mark Michelson editor of Printing Impressions Magazine. The two discuss the latest and greatest in inkjet, as well as touch on the last couple of announcements the company has made on new technologies.

Where the numbers stand now, Canon Solutions America makes up 44% of the worldwide inkjet market share. Poulin notes that the first three quarters of 2014 had a very strong close in the US and in Europe. This pattern, he predicts, will continue through the end of the fiscal year. Strengthening their case on leadership, Canon Solutions America reached 69 billion pages in global page volume according to last year’s numbers. The predicted number for 2015 has yet to be released, but Poulin is confident that his company will stay on top of the boards.

Poulin also notes that inkjet technology took the spotlight at last month’s Graph Expo, with customers and partners at the center of the company’s advancements. “Customers are the ones pushing the envelope of various applications,” credits Poulin. With new substrate combinations, Poulin predicts an expansion into the graphic arts market.

Along with showcasing the inkjet presses themselves, Canon Solutions America also featured advancements made with their paper partners. This article in particular offers further detail, highlighting how paper mills are now in the driver’s seat to advance production and to empower customers to get the best quality output from their presses. This “paper consortium” allows customers to have access to hundreds of stocks from over 30 paper mills in order to produce top quality end results.

Not only did Canon Solutions America celebrate their paper mill partnerships, but the company also hosted customer appreciation events. This article highlights details of the events themselves, but it’s safe to say that the printing community was brought together to enjoy shared successes and to build momentum for the future.