Archive for the ‘Marketing & Sales’ Category

Innovation Ennui: Hidebound by History. Is Print’s Prudence proof of Paralysis?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Many years ago, when I was president of one of the first quick printing franchisor companies, a wise-man counseled me with this pearl — smart franchise companies know that almost allgood marketing ideas do not occur at franchise HQ, instead they happen on the front lines — in the franchised locations, as the result of franchisee and customer interactions.

Implementing the advice meant that I sought the counsel of some of our best and brightest franchised owners and one of them told me about “Ed.” Ed was the head of research and development for Lee Newspapers (now Lee Enterprises) a chain of community newspapers based in Davenport, Iowa. Ed’s job was to actuate the punch line in George Bernard Shaw quote made immortal by Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother Bobby. “…Others dream things that never were, and ask why not?”

Ed didn’t go to graphic arts industry trade shows; he went to the shows his newspaper ad space clients might attend. He wanted his skunk-works of innovation to be forward thinking, changing and ever willing to try things, even things that failed.

Dr. Joe Webb, renowned commentator on the printing industry has long cajoled us to do much as Ed once did — go to conferences of designers and ad buyers to learn what moves them, not what servo-drive moves the roller train in the Iron Horse press. I found this article posted by Dr. Joe in the Economics and Research section of WhatTheyThink to be amazing and worrisome in equal measure, because Dr. Joe’s research protocols are so stellar.

I administrator a Facebook Group page for people in the graphic arts around the world. Every day, I post items about new and exciting uses of print, oft-times centered on what I like to call smart, interactive print – print made more valuable to the customers of your customers, through response drivers like QR or NFC or AR or printed electronics and so forth. But there is another observation that makes one wonder — the articles that receive the most comments, and likes and shares and so on, are often about print’s past — XYZ Print Shoppe in Palooka-ville. No one values the 600 year-old patrimony of print more than me, but change happens. We change or we wither.

Seize the Day, or glissade gently into that long good night?

Back on February 2nd, 2012, John Newby of the Ottawa Times (Illinois) wrote a great blog about the potential of Augmented Reality and newspapers. His final line applies to every segment of the printing industry:

“It will be interesting to see how and if the print industry embraces such technology or if we squander yet another opportunity”.

If we look at Dr. Joe’s chart, it would seem that thus far, the amorous advances of AR have been largely rebuffed. Only 7.1% of the 209 surveyed participants offer AR.

In a very visual and interactive age, AR, QR, NFC and whatever comes next add value to print by making print more interactive and more visually dimensional. Yet we tarry – 93% seem to say, let’s hurry up, but then wait?

What’s past ain’t prologue Poindexter!

Exactly one day after Dr. Joe’s post went up on WhatTheyThink, Jennifer Matt wrote a fiercely disruptive piece on WhatTheyThink that should be taped to the bathroom mirror of every C-level print industry executive. Jen put this line in bold in her article:

The human resources in the print industry are predominately “experts” at yesterday

So accurate and so ‘hidebound by history.’

This week I happened to spot on someone’s LinkedIn profile a pic of Steve Jobs, the Apostle of Apple with one of his pithy epithets:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around.”

We print peeps are hard-wired to admire technology. In this change agent era, we might do well to re-consider.

Jim Daly, owner of Fine Arts Imagery, a giclée printing atelier in Asheville NC commented on the Jobs quote as follows:

“Isn’t it ironic that the most profitable companies speak in terms of customers, creating value and experience, while the others talk about efficiencies, share price, etc.? The former create the future while the latter seem satisfied to “optimize” that which has been successful in the past.”

Print has changed mightily over the centuries and yet, even now, there are aspects of everyday print production that could be easily intuited by Benjamin Franklin or even Johannes Gutenberg. Much of traditional print has moved to the evanescent stage of the Internet’s ether and it’s not coming back; ergo, print and perhaps especially smart, interactive print, presents ostensible opportunity to those who’s glass is slowly filling with optimism.

As the whirling dervish of change continues to upset the conventional and disrupt the traditional, some print segments wither while others flourish. There are massive people costs, (I wonder how many folks I know from print who are now in real estate, a dozen?) and the stresses on the owners and senior managers to try to get it right when embracing new strategies cannot be understated. But in the maelstrom we can be certain of the terrible beauty of this trifecta:

Innovation is crucial, Innovation is cruel, Innovation is cool.

Or, in a cornpone hat-tip to that certain beefcake TV commercial we posit:

“Print, it’s what’s for Winners.”

5 Tips for Handling Social Media Complaints

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Social media provides your business with a flexible way to get in touch with your customers and build a loyal relationship. But what happens when it provides customers with a public means to complain about your business? Follow these five steps to navigate complaints as painlessly as possible:

  1. Monitor your social media channels. If a complaint isn’t acknowledged and resolved quickly, your customer is likely to get more aggravated. Watch your social media channels so you are ready to step in when a problem arises.
  2. Mind your language. No matter how fraught the situation, be sure to remain polite, professional and courteous at all times. Remember to speak directly to your customer in humane language – corporate-speak and stock phrases can sound impersonal and dismissive.
  3. Apologize. Your customer is upset and they want to know that you are taking their concerns seriously. Start by apologizing for any distress or inconvenience caused. By taking responsibility, you’re showing that your business cares about its customers’ concerns.
  4. Acknowledge publicly, address privately. A public apology is a vital first step and shows the willingness to take responsibility. In order to hash out the details of resolving the problem, offer to get in touch by email, direct message or telephone, for a fuller discussion.
  5. Make it right. Analyze the issue, acknowledge your customer’s distress, and work out how you can make it right with them. Willingness to fix mistakes can actually boost your reputation, showing your customer service skills in a positive light.

Complaints are a part of business life, but having them aired publicly is a nerve-wracking experience. By having a plan in place for dealing with complaints and keeping a cool head, you can diffuse the situation and even turn complaints into a positive outcome for your business.

Do you have any experience with negativity on your social media platforms? How did you overcome the problem? I’d love to get a good chat started in the comments below!

Blogito Ergo Sum

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

This week, Margie Dana’s Print Tip explains “why a printer’s blog is the first thing I look for.” She says:

A blog lets you share interesting insights about your company as well as establish your true colors. It’s not about equipment or how old your firm is. It’s about business-related information and opinions. It’s (hopefully) fun and educational.

In my opinion, a blog is the cornerstone of a company’s inbound marketing efforts. It’s effective. It’s versatile. And it’s easier to do than you think.

She adds:

A good blog is to your ideal audience what the yellow brick road was to Dorothy and company: the path leading to your own little Oz, or website.

And, well, a blog post can also send flying monkeys aloft, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often.

Blogging can be considered the original social medium. Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about blogging. It can be fun; I have used it as a way to experiment with different kinds of writing, not always successfully, and it’s great to research a topic that interests me and share odd facts and information. But often, when I have deadlines galore, blogging becomes a chore. (Those writing experiments did not include poetry. The rhyme here was accidental.) It’s not just the labor of sitting down and composing x number of words with y frequency, but also picking a topic that lends itself to extended verbiage, and carefully considering phrasing. After all, a hastily written line or ill-chosen word can act as flame-bait.

I think Margie is right that printers of all kinds—and in fact all kinds of businesses—can benefit from having a company blog,

Now, the first response is often, “Who has time for it? I have a business to run.” And that’s a fair point. If someone like me, who is a professional writer—or, at the very least, a delivery system for words—gets blogged down generating posts, how can someone who is not inclined to writing take advantage of blogging?

Here are some strategies for managing one’s blogging efforts:

1. Get help.

One solution could very well be to outsource it. There are many professional (or semi-professional) writers out there in the industry who could use a few extra bucks. They know the industry and with a little guidance, can craft compelling copy (that could even be alliterative) for your company. Alternatively, company employees—such as those in sales and/or marketing—can be tasked with blogging. You can even divvy up the blogging among several individuals—and a mix of in-house and freelance sources not only helps spread out the workload, but also adds different voices and perspectives.

2. Develop a schedule.

Professional publications, be they print or online, typically operate according to an editorial calendar, drawn up 12 (or sometimes six) months in advance, that identifies what topics will be covered in which issue or on what date. This is predominantly a tool for the ad sales department, but is also a vital organizing tool and roadmap for editorial, knowing that, in June, there will be a feature on, say, textile printing. It’s far more effective than just winging it from month-to-month or week-to-week, especially since features take longer than straight news to compile and write. (This obviously does not apply to news, which is hard to identify in advance, NDAs notwithstanding.) Adopting a loose editorial calendar for blogging can help manage the process. If you are going to post, say, three times a week, you can start with a rough calendar like:

  • Mondays: Customer success stories
  • Wednesdays: File preparation tips
  • Fridays: Industry trends

With that basic roadmap, you can fine-tune it further and plug in specifics:

  • First Monday of the month: Vehicle wrap project for Joe’s Garage
  • Second Monday: Interior signage project for Alice’s Restaurant
  • Third Monday: Outdoor signage project for the Hotel California
  • First Wednesday: Choosing the proper color space; RGB vs. CMYK
  • Second Wednesday: Working with fonts
  • Third Wednesday: Know your substrates
  • First Friday: New announcements at Graph Expo/SGIA/other tradeshow
  • Second Friday: New developments in textile printing
  • Third Friday: What are LED-UV printers?

You get the idea. Naturally, things can change, such as if you wake up at 2 a.m. with a great idea for a blog post (it can happen), or you read something (like Margie Dana’s Print Tips) that stimulates a post idea.

3. Dedicate time to blogging.

Building blogging time into a daily schedule—rather than “when I get around to it”—is also good way of remaining consistent and disciplined. Maybe devote one hour a day, or three half-hour blocks of time a week—or whatever works—and use that period to blog without interruption. (Tip: Write, edit, refine, and polish in Word or OpenOffice before pasting into your blogging software like WordPress.) It’s also possible, using WordPress or any of the major blogging platforms, to schedule posts to run days or even weeks in advance. So you can devote one hour on, say, Monday to blogging, do an entire week or fortnight’s worth of posts in one go, and then schedule them to appear over the course of the next week or two. It is always a good idea to have a stash of posts ready to go, otherwise you are, as they say, in danger of laying down the tracks as the train is coming.

4. Read and link to others.

Social media is just that: social. Just like in offline social settings, where we dislike it when conversations are too one-sided, so, too, in blogging and other social media efforts we should let other people get a word in. In the case of blogging, this involves linking to other stories, blog posts, Web sites, or anything else that you think your readers/customers would find helpful or interesting. So if you see a compelling Digital Nirvana post, or a story on WhatTheyThink, or maybe even elsewhere, that can be good blog fodder. It can be shared without much comment (“Saw this on WTT…”) or if something in the story/post specifically caught your attention, say something about it (“That Dan Marx interview on chasing bottlenecks was right on the money. Here is what our experience has been…”).

5. Be positive

A fair portion of the blogosphere—although not necessarily in our industry—is a lot of griping and complaining. Now, criticism is good, and one of the advantages of blogging is that it can foster dialogues, trialogues, and even googologues, but it reflects badly on your business if it’s perceived as overly negative (“that %$#$^* Romano post at Digital Nirvana was a waste of pixels. Who lets him blog anyway? They should fire him…out of a cannon”). It may very well be true, but constructive criticism adds value to the dialogue and is a better reflection of your business. I like to adopt, as we say in Toastmasters, the “sandwich” approach to evaluation and criticism: start and end with a positive comment (the bread), with the middle comprising the actual criticism (the meat). Some people prefer the Atkins approach to criticism and skip the bread.

Anyway, blogging doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, onerous task. As with anything, if you can have fun with it, the enjoyment you take from sharing knowledge and information will be contagious—and is maybe the best PR your company can get.

Get Your (Augmented) Reality Check!

Friday, June 13th, 2014

You’ve heard about Google Glass(es) before, right? But have you seen those magazine advertisements that come to life on your smart phone? You might be thinking of QR codes, which isn’t too far off, but I’m referring specifically to a leading-edge technology that facilitates the most digitally enhanced communication pieces. The technology, Augmented Reality (AR), consists of software integrations to marketing pieces that add layers of digital content (photos, videos, sound effects, games) to a printed advertisement. With AR, a traditional print ad becomes an interactive communications tool that can be used to further inform consumers, gather consumer information, offer promotions, and create deeper brand experiences. At the end of the day, AR helps maximize ad shelf-life and foster consumer dialogue.

To get a better understanding of key applications and examples of AR, I encourage you to check out the recent webinar sponsored by Canon Solutions America titled “A Reality Check: Augmented Reality.” The webinar defines and exemplifies how AR interacts within both print and marketing communities. Barbara Pellow of Info Trends leads a conversation with Martin Ahe (Partnerships Manager at Layer) and Deborah Haskel (VP of Marketing at IWCO Direct) surrounding AR value and its implementation process.

Today, there are five critical trends associated with AR technology. The first involves an embedment of AR technology in ‘wearables’. Google Glass(es) are just one example, where the ‘wearer’ issues a verbal command to scan and perform a certain task. The second and third trends leverage AR to enhance the brand experience in retail and at live-events, like concerts. The fourth surrounds AR involvement in the educational space with do-it-yourself learning tools, like books and student projects. Lastly, AR has patterns of success in the automobile industry specifically. From sales brochures to owner’s manuals, brands like Ford, Volvo, Nissan, and Audi are using AR to interact, inform, educate, and strengthen relationships with their customers.

With AR growing in popularity in a variety of fields, you might be asking: “How do I start the implementation process today? And what does that process look like in conjunction with direct mail or printed communications pieces?” One way to start is by consulting the firm Layer, who is at the forefront of the AR industry. Ahe explains that the implementation process unfolds in a couple of simple, user-friendly steps:
1. In Layer Creator, upload a page that you wish to make interactive
2. Drag, drop and specify what you would like to link
3. Click publish

It’s important to remember, however, that the majority of customers are new AR technology. Thus, make sure to keep your blends simple, intuitive, and user-friendly. Haskel highlights: “In order to make effective use of AR, you have to help your clients understand the best way to use it. Think quality over quantity.” Content size (video, imaging, etc.) and the appropriate ‘call to action’ are two major components in creating a successful AR experience. And be sure to educate your audience. Many consumers are used to scanning QR codes where you only scan the small square with your smart phone. But with AR, you scan a larger area, usually the entire printed area, with your smart phone. Since this is a relatively new technology, it’s helpful to provide some direction on your printed piece for the consumer.

Get started today by checking out the webinar for classic examples and further details on the implementation process. It’s no wonder AR is here to stay when a brand can tell a story like this! Consider this your (augmented) reality check!

Are You Missing an Opportunity to Help Clients with Data?

Friday, June 13th, 2014

According to a recent study from NetProspex (“State of Marketing Data: 2014″), B2B marketers are missing basic and easily accessible information to help with their personalization and targeting efforts.  Twenty-six percent do not even know the contact’s industry and 20% don’t know their revenues or number of employees.

What’s notable here is that this type of information is readily accessible from data houses and relatively inexpensive to acquire, yet it can make a tremendous difference in the ability to segment and target communications.

I often hear marketers talking about how easy to is to lose sales simply because you forgot to ask. You laid out the information, but there was no call to action. The same principle applies here. If your clients could be doing more segmentation and targeting but aren’t, have you simply asked them what fields they have in their marketing database and offered to fill in ones that are missing? This is a basic data append that any PSP should be able to handle working with one of the major list companies.

Which clients could you approach today with an ask?

Percentage of Records with the Fields Completed

First name 77.5%
Last name 76.0%
Title 62.9%
Street 54.6%
City 59.6%
Phone 36.2%
Email 89.2%
State 58.5%
Company 77.2%
Industry 25.9%
Revenue 18.2%
Employees 19.5%

Source: State of Marketing Data: NetProspex (2014)

25 Tips for Successful Content Marketing

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 92% of marketers are using content marketing, and there’s a good reason why! Content marketing gives you and your company the opportunity to reach your audience and educate them on topics that pertain to their interests. How can you make sure your content is relevant and entertaining to your audience?

Here are 25 tips keep in mind while you’re crafting your content.

  1. Be Personable
  2. Keep it Concise
  3. Know Your Audience
  4. Don’t Over-Promote
  5. Be Passionate

To see these tips further explained, as well as 20 additional tips, download, 25 Tips for Content Marketing Success.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/CMTips. Do you have any other content marketing tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Can Your Clients Use Digitally Printed Codes to Boost Sales?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

I admit it. I buy Banquet sausage from time to time. (It’s not for me — really — it’s for the kids). This morning’s pre-school breakfast, however, caught my eye because ConAgra has a new promotion that seems to offer great potential in a variety of vertical markets and is highly adaptable even by small, local marketers.

ConAgra has partnered with Feeding America to make a donation equivalent to one meal to feed a hungry child every time one of its customers inputs a unique code from the back of one of its packages. The codes are input  into a special campaign website, ChildHungerEndsHere.com, and each unique entry triggers an 11.1-cent donation to Feeding America, the cost to provide a child with one meal under its program.

IMG_4526This is such a great program on multiple levels.

  • It is great PR by aligning the company with a great cause
  • It encourages multiple sales of its products during the period of the promotion
  • It uses an emotional appeal (stronger than financial in many cases) to woo new customers from competitors during the period of the promotion.
  • It does a good thing regardless of the impact on its sales

This is a great way to boost sales among its own customers, too (you know ConAgra’s already loyal customers are purchasing extra packages right now, and ConAgra does, too!). Plus, if it can steal just a few of another brand’s customers during this period, the company knows that at least a few of them will stay.

How could your customers adopt this model? This might be a great opportunity to pitch digitally printed packaging to new or current customers. Even small companies could align with a local cause (a local food bank, pet shelter, or school). You set up a campaign-specific website and print unique codes on each digitally printed package.

If there are companies already making significant donations to local charities, that might be the place to start. Instead of them making a straight donation, they could use a program like this to boost sales at the same time . . . and you win the digital packaging business.

 

Building Your Web-to-Print Relationships

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Having a web-to-print storefront can be extremely beneficial for businesses. Through setting one up, a printer can save time and resources when it comes to the process of taking orders. However, while an online storefront may accomplish the goal of reducing the printer’s workload, could it end up meaning less business in the end?

Is the online-only bride too narrow?

As more and more of our interactions with businesses, friends, and other associates move online, service providers must still seek to develop relationships with customers that simply order online. Not only will this help us open up the communication lines when it comes to customer service, but it may also lead to conversations that generate additional business opportunities.

How can you make sure each customer who orders from you online feels just as appreciate and acknowledged as the rest? Download our article, Web-to-Print and Relationships, to learn 5 ways to build greater relationships with online-only customers.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/OnlineOnly. Do you find your company running across this issue with online storefronts? What solutions have you found? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

“My Direct Mail Isn’t Working”

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I’m sure you’ve heard this as an excuse not to print direct mail, right? I had a fascinating discussion with Mark Pageau, vp sales at Darwill, yesterday about this very topic. You know how he responds? He asks a question: “What’s happening in the rest of your sales funnel?”

Mark has discovered that, very often, when people complain that their direct mail isn’t effective, they have other challenges in their pipeline that have nothing to do with direct mail. The direct mail may be great. It may be well written. There may be a compelling incentive. Based on the direct mail pieces, people may be going to the website or making a phone call. It’s what happens afterwards that’s the problem.

Maybe the prospect hits the website and can’t find what he or she is looking for. Maybe the website is hard to navigate or the purchase buttons aren’t working right. Or maybe the person picks up the phone, but the salespeople aren’t friendly. (That happened to one of Mark’s clients — after he encouraged them to start recording inbound sales calls, they discovered that their salespeople had attitude problems!)

It was a great reminder that print, email, marketing collateral, and every other form of marketing communication is just one piece in the larger puzzle. If your clients are balking at spending money on direct mail, before trying to convert them to email or other channel just to keep their business, poke around a little. Find out if it’s direct mail really isn’t working for them or whether there is something else afoot.

Utilizing Multi-Channel Marketing, the Right Way

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

What is Multi-Channel?

Multi-channel marketing is the use of many different channels, such as direct mail, print, digital, and social media platforms, to spread one consistent, comprehensive, and effective marketing campaign. As a marketing or print service provider, it is important to promote the solutions that enhance the life of your brand as well as your printing services throughout a variety of channels.

If your business is still around in 2014, chances are you have realized that multi-channel marketing is not the secret formula to success, but rather a necessary component to the continual transformation of your print-centric business. In fact, you’re probably reading this and thinking, well… duh! So the real question now has become, what is the secret to successfully establishing a printer’s role as a marketing service provider (MSP) in this rapidly changing industry?

The Success in the Solutions

When thinking about marketing your business and the services you provide, remember that with Internet at every professional’s fingertips, finding a service they need is as easy as the click of a mouse or touch of a finger. That’s why your marketing message needs to reach prospects on a variety of channels while promoting what your services can do for each individual prospect. Knowing your target audience means knowing what they need, even if they do not. Make your marketing customer-centric. Try to stay away from promoting what your service is, and focus on what it does for your customers. Keep in mind that in order to sell solutions in a multi-channel market, developing a plan and strategy is paramount.

Planning for Multi-Channel

So we’ve established the need for marketing your solutions as well as your customers’ solutions on multiple channels. The roadblock now is managing the time and effort that this kind of inbound approach requires. A lot of MSPs that I work with or consult for are not struggling to wrap their heads around what must be done, but rather how to possibly accomplish such layered campaigns, without running their marketing into the ground.

The most important component, and I cannot stress this enough, is developing a multi-channel strategy that incorporates both marketing and sales. Have your teams work together to establish the bottom line of your multi-channel efforts, define:

  • Who you want to reach; the target audience you want to stay in front of.
  • What you want to say; what makes your company the best choice? Why are you different from your competitors?
  • When will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Where will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Why are the tactics you have chosen the best path for success?
  • How can you establish an execution strategy to market not only your brand and solutions, but also your customers’?

Once you have answered these questions, map out your marketing campaigns with visual charts and calendars. Keep in mind that multi-channel marketing is not a sprint, but rather a carefully executed relay race between sales and marketing, which requires orchestrated and practiced handoffs, that when done right will drive your prospects down the funnel.

Fortunately for MSPs struggling to handle the volume of multi-channel marketing and communications, several technological advances in customer communications management have emerged.

Objects in the Mirror

If you drive a car, even if you don’t, chances are you know the classic warning, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” These words, which we see daily, are a prevalent theme in the problems that printers and MSPs are presently facing. The classic predicament of knowing that something was coming, but not realizing it would approach so quickly, has left many businesses stuck in the dust of the industry leaders racing by.

My advice to you is to dedicate your time to developing a plan that will accomplish maintaining the standard of multi-channel marketing, which has pushed your top competitors to the head of the pack. Once you’ve mapped out your goals, tactics and execution strategy, stay tuned to my blog for insight and advice on the tools and best practices your business can implement to achieve positive recognition and grow your business in this multi-channel era.

To learn more about multi-channel marketing strategies, see my previous post, The Dos and Don’ts of Multi-Channel Marketing!

Avoid These 10 Marketing Traps

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Is marketing your friend or your foe? From printed collateral to social media, each of your marketing materials are your representatives, telling your brand’s story and making first impressions on your behalf. If you want to get loyalty, raise your profile, and make the sale, it’s vital that your marketing is the best it can be. Here are 10 marketing mistakes you need to avoid.

  1. Fuzzy messages
  2. Self-importance
  3. Lack of a plan
  4. Missing calls to action

To see these mistakes further explained, actionable solutions for each one, and the other 6 common marketing mistakes, download our article, Avoid These 10 Marketing Traps.

There are many marketing mistakes out there – these are 10 common ones that I thought would be beneficial for you to learn more about. Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/10Traps. What other common marketing mistakes do you see often? I’d love to get a good list started below!

Great Infographic to Share with Clients

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Looking to convince clients that they need to make a greater investment in updating their databases? Here is a great infographic that makes the point in a powerful (but sometimes funny) way. The infographic relates to business data (such as changing address or phone numbers) more than it does consumers, but the point is made regardless.

For example,

  • In the 30 minutes you spent checking your mail, 127 companies changed phone numbers.
  • In the 25 minutes you spent commuting to work, 40 businesses changed locations.
  • In the 15 minutes you spent eating breakfast, 27 business changed names.

It also claims that bad data costs businesses $600 billion annually and up to 20% of revenue. It’s a great attention grabber . . . and a great excuse for your customers to let you help them update their marketing databases!

The infographic was created by Infogroup Targeting Solutions and shared by Marketing Profs.

Day Worth of Data

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 2

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By: Irving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In my post last week, I reviewed a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands”. Let’s consider how this article translates into the Printing Industry…

How can a company making printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Become comfortable with your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses – and be able to talk to your potential clients about them.  If a competitor’s equipment can generate 20-30% more copies per minute than yours, and costs the same, the client may argue that their equipment is more productive and you will lose the sale.  But if the client has post-printer finishing need that cannot be done in-line at the equipment’s rated speed the productivity premium may be eliminated.  In fact, using a “faster” print machine may create a total production time slower than your solution.
  • Understand your client’s entire workflow – See the example above.  Understanding what your client’s workflow is, from creation of a print product, through printing, finishing and even delivery, will allow you to build a solution that specifically meets your customer’s needs.  If your client is in no rush to create the booklets to send to its clients, there is no need to provide the fastest piece of print equipment.  If they need documents as quickly as possible, then identify where, in the current process (pre-print, print, finishing) there are the most problems and develop new solutions that meet the client time needs.
  • Have a solid implementation plan, and a fail-safe – Have a solid plan for equipment delivery, connection to print servers and networks, installation and testing.  If the solution is not working to the client’s expectations and requirements, have a fail-safe in place to ensure that the client’s bottom line is not negatively impacted due to your equipment or solutions issues.
  • Have training and mentoring solutions in place – We’ve all been in situations where we buy a piece of equipment or a product and then have to learn how to use it.  Using the Internet has made things a little easier, but, as an organization, do you want your customers to learn how to use your equipment by seeing what someone else does on the Internet?  Identify your client’s most important needs and requirements of the equipment and solutions you are providing and ensure they know how to use your equipment or solution to meet those needs.  Develop focus groups with other users so that they can share issues between themselves (with input from your organization) to develop new solutions they can all use.

The new world of sales is changing in this information-rich environment.  Be sure to use all of the tools your organization provides to provide your potential customers with all of the information they will need to buy your products, services and solutions.  Providing as much information as possible to your customers gives them the power they need to make decisions that meet or exceed their requirements at the most cost-effective price.

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

QR Code Fail at Sweet Frog? Or Was It Just Me?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I’ve written a lot on the subject of QR Code fails, along with best practices for designing and implementing these codes, so I thought I was on to another example when I scanned the QR Code on the loyalty card at Sweet Frog the other day.

I took out my phone (okay, who am I kidding? It was already in my hand), scanned the code, and nothing happened. I scanned again, making sure it was the proper distance for the camera to focus, and again nothing. Must be the low light, I reasoned. I moved the card underneath the overhead light and tried again. Still nothing.

I tried several different times at different angles, and in the end, I input my email address into the low-tech, most unmobile fingerpad device. As I walked to the table in defeat, I wondered if I would have done better to scan the QR Code on the wall poster instead. Was the code on the loyalty card too busy perhaps? Printed too small?

I realized this morning, no, it would not have done me any good because the problem was not the code. The problem was that I had not launched the scanning software on my phone first. I had simply pointed the camera at the code and expected it to scan.

I can laugh now (and I’m sure you’re laughing at me now, too), and I’ve just embarrassed myself publicly . . . but to make a point.

It would be great if mobile phone cameras activated automatically to scan barcodes without launching software first, and I’m sure that some day, they will. But QR Codes won’t live or die by people who don’t have the software or forget to use it. They will live or die by the value of what consumers receive on the back end. If the code doesn’t work or people don’t know how to use it, your clients should make sure they have another way to access the content.

Over time, non-QR-Code-scanning consumers will figure it out. Once technology has reached critical mass (as it has with QR Codes), people always do.

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 1

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

ByIrving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In February 2014, a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands” identified the reasons that consumers are starting to abandon their prior reliance on brand loyalty in purchasing products.  The use of online information to shop and compare items, and to listen to other purchasers on the pluses and minuses of products is now the way most customers buy products.

For established brands, this makes selling products at a premium price an increasingly difficult thing.  If you are selling a product that is superior to other producer’s products, then you may charge a premium price.  But performance numbers are quickly matched by other producers, and often there is a number of products that are so similar that it is difficult to identify them sitting side-by-side outside of their brand names.  Past performance is no longer a selling point for many consumers; what the product is and how it performs NOW is what is critical to the purchaser.  There are two situations where this isn’t true – when the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product or where the brand confers status (think Louis Vuitton).

For the consumer, the information age means they are making better buying choices (hopefully), and competition has improved quality and lowered prices. It also means that upstart companies find it easier to compete with established producers.  If you make a product that works well at a competitive price, you will quickly become the next Asus, Roku, Hyundai or Kia.  We have gone from stable consumer markets to tumultuous ones, but if you can make a great product, the world will beat a path to your door (or store website).

Let’s look at the sales situation that is a bit outside of this “new” sales paradigm – where the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product.  In the past, Coca Cola was a brand synonymous with this type of product.  Wherever you went around the world, if you purchased a Coca Cola, it would taste exactly the same and it would not make the consumer sick (because the water was pasteurized in the bottling process).  World travelers really built the Coca Cola brand, and as world economies improved citizens of the world had enough ready cash to buy one bottle of Coke.  Coca Cola has such a foothold in the US and other countries that they have increased market share in consumable beverages using their bottling companies if not their Coca Cola syrup to provide regional and local beverage favorites in every country they have a bottling plant.

So how can a company making copiers and printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others? Check back next week for a couple of solutions!

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.