You Don’t Sell 1:1 Printing, QR Codes, or Anything Else

By | October 19, 2010

I’m often asked to write on the topic of how to sell 1:1 printing, personalized URLs, QR codes, and other hot-button applications. I never know what to say. I don’t know what to say because the answer is, you don’t.

Nobody wants to hear this. Printers want to hear that by investing in this equipment, this software, this application, they’ll turbo-charge their sales. It’s true that you might make some inroads into new clients by offering these applications, and you might get an existing client or two to give 1:1 or QR codes a whirl, but that isn’t going to save the business.

The companies that have been really successful with these applications aren’t selling them as applications. They are selling marketing. They go into the client’s location and say, “What’s your problem? How can we fix it?” If that fix requires 1:1, they’ll use that. If it requires social media, they’ll use that. If it requires television, radio, short-run segmentation, long-run transactional, whatever it is, they’ll use that.

Even at highly successful companies, there is no guarantee that if you took the 1:1 portion of their business by itself, it would even pay for itself. But having 1:1 printing (or personalized URLs, QR codes, mobile marketing, fill in the blank) is part of a larger expertise base that gives them the tool set they need. If they need 1:1 printing, it’s there. If they need personalized URLs, they’re there. That’s what makes them successful companies—the range of tools and the expertise to wield them.

It’s difficult enough to learn 1:1, let alone social media, mobile marketing, and QR codes, too. You mean you have to be proficient at all of them in order to sell one of them? Well, kind of, yes. Isn’t that’s what marketing is all about? Understanding the marketing landscape and then using the right tool(s) to accomplish the client’s objective?

If printers want to be marketing services providers, they need to do the same. That’s what marketing services means. It doesn’t mean marketing services implementation (you figure it out and we’ll serve it up for you). It means marketing.  This doesn’t happen by installing a new press or a new piece of software. It happens by changing the focus, core competency, and priorities of your company.

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8 thoughts on “You Don’t Sell 1:1 Printing, QR Codes, or Anything Else

  1. Joe Lund

    Coming from the equipment vendor sales side from 6 years out, I can’t agree with you more with respect to the 1:1 marketing/printing aspect. I have seen the big print companies try it with some success and boutique companies as well with the “Field of Dreams” approach. Definitely, there are numerous success stories to draw from and I have been involved in some of them and that was 6 years ago. However, as a general consumer I still do not see a high penetration rate of highly personalized printed pieces arriving at my doorstep. I do see personalized ink jet pieces and black laser on preprinted forms, yes for sure. Telecommunication companies for instance leverage useful information about me to send me offers in the mail that are relevant to my needs, no doubt. Where I do see high personalization to a large and on-going degree however is on the web via Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with email opt-in’s from websites that I have visited and “joined”, including companies that I have purchased products from over the web. Suffice to say that generally companies that sell products and services are embracing the benefits of personalization for it’s strong value proposition and ROI. It certainly may be easier to manage electronically and the cost to implement is peanuts in comparison to a beautifully printed piece. Surely this is not news to you and your readers but the adoption rate of high personalization continues to rise exponentially. It just isn’t happening so much so with hardcopy, right now. At least that is my observation based on personal experience, but not empirical evidence. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

  2. Chuck

    Well stated Heidi!

    I think the problem we need to solve for Printers today is to ask associations, vendors and consultants to stop hyping all these technologies, and even worse trying to tell us how to sell these things, when in fact they aren’t really successful executing campaigns utilizing these technologies and concepts themselves, and often don’t know how to sell.

    All of this hype is distracting Printers, making them forget who they are. Being a “Marketing Service Provider” is not who printers are– and in most cases, it’s not who they can be. But there are plenty of opportunities for printers who focus on solving problems for their customers, in the core competency areas that they have. Yes, most printing companies need change, but the laundry list of technologies you mention is the wrong place to start.

  3. Kristin Anderson

    I agree. The opportunity is in the middle ground. Going from being a printer to a full-blown marketing company or ad agency is quite an endeavor. Often the client already has copywriting and concept people, maybe even design people (inside or outside) but still needs someone to keep abreast of all of the oldest to newest marketing tools and applications so that, as Heidi pointed out, they can be sorted through to identify the best combination to meet the current marketing goals. But identifying them is not enough – they need someone to make it happen too since the implementations are also outside of their main business. They don’t care if you do it all in house or outsource some; they care that it is done right, professionally and without technical hitches during the run of the program.

    You need someone on board who is passionate about new technology and gadgets, and with a natural interest in experimenting with them and creatively applying them to classic problems (the basic tenets of good marketing have not changed). If you don’t your business will become stale quickly and eclipsed by someone who does. That is the space for the marketing services company (a term that is too often misunderstood) and, indeed, where the unique business opportunities are today.

  4. Bill Cline

    Heidi, I can’t agree with you more. As the corporate marketing manager for a large organization with many locations, I have been asked a few times to supply an elevator speech for our sales reps, so that they can discuss these types of services. No two minute quick spill is going to help a sales rep see or identify an opportunity for these type of services. The printer and their sales reps need to become educated on exactly how the services can help the client and understand the technology. Many printers need to step back and look at the bigger picture and understand that “print” is only one media tool in the toolbox. This is very hard for them to do, because of the years of asking for the print job, and the fact that the large press payments come every month. The fact is, many will not be able to make this change that’s taking place with our industry and become a service provider. Most printers today don’t understand the basics of pulling together a marketing campaign, they have never had to understand demographics or had to give a report with response rates. For the most part, print sales rep have called on the purchasing departments and have never stepped in the doorway of the marketing department where all of these services are utilized.

  5. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Thanks for the feedback. It’s helpful when people in the marketplace reinforce these things from their own real-life experience. It’s not just what’s on a blog — it’s in the marketplace, too! Thanks for reminding us all of that!

    I would like to take this opportunity to plug my Marketer’s Primer Series of reports on these topics (QR codes, 1:1 printing, personal URLs, and more) in the What They Think Store. While they won’t teach you marketing per se, they do provide a technology overview, case studies, best practices, and other detailed content to help you build a build strong educational foundation for your sales reps, CSRs, and others as they learn and integrate these technologies into their client relationships.

    All reports are available in license versions so you can distribute them throughout your organization.

  6. Lori Cohen

    Excellent write up! As Marketing Director at Pazazz Printing I have experienced a paradigm shift over the last 5 years.

    We don’t just sell traditional “print” we sell solutions that involve “print” be it offset, labels, packaging, digital, large format, PURLS, QR codes etc… We promote the concept of Cross Media Integration (CMI) where printing is 1 part of the entire marketing strategy.

    True we print ink on paper but we have used tools like YouTube to promote the power of print see Printing’s Alive http://www.youtube.com/user/PazazzPrinting?feature=mhum. We also use print and QR codes to help drive people to the web and socal media.

    So truth is, there’s plenty of room in this world for PRINT and SOCIAL MEDIA – we just have to sell the concept of print in a new way!

  7. Kevin Trye

    Great summary Heidi and everyone. I think the road to a true MSP can be a long one and likely only suitable for around 10-15% of operations. Printers, are by nature production and operations-focused. Not marketing in the pure sense.

    Those that have moved has invested not just in new tools, but new people. This is often difficult, since printshop owners have difficulty recruiting the right people or even knowing who the right people would be. And working for a ‘print company’ isn’t seen as attractive or hip.

    This reinforces my view that printers should run these as separate operations. As one successful MSP I know noted recently, “…we’re a marketing company that just happens to own our own presses”.

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