Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lemons, lemonade and Selling Print

Print sales people have spent the last couple of years turning lemons into lemonade. Given the secular decline of demand for Print, the successful print manufacturer and her sales people have learned to turn on a dime to take advantage of any opportunity.

Now that trillions of dollar denominated wealth have disappeared in a couple of weeks, there are many new opportunities. If ever there was effective demand for a "solution provider", this is it.

The era of cheap money is over. That means that faster, better, cheaper is not a "nice to have." Overnight it has become a "must have." The sales person now has to refocus on the right product for the right person at the right price. This might mean slicing and dicing and recombining products to get it just right.

The print manufacturer is going to have to figure out how to make money selling those reconfigured products. Neither job is easy. But neither job is really all that hard. It just needs a little time to focus.

Here's a place to start.

Dr Joe Webb usually has a pretty realistic idea of what's going on. In his regular "Mondays from Joe" series at, I found some good advice for the new business of selling Print.

He says, among other things:
. . . This is not a time for business as usual, but time to conduct business as unusual. Understanding what's stressing customers and prospects and helping them to address those stresses is at the core of entrepreneurship.

. . . The good news is that partnering with a designer or small agency can set your business on this proactive road to success. After all, they are small businesses who are having problems as well.

. . going out and “selling harder” today is rarely the answer.

. . . Developing communications opportunities for others and supplying the tools needed to execute them is a proactive approach that printing businesses can take, in good times or bad, to stimulate growth.

Unfortunately, many print businesses are not used to this approach.

. . . There are businesses that need our assistance today to develop and implement communications programs to counter negative economic conditions. This is where small and mid-sized commercial printers have greater freedom of action and opportunity than their larger brethren.

. . . There are are smaller businesses that are more scared than you are, such as small retail shops, restaurants, and other service businesses. Many of them are seasonal businesses that rely on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and other holidays for a bump in sales. They may not get it this year. They need to do something. Most do not have effective communications plans in place.

These retailers, professional and personal services businesses and others need your help. . . .

Save them money.

They may be concerned that a mailing incurs prohibitive postal costs. Create a mailing that includes other non-competitive businesses to help defray the costs. Work with the landlords of the retail spaces on business growth ideas for their tenants . . . Have them focus on price discounts and special limited-time offers to emphasize the urgency of response, reminding these businesses that when prices go up, consumers become bargain hunters.

Remind customers that with the high cost of mailing, it is more critical than ever before to clean up customer lists.

. . . Help them use direct mail to clean up their e-mail lists (e-mail addresses change about three times faster than mailing addresses) and keep them up to date. Help them develop ways to grow (or start) their e-marketing lists with small in-store displays. Lower their long-term postal costs by, paradoxically, using the mail to make their e-mail better. Manage the process for them. By maintaining their lists, you retain their business.
Dr. Joe Webb just released an updated version of “Renewing the Printing Industry.” The sponsor of the WhatTheyThink Economics and Research Center, MindFireInc, is making it available to the industry at no charge, as a free download. It's worth the click.

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