How To Be A Sticky Printer

What does it mean to be sticky

If you have spent any time around marketing or ad professionals, you have probably heard the word “sticky” thrown around. And not in the “I spilled my Dr. Pepper in the car” kind of way. Sticky became a bit of a buzzword in 2018. This was a result of the market shiftin where price wasn’t always the number one concern on a customer’s mind. Sticky became a quick and simple way of asking the question. “How have you made yourself indispensable to your client?” The question you may be asking is “How to be a sticky printer?”

Why it’s not price

First let’s discuss why the answer isn’t price. Or more appropriately the answer isn’t JUST price.

Anyone who was in Print or Mail manufacturing through 2008 remembers the absolute collapse of the industry. The collapse was caused by what happened to peoples marketing budgets. Over a six-month period of time companies cut 70% to 80% of their budget. The first thing they cut was marketing, whether that be direct mail or point of sale material. The only thing that allowed you to keep customers was cutting cost and being the cheapest. During this time people were switching over pennies per thousand.

For those that survived the purge the idea of “price first” has been drilled into our heads. This has been so ingrained that it’s been difficult to break away from. I can very nearly guarantee that anyone reading this has lost a customer in the last five years over something totally unrelated to cost. If you are shaking your head in agreement, you have to ask yourself why is that?

How to become sticky

Customers expect more from their printer than to be “just a printer.” They want you to be a source of knowledge and a one stop shop. They want you to be able to overcome any deadline hurdle. Customers depend on printers to be their art department. Your customers expect you to provide immediate data on every campaign. And of course, they want you to be competitive on price.

This presents a daunting task for any printer when you look at that list as a whole. The good news is that when it comes to customer retention you only need to tackle these one at a time. Any additional value you show to a current customer makes them less likely to leave for the next flashy sales call.

Increasing Client Retention

Good ideas are worth GOLD

Being a source of knowledge can be as simple as giving a customer a good idea that they can pass off as their own. Most likely the person you are working with as your main contact isn’t the owner. Which means their number one goal in using your services is making their job easier and more efficient. In other words your customer wants to gets kudos with their boss. Being effective in their job means they have to stay on the cutting edge no matter what their industry is. As such that can be substrates to print on, getting the best demographic lists, integrating print into a web campaign. It can even just be different ideas for marketing campaigns.

The key is to remember that no matter how much time your customer spends researching print, data, postal regulations, augmented reality, etcetera. You by default have ten times the knowledge they do. The reason being this is YOUR industry. So even if you think that your customer definitely knows or has seen something go ahead and share with them. One piece of excellent information can buy you a mountains worth of Grace for customer retention.

Be the answer

Being a one stop shop used to mean being able to print or source all of the pieces of a marketing campaign. Now however, it means being able to source their demographic list, provide data work and complete the mailing. It also means you provide any other POS marketing materials they need. And often even help them research their crazy idea for the next campaign.

Of all of these though the one that helps retain customers the longest is sourcing their demographic list. Whether that list is for a mailing or an e-mail campaign. Make sure that when a customer asks “how many people” you can give them good, accurate and fast counts. Finding a really good data broker can help you with this and there are an unlimited number of them out there. You can also try going direct with Equifax or InfoUSA.

Through our technology we found it more efficient to give customers direct access to a demographic builder. Speicifically so that they could build out complex multi demographic lists on the fly. Providing this tool made our license partners “Sticky”. Just as important though it cut down on all the request and time they would otherwise spend looking up that data for a customer.

Using technology to keep customers

Turn time means everything

The battle between reality and customer expectations when it comes to turn times has been going on since before the days of direct to plate. I grew up working summers in my grandfather’s print shop in the early 90’s. It was a medium size Web Shop that mostly printed newspaper inserts and blow-in/bind-in cards.

Back then customers would send film art in that had to be stripped and then made into a blue line proof. After that the customer would be sent the physical blue line proof through Fed-Ex or UPS. Next they would review the blue-line make revisions and overnight them back. In order to make a revision, new film had to be pulled and stripped. Then the blue-line proof process would start all over. Once the proofs were approved plates had to be burnt by hand using a UV table or deck. The entire process would take weeks just to get to the proof approval and plates hung on press.

All of a sudden, everything changed with direct to plate technology. You could send PDF proofs back and forth to a customer near immediately. Burning plates took hours instead of days. On top of all that employee cost dropped immediately because you no longer needing a stripping department. The downside was that the technology was incredibly expensive and for that reason thousands of printers didn’t invest in DTP. If it had just been about the difference in cost savings by cutting down on overnight fees. Or if it was just employee overhead, most printers could have survived without switching over to DTP. Because of the time difference of 15 days to proof approval down to five days, those that didn’t switch lost all of their customers to the printers that did.

We are entering another one of these technology shifts with the advent of the newest Web2Print software. Now that you can take all of a customer’s resource files and store them for immediate access. Thus allowing them to update and change art files without using an in house or outsourced designer. Then they upload or build a list and pay for it all (postage included) in a single cart. This new technology cuts the time from customer files to proof approval.  The five days that have stood since the 90’s have been changed to immediate. That’s right, immediate! The printers/brokers that don’t invest in this new technology will lose their clients to the people that do. Because all of your competitors that do, will instantly gain five days in production time over you.

How to be a sticky printer : Become indispensable

Increasingly customers are slimming down their work force and outsourcing where they hadn’t in the past. One of the first departments to go for most companies has been their internal design departments. There are a lot of reasons for this. The high cost of on staff designers. The birth of robust editors like Canva, even though Canva causes more problems than it’s worth since it outputs in RGB. The prevalence of low cost group design sites and the increase in small design firms willing to do one offs.

As a result of companies axing their internal design departments, they are beginning to rely more on their print partners for revisions. It is becoming common for a customer to expect you will make tweaks to a previous design file. And they expect you to do it for FREE. If you are willing to accommodate customers you can become an indispensable resource for them. You will become their store house for art work. The benefit being if a personnel change occurs with your contact, it becomes more likely that they will stick with “the printer that has all the files”.

Data is the lifeblood of marketing

With all the verticals that a marketing director must master to be effective at their job, data has become crucial as oxygen. At the very minimum you must be able to give your customer live job status information. That information must be accessible to them through a log in portal. Where the job is in the production process and any details of the job such as quantity and cost. Most importantly you must give them tacking from USPS drop off to delivery in the home.

There are many pre-sort softwares that now offers mail tracking. These reports generate white label links to show your customer everything about their mail delivery. From dates in home, total quantity delivered, in home delivery performance and anticipated deliveries. The cost for this service varies widely between software providers. The most cost effective if you plan to offer this to every customer, and you should, is AccuTrace.

Just do it

All of the above require changes to be made. Like the days of Direct-To-Plate if you don’t make these changes then someday soon you will be obsolete. However, if you embrace these changes, making them rapidly, you will inherit the customers from the competitors that don’t.