Three unusual marketing ideas
How checklists, clean air and box stuffers can grow your business
This month, I thought I’d share three unique and different approaches that I use to market my print shop. Each idea has been very successful for us, and I think you’ll find them useful in your own print shop.
n Quality control cards This is one of the best all-around ideas I’ve ever used. Our quality control card is a big, 4" x 17" printed card with a quality checklist that each of my production employees completes as a print job progresses through the print shop. Each employee who touches a print job is required to review certain quality control standards we feel are necessary to ensure top-notch quality, and to initial and check off each item on the list that he or she has completed. Here is an example of the quality control questions for our bindery employees:
-Did you read and understand the instructions?
-Did you have enough set-ups?
-Does the “sample” given match
-Was the ink dry?
-Did you put the finished samples in the ticket?
-Did you quality-check this job? Y/N
Using a quality checklist like this for our bindery department really does remind our staff to do a better job of inspecting work. The checklist concept encourages personal accountability for quality control. If you would like to get a free sample of our quality control card, you can download one free from this month’s Mike’s Free Stuff section. Even though your workflow systems may require you to re-write some sections, the card will give you a lot of ideas and a great place to start.
Now, here’s the marketing benefit: customers are impressed with the quality control checklist when they have the opportunity to see it. We share it with them in two different ways. First, we’ll occasionally include one with the customer’s finished print job. When we deliver it, we’ll say something like, “Here’s our in-house quality control system that we used to guarantee that your envelopes were printed perfectly.” Our customers really like that, and some seem very interested in developing something similar for their company, since they often own or manage businesses that struggle with quality control issues, too. Sometimes our quality control card gives them ideas for their company’s quality management.
The second way we use this card is to help us obtain new customers. If one of our sales reps hears a prospective customer complain about another printer’s quality, he’ll pull one of our quality control cards out of his briefcase and say, “Let me show you how we ensure you’ll never have that problem at our print shop. Your current printer probably doesn’t have something like this.” At that moment we look very good and our competitor doesn’t look so hot.
We’ve used quality control cards like this one for about 17 years with great success. Every printer talks about quality, but here’s a way that you can actually demonstrate quality to your customers and prospects.
Box stuffers Using box stuffers really isn’t what you’d call a new idea, but it’s one that’s hardly ever used by printers. I’ve always thought that was a little ironic since we printers can print our own box stuffers at cost, yet we seldom use them. In turn, other industries use box stuffers with regular success and are happy to pay retail prices for them.
We try to include box stuffers in every single box, bag, and package that leaves our print shop. We use a large variety to promote the many products and services we offer. To keep the costs down, we print these in a small format (4" x 5"). We like this size for several reasons: it’s low cost; we can print them 4-up on a small press; they are an uncommon size and that makes them more interesting to the client; and they fit into a #10 envelope, which adds to their versatility.
When we design box stuffers we try to focus on selling products and services that not all our customers know we have: mailing services, big colour posters, plastic coil and double-wire bindings, and full-colour printing.
Here’s two interesting things about using box stuffers. By marketing some of our little-known types of booklet-binding options, we saw solid, steady revenue growth in those product lines. When you multiply those kinds of results across a lot of different printed products and services, it can add up to some pretty good revenue. All from a small series of low-cost box stuffers.
The other interesting thing I’ve found is that my employees like inserting them in our outgoing boxes and packages. In the beginning, I was afraid they’d see box stuffers as a nuisance and complain; instead, I think they feel like they’re helping our print shop grow by doing a better job telling our story. The box stuffers have been good for sales and morale
Air filtration systems We all know that spray powder or airborne contaminants can cause problems in a variety of areas. At my print shop, we have solved that problem by installing two floor-model air filtration systems—one in our production area and one in our camera/prepress department. They are an indispensable addition to our print shop for several reasons.
My co-workers enjoy breathing and working in cleaner air. By removing dust, pollutants, bacteria, spray powder, and toxic fumes from the air, our air filtration system has dramatically improved the working conditions of our print shop. And, spending money to show we care by improving the work environment has given our company a real boost in employee morale.
It keeps the temperature in the shop more consistent and comfortable. While this was an unexpected benefit, we’ve found that moving a large volume of air every hour keeps our heat and air conditioning running at a more consistent level, which means our shop stays more comfortable.
Our customers no longer walk into the building and ask, “How can you stand that smell?” I’m sure you’ve been asked that question at some point in your career. The air filtration system has cut out about 95% of that print-shop smell, and has made our plant a more inviting place for our customers. And, when we give tours, visitors are impressed by the care we take to make sure our workers breathe clean air.
From a marketing standpoint, the last two items have allowed us to display a customer- and worker-friendly environment to everyone that walks through our doors. It’s a win-win situation because our workers find themselves in a healthy environment, and our customers are impressed by the care we show. You might be interested to know that my air filtration units come from a very fine Canadian company called Island Clean Air, with offices in Toronto and Vancouver. They have a fine product and have been really great to work with (www.islandcleanair.com).
So there you have it, three unique marketing ideas that have helped us sell more printing. Remember … ideas are a dime a dozen, but the manager who implements them is priceless.
Mike Stevens is one of North America’s most successful small printers. He owns Express Press in Fargo, North Dakota. Starting with sales of $10,900 a month in 1985, volume now exceeds $250,000 per month. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.expresspressusa.com.