Quick Printing
June 2006
Get savvy about your website
Turn up the heat on your website with these three effective marketing ideas
The printing business is rapidly becoming a web-based industry. A stunning volume of printing is being purchased online, and this will continue to increase exponentially in the years ahead as younger print buyers move into purchasing, and high-speed Internet connections become readily available everywhere. Big online successes like Amazon, Google, and eBay have brought familiarity and comfort to the masses when it comes to Internet purchasing.

Four levels of website usage are evident in the printing industry. The first level is made up of printers who have no website. The second level represents printers who are making a minimal effort: their websites are basically online brochures that usually look homemade. The third level consists of printers who are making an earnest effort to offer some e-commerce solutions and usually have functions like file transferring or online proofing.

The fourth level is made up of a very small group of printers with large, robust websites that are fully functional for e-commerce. They are actually “stealing” customers from other printers and are growing market shares locally, regionally and nationally. You can lose a customer to these technology leaders without even realizing it’s happened.
How do you compete? You’ve got to do the same thing they’re doing. You build a website that makes it easy to buy from your printing firm. Here’s a website story for you to think about. I have a 20-something print buyer who has bought $86,000 of printing from me during the last six months. Virtually all of it has been online. She told me why she came to us from my biggest competitor: “You save me time and make it so easy to order. I like to re-order without having to talk to a rep.”

My website is no longer an expense. It is a powerful sales and marketing investment. Here are three ideas you can use to kick-start interest in your site.

We recently added podcasting to our website. It’s one of those things that will create a lot of buzz in your market. How does it work? Our website is MP3 enabled with audio-musical information about our products. A visitor with an iPod or other MP3 device can download entertaining information about the benefits of buying products and services from my firm. Each download is about 90 seconds. This little website feature makes us look years ahead of our competition, especially to tech-savvy print buyers.

Fluffy, meaningless content
Get rid of it! Printers have this very boring habit of writing dull, lifeless copy to describe their products and services. If a print buyer visits your website and clicks on “envelopes,” does he or she find something like, “We print a wide variety of envelopes in all shapes and sizes”? Yuck. No wonder print buyers keep right on going to the next website. Click on envelopes on my website and tell me if our approach isn’t better. We have two full pages of very helpful information, including a click-on sample colour pad that changes the envelope colour on the visitor’s computer screen. It’s a fun, razzle-dazzle feature that sells envelopes.

Site maps
OK, I know site map marketing doesn’t sound real exciting, but I would urge you to consider its tremendous marketing value. Did you know that, in general, site maps are one of the most frequently clicked-on pages? I use the site map on my website to pass on loads of information about our products and services. Plus, we’ve added a lot of fun, interest-grabbing content to keep visitors interested. It works, too. We have a lot of click-throughs that originate from our site map.

Now, I’m going to shock some of you. Remember the four levels of website usage. I’m sorry to break the bad news, but if you’re in the first category, your existence as a printer will be short lived. Maybe you’ll be able to hang on but you will have a very difficult time. Your only hope is to get going, now!

For those of you who are trying to build a strong e-commerce site, I applaud you. I know it’s time consuming and expensive—but I assure you it will pay off. Trust me, there are hundreds of thousands of prospects and print buyers in your community who will seek you out if you make their jobs easier. A lot of opportunity still exists in this area, and you would be wise to pursue it.
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 mikestevens@expresspressusa.com or visit www.expresspressusa.com.
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