7 odd marketing ideas
Open your mind to unconventional ideas. One of them is to act like a shark
In a free-association test, most people will equate the word marketing with selling and advertising. “We need better marketing” invariably means “we need to get our name out,” with ads, publicity, and maybe some direct mail. Unfortunately, this focus on the outbound nature of marketing often distracts printers from other forms of marketing that can have an equally big impact on sales and the bottom line.
Here are seven unconventional marketing ideas. Some may seem a little odd, but if you step back and open your mind, you’ll see their value for your marketing strategy.
1 Overestimating yourself
We think we’re better than we are. This illusion is so widespread that psychologists call it the Lake Wobegon Effect, after Garrison Keillor’s fictional hometown, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
Being human, everyone in your shop probably suffers from the Lake Wobegon Effect, too. You think you’re better than you are, and that your service is better than it is. But, service in the printing industry is so bad that you can offer above-average service and still stink. I think you should assume your service is bad. It can’t hurt you to think that, and it will force you to improve.
2 The acid test of advertising
Have you ever tried to write an ad or marketing piece for hours without coming up with any good ideas? Well then I can tell you this: if it’s too hard to write the ad, then the product is flawed.
It’s true. If you can’t write a reasonably good ad about your product or service that makes an attractive promise to your prospect, then your project or service needs fixing.
3 Get different
The “total quality” bandwagon has raced through the printing industry over the last 10 years. But the swirling dust has obscured what makes a firm thrive. Very few shops become great successes because they do what others did, only a little bit better. Great companies do things a whole lot differently.
Planning sessions at most printing firms go like this: “Let’s look at what we did last year, and do it at least 10% better.” If you really want to grow your business, don’t ask “How can we do it 10% better?” Instead, ask how you can innovate. Don’t just think better. Think differently.
4 Study your points of contact
Study every point at which you make contact with your customers. There aren’t as many as you think. Your receptionist. Your business card. Your delivery driver. Your brochure. Your front-counter person or sales rep. These few points of contact decide whether or not you get business.
Ask yourself, “What are we doing to make a phenomenal impression at every point?” Don’t underestimate the value of any point. It may be the one that loses you the sale. Your points of contact need to make your customers feel respected, amazed, impressed, and delighted.
5 The limitations of planning
Don’t assume that putting five smart people in a room with a great vision will automatically result in something good. Ford did that and out popped the Edsel!
The greatest value of any plan is the process that goes into it because of all the thinking involved. I try to hire outstanding people who fit into my broad vision of success. I believe they will make right decisions, based on common values we share. Some of their plans will work, some won’t. But, when good people are constantly pushed to think harder, it sparks innovative ideas. My advice about planning is this: don’t plan your future. Plan your people.
6 Keep moving
Many firms never seem to change. They’re built around the principle of inertia. On the other hand, the firms that have thrived in tough markets have followed the principle that governs sharks: if a shark doesn’t move, it can’t breathe. And it dies.
What’s tragic is that not moving rarely causes any immediate pain and encourages even more waiting. “Hey, we waited to make sure we were right, and nothing bad happened, so that’s good.” By the time the consequences of standing still appear, it’s often too late. The moral of the story? Act like a shark and keep moving.
7 Fanatic focus works
A few years ago, my boss and friend, Sandy Donald—publisher of this magazine—gave me a copy of Al Ries’ book Focus. The author makes a case for having a “fanatical focus on doing one thing well.” Ries says the key to good marketing is good positioning:
A. Position yourself in your prospect’s mind.
B. Your position should be singular—one single message.
C. Your position must set you apart from your competitors.
D. You cannot be all things to all people. You must focus on one thing.
As things have become tougher, many printers have expanded their products to signage, advertising specialties, office supplies, etc. This usually won’t help. It only confuses your customers and it may make you look desperate. Stand for one distinctive thing that will give you a competitive advantage.
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.