8 places to find new customers
Potential clients are everywhere. It just takes a little ingenuity and creativity to find them
The ideas you’ll discover here may seem a little unusual, but let me assure you, each one could be invaluable to you in your quest for new customers.
1 Invite a couple of your competitors out for lunch. I’ve always found it interesting how much they’ll tell you in a small group setting. It’s entirely different one-on-one, as the conversation is more restrained. When you get three or four printers talking in a group, a little bit of the “I can top you” mentality kicks in, and sometimes you’ll get some inside information about how it’s really going for them. In addition, you’ll almost always learn something positive and unexpected from your fellow owners—even if they are competitors.
2 Offer to print a job for free for an important account that you have yet to capture. It’s easy for them to say no, thank you, to what will seem like an obvious sales ploy. But here’s how you get your foot in the door with a unique twist: offer to print a free job for their favorite charity. Hardly anybody will turn that offer down, because everybody wants to help her pet project or cause. You can tell them, “I’d like to show you the kind of work we do, and I’d also like to help some of the non-profit associations that help our community.” This is a very smart way to get your foot in the door and build a relationship with an important new account.
3 Call the local branch office of a gas-station franchise in your area and ask if they’d be interested in trading printing for gasoline credits. Or, for that matter, why not try the barter approach for groceries or other (essential) commodities you can use? You have to be very careful with bartering, but it can be a good marketing tool if used wisely.
4 Call your local political representative. Tell him your sales are a little slow. You can ask about any new business ventures he might know about or new companies that might be moving to your community. Politicians are always motivated to do good things for their constituents. Printers rarely use this technique, but it worked really well for me. I developed a first-name based relationship with both U.S. Senators from North Dakota and the Governor. The Governor actually invited me to his wedding as a result.
5 Sponsor a cross-country track team from a local high school. Print your firm’s name on running shirts and give them to the team. The runners will appreciate it and they will wear the shirts. Just imagine how effective—and low cost—it would be to see a pack of 10 to 12 runners jogging through the streets of your community as they train—in your beautifully coloured shirts.
6 Give away free apple pies for Thanksgiving to your best customers. Thanksgiving is a special time when people pause and slow down for a while to enjoy family and friends and to think about all the things they have to be grateful for. It’s a sentimental time, so why not capitalize on those emotions by giving out free apple pies?
I used to print these really beautiful apple pie coupons that were redeemable at a well-known local bakery. I’d mail them to my best customers, with a nice one-page customer appreciation letter that I hand-signed. Wow, was it ever an effective way to build loyalty and keep customers feeling good about me and Express Press. It will work wonders for you, too. For what it’s worth, the pies cost me $6 each.
If it’s too late for you to do this in time for Thanksgiving, consider aiming for Christmas this year, and then maybe do it again next year for Thanksgiving.
7 Work with your local convention bureau and find out what conventions are coming to your area. Then do a mailing to the exhibitors. Many of them will appreciate the economics of printing locally and saving on the high cost of shipping heavy printed materials. This really isn’t a new idea, but you’ll find very little competition pursuing convention business.
8 Print a monthly newsletter that can be used as a door opener for local businesses. In 23 years at my printing firm, I gave away thousands and thousands of newsletters. I would often stop by businesses personally as I was driving by and carry in a handful of newsletters. I’d introduce myself to the receptionist and give her a newsletter. Then I’d give her about 10 extras and ask if she’d put them in the employee lunchroom. About eight out of 10 times, the receptionist would say yes and most of the time they were enthusiastic about it. I also gave copies to my delivery drivers and sales reps to use in a similar manner. Over the years we gained countless new accounts as a result of our newsletter marketing.
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.