Print Manager
December 2010
Many printers suffer from poor marketing plans. Here’s help
This series is devoted to turning a business around, reversing business fortunes and setting out a strategy for going forward
There’s no excuse
As you continue to gain control of your finances and guide your company back on track, you’ve now got to wrap your head around getting your sales and marketing strategy in place. So many of the smaller to mid-size shop owner and managers I talk to don’t really have a good sense of how hard it is to develop and launch an effective marketing and sales plan. Many of them are great printers and know the technical aspects of their shop inside out. But getting, maintaining, and adapting to a sales culture is sometimes a challenge.
Advertising and marketing power is becoming more and more affordable in this day of social media. Lanae Rivers-Woods is the co-founder of the Power of Basics in Seattle, Wash., and one of her observations was that with the advent of social media, her smaller, artist-type clients were able to afford to act like large companies with their marketing strategies. Marketing 101 is still valid, but the tools have changed and we all have access to a broad market using social media tools along with more traditional ones.
One of my LinkedIn contacts offered up the following advice when I asked for input for this article. “Push sales 100%. Capitalize on every sales opportunity, utilize all marketing resources and develop key routes to market. Establish firm relationships with trade partners, keep the competition close and always listen to your customer!”
Wikipedia defines a marketing plan as “a written document that details the necessary actions to achieve one or more marketing objectives. It can be for a product or service, a brand, or a product line, and cover between one and five years. Solid marketing strategy is the foundation of a well-written marketing plan and while a marketing plan contains a list of actions, a marketing plan without a sound strategic foundation is of little use.” So whatever way you decide to deal with it, you’ll need a marketing plan of some kind.
The marketing plan my associates and I work with is a multi-step approach.
It starts with the Executive Summary, which is short and addresses the main points of your plan. It should answer the who, what, why, when, where, and how questions.
This would be followed up with a Company Review, where you get to introduce the management team and provide a bit of background on the company. Pretty straightforward stuff.  Make sure to include some background information on the company as well as outline your vision and company values to give your readers an idea of what they can expect to get from you and to keep you aligned with them.
Next is the Environmental Scan (as in the environment in which you operate). This is also known as a SWOT analysis and walks you through the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats facing you. A current variation on that process is something called “SOAR”: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Some experts suggest that with SOAR there is a tendency to stay more positive and figure out what you want to achieve and how to get there. With SOAR, the focus is not on the obstacles but the end result. As obstacles come up, they are addressed but not focused on. The real focus is beyond the weakness/threats. So whatever method or combination you work with, just make sure you carry out some kind of environmental scan.
Identification of Target Market
As a small business owner you must target your market. Think in terms of “niche-ing” your customers as there has to be something different about you that sets you apart from the rest of the printers servicing your market. I was talking to the members of my Six Sigma networking group and one of the members said: “Every business should have a USP (unique selling proposition)—the reason they’re in business.” If you’re a union printer then target union accounts. If you have a passion for art then target clients in the art market. If you have experience printing for election campaigns then target political parties and find out how you might bundle mission critical services to them.
Next you’ll have to focus on Building a Marketing Strategy. Your marketing strategy needs to include a dominant goal or mission statement that connects with your mission statement. It also needs to include your marketing objectives and an action plan on how you plan to accomplish them. Some examples of different strategies could include:
Creating New Services. You might capitalize on being one of the first online print shops to target the business market by aggressively introducing new printing services and promotion marketing online. 
Building brand recognition. You could decide to build brand recognition by promoting your brand through diverse marketing channels, such as online advertising, public relations, print advertising and trade-show participation. 
Expanding relationships. You might want to expand the company’s marketing relationships by aggressively developing new relationships with leading destination websites and media companies. 
There are a number of other things you can pick as part of your marketing strategy: Building on your customer base, expanding services, or expanding private-brand initiatives.
The tactics to deliver your message can include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn , postcard marketing, advertising, direct mail, print programs, and public relations.
Your plan must have a scorecard to measure your performance results—that goes for both business and marketing results. For example, if you take on any of the strategies above, then you need to have data that shows how many new services you’ve created, the results for building brand recognition, how many new relationships you’ve developed, how many new customers you’ve added to your database, or how many private brand sales you’ve made. DATA is the only way to know where you are.
Lorne Patterson saw managing director of Bowne's financiak printing operations across Canada. Since 2006, he has been a consulant to the printing industry. He lives in Vancouver, but heads to his second home in Puerto Vallarta whenever he can. Reach him at
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