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Sales & Marketing

Printing & Imaging. Yes, there is a connection!

4 Feb, 2013 By: Laura Kittner imageSource

Find new customers or sell more to current customers. When it comes to sales growth we have many sales and marketing tactics to consider. The success of these tactics boils down to where to focus your efforts: new or existing customers. Before we explore these two avenues, lets look at an example of leveraging online and digital marketing tactics to retain a customer base. This example comes to us from a household name in pet care: Purina.

Nestle Purina Pet Care ranks first in market share for pet care products in North America, holding approximately twice the market share of its closest competitor (Mars Inc., maker of Whiskas and Pedigree), and has grown by almost 10 per cent over the last 10 years. The company met its 2010 sales goal, despite the nation’s economic downturn and the fact that the U.S. pet population grew only marginally during this time.

Having weathered a tough economic storm where customers’ discretionary spending was down, Purina set out to build additional loyalty to their products through a marketing and brand development strategy that leveraged social media as its focus. The campaign leaned on the undeniable fact that all pet owners are the same: their animal is the cutest, the nicest, the everythingest. The crux of the Purina campaign is a community website (www.pawsway.ca) complimented by digital marketing efforts such as targeted direct email and social media driven campaigns. The pawsway.ca website is ripe with opportunities for animal lovers to gush about their pets such as a personal cat and dog profile option that likens to a pet-driven Facebook page. There are discussion forums and links to various community events for pets and families. The site is a hub of fun, light-hearted, useful information for a pet owner; it supports pet ownership, encourages activities that involve pets and connects like-minded individuals in an online community setting. Now, here is the interesting point: Purina is barely mentioned anywhere on the website, except at the bottom of the page. No Purina products being sold. No sales promotions offered.

Purina focused on delivering their current customers an experience, not hard selling their products through pushy wording or sales promotions. Instead, they brought useful, relevant information to their audience and engaged them with content that ultimately supported sales of Purina products.

So, what does the pet care/food industry have to do with the print and imaging industries? Well, a lot actually. If you own a dog, you need to feed it. If you run a business, in most cases, you need to print. Just like Purina and the pet care industry, within the business print and imaging industries finding new customers today is a costly, low probability of success effort. The focus must be customer retention—maintain (and ideally) grow the base. How do you encourage pet owners to buy more pet food and products when discretionary spending is down? Conversely, how do you encourage corporate CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and their staff to invest more in printing and imaging products when growth in business print is struggling? The smart marketer’s answer: you reinvest in the customers you have today and you continue to shower them with reasons to do business with you. You keep your business, products and services relevant by building your own unique customer community around your corporate brand, and you do it online.

Step #1: Profile your current customer base and segment into key groups

You may think you know your customers, but it is often surprising to compare what you believe the customer demographics are vs. what they actually are. Profiling your database is an important exercise that should be done semi-annually. When profiling, look for the following trends:

  • Vertical market segmentation: group “like” industry groups together, such as healthcare, finance, government, education, etc.
  • MIF (machines in field) trends: printer, MFP, copier, color, monochrome mix and total number of devices are important thresholds and considerations.
  • Key contacts and their positions/job titles: do you have the ear of the decision makers, or is your database predominantly service techs and purchasers?
  • Purchasing patterns: use the RFV method (relevant, frequency, value) to group purchases by company.
  • Business relationship with your company: Is it in good standing? On the brink? Are you one of several vendors? Also, consider the length of time the customer has been doing business with you.

After profiling, you will likely end up with two or more segments – groups of similar companies with unique interests or buying trends between the groups. In order to effectively communicate with them in your marketing efforts, you must develop content that will be appealing and, most importantly, useful.

Step #2: Content marketing: develop your story

Content marketing is the trickiest part in this entire process. Your focus in content development is to ensure that you keep printing relevant – both from a global industry perspective and relevant locally, to your unique audience and their business. The Managed Print Services Association (www.yourmpsa.org) offers industry printing statistics and tools to its members that could be incorporated into your message. There is also a wealth of resources online. Check out www.printisbig.com for useful snippets of industry statistics.

Step #3: Select your methods of communication

You have developed your story, now you need to find a home for it and let your audience know. That “home” should be online and can be hosted directly on your current website, or built as a stand-alone site, similar to the pawsway.ca example I mentioned earlier.


Your company is ABC Imaging Co. Build a web page for your customers that discusses printing optimization tips, healthy office working environments and tips for responsibly removing old printing and technology from an office. We’ll call this site bizprintingtips and it can be accessed directly on your current website (e.g., www.bizprintingtips.abcimagingco.com) or by purchasing a new domain name, independent of your current website.   (Tip: bizprintingtips.com is an available domain and can be yours for under ten dollars a year on godaddy.com).

Communication mediums to support your new website and inform your customers of updates, encouraging them to visit:

  • LinkedIn: a valuable connection for the print and imaging industry. Consider creating a company page for your dealership and a discussion group for your website; invite your customers to join the group.

Twitter, Facebook: like all social media sites, it can work when it is used consistently and effectively.

  • Discussion forums on your website: allow visitors to share data and comment on your content. When possible, offer incentives for them to do so such as small contests, etc.
  • Word of mouth: You and your sales team are walking billboards for your company. Talk about this new, exciting online forum that you have built for your customers.
  • As a reminder, this website should not be pushing your products and services. It should be offering information to help your customers run their businesses. The site will build trust and, if done properly, build engagement and commitment between you and your customers.

Step #4: Measure, refine message, repeat

“How do I know it’s working?” is a common question asked of sales and marketing professionals when attempting to review their efforts. In a content driven, online marketing campaign, there are a variety of success measurement tactics available to you.

  • Google Analytics: it’s free, quick to install and easy to use and will provide a view into who is visiting your site, what content they are reading and how frequently they are visiting you.
  • Use and email marketing campaign software such as iContact, Constant Contact or MailChimp to send out email communications: their campaign analytics offer tremendous insight into what content is being read and what isn’t. These services will also display the contact information of anyone who read your content - a fantastic lead source for your sales team!

Go on, market like Purina

Being relevant to your customer, in every context, improves brand commitment and enhances engagement. The bottom line: ditch the sales speak and resist the urge to tell everyone why you are the greatest at what you do. Focus instead on the most important thing — your customer. Talk about their business, identify with their needs and help solve their problems.

In April, I will be leading an education session at the ITEX National Conference and Expo at The Rio in Las Vegas. If I’ve piqued your interest in what you’ve read here, register for my session for a more detailed approach to some aforementioned tactics.

About the Author: Laura Kittner

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