How to avoid selling print – nine sales strategies to help printers improve profit margins

Posted by Matthew Parker

One minute everything was normal.  The next moment there was a charred and smoking building and bodies everywhere.

Have you been following Homeland?  My wife and I are addicted to it!  There’s always a twist in the plot which I didn’t suspect.  I certainly wasn’t expecting the bomb in series two.

It was an apocalyptic scene.

The print industry could face apocalypse if it doesn’t change

This is what could happen to print companies if they don't create the right sales strategies

This is what could happen to print companies if they don’t create the right sales strategies

Last week I wrote on how selling print would be the death of printers.  I wrote of the need to sell value added services.

Printers that sell value added services will be able to create longer term partnerships with their customers.  They will have better control over their profit margins, as their clients will be buying a service rather than a commodity.  That means they will have a better chance of achieving the results they need.  They will have a better chance of becoming a thriving company with an excellent future.

Printers that stick to just selling ink on paper will be treated as commodity suppliers.  They will get beaten up on price again and again.  Their clients won’t be interested in a partnership.  These printers will struggle to maintain decent profit margins.  These will be the companies that will die out.

So here are nine value added services that you can sell.  They will help you create a better sales solution for your clients.

Design

The right design can make a huge impact on a piece of marketing.  If design is sold in the right way then many customers will be happy to pay higher margins.  But it’s not just visual design that print companies can sell.

Copywriting

The right words can also make a big difference to a piece of print.  Printers should be considering providing a concept to print service.  Copywriting is much harder to commoditise if sold well.  And the same applies to the post-print stage.

Fulfilment

Printers should be offering clients the opportunity to manage all their deliveries.  Offering pick and pack or complex courier solutions can add real value to a job.  They also open up doors to help clients in reducing stock.

Stock management

It may seem odd to encourage a client to print less.  However, printers can save clients money by managing stock on the client’s behalf and reducing wastage.  As well as focussing on the physical processes, printers should look to workflow to provide revenue.

Web to print

Web to print client portals are a great way to reduce a client’s design and purchasing costs.  But they also create customers that have to stick with one print company.  They offer the opportunity for other services as well.

Digital Asset Management

I know more than one printer that has made a lot of money from managing the content and pictures for clients.  The right software solutions can help clients become more organised and save them significant costs.  Digital asset management also means that a print company should be thinking about more than print.

Multi channel

Printers now need to be offering e-mail, SMS and personalised print.  The sale to clients can be made in terms of return on investment rather than cost of production.  The printer also has opportunities to be involved further upstream in the process.

Data management

Once involved in direct mail, multi-channel or web to print, data services should be added to a print company’s offering.  These services tie the client in with the printer on a long-term basis.  They also give the printer the opportunity to become involved with delivery.

Postal management

If a printer is managing data then they have an excellent opportunity to reduce postal costs for clients.  De-duping and address formatting can be offered, along with help in selecting the right postal service.  You could even offer your own bespoke postal service..

So that’s nine suggestions for selling value added services.  For some printers, this may seem very scary.

What happens if you don’t have any of the skills to offer these services?

If this is the case you should not ignore the opportunities that value added services offer.  You can still offer these types of services by partnering with other companies that do offer them.  You may even discover that you have a new outlet for print sales at the same time.

However, some printers will refuse to even think about this course of action.

Some print companies only want to offer print

These are the companies that will fall by the wayside.  They will be treated as commodity suppliers.  We are already seeing that this market is suffering from unsustainable pricing.

But it’s not just the offerings that have to change.

Make sure you review your sales strategies too

Traditional print sales techniques just won’t cut it in the value added services market place.  It is vital that print companies take time to review their sales messaging.  They also need to make sure that they are using the right strategies to make sure that clients understand the value of what is being offered.  It often means forming new relationships with people in different roles at client companies.

This may seem like a lot of work, but the rewards are worthwhile.

Here are three action points to start you on your journey

  1. Review the services that you feel you could offer.  Talk to your current clients to see if there is an existing demand.
  2. Research potential partner companies who could provide these services for you.
  3. Review your sales message

Remember that you need to take this action to avoid print apocalypse

Lots of people are talking about Homeland right now.  But printers that go under because they sell in the wrong way will not be remembered in the same way.
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P.S.  How do you get the type of customer with whom you can sell these solutions successfully?  To find out more you need to sign up to the Profitable Print Relationships newsletter right now.  And you’ll get a free copy of  “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them”.

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