Why print companies that want to reduce sales costs need sticky customers

Posted by Matthew Parker

Do you have an iPhone?  Or an iPod? Or an iPad?

If you have an Apple device like this you’ll be wedded to iTunes.  Every time you purchase some music or an app, you’ll be doing so from the iTunes and app stores.  And Apple will be making a profit.  But it’s difficult to avoid purchasing from them.  To get the best from your device, you need to purchase through Apple.

You’re a sticky customer.  You keep coming back for more.

Sticky customers are a great business model for print companies

Sticky shoes are not so great. But sticky customers are great news for printers

But what is a sticky customer?  A sticky customer is one who finds it difficult to move away from you as a supplier.  Most print buyers have a pdf.  And it’s easy for them to send it to the printer with the lowest price.  But some customers have created a deeper relationship with their printer.

That relationship means that it’s difficult to avoid using that printer for their next print job.  These are sticky customers.

Print sellers who create sticky customers will build long term partnerships with their clients

They will also have more control over their sales because they know that their customers will keep coming back for more print.  That means that they’ll find it easier to achieve their sales targets and their profit targets.

Print sales people who don’t create sticky customers will have a high customer turnover.  So they won’t be able to create long term customer partnerships.  They won’t have control over their sales pipelines.  And they’ll find it far harder to achieve their sales and profit targets.

Here are three strategies to make your customers sticky.  Chances are you offer these services already.  The first strategy means you keep hold of the client’s artwork.

Use Web to Print to keep customers sticky

Web to Print systems are a great way to lock your clients in.  You’ll have their artwork hosted on your W2P system.  So now they can’t just send a pdf to a printer with a lower cost than you. The customer will have to order their print from you every time they want an item that’s on your system.

There’s a big cost and hassle of moving all the artwork to another printer with a web to print system.  So that means that the customer will have to have a very good reason to change supplier.

But what happens if you don’t have a web to print system?  How can you manage the client’s artwork?  Here’s another way.

Offer design services to make your customers sticky

Many print buyers value good designers far more than good printers.  They see that there is a real difference in the level of design that is produced.  But they don’t see the same difference in quality between printers.  If you can offer an excellent design service to your clients, they will keep coming back to you.

There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, you hold their artwork files.  Many clients wouldn’t think of asking you to release them to another supplier.  And they’ll also trust your design team.  They’ll want to make sure that they keep the same level of design quality in their work.  It’s a big leap of faith to brief a new designer.

Of course, not all customers outsource their design.  How do you make customers sticky if you can’t get hold of their design work or their files?

Use fulfillment to make your customers sticky

Many customers print batches of jobs, but ask a printer to keep hold of them.  The printer sends out items as required.  Sometimes this is done via simple phone calls and e-mails.  And sometimes there are complex inventory tracking systems.

Once you handle a customer’s fulfillment you are becoming an essential part of their supply chain.  Changing supplier means that they will have to brief a new supplier on their requirements.  They will have to shift stock.  And they will have to hope that the new supplier performs as well.

So fulfillment is another way to create a sticky customer.  But whether we’re talking about fulfillment, design or web to print, some print companies have a problem.

What happens if you don’t offer these services?

You can always consider partnering with another supplier.  You may be able to create the right partnership with a design company.  Or a storage company.  And you can often buy web to print as a cloud solution from another company.

So these solutions do not always require great investment.  And you may even find a new stream of work through the partner company.  However, even if these services don’t require huge investment, it is important to remember one thing

Make sure you sell these solutions at a profit

Some printers are tempted to throw these solutions in at cost in order to win the work.  It’s important that you remember that these services are valuable to your customers.  And they should be sold at a price that reflects this value.

However, there’s a fair bit of work to be done before you start selling these sort of solutions to your customers.

So here are three action points to get you started

  1. Have a strategy meeting.  Work out which of these solutions would be most valuable to your customers
  2. Work out a detailed sales message for your new offering
  3. Make sure that you brief sales team and update your brochures and website

If you put the right building blocks in place, you’ll have customers who have to come back to you if you want more print

Just as I have to keep shopping at iTunes to keep my iPod up to date.
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