Print and Marketing: the bicycle theory


When I think of print and marketing, I think of a bicycle. You CANNOT effectively ride a bicycle without one wheel. Granted, if you had a unicycle, you can ride that with one wheel. But I’m talkin’ bicycles here. Front wheel. Back wheel. Print and marketing are the wheels of that bicycle, and I do not believe you can successfully ride that particular bicycle of the print business without both wheels.

When most printers or print buyers think of print and marketing, they think of it in terms of print supporting marketing, or print as part of an overall marketing campaign. Printers tend to prospect for clients in the marketing field, even to the point of being specialized in specific vertical markets of that field: medical devices; liquor and spirits; jewelry; high-end automotive. All of this is well and good. But the printers who focus on just securing work from marketing firms miss out on the lesson that those firms teach: the need to market oneself.

Herein lies the challenge. Many print companies, from the mom & pop printer on Main Street, to the larger printer on Commercenter Drive, are run by folk who know print, and know it well. They live, eat, sleep and breathe ink on paper. But they lack the basic understanding of marketing their company. Perhaps they have the revenue and sales team in place that allows them to have a sales manager, but often the sales manager is not responsible for marketing. And perhaps the ownership and senior management does not see the value and importance of marketing themselves. So, how do these printers market themselves? There are three important things to do to market your print company: brand; plan; execute.

We all know brands: Starbucks; McDonald’s; WalMart. Those are the names of those brands. But behind those brands is an extensive network of visual and cultural ideas that define the company. Brand is not just the logo. It’s the culture of the company, thought out, planned and written down for all to see. You can create a fantastic logo, but if you don’t have the goals of your company in writing, or your values, or your inside culture all in written format for both your team and your clients and prospects to see, you do not have a brand. Take your time in writing down the values of your company – what do you like and want in your company and what do you like and want from a client. Write about what makes you as a printer different. Differentiation is the biggest selling point you have. Set up your brand on who you are, what you are, and then design a logo that is simple yet stands out. A suggestion would be a logo that has a single image or character that can be immediately recognized as your logo, and then have variations with your company name with the image. Build your brand.

Once you have your brand in writing, it’s time to plan what you’re going to do with it – how you’re going to market it. You can do this in a multitude of ways. First, hire a marketing firm to help you plan this, starting out with helping you create your brand, setting up the plan and then executing it. Second, keep it in house, and solicit ideas from client marketing firms or your printing peers, or maybe hire someone on staff that is a marketing person, contract or either full time, or perhaps as a sales/marketing executive. Determine a plan to market your company using what you have. Perhaps you have a digital press that you can do direct mailing campaigns on a monthly or quarterly basis. Maybe you have or get a web solution that offers email marketing. Any of these give the advantage of doing them over not doing anything! But you MUST do something. Plan it out in stages, and refresh the brand message each time you send something out. Make it a mix of things from direct mail, to personalized mail with an offer or call to action. Web sites and social media play important roles too, since they can be updated with new content frequently.

You have your brand, you have your plan, now execute, and STAY ON TOP OF IT!. That point cannot be emphasised enough. It takes many touch points with a prospect to turn them into clients, and you should track your progress. If one message turns out to give a weak response, alter the message. Add a call to action, or a poll. Make it a simple poll that will encourage a response. But the important thing is to make your message stand out, present the brand, encourage interaction, and finally, engage the recipient. Then, do it again, and again, and again.

Printers who have learned the value of riding that bicycle successfully have a tremendous advantage, and will slowly see their revenue stream build from their investment. So, drag out that bicycle for 2014, and get riding!

Connect with John on Google+Twitter and LinkedIn.


About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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