Selling printing to marketers and brand owners has never been more challenging. Sales representatives must convince a new breed of communication decision makers — made up of digital natives who can select from more communication options beyond print, who expect content that engages audiences, and who must cost-justify spending — on the merits and value of print.
Winning print sales in today’s competitive market begins with identifying and understanding customer communication requirements and expectations. A recent NAPCO Research survey of more than 200 marketers and brand owners, sponsored by Canon U.S.A., offers critical insights on how this group selects print providers and what they require from them.
The research revealed that marketers and brand owners — key print buyers and influencers — expect their print sales reps to understand their unique needs, deliver stellar customer service, possess strong technical knowledge required to solve problems, and demonstrate the best way to use print (Figure 1).
Print salespeople are critical to developing strong customer relationships. Organizations that invest in the business development, selling, and technical skills of their sales staffs are making sure customers have good experiences that result in longer-term relationships.
In addition to identifying what marketers and brand owners expect from their print sales reps, the survey uncovered the following trends and tips that print service providers can apply to better meet marketers’ and brand owners’ requirements, support sales reps’ efforts, sell services, and enhance customer experiences.
1. Buyers are familiar with print processes and equipment, and they are key decision factors when selecting providers. More than two-thirds (67%) of print buyers responding to the survey reported they are extremely familiar with the printing processes used to print their materials. What’s more, 86% of respondents indicated they specify print processes and/or brands of printing devices used to produce their print work.
In addition, 70% of respondents reported that the brand of equipment used to print work is a key factor in selecting a provider. Print providers often question if their sales and marketing efforts should include the brands of printing equipment used in their operation.
This survey response sheds light on the value of promoting the brand of printing equipment used. While at one time many print providers broadly shared information on the brands of equipment they use, the practice has declined. Now might be the time for print providers to rethink marketing their equipment arsenals in sales and marketing efforts, and including equipment lists on their websites.
Even though survey respondents called out the importance of sharing the brands of printing equipment with prospective customers, keep in mind it is one component of a larger marketing strategy that should demonstrate the benefits an organization offers customers.
2. Quality, pricing, and creativity are the top three criteria for selecting printproviders. Marketer and brand owner respondents were asked to pick their top three criteria when selecting print providers. While the top two responses of best quality and price are not surprising, other important criteria include innovation, excellent customer service, broad service offerings, and strong technical capabilities (Figure 2).
This research finding highlights the importance for print providers of demonstrating creativity and innovation; improving customer service; strengthening technical capabilities; expanding services,; and continually focusing on improving products, services, and customer interactions.
3. Color matching and consistency is a high priority. Survey respondents indicate color matching and consistency are high priority considerations when selecting and retaining print providers. More than two-thirds of marketers and brand owners prefer to work with print providers that are G7-certified. This finding underscores the importance of print providers having processes in place to deliver consistent color across their various products and platforms.
Survey respondents identified color quality as a primary source of dissatisfaction with their print providers. A little less than one-third of respondents cite lack of color consistency across the print run and final prints not matching proofs as primary reasons for not being satisfied with a final job.
4. Accreditations and certifications are important. There are many print accreditations and certifications for improving internal processes and meeting customer requirements. The survey asked respondents to rank the importance of key quality and regulatory compliance designations.
The top three operational certifications/designations respondents deemed absolutely essential in their selection of print providers are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) compliance, G7 color certification, and ISO 9000 certifications. In addition, more than half of the survey respondents deemed sustainability certifications and designations as highly important when selecting a print provider.
5. Job submission is a critical client interaction point. Making it easier for print customers to order jobs, monitor work status, control branding, and better manage spending eases customer anxiety and enhances their experience in working with a provider.
According to the survey, 81% of print buyers prefer working with a print service provider that offers an online ordering tool. That type of online resource helps marketers and brand owners to better manage their print spending and branding standards.
6. Customer education is a win-win. Offering educational tools to clients not only differentiates from the competition and builds loyalty, but it can improve productivity as customers submit better job files.
Respondents indicated that they are eager to expand their understanding of the print production process. When asked what print production areas they want to learn more about, survey respondents’ top choices were digital printing technology and improving color quality and consistency. Other areas of interest include preparing print job files, substrates, digital enhancements, and combining print with other media.
Educating customers on these key production areas can enhance client relationships while increasing a print provider’s production efficiency and operational productivity.
7. Marketers and brand owners use multiple sources to learn about and stay current on printing and technology trends. Survey respondents’ top resources for learning about printing are websites, social media, and online publications (Figure 3). Given this importance, print providers should focus resources on keeping their online presence current via ongoing updates to websites/social media, issuing press releases, and participating in articles within the publications their customers read.
Print sales reps are also key information sources to customers. Because printing industry salespeople are an important resource for keeping marketers and brand owners up-to-date on emerging trends and technologies, it is essential to keep investing in their knowledge base.
Print customers rely on salespeople to offer them insights and ideas they can’t find on their own. Before the internet, buyers relied on their sales reps to educate them on pricing, features, trends, and capabilities. Because customers can do their own purchasing research, they look to print sales reps to show them ways to improve productivity and communication results.
8. A solid online marketing presence is essential for attracting prospects. Survey respondents report finding print providers from a variety of sources, including online outreach, in-person events, and printed marketing materials (Figure 4). The top two ways respondents find providers are internet searches and online advertising.
This finding, along with a little over a quarter of respondents finding providers on social media, points to the importance of print providers having an online presence. Potential print customers often use digital channels to research prospective print providers to find out about their offerings and their organizations.
Other ways survey respondents found their print providers include referrals from others, industry associations, sales calls, and direct mail.
Asking satisfied customers to provide referrals to other companies or introductions to other units in their organization that use print can also open up sales opportunities. In addition, joining the same industry associations in which customers or prospects participate is a way to get referrals and to establish your company as an expert that understands the unique requirements of a client’s industry.
Marketers and brand owners have many options when it comes to selecting print providers and media formats. Print providers that understand the expectations and requirements of customers and prospects are in the best position to increase revenue, strengthen relationships, and develop outreach efforts that bring in new work.
Use these research findings to guide decisions and investments for meeting customer requirements, enhancing client experiences, and creating sales and marketing efforts that yield results.
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