Thursday, April 20, 2006


A Weakness of New Media We Need To Exploit

No, this isn't a column about the problems of delivering email marketing messages which are already well documented. This is something more basic. It's about search and the rise of Google, and how businesses may be kidding themselves by thinking they can discontinue all use of printed sales and information materials and assuming that prospects will easily find them on the Internet. It's a multichannel world, and we're one of those channels.

It is now common practice for purchasing department and other workers to search for information about anything they want to purchase from expensive capital goods to daily supplies on the Internet, often through a search engine. In the past, they would have pulled a directory like the Thomas Register off the shelf and then made some phone calls.

What's the difference? Searching on the Internet is anonymous to the company they are researching. The old phone call would have led to the capture of the inquiree's contact information, at least the mailing of literature, and potentially a visit by a dealer or sales rep.

This means that people are making decisions about whether or not to engage in a transaction without the company ever knowing about it. Sales prospects have access to a great deal of information yet the company has no contact with them at all.

This is a real problem for marketers because all they end up with are statistics about their web traffic but no sales leads. That's the fallacy of the “measurability” of new media. What good are statistics unless they lead to real transactions?

Is there has to be a way for our industry to tap into this phenomenon? Of course there is! Printers first need to help their customers understand that they are losing leads by allowing only anonymous delivery of information. They may think they are saving money by not printing brochures, may be undermining the sales lead development process. They may, in fact, be losing money in the long term by not capturing information about site visitors that they can use to follow up later. Printers need to communicate the value of that loss, or at least raise the spectre of that loss, to their customers.

There's more to that than just telling them to use more print. Helping them create a good lead capturing process and provide them with solutions to help them achieve it is a good strategy. Printers must follow up by calling out “here’s your problem” and offering a solution, “here’s what we can help you do about it.” Remember, most printers customers are small and medium businesses who feel overburdened with anything beyond their daily core and urgent activities.

Here are some thoughts as to what printers can offer. First, they can bring the problem to the attention of their clients and propose a good Internet prospect capture system. This includes recruitment for newsletters (which the printers can propose the creation and management of, even if they are e-newsletters), events, and promotions. Second, they can make sure their clients have well-made PDFs of their brochures on site. It's amazing how many PDFs are not optimized of desktop printers, viewing on screen, or even quick downloading. Yes, good reproduction matters in all media.

Finally, printers can ensure that sales prospect information collected on the Internet goes directly to their shop. One reason companies were more than happy to get out of the printing of brochures were that they were always short-staffed and never seemed to be able to send things out promptly in addition to the challenge of outdated materials. Last year's Phoenix Convention Bureau story was a good example of this. But requests for information could be diverted to the printer’s server or could be automatically sent to the printer’s shop, queued up and printed out on the latest digital printers, or grabbed from the shelf inventory and mailed to the prospect by the printer. That's one of the “value added” tasks we so often hear about in adding fulfillment as a valuable revenue generating service that printers can add to their operations.

Just because new media offer great opportunities for cost reduction and new ways of reaching customers it does not mean that good time-tested sales process management goes out the window. Helping clients ensure that customers get the right information at the right time never goes out of style.

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