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Monday, January 9, 2012

How to market your small company without breaking the bank

I’m privileged to be part of a LinkedIn discussion that Paul Castain started about five days ago in a group called Market Your Printing Company.  Among many comments of interest from diverse participants, the response I got back today from Larry Bauer on the specifics of how small companies can market themselves most effectively but economically really blew my socks off.

Bauer is based in the Greater Chicago area and owner of Bauer Associates:  Marketing for a New Age.  I am taking the liberty of quoted his above-mentioned advice in entirety below:
Media costs tend to be high, so that is often something that must be cut. Even these, however, often can be scaled down (Chamber of Commerce or ad club newsletter, etc.), and one shouldn't dismiss the value of name recognition. I've done considerable formal research on this within the printing industry, and companies that win the question, "which of these printers do you recognize," tend to get treated very favorably on any other question asked . Media, both print and online, are great for boosting name recognition.

But my primary bit of advice is that whatever a company does, large or small, do it as a complete campaign oven an extended period of time. I am very unimpressed with one-shot deals and generally think that they aren't worth the money spent. You have to have a bigger strategy and longer term staying power to have any impact at all. Most companies drop out when they find there is both perspiration and inspiration involved in a good marketing program.

To follow up on that, I would emphasize marketing activities that the company can do inexpensively or in house, provided they’re willing to devote the time. You have to start with putting together a good, actionable marketing database (and most of them are a mess), because it’s the critical component in any marketing plan. A lot of this you can do fairly inexpensively. For my own Print Strategist blog email list, I used a public list of major North American printers and hired a college intern to get contact names and email addresses through a combination of website research and telephone calls.

I would then place a premium on very well executed direct mail. It shows a printer’s imaginative use of the medium and most of the costs are internal. Many companies make the mistake of being penny wise and pound foolish in this category. For example, a $5-$7 dimensional package sent to a smaller, well-qualified audience and properly followed up by sales reps will likely pay far more dividends than a more widely distributed postcard mailing that gets easily tossed aside.

And I can’t emphasize the sales accountability enough. For example, I like to have sales reps participate in the selection of names for a dimensional mailing, and then only mail out the number per week that is reasonable for follow up. Everyone needs to understand that marketing dollars are precious and accountability is expected.

I would also use the inexpensive digital channel for keeping in touch through educational enewsletters as well as electronic news releases (these should go to customers and prospects, not just the media, and one per month is not an unrealistic goal). I'm only lukewarm on social media for business-to-business marketers because I think the return for time expended is low. There are some possibilities for activities like local Twitter and LinkedIn “meet ups,” however, that help bring digital relationships into more face-to-face networking opportunities.

As an alternative, I would aggressively network by participating (that’s different from joining) in local business and civic organizations. It’s a great way to form relationships with local decision makers and influencers.
Every situation is a little different, but it’s always a matter of prioritizing your objectives, learning to be creative with smaller budgets and having marketing perseverance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Useful case study in cementing printer/client relationships

In a blog posting the week before Christmas, New-York-City-area sales trainer and coach Paul Castain wrote a first-person testamonial concerning an order he had placed with a printer.

His account details how the printer wowed him with a succession of strategic but inexpensive moves that not only made Castain’s satisfaction with his order skyrocket but also cemented his long-term relationship with the printing company. 

Among other things, Castain is interesting for his early and aggressive adoption of social media tactics and the fact that for 13 years (1983 to 1996), he owned Viret Leonard Graphics, a small printing company he spun off a family business.