I Have Seen the Future, and it is ...... WOW!
Ok, ok, I was one of those who thought Nokia was a Japanese company. After watching a recent 60 Minutes episode, however, I now know better. The company is Finnish and nearly every citizen Fin is a Nokia nut, using these cellular gizmos for everything from writing "I like you" messages to boyfriends to paying for softdrinks from vending machines and golf balls on the driving range.
But if the Finns are ahead of us in "smart" cell phones, we surely get the gold in just about every other technology, from gene manipulation to slow the aging process and in-the-womb disease prevention to voice- and movement-controlled computers, appliances and, soon-to-come, Web-enabled television sets.
I was recently introduced to yet another innovation taking place right here in my office building: Digimarc, a company founded four years ago to discourage counterfeiting, is now encoding watermarks on a range of substrates, such as printed magazine ads, plastic VISA cards, and even card-stock sports tickets. When a watermarked product is held up to a camera connected to your PC-the camera's installed in most new monitors-you can instantly view on screen specifics of the offer and order on line, get your charge card account information, or see the stadium's seating chart to find where your purchased seat is located. You can even get a camera's-eye view of the playing field from your seat.
And relevant to our own industry's technological wizardry, let's not forget those upstart, Internet-based e-commerce print procurement and production management dot-coms that are vying for our and our clients' attention.
Expanding Contact Points
If we keep in mind the driving force behind all these technological wonders-the benefits to the buyer (that includes you and me)-we shouldn't be surprised at the rate these innovations are taking over.
While there may be glitches and false starts along the Internet Way-to which many 1999 online holiday shoppers will attest-the fact that so many consumers participated in the online shopping frenzy is a testament itself of its great appeal. So the question is not whether or not we use the new media tools, but how.
On The 'Net
The cardinal rule of every customer/prospect interaction is to be prepared. Here, the Internet is your best friend. Based on focus groups we've conducted for clients, the biggest turnoff for printbuyers is a call from a sales rep who doesn't' have a clue about the buyer's company or print requirements.
So if you have a lead, check out the prospect's website, learn as much as you can about the company and person you're calling. Know the products they typically print and develop suggestions as to how you could help them save money with smarter use of the size of press sheet, reduce lead time with your CTP equipment, ensure on-time delivery with your fleet of trucks or alliances with UPS, etc.
Also, many list resources now on the Web, such as Dun & Bradstreet's Marketplace and American Business Information, include information such as SIC codes, number of employees, sales volume, etc. that can further qualify your prospect. (If you already know the SIC codes of your best and most profitable customers, obtaining a list of other companies with the same SIC in your target area is a logical place to start looking for leads.)
Certainly, all the information about your prospect should go into your own database and be updated at each contact point.
On The Phone
While we may believe there is no better sales opportunity than a face-to-face meeting, we also know it's hard to get that appointment. Receptionist gatekeepers have become very adept at screening calls for harried executives.
Another big gripe we hear in focus groups about sales calls is unprofessionalism. Don't be coy or try to trick. Be upfront about who you are and why you're calling. If you have to leave a voice-mail message, make it short and to the point.
Buyers also cite lack of follow-through as another reason they don't respond to sales reps' calls. My voice-mail rule of thumb is to leave messages twice and on the third reiterate my name, company, phone number, services, and the names of other recognizable companies we've helped.
In this last voice-mail, I also tell them I'll put them on my monthly e-newsletter list, which reports on news and issues specific to them and their industry. My third print industry e-newsletter will go out in January 2000, and my opt-in list has grown from 34 to over 140 e-recipients.
If I do get to speak to a lead on the phone, I'm often asked to e-mail or fax information about my company. While I always refer them to my company's website, I'll also send other info via fax & e-mail, giving me three ways to communicate with them, one of which will, hopefully, spark a dialogue.
On The Road
Recently, a growing number of clients are developing PowerPoint presentations as door openers and leave-behinds. If designed and developed properly, these can be extremely effective sales devices, particularly since they also can be easily integrated into your website.
CDs and short videos-no longer than seven minutes for a company introduction-are also gaining in popularity. To be successful, however, they must be professionally produced, not just patched together by a "friend of a friend." Of course, don't forget your laptop, cell phone, fax and e-mail, all essential tools in today's portable sales kit.
On The Job
While nearly every printing company now has a website, few are using it to its fullest potential. Your company's website should be one of your primary sales tools. In fact, some sales reps have appended their own pages to their company's website to provide clients with password-protected specific information about jobs, as well as personalized email, chat-rooms, and industry links for easy access to customer-relevant information.
Progressive printing companies are building lots of interactivity into their websites, adding games, contests, and online Q&A sessions to capture information about visitors while gaining their permission to market to them.
The goal is to try reach your customers and prospects through as many means as possible. If you know they're at their computer most of the day, email and e-newsletters are a logical vehicle to stay in touch. If you know they read trade publications, advertising and publicity programs will keep your name in front of them.
Regardless of which tools you choose, the more of them and the more frequently you use them, the more likely you'll convert that lead into a sale.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 1999 Charlotte Mills Seligman