In times of uncertainty, look for toe holds where you can wiggle into new verticals or open doors in your market. 

Small openings can lead to big opportunities. 

Toe holds are especially important when your competitors are distracted and not paying attention. Stick your toe in their business! 

To get started, have a meeting with your sales team. 

Evaluate new or existing verticals. Look for places where business is happening and cash is flowing in spite of closures and slowdowns. 

Look for small openings.

advice for getting your foot in a customer door

Just a tiny toe hold, you ask? Should we take precious time and energy to insert ourselves into new markets? Is it even worth it?

YES. It’s worth it. 

Here’s why:

Your competitors are off kilter right now. Watch closely and you’ll see places where you can take some of their business away — immediately. 

Customers are also off kilter. A distracted or exhausted buyer may choose the path of least resistance and say yes to you on an easy project.

Customers are worried about their providers keeping promises. You are one of many vendors serving your industry. Those vendors may or may not be fulfilling commitments. Make those micro commitments and become known for keeping your word.

Printers in your area may be having issues that aren’t readily apparent. There may be problems out of their control with their supply chain, paper ordering, transportation or logistics. Maybe there are staffing issues that prevent them from serving customers in their normal manner. With your dexterous toe, you can become non-threatening and familiar… a perfect printer to step in to help in an emergency. 

Prospects may have cash but no credit. Customers like this may need to break a job into parts and pay as they go. Your competitors may not want to deal with that complexity. If you can help someone print a project in phases or pull together pieces being printed at various sites, you may be able to win their bigger business when the time is right. 

Your competitors may be looking at greener pastures — just as you are — and abandoning options that might be perfect for you. 

Other printers may be moving production out of the area to optimize their locations and personnel. Some of their customers may not like that. Keep your ear to the ground for information that can put your company in a better light.

Watch for places where competitors are neglecting, alienating or scaring away their customers. For example, a competitor’s situation may be too chaotic for customers where precision and demeanor count — such as accountants, insurance companies and funeral home directors. Your attention to smooth customer service and proactive (and calm) communication in these “toe hold moments” can set you apart. Your professionalism and composure will be even more noticeable when your competitors are out of control. 

Finally, as you develop your master strategy, work on being attractive. By attractive I mean this: learn how to attract business to you so you don’t have to run while you insert your toe into rich territory. 

Being solid and still is very attractive in times of chaos.

Here are more tips on how to get a foot in the door: 

Connect deeply in target verticals. Go beyond meeting just the print buyer and his or her team. Meet C-suite execs and production employees as well as their CFO and sales manager. Connectors and high achievers can’t help themselves. If you are worthy, they will introduce you to other high performers in the verticals you are exploring.

Become highly knowledgeable in areas where you find secure toe holds. Do extensive research on the industry, geography, market sub-sectors, and specific customers. Find new and unusual information to add value to your conversations. Learn about your prospect’s customers. Why work so hard? Think of it this way. Your competitors are knowledgeable already by virtue of operating in that realm. To surpass your competition, you have to understand a sector well enough to convince prospects to make a significant change. Research, compile, review, dig, dig, dig. 

Be extraordinary. If you are using content, blogging or a newsletter to support your forays into new markets, you MUST be above the ordinary. Be fresh, be helpful, offer analysis or insight, and present it in an interesting way. It goes without saying, make sure everything on your website can be viewed and accessed on mobile devices. Invest in high quality design — online and in print. Walk the talk with high quality materials. Don’t skimp just because you can do something in house. You will be judged on your brand appearance — and on the perceived effort in your execution. 

Be ethical and professional. If you are pushing into new places where people don’t know you, they WILL look you up online. Make sure your personal and professional brand is impeccable and can withstand serious scrutiny. Address issues with online reviews, complaints on employment websites, or any third-party information that comes up in a search  result. Correct and update EVERYTHING that reflects on your brand. View your online presence through an incognito browser to see what others see when they Google you. Customers worth having will check you out. 

Optimize, optimize, optimize. Being better and digging deeper takes effort. Gain time and traction without sacrificing the quality of your output or the balance in your personal life. Establish systems to speed through mundane tasks. Enjoy life and refresh regularly. All top performers do. 

Network respectfully. Leverage your personal and professional networks. Find ways to get what you need without being a jerk or clueless. Listen more, learn more. Prove you are worthy of people taking a chance on you. Be the type of print provider that customers can lean on when times are tough. 

It sounds daunting, but you can do it. I know you can. 

Start with a small toe hold…wedge your foot in the door…and then win the business! 


Sandy Hubbard has been author and contributor at Print Media Centr since 2011. She is a Marketing Strategist and Business Consultant who serves print, publishing, and media businesses. Sandy helps clients build their businesses using solid, proven techniques and a systematic approach. She hails from a long line of printers, publishers, authors, and newspaper owners. For 22 years she published a magazine for the printing trade, counseling her readers about how to make better business decisions and grow in the evolving print landscape.

Connect with Sandy on LinkedIn and find her on Twitter at @sandyhubbard every Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, leading or co-hosting #PrintChat with Deborah Corn of @PrintMediaCentr — Join in the fun at social media’s most popular chat for the global printing industry!

Read more from Sandy here.

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