Do First Things First When Marketing Your Printing Company

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When creating a new marketing campaign for your printing company, it’s good — no, it’s imperative — to do the first things first. Successful marketing teams look at the big picture, outline the program, create a plan that everyone understands, and – only then – take action. If that doesn’t happen, even an experienced team can get bogged down in minutiae before they even get started. Here’s an example of how a printing company can get good results by doing the first things first in marketing. 

Here’s a marketing project that everyone’s excited to get launched.

I’m consulting with a printing company that wants to sell print-digital packages to high-end women-owned businesses. The design and print package includes custom logo redesign, website refresh, email newsletter, and high-value elements in their print marketing collateral. Unlike an a la carte offering, everything is bundled as a package and offered at a premium price point. This makes it easy for the salespeople to state the price without wheeling and dealing or having to call the office for pricing. 

In doing our research, we heard women business owners say they would like to refresh their branding but don’t have time. Unlike many customers who want to do some or all of their business marketing in-house, this prospective client is a woman entrepreneur with a full-time job and a family.

She wants to work with a print company she can trust to do the work. 

Many of the women who fit this profile in the printer’s area are attorneys, financial planners, insurance agents, and real estate brokers. 

Because real estate, financial services, insurance, and law are regulated, the printer must follow specific oversight and privacy rules. The ability to do this sets my client apart from other printers who can’t or don’t want to work with clients in regulated industries. 

With a clear picture of the prospect, the marketing team is overflowing with ideas on how the package can be structured and sold by the sales team. The sales team is working hand-in-hand to be sure we are covering all the areas where they expect the prospect will have objections or questions. 

However, because the target market is so exciting – and the prospect is so easy to visualize – the marketing team can easily get off-topic. I know how fun it is to dream about studio photo shoots and designing glorious materials that spotlight the printer’s skills.

But wait! We must do the first things first. 

Before we book the photographer or choose the paper for the dream book, we must write down the critical planning steps. 

  • Identify objectives
  • Craft a campaign strategy
  • Establish the timeline
  • List the people and providers needed
  • Tally the expected costs

You guessed it. We need a plan! 

Marketing teams may think this step is unnecessary or obvious. After all, if we just completed a campaign for another sector, surely we can slide everything over and apply it to this one.

Not so fast.

This is how you blow your budget and piss off clients and stakeholders. Trust me when I say that your product team will be more impressed if you communicate your schedule honestly and then complete things in a logical order. Making things up on the fly will slow you down – and even get you stuck – in the long run. 

Print Across America October 25 2023

If you follow an agile approach, you might start by building a backlog. A “backlog” is the list of all the things you need to get the first phase done. I like to work in one-month sprints, where we create valuable deliverables that we can finish and show the customer — even if it’s an internal customer– within one month. That usually means breaking a big campaign into smaller chunks.

For the complexity of this campaign – and the fact that we want to make a good first impression on a high-caliber prospect –we’re not going to rush into getting the salespeople on the street. We are, however, going to work swiftly and steadily toward our objectives. When we keep moving, we are less likely to get derailed, distracted, or stalled. We can actually produce something useful in a reasonable amount of time.

Here are questions the marketing team can discuss as you adopt a first-things-first approach: 

  1. What are the desired outcomes (what does success look like)?
  2. What are other marketing projects we can draw from that we’ve done or seen?
  3. How will we obtain reputable (clean, current data) lists of qualified prospects?
  4. Who are the most influential people in the prospect’s world that we might leverage?
  5. Which business associations, magazines, brands, and creative sources can help us amplify our impact?

As you go about putting first things first, you can use online tools to help you prioritize the elements in your plan. Don’t let technology get you sidetracked, though. Index cards and Post-It notes are great for capturing and organizing information, and we all understand the left-to-right, top-to-bottom organization of a calendar, burndown chart, or project workflow that everyone can see and contribute to. 

I’ve had marketing managers push back on this. They don’t want stakeholders to have visibility into their progress – or lack thereof. They want to control the story, so to speak. They want to maintain the illusion that all is going well.

In today’s printing companies, department silos and information hoarding are outdated approaches. Our marketing and sales teams do their best when everyone starts with a solid plan, establishes priorities, and moves forward harmoniously.

This is how we get things done, and this is why we put first things first. 

Sound good? It is good!


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Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist and Business Advisor for the Printing Industry. She helps companies build successful marketing programs and create solid, repeatable methods of reaching new customers. Sandy produces #PrintChat, a weekly global forum for the printing industry. She is a monthly columnist and industry expert for the print industry — and a Certified Scrum Master, helping marketing and sales teams become more effective.