How Printers Can Start a Relationship Marketing Program

a light orange image of a group of people hands interlocked to illustrate relationship marketing

Are you ready to start a relationship marketing program that strengthens ties with your best print customers? We’ll use targeted email and add deeply insightful print to bring customers closer and transform our relationships with them. 

Here’s how to get started, what to watch out for, and how to take it up a notch once customers show they’re receptive. 


Starting a relationship marketing program with email is easy and affordable. Once we’ve gained momentum, we’ll add the print component, which takes creativity and care. More on that below.

First, download your list of existing customers who have permitted you to contact them by email.

We want to be sure we’re not spamming people, and having permission is required in the terms and conditions of email marketing platforms. 


Next, we’re going to rank customers. 

You may have rankings inside the CRM, but we want to rank based on more than total lifetime value and annual revenue. While those are important, we also want to look at the customer’s loyalty, ease of working together, profitable jobs with few makegoods, and the customer’s likelihood of referring you to other print customers.

Please don’t throw all your customers and prospects into this relationship marketing list. We want only the people who love us. 


Even though we have permission to send business emails, it’s polite to ask for permission before sending a newsletter.

The person in our company with the best relationship with the customer should do the asking. 

Let the customer know they were chosen specifically, and the newsletter is emailed exclusively to a select group. That helps.

Give customers a chance to see what they’re agreeing to. Attach a PDF version of your sample newsletter. I find this is better than using a link to an online version. You want to control how the newsletter looks. Make it easy for them to say yes. 

It is not as easy to get people to agree to be emailed as it was five or ten years ago. We’re all overloaded with emails, and many consider sales emails an intrusion. This means your sample newsletter should be really, really good. You can create it yourself or invest in professional design and writing.


Here are tips for creating a newsletter worth opening:

  • Make it visually exciting.
  • Make it fast-loading.
  • Make it easy to read on mobile. 
  • Shoot a short video and include that. 
  • Include useful information that your customers really want to know. 
  • Write an inviting subject line. 
  • Use links strategically.
  • If you re-use content, rewrite it and make it shorter and better.
  • Ask the recipient to do something they already want to do – and then reward them for it. 
  • Have so much fun with your newsletter that your customers can’t wait to open it!


Once you have a group of readers who regularly interact with your newsletter, don’t push a sales agenda. Instead, keep working on the relationship. Finesse your writing. Give before you ask for anything. Delight your readers.

Establish a regular cadence of communication. Publishing on schedule shows readers you care about keeping promises and meeting deadlines. 

As you go, take the temperature of reader replies to see if you’re on the right track. 

Here are the replies my clients have received: 

  • “You bring me information I can’t get anywhere else.”
  • “You are the only voice I trust.”
  • “You inspire me.”
  • “You’ve changed my outlook.”
  • “I can’t wait to read what you write next.”

In fact, one of my clients received a Women of Distinction award based on the quality of her communications. Aim high with your newsletter!


It’s important to follow up promptly whenever someone replies to your newsletter. 

The minute your newsletter goes out, be alert and in a good mental space to engage immediately. Expect emails, texts, and phone calls. People will respond in the channels they prefer.

If you get too many replies at once, stage your emails and send them in smaller groups so you can keep up. We need to give these replies the attention they deserve.

We’re building relationships!

If you receive a spam report from a recipient, never challenge anyone. Do your best to learn from any issues, and then mentally move on. Focus on the people who love you. 

Use marketing automation in a human way. Nothing should be fake or sales-y. If you think something is cringe, it probably is. 


After running the email side of the program for a few months, we’ll know who the most responsive customers are. 

This is where we take the relationship to the next level. 

Track and record customer preferences and responses to inform the print side of the program. 

Print elements can include loyalty cards, rewards programs, certificates, invitations, apparel and promo items, exclusive events, food and gifts in cool packaging, personalized items, and more. 

However, I’d like you to think about the spectacular things you can do with print. 

Be colorful. Be gigantic. Be noisy. Be sassy. Remember, these customers are our allies and advocates. They want the best for us. Dazzle them! Prove to customers how much you value the relationship. Your top customers are worth the effort! 

Does relationship marketing sound good? Let’s get started! 

Check out all of Sandy’s posts here.

Read last month’s post: Crazy Stupid Print Love

Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist and Advisor specializing in print, media, and tech. She helps print companies leverage their marketing to be seen, credible, and likable. Sandy is also the host of #PrintChat, a weekly global gathering of the industry’s most influential thinkers and leaders.


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