by Jonathan Malone-McGrew, EDP
For anyone that knows the McGrew name, it comes as no surprise when I tell them that I am in the print industry. As some of you may know, I spent my formative years growing up inside a print software development company that quickly made a name for itself with quality products, strong customer relationships and an eye for what the customers really wanted.
For this edition of the PMC newsletter I decided to follow some of my earlier articles (How Relevant is Your Print to Me and New Year’s Print Resolutions) with a perspective on understanding your employees, customers, partners and competition. It is why print is so powerful—it is a physical medium that creates a connection with the person who interacts with it.
Let me ask you this question: Do you really know your customers?
The knee-jerk reaction is to answer “Of course, yes!” However, I suspect that we only know one or two of our true customers. Now extend the question: Do you really know your employees, partners, competitors?
I suspect that if you tried to write it all down, the gaps would start to show. In fact, writing it all down is a good idea. In marketing, we call that process identifying personas. If you don’t have your buyer and user personas, employee, partner and competitive personas written down, start with a list of the different types of people you would want in you business relationship circle. Which personas would provide the best business results and allow you to gain a promoter?
As a print provider, whether software, hardware or a total solution, the buying center of B2B customers is complex. Even from a B2C perspective, there is a lot of pressure from customers to deliver what they want. Some recent training and further reading made me wonder: do we spend the right amount of time defining who we are communicating with, what they want and the factors that drive their impressions of positive interaction. In terms of the Net Promoter SystemSM, I wonder if we really know who our promoters are and why they are promoters. If you have an NPS strategy in place, you should have insight into the why.
Here are two examples of why this is important to your business from the top all the way to the bottom. Let’s take commercial print; I know that many of you cruise through the PMC exchange here. Say you are a mid-size regional printer that specializes in direct mail, posters, trade show graphics and more. Your offerings span from cut sheet graphic arts full color to wide-format printing on a multitude of substrates. You have case studies from happy customers and believe you have a good handle on their satisfaction. Now look at your marketing and sales materials; are they relevant to the profile of customers you deal with? Do you have more than one persona identified? Do you have materials addressing the different personas? Can you easily discuss your offerings in terms of the benefits that correlate to the wants of those individual buyers?
If the answer to the above isn’t a declarative “Yes!”, then you might want to consider how relevant you are truly being.
You might be asking yourself why this matters or you may believe that since you are making sales the need for personas doesn’t apply to you. But here is the thing; ask anyone you bump into if they prefer offers, products, solutions and services that make sense to them and align with what they are trying to accomplish and they will say yes every time. Moreover, if you ask them if understanding their perspective creates loyalty as a customer, more often than not the answer will also be yes. It could be the difference between a short run digital postcard run and landing all the business for that customers print output needs.
The idea of identifying personas doesn’t just apply to selling printing services or even hardware. It applies in the world of transactional customer communications as well. We see a push to understanding the customers’ wants and delivering to them relevant solutions to tackle those wants via an omni-channel experience. And, making assumptions about the customer experience is dangerous. As a business professional that travels it might be more logical to get my statements electronically and be notified by email. However, that isn’t how I roll.
In fact, I get most of my billing statements delivered on paper. Ironically, the physical receipt is important to me as it cuts through the clutter found in my personal inbox (one I don’t get to keep on top of due to a busy work inbox) and reminds me to double-check the autopays or pay certain bills. And I find it annoying when a company doesn’t offer me the communication preferences I want and resent them when they force me to receive them a certain way. It just isn’t good relationship building, and I am more likely not to want to do business with them, especially if other negative experiences compound on top of that.
This is the beauty of knowing your customer. I could be a persona that you know and that you ensure you communicate with in a relevant way. Positive experience instills goodwill and future consideration for return business.
Same is true for our commercial printer. I do business with a local franchise printer for most of my digital and offset printing needs. Have they ever made a mistake? Yes. But they always make good on it, and they know that attention to detail, especially around color quality is my hot button. The assist by double-checking the artwork and calling attention to anything they know I would have concerns about. They even know my preferred billing method and delivery so I can make sure they get paid in a timely fashion. In short, I am a loyal and happy customer that doesn’t look for the cheapest alternative because it doesn’t drive my wants.
If you consider my two personas and look at your own experieinces you can see the power of identifying your buyer and user personas—not to mention partner, employee and competitor personas—you can create targeted and relevant campaigns to deliver the right information, using the right method at the right time.
Looking for a resource to help you get started? Look at usability.gov and their persona templates—it is a good place to start and still marries well with Scrum and Agile methods that might be used in your organization.
We used to be told “quality over quantity”…yet it seems we have forgotten that when we are trying to promote and communicate our offerings. So give it a try – take a minute and define your audience, customize your communications approach and don’t worry about being first—worry about getting the message right.
Call it a need to do more than make profit in the world, but at 30 (okay, okay almost 30 and a half) I am waiting for that pendulum to even out between the need for instantaneous communication and the need for relevant and valued communication.
Jonathan Malone-McGrew spent his formative years being exposed to Xplor and the Enterprise Output Management & Customer Communications Management (CCM) industries (read high-volume transactional printing). Today, Jonathan is Marketing Communications Manager at Crawford Technologies and responsible for Worldwide marketing. His experience spans data management, branding, print (hardware, software & design), graphic design and marketing communications with specialization in Business to Business (B2B). Jonathan completed his MS in Marketing from the University of Colorado at Denver in December 2013 and was awarded his EDP certification at the Xplor Conference 2013.