Industry leaders have been warning printers for years that the traditional ways are dying or dead, and the industry as a whole has yet to make the leap into the world of online marketing and sales.
It may be true that the traditional “quote and hope” method of selling is becoming less effective, but this is more due to a change in print buyers rather than the craft itself.
You’re Selling to Amateurs, not Pros.
For decades, the label “Print Buyer” referred to a customer (primarily male, aged 35 – 48) who would examine each proof with a magnifying glass and demanded revision after revision until the colors matched their original photo. They spoke the language of Pantone, overprint and bleeds and worked with you to ensure a perfect and speedy result.
These customers are professional print buyers. They know the mechanics and specifications of print, and can provide a blueprint to the printer to execute.
The new breed of Print Buyer is 25 – 28. Most of their information comes from the Internet, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are eclipsing search engines for research sources. They also know little to nothing about proper print design.
These customers are amateur print buyers. They know visually what they want to purchase, but expect the printer to connect the many dots from Microsoft Publisher to PDF proof. The focus has shifted from graphic design to overall business goals.
Provide Value, Not Information
We’ve all heard of VistaPrint. Since their start in 2005, VistaPrint’s revenue was over US$150 million in the last 12 months alone, and attracts over 19 million sessions per month. They generate an incredible 45,000 order per day, 34 percent of which are new customers.
I regularly have customer experiences with VistaPrint to keep on top of the experience they provide. Yes, it is true that I got 250 “free” business cards sent to my door in under a week for about $10.00. I then received a full inbox of promotional emails every day for the next year. No one called me or visited me, and the emails eventually stopped when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to make another purchase. The emails I received were highly targeted to my purchase, and provided a lot of value had I chosen to make another purchase.
VistaPrint is fast becoming the default option for individual and business print buyer alike. This is not due to a high level of quality (if you doubt me, I’ll be happy to send you one of the free “business cards” I received: they were miscut, and had many registration issues), but rather due to the speed and ease of which I was able to place my order.
For the amateur print buyer VistaPrint is many times the only option they can understand.
VistaPrint does not confront their customers with a long and impenetrable “quote request” form, nor do they force them to upload a file of a specific type and size and have extensive knowledge of paper stocks and coating options.
I simply picked a design, entered my text, proofed my design and went to checkout. The simplicity of the process made my little $10.00 order profitable, as there was no costly process of telephone follow-up, faxing of proofs and going back and forth with file types and color values until a printable file is finally wrested from the amateur customer.
As a customer, VistaPrint placed a value of $10.00 on me, and used the most inexpensive marketing method to reach me (email marketing) to keep as much of the profit from that sale as possible.
They ensure that customers have a simple and easy to use Web to Print interface and order process to give the illusion of print competency to the amateur print buyers.
What Can I Do Today?
Providing your customers with a Web to Print environment to automate design and proofing is a sure-fire way to capture amateur print buyers, but there are simple things you can do today with what you already have to generate more sales:
Evaluate your Quote Process.
Using your web metrics, check how many visitors to your website are exiting or “abandoning” their visit on your quote pages. If there is a high percentage, you can simplify this content to turn more of these visitors into sales. (Note: if you currently do not have a web metrics tool, you can add this to your website for free with Google Analytics.)
Present your quote request method to people you know outside of the printing community. Can these users understand and navigate these forms to provide you with all the specifications you need to print with no input from you, the printer?
If not, simplify your form or make it more user friendly:
- Add definitions of print-specific terms in plain English or provide FAQs to help customers understand the requirements.
Divide your requirements into “pre-quote” and “post quote.” Items such as size, quantity, file type, shipping address, binding, colors etc. would be pre-quote, as they are easily understood by everyone. Your mission at this point is to keep the visitor on your form and turn them into a lead.
Make “pre-quote” form items simple yes or no” high level categories instead of forcing the customer to choose technical sub-categories they may not understand. Visitors should be able to outline their project and hit submit in under 30 seconds ideally.
Now that your customer is pre-qualified with your high level categories, you can mine for the technical sub-categories during an email or telephone follow-up and close the sale.
This customer who would have “given up” previously is now comfortable with you, and more importantly are comfortable themselves as a print buyer. They have committed themselves to your simple process, and are far more likely to buy.
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PrintlinQs offers web to print software for online printing storefronts, PDF Drivers, variable data printing, search engine optimization, and lead generation for the printers who provide printer services in the print B2B and B2C marketplace who want to have a powerful printers presence online or who want to quickly build websites for printers.