This blog originally published in Printing Impressions
More and more printing companies have added, or are adding adjacent services to offer to their clients, which complement their core offset and digital capabilities. This opens the door to many new and important opportunities that help their clients communicate more effectively, and help them to drive their business using print related services. At first it was mailing, kit packing and fulfillment. Then it grew into data services. Some added design services as well. Over the last several years wide format and signage capabilities have been added to many an offering. Some were a greenfield deployment; buying equipment and adding staff to produce the work. Others added these services through an acquisition; buying a company, the people, and the customers already in that place.
Almost ready to go
Most of these firms had been successful in the past and have always managed to bring in new equipment and technology and make it profitable. So why should these times be any different? Today I see companies that have all the right equipment and the right people to operate it, but continue to struggle in reaching their potential with the new offering. When I get the opportunity to examine more closely, here’s what I find. For example, they have added mailing and data services and the reps went and told their customers, “we have mailing now, do you want to buy some?” And they did the same for fulfillment, design and now are doing it with wide format. It reminds me of when QR codes first appeared. That was the same story, “we have QR codes now, want to add one to your brochure?” That didn’t work out so well.
Solve a problem and add value
There are a few things to consider in order to make these added services become a success for both you and your clients. First, stop treating it like a product that you’re pulling off a shelf. These, along with your core deliverables, are designed to solve a problem that your client has. What was the problem that you uncovered, what was your solution, and how were you going to execute it? What questions did you ask before quickly submitting your price? Sometimes a simple “what are you going to use this for” can lead into an extended conversation that gives you the opportunity to differentiate yourself. And at the end, did you spell out the value your bringing to the table in a way that the customer was convinced that you’re uniquely qualified to do the job? This isn’t just a sales issue. This is a company culture and attitude issue. I’ve repeated for years that you can still make money by spinning cylinders and generating clicks, but how you get that business and how you keep them coming back has changed. Your clients have changed, the markets have changed, have you?
This is not new
I wish that I had made all of this up but I didn’t. We’ve been hearing this story for a long time. Several years ago my friend Andy Paparozzi, now the Chief Economist with SGIA, wrote about the fallacy of adding new services and simply “bolting them on” vs. taking the time and resources to fully integrate them into your business. Bill Farquharson of Aspire Four has taught for years, “solve the problem, earn the order.” In many other industries, that’s the only way they sell.
Business leaders should to take the initiative to fully understand the new services they want to offer, what problems it can solve, and how it can make their business even more successful by integrating the services into their core offering. Think of the concept of making 1 + 1 = 3. Taking it a step further, conduct a critical analysis of your top customers and identify the problems that you can solve, then engage with them and flush out your thoughts. Once you’ve done that, and it still makes sense, then go out and buy the equipment or that company. I’m reminded of the company that after adding wide format capabilities to their offset and digital arsenal, they were able to secure the business for a national restaurant chain. The buyers were concerned about their brand and wanted to make the hamburger on the menu look like the one on the banner, table tent and direct mail. Now, I may be oversimplifying this example but you get the message. This supplier was able to solve the brand integrity concern of that client by expanding their services. If you’re not solving a problem, then you’re simply giving them a price.
What to do, next steps
You have many current examples of this strategy already working for you in your business. The challenge is how to get more of them. Change the conversation, change the game, reach out to the additional client stakeholders, and find out what matters to them. Not a new concept, but find out what’s keeping them up at night? The difference between the leaders and everyone else is that the leaders do the internal things that others say is too hard or takes too long to change. Remove the internal impediments to getting things done in your company (think: the wrong people, the wrong process, or a lack of compliance) and arm your client-facing team with the business acumen and tools that will best prepare them to initiate these new discussions and ultimately load up your equipment. Good luck, let me know how you’re doing, and have fun.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.