But Our Customer Relationships Must!
By Dick Rossman
In one of Dr. Ronnie Davis’ PIA Economic and Print Market and Flash Reports, he pointed out two interesting marketing metrics. First, our largest single customer accounts for nearly 19% of our total business and our largest 5 customers provide nearly 40% of our business. And second, over 60% of printers in the US have a market focus of less than 100 miles. So we continue to be an industry that does business fairly locally and where we rely on large accounts which are close to our manufacturing facilities. But while our customers may still prefer to be near their print suppliers, how they want to manage their print communications and what we need to know about them is definitely not as it once was.
We all know the importance of having great customer service. But today great customer service also means providing an easy way to store, design, change, order and pay for print communications material with an online web-to-print capability that is easy for our customers to use. I recently spoke with a VP of Sales and Marketing at a large NE printing company. He said that they want their customers to call or email them about everything. Ordering online was anathema to them as it eliminated the contact with their customers that they so religiously sought out. But customers today, whether local or not, want to simplify their lives, reduce unnecessary communication, speed up the production process, and see results quicker. Providing an online print products management solution for your best customers is part of the new definition of great customer service.
Second, in the past it was enough for us to understand the nature of the jobs that our largest customers wanted us to print: sizes, number of pages, stock, frequency, delivery requirements, etc. Today we need to know not only what they want to print but why. We should be learning first about the industries that our customers are in and second about how our customers do business in that industry. How do they generate revenue, who is their competition, who are their customers and how do they find more of them, what is the nature and purpose of their marketing communications, etc.? By becoming an expert in their businesses, we are then in a position to be not just an order-taking sales person but an advisor in providing the print and marketing solutions that we offer.
While the metrics about our customers may not have changed, how we service them and what we need to know about them certainly has. The companies who are growing today are those that recognize this and have developed the technology and the sales mindset to make these adaptations. Their 5 largest customers have recognized this also and are providing them even more business than ever.