Invisibility in sales

Last month I wrote about transparency. This month my topic is invisibility. To begin with, I want to stress that the two are definitely not the same. Last month I wrote about a transparent selling strategy (one that a buyer can see right through) and how that can be an excellent approach. Invisibility (not being seen at all) however, is an exceedingly bad strategy for any printing company.invisible

How you get there
How does a printing company become invisible? It starts with a reduction in your marketing efforts, and sadly, that’s a very common occurrence when sales volume declines. The most common response to sales dollars not coming in seems to be marketing dollars not going out. On an intellectual level, I think most printers realize that’s exactly the wrong thing to do, but they do it anyway. Marketing is traditionally the first thing that gets cut when business slows down.

So how do you avoid invisibility?
First and foremost, I think you should be doing lots of the things that cost the least. Call on your customers. Don’t just wait for them to call you. Call on your prospects. And if you don’t have any real prospects, develop some. I’m talking about phone calls, and hopefully about appointments that will result from those phone calls.

I’m talking about asking your customers about their goals and plans for the next six to eight months, and about how you can help them to execute those plans and meet their goals. I’m talking about asking prospects to consider that you might be able to save them some combination of time and aggravation (and maybe even money) if they sit down and talk with you. In addition to that, you may even have some ideas about how they can increase their own sales volume through more effective marketing.

With your customers, these may be defensive conversations – that is, staying in close touch to minimize the likelihood that a competitor will take the customer away from you. With your prospects, these are ‘offensive’ conversations – not in the “offend them” sense, but in an effort to grow your own business by being pro-active and taking them away from their current supplier. And don’t lose sight of the ‘offensive’ potential of these conversations with your customers. If you’ve only been getting a share of their business, this is your opportunity to compete for a larger share.

Achieving high visibility
What else can you do to increase your visibility? Direct mail is an obvious possibility. It would be smart, though, to spend some time with your mailing list to make sure that you’re mailing to companies that have real potential, and to make sure that you’re also mailing to the person in those companies who makes the buying decisions. I can’t prove this, but I’m still fairly certain that most printers are wasting 50% or more of what they spend on direct mail, simply because of the poor or outdated quality of their mailing lists.

Beyond direct mail, what kind of shape is your building signage in? If any of your lights are out, this would be an excellent time to fix them. How about window graphics? Are they in good shape? Can they be seen at a maximum distance? Do you have an awning out front, from which you can hang a banner?
How about your delivery vehicle? How about your personal car, for that matter? On one hand, it would feel pretty ridiculous driving around town with a “David Fellman & Associates” sign on my car. On the other hand, though, if visibility was critical to my business success, I’d do it in a heartbeat! If I were you, I would even extend that to my employees. I’d even be willing to pay them for the opportunity to put my signs on their cars. (How’s that, by the way, for thinking outside the box?)

Bottom line
Visibility is a very good thing for any small business. Obviously, the opposite of that is a very bad thing. And that’s true for a printing company or any other small business. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas on how to increase your own visibility. Now, is there any reason you can’t share some of those ideas with your own prospects and customers? After all, print promotes visibility!