Attention print company CEOs: No question – your success depends on maximizing the time you spend driving operations excellence and revenue generation. The “soft stuff” like communications and promotion? You have people who can handle that. Perhaps. But don’t let anybody take charge of your company’s strategic messaging and positioning, no matter how smart and savvy they may be. Why? Top-line messaging is your company’s unique and compelling story, your fundamental reason for being in business, your differentiated value proposition. It’s the heart of your business strategy and the centerpiece of your business development. And only you have the 360-degree view required to ensure that it’s spot on. The stakes are big. Get it wrong and you’re just another peddler of ink on paper. But get it just right and your company is, by definition, positioned above your major competitors.
Strategic messaging is more than mere words. Presented forcefully and clearly, it engages your prospective customers – and underscores to your current customers why you’re their best choice for print services. Disseminate it through your sales team and the most cost-efficient mix of communications vehicles – including your website, email, direct mail, print and online advertising, search marketing and video – and you’re effectively engaging new prospects that can be nurtured into profitable, loyal and long-term customers.
Winning the storytelling war
“There’s a war going on – a war of ideas,” writes Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED and The Storyteller’s Secret. “Selling products, building companies and grabbing attention are increasingly difficult in this hyper-competitive economy. Your company’s story might very well be the secret weapon that you need to stand out. He cites Ben Horowitz, founding partner of Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, who implores company leaders to be clear on why prospective customers should have an economic and emotional imperative to build lasting business relationships. “Storytelling is the most underrated skill,” Horowitz said. “The company story is the company strategy. If you don’t have a clearly articulated story, you don’t have well thought-out strategy. The story must explain, at a fundamental level, why you exist.” Today and in the future, muscular, well-differentiated strategic messaging and positioning is a key driver of new business. But make sure it’s not solely about you. Inwardly focused messaging, often generic and puffed-up with platitudes about quality, service and value, stopped working long ago.
Today, prospects only connect with vendors who solve their problems and fulfill their essential business needs. Unless you can build your core messaging to enable the customer to “see themselves” in your company, and see how you can deliver unique value and address their pain points, you’re not going to engage them. Brands that invest heavily in strategic communications are proven winners. Martin Sorrell in The Economist magazine’s The World In 2017 noted that if you look at the world’s top ten most valuable brands as a stock portfolio, it would have outperformed the S&P 500 index by nearly 75% over the last decade!
Key elements of strategic messaging and positioning
• Be absolutely clear on your target audiences – not just industries and companies, but the people who actually buy and influence the purchase of your products and/or services.
• Do the difficult up-front homework. Dig deep on their essential wants and needs when it comes to all aspects of procuring print. Build on your knowledge and your customer data by actually getting on the phone and talking to them. Then start putting it all together. Crystalize the following:
What is the most important promise you make to all of your customers?
What one benefit makes you unique and different from your competitors?
What are your top three “brand pillars” and the customer benefits of each?
What’s your “Elevator Pitch?” That is, your shop in a few words or sentences?
Sure, there’s no substitute for an intensely driven and focused sales and customer service team – and true excellence across your prepress, pressroom and postpress operations. But successful print company owners and CEOs willing to personally get involved in creating their business development messaging will invariably see payoffs down the road – in the form of new prospect engagement, qualified sales leads, new revenues and free cash flow growth.