Top 10 mistakes printers make when marketing themselves

Making it right usually starts with looking at what’s wrong

Your branding and marketing are the lifeblood of your business, and they are worth your time and energy to learn to do right. If this is new territory for you, sometimes the best way to make sure you’re on the right path means simply learning to recognize the wrong ones. Check out these top-ten mistakes printers make with their branding and marketing.

1 Not selling your differentiator

If the message of your brand is “We’re the best print company ever!”, you’re not going to sound much different than your competition. I mean, have you ever seen a company advertise, “We’re not the best, but we try really hard!”?

This is why it’s so important to focus on what makes you unique. Voice your differences and learn to think outside the box of mediocrity. Build your message around what makes your customers come back to you. Is it your customer service? Your referral program? Aim narrowly and hit hard.

2 Thinking locally instead of globally

Remember, you’re reaching an online audience now. Thinking you’re unique by using CMYK colours in your branding or trying to be kitschy with visible registration marks in your logo doesn’t really work anymore, especially when a prospect can go online and see hundreds of other printing companies that are branded the exact same way. The competition in the printing industry is just as fierce as it is in other sectors, and with all of the competing noise marketing your custom advantage or unique hook is what will set you apart from the rest.

3 Presenting yourself as a printer and not as a solutions provider

If you were to stop ten people on the street and ask them what a printer does, what do you think they’d say? More than likely, they’d answer, “They print stuff.”

That’s all you’d get. They print stuff. Nothing about the mailing services you offer, the design consulting you do, the marketing advice you provide, only one single little job descriptor. Today, you can’t afford to only be a printer, and what’s more, you can’t afford to market yourself that way either. You need to position yourself as what you are:  a solutions provider that’s

  • An industry expert
  • A design service
  • A marketing agency
  • A mailing house
  • A [fill in the blank]

Do your customers know and understand all that from your company name and branding? If not, you might need to consider some branding changes in your near future.

4 Using your building or equipment as your hook

Every week as part of my job as the content manager at Marketing Ideas For Printers, I check the websites of printers who have created custom homepage sliders on their sites. I am continually surprised by the number of printers that use their building or their equipment as the focus of their marketing. Why? Two reasons:

1 Your building and your equipment tell me nothing about how your company is going to solve my problem.

2 Brace yourself. . . no one cares. I know this seems a little harsh, but trust me, your new press’ specifications are Greek to me, and I work in printing.

Focus your website custom sliders (and all of your marketing) on the results it brings to your visitors. If your new press means I will get my order in half the time with twice the quality, make that the focus of your marketing and not the run speed of the press. Successful hooks are those that focus on results and/or customer benefits.

5 Forgoing the power of consistency

Sammy Blindell says, “If your brand looks consistent, people will assume that what you deliver is consistent.” The reality is, you cannot afford to be inconsistent in your branding, to “worry about it later,” or to take an “it’s-not-that-big-of-deal” attitude. Your prospects and customers expect the same brand, the same look and feel, the same messaging tone across all of your online and offline channels every time.

If this is something you’re struggling with, consider creating a brand guideline. Brand guidelines are merely a set of rules that dictate how your brand works, both visually and ideologically. These guidelines usually include information like your brand’s history, vision, personality, and values—in addition to an extensive overview of what each piece of content across platforms should look like.

6 Complicating the simple

The ultimate goal of your branding and marketing is for your customers to relate to and recognize your brand. If you ever do decide to redesign or update your branding for consistency, aim for slight variances and not flamboyant, in-your-face changes. Go back to what made your company successful in the first place and base your message and brand around that.

Remember in 2010 when Gap tried to change their logo? The disaster only lasted a week until Gap decided to go back to the iconic branding their customers knew. Their redesign was so drastically different than what consumers had grown accustomed to that the new logo felt more like an ugly duckling than a push towards modern, trendy design.

7 Jargon only complicates

Another area to focus on simplicity is with your brand’s value proposition; i.e., who you are and what you have to offer to print buyers that will benefit them. When you overcomplicate your message with too much jargon, you end up confusing your buyers. Big words don’t impress in this case. Use simple, understandable language that communicates who your brand is. For example, the brand proposition at Marketing Ideas For Printers is “Helping You Sell More Printing.” It states who we are and the results for the user in only five words.

8 Treating your brand as a one and done.

Like anything in business, your brand is something that has to be continuously re-evaluated for effectiveness. Does it still match who you are and where you’re going as a company? Is it still current with today’s colours and design trends? The best thing you can do for your brand is to do regular brand maintenance by setting up reminders to look at your entire brand, marketing, and messaging with fresh eyes to see if any adjustments need to be made.

9 Forgetting your marketing speaks, always

Your marketing and branding tell the story of your product, your attention to detail, and your competency. Would you buy a car from a guy who duct-taped the fender on the back because “Eh, it was good enough?” Of course not. 

When you’re working on your website or your direct mail marketing campaigns, those low-quality images you went with because you were short on time can tell the story that you skimp on quality to rush an outcome. Just as you expect your fitness instructor to be a long way from 350 lbs., you also expect that a company that specializes in printing will show that with the best design, print, and marketing expertise. The moral of the story: Take the time to make sure every aspect of your marketing represents you well.

10 Not Marketing

Lastly, the absolute biggest and most fatal branding mistake you can make is not doing any marketing at all. If you’re not marketing, it’s a good bet that you’re also:

Not attracting enough customers

Not attracting the right customers

Not retaining customers

Having to always use price as your hook (lower prices = less profit margin = less money added to your bottom line)

If you want to gain some freedom in those areas and turn things around, take the first step: start. Remember, the fundamental idea here is not to achieve marketing perfection; it’s to begin (and then continue) your branding journey.