Understanding Your Clients Better Than Your Competitors
Great business leaders can’t crush competition by treading water. In his keynote address at Printing Hub 2012, Andy Paparozzi, chief economist for NAPL, confidently predicted a sustained upturn ahead for the printing industry. But Paparozzi qualified this news with one big catch—not every printer will make it to the upturn.
No, to “participate fully in economic recovery ahead,” Paparozzi insisted that printers “either prepare for recovery or…get left behind. Put simply, a rising tide no longer lifts all boats.”
Consider a closer relationship with clients your lifeboat—if you didn’t work as partners from the start, begin now. Get on board or be forever lost at sea.
First, accept that selling commodities isn’t selling enough, as Paparozzi taught conference attendees. Aim instead to “migrate from a commodity provider to a solutions provider.” And to do that, Paparozzi argues that “we have to understand, solve and document.”
Understanding may be the most important feature of Paparozzi’s unique, three-part method for sailing past the competition. Essentially, you have to become one of your clients, or at least a trusted partner. Learn their industry so you understand the competition, market and prospects that occupy them.
For example, Paparozzi suggests reading clients’ industry trade publications. In doing so you’ll pay as much attention to their market as clients do, which will impress them and encourage their trust. More practically, reading clients’ industry publications will give you a starting point as you approach a marketing project for them.
Reading the trade publications of your target industry will also teach you to speak clients’ language. Converse with them accordingly to establish yourself as an expert in their field.
In addition to understanding your clients, the strongest printers operate out of keen self-awareness. For example, Paparozzi points out that the strongest businesses know that although “print is absolutely essential to what [they] do, it’s not about print. It’s about making [the] client more successful.”
Printers’ self-awareness also plays out in how they identify themselves, and thus how clients perceive them. As Paparozzi said, “You can be a printer or you can be a marketing or communications company that happens to print.” If you want to solve problems for clients, work as the latter.
According to Paparozzi, printers who understand their clients better than their competitors “help their clients communicate more effectively with their clients.” You can do the same by closely monitoring the results of your campaigns. Per Paparozzi: provide campaigns, and not commodities, that your clients need. In addition to tracking every campaign, note how you can make future ones even more successful.
In paying close attention to each of your client’s campaigns after its launch, you’re helping them communicate with their customers. Monitoring also pays off by delivering content for your site and marketing materials. Highlight your successes.
Every element of Paparozzi’s proposed approach to marketing—to understand, solve and document—can be summed up in the first bit, understanding. If you don’t “get” clients, if you can’t approach them as a partner or offer your services as a consultant, you’re not going anywhere with them.
In working toward a greater understanding of your clients’ needs you’ll position your business as the deliverer from their problems. As Paparozzi said, “We’re going to solve their problems and then document our contributions to their success.” Note the “we.” You’re not getting out of this one.
Image via The Telegraph