How to Develop a Winning Strategy in Today’s Print Market

Relationships are key and SMB owners expect their suppliers to have longevity, expertise and to be able to grow alongside them. Julian Patel
SMB owners expect their suppliers to have longevity, expertise and to be able to grow alongside them. – Julian Patel
Our industry is in the midst of a large shift as OEMs respond to evolving print technology. Some are leaving the hardware market altogether and others are undergoing acquisitions or splitting.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, as I mentioned in my last blog: the evolution of the print supplies business, with change comes opportunity. But the trick to growth during turbulence is to align your business strategy with current trends and offer value whilst also taking into consideration how your customers make purchasing decisions.

Be a trusted print advisor

Ten years ago, when I worked on the other side of the fence and headed up a successful reseller organization, we focused on traditional print strategy: find the best products with the best price that fitted the customer’s need. Today’s shifting print market requires a bit more thought.

Small and Medium Business (SMB) owners are busy growing their businesses, maintaining cash flow, and often wear many hats – they look to reliable suppliers who will not let them down when they need them. This makes longevity a key marker during the selection process. Use this to your advantage by creating a sound business strategy that will ensure you last the distance, whilst continuing to drive growth in the printer and supplies market.

8-steps to developing a winning print strategy

Go through the eight sections below to make sure your five-year business strategy has the critical elements SMB owners are looking for.

1) Go-to-market strategy

Start by asking yourself, how do customers find you?, Do they come to you or do you have to find them? Then, after the initial connection, how do you move them to buy? For example, are you networking online, at tradeshows and events, or is word-of-mouth or repeat business your main source?

2) Areas of excellence

Why do your customers like doing business with you? What is your expertise? How are you different to your competitors? Define your strengths with terminology that relates to customer needs. For example, ‘we provide excellent service fast’ or ‘we’re experts in your field’ and ensure your strategy reflects these differentiators

3) Current customers

Buyer personification is the practice of analyzing current customers and distilling their common traits into a single profile. You can then use this information to find new, ‘look alike’ customers.

When reviewing your current customers consider the following questions. Are they in a particular vertical industry? What are their job roles within an organization? What does their workday entail? What business pains do you solve? What does their buying cycle entail?

4) Target customers

Sometimes your current customers are your ideal customers, but not always. For example, do you find your sales team spending hours resolving issues rather than selling?  If so, who is your dream customer and why? Identify what makes a perfect customer and map your areas of expertise to their needs.

5) Marketing and communication plan

As Carlo Longhi explained in his blog, five steps to your best ever business plan, knowing your customer and your market is key. “Do some research,” and find the “sweet spots,” he says. Then, use that market intelligence to plan promotions and offers that keep your current and target customers engaged.

6) Vendor partner

A print partnership is important but choosing the right partner is critical. You need one that matches your requirements, can fund the right rebates and rewards programmes, and is prepared to invest resources and time in your organization.

Check your vendors of choice offers Managed Print Services (MPS) leadership, market-leading services, products that offer high margins and cover multiple brands, a transactional route with bid support and expert support staff.

They also need to be prepared for fundamental industry shifts and key policy changes, for example, Brexit or currency fluctuations. During times of flux, you need to know they will support you rather than hike prices up at the first opportunity.

7) Board sponsorship

You cannot execute a plan without board approval. Especially important when the plan calls for additional investment in resources such as sales staff and advertising, or other marketing tactics. Engage at the beginning of the process for a better chance of approval.

8) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics

Knowing what works and what doesn’t allows for quick course correction. Your plan should have measurable goals, a way to track analytics and review points to check progress and make improvements.

Relationships are key and SMB owners expect their suppliers to have longevity, expertise and to be able to grow alongside them. Your choice of the right vendor partners coupled with a long-term, actionable print business strategy will maximize your sales and marketing investments and position you for success.

We’d like to hear your strategy development success stories! Leave comments below to keep the conversation going.

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