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You need marketing automation even if you sell via a salesforce

You need marketing automation even if you sell via a salesforce

A funny thing happened the other day; I bumped into a printer I know at my local pizza place. He was dressed casually and – never expecting to run into him near my home – I didn’t recognize him. He noticed my bewildered gaze and kindly reintroduced himself - which I appreciated. Then we exchanged pleasantries - asking how each other’s business was faring.

The printing business has been rough for many years as more and more work goes digital. He joked about it and I acknowledged it, remarking that we do very little printing anymore. And when we do that it’s mostly low quantity and all digital today. To which he replied… “you know we have a digital press?” I said “nope, didn’t know that.” Then I mentioned we’re also doing a lot of packaging and jokingly asked if he did that too. He replied “yes.” And I jokingly quipped “you should tell folks about this,” as I waved goodbye and carried my pizza out.

But after I left, as I drove home, I started to think about the interaction. And it inspired this blog post. Because truthfully, I didn’t know this printer did digital printing nor that they also did package printing. Why? Because they never bothered to tell me.

Which led me to wonder why they hadn’t. Sure, we don’t handle a lot of printing, and in the past when I’ve quoted jobs with them they’ve been smaller sized. So I’m probably not high on their hit list of local agencies to contact. In fact, for a long while printers have seemingly focused more on selling printing directly to businesses. So a small agency that does little printing is probably easily overlooked.

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Today’s printers should be marketing alongside their sales reps

But then I thought about it more and more, and realized my size or infrequent printing shouldn’t mean I’m overlooked. I have printed with them in the past and done so at multiple companies over the years. So I do buy printing. So why am I being neglected?

Then I accepted the probable reason is that most printers sell via sales teams. And since these sales people work on base + commission, they’re motivated to put their time and effort into larger clients. They need to make their numbers to keep their jobs and to keep making money - so anything inconsequential is left out of their day-to-day mix. Sure, they’ll be happy to quote projects if they come up - but they don’t have time to keep in touch with me; to keep me up-to-date on what’s happening at their company. I’m just not worth it - and I understand this and I’m not offended.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Any business that relies on a sales force to generate income is leaving lots of potential business out on the street if they don’t have a comprehensive marketing automation system working for them. Essentially, even though I’m not a hot prospect or regular customer there’s no reason I should be overlooked. Automated marketing tools can keep me in the loop and reach out to me when there’s new developments at their printing plant.

Nobody’s ever asked me to join their email list

So I visited their website… and sure enough, there was no “join our email list” call-to-action. And for them, no social media channels to follow. And there’s no blog either. In fact, their site isn’t very dynamic at all. That’s probably why I haven’t returned to it in years - there’s no reason to. There’s nothing drawing me back.

It’s unfortunate really. Because technology today makes all this so easy to accomplish. I collect everyone’s email that I can. If you call me, I ask for your email, and then add you to our email list. Fill out any form on our site and you’re on our email list. If I meet you at an event you’re added to our email list. Sure, it’s in the gray area of list building, but since we’ve interacted I feel comfortable adding you to our list. We don’t email too frequently, and when we do we try to share useful knowledge and expertise.

We generate content regularly and email once a month, or sometimes twice. So it’s not swamping anyone’s inbox. And unsubscribing only requires clicking a link. Over the years, very few people have unsubscribed and only a very small negligible amount have reported us as spam.

Your sales force should be email collecting fiends.

Just like me, your sales team should be collecting and inputting emails into your marketing automation (and CRM) system. That way, even the small fish will be kept up-to-date about what’s new in your business. And you can cross-sell and educate about other aspects of your business to prospects and clients too.

Moreover, you can use the data gathered through these inbound marketing activities to build a richer profile on large and small clients. If they click on an email story featuring a service they haven’t bought from you - they can be added automatically to a drip campaign about that service.

If we return to my original anecdote; if I’d been on an email list for this printer I probably would have known they did digital printing now and that they offer package printing too. Two services I recently requested quotes on for multiple projects. But because I fell through the cracks, they lost the opportunity to even quote these jobs.

A sales force should not mean you abandon other marketing options

Which brings me to my overall point I suppose. This printer, like most all other printers, sells via a sales team. But this doesn’t mean they should abandon other marketing tools. Specifically, marketing automation could help to systematize communications with the little guys – keeping them informed about your business and nurturing them, without distracting your sales team until they do have a new print job.

Moreover, this is true for any company that relies on dedicated sales staff. Your sales team can only focus on a limited number of prospects and clients. And instinctively your sales team will gravitate to the larger customers that generate the most income for them. The end result, smaller, less frequent customers will be neglected or fade away all together. Until perhaps, there’s an awkward chance meeting at a pizza shop.

Mar 19, 2015
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