Likewise does the marketplace become annoyed at the business person with a mutating definition of self. It´s for this reason, and in the name of your customers, potential and existing, that I too ask: "Who are you?
Not a business animal
"Isn´t it obvious? I´m a screen printer: Tshirts, sweat shirts, uniforms, caps, bags, that sort of thing."
Well, it´s a good start at defining who you are. But we must dig a level deeper in order to understand why even answering such an absurd-sounding question is necessary.
Who are you? ... is not only the basis for all human interaction, it´s also the basis for all marketing.
I wear a wedding ring. When calling on a client, I wear a business suit and heels. At Rotary meetings I wear a large name-tag that says "Helen Bowers, Sportswear Unlimited." We are all constantly defining who we are. Most adult acquaintances call me "Helen." My daughter´s friends call me "Mrs. Bowers." My nieces and nephews call me "Aunt Helen." Society is constantly working with the definition of who I am.
These procedures, complex as they appear, are all hard-wired into our brains, because we are social animals. Running businesses, though, defining who we are in that sense, is not hard-wired into us. But if we look at people, trying to understand what they expect and would like, all marketing becomes a natural extension, a logical flow.
First, where is your business located? A mall, shopping strip, industrial park, old warehouse, or in your home? Your geography defines a lot about the customers you will naturally attract as well as those it is logical for you to pursue. A garage-based printer, for example, has little chance of landing a Fortune 500 client, whereas the mega-printer supporting a marble-and-glass showroom with a receptionist is unlikely to be printing T-shirts for the high-school basketball team. Your location is a given (except at the end of a lease period), so begin defining yourself there.
What are your shop´s capabilities? Manual? Automatic? How many colors? Numbering press? Dryer capacity? How technically competent is your staff? How well organized is your shop and how reliable are your suppliers? Although these parameters are changeable in the long run, unless you work successfully with what you have now, there will be no long run.
What do you want to do? The answer "make money" doesn´t count, because the question really is: "How do you want to make that money?" Do you want to service local sports teams? Small businesses? Broadway shows? Do you want to print licensed designs? Be a contract printer? Do preprints? Are you willing to sacrifice margin for volume? For service? If so, how much?
Only when the prospective customer perceives you as the best possible choice for a job does he or she become an actual customer. Only an actual customer whose expectations you meet and exceed becomes a client.
Define your company. What are its strengths and what are its weaknesses? Now look for the market niche your company is best suited to serve. If you are comfortable with the match, it is time to proceed. If not, examine the fine-tuning you will need and determine the chances of success if you decide to change things.
Okay. Now that you´ve figured out what you are and where you fit, next you must figure out how to become noticed within that niche. In marketing terms, how do you promote your company and your products?
Once you have stripped to these essential questions, many promotional ideas become obvious. If, for example, you love sports and don´t want to make yourself crazy with tension meters and continually mastering the newest Photoshop upgrade, then involving yourself in local athletics and local service organizations becomes obvious. If, on the other hand, you are driven by a need to create beauty-and you understand stocastic dots, ink theology and color theory-a preprint line is likely where you should be. Did you spend a decade or two in the corporate environment so that you speak the lingo and are at ease navigating the Fortune SOO maze? Are you geographically situated to call on corporate-purchase decision makers?
You get the idea.
Turn customers into clients
"This above all: to thine own self be true," the Bard advised in Hamlet. While I do not put myself in Mr. Shakespeare´s category, I do echo, "To thine own self be true: it makes marketing a heck of a lot easier."
Marketing is divided into four essential elements that some refer to as the four Ps: Product, Price, Place (distribution) and Promotion. Once you know who you are, these elements are immediately suggested. In future months, I´ll discuss how you can fine-tune each one to suit who you are and where you want to be. For now, remember that in this day of high-speed communications and distribution it is still inadvisable to be a "jack of all trades" ... because you will still be "the master of none." Today, your potential customer has our entire country-full of screen printers from which to choose. If you can´t get a soccer team´s uniforms to them on time-printed exactly as they expect-then things such as trade shows, mailing lists, FAX machines, credit cards and Red-Label UPS put every screen printer in the United States into a 24-hour service window of competition with you for that local dollar that should be yours.
Did the last order of shirts you sent Macy´s exhibit a color shift from the one before? Did one of Wal-Mart´s customers complain that her shirt faded in the wash? Did Nordstrom´s buyer wistfully mumble that, while your designs are gorgeous, he wishes you had more up-to-date shirt colors?
By concentrating on your market niche, you get more practice and become better and better at serving it. Only when the prospective customer perceives you as the best possible choice for a job does he or she become an actual customer. Only an actual customer whose expectations you meet and exceed becomes a client.
And that, my friend, is how you make money.