As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know a leading professional in the print and promotional industry. This month, we talked to Tim Connor, president and CEO of The Shamrock Companies, Westlake, Ohio. Here, Connor discusses his company’s intuitive technology platform, the importance of first impressions and some of the challenges that marketers face.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Tim Connor: I started my career in the printing industry 25 years ago, before internships were the norm, when the big print companies recruited young, eager sales reps on college campuses, which is exactly where Wallace Computer Services found me. While today I am as tech-savvy as many of my younger colleagues, I will tell you that the exceptional, albeit old-school, training that I received back in the day is what helped define my path and succession as president and CEO of The Shamrock Companies, a $55 million integrated marketing company. … Our training drilled down to provide a thorough understanding of internal business operations. If you were good, you’d take that information about the related problems and challenges that these businesses were facing and develop customized solutions.
Flash back 15 years ago: As a Shamrock sales rep, when one of my utility customers was struggling to manage prompt billing collection, I introduced an online billing platform (long before Apple Pay and e-bills were commonplace). The program not only increased revenue via expedited payments—it launched one of Shamrock’s leading electronic solutions that today is used by customers in a host of industries and markets.
How do you set goals for yourself?
TC: For me, it all stems from the way I was raised. I’ve played sports since I was a kid, which taught me to have a training routine, to be consistent and follow the plan. That’s the process that I still follow today. Goals—both short- and long-term—help guide you. But they also act as guardrails: I believe that the formula for success is 20 percent strategy and 80 percent execution. As you put your plan in place and then work toward those goals, you have to stop and reassess. Often, you need to redirect—and I’ve found that pushing yourself to go through that process of self-evaluation is important, whether that be business or otherwise.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes the industry will face?
TC: When you look at our industry from the print perspective, technology has changed the way that print marketing is consumed. It ties back to the integrated marketing argument—people will have a stronger connection to printed media when the campaign is layered with other channels. To be effective, print must be used as part of a broader, more inclusive effort.
Today, content is king. And further, content has to be relevant and brand-centered—but it also has to be trackable. As marketers, we must collect and track the data that helps us define our message and our delivery so that we can redeploy and create connections with our audience. That much isn’t rocket science—for years, big companies have been investing in integrated campaigns. We’ve been doing that for a long time. Soon it will be essential for middle- to lower-market companies to follow suit. And if they don’t, they get swallowed up. The challenge for us in this industry is to ensure that we have the systems to deploy these trackable marketing campaigns in order to show the value that we provide. And at the same time, we’ve got to keep our ears open and stay tuned in as we embrace the next big innovation. We know it’s coming. There’s always a better way.
What do you think is the most exciting thing your company is doing right now? Why?
TC: Our intuitive technology platform. We’ve built a cutting-edge marketing program that has a solid, functional foundation that then can be customized to the exact requirements of the customer. It is the antithesis of the out-of-the-box solution. This electronic product offering really goes back to our roots of understanding the challenges that our customers are facing. It allows us to be engaged with the customer at a very organic and strategic level. In some circles we see marketing components getting commoditized. This solution helps us truly build programs based on our clients’ specific needs—it positions us to provide greater value.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
TC: I change my voicemail message every day. I am a big believer in the power of habit. And for as long as I can remember, I have created the habit of recording a new message every morning. I’ve always felt like making a good first impression is important, so that’s where it all started. Depending on how late I’m up the night before, it might require more than one take—but at the same time, it’s authentic, which is why I take the time to change it up.