How to Craft Efficient Marketing Strategies In an Ever-Changing Industry
Calendar-wise, 2019 has slowly started to unfold, but companies have needed to operate at their customary breakneck speeds to stay relevant in their respective fields. In the print and promotional product worlds, leaders and their teams must take a discerning approach to stand out, but what should they rely on and, conversely, avoid to become the go-to source for goods and services? Consumers, after all, need not wait for the year to change to resolve to align themselves with businesses that care about their preferences and projects.
No matter the scope of their offerings, companies must infuse their identity with pride and proficiency and should never see that duo as an easier-said-than-done acquisition. To gain a greater sense of how to go from having a nice niche to enjoying a commendable career, Print+Promo connected with Brett Jackson, CEO of Systemax Corporation, Springfield, Ill.; and Bradley Williams, president and owner of ABF Printing & Marketing, Tempe, Ariz. Here is what they had to say about shedding inhibitions, tuning into trends and more.
Things of the Past
Like watching an athlete who does not fully realize the time to retire has arrived, seeing a business struggle to adapt can prove a pitiful spectacle. In hoping that former glory will carry them to additional renown, the sports figure and the company fall prey to living in the past, a move that Jackson sees as one of the most detrimental moves any business-minded person can make.
“People get very romantic about the success they have had,” he said. “Once they really come to see that the world and choices have been changing all around them, they will realize that the way Grandpop’s catalog, for example, looked so many years ago is likely not going to resonate with contemporary audiences.”
Jackson and his peers avoid complacency by constantly asking—and dissecting the answers to—the inquiry: “How do we get someone’s attention?” From their perspective, and with a vast array of services to provide, the responses must always center on specificity, a requirement that their advertising agency services, in particular, have mastered.
“We construct personas of our optimal clients,” he said of the increasingly popular fictional characters that businesses are using to determine how consumers take in news, show their allegiance to brands and propel the commercial world to new heights of innovation and novelty. “I see them as great tools, not only for what we do, but as something that could have crossover value in print and promotional campaigns that rely on truly knowing what a client wants and is looking to achieve.”
In using what he dubs “appealing technology,” Jackson is making like other figures who have come to see social media as one such attractive form of creating brand awareness—particularly with decision makers. No matter how impressive a business thinks its services are, it needs a push to draw believers, and he and Williams view these communication platforms as a chief source of assistance.
“Our problem over the years was not building our brand and appearance up,” the latter said of how his distributorship has gone from being “an old-school print shop” to a “single source for all things print.” “Thanks to social media, we can post completed products and boost the posts on social media with adspend to deliver right to people with job titles that would indicate they are the person that might be ordering for the company.”
“I’m a huge proponent of Facebook’s ad manager function,” Jackson added. “It goes a long way to reinforce my point about not resting on your laurels because it will help you to have a greater grasp of what’s resonating and where to target resources. In short, I suggest that people not only come to know about the function, but also master it.”
Because of the constant call to better oneself that every industry demands, a company might feel compelled to add ample marketing services so as to try to distinguish itself among the competition. That thinking could certainly enhance a location’s likelihood of thriving, but, much like someone who takes on too many New Year’s resolutions, that same business could suffer setbacks if any area is neglected.
“You need to have clearly defined verticals and niches to catapult yourself and eventually, if you’re fortunate, secure that lofty standing,” Jackson professed. “Marketing doesn’t always come down to which person uses the latest technology the best or who goes to the most conventions. Oftentimes, the best marketing relies on being immensely attentive to your branding.”
The Systemax leader spoke from experience, as his business went through some difficulty when it added apparel options to its product lines. With a little revamping, those goods now number more than 26,000 choices for end-users. The takeaway here? Before expanding their product lines, companies must perform an intense analysis of the proposed category, with a focus on the overall benefits to the business and its clients.
“We say it on our website that you can’t be all things to all people,” Jackson noted of the constant pursuit of accounts that can doom some organizations. “There’s strength in knowing exactly what you can do and confidence that comes from thinking about what you could achieve with a managed approach because, and I think I can speak for my contemporaries, too, we don’t have time for chaos.”
Out West, Williams and his crew have taken many steps to ward off any such disarray. Stretching back to the 1970s, his business had operated as Arizona Business Forms Inc., with the chief making the change four years ago to give his family-owned and -operated company an even stronger presence, especially name-wise, in the printing world. As has become quite common among formerly print-centric companies, ABF then earnestly chose to add promotional products to its offerings, thus ending the few-orders-here-and-there identity that had been its role in the promo world. The move allowed the Arizona firm to stop “leaving money on the table” and has resounded as a solid stream of revenue for Williams, leading him to believe in the power of brand consideration as a colossal factor in offering one’s marketing services.
“As a business owner or sales employee, [you must] work on your personal brand in the industry,” he stated. “I brand myself as someone that is creative in the print industry, and I post quite a few of the unique products on my [Instagram] stories and page. This has actually led to quite a few people I grew up with either becoming clients or sending me clients because they see the creative things we produce. I am far from where I want to be with this, so I follow quite a few popular entrepreneurs that strongly urge you to build your personal brand.”
As 2019 takes off, Jackson and Williams hold that companies must engage in various measures to enjoy a profitable year, with each suggestion containing a nod to branding. Conventions and trade shows play a reputable role in building awareness, particularly at this point in the calendar, but they need not be the only resources upon which people base their whole year.
“Events can be very enticing ways to talk about how you market yourself if you want to rely on them for a bump,” Jackson surmised. “However, I give much more credence to what happens every other day because that’s where you’re tasked with being a thought leader in your space. For me, emphasizing branding is what will get you there. It’s obviously necessary and enriching to concentrate on sales, but branding must come first.”
Thanks to his company’s use of brochures, direct mail, graphic design, marketing automation, social media and digital assets, Jackson and the Systemax team are able to infuse client projects with ample displays of pride in their own branding. Going forward, they will continue to expand their mindset that it is possible to be a one-stop shop—without exhausting oneself—if there is enough “brand bravado” pushing one along. In that regard, he and Williams find themselves completely in sync as they look to have their respective businesses make this year and every year that follows standout occasions.
“Work at building your reputation,” the ABF head said. “When a customer thanks you over and over again for having met some insane deadline they threw at you, don’t hesitate to ask them to leave a recommendation online so that future clients can see how well your service is. Reviews and recommendations can be left on Google, Yelp, Facebook and especially LinkedIn, for a personal branding boost.
“If you have an online store, like our Etsy shop, have a postcard included with every order, thanking them and asking for a review,” he continued. “We have a higher-than-average review rate on Etsy orders because of how well we serve the customers and [thanks to] this card asking for a review. We have more than 1,300 reviews on Etsy with a five-star average. Our reputation does the selling.”