This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
Clients of print/mail service providers aren't usually customer communication experts. They view their vendors as the last steps in a process. Data goes in, and mail comes out. When it comes to ideas about improving on those communications, it's a classic case of the clients not knowing what they don't know. It's up to the service providers to educate them.
I have long been an advocate for outreach education in our industry. Whether your organization is a print/mail service provider or an in-plant operation, customers will benefit from your knowledge of what is going on in the communications business — but you have to make the effort. Your clients probably don’t know half the story related to the transitions in our industry over the last several years, and a good part of what they do know could be wrong or incomplete.
Passiveness Is Costly
If your organization is not making an effort to reach out and inform your customers, one of your competitors might be filling that void. That could lead to revenue loss before you even know an account is in jeopardy. Why would you risk that?
I suggest putting together a program relevant to your business and of interest to your clients and push for meetings where you can present the material. You will probably have to speak with clients in person or on the phone to pitch the benefits of this meeting. An email or letter asking for an appointment is too easy to ignore.
You may find offering a small gift or other incentive will help get you on the calendars of busy customers, but they should be interested in meeting with you. They have committed some portion of their budgets to paying your organization for the services you perform. Helping them learn how to maximize their investments is in their best interest.
For distant customers where travel is not an option, set up an online session. You might even invite analysts or other outside entities to participate in online meetings. These people provide perspectives clearly separate from your own agenda and lend credibility to your messages. I recommend tailoring each meeting to individual clients. A broadcast webinar will not be as effective.
Your presentation should not be focused on sales, and that should be clear from the beginning. You can include salespeople as part of the presenting group, but they should be accompanied by one of your executives or someone else in your organization that has no financial interest in making a sale.
Information, Image, and Awareness
The idea is to let clients know about new developments in the customer communications business and what your organization has done (or is doing) to address these changes. By bringing this information to your client’s attention, you elevate client perception of your organization. They see you as a knowledgeable entity – someone to rely on for current, accurate information and news.
If you are stuck for ideas about what to include in your presentations, see the sidebar at the end of this article. I’ve listed a few of the items you could cover. Choose topics that make sense for your markets and your clients. Remember your clients are not exposed to this “inside” information every day. What seems like old news to you will be new and thought-provoking for them.
Your clients aren’t reading publications like Mailing Systems Technology, where clear and unbiased industry information is published. They likely watch the evening news and hear about the supposed demise of mail as a viable communications channel, or they believe the US Postal Service is going bankrupt because of questionable deals made with large mailers and shippers. If you are in the mailing business, you don’t want your clients thinking that mail isn’t worth their investment. Set them straight by talking about positive moves the USPS is making to increase efficiency, track mail, and interact with other communication channels.
Assure your clients you are doing everything possible to keep their postage expenses as low as they can be and demonstrate how you are delivering on that promise. Let customers know you have the tools and knowledge to help them get the most benefit from their investments in physical mail.
Outreach Education Works
I have seen an outreach education program produce positive results. While working in an in-plant environment, I got myself invited to departmental meetings to talk about the services we could provide them in the print and mail center. After each of these outings, we invariably started seeing jobs that had previously been outsourced – simply because the employees didn’t know we could do it for them at substantially lower costs! As a bonus, the channels of communication we opened from our efforts encouraged users of our services to ask for advice and guidance as they designed their communications. Giving the departments some guidelines and information improved the work we received from them, making us even more cost-effective and able to deliver superior results.
The same thing can happen for your organization. Though you shouldn’t be selling at these educational sessions, I’d be surprised if they didn’t reveal some unmet needs, expansion opportunities, or entirely new revenue sources. Once your clients start hearing about what mail can do today, not to mention how it enhances other communication channels, they will begin thinking about ways to take advantage of your knowledge, experience, and investments in modern customer communications.
Lots of exciting things are happening in the mailing business, and your clients are probably unaware of most. Use your position as mailing experts to help them get the most benefit from their mailed communications.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants uses his industry experience to help his clients educate their customers and raise awareness of their products and services. He creates custom content like presentations, webinars, blog posts, case studies, eBooks, and more for document industry service providers and vendors. Follow on Twitter or contact Mike directly at .
POSSIBLE OUTREACH EDUCATION TOPICS
Workshare postage discounts
Mail and millennials
Data accuracy and enhancement
USPS developments and issues
Latest figures on direct mail effectiveness