In-Plants: Educate your Customers

By Lois Ritarossi / Published:

Do your customers know everything you can do for them?

This is a question I ask at the beginning of consulting engagements. The answer is usually some variation of, “No, most customers don’t really understand everything we can do.”  As February is in-plant awareness month, I interviewed several managers of in-plant print and mail facilities to inquire about what they are doing differently this year.

Commercial printers and in-plant managers alike are challenged to educate their customers about all of their capabilities and share new ideas for print and mail applications as organizational needs for communications continue to evolve. During February, many in-plants host open house events to showcase their capabilities and demonstrate the services they can provide.

Why host a customer event? Does it take time, effort and cost to do it right? Well, yes. But with my in-plant clients, I usually find there are internal customers who don’t comprehend all the capabilities that their in-house print operation can provide. This is often because the customers are busy, new to their role, or don’t have the time to ask. However, it is most likely because no one is effectively marketing print services to them. There continues to be a big gap in what in-plant providers can do and what the customers know they can do.

An effective open house or customer event will enable you to showcase your capabilities and connect the dots for new customer projects. It will also provide time to ask questions and gain direction to strengthen relationships that lead to new print applications. Well run customer events plant the seeds for growth by sharing and generating new ideas. In-person interactions at open house events are priceless in building rapport and long-term relationships with customers. Often a physical print sample is needed to  solidify an idea into a project.

Inkjet Driving New Applications

In recent interviews, several in-plant managers indicated that they had recently added or are in the process of adding new inkjet wide format capabilities to produce posters, banners, and signage. Wide format printing is one of the largest growth segments in print. The need for signs, banners, posters and other ways to display branded images or messages in any space, is driving growth in wide format printing. Educating customers is critical with wide format printing.

The cost of finishing and shipping can far exceed the cost of print. It will take education and training to demonstrate your capabilities and steer your customers to the appropriate formats, substrates and specialty papers to produce desirable wide format print. The win-win goal must be meeting your customers’ requirements, while also be produced on-time, and profitably.  Unlike traditional and digital printing, many customers have little knowledge of the differences between wide format printing types (e.g., roll fed and flat-bed devices). They have less knowledge of the time and cost differences for cutting and mounting signs and banners. Beyond a tour of your shop, you will have to create samples of various substrates and sizes to demonstrate your capabilities and explain what type of input files you need to create great output. A customer event it the perfect venue to illustrate your expanded inkjet capabilities.

Customers need your subject matter expertise to steer them to the benefits of different substrates like polyesters and adhesives for ease of display and mounting that will produce results for their events and communication programs.

Some in-plants are located in facilities far from their internal customers’ offices and chose to host pop-up customer events at the customers’ office rather than at the print facility. This is often the case for school districts, universities and state government in-plant facilities. They go to the customers location to host events and bring promotional products as well as engaging print samples to identify new buyers and needs for print services. Some in-plants are providing sourcing for promotional products to complement their print services. Adding promotional product sourcing services makes it easier for customers to have one point of contact for all materials needed for an event.

Education drives ideas and new applications. In-plants that are growing take the time to educate their customers about all their capabilities by hosting events and taking on marketing to educate and demonstrate the benefits of print to solve business and communication needs. Take the time to plan a successful open house event to engage your customers.

Share
About the Author

Lois Ritarossi

Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, an independent management consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors.

Leave a Comment