Where's The Beef?

Remember the old Wendy’s commercial that asked “where’s the beef.”  In a sense, our industry should be asking itself the same question when it comes to differentiation.  If you think about it, as a whole, our industry looks very similar to the majority of print buyers.  Companies buy from very similar equipment manufacturers; purchase similar material from comparable distributors; compensate personnel within a similar bandwidth; and have plants that look pretty much a like.  Thus, where’s the beef?  How do we differentiate ourselves from the herd? 

For a while, everyone was being told the solution was becoming a digital printer.  Although it is the technology that is gaining ground, in many cases it’s not a differentiator.  Over the past year or two, we’ve been hearing the mantra about going green, but it is starting to run its course.  “Being green” is becoming an ubiquitous phrase – and with the downturn in the economy most print buyers don’t really care.  During that same period of time, we have been hearing about wide format inkjet and very large format printing presses – all proven technologies, but serving unique markets.

So, let’s get back to the beef question.  If we all look so much alike, why are there so many printers?  Is there differentiation going on that’s not very obvious?

First, ask yourself this question.  Why do your top five clients buy from your company?  Is it because of price?  Delivery?  Quality?  Probably not.  Those are all givens.  If you couldn’t deliver acceptable quality (another whole discussion in itself), on time and at an acceptable price, they wouldn’t be your customer.  So, when you really start looking at your top five clients, odds are that you are going to find certain chemistry which creates trust in the relationship.  It could be the sales rep or the CSR.  It could be how you anticipate their needs and make sure they get what they truly need rather than what they want.  It simply gets down to your company’s efforts in keeping your customer happy.  It’s about a term that is too often mis-understood and overused — customer service. 

Customer Service is a complex process which includes everyone.  If we are not regularly adapting ourselves to what our customer needs (how the invoice is mailed; how the packages are boxed and shipped), you’re just “another” manufacturer who looks identical to the other 30,000 printers in the U.S.   Every time we modify ourselves and then react to the customer and his needs, we’ve differentiated ourselves in their eyes.

So, it’s not about the equipment we run (although that does play a critical role in our success); it’s about our customer service effort – and that means it’s about our personnel and company attitude. 

So the real question is, how do we duplicate the success we enjoy with our top clients and apply it to the firms who have yet to see the value of doing business with our company?  If you haven’t done so recently, it’s time to start looking at those top clients and analyze what you are doing right — and how you can replicate that with your potential customers.  

So you can start the process, visit our website at www.piamidam.org/latestarts.php and download our Customer Service Checklist.

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