Let’s be honest: the average British print firm is about as good at marketing as the British banks were at risk assessment in 2007. If any managing director needed a simple reminder of what they’re probably doing wrong – and could so easily do right – they could do worse than read Jacky Hobson’s blog on FESPA ( http://www.fespa.com/news/blogs/jacky-hobson-biography-blog-profile-up-marketing-print-industry-publications/taking-notice-personal-sales-marketing-demonstrate-engage-future-business-opportunities.html ). The central flaw, Hobson suggests, is that printers are still far too likely to spend most of their time talking about themselves – and the technical specifications of their equipment – rather than the client and how they can help them. And, given what they do for a living, there really is no excuse for companies that market themselves with printed products that are anything less than beautiful.
You may be able to spell strategy but do you know what it means? Most business leaders believe they have a strategy but ask them to define it – or to quantify its success – and you are often greeted with the same old blah blah about being the best in class, investing in quality, having the lowest costs, or – worst of all – living deep within our markets.
If you’re keen to clarify your strategy, you could do worse than read Cynthia Montgomery’s The Strategist: Be The Leader Your Business Needs (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strategist-Leader-Your-Business-Needs/dp/0007426674 ). She is the Timken Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and has watched and influenced the debate on corporate strategy that has raged for decades in America. For Montgomery, a true strategic leader is “someone who engages in a conversation about the purpose of that company”. The company’s performance is driven by the quality of that conversation and the way it shapes business decisions.
Montgomery has taught many managers at varying stages of their career and from companies of all sizes. Her students are asked to devise strategies that are critiqued by the class. She remembers one particular business leader from Venezuela who attended many of the sessions and always ask: “What are you doing that’s really distinctive?” Montgomery often asked the same question in a slightly different way: “Help me understand why your business really matters.”
Either way, the answer to that question could improve a company’s strategy – especially if, Montgomery suggests, they are answered not by a CEO working on gut instinct, or coming up with the same old “blah, blah, blah” after a nanosecond’s consideration but after a series of in-depth conversations with senior managers in which the ideas are tested against a variety of situations.
This might all sound too much hassle but it could transform your business. A very experienced non-executive director said whenever he was invited to join the board of a new company, he would visit their head office. What swayed his decision wasn’t the presentations, the profit and loss or the boss’s charisma, it was how the senior executives answered the same question: “What is your strategy?” The more inconsistent the answers, the less likely he was to rate the business.
There’s a lot of noise surrounding integrated print these days. While still in its infancy, it shows signs of rapid growth. And there are those already making a very decent living out of it; David Hyams is one of them. Having run his own graphic design business for 20 years before getting involved in digital print, he then co-founded Talking Print in 2011, a company that provides audio and video implanted print services. To describe him as ‘enthusiastic’ about the potential for such products is something of an understatement…
Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, presents ways in which you can better evaluate potential employees.
I am not sure if it is becoming more frequent, or just the fact that I am noticing it more often, but the phrase ‘Our people are what make us great’ or something similar seems to be ubiquitous. Even in the more individual of sports, such as F1 racing, the driver seems to mention the team more than ever. The fact remains that your people will have a significant impact on your overall performance. So how do you find the right support team?
In 1995, Columbia University professor Sheena Lyengar, one of the world’s leading experts on the art of choosing, conducted a famous study. She presented consumers with two supermarket tables: one with 24 types of jam and the other with just six. Her experiment showed that 60% of customers stopped by the table with 24 choices but only 3% made a purchase. Only 40% of shoppers stopped when presented with the smaller selection of jam but 30% of them made bought something. In an age when we’re constantly trying to give our customers an increasing array of options, sometimes less is more. As US company Cornerstone Print and Marketing has suggested in its blog (http://www.cornerstoneprintmarketing.com/about/news.html/article/2013/04/01/aim-to-own-a-single-idea-in-your-customer-s-mind), sometimes the most successful companies effectively own a phrase in their customers’ minds. When you think search engine, you almost subliminally think Google. The pertinent question this blog asks is: “What word or idea do you want to own in your customers’ minds?”
Wide-format print continues to attract entrepreneurs who want to launch their own businesses. Many of these new companies succeed. Many fail – and not always for the obvious reasons (eg cashflow, a tough market). Hilary Briggs, a profitable growth expert who has worked with many SMEs, has identified seven mistakes many entrepreneurs make (http://hilarybriggs.co.uk/resources/7-mistakes-people-kill-business/ ): doing too much themselves, not knowing what they don’t know, growing too fast before their model is proven to be successful, not having anyone to bounce ideas off or get disinterested feedback from, hiring the wrong people, lacking self-awareness and sticking in their comfort zone because they’re afraid to look ignorant, stupid or weak.
Anyone who has founded or run a business in this industry will, if they analyse that list honestly, admit they have committed at least one of those blunders. Briggs suggests it is especially common for founders of businesses to ignore the fact that not every employee is as passionate about the business as they are.
Nearly two years ago, Fespa’s Richard Kensett offered printers five useful tips for marketing themselves online ( http://www.fespa.com/news/blogs/guest-blogger/top-5-tips-to-cracking-content-marketing-for-your-print-business.html ). If anything, his thoughts are even more relevant today. In essence, he said print firms needed to be more creative online, ensure their brand was consistently expressed across all channels and offer personalised, useful content that is easy to share.
Sounds easy enough? So why aren’t more printers doing it? Too many think having a functional website and a Facebook page is enough. Yet how many likes has that Facebook page got? What’s the biggest discussion you’ve ever had on it? And how many of the people who ‘like’ you on Facebook actually interact with your company in any other way?
Content marketing sounds expensive, laborious and time-consuming. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. The ‘right’ content that gets you noticed can be something as straightforward as a photograph, some compelling words or even the right question? But if content marketing is to be done well, it has to be done often.
If you feel you’ve missed the boat, don’t worry; one of the great virtues of content marketing – especially when it comes to using social media – is that it is incredibly easy to catch up. Jeffery Hazlett, the author of ‘The Mirror Test’, says: “You don’t need some high-priced consultant to get started. Just remember the 4E’s: Engage, Educate, Excite, Evangelise.”
It’s a simple question but the answer is usually far from straightforward. Ron Ashkenas, a managing partner at Schaffer Consulting, estimates there are 83,000 books on Amazon about change management. That represents, in his view, 83,000 pieces of evidence that companies are failing to manage change – even though this issue has been discussed since the 1970s.
In his blog on Harvard Business Review (http://blogs.hbr.org/ashkenas/2013/04/change-management-needs-to-cha.html) Ashkenas suggests that companies fail because they often outsource management of change to ‘experts’ rather than encouraging managers to take the responsibility.
His advice to any company wondering why it is struggling to manage change is to ask three simple questions:
1. Do you have a common framework, language and set of tools for managing change? Obviously, if you don’t, you’re more than likely to be one of the 60-70% of firms that feel their change management effort has failed.
2. Is change management embedded into your project plans or run separately or in parallel? Again, embedded is better but it’s astonishing how many companies haven’t learned this.
3. Are managers or ‘experts’ accountable for change management? If the answer is experts, you’re in trouble. As Ashkenas concludes: “Making change management happen needs to be a core competence of managers, not something they can pass off to others.”
Large-format digital print company PressOn in Rochester was formed (as Press On Digital) in 2000 by Andy Wilson and Nigel Webster and has since specialised in indoor and outdoor advertising. But the directors recognise that to remain competitive, the company needs to keep developing new opportunities. Already this year, it has set-up an online job calculator, launched a Schools Arts Award and has actively started to recruit across various parts of the business. So how is all this activity expected to impact upon the business?
Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, walks you through the basics of a restructuring plan.
Much has been written and spoken about with regards to the industry and how it has changed. The need for change in a business is often a result of the many different pressures facing it in a more globalised and competitive market, but what should be considered and what is available to companies to support transition?