Are your clients acting like election candidates?

About a week ago, a politician came to our door campaigning for a Montana house seat.  He was giving a talk at the local church across the street so he was making his rounds.  He seemed like a decent guy.  He stood for a lot of the things I did, alternative energy, school reform, better use of the coal tax money to small business, etc.  But he also brought up Social Security and Medicare.  He should have left that at the church across the street.  He paid no attention to the fact I was twenty years younger than his church audience.  Same pitch, regardless who he was talking to.

This guy was a Democrat.  Traditionally Democrats appeal to younger voters.  I asked for his card so I could check out his website and email him my blog link.  He had no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter address.  He didn’t even have his email printed on his card.  I immediately gave him back the yard sign he gave me.  How could I support someone who didn’t even have his email address printed on his card?

Yesterday I read an article in Fast Company about the lack of social media use in this year’s election.  Even though Facebook boasts more than 130 million active users in the U.S. and Twitter sitting at about half that, many campaigns are spending less than 5% of their budgets online.  Now it’s safe to say that good portion of these users are younger, ages 18 to 40.  Not only does this group use social media and online sources for their information … it’s far and away their primary source.

Are these candidates, in both parties, oblivious to this fact or do they just not care about what these people think?  How do they expect any support from them.  Heck, Obama rode the younger generation and text messages to the White House.  Didn’t this crew learn anything.  Generations X and Y will come out and vote for candidates that talk to them – in the language they speak.  If they don’t … they’ll stay home and wait for someone who does.

As printers and us in the industry, are we helping our clients act like politicians?  Are their customers staying at home and waiting for someone to speak  to them in their own language.

Language is just a metaphor.  I mean saying something that’s relevant to the person you’re talking to and saying it in a medium that’s going to get their attention.  A twenty year guy is not a good market for diapers and you’re sure not going to get his attention with a newspaper circular … for any product.

I can’t count the number of articles I’ve read prophesying the “future of print.”  If our clients continue to bombard their customers with ineffective generic marketing pushing the same products the same way to everyone … they’ll disenfranchise them the same way politicians do the younger generations.  How will this bode for print?  Well, you can only guess.

We have to take the lead here.  We can’t sit back and wait for our clients to tell us what they want … they don’t know!  It’s hard enough for us to keep up.  How do you expect some small business owner buried in his survival routine to know how he can effectively target his market.

Now I’m not saying mothball your presses.  On the contrary, not only is print here to stay – it can be extremely effective.  I’ve even seen recent studies on how print produces better response than email when marketing to younger people.   But you have to do it the right way.  Circulars may be fine if your target market grew up with them.  But for the pre AARP generations that grew up in the last two decades, “times have a changed.”  They’ve learned how to navigate the multitudes of information thrown at them by paying attention only to what matters to them, and only matters to them now.

The future of the industry is in – printing less … yes – printing less.  But it’s also in charging more by targeting and getting better results for our clients.  Shouldn’t that be our goal?  Anybody can crank up a press and hit print.  But can you drive customers to your client’s door and money in their pocket?  It’s not about the equipment we have or latest gimmicks we sell.  It’s about our client’s customers and what we can do to help better their experience with our client.

When you’re waiting at the polls, ask yourself if you’re acting like a campaign manager for your clients,  having them say the same thing to everyone … no matter who they are.

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~ by Clay Forsberg on October 29, 2010.

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