Avoid the Commodity Trap by Choosing the Right Customers

Would you want to be a shopkeeper at the moment?

Most shops these days are suffering from intense price pressures. They are threatened by two very different types of competition. The first of these is the supermarket. They carry a huge range of goods. These are all-in-one convenient places. The pricing is competitive. Next, traditional shopkeepers suffer from Internet retailers. Why bother to go to a shop when you can simply place your order online in your pajamas and for the lowest price?
Just like the print industry, traditional shopkeepers are suffering from the rise of the commodity market.

However, some shopkeepers are doing very well indeedGettyImages_109421401

These shopkeepers are focusing on niche markets. They are building up a group of loyal customers who value their market knowledge. They also value the fact that these shops carry hard-to-find specialist goods. These are often not available elsewhere. Customers are happy to pay a premium price for all these items.
These shops have built their success on avoiding trying to be all things to everyone. They know that they will not succeed in the commodity marketplace. They have chosen to make good profits from a smaller group of people.

There’s a lesson for the print industry here

Just like shops, I am seeing the rise of a number of successful printing companies that focus on specific target markets. They also accept that they cannot be all things to everyone. So they concentrate on a specific target market.
Printing companies that focus on specific target markets will find it easier to build profitable relationships with their clients. They are more likely to control a pipeline of sales. They find it easier to achieve their sales targets.
The trouble is, many sales teams are not given any direction about which prospects to focus on. They are left to go out and chase after whatever type of client they choose. This typically means that they have a very generic sales message. They are competing with the commodity market. And, as a result, the printing company sometimes finds that they have customers that they would really rather not deal with.
At this point, I am often asked a very sensible question.

How do you choose the right target market?

The best way to choose a target market is to look  closely at your top customers. Which ones would you like more of? These are the ones to base profiling your target market on.
If you really want to get some good insight into your customer’s world I would highly recommend interviewing current clients. This gives you an opportunity to find out their business challenges. It also gives you an opportunity to find out why they choose your company rather than competition. With a little bit of research you should be well placed to start bringing similar customers.
Some sales people have a problem with this strategy.

Can you really fill your press with one target market?

int_grow_lavNaturally, this depends on the target market. I have certainly seen some printing companies focus on one market and have more than enough work. However, this doesn’t work for everyone.
The answer is to focus on more than one target market. This strategy also allows you to make the most of the strengths of individuals in your sales team. It means that your company will not be dependent on the fortunes of one market vertical.
Now it’s time to think about how you can roll out the strategy of target markets to your sales team.
Here are three action points for you

  1. Hold your first sales team meeting

The purpose of this meeting should be to outline the target market strategy to your sales team. At this point you can discuss as a group which target markets you would like to focus on. Then it’s time for the next action point.

  1. Interview current clients

This will allow you to create a sales message that works for this market sector. We’ll talk more about this in my next article.

  1. Create a target market profile sheet

This outlines in writing exactly the sort of client that your company will focus on. It gives specific guidance to the sales team. It can be especially useful when a new member joins the team.

So now you know what sort of customers you want – but how do you create the right sales message for them?

Look out for my next article in this series.
Editors Note: This post is part of a larger series on how to help your sales team boost your company’s bottom line through:

If you’d like more ideas on how to engage with today’s buyers, download my free e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them.” You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the print buyer” bulletin, full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.

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