Sticky customers are vital to the success of your business

In my last article, we discussed two types of customers: ‘Transactional’ and ‘Sticky’.

Transactional customers are much more price-driven, tend not to be the strongest relationships and are more difficult to control. The printer is treated as a commodity supplier, and as such, companies that focus on these types of customers find it harder to achieve their goals.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are sticky customers. Printing companies that focus on these customers are much more likely to create long lasting, profitable client relationships. They have a much better chance of maintaining control over these relationships. That means they typically achieve their customer and company goals.

So how do you create sticky customers?

Customers become sticky when you are offering a service rather than a product. It is hard to make customers sticky simply by printing products for them, no matter how good your service and quality or how low your prices.

That’s why it is important that you start to develop a sales strategy around sticky solutions. The purpose of this strategy is two-fold. Firstly, new customers should be brought on board as sticky customers. Just as importantly, if you currently have transactional customers, you want to upsell these clients to sticky solutions.

Here are three strategies to create sticky solutions. The first one relies on the customer’s feelings.

  1. Sell emotional solutions

The first strategy focuses on making clients want your solution
more than the competition’s solutions. This strategy is best suited to creative solutions. It works well with services such as design.

Design is often a very emotional purchase. A client is entrusting the creation or safeguarding of their brand to someone. Therefore they are less likely to move design services to another designer just because they are cheaper. They are more likely to want to create a long-term relationship with someone that they trust.

Note that simple layout services are still often treated as a commodity purchase. Your strategy should be around higher-level design services. You should be able to explain the values of what you offer. Not everyone has the right design team to achieve this. So here is a more process-driven way to create a sticky customer.

  1. Hold customer assets

Most of the time, a printer takes a customer’s file and prints it. The customer can take that file to any printer in the future.

This situation changes if you can manage more on behalf of the customer. Here are two suggestions.

The first solution is to manage data on behalf of a customer. Can you hold and manage subscription data, for instance? You would be in charge of updating the database, de-duping data and managing sorting to mailing requirements.

Alternatively, a customer with a lot of artwork could choose to use digital asset management services. If you can offer a DAM solution you will be managing all the customers’ digital assets, both for print and e-communication.

In either of these scenarios, it is much more difficult for a customer to change suppliers. They have to find someone with a similar offering. They then have to test the new solution and manage all the data migration. You have to have a very good reason to change suppliers to want to undergo this sort of pain!

There is one other way to create a sticky customer.

  1. Be part of a bigger process

If you can integrate yourself into a customer’s supply chain you become very sticky. To do this successfully, you need to be managing another part of the supply chain on behalf of your client. For instance, you may be working directly with a fulfilment center to create the right inventory levels for a customer. The customer doesn’t have to be involved. Alternatively, you could be working directly with a client’s data management supplier.

Once again, if a client wants to change suppliers they have to undergo a significant amount of effort and pain. There is a lot of untangling to take you out of the supply chain and replace you with another supplier.

It is time for you to create your own sticky customer solution

Choose which strategy you are going to implement with your customers. Focus relentlessly on creating the right solution. Build the right sales message. Make this solution your number one sales goal in all conversations.

The focus of your company will change. You will move away from transactional customers. You will be building success with sticky customers.

**Editor’s Note: This is part of a two-post series on how to turn a commodity customer into a valuable ‘sticky’ customer:

  • Why Sticky Customers are the Best Customers
  • 3 Ways to Build Sticky Customer Relationships


PS
If you’d like more practical 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” right now. You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the print buyer” bulletin, full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.