The Revolution!

In August, analysts at Morgan Stanley using data from an Oxford University study predicted that nearly half of U.S. jobs will be replaced by robots over the next two decades. It’s said we will have cars that drive themselves, waiters we won’t need to pay and personalized butlers. Looks like we’re moving rapidly toward a future without actual jobs.

According to a 2013 Stanford University study, some manufacturing robots now cost the equivalent of about $4 per hour – and they keep getting cheaper and better. We even have robots that think. Editors at the Associated Press claim robots write thousands of articles a year for them. It would seem as if the dream of living a WALL-E-type existence, where we float around in auto-piloted chairs, sip on a liquid turkey dinner and stay glued to the attached monitors may become a reality.

Not So Fast! While it certainly seems like we’re headed toward a scary and confusing robot revolution, it is best to remember that technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. Progress creates angst, but it’s still progress. And this time will be no different. Consider that computers destroyed a great deal of manufacturing jobs, but enabled hundreds of millions of new jobs. The reality is that technology augments humans, rather than replaces them.

We don’t need to fear the robots, but we do need to understand that the jobs robots can replace aren’t good jobs in the first place. As humans, we climb the ladder of success using our brains. So we must tap into the greatest computer inside of us, embrace a strategic mindset and start anticipating the kinds of jobs that will emerge over the next 20 years.

Leadership is not about getting people to work harder. In fact, it’s about discovering new paths and new ideas, and incubating the skills needed to sustain us in the future. Leadership is about identifying markets that are important and providing that community a competitive advantage. The future is bright, and while we can all concern ourselves with the changing job climate, take solace in the fact that history proves progress is good.

This month’s Connect Magazine has a cover story titled “The Great Escape.” We discuss some of the strategies and marketing ideas that will gain momentum next year an over the next several years. A second article speaks to how your employees are your best branding asset.

Both are compelling articles that remind us where our focus should remain. If you would like to receive a copy of Connect Magazine please let us know. You can subscribe on our website and it’s completely free.

What If…we just asked our client?

In 1975 I was a print buyer. I ran a small graphics department for a door manufacturer and bought the things we couldn’t do ourselves. That meant any job with photography and four colors was a purchase. I collected bids, selected the printer and awarded the jobs. I was like many of the people you sell to now.

One of my first projects was an “Entry Door” brochure. I can still remember the sales reps, their companies and approximate bids. Some of these guys still do business in Atlanta so I’ll skip the names. The point will be clear, regardless.

Printer #1 quoted $17,300. That was a lot of money in 1975. It was much more than a year’s pay for me. I remember being astonished that printing could cost so much.

Printer #2 quoted $16,900. I consider these two numbers essentially the same. If you get bids like this you can assume that both companies understand the specs and know how to produce the job. At least they know what their costs are.

Printer #3 quoted $13,000. He explained that they had gotten aggressive and wanted the order. He convinced the estimator to give him a good price. It was this guy’s number that taught me pricing (not estimating) is an art. He and his managers “guessed” what the other two would do and really low-balled the quote.

Apparently, I did not respond fast enough. All I did was visit my boss to discuss the prices. This 30 minute delay concerned printer #3. He called me back and cut his price to $12,000. He explained that they really wanted the order and found some savings when they took another look at the estimate. I thanked him and got off the phone.

About an hour later he called again. This time he cut the price to $11,000. They were continuing to look and found even more savings. He wanted to make sure I knew how much they wanted this order.

Well…he got the order. He never knew how much he cut his own price. He never knew how big a laugh my boss and I enjoyed at his expense. His salesmanship amounted to nothing more than price-cutting. He was like a contestant on the old TV show, Name That Tune. “I can produce that brochure for…$11,000.”

Think about this a minute. The nearest price was $5,900 higher than the lowest bid. The printer left thousands on the table. He convinced his company that I was a shrewd buyer and that he had to be cheap to get the business. He was going to get the order before he started cutting. He was already the best price.

I could have easily told the other two printers that they were approximately $6,000 too high. They would have been astonished and would have assumed that I wasn’t comparing apples to apples. The whole charade would have served (perhaps it did) to cheapen the work and to create a downward spiral in price and profit…and…the buyer didn’t do it…the sales rep did.

Now…fast forward several years. I was selling printing. I had an opportunity to quote a large color project for a computer graphics company. I can remember this bid too.

I quoted $36,000. My competition (a much bigger company) quoted $44,000. I didn’t get the job. The customer was more confident in the other guy. He had more experience and this was an important project. His grasp of the situation showed and it won him the work.

I was furious. I ranted, “If $8,000 in savings won’t justify the business what will? Just how low do I have to be to get your business? Would $10,000 do it…$11,000?”

The client calmly replied that he didn’t plan to exclude me when the bidding started. During the process he became concerned that I didn’t have the experience necessary to protect his interest. My low quote added to this and my tantrum sealed the deal…for the other printer.

Now why am I telling you all this? What does this have to do with you and your sales career? What lesson could there be for us today?

It’s simple. Every sales staff has reps that will and reps that won’t. You notice I didn’t say can’t. I said won’t.

This very day there are salespeople adding money to quotes without a second thought. There are service reps on house accounts doing the same thing. These people believe in their service and realize that price is only part of the contract. They know that they bring value. They know that clients will pay what is fair.

This very day there are also salespeople that won’t do it. They believe that price is all that matters and can’t imagine that anyone thinks otherwise. Their work is marginally profitable, they don’t sell as much and their earnings show it.

Please trust me on this. Your confidence about price is directly related to your self esteem. If you have a low opinion of yourself and your company…you are going to put a low value on your product. It will show in the price you submit.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t have to be fair. I understand that you need to be competitive. That isn’t the issue here.

The issue is asking for the price you deserve. The issue is, understanding what the client is really buying. It isn’t just price. If it is…you haven’t been selling. You have only been quoting. One pays much better than the other.

What a privilege! Thank you everyone.

Forty one years ago today I drove to my first day (job) in the printing business. I remember how excited I was. I was going to run the in house printing department for a door company and buy the printing we couldn’t do ourselves. It sounded so glamorous. I had been out of school for five months and I was the new Graphics Manager for Peachtree Door.

What it was…was a one man department. There was a 12 x 12 room with a duplicator and a table top cutter inside. There was another 12 x 12 room with a litho camera and sink for developing negatives. Between them was my office which was really the end of the hall. There was a door on every wall. I had made it and I was only 23.

What ensued was a journey I could have never imagined. I went to work for a supplier three years later and found myself in sales. Suddenly, I was exposed to customers, printing as a business and the reality of how hard the things I demanded as a client were to do.

I’ve had a ball. I had the privilege of working with Coca Cola, IBM, American Express, AT&T, DuPont, Hershey, Nike and a host of others. I also had the honor of working with and learning from people like A.C. Castleberry, Wiley Tucker, Buddy Towery, Jim Pipkin and Sonny Pruitt. These men were giants of the industry at a time when good work had almost no right to happen. Technology makes things possible today that were impossible 41 years ago. I owe them a great deal…so do many others.

I also saw color scanners arrive on the scene in Atlanta. Then came color imaging and retouching systems that cost more than a yacht. Finally there was the Macintosh, desktop publishing and digital printing. I actually bought my first digital press in 1992. If you know anything about that segment, you know that was very early.

I’ve had the privilege of launching new products, informing employees of new benefits, announcing new services and have signed forms preventing me from telling people I sold to what I was doing for their boss upstairs. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to rub elbows with some of our world’s most creative minds and have stood amazed as I watched new ideas take shape. More than $100,000,000 in personal sales later I have to say that this has been one amazing career and so much more than I ever expected.

On this 41st anniversary I have a heart full of gratitude. I’m grateful to an industry that has exposed me to its best. I’m grateful to the men that gave me a shot in the business and allowed me to make mistakes and learn. I’m grateful to everyone that ever called my phone number. I’m grateful to everyone that answered the phone when I was calling theirs. I’m also grateful to my current coworkers for allowing me to continue to do this wonderful thing every single day.

It’s been a great career. This is a fabulous way to earn a living. Thank you everyone!

The Wrong Question!

Change has been the topic of conversation within the business community for decades. In May 2005, the Harvard Business Review cited the need for a radical departure from traditional thinking.

According to the article, “Your Company’s Secret Change Agent,” while isolated success strategies can be brought into the mainstream, doing so requires a departure from the notions of bench-marking and best practices that we are all too familiar with. The key is to engage the members of the community you want to change in the process of discovery and make them evangelists of their own conversion experience.

The ideas for creating change are pretty sound. Involving the people you want to change in process of leading change is brilliant. However, we collectively still lament the willingness to change what exists within our worlds.

So what gives?

Maybe we’re just asking the wrong questions. For example, instead of asking “How do I get this done?” or “How can I validate my work?” we should ask, “What is holding us back from opportunity?”

No matter what the solution is for change, the thing that ultimately holds us back is belief or lack thereof. In other words, maybe there is a feeling that once change is implemented we will be destroyed in some way. Belief can go a long way as long as it’s true.

We must all have faith that sticking our collective necks out is a good thing. We must believe that when we choose to do the unconventional, we will end up stronger and more educated. And we must feel confident that we can become the kind of people who not only make change, but change things for the better.

Materials Matter!

The competition for an audiences’ attention has risen to a fever pitch. Audiences are overwhelmed, bombarded with more-more-more, with less and less impact. What we make needs to matter, to make an impression, to elevate itself from the endless churn of communication.

So, how can you make your work stand out? By making effective things that slow people down, activate their senses and command their attention.

Imagine two lunch spots: a cafeteria and a fine restaurant. The cafeteria serves a purpose, it is convenient and cheap. Produce from cans is served on plastic platters and employees are short on conversation, but masters of efficiency. Menu options are limited and pre-made, but you’re in and out quickly. It’s good for what it is, but you’d never choose it to impress someone.

On the other end of the spectrum, imagine a fine restaurant in which the wait staff helps to select a finely crafted meal and a drink that are perfectly paired. They serve locally-sourced meats and produce harvested that morning. When you leave, you’re eager to return. The restaurant nourishes, inspires, and provides a memorable experience.

So much of digital communication has become fast, efficient, and disposable. By taking advantage of the unique qualities of print and selecting high quality materials, you can create something exceptional, tactile and memorable. When you need to impress, materials matter – they are the essential ingredients of your printed projects.

Materials provide information that our brains (often subconsciously) translate into thoughts and emotions. The way paper feels can be the secret power of a printed piece, and there is often a subtle message communicated through the physical characteristics of touch. Before you read a word, touch communicates and evokes emotions – and sometimes challenges expectations. This documented effect is called embodied cognition. Our brains translate the feeling of touch into distinct emotions and impressions. When an object has physical warmth, we translate that to a feeling of emotional warmth. When an object has physical weight, we connect it with importance and stability. When we touch something with a tactile surface texture, we believe it has substance and is authentic. This revelation that each material contains a distinct message based on touch makes material choice increasingly important. Furthermore, materials are a pillar of effective communication just like copy, design and print, able to elevate or denigrate a brand.

Learning how to harness the diversity of materials is an essential skill for communicators. Mohawk recently introduced A Maker’s Field Guide to Texture and Color, a comprehensive guide designed to underscore the importance of using premium materials as a powerful communication tool. This new resource showcases effective techniques for using texture and color to amplify printed projects, and highlights a wide array of printing techniques including offset, die cut, foil stamping, and embossing processes on 32 distinctive colored and textured papers drawn from nearly every Mohawk paper grade. To get your copy, (visit mohawkconnects.com/makersfieldguide or contact a representative at Bennett Graphics).

This article is courtesy of Mohawk Papers.

Targeted Marketing…not so much!

I have to laugh every time I read something that says print is dead.  Likewise, I laugh when I accidentally answer the phone to discover I’m trapped on a call with someone selling “exactly the email list I need.”  The message is always the same.  “Print is dead.” “Millennials prefer electronic communications” and “marketers in the know use informed email marketing to sell their stuff.”

Is that so?  Today I received more than 150 spam messages.  There were more that got through deserving to be trash.  A partial list is as follows:

Oil Change Deals

Social Work Education

Ceiling Fan Deals

3 Year Loans

Breast Augmentation

Breast Reduction

Climate Reality

Patio Furniture Deals

Depression

Motor Home Sales

Teaching Degree

Reverse Mortgage

Jewish Singles

Timepieces

Visit Costa Rica

Swimwear

Stop Smoking

Cigar Deals

Some message from Svetlana I would be afraid to open

eHarmony

African Safari Travel

Bathroom Renovation

Cremation Services

Plus Size Bras

Nursing Degree

Medicare Help

Like I said, this represents a partial list.  There were more than 150 messages in a single day.

Now compare that to my mailbox (USPS).  There were six pieces of mail.  The full list is as follows:

A catalog from Land’s End.  I ordered some boxers.

An invitation to a retirement seminar.  I don’t plan to go but I am the right demographic.

A notice from my bank explaining a new service.  I plan to sign up.

A new business announcement from down the road.  I’ll check it out Saturday.

A power bill.

A water bill.

Which has more clutter? My mailbox or my email box?  Which path has the best shot at getting noticed?  Which one has a better chance of making a sale?

Email is cheap.  Consequently, it’s full of junk.  Informed? Do we really think it sells more stuff than direct mail?  I think not.

Print isn’t dead.  It’s dominant.  Say yes to the mailbox!

The Buzz

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a concept that has received a great deal of buzz from the marketing world. As you know, ABM is part of a 1:1 process that has replaced mass marketing.  Specifically, organizations now are trying to sell more solutions to once customer at a time.

As markets become more competitive, clients see little delineation between brands.  ABM is the latest trend to try and find that differentiation and many companies are starting to see the long-term value from the practice.  According to the Marketing Practice Decision Maker’s Index, “77 percent of decision makers say that marketing from new suppliers is poorly targeted and makes it easy to justify staying with their current supplier.

So crafting messages to specific clients will make you downright buzz-worthy!

ABM may be a hot trend, but we contend that it’s simply the natural progression of how to interact with customers.  With all of the power existing with the consumer and the decision makers within the B2B world acting more like B2C professionals, it makes sense that the role of sales and marketing changes and aligns.

Due to time restrictions, people would prefer to find partners by themselves rather than being called upon.  ABM treats each account individually, allowing the company to address the audience with more relevant content than an un-targeted direct marketing activity.  In addition, it enables the company to expand its connection within an account and cements that connection in various parts of your organization.

ABM underscores the need for marketing to take a more active role within individual accounts and align with a sophisticated sales team in serving that client.  Clearly, both marketing and sales have changed over the last 10 years.  But the on thing that will never change is the importance of aligning your efforts to better understand and serve specific customers.

As jobs morph, people will need to adapt.  Many of our future roles don’t even exist today.  That’s why it’s important to incubate new skills and talents within your current organization.

We dedicate some space to this topic in our current issue of Connect Magazine.  Our cover story “Home Grown” shares a few ideas on why and how to cultivate talent that will serve you for years to come.  Our second feature “Crash Course” shares insights on current marketing tools.

If you don’t receive Connect and would like to, send us a message at bgillespie@bennettgraphics.com.  We’ll make sure you never miss an issue.

Meanwhile, good luck, good marketing and good selling!

Fish or Cut Bait!

According to the Winterbury Group, almost half ($27.3 billion) of the $59.5 billion spent in digital advertising in 2015 was dedicated to search engine marketing. Another $24.9 billion was spent on display advertising, which means that over $52 billion of the total spend was used on vehicles that don’t necessarily conjure up images of high quality.

The idea that digital advertising is the path to the consumer these days is odd.  Consider the number of marketers that toss out an endless amount of content just so their search results escalate.  While many of them may believe in the constancy of the social post and the perceived low cost of social marketing, these strategies may be cheapening their brands as a result.

Permission-based marketing respects the fact that we, as consumers, don’t want brands invading our lives and making unnecessary noise.  There are numerous brands that have made their name on mass appeal, but the organizations that endeavor for a more sophisticated persona demand a deeper connection and a more intimate way to engage.

Every channel is critical these days, but being a true right-brained marketer affords you the ability to rethink all of them.  Print, for example, still is the only vehicle that can literally touch us.  It lets your clients know that you put a little extra time into your message, and it shows that you are investing in the relationship and not merely trolling for bites.

In our next issue of Connect Magazine our cover story, “Stoking Creativity,” is focused on the kind of thinking needed to make hard decisions and elevate your brand.  Our second feature, “The Fall of the Story,” delves into the unwanted content that is clogging up our lives and lowering the value of your brand.  Both stories remind us that utilizing vehicles and people that want to inflate your brand is critical in these noisy times.

If you don’t receive Connect Magazine you can subscribe on our website.  It’s free and we’d love to share it with you.  Visit bennettgraphics.com and tell us you want to be included.  It’s on press now!

Gut Feeling?

The gut feeling is something we have all had at different times in our lives. Typically though, it is not some sort of “out of the blue” feeling or random spark of genius that provides this sudden inspiration. No, while we call it a “gut feeling” the reality is that it comes from something that probably took a lot of time, effort and pain.

Gut feelings don’t just show up unannounced. You must be extremely connected to your endeavor and have a great understanding of your environment. In fact, it is most likely not the gut that provides you with the insight to make a decision, but the way in which you sense things.

We can go through the facts about why print is such an amazing mechanism. Print affords you more time with your clients. It has a staying power that the digital world cannot match. However, most importantly, you can touch it, and when we touch something, we start to connect with it.

If you want your clients to connect more to your world and vice versa, print offers you the chance. Using print takes a bit more time, but anything worthwhile must be nurtured. Hence, your understanding and gut feel for your marketplace is likely to be your most worthwhile endeavor.

Our next issue of Connect Magazine will include a cover feature “Drilling Down.” It explores the importance of market research in today’s business climate and why you can’t afford to build a mousetrap without knowing if there are any mice. Using proper research techniques will deepen your feel and delineate you from the competition.

Our second feature is “Following Instinct.” In this article we delve into the intricacies of what forms your intuition and how you should make decisions based on your experience, your knowledge and maybe a little bit of your gut instinct too.

In addition, the next issue includes a survey which reveals that print publications are among the key ways companies attract buyers. We invite you to enjoy the information and use your own instincts.

If you don’t receive Connect Magazine and would like to, please let us know. You can subscribe on our website and specify printed, digital or both. It’s free and we would love to have you as part of the Connected Family.

Bennett Graphics loves labels!

A few months back, Bennett Graphics made an investment in the labeling and flexible packaging business.  We researched the space, bought the equipment and added experienced staff.  It was our goal to deliver our same attention to detail and client experience finesse to an area of the industry that has often been more of a commodity.

We’re very excited by what we’ve seen.  The market has responded and it turns out that almost everyone we work with has some sort of need in this area.  Labels, packaging and flexible packaging have applications well beyond what we expected.

If this is a service that touches your business or organization, please let us know. We want to sit with you, hear what you do and earn a solid understanding of what would make your business run better.  We’ll enjoy brainstorming with you to arrive at exactly the right program that ensures you have exactly what you need when you need it.  We’ll protect you from inventory obsolescence in the process.

At Bennett Graphics we really feel that printing should be easy for you.  If it isn’t, we haven’t done our job.  We’re excited to bring that same idea to your packaging.

Call us.  We’re adding people and new services continuously.  Bennett Graphics is a fun place to be part of whether you’re a vendor, employee or customer.