Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The demise of print advertising in 1 graph says it all

I know conventional wisdom tells us that traditional print is dying or on the decline as the article in the Atlantic above link points out when it comes to pointing out advertising revenues.  The fact is however that HP's sales have grown, Xerox sales have grown, Staples Print Solutions sales have grown, Canon sales have grown, FedEx Office sales have grown, UPS Stores sales have grown and it is very much due in large part to the shifting of traditional print to Print On Demand or digital print at your desk.

I recently was engaged in a lively discussion with a professor lamenting on the growth of the tablets and ebook readers and the death or decline of the printed book.  Which led to a discussion on the history of the Kinko's Coursepacks, which helped to build Kinko's into the brand that became synonomous with digital printing and reproduction graphics.  I grew up near College Park, Maryland which is the main campus for the University of Maryland's 40,000 student population that had a book exchange for used books, an official campus bookstore, but also had the Kinko's off campus.  Professors would create course packages which included taking a chapter from this particular textbook or that particular textbook to create a section course guide to accompany his syllabus.  When you registered for your class, and picked up your syllabus, you got the reading assignments which included assigned books from wherever you could get them (book exchange or campus bookstore), but also from Kinko's picking up the specific coursepack he had put together to teach his class.

This made it possible for a custom edition book to be created for the class.  It was updated and current up to the latest possible moment when the professor included articles or papers he thought would educate his students best.   Then they were printed on demand and the students were forced to buy them.  Needless to say that after about 10 years of this, the publishers of these textbooks settled with Kinko's to stop this practice so they could control their protected copywritten material rather than the educator who was using the material for educational purposes, and Kinko's adopted an approval format to go forward.

The advent of great content in the digital age makes it not only necessary but highly likely that we will see a resurgence of printed books or magazines or newspapers as valuable permanent keepsake handed down in families or held in libraries.  I easily see where bookstore retailers will partner with publishers, print and binding manufacturers as well as ebook makers to enable the printing on demand of ebook titles that can be picked up at the local bookstore or retailer like Walmart for nominal costs and have high enough quality to make the product a keepsake for the family library (much like the typical photobook products offered at a camera store these days).  When enough independent authors and publishers unite against the larger publishers who tightly control the industry and work together to protect their interests and figure this out,  I am sure we will see an adoption of just this type of custom book made on the spot in popular bookstores and print on demand is the dominant model for all print media.

Owning a retail bookstore these days is probably a risky business, but add print on demand equipment, know how and publisher permission to the mix and you have a revitalized industry where printed books, articles and newspaper content are the dominant format for permanence and family libraries and keepsakes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How many of you love to buy something but don't love to be sold something?  This plays on Winston Churchill's quotable quote "Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught" and is appropriate today more than ever in sales.  Many sales experts have emphasized pulling in interested buyers rather than pushing your message out to them by cold calling, spamming, or talking to people about what your company or you do.

How many of you are only working the activity of cold calling to drive new sales just because there is an old habit that proved successful, or there is someone else's metric to be achieved because it was successful for someone else before like a manager, owner or stakeholder?  My suggestion is that rather than investing in broadcasting outward whatever it is that you do, that you instead focus on tools to follow up and direct customers with casual interest into people who love to buy something from you

Five common sense approaches that sometimes get lost in the heat of chasing opportunities that definitely convert into sales is to:
  1. Have something of value to offer (it doesn't necessarily have to be the best quality or price, biggest, fastest, etc.,), but it does have to have intrinsic value that can be conveyed in a simple value proposition statement to a prospective customer.  If you can't explain it in 30 seconds or 1 minute there could be a problem with how you're saying it.
  2. Be authentic, genuine about your offer's shortcomings if any and sincere about yourself and your product and whether it will help the person interested.
  3. Be prepared to go out of your way to give the person interested more than they expect.
  4. Figure out what the customer's emotional reasons for buying are and meet those needs (either they have a sense of reward, fear, pride, shame, altruism, envy).
  5. Let the customer make the leap and choose what they want when they want, and think long term relationship rather than close the sale right now. 
The stronger your analytics that tell you when someone is interested or is searching for information or clicking around for information that you offer is one of the keys to Google's ad words program and is also something any small operator can easily implement or on linkedin or other social media sites by posting ads. 

Just make sure your engagement strategy is all about asking the prospective customer what it is they really need to accomplish and why they are looking for this product or service.

Have a great week end, and I leave you with the sales pitch from Parks and Rec:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The future of education is well in hand with these guys!

MIT has posted up some excellent course material free to the public.  There is absolutly no excuse for not understanding science technology, engineering or math any longer to be a globally competitive country. Individuals who are out of work, or under-employed have an incredible opportunity to pick up new skills, learn new concepts, and basically become more competitive, and either apply these skills toward entrepreneurial endeavors or gainful employment. 

Between MIT and the Khan Academy on youtube, education has become a private endeavor between individuals who just have the natural curiosity to want to know something.  I learned basic concepts of programming languages and how to write applications through MIT's open course materials. 

It's refreshing to see an unselfish endeavor actually come to life and from such a great school and great teachers.  I wish I could donate more money to these guys.