From a sales and marketing perspective the print industry has long been associated with traditional, costly, face-to-face sales encounters with an emphasis on client entertainment. But in a rapidly consolidating market, undergoing digital transformation, costly behaviours that erode diminishing margins need to be revised.  Tradeprint were ahead of the pack, revolutionising their business model years ago.  I caught up with Customer Success leader Anthony Rowell to discuss how this was achieved and the lessons learned.

Tradeprint  were founded in 1997 in Dundee. I joined in 2017, the year following our acquisition by Cimpress. We’re a print manufacturer with a solid e-commerce channel, selling primarily to trade print resellers.

Ecommerce: Our founder was a visionary, he wanted to make things easier for our customer base of print professionals with online ordering. This self-service facility generated works instruction tickets (specifications for the print floor). This saved time, reduced costs and accelerated job completion. In the subsequent 20 years our site’s capabilities have radically improved and our business has grown exponentially. 

Impact of the model: The smooth ordering process exposed market opportunity. We found that, as well as our traditional trade audience, we were attracting customers with multiple daily orders to place and (more surprisingly) consumers. The website’s ease of use eliminated the need for ‘print expertise’ delivering increased traffic and improved conversion rates from new customers.

  1. Better customer segmentation: We improved differentiation between print resellers and end customers, offering website visitors varying levels of content, pricing, tools and support (for each distinct group). For resellers we blend Account Based Selling (ABS)  and self-service; with dedicated resource where account size warrants it.
  1. Economies of scale: growth in workflow enabled large economies of scale with the ability to process jobs simultaneously on a press. This essentially is our model – minimised ‘make ready’ and press setup costs delivering savings for customers
  1. Change in company culture: we’re better at listening. The digital ‘storefront’ made us obsessive about customer satisfaction.  We have workgroups across the business, focused on customer experience. Every employee brings ideas; we innovate around these to enrich offerings and improve experiences.
  1. Reduced cost of sale: Economies of scale enabled us to repurpose our sales force with 5 ‘print coaches’ servicing our UK base. Reducing the direct sales force enabled investment in customer success and support. We no longer have sales reps roaming the country meeting customers regardless of revenue. Our margins are tight; customers want improved levels of service and keen pricing. We were among the first to introduce a print API that enables integration with customers’ software. Customers self-on-board using API credentials enabling us to dynamically operate as their ‘white label’ fulfiller: customers capture orders on their e-commerce platform and that is injected into our workflow via the API resulting in reduced administration and transactional costs.

Assumptions about customers are dangerous: Only by communicating can you understand customer needs. Before we refreshed the platform, we invested time understanding customer requirements, with workshops and roadshows.  Tradeprint Live visited 6 cities, meeting about 100 customers per event, involving them in site redesign. We also study onsite behaviour to improve experiences.  We have a work group focused on understanding different customers’ needs from the site. We’ve identified 10 personae across the two main groups of print literate and illiterate customers. For buyers who aren’t print literate we simplify things and introduce human intervention where necessary. 

Marketing and lead generation:  We target the most profitable element of our base – printers and resellers. Our preferred web environments are LinkedIn and Facebook. For lead generation we use PPC, paid and organic search, also we’re developing an affiliate marketing programme.

Customer Success is our key company metric:  We use  Zendesk for live chat, managing complex inbound enquiries and outbound relationships. Our knowledge centre and blogs help customers self-serve. EVERY time we close an experience, an automated customer rating comes back, a mini survey. All results are read and actioned by our Customer Success Team. We also live and die by Trust Pilot. Other core metrics include conversion, product and browser funnels; keywords and search, average session times; transaction patterns and abandoned visits, plus warehouse data etc. 

Enriching offerings and operations: We monitor digital developments and work with clients on projects that involve AR, AI and even facial recognition. We improved sales and marketing efficiency and made company-wide process improvements with Agile business methodology.  We also use  Jira and Trello  boards for internal processes. We’ve invested in automated email marketing for retention incentives, offers and promotions. Live Chat and machine learning support service extension and development, helping us understand queries. Order/job tracking systems combine with chat bots to engage customers on straightforward questions whenever it is convenient for them.

Advice to others seeking to digitally transform:  Develop a deep understanding of your markets and customers. Align strategic vision with customer needs. Be agile but don’t try to do it all at once. Generate workforce enthusiasm about changes and technology-led improvements. Having a dedicated Digital Transformation Champion with strong personality really helps.

Revolutions View

Digital transformation can alter business models and create new channels and markets.  It’s exciting to see how the established sales and marketing status quo for the most traditional and conservative of markets can be overturned and revolutionised – with great benefits to customers and profits.

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

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