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Diversify to Grow

Posted by Andrew Brown on Feb 9, 2016 10:00:00 AM

sprouts-growing-from-the-earth.jpgIn the 20 years since she founded PrintFUSION, Deb Byrne Johnson has turned business trends into good ideas for her company. The first was about eight years ago when she recognized the need to diversify her product line beyond business forms. She added promotional products, apparel and commercial printing to her offerings.

Now, she’s doing it again. This year, PrintFUSION is positioning itself as a consultancy and service provider. “We’re becoming more of a marketing arm to our clients. We’re able to provide graphic design services, and based on clients’ goals and objectives, we’re putting together campaigns,” Johnson says. “We’re able to provide customers with marketing solutions that are going to be measureable.”

For instance, a human resources department wanted help with its employee recognition program. Previously, when employees reached their one-year anniversary, they chose one of three gift items stored in a cabinet at the office. Johnson urged the client to make the gift and the program more personal.

Now, employees are given a catalog of high-end ceramic drinkware to choose from. What they don’t know is that the item they choose will have their name imprinted on it, along with the company’s logo. Employees have more choices, and they’re surprised and delighted to receive a personal gift.

PrintFUSION also helped a credit union achieve record growth in its auto loan product line. Each spring, the credit union runs a marketing campaign to drive interest in its auto loans. For years, it spent money on radio and print advertising. Johnson incorporated an opportunity at the branch level for prospects to enter a drawing. The gift, a premium trunk organizer, was relevant to the campaign’s audience and resulted in a boost in auto loans. A key element to the program was the ability to measure the customer’s return on investment.

When Johnson added promotional products and apparel to her offerings, she knew they would help her business grow but not how much. Fast-forward to the present, and both lines provide significant revenue streams. “I anticipate that those two offerings will eventually be 50 percent of the sales, and perhaps surpass the print piece,” she says.

Be Your Client’s Marketing Staff
Diversification, if done strategically, can lead to more diversification. With so many years selling promotional products, apparel and commercial print, PrintFUSION is becoming a marketing services firm for its clients. That includes developing and managing marketing campaigns, building websites and even working with clients to establish their brand positioning in the first place.

“These are organizations that can’t afford to have a marketing person on staff full-time,” Johnson says. “I give them a certain number of hours each month, and we prioritize their goals. With PrintFUSION as a marketing arm, we’re providing opportunities that our clients couldn’t typically afford, so they can grow their businesses.”

One example is a long-time customer of Johnson’s. For decades, this client bought print through PrintFUSION and worked separately with an out-of-town marketing firm to manage its website and lead-generation activities. The general manager wasn’t satisfied with the results, and he wanted someone nearby. Now PrintFUSION is leading the client’s website redesign.

“I’ve learned more about their business in the past few months than in the past 20 years,” Johnson says. “By developing a partnership where we are the marketing arm, we can understand their markets and product offerings. Starting next year, we’ll evaluate their existing base, determine their ideal client and figure out how to try to sell more to their prospects.”

To get there, Johnson consciously steered conversations toward solutions. “In the past, our conversations were more product-based. We still provided solutions because we asked the questions about what they’re trying to achieve, but now I make them more aware of how we can work together in-depth,” she says.

As necessary as it is, diversification always involves a learning curve. When PrintFUSION started offering websites, she had to partner with an outside vendor. “I actually started out with a different company doing websites, but I had to fire them and have an immediate back-up plan,” she says. “Just because a company can do something, it doesn’t mean [it’s the best resource]. You’ve got to spend time having conversations about what are its core values and beliefs about customer service. Is it going to serve customers the same way you do?”

Johnson already sees opportunities to extend her marketing services to include social media campaigns and packaging, for instance. “If you want to continue to grow, you have to diversify,” she says. “If you’re sticking solely with print sales, you’re going to have so many ups and downs.”

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