How to Create a Marketing Plan for a Printing Company
There are a number of resources out there on creating a marketing plan and developing a marketing strategy, few of those resources show how to create a marketing plan for a printing business. So our team talked to over 25 printers who are highly successful at marketing their print company, spoke with 6 highly regarded marketing professionals and 1 tenured marketing professor, then pooled all of our data and insight from the work that we do every day with print companies to create…
“The 100% Guaranteed to Make You Grow Marketing Plan for a Printing Company”
Yeah we know that’s a long name, but it’s the truth, so being honest here with you, if you do what we share in the article then your print shop is going to go from “Boo to Woooooooo!”.
Below we’ve listed all of the parts of a marketing plan that you’ll need for your print business to grow.
9 Components of a Print Company Marketing Plan
Every marketing plan needs to thoroughly cover a number of areas to be complete. We’ve broken that out into 9 different sections that cover each area you as a print company will want to address when creating your plan or stealing from the examples that we are going to share with you here in this article.
Don’t get us wrong, some marketers or owners who look at this, will think… “That is a lot to cover or do!” and the truth is that it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are able to at least do a little bit from each of these sections you’ll have a marketing plan that if executed on will dominate your market, because the unfortunate truth is that the large majority of print businesses do little to no marketing for themselves at all. Not even print marketing!
Let’s Begin by looking at each of these marketing plan components.
- Define Your Target Market / Target Audience
- Conduct Market Research
- Build Target Audience Personas
- Determine a Marketing Budget
- Create a Marketing Channel Plan
- Set Your KPIs and Goals
- Determine Your Messaging & Positioning
- Set the Marketing Plan Timeline
- Launch & Track / Report on Performance
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 1. Define Your Target Market / Target Audience
The truth is that the better you can define your audience the better you’ll be able to create an effective marketing plan for your print company. Not to mention you’ll get much better results from your marketing efforts.
What is a target market or target audience?
First we have to actually admit that a target market and target audience are different, because a target market refers to a broader group of people while the target audience is more narrow as it is usually a segment of the target market.
For example, you may target the HVAC Industry, which is a target market, but a target audience would be Marketers or Business Owners of HVAC Companies in Texas.
So it’s recommended that you do both, define your target market and define your target audience.
How to Define Your Target Market & Target Audience
You’ll have to conduct research at some level. For most print service providers you can profile your existing customers and use that as the foundation. You could stick with the profiles inside your current customer base or you can expand to get in front of a different customer segment that you haven’t done a lot of work with. We talk about in our next step doing market research, so theoretically you could do some of that here to help define a target audience, but it’s been our experience and the experience of those we spoke to that it’s much easier to define who you want to target first and then do the research after. Most print companies have a good understanding of the verticals they plan to target so it isn’t a mystery about who to target.
What are the Components of a Target Audience?
There are a number of characteristics and demographics that make up a target audience. What we’re doing here is showing you in general what those components are and then examples of common print company target audiences.
Target Audience Elements
- Location (Region, State, City, Zip)
- Job Title & Job Role
*There are a number of other elements you could include here, but for the purposes of making this specific to marketing plans for print companies we’ll stick with those. We’ll go a little deeper when building a target audience persona.
What are Common Target Audiences for Print Companies?
While you could go through the process of coming up with a target audience on your own, we’ve put together a list of the most common audiences that print companies go after. Each of the listed targets below can have any geography attached to them based on where you are or want to target (so we’ll leave that out and up to you).
Small Business Owners
This is a go-to audience that print companies will target. We’re going to be honest with you, this is not a good target because it’s too broad.
This is a good example of a small business, because restaurants get a lot of things printed. You can also target restaurant marketers in this group, but those are typically at larger restaurant chains.
Law firms are a perfect example of a professional services company because they have clients that are high value so they heavily invest in visibility. Plus for medium to larger firms you have so many attorneys the volume can be very high.
And Similar Types of Businesses & Professional Services
- HVAC Owners
- Plumbing Company Owners
- Financial Advisors
- Used Car Dealerships
- Retail Stores
- Ecommerce Retailers
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 2. Conduct Market Research
Market research is the best way to arm yourself with data and insight that will be helpful in better targeting your audience, crafting the right messaging and in some cases updating your products & services based on customers needs and demands.
There are a number of different ways you can do market research such as getting information from publications & independent research firms, using social media and the search engines to gain insight and then the tried and true method of talking to a sample of your target audience directly whether that be on the phone, in-person or through surveys via email.
Market Research Using Publications & Research Firm Data
The good news is that a marketing plan for print companies can utilize market research already put together by verified 3rd parties. In most cases you’ll have to pay for this research and depending on where you go the prices can vary significantly. For example, reports from Ibisworld.com can run you $900 or more.
Social Media & Search Engines as Market Research for Print Businesses
This online resource is easy to get to and simple to do on your own. You just need the time to put in so that you can search through the data and put meaning to what you find. Social media research is less structured because it’s primarily conversations that you’ll need to read through across a number of different social media platforms as well as forums (which we consider social media for print companies). For example, you could search for the top issues contractors face on Quora.com and you’ll find a lot of good back and forth from contractors on the issues they face as well as solutions from other contractors on those same problems. Use this to your advantage!
Also online you can use the search engines and more specifically Google to identify what people are searching for online using Keyword research. You’ll be able to see exactly what your target audience is typing into the search engines and you can see what Google returns as the best results for those searches. This will give you the data you need to make good decisions for your print company as it relates to marketing, sales and products / services.
Direct Market Research for Print Shops
While getting this research data can take a longer amount of time than the other methods we’ve listed, it’s also the most clear in response from your target audience. By speaking with them directly or 1 to 1, you’ll be able to get answers to the questions you have for them. The best channels to do this are calling your target audience by phone, organizing in-person meetings or sending email surveys.
Phone Call Market Research
Doing this allows you to easily ask a number of follow up questions, get additional context and ultimately get everything you need from the target audience member.
In Person Market Research
Similar to the phone research, you can follow up, get context, but also read physical cues to add to your collection of research.
These are limited to pre-determined questions and either a selection of possible answers or open text areas for freeform answer writing. The biggest drawback to this is that the research participant may be interpreting something in a way you didn’t intend for them to and answers may be skewed for that research.
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 3. Build Your Target Audience Personas
A marketing persona is like a painted picture of your ideal customer. Everything about them wrapped into a small description or story. This is something that many big companies do and larger marketing firms, but the truth is any size print company can create these for themselves. Having print customer marketing personas will make it easier to market to your target audience and empower your sales people to have more productive conversations with prospective buyers.
These personas are an extension of your target market and target audience but these will be much more detailed. In short you’ll list out all of the criteria you identified for your target audience but then list out the things they want / desire, like / dislike, the problems they face, the solutions they need, and any other criteria that is uniquely important for your business.
Example Target Audience Persona
To give you an example of a persona that a print company could include in their marketing plan we’re sharing one below.
Diane – Marketing Manager of an Accounting Firm
Diane is a frugal marketer focused on results. She strives to maximize her marketing budget and results. Her expectation is that the message will be straightforward and not cute, she doesn’t want her customers to have to figure out what they are reading.
Age: 35 – 50
Location: Austin, TX and surrounding cities
Job Title(s): Marketing Director, Marketing Manager
Presence of Children: 2 kids on average
Likes: Family Friendly Reality TV like Dancing With the Stars, Kids sports, Greys Anatomy
Dislikes: Rap, Big Parties
Here is a fun tool you can use created by HubSpot that allows you to build a persona and then export that in a nice looking format for saving & sharing https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 4. Determine Your Marketing Budget
For many marketers in the print industry they are not fans of needing to create the marketing budget. And to be honest at most print companies there isn’t or never has been money reserved for marketing. Which basically means there is no marketing budget. But that’s the point here right? To create a budget for marketing your print products & services then use that as a part of your print company’s marketing plan. So that is what we’re going to walk through here in this section!
How Much Should A Print Service Provider Spend on Marketing?
We’ve always told print companies that their marketing budget should be something they can afford, there are a few models we’d give them to quickly come up with a number that would be okay to start with. But after doing more research and talking to the experts, we collaborated to share the best way to identify what your budget should be to put into your marketing plan.
Identify a new customer goal or revenue goal
We know that this bleeds over into the KPI & Goal section we’ll talk about later, but this is an important factor in determining a budget. Let’s say that you want to get 10 new customers a month. If that is the case then you need to assume a cost per acquisition goal. You can figure this out by looking at how much it’s cost you to acquire new customers in the past.
For example, if it costs you $500 to acquire a new customer then you can average that and say that you’ll need to spend $500 x 10 over the next month to acquire 10 new customers which equates to $5,000. But you may want to do better than that so you can make your CAC (cost of acquiring a customer) goal $450.
Or if you choose to focus on revenue it’s a similar approach. How much revenue do you want to hit, what’s the average revenue per customer, then your goal is to acquire X number of customers that when multiplied by the average revenue per customer equals your goal.
But the reality for most print companies is that it’s hard for them to get the CAC and in some cases average revenue per customer numbers so it’s easier to focus on the next steps in the marketing budget process.
Determine Your Cost Per Lead
This is similar to the CAC, but instead of a full customer acquisition you’re just focusing on the cost of the lead itself. If you look at all of your marketing spend over the last 30 days and divide in the number of leads you’ve tracked then that is your cost per lead.
If you take that cost per lead as your average it can be used in later calculations to determine your marketing budget.
Determine Your Marketing Conversion Rate
We say marketing conversion rate to focus on the leads instead of new customers (we’ll talk about customers when we discuss the close rate). The conversion rate is the amount of traffic you get dividing in the number of leads. You will use this in your calculations to determine a print company marketing plan budget.
Determine Your Close Rate
Here we are talking about customer acquisition. Look at all of the leads you get over a period of time and then divide in the number of sales that close from that lead number and you’ll have a close rate. This will be used in future marketing plan budget calculations.
Run Your Marketing Numbers
Now you’ll work backwards to come up with the kind of traffic and leads you’ll need to hit your customer goal.
If you have a new customer goal of 10 customers per month, that means…
If you have a 10% close rate, then you need 100 leads,
If you have a 5% conversion rate, then you need 2,000 visitors to your site or engaging with you in some way whether it’s offline or online.
Consider Your Marketing Channels
This is where a little research and knowledge comes into play. If you are going to spread this budget over a number of marketing channels then you’ll need to understand their costs and how much you’ll get from each channel. This can be combined with the section on the marketing channel plan, but we’ll share a little more insight here.
Each channel has its own CTR (or Click Through Rate) & average CPC (or Cost Per Click) and if you’re trying to get 2,000 visitors for example then the average CTR & CPC is important to know because Clicks Cost Money on these platforms and some clicks cost more than others.
For example, an average CPC for LinkedIn is around $5 when run well, but the average CPC for Google Ads is around $2 – $2.50 when run well. You can get double the clicks (aka double the traffic from Google Ads).
In short it’s safe to assume that you will be paying around $3 on average for every paid visitor to your website.
Calculate Your Marketing Budget
Now it’s time to multiply your costs. Under the example we shared it showed that you would need 2,000 visits to your site to hit your 10 customer per month goal. So 2,000 x $3 average click = $6,000 in marketing ad spend.
Then there is the service cost on top of that if you have an outside agency do the work.
If you do it yourself the cost is $0.
On average an agency running $6K in ads across several channels is likely going to charge around $1,500 per month. So you can in total expect to pay around $7,500 per month to hit your goal of 10 customers per month using our example.
Everyone’s goals, costs and rates are different so do the math for yourself!
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 5. Create A Marketing Channel Plan
Now comes the fun part! Every print company loves to figure out what channels they will use to market themselves and what they will create for each of those channels and we don’t blame you… We Love It Too!
So the truth is that print companies who are creating full marketing plans need to consider both offline marketing channels and online marketing channels to have a comprehensive strategy.
Here we’ll dive into each of the channels you should be considering below.
Offline Marketing Channels
Yes of course here at Pryntbase we favor digital marketing, but we know how important and effective offline marketing is for a print company and every business for that matter. Below we are listing out the most effective offline marketing channels for print service providers and what you can do to stand out.
The great thing about trade shows is that the are hyper niched and any target market or target audience you have developed can be accurately gone after using this channel. It could be manufacturing, engineering, HVAC, attorneys, marketers, you name it, they have conferences and trade shows that you can exhibit and speak at to gain exposure.
The more tailored your look, feel and message are to each of the trade show audiences you get in front of will generate a high rate of return for you.
These are perfect for getting quick easy sales and new customers because you are close to the customer. Even though we live in such a connected world, where geography has few limitations to your capability to deliver high quality print on-time and on-budget, proximity still delivers a level of trust and confidence that companies not in your area simply can’t.
Example Community Events
- Business Expos
- Career Fairs
- Business Block Parties
- Community BBQs
- Community Fundraising
Something you’re 100% familiar with is direct mail marketing. This is an extremely effective channel that you’re able to get in front of your target audience easily using.
To be honest we won’t go into a bunch of detail on direct mail, because you’re a print business and you know this way better than we do.
Online Marketing Channels
Now we’re to the part where we really shine, digital marketing for print businesses.
These channels will allow you to easily get in front of your target audience quickly, cost effectively and generate big results.
While your website is a little different from some of the other channels we’ll list here, it needs to be addressed because it’s the destination that every other channel will be directed to. So the website needs to educate and convert visitors to work well.
To do this you’ll want to read more on conversion optimization (or CX) and which is optimizing the User Interface and User Experience (or UI and UX respectively).
You are likely familiar with search engine optimization as it’s the only way to ensure that your company and your website shows up in the search engines. The better your SEO is then the higher you’ll rank in search for the keywords you need to show up for. Not just keywords but your business name as well. Some print businesses can even get found at all online for anything and that is very bad news.
The types of things you’ll want to show up for in the search engines are…
- Print business name
- Print products
- Print services
- Solution focused Q&A
The things that need optimization on your print website…
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Heading Tags (H1 & H2)
- Keyword Inclusion on Pages
- Page Speed Optimization
- Image Alt Tags & Title Tags
- And many other things we’re just running out of space here
*For more information on SEO for Printers click here
Paid Search is similar to SEO because it’s focused on keywords, but different in that you can pay to be found in the search engines instead of optimizing your website for it. It’s true that many print companies have done PPC or Google Ads only to find that they lose money, but in every case we’ve experienced that has been due to their lack of knowledge running PPC. So don’t count this channel out. We promise you it works.
Print companies running PPC Needs to run ads on…
- Print Products
- Print Services
That’s it. Don’t waste your time on bidding on your company name, people will find you.
The ad types you should be running are text ads and call ads primarily. If you have ecommerce capabilities then you can run shopping ads.
*For more information on PPC for Print Companies click here
Another place where print companies don’t seem to be 100% sold when it comes to a marketing plan is the utilization of social media. More specifically, print businesses don’t seem to like using Facebook, but let’s talk through all of this.
Social media has two aspects to it… Organic Social Media and Paid Social Media.
If we talk about organic social first, this is meant to keep you visible and engage an audience as it gets built. Most print companies don’t have large active social media audiences so it’s hard to get them to engage. But the truth is that having active consistent social media content plays a big role in the sales process since new customers will research your company and will check out your social media accounts to validate you are someone they want to work with.
If you do have a large audience then it’s easier to ask questions, run polls and contests which will get good engagement.
Our recommendation on posting organic social media content is to do it on
When it comes to paid social media for print companies this is a good opportunity to get in front of new customers and existing customers in a cost effective way.
You can run ads on every social media platform, but not all are worthy of your ad spend (at least yet).
It is our recommendation that you run social media ads for your print company on
The great thing about LinkedIn Ads is that you can Hyper Target your Target Audience. It is hands down the most effective ad channel for print companies.
You can target things like…
- Company Size
- Job Title
- Level of Seniority
- And More
*For more information on social media for print companies click here
This channel is a given. You need to be sending email marketing messages out to your customers and prospects to generate more sales activity. Yes you can send fun marketing emails that aren’t directly selling them and we definitely encourage that, but don’t forget to also send out the direct sales emails. Many marketers at print companies don’t like sending out the sales emails because they feel it’s “too direct” or Krass. But we assure you that it’s not.
Email is also an amazing channel to hyper segment because you can break your target audience into lists that segment them in a way which allows you to send emails that speak directly to each target audience.
We recommend sending an email at least twice per month, but once a month will do if that’s all you can do when it comes to available time.
*For more information on email for print companies click here
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 6. Set Your KPIs and Goals
This is one that gives print businesses a run for their money. Marketing KPIs and Goals can be difficult to come up with sometimes. We touched on this in the marketing budget section as it relates to goals, but there is much more for you to track and measure.
Let’s go deeper on what KPIs and Goals you should be tracking in your marketing plan.
What Marketing KPIs Should A Print Company Track?
Listed below are the most important areas you should be focusing on when tracking KPIs and Goals.
Sales KPIs & Goals for a Print Company
- New Customers
- Orders / Revenue
This KPI serves as a view of overall exposure and awareness.
This KPI serves as a view of overall engaged visibility
This KPI serves as a view of the effectiveness of each platform’s ability to increase exposure and awareness.
This KPI serves as a view of the effectiveness of each platform’s ability to increase engaged visibility.
Cost Per Click Overall
This KPI serves as a leading indicator of overall performance and a strategic variable to improve performance over time.
Cost Per Click by Channel
This KPI serves as a channel specific leading indicator of overall performance and a strategic variable to improve performance over time.
*channels such as LinkedIn and Google Ads
Cost Per Conversion Overall
This KPI serves as a global health indicator for performance and a primary KPI & Goal that can be optimized against and achieved or made better.
Cost Per Conversion by Channel
This KPI serves as a channel specific health indicator for performance and a primary KPI & Goal that can be optimized against and achieved or made better on each platform.
*channels such as LinkedIn and Google Ads
How can you measure those KPIs & goals?
To measure these KPIs & Goals you can utilize a suite of marketing technology.
Some of these tools you may be using now and others you may not.
The recommendation is to set these up in a very specific and accurate way to ensure all data is captured, captured accurately and set up to be reported on in a way that is easy to read, understand and make decisions against.
Tools You Can Use
- UTM Tracking
- Google Analytics
- Tag Manager
- Data Studio (now called Looker Studio)
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 7. Determine Your Messaging and Positioning
This is another area that marketers absolutely love to dig deeper into. Coming up with what to say and who it’s being said to is a classic marketing 101 tactic and is extremely effective at generating better results from your marketing efforts.
What is Messaging?
It’s basically the act of effectively communicating your print company’s value in a way that resonates most with your target audience.
Each marketing persona will require a slightly different marketing message.
The things that you’ll need to include in your marketing message are…
- Pain Points
- Your Competitive Advantages
But each of those elements must be expanded to uniquely address the paint points and solutions most specific for each persona and their industry as well as relate your competitive advantages to their needs as well. You’ll need to speak their language for these to be most effective.
Example Marketing Messages for Print Companies
“We get your bank in front of successful entrepreneurs that needs loans”
“Direct Mail that Drives Event Registrations for Member Organizations, Guaranteed!”
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 8. Set Your Marketing Plan Timeline
To make your marketing plan work you’ll need to create a marketing calendar, schedule of events or marketing timeline. Whatever you want to call it, you’ll need to have it.
When most print marketers or shop owners think of this plan schedule they initially think of all the things they want to run and when they want to run them, which is a really good place to start, but you’ll also need to consider the time to produce & create those marketing assets, setting up the channels you’ll run on and create time allowances for reporting and making decisions on the data & insights that come from your tracking and measuring.
What should your marketing calendar look like?
To be honest it all depends on the channels you’re using as a part of your marketing plan.
Offline marketing channels can have longer execution that is out of your control such as trade shows, direct mail or community events. In these cases a 3rd party is controlling that schedule and you just need to comply and work it into your plan.
But Online Marketing has easy start & stop capabilities. For example, every ad platform allows you to tell it when to start and when to end, you can go in and stop or start them whenever you want regardless of the date ranges you’ve set and you can run ads for as little time or as long as you want. These are the most flexible channels available.
What should you consider regarding timing when creating a Marketing Plan for your print business?
There are a number of things that marketers will address regarding timing which we are expanding on a little below to give you ideas on how you’ll create yours moving forward.
These are typically centered around ideas that make sense for your print business or the business of your target audience. Your timeframe is likely dictated by the expectations of existing timeline constraints regarding these industry norms. Usually they revolve around either low sales periods or high sales periods, where one is the grind of getting new business in during a period of low activity and the other is capitalizing on the boom of attention.
The annual marketing timeline is supposed to be more of a holistic view of the entire year, where you chunk the sections of each marketing timeline into easy to understand blocks that are represented on this longer timeline.
The period is still fairly macro in that it’s covering a few months, but more specific than annual in that it will share individual campaign components and milestones that complete the annual timeline.
When we talk about seasonal timelines for marketing we are talking about both the actual seasons of weather & holidays as well as business seasons. In most cases the weather & holidays dictate design where the business seasons dictate the content.
These are very important because each event will have a timeline for every granular aspect of the event itself. Start, Stop, creation of assets, check ins, etc.
These are usually extremely detailed and are the most tedious when it comes to marketing timelines.
These are a subset of the event specific marketing timelines and have an extraordinary amount of effort that need to be put into their planning and execution. You’ll typically have to plan well in advance (sometimes a year or more out), and get things done early, you typically have to ship or transport items to the show, set up, actively participate in the trade show, break down, transport the set up back and store it for the next time it comes around. There is a lot here!
Again you are very familiar with this channel so we won’t go overboard, but the timing of when mail gets to the customer or prospect is dictated by the USPS calendar. You have the option of sending items 1st or 3rd class for example, or expedite shipping depending on what your mailing, but for the most part timing is out of your control
Creating the direct mail is a different story, you are able to get that done very quickly.
These events are similar to trade shows except they are typically held much closer and less intense. So you have to do a lot of the same work, just less of it, with less hassle and not as early.
Google Ads is very easy to control and get going. The only things you’ll need to do are have an account, create the campaigns by choosing what products and services you’ll promote, choose the keywords, write the ad copy, set your budget and run the campaign. You can run it continuously or you can set a start and stop date.
If you are running social media ads the timeline is very similar to PPC, but you’ll have at least one creative element which is the image used in the ad. But for organic social (non ads) you’ll create a typical content calendar that is usually either daily or every other day. This requires copy, image curation, and syncing to your annual, quarterly, monthly and event specific calendars.
This is similar to any other content calendar where you will need to sync the email messages to match your annual, quarterly, month and event specific marketing calendars. In addition to that though you can have independent direct sales emails that also generate more visibility, traffic and revenue. With these it’s really just copy and images. Easy to create and execute.
Print Company Marketing Plan Step 9. Launch Your Marketing Plan & Track / Report on Performance
Now that your marketing plan has been created and the initial assets have been produced it’s time to launch your campaigns, your marketing efforts and the continued build out of assets as you move through the month, quarter and year.
Once everything is launched you’ll need to track, measure, monitor and report on your campaign performance because you may find that you want to tweak things as the numbers come in.
Here is how print companies can effectively track your marketing to make better decisions
Using Google Tag Manager you can consolidate all of your tracking code into a single platform that once you put the code on the site you only have to edit the code inside of Tag Manager. It makes it much easier than having to go to the back end of your website and edit from there. Plus you have special capabilities of creating custom tracking variables inside of Tag Manager that will give you even more insight. And it’s free!
This platform is also free and gives you the ability to track how many people came to your site, where they went, where they came from, what they did on your site, for how long, what country, city, state they were in, what browser they were using, what device they were using, when they converted and the list goes on and on. This platform gives you the ability to see everything you need to make decisions on whether or not your marketing is performing the way you expected and if it isn’t you can find out why and make changes based on the data this platform provides.
This is similar to Google Analytics in that it gives you massive insight about what users are doing except it is solely focused on the platform you are looking at. This could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Each of these platforms has their own reporting tools for organic engagement and the paid ad side of the engagement. Use them to make better social media ad decisions to increase performance.
We actually could go a lot longer and break out into more and more detail, but to be honest this article on creating a marketing plan for print companies is already gigantically long so we figured it would be best to stop with this. If you have questions or want to do more with your print companies marketing and create a plan then talk to us here at Pryntbase. While we aren’t creating the marketing plan for you, we can help get you going and generating more traffic, leads and sales!