Let’s be honest. The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough. Everyone has had to learn the art of the pivot to stay relevant. But remember, there’s always a silver lining.
Printers, just like you, have been forced to lift their heads up out of the day-to-day busyness of running a printing firm and instead, thoughtfully review things like their staffing capacity, profitability of jobs, product focus, processes, marketing strategy, and more.
At Marketing Ideas For Printers, we spend a lot of our time, energy, and words to remind and convince printers like you to ditch the “I’m only a printer” mindset. There has never been a better time to throw out those feelings of inadequacy and step into your true role and calling as the expert marketing consultant that can help meet and exceed your buyers’ needs.
To help inspire you, we’re featuring a printer each month as our Marketing Ideas For Printers’ Print Marketing Expert of the Month. These highlighted printers reflect the innovative spirit necessary to branch out, try new things, and find new ways to remain a powerful resource for their customers.
Our first Print Marketing Expert of the Month is Jaci Maher of A-Link Printing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jaci’s dad started A-Link Printing in 1978. After Jaci finished college at the age of 22, she purchased her father’s business in 1986. “The joke was that I was going to be an international banker or something, travel the world, and not settle down to have kids. But life doesn’t always turn out how you think, and that’s ok. For me, I’m happy with how it turned out, especially having a family with my husband, even though it was different than I had planned,” says Jaci.
Over the past 35 years that Jaci has owned and operated A-Link Printing, she has had to find innovative ways to remain relevant because of the tough competition found in Pittsburgh. One distinct way A-Link has done that has been to focus more on the creative side of things. “We’ve always put our focus on advertising and marketing, direct mail, those types of things, instead of business forms or manuals, for example. We look to focus on the whole marketing package rather than individual products, and I’ve always employed a graphic designer to help our customers get the best results for the creative aspects of what they’re looking for,” Jaci says.
In March 2020, A-Link faced the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, much like most of the printing industry.
“On Friday afternoon, we were told we would have to shut down, and I let my employees go. Then, over the weekend, printers (rightfully) made a stink, and we were allowed to be open on Monday. But it sure made things crazy for us. I knew I was going to have to figure out a way to keep jobs coming in the door,” says Jaci.
In the beginning, A-Link Printing focused on doing a lot of marketing to schools around their area. “We printed custom-named labels on bands around boxes for the graduates. They included the graduates’ cap and gown and a couple of promotional items to go in the boxes. We also ended up doing the graduation programs. At the same time, we were also doing a lot of email blasts.”
But as the pandemic continued to linger on, the need for continued marketing and promotion became clear. Check out these three fun and unique ideas A-Link implemented to keep clients coming back.
With the pandemic creating a much larger remote workforce and the need for families to connect digitally, Zoom became the go-to way to stay in touch. A-Link decided to capitalize on this new need and make it fun and relevant to their clients and prospects.
“We had heard about people playing BINGO over Zoom, and it got us thinking, ‘What could we do that was different?’ My family always played Scattegories, but we always just used a piece of paper and a pencil. We didn’t need a boxed game. So, we took that idea and ran with it. My designer did an amazing job, and we were able to put together a Zoomegories game in about a day. We used it as a way to prospect to our customers and lift their spirits during the pandemic. Clients could play over the phone with others; we mailed it out to our list and put it on our website so people could download it.”
Another way Jaci and the team at A-Link looked to expand their services during the pandemic was through ramping up their direct mail services. Instead of providing only traditional direct mail services, they began working with a vendor to pair their clients’ direct mail campaigns with paid ads.
“We upload our clients’ mailing list and, with the help of our vendor, it will push out Google, Facebook, and Instagram ads to target the people on their list as their mailing is going out. Not only does it give our clients more effective campaign results, but it also helps us sound more knowledgeable and maintain customer retention.”
While innovation is commendable, sometimes, a lot of wisdom can be found in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.
“Every year, we send out a 12 x 18 annual calendar to our clients and prospects. These are so easy to make, print, and send out. I hear of so many clients who have these calendars in their cubicles and will even call and request them. That staying power is priceless. The fact that our printshop’s name is in front of their eyes all year makes projects like this a no-brainer and ensures they think of us when they do need printing,” notes Jaci.
When asked what advice she’d give to other printers during these trying and uncertain times, Jaci offers some valuable advice.
“Don’t get caught up in perfection. Just get things done. Try new things and make them as uncomplicated as possible. Work on building up recognition with your brand and focus on the easiest and most efficient things possible. With our current capacity, I’m continually asking myself how to make the most with what we’re doing and focus on what we do best. I’ve had to learn to stop making decisions based on keeping people busy and instead focus on what makes the most impact on our overall results.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of NPSOA magazine. For more information on how you can become an NPSOA member and enjoy the many benefits offered there, contact Member Services at [email protected] or head to their website at NPSOA.org.