In less than 12 months, Print Republic, an online UK-based print company, has attracted 700 new clients, including the world’s biggest online auction site, eBay, and its turnover has jumped by 40 per cent – all thanks to Digital Lighthouse techniques.
‘Many of our new clients are small businesses but we’ve also attracted some really large multi-national companies too,’ says owner Stefan Boyle. Those include a multi-national software company with a £1bn turnover and a pharmaceutical giant. ‘One of our clients has spent £200,000 with us in the last two months.’
The major benefit of having so many new clients is that the company is no longer reliant on a mere handful of customers. ‘Before Digital Lighthouse, we had 100 clients, now we’ve got 800. The majority of our business used to come from just a handful. That’s a slightly risky situation, because you’re reliant on a few clients and if they stop spending or take their business elsewhere, you’re in trouble.
‘What we’re doing is trying to win a lot more clients and increase the client base even further. It’s exciting.’
Two years ago, Boyle took over his family’s printing business. For 40 years, the company had operated as a traditional printing company, but with economic conditions becoming ever tougher, Boyle was aware that it was time to change. ‘Margins had eroded over the past few years. The printing business was just getting very hard. It just was really becoming a pricing game. And that was a game I didn’t want to play.
‘Part one of my plan was to create an online business – Print Republic – and the second part of the plan was to go more upmarket with a graphic design business, Cheese&Pickle. My vision was to offer customers a complete package – marketing, website design, graphic design and printing.’
He knew that to achieve the success he envisioned for both companies, he needed expert marketing help. ‘Any marketing we had ever done, be it newspaper, magazine, advertising to direct mail or email, had always bombed. If I sent out a 10,000 mailing, I was always massively disappointed. I got to the stage where I didn’t do it anymore; I just didn’t advertise because I never got a return on investment. I didn’t really know what I was doing wrong.’
That changed once he signed up for Digital Lighthouse’s Business Development Programme: he discovered not only what he was doing wrong but, more importantly, how to make his marketing successful.
‘I realised we were making the mistakes that other companies in my industry and almost every industry were making: we were talking about ourselves. Every piece of marketing I had done before had really talked about how good we were, and how customers or prospects should use our services, but we didn’t quantify it. We didn’t talk about it from a customer’s or prospect’s perspective. Digital Lighthouse made me change my approach.’
Once he made that fundamental shift, he was encouraged to expand his businesses. ‘Soon after I signed up with Digital Lighthouse, Jonathan Jay [Digital Lighthouse’s Chairman] encouraged me to look at what was working in my industry. I looked at one of my competitors, which has a huge annual turnover, and is therefore doing something very right.
‘But I saw that it is also doing a lot of things wrong. Millions of people use the company to create their business cards, but many of them are unhappy with the result. They are attracted by the free business cards the company offers and the speed and ease with which it delivers them, but then they’re really disappointed with the lack of quality.’
‘I began to think, “Let’s do what they do but do it better. Let’s offer business people free, high quality cards. Instead of a stop-gap, our cards will be something they really want to use.”
‘And business cards represent a company well. Because of all the pieces of print you tend to give out, your business card is probably the thing that people keep. Leaflets and flyers are temporary: you send them out all the time, and they’re often discarded. But if people are interested in what you do, they tend to keep business cards, especially if the cards are nice.
‘So that is the area that we chose to focus on, and we put a campaign together to promote it. We offered prospects 100 free business cards in return for their contact details. The idea was to build a client base, and at the same time prove how good our cards actually were. Digital Lighthouse taught me how to start with an offer that is tempting and draws people in. Once you do that, you’ve got a relationship, and then you can build that relationship and offer more products and services to them.’
He decided to offer a simple up-sell programme that consisted of related products – stationery, flyers, letterheads, postcards, brochures, posters, leaflets, and folders.
‘I looked at the market and there is only one company that has free offers, but it is relentless in its up-sell. It has far too many up-sells, in my opinion.
‘It’s not just business cards; it offers Love Film memberships and toll-free phone numbers, that kind of thing. We’re following a similar model but we’ve made our offer simple and transparent. We’re still giving people the opportunity to do a bit more, to upgrade their purchases, but we’re not thrusting 100 unrelated products at them.’
Within two weeks of launching the programme, 400 people responded and Print Republic gained 70 new clients.
‘We tried to keep the email offer very simple: it was about four paragraphs long, and it explained that it is possible to get a good quality business card fast. We mailed it out to a list with a link to a squeeze page where we captured everyone’s details. A lot of those people then went through to the website to order the cards. It worked so well – we had a 10 per cent response – I even had three new clients sign up on a Bank Holiday, which is almost unheard of.
‘Like anything new, you are not sure how it is going to work but that first campaign was the most successful marketing campaign I’d ever done. It just gives you that inner confidence that what you are doing is the right thing.
That applies to the actual campaign as well as the decision to sign up to do the Digital Lighthouse Business Development Programme.’
Boyle has also created five joint ventures with clients, including a leading online business price comparison site. ‘I’m promoting them and they’re promoting me.’
The idea for creating joint venture partnerships also came from Digital Lighthouse, he says. ‘We were encouraged to look at the behaviour of our prospects and determine where they go; what they read; what websites they visit.
‘Our main target group is start-up companies and small businesses, so we looked at everywhere those kinds of business owners might go – websites, start-up website magazines, organisations like the Chambers of Commerce. I have been speaking to all of those people and putting campaigns together.’
Over the past year, Boyle has completely changed his business model. ‘I’m using all the techniques that I’ve learned at Digital Lighthouse’s Business Development Programme – sending emails, forming joint ventures with other companies and writing press releases and blog postings.
‘The upshot of all of this is that I’ve really been thinking about the processes. I’m remodellling my business again – looking at my systems, how we do the follow-up. We’re generating leads very well but we really want to automate the follow-up with telemarketing and e-marketing.’
And his success has given him huge confidence that he will be able to take more and more market share away from the giant printing companies. ‘When you see positive things like your client base exploding in a matter of days, it is hugely exciting. I love it.’