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The Printheads – A Success Story

August 23, 2011

There’s no getting around it – the past few years have presented some daunting challenges to many. But one woman-owned business has found a formula to succeed in spite of the difficulties of starting up in these cash-strapped times. Lynn Miller, founder of The Printheads, LLC, knows both the thrill and the terror of facing those obstacles head on, and finding new ways to navigate through, over, and around them. As they celebrate the ribbon-cutting at their new expanded offices on Aug. 25, The Printheads’ success provides an inspiring example of how one small startup can, with a little creative spunk and a lot of focused determination, beat the odds.

Starting out in a small home-based office in 2009, The Printheads set out to provide just the right blend of marketing resources and strategies to help other organizations grow – graphic design, business printing, and online marketing. Launching in the uncertain headwaters of a major recession, there was no shortage of things to worry about, nor was there any lack of logistical and budgetary challenges to find some passage around. It was a scenario that demanded a willingness to learn quickly, an ability to adapt effectively, and the agility to take decisive action. By carefully and constantly re-evaluating and re-calibrating existing knowledge, technologies, and processes, Lynn was able to provide superior value that her customers could not find elsewhere. Transforming traditional experience into a sleeker, more efficient version of older business models, The Printheads has positioned itself as one of the fastest growing Print and Marketing providers in the North Metro area.

Starting With The Right Idea

Providing an essential cross-media blend of the Big 3 marketing essentials –graphic design/business printing. web development. and social media marketing, all under one roof– was the first major innovation to set this firm apart from the old paradigm. Rather than trying to wrangle multiple different vendors into providing synchronised, consistent, and integrated communication materials, clients had one point of contact for everything. Long-term strategies could be devised, and materials produced and deployed in incremental phases to stay within budgetary parameters. Collateral created for printed promotions could be tweaked for online use, graphics used for a web promotion re-purposed for a direct mail campaign. The benefit to customers was clear from the start: dramatic cost reductions, increased effectiveness, and a lot less cat-herding.

Paying attention, and adapting to the environment almost immediately Lynn noticed that smaller companies, firms with less than $5 million, are generally under served and most in need of help. Mega-corporations with large marketing budgets have countless commercial printers and upscale agencies all clamoring to get their business. But small to mid-size companies (who need to contain expenditures, and expect an actual return on their investments) are rarely wooed with the same fervor. Seeing a need and having the tools and expertise to fill it, The Printheads began actively reaching out to this largely ignored market, and tailoring their services to more directly benefit this group. A solid, continually expanding base of fiercely loyal and forward-moving customers soon followed.

Getting The Word Out: Marketing

Being a new kid on the block means that a lot of exposure needs to be gained quickly, usually with very limited resources. This can be tricky without some sort of road map, so Lynn took the time to sit down and devise one: a marketing plan. Having worked in the industry for so many years, she had been able to observe, and learn from, the failures and successes of others. Using this knowledge to chart the best possible course, goals were outlined, budgets defined, time lines established, and strategies developed to meet them.

With a plan in place, The Printheads were able to prioritize and implement their promotional efforts in an organized and carefully staged fashion that maximized their efforts and minimized over-spending. As an added bonus, developing the marketing plan also helped to define and solidify The Printheads vision. This really brought the brand into focus, making the business-identity design process that much easier.

Online Marketing

One of the first areas leveraged to increase marketing reach was the internet and social media venues.

To get the ball rolling quickly, an intermediary web site was put in place almost immediately, and The Printheads dove in to several social networking sites, devoting a set amount of time each week to expanding their connections and developing on online presence. Giving new customers and prospects a way to ‘check you out’ before making a decision is no longer just another option, it’s a necessity. Because cyberspace has unlimited space to work with, this also allowed them to provide ample information not only on their wide variety of services, but on the benefits derived from using them.

Print Marketing

Knowing that even the most brilliant web sites accomplish nothing if no one ever sees them, the next step was to start driving traffic through more traditional means. Using the marketing plan as a guide, print collateral was developed to be used both as sales tools and lead-generators. Business cards, brochures, mailers, and hand-delivered “goodie” bags were all produced and deployed via several different avenues to insure the best saturation. Pieces were designed with a purpose in mind, and delivered to carefully chosen target prospects. Some contacts were made by phone, some in person, some by mail, some by Google adwords campaigns, but new contacts were made – methodically and consistently.

Business Networking

Lynn’s core strengths were in organization and project management, but when it came to sales, she felt a bit out of her element. Since there is just no substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to building a client base, she enrolled in a Dale Carnegie sales training program. Seeking outside help and/or training to shore up areas that may seem unfamiliar is a step many fledgling business owners avoid, but it can make all the difference. Lynn also realized that most of her business contacts were inside her own industry, and that she needed to reach out into other fields to find customers who needed her services. She sought out networking events on meetup.com, and attended a wide variety of functions almost daily. Eventually it was possible to narrow it down to a few groups most compatible with The Printheads services, making these opportunities one of the best sources of new business. Lynn is currently active in the BNI network and the Cobb Chamber, and Printheads account manager Christian Amaya is involved in several other groups.

Good Planning And Hard Work Pay Off

The result of Lynn’s efforts started showing by early 2010. By the end of the first quarter, The Printheads sales had already doubled over their first year, and by the end of 2010 they had tripled their customer base. 2011 is on track to be a record year, with sales projected to grow even faster with the new equipment and enhanced services being added in the new location.

Economic downturns are no picnic, to be sure, but Lynn and The Printheads team remind us that a recession is not a nuclear winter. Even in the worst of times, there is still room for growth, innovation, and success. And it appears that small businesses may be leading the way.

The Printheads Ribbon Cutting Celebration will begin at 11 a.m. on Aug. 25 in their new offices at 2623 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 103, Marietta, GA 30066. For more information, feel free to contact Lynn Miller directly at The Printheads: 678-528-5785, cell: 404-428-2177, or email lynn@theprintheads.com

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