Ideas for taking on your big box and internet competition

How to take on the big box and internet printers, Part 1

Do you have big competitors in your market who sell printing on price, or rather the perception of low prices (even though they may actually be no cheaper than you, and they are certainly not as good)?

Thought so.

Bookstores have similar problems.

Big problems.

Many of the challenges facing the owner of a typical independent book store mirror the challenges you face yourself, as a printer catering to your local market.

For example, encroachment from big box vendors, and internet based printers.

Where you have Office Depot across town, they have Barnes and Noble.

Where you deal with VistaPrint and all the rest, they are standing in the shadow of Amazon.


A local story

In my area there were lots of great little book stores fifteen or twenty years ago, each with its own character, reflecting the particular tastes and expertise of the store’s buyer. There was still room for a couple of the national chains in the malls, for people with more general tastes.

Then both Borders and Barnes and Noble moved in, and slowly but surely the independents withered.

Then of course Amazon appeared, and now there are only a very few locally owned bookstores left, running on a shoe string.

BUT, there are still people who value local businesses, and who like to hold and browse a book before buying.

One local book store made a bold move in this climate. They operated in a strip mall location in the suburbs for years, and now they have opened a second location in Burlington, Vermont’s downtown pedestrian mall – the hub of retail in the city.

This is also on the heels of Borders going out of business, leaving a vacuum downtown where they themselves had sucked up all the oxygen and imploded.

The store is called Phoenix Books – website here if you’d like to have a look at them – and they are doing a couple of interesting things.

First, they create a sense of community and relevance by hosting community generated events that tie in with local interests, topical events and book releases.

Second, they are running a community supported enterprise model with two options. Customers can pay in advance for $1000 in store credit, and they can buy a $100 membership that entitles them to a 10% discount for 5 years.

Oh, and they embrace digital technology, as part of a network that sells ebooks.


Ideas for marketing your printing business

Could you capitalize on local issues and apply these ideas to create loyalty in your market place?

Could you organize events to educate about relevant business issues, and use them as a springboard for regional publicity, and new relationships?

Certainly businesses are motivated differently than consumers. But individual business owners may be very receptive to programs that support their local counterparts, as they stand to benefit from the same line of thinking.

Could you create a local business support network, to offer incentives to other business owners to rely on each other rather than internet or non-locally owned franchises?

And be the default printing and integrated marketing supplier to the group?

Next time I’ll tell you about a particular promotion that Phoenix books is running that you could replicate.

I bet you’ll see how it can help you take back a bit of your “big” competitors’ lunches.


I would love to hear your comments.