Becoming more in touch with your print clients is no longer something that is good to do – it is absolutely vital. The businesses that need your services have a variety of specific objectives to complete, and your job is to help them check those items off their lists. By providing high-quality print solutions that directly address the kinds of pain points your audience is facing, you can become a source of indispensable value.

This is the important distinction between the present, specialized moment and the era when paper ruled the communications and marketing space. Before, that kind of integral role was assumed when you signed on as a company's partner. Now, it's something you have to work toward through extreme sensitivity to the industries your clients operate in and the situations they are facing.

Studying the new customer journey
WhatTheyThink contributor Barb Pellow recently pointed out the role you will be fulfilling for your print clients in the future. These companies will attempt to reach consumers with customized and personalized marketing materials, ensuring that they stay loyal and attentive. Getting long-term commitments has never been harder for businesses across all sectors, due to the fact that geographical constraints no longer lock consumers into working with specific providers. Online interactions and searches have made it easier than ever to find better deals and jump ship, so maintaining customer contact and staying present in buyers' minds has never been more important.

As the print provider, your role in this new status quo is to provide the personalized campaign materials your clients need. Pellow explained that you have a very in-depth objective that can help you prove that you are the right partner for the job: Get to know your customers' customers. When you understand these individuals and their preferences, you'll be better positioned to deliver personalized print solutions that are relevant and drive positive reactions. Pellow added that you should be prepared to help clients target their audiences through a variety of channels – reaching out through a well-chosen medium is a key component of customer targeting today.

The journey from initial interest to purchase has never encompassed quite so many possible touch​ points between company and buyer. Pellow noted that your clients will be tracking their customers across online and offline engagement, taking in data and trying to figure out what marketing methods will get these individuals to commit to long-term brand relationships. Your role as a print service provider is to give them at least one of their chosen marketing tools, maybe more depending on your capabilities.

The printing business is not the only field currently in the midst of a huge transformation. Pellow pointed out that implementing the above strategies is a new and different way for your clients to connect with their customers. By helping with this change-over, you prove your worth as an ally, one that can help with marketing and outreach needs no matter how customer-focused, fast and personalized the field becomes. This is a great opportunity to shake off any perceptions of the printing industry being outdated or unable to help today's companies. That, in turn, can open up a new chapter for your firm. By doing the in-depth research and knowing the market, you can make a splash in it.

Applying new techniques to your own marketing
One important point that may go overlooked when you're studying the new customer journey is that your clients will also be taking a long, winding road to working with you. Printing Impressions contributor Matthew Parker offered up a wide-ranging list of channels that can host your content to make you highly visible to your prospects. From trade magazines to social media networks to your own company's blog, you can promote your offerings by establishing a presence that spans many platforms and mediums.

Just as your customers' audiences are engaging with them through multiple channels and gradually finding them – rather than feeling locked in or preferring direct marketing – those companies may gravitate toward you slowly. Parker explained that print buyers like to be in the driver's seat today when deciding which printer to work with. If they can study your outlook via articles, posts and more, they can formulate a decision at a natural pace and make a well-informed choice. This may be disconcerting if you're used to making direct sales pitches, but playing to preferences is always worth it.

The new reality of the customer journey has given print industry leaders a lot to think about, both in terms of what they can offer customers and how they sell their own products and services. It's best not to ignore these new messages, as they can guide you to success. Print is at its best when it suits the needs of the market as it exists at the moment, rather than trying to recapture past glories. Fortunately, there is a golden opportunity for your company to do just this.