Selling print products today isn't the Quixotic endeavor the more pessimistic media sources would have you believe. Despite the beginning of the digital ad age more than a decade ago, there is still a role for print service providers. That said, the field is not the same as it has been in the past, and if you've made it this far, you've more than likely learned to adapt and exist within the new set of rules.

The best practices of the print business are always evolving, presenting an elusive target. The key is becoming a trusted partner of other companies and helping with their marketing and communications needs in any way possible. What they're looking for, however, will change over time. It's up to you to become an expert on these fluctuations and be ready with the right offering at the ideal moment. When you learn to read the signs of demand, this is far from impossible.

Golden opportunities
In his most recent industry overview, Joe Webb of WhatTheyThink singled out some important practices you should follow to improve the connection between your physical media offerings and your potential customers. He even pointed out a precise moment when you should make an approach to improve sales performance: when an organization changes its chief marketing officer.

Webb explained that recent data from the retail sector has found that companies are becoming faster on the trigger when it comes to switching out old CMOs and promoting new ones. They are eager to get great results from their marketing sections, and when those don't materialize, leaders decide a C-suite shake-up is in order. This state of flux means more opportunities for you to pitch your offerings. A new CMO stepping in will want to drive better results than his or her predecessor, especially with companies eager to make these switches. The pressure to make a difference right away is real and immediate.

The exact moment of change from one CMO to the next can be when you make a long-lasting partnership. As Webb pointed out, new CMOs tend to re-allocate their media spending. Dollars that once went to other companies can be yours, provided you can give a good return on investment. As the author specified, ROI is very much a relevant metric in marketing. Many of the CMO switches going on today may be attributable to an inability to prove that current marketing methods are worthwhile. Therefore, it will pay to develop effective ways to show that your products are capable of generating good ROI.

Expect flux
But with opportunity comes a caution: While setting up new contracts with fresh CMOs may seem like a good way to gain long-term stability, even printers doing well should be ready for the market to shift unpredictably. Webb specified that the mix of media types used by businesses today is the subject of constant reassessment. Print is not an island. As part of the overall marketing and communications ecosystem, it will expand when firms free up more money and decline when other channels take off. Brands built to be flexible and ride out changes in the marketplace will obviously have an advantage over less adaptable peers.

Capturing new clients proactively, not reactively
When it comes to expanding your client base and dealing with CMOs, you may encounter request for proposals. According to Printing Impressions columnist Mike Jacoutot, these seemingly huge opportunities may actually be more trouble than they're worth. He explained that a typical RFP scenario involves many different vendors fighting for the same client, with only one making the sale. That company will hold onto the contract for years, so even if you were the second-most impressive entrant, you get no second chance at the account for a long time.

If you shouldn't respond to these RFPs, how do you go about collecting new contracts from these organizations? Jacoutot explained that it doesn't hurt to reach out to a prospect that asks for an RFP and offer to research that company's problems and possible solutions. If the business isn't interested in that more specialized approach, go ahead and disengage. The costs of pursuing it will be great and there's a real risk you won't become its print provider. If the prospect does meet with you, however, this is a chance to make the sale – on your own terms.

Capturing new business
Print isn't dead, and there's no reason not to get out there and proactively chase new clients. With marketing strategies in a constant state of flux and leaders interested in trying out new options, you could become a trusted partner for a business in need of a fresh start. Of course, to make this kind of impact, you'll have to be ready with great offerings that executives see the value in. If this is something you can provide, the next generation of print will have a place for you.