Doing business can be fun these days! Thanks to the multitude of online options that hover for space in the World Wide Web, companies find themselves a step closer to their business interests. Turning the fun factor in social media to reap benefits is not only tried by retail outlets but is also an area that printers have turned their attention to. Improved technology and the arrival of smart gadgets have created the opportunity to being online 24×7 and to remain accessible. Targeting this new found marketing channel, printers who earlier relied on word of mouth communication and other direct marketing techniques are now devoting their time to social platforms.
A very big attraction of online platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube or Pinterest is that it comes free, and they are all pretty much easy to use. Though this being the case, printers who respond back frequently or who regularly update their content are better favoured by their online customers. The interactive quality of these portals is another plus point, which makes the user feel more in touch with the provider’s services and products. Surveys and studies conducted in this field have revealed that uploading images and videos or conducting live webinars can build more audience rather than having a direct marketing approach.
Adopting a Broader Methodology
Printers in the Middle East are now harnessing the power of online medium by making their websites more user- friendly. Many of them have not yet fully looked into the potentials that community sites can provide. Though Facebook and Twitter is immensely popular with the masses in this region, it has not yet gained popularity as an alternative B2B platform, especially amongst the printing community here. As said before, though these sites come free of cost, only a channelized and pre-focused methodology from the provider’s end will result in success.
It’s predicted that by 2014 mobile phones will have an important role to play in relaying communication of all forms. More and more people will be using mobile phones to access internet; printers have to reckon this fact and introduce mobile enabled solutions to leverage their business. Augmented reality and QR codes are just some of the point of modes that attract consumers into a site or products offered. Mobile technology can very well include these new tools that help to bundle and communicate information effectively.
Price is seldom a factor discussed in these social mediums; rather the streaming of expertise and knowledge is what differentiates it from the rest. Relieving viewers from the boredom of conference room ambience and talking business right at their leisure and convenience is what makes it more appealing.
Building Audience Not Sales
The initial phase of any social networking venture will be slow paced. Only consistent updates and regular and focused communication will help in building an audience desired. Google ad words and their online campaigning is a tool now widely used by printing companies. Research has proved that promoting your company in search engine results, helps in acquiring new clients and businesses. Once again, ease of access is the factor that increases the popularity of SEO campaigns.
With the world print community expressing their concern over the looming threat of digital media on print industry; printers have now on the contrary harnessed the power of social media to leverage their business sales. Viewing all these and to validate the points furnished, ME Printer contacted printers across the region to know their point of view about social media and its impact on print industry. Read on to know their experience with social media platforms and how they were able to make a deal by effectively utilizing these resources.
A Medium to be Explored
Jordan – Central Printing Press
Established in the early 1960’s, the Central Press in Jordan believes in the power of social media and maintains their bond with customers through mediums like Facebook. Central Press is one of the largest printing presses operating in Jordan today and is mainly into the printing of magazines, Yearbooks, calendars’, flyers etc. Yousef Hammad, Marketing Manager at Central Press, Jordan observes, “Online marketing today occupies a large space in corporate strategy and it acts as an effective tool to communicate with customers. Traditional tools that were used to search information have been replaced with these online tools, and its presence has become a necessity.”
“Printing presses in the Middle East have not yet fully benefited from the possibilities of online marketing mainly because of the trust factor, especially when it comes to purchasing directly from the internet. Customers still prefer to come directly, view the samples and proof before placing an order. Online marketing has been quite a success in countries like UAE but we cannot say the same can be followed here, as in each country the trend may vary.”
“Our strategy is to integrate online marketing tools with normal marketing methods. We work through our website as well as our Facebook page, which contributes indirectly to our business. But as I said before, it’s a matter of trust and only when customers put their trust, this concept will be popularized. In countries like Europe, majority of the printing orders are made through the internet, while in Middle East customers still prefer direct communication modes.”
Effective Mode of Communication
Lebanon – Arab Printing Press
Another company that is using its web site not only to promote itself but also to streamline its day to day printing activities is Arab Printing Press (APP) in Beirut, Lebanon. The company which is one of the largest offset printing presses in Lebanon is exporting its products to other counties. APP is servicing through its French subsidiary to all customers located in France. The customers are mainly catalogue and book publishers. The company is also active in West and North Africa and is a major exporter of text books to Iraq and magazines to the Gulf countries.APP’s website allows the user to ask for a quotation, to upload files for printing and to track jobs within the production cycle. Eli Raphael, APP’s chairman and general manager says that 50% of its customers are now sending their files through their website. The customers also automatically receive SMS’s regarding the status of their print orders. APP is one of the few conventional printers in the region who is taking full advantage of the possibilities that online technology has to offer. The company also offers remote proofing; however customers are keen on seeing the physical proof rather than the digital one. Raphael believes that its website contributes to the image of the company and builds a bridge between the company and its customers outside Lebanon.
Using social media to promote the beauty of print
Lebanon – Al Raidy Group
One company that perhaps is very active in web space is Raidy Printing Group. Headquartered in Lebanon and with branches in UAE and Egypt the company is one of the biggest print houses in the region. The company also plans to establish print houses in KSA and Iraq. Raidy specializes in magazine, security printing and book printing among other print products. The company’s Facebook page has thousands of followers and it is rich in content. MarieJoe Raidy, who is responsible for the development of the company’s online activities, maintains that for Raidy its website and social media is just another tool to communicate and engage with customers.
“We basically use social media to be involved in the virtual world. We don’t use it as a major marketing tool. Nevertheless online marketing is only effective when you do it right. Sending out online messages without a clear strategy will not move your products. Our website is a tool for us to offer information about our activities and services, especially for customers outside Lebanon. In our Facebook page we are promoting the beauty and the functionality of the printed word. It is also a communication channel to engage with our customers. We strongly believe printing is still the best form of advertisement. According to a research by Steria, in-store advertising has the biggest influence on buyers. 28% of the people participated in the survey said POP and POS advertising is the main reason behind their purchase.”
“The research, carried out by YouGov, also found that newspaper and magazine adverts were identified to have 27 per cent purchasing influence, while only 9 per cent buy ads on social networks and 7 per cent buy mobile ads. This clearly shows that print advertising is still the best way to effectively deliver the marketing message. For us in Raidy we haven’t felt any decrease in commercial printing so far. However the advent of low quality printing is undeniable as well but conventional and high quality printing is here to stay especially in our region,” comments MarieJoe.
Online marketing is the future
Lebanon – Salim Dabbous Printing
Salim Dabbous Printing Company in Beirut, Lebanon is a commercial printer that handles a wide range of printing activity including posters, labels and packaging materials. Nabil Dabbous, General Manager of the company says, “There is no doubt that online marketing plays a vital role in the functioning of printing presses, especially its ability to market products. Once a customer from Africa ordered for a job and he had no point of reference except for our website. So I acknowledge that online marketing has great potentials and it can extend beyond regional boundaries.”
“Besides the online marketing possibilities, online marketing helps us by reducing time and cost spent for communication. It’s faster and less expensive compared to traditional methods. Everything now is done online, be it discussing deals or sending marketing campaigns to customers.”
“I consider that online marketing will gain more strength in the future, as more printing presses are now focusing on this concept, especially in developing their social networking streams. We are also concentrating on this front and have launched our Facebook page and Twitter handles that will make sure that we can communicate effectively with our clients across the region.”
Taking Advantage of Online Space
UAE – Veesham Printing Press
Veesham Printing Press in Dubai is a perfect example of how search engine optimization can benefit a business. The company, which operates from Dubai for more than a decade now is an active member of the social media club and believes that being visible, is the most important step in promoting the company. Dheeraj Rupani, Managing Director of the press says, “Ours is a medium scale printing facility, which is on the path of expansion. We started off with a screen printing set up and now have expanded to include offset printing.”
Raakhi Rupani, Business Development Manager and wife of Dheeraj Rupani manages the social marketing activities of the company. She tells that their Facebook page is well received by customers as it provides both informative and useful content. “People have a lot of misconceptions about printing, and we use online sites like Facebook to educate customers about the different types of paper, types of gatefolds and the like.”
She added, “At the moment we are going through a re-branding process and in the near future we are planning to upgrade our website, which will have more interactive features. Every day we receive some walk in customers, who come here to know more about our services. We provide them wholesome service and many of them have turned into our permanent customers. We also
have a customer care department, which remains in constant touch with our customers and offers them update on our latest offers and services.”
The press also offers facility for educational institutions to inspect and learn the techniques of printing. Apart from social media and other online marketing activities, Veesham also involves itself in other direct marketing techniques like vehicle graphics, print advertisements etc.
Believing Strongly in THE Power of Online Media
UAE – Spectrum
Spectrum, a digital print and communication company serves corporate clients across the Middle East and North Africa. They specialize in variable and fixed image digital printing through an online workflow and also provide large format printing solutions.
Daniel Rodgers, Group General Manager says, “The Spectrum website attracts a wide-range of customers from over 100 countries around the globe. Each month, we receive over 5k unique visitors to the site and this is growing month on month. We invest a great deal of time in our social media channels. As anyone will tell you, your audience doesn’t appear overnight and as such, you must engage your followers and provide them worthwhile and relevant content. At the moment, we are growing our audience through relevant special offers and providing information we think is worthwhile for our followers.”
Daniel says Facebook and Twitter are extremely useful channels to allow businesses to communicate effectively to their customers. In this age of information, people increasingly expect real-time communication with businesses and service providers.
“Here at Spectrum, we think Facebook and Twitter are very useful in extending our customer service in particular. From existing customers enquiring about job in progress, to a customer who isn’t completely satisfied with the finished product; we can quickly identify and address a wide range of situations and scenarios,” explains Daniel.
He adds, “In recent months, Spectrum has invested a great deal of time and effort in our online presence. We started with the complete overhaul and redesign of our website. Our old website had a huge amount of content and was often difficult to navigate. The new site has a much cleaner design and with the introduction of our simple and intuitive menus, the information our customers need is generally only a click or two away. Our growing mobile audience also led us to give our site a mobile compatible view so that even on the move; the information our clients need is available to them. Spectrum are well known for leading the way in this region and are early adopters of many technologies; we believe that our online activity is giving the Spectrum brand a great deal of exposure.”
“The effectiveness of on-line marketing is measured differently depending on the goal you wish to achieve. For example, Printing Press A may wish to attract as much new clients as possible. Printing Press B may be more focused on servicing existing clients ensuring that they have all the tools and information available to ensure a smooth working relationship. In the Middle East, companies tend to be somewhat slower to adopts digital trends which we see in the US or Europe. That said, the digital landscape is definitely evolving here in the UAE and we can already see people starting to realize and invest in their online presence and digital channels. The 21st century printing industry is an extremely competitive environment and I think we always have to look to the next trend or technology which will make us stand out from the crowd and remain one step ahead of the competition,” concludes Daniel.
Social Media Recent Facts and Figures in Middle East
• 30.2 Million Social Media Users in Middle East
• 5.5 Million Twitter users in the region
• 11 Million Use Facebook in Egypt
• 3 Million Facebook Users in UAE
• 5 Million Facebook Users in Saudi Arabia
• In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s Twitter Users Increased by 240%
• Facebook in Arabic alone has more people in it than by a newspaper in 3 languages, English, Arabic or French every single day
• With 54%, UAE has the most digital marketing potential, while KSA follows with 39%
• 57.5% use social media for digital marketing, while 17.5% use email marketing and the rest use both mobile marketing and search engine optimisation
• Budget, Bandwidth and Monitoring tools and expertise considered the three biggest challenges in digital marketing from the client side