How a Small Print Shop Quickly Developed a Marketing Strategy for Long-Term Growth

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A sudden 60% drop in sales forced this shop to develop a digital marketing strategy from scratch. Learn how you can adapt, persevere, and succeed, too.

Megan O’Reilly had the kind of low-maintenance marketing tactics busy entrepreneurs envy. She co-founded Pitch Black Printing Co. in 2015 and feels “lucky” she and her business partner, Maurice Harold, were able to build a client base largely organically.

Then 2020 came around, and they decided it was time for an upgrade.

“Up until that point, events were the bulk of our marketing strategy,” says O’Reilly. “We didn’t really have a digital presence outside of spotty social media posts and a web store.”

Events were successful because many of her customers are independent artists who order art prints and show their works at a small gallery inside the shop.

While Pitch Black also offers commercial services (e.g., banners, business cards), the COVID-19 crisis hit both artists and businesses pretty hard, which—in turn—affected Pitch Black Printing Co.

“When you’re losing 60% of your sales all of [the] sudden, you need to take a step back and figure out what to change to adapt to the current environment,” says O’Reilly.

Pitch Black adapted by revamping their marketing strategy for the future, and invested in software to do it. Let’s take a look at how they made these digital changes and what you can apply to your own business.

How to use software to give your business a digital makeover

1. Prioritize marketing channels to accomplish key business goals first

It always helps to manage the scope of your endeavors early on by narrowing in on a specific strategy and process.

For example, O’Reilly and Harold recognized that their marketing plan needed an overhaul, but couldn’t focus on every aspect of marketing at once. So, they prioritized social media based on what they knew about their target audience.

“Being in a really visual industry and coming from the art background, social media is an easy way for us to connect with the kinds of audiences that use our services,” O’Reilly said. “It’s our most immediate priority because it’s a quick and trackable way for us to get out there and in front of people.”

O’Reilly said that they’ve also been working on getting better at consistently communicating with customers.

“We’re really good at letting people know about us, but not as good about reminding them that we’re here,” O’Reilly said. “The repeated contact has been more of a focus for us.”

While generating new leads and attracting new customers is a marketing goal, another goal of marketing is building relationships with the clientele you already have. Customer retention—especially amidst a crisis—can go a long way in helping businesses like yours stay afloat.

Your to-do list (and how we can help):
  • Identify your marketing goals (e.g., is attracting new customers or retaining old ones your top priority?).
  • Take inventory of what you’re already doing to attract and retain customers.
  • Look into software tools like a CRM that can help you manage both new and returning customers to build brand loyalty.

2. Ditch spreadsheets for a tech stack of integrated systems that will save you time and effort

O’Reilly said they mainly relied on spreadsheets to track business operations. When the pandemic started, they recognized that this approach wasn’t going to help them grow.

“It’s hard for that to be a sustainable growth model, when you’re two people working off a spreadsheet,” O’Reilly said. “So we started researching [other options].”

They started by calling other printing shop owners they knew to see what software they used. O’Reilly said they were surprised at how many older, more established shops were also still using spreadsheets. They eventually connected with a shop that recommended CoreBridge, a business management software application.

“We started digging into that more and realized it would allow us a whole lot more opportunity for sustainable growth,” O’Reilly said.

It can take time to find the right solution for your business, and you may need help. Make sure the software platform offers the features you need and can be tailored to your business and industry. User reviews can help your parse through your options and get a better sense of how easy different platforms are to learn and adopt.

Your to-do list (and how we can help):
  • Ask colleagues or experts in your industry for software recommendations.
  • Read software buyers guides for the type of solution you need to get a better understanding of common features, pricing, and key considerations.
  • Determine which features are most important to you, then look for vendors that offer them.
  • Use reviews of different software vendors and lists of top vendors to parse through options.

3. Consult with experts to keep developing your marketing strategy over time with new tools and techniques

Pitch Black Printing Co. traditionally relied on in-person gallery events to encourage brand awareness, get people in the door, and—in turn—help local artists promote their work. The pandemic made gallery events impossible.

“[The pandemic] had a pretty severe impact on our sales and also on the gallery, which isn’t our biggest moneymaker but [is] the most fulfilling part of what we do,” O’Reilly said. “It was really rough not being able to host receptions for artists and help them get their work out.”

As a result, they decided it was time to digitize their marketing strategy, not only for their brand but also the artists they support. And you can’t digitize a marketing plan without software. To help them get started, they hired a consultant to train them on SEO, social media, and newsletters.

These days, O’Reilly says they use a variety of tools:

Of course, this didn’t all happen overnight, and O’Reilly says they’re still figuring out how all the pieces fit together.

It takes time to build the perfect marketing tech stack for your business, but you have to start somewhere. Browse software options or ask others for recommendations. If you’re still feeling lost, consider connecting with one of Capterra’s software experts to help you get started on your software buying journey.

Your to-do list (and how we can help):
  • Plan on updating your marketing strategy (and tools) over time.
  • Stay informed on the latest tips and techniques from marketing experts.
  • Be open to the multitudes of software solutions out there; it’s almost certain there’s one that fits your exact needs.

Sometimes, taking a step back to reflect can help you jump forward and prepare for what’s next

O’Reilly and Harold couldn’t have predicted that a pandemic would halt nearly all operations, but O’Reilly says it’s now one of those things every small-business owner will add it to their tool bag of what-ifs.

“Things can blindside you, which is challenging when your entire financial support system is built out of yourself,” O’Reilly said. “You have a lot more on the line and a lot fewer options.”

Pitch Black Printing Co. decided to invest in software during the crisis, not because they needed it immediately but because they wanted to be ready for when business picked back up. Sometimes, taking a step back to evaluate the situation lets you identify what will help you grow later.

Digitize your marketing strategy

Learn how your peers are overcoming adversity

Find out how others in the Capterra community are using technology to overcome challenges and learn from one another. We’re in this together.


Note: The software applications referenced in this article were cited by the interviewee in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

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About the Author

Toby Cox

Toby Cox

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Toby Cox is a senior content writer for Capterra covering the accounting and business intelligence markets and contributing to the marketing and small-business trends markets. A journalist by trade, Toby enjoys the art of digging through the noise to find compelling narratives that provide clarity to her audience. She holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. When she's not typing away at her computer, you can catch her on the mats with her boxing gloves or tending to her beehives.

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