I Am Whining and there is a marketing lesson for you

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For some reason, and it’s kind of weird, I’m thinking about the time I wrote the story called How to focus on writing when your cat is peeing on the kitchen table. Writing it was a lesson about how much I actually get done when I’m in the right mood and I’m concentrating on doing one thing at a time. I really enjoy personal development, productivity and time management, and I’ve been adding some personal experiences on self-development in my newsletter as well. The reason it’s kind of weird that I’ve been thinking about that specific post, is that all weekend I’ve been focusing on one thing, and that’s buying a printer. I just can’t seem to find the right printer for my office.

Don’t stop reading just yet. My whining about how hard it is to buy a printer can be a powerful marketing lesson. I promise.

There are two things we need to consider when we’re marketing anything.

Too many options

I remember when I almost didn’t have any options at all. We had 2 TV channels. A few computer games. We had three types of breakfast serials, and we didn’t even have cheerios. Life was easy. Life was fairly boring, but it was a lot easier. Right now, as I’m writing this, I feel like I’m 100 years old. The thing is, I don’t want few options, but we need to understand that when there are so many options, people get confused. We, as consumers, want it to be easy to find the products we’re looking for.

I am buying a printer. I know that I am buying a printer, and I know exactly where I am going to use it. I can buy it right now. But the thing is, there are hundreds of printers. And I have been looking in five different stores, and I have been reading reviews, and I’ve been comparing the prices and I’m still stuck. The reason I can’t decide is not just that there are so many different printers, it’s because I don’t know what I’m going to use it for. A printer is not just a printer anymore.

  • Should I buy ink or laser?
  • Should I buy black and white, or color?
  • Should I buy one with WiFi or not?
  • Should I buy an all-in-one printer?
The problem is that I don’t know what I need and I don’t know what I want. And that makes it even harder when you have that many options.

Know your customers

I have been looking at the various printers, and like I said, I am not sure what I need. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that someone will tell me what I need. I don’t need to read the following descriptions:

  • Prints up to 27ppm
  • Up to 2400 x 600 dpi resolution
  • Automatic duplex printing
  • 32 MB memory
  • PCL6 emulation

I don’t understand. And I don’t think that I need to understand the technical details.

I just want a person (or a business) I know and trust  to tell me exactly what I need to buy for a small office, as a solo entrepreneur. I believe that if you create an easy to use solution for people in various categories, you’ll end up with more customers.

Create the main categories of your customers, add the perfect solution of your products for each category. It makes things so much easier, and in a world with so many options and so much information, we need the easy fix.

And I need a printer…

  • http://adriennesmith.net Adrienne

    I hear ya Jens, there is so much out there to chose from so where do you even start!

    When I went printer shopping I asked a lot of questions too but I didn’t need anything real fancy, just get the job done. But the all-in-ones are the way to go. Printing, scanning and copying so that saves you a lot of time running to the store to get a copy of something even if you don’t need it that often.

    They also aren’t as expensive as they use to be either so that was very helpful for me. At least here in the US.

    Good luck with your decision and you’re right, making your shopping pleasurable and help your customers make the right decision for them.

    ~Adrienne

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    I have been thinking a lot about the all-in-one printers, and 99% of the time, I probably just need a black and white printer for plain text. But, every now and then I would need to scan something. And now that they’re so much cheaper, I’m thinking that I need to buy one of those. On the other hand, I read somewhere that they’re more likely to get broken (many different parts etc..) :)

    I might buy one tomorrow, but I’m still not quite ready :)

  • http://adriennesmith.net Adrienne

    Mine cost less then $60 Jens and I’ve had it for five years. I don’t use it a lot but I do use it. The scanning comes in very handy and the copying as well. Sometimes a friend wants something printed out or they stop by to use my printer. Mine is an HP too so if that helps any.

    I’m sure you’ll find the best one for you.

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    The printers are not that cheap here in Norway, but I have found several for apx. $150. I have looked at HP and Brother, and now that I have so many devices from Apple, I have been thinking of buying a printer with AirPrint (even though I probably don’t need it) :)

    I know I’m going to be happy with whatever I end up buying, it’s just a long process to find the “right” printer :)

  • http://geofflivingston.com Geoff Livingston

    This is hilarious! Can’t it just all be easier??? I totally get this. I hat ebuying printers, scanners, etc. And the all in ones never work all in one!!!

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn

    Hi Jens, when we lived in England, I was always surprised at how little choice there was for items. Because the electricity is different and they drive on the left, manufacturers just don’t offer a lot of products there. I remember shopping for a four slice toaster on Amazon in the UK and they had about three different models. There would have been about 100 models in the US.

    I find it best to shop online. I use the search function to narrow down the choices, then look for the item that has the best reviews. I often buy locally from stores, but by shopping online first I become an educated consumers.

    Yes, you want an all in one printer, color and Wi-Fi. Pages per minute counts too because you want a fast printer. If you can get one that’s compatible with your iPad, even better.

    So I like a lot of choices, but we are used to that here in the US.

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    Sometimes I think that people who are selling advanced stuff want it to sound difficult, and they want us to not understand what they’re selling. In a way, they want us to be impressed by the technology. But, if they really want us to buy, they should make it as easy as possible to understand what it is that they do, without using all the technical terms :)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    I usually do what you do when I buy things, and that’s exactly what I have been doing this time as well. But there are so many choices and lots of “best in test” – it all depends on which tests I am reading. I wasn’t thinking that I needed color, but now, I have changed my mind. Color it is :)

    Thanks Carolyn.

  • http://customersthatstick.com Adam

    Jens, Too funny. The printer search can be ridiculous and it can even be more complicated that the list above. The biggest expense is not the printer itself but what types of cartridges it uses (and how fast) over its lifetime! My only definite… if you have more than one person that will be using it, wi-fi is the way to go. :) Good luck with your decision!

  • http://www.startyournovel.com Bell

    I’ve had quite a few printers over the years, and the most amazing thing about them is how awful they still are. Inkjet Printers still consume way too much ink, for instance.

    A new Canon I bought last year takes ages to get anything done — I tell it to print something and it’s like it’s got to move a billion parts before it spits out a single page of text.

    Here are a few things I’d like to see on a printer’s packaging:

    “Ready to work from the moment you press the ON button!”
    “Prints in completely insane resolution — you won’t believe your eyes!”
    “Ink lasts for months!”
    “Stunningly silent operation!”
    “Paper jams, a thing of the past!”
    “It even talks to your phone!”

  • http://mapthink.blogspot.com/ Hobart Swan

    Jens,
    To your point about marketing opportunities, I’d like to direct your attention to Jellyvision (http://www.jellyvisionlab.com/). (I don’t work for them but I’ve used their software and love it!) Their technology enables exactly the kind of thing I think you’re alluding to. Check out some of their sample “conversations” and see how they enable companies to ask each individual questions that help pinpoint the best product for that customer.
    This is amazing technology that should be being used by all kinds of companies–maybe printer sales stores in particular! :o)

  • Jeevan Jacob John

    I understand your situation, Jens. But, isn’t there a problem there? (very prominent issue I think).

    Companies are trying to provide a better customer experience by tracking the things you are buying (of course, that’s a norm now), but they are also moving forward with different techniques (to gain information about us to do business for effectively).

    The problem comes in when we talk about privacy of our information (we are having all sorts of discussions aren’t we? Take for instance: FB using our data for ads. Aren’t they still debating on that?)

    Of course, there is a better (much harder) way. Just ask the customer what he wants (or what we needs to use it for).

    Or, if he doesn’t know it, asks him his situations (tracking makes this a whole lot easier, don’t you think?)

    Take for instance: Your case. Simple search on Google and they will end up here and learn about what you do ;) Well, that can help them to help you decide a printer (your needs? A writers’ needs?)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    That’s been one of the problems I’ve been having. As soon as I found a printer, I discovered something negative things, like expensive cartridges or that it was noisy or that it was slow. I’ve been reading reviews all day long :)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    I’d love to get the straight to the point words without all the technical details. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have the technical details, but they could be added for the people who are interested (with small letters or in the instructions), and for most people, it should be like “ink lasts for months” – great stuff :)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Jellyvision, it sounds awesome. I have to take a closer look, because this sounds exactly like what I’ve been waiting for. I wish they had something like this in Norway too :)

  • http://billdorman.me Bill Dorman

    If you’ll pay for shipping; I’ll send you the HP LaserJet 1320n on my desk I can’t use anymore.

    My recommendation would be to ask Carolyn; she knows stuff like that and it appears she has weighed in.

    Good luck; I thought we were paperless now………..

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    You’re absolutely right, there is an issue of privacy. But, I believe that they could do it the other way around and instead of asking questions about their customers, say something like; “the perfect printer for writers” – this way it’s the customer who puts himself in the category and thinks of himself as a writer, hence he’ll end up buying the one that fits a writer, if you understand what I’m talking about :)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    Thanks a lot Bill, I’d love to have your old printer, even though it doesn’t work :)

    I have just ordered the printer after recommendations from Carolyn. I can’t remember all the numbers, but it’s an HP and it has all sorts of things. I wanted to buy it in a store downtown, but I couldn’t find a decent printer here, so I ended up ordering it online :)

  • http://marketingwithsergio.com Sergio Felix

    Buying a printer is the same exact thing as buying a new car or a new TV or a new microwave or yes, even a new iPad.

    They all do this one basic task but we want the extra features that come with them.

    Choices are there not to confuse the client (although apparently that’s exactly what happens) but to help them get more bang for their buck or in other words, pay exactly for what they need.

    I won’t elaborate on this since you already decided on a printer model but there can’t be a one size fits all simply because we all have different needs.

    Even Steve Jobs failed to do just “ONE” thing out of every product he created.

    Are you printing for yourself or for clients? Are you doing any mass printing? Do you need to print on transfer or regular paper? Do you want to scan and print books on automated mode? Do you have an office with employees that will require to print remotely?

    Those are just a few questions that can show you how choosing the right printer may not be as easy as it seems but when you are aware of what you need, it is very difficult to get the wrong thing.

    So… find out what you need first and buy later… that’s a great recommendation Jens lol ;-)

    Sergio

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    I agree with you Sergio, but I would have wanted a printer that would fit a category for people like myself. I know that it’s hard, and it might be impossible. But that’s what would have sold a printer to me, that would be my buying decision. If someone had described the tasks that he did in his office, and it was the same tasks as me, and he had said that the perfect printer for those tasks are… I would have bought it :)

    It was really hard to find out what I was going to use the printer for, before I ordered it. I would say that 99% of the time, I would print regular A4 paper with black and white text, and I maybe I should have bought a regular laser printer. But, there are things that I don’t know now, like I have all those Apple products, the iPhone and the iPad and what if I want to print something directly from them, that’s why I ended up buying a printer with AirPrint and the same with a scanner. I might need it, or maybe my kids need it :)

  • http://marketingwithsergio.com Sergio Felix

    LOL I’m pretty sure you did the right thing man. ;-)

  • http://slymarketing.com Jens-Petter Berget

    I hope you’re right. It was expensive :)

  • http://billdorman.me Bill Dorman

    Hey, the printer works; it just won’t work on my new set-up because it’s not on the network. It comes w/ a free coupon for a large cheese Papa John’s pizza.

  • http://www.teamaguilar.com/ca_real_estate/santaluz.html Alex Aguilar

    I agree with the general thrust of your argument – there is way too much choice out there for stuff like printers, smartphones, laptops and so on. For the average non-techie person (I’m thinking about my parents here) that choice becomes overwhelming. What ends up happening is they end up relying on the Best Buy sales associate or a technically inclined friend or family member to help them out. Many times when I help people purchase printers it actually turns out they have a very specific dpi resolution in mind for the stuff they want to print, without knowing the technical terminology for it. At the end of the day detailed technical specifications do matter.

  • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

    I have four printers, yes four. Three inkjet and one laser. I use two out of the three on a regular basis and have come to really appreciate my All in One models. It is just really useful and quite easy.

    HP has been pretty good to me so I like them, but I have to admit that I sometimes wish there weren’t a million choices too.

  • http://www.elinformbedavid.com/ Easton Allan

    I’ve no printer, because it’s no need to me. I’m working on on line marketing, so i think, PC, monitor, key board and mouse are enough to me.

  • http://inspiretothrive.com Lisa

    So true about all the choices Jens, even at the supermarket – can drive one crazy. The technology options are worse because they may change so fast and by the time that printer arrives they’ll be new ones made. And it will not work with newer computers or phones you may have. Best of luck with your new one.

  • http://tim-bonner.com Tim Bonner

    I can relate to this Jens.

    I was looking for a new webcam and the choice out there is mind-boggling. The things some of them can do these days are staggering but all I wanted was a bog standard webcam.

    I ended up going for a middle of the range one that looked good and was a brand I knew. I had researched a few beforehand but it was all getting a bit much!

    At least Carolyn pointed you in the right direction anyway and you’re get a great printer I’m sure.

  • http://www.i-want-to-know-marketing.com Paul Profitt

    Hi Jens
    I purchased a Cannon MP499 printer about six months. And I still cannot get the blasted thing to work. Despite reading the instruction manual 6 or more times. The printer that I had before. Which was a bog standard click and print model worked just fine. If it hadn’t broken down on me. I would be still using it TODAY.

  • http://www.barry-wells.com Barry Wells

    Hi Jens,

    A topic close to my heart as I had to buy a new printer yesterday. The one I replaced was an all in one that I’ve had for close to 7 years and it cost me just $50.

    I knew exactly what I wanted the new printer to do so it was quite easy to find a replacement, however when I opened up the book to have a look there were loads and loads to choose from. So I made a short list and then checked the price of replacement inks.

    My new printer cost just £35.00 and is another all in one, for which i can buy a full set of replacement inks from eBay for £10 :)

    I to understand the amount of choices making things difficult for us to decide. Only last week I told my kids about only having 3 TV channels to choose from when I was a kid and how our meals were 2 choices… Take it or leave it :)

    When we apply the same thought to what we offer we also need to take this into account and make it simple for people to understand.

    Cheers Jens, take care.

    Barry

  • joseph12

    The problem comes in when we talk about privacy of our information (we are having all sorts of discussions aren’t we? Take for instance: FB using our data for ads. Thanks for sharing it.

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn

    Jens, there is a saying in tech about deciding whether you need to purchase an option:

    It isn’t how often you will need that option, it’s how badly you will need it when you do need it.

  • http://myspalmer.com Mys Palmer

    It’s okay, it’s okay, whine away. It’s true. We don’t always know exactly what we want. We just know the foundation: I need a printer. the rest of the search can be made so easy with the right marketing at the right time. Totally agree I like canon’s by the way!

  • http://www.benchmarkemail.com/ Yo Noguchi

    The agony of writing and trying to focus reminds me of many Hemingway novels! It’s such a tricky place to get to most of the time mentally, physically, and emotionally.