What is the future of printing? That is the big question on the mind of most printing company owners as the recession ends and business starts to pick up. Will customers be ordering the same products in the same volume as they were before the economic turndown? Can a printer recapture the business and customers he lost over the past year? Will he be able to keep the ones he has?
Business has changed. The last few years have forced all businesses to look at how they communicate with their customers. Putting ink on paper isn’t the only way to reach customers and prospects. Businesses are trying to be smarter about how they reach their customers and they are looking for how to get the most bang for their buck.
While printing is still one of the most effective and economical ways for a business to communicate, the Internet can make print even more powerful. Printers must learn how the new technology can compliment print, and how print can drive the new technology.
The Internet has changed the way the business world communicates. Internet technology has changed our expectations about information. It has created a culture demanding access in minutes rather than days. Blogs, websites, social media, mobile phones, and search engines put the world at our fingertips. Printers are beginning to wonder what their role will be in this information revolution, and whether or not they will survive.
The outlook for quick and small commercial printers isn’t as bleak as it is for others in the industry. The small print shops only rely on about 25 customers who provide 50-75% of their business. Finding a few good customers is an easier task than having to find hundreds of customers. A small shop can adapt quickly to change and integrate new technology faster, giving it a better chance of changing direction and becoming profitable.
Printing isn’t dead for the quick and small commercial printers if they understand how printing integrates with the new electronic media. It starts with listening to customers and finding out what they want. This means getting out of the office and in front of customers to have a conversation about their needs.
The printers who have most to fear are the ones who sit back and wait for customers to come to them with their printing needs. Some printers have “salespeople,” but most of them still use the old route sales model to visit likely prospects and ask them for a printing order. In those cases, the print buyer asks the salesperson to provide pricing and then selects which ever company offers the lowest price. Printing salespeople who come back with a lot of jobs to bid on think they are doing a good job. All they are really doing is getting into a price war.
Printers who ignore and fail to invest time and training into the new technology will be left behind. Print no longer stands alone. In all of the information clutter, a printer will have to learn what technology will help their customers’ information stand out. If a printer can help lead a customer through the alternatives and make better decisions on how to communicate, using all of the tools available, the printer will become a valuable ally.
Printers can start with their own companies. Printers need customers to survive, and it is a constant battle to keep customers and to replace the ones who fall by the wayside. Printers need to embrace the opportunities they have to start conversations with their customers and use the tools they have to provide some real value that will lock a customer to them.
Printers of the future will have to learn to use social network technology to maintain an ongoing relationship with their customers. Social networking sites can be used to continue a dialog with customers, but it must be done on a regular basis. If a person isn’t very sociable or outgoing in the real world, he isn’t going to be social in the cyber world.