Each of these companies gives printers another service to sell to their customers. If providing Web-based services becomes a trend for quick printers, this will add another task the prepress department will be responsible for each day. In addition to using page layout, photo, and illustration software, prepress people will have to have experience in Web programs such as Dreamweaver. They will have to know HTML and become familiar what colors and images work best on a website.
In addition to Web services, quick printers are also adding email marketing services using software such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and Benchmark Email. Printers can now help a customer touch his customers and prospects with printed pieces, emails, and Web-based messages.
Experts also expect to see printers offering support services for Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. A printer will work with a customer to develop a series of messages for the social media outlets and then broadcast those messages on a regular basis. It helps the customer make sure that he is broadcasting a timely, consistent message on a regular basis. He is just paying the printer to do it for him and coordinate the message with his printed pieces and website message.
A new trend that printers can take advantage of now is the use of mobile marketing and combining Internet services with printed material. Quick Response (QR) codes are quickly becoming a part of marketing plans because print customers want to link their printed materials to their online message. This simple tool will soon be a standard addition to any printed marketing piece, but now it is new and gives printers a reason to talk to their customers. Watch for QR codes to help generate more printed material in the coming year.
Sales in prepress have never been strong. Most companies who break out prepress sales usually find the numbers between 7-10% of total sales. With today’s product mix, that figure can be misleading since it seems that almost every job is now touched by the prepress department in some way. If a company is doing $500,000 in sales, then prepress sales will range from $35,000 to $50,000 a year. A shop doing $1 million in sales will have prepress sales in the range of $70,000 to $100,000 a year. The sales levels make it hard for a small company to afford a full-time prepress operator. After wages and benefits, most companies can barely afford to keep the software updated and the equipment in good running condition.
The price in most print shops for most prepress work is based on time rather than value. If it takes 30 minutes to do a job, printers charge for 30 minutes of production time. Many printers have built in standard times for most production tasks, yet they fail to monitor the actual time spent on the task. This means that many prepress departments are working hard, but the customer is never charged for the actual work that is performed.
Printers continue to ignore the actual work performed and not charge for it. They rationalize this by defining that uncharged portion as added value to the customer. What it really is for the printer is a loss leader used to get the print job. Sadly, the money left on the table by not charging properly for prepress usually isn’t recouped by press and bindery charges. Money lost is money lost.
This decades old trend of giving away prepress charges will just help push more print shops toward failure as competitive margins become narrower. With everything from desktop publishing and design to website management, variable data, and W2P being performed by the prepress staff, it is hard to image why printers continue to generate the low amount of sales recorded on the balance sheet.
Printers still face the challenge of pricing value added work, such as design, differently from production work, such as file correction and output. They have the opportunity to set the value price of Web services, database services, communication services, etc., at a profitable level. Customers will be willing to pay a higher rate for these new services because they don’t know how to do them or don’t have the time.
Tomorrow is Here
The prepress department is rapidly changing. The prepress person is a more computer-centric employee, able to handle the technical aspects rather than the artistic design needs of the company. The new services quick printers will be adding to their product line are computer-related rather than output-related. The printer will need someone who understands how the equipment works and how to take advantage of the efficiencies in the software applications.