I don’t expect printers without fully functional websites to survive. If it is too hard for a customer to electronically transfer a file, order printing online, or contact someone in the company via email, customers just aren’t going to buy. Business will continue to shrink as the successful printers take away their customers and only leave those who want the cheapest prices.
Get Social or Get Lost
Successful printers are using Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to reach new customers. Printers are in the communication business and they need to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk when it comes to communicating with their own customers. Successful printers are using social media tools to start a dialog with their customers. Printers are notorious for never making sales calls, so the ones who are talking to their customers about the benefits of their services via the Internet have a huge advantage.
Like the Web, social media services can create print collateral. Businesses are running contests and linking their Facebook sites to their websites and to special promotions. Print is usually a part of it. If printers understand what a business can do with these new services, then they can be ready to sell the printing to their customers when they start using them.
Why, after decades of customers preparing files for print, do printers still report major problems with files. To add insult to injury, the printers are fixing the files for free then rushing them through the shop so they can be delivered on time. Usually the customer doesn’t even know there is a problem. This is one of the reasons the prepress department never makes any money.
The printers use the excuse that they don’t charge because other printers don’t. Over the years I have found one truth: printers who teach their customers how to submit files usually make money with their prepress departments. Not only do they teach their customers, they give them the option to either fix the files themselves or pay a fee to the printer to fix the file. Once a dialog is started, the problems get solved.
What is even more unusual is that the people who complain to me about customers files are the ones who don’t use PDF files. They may take them, but they hold their breath when they send them to the output device and hope they print properly. If they don’t print correctly, they don’t know what to do because they don’t have the proper PDF tools. I still get comments from printers and prepress people alike that they don’t like PDF files because “we can’t change them.”
Establishing simple standards for how customers should submit files is easy to do. Telling the customers about the standards seems to be the difficult part for many printers. If printers continue to let customers give them bad files and to not charge for fixing them, the prepress department will never make any money. Successful printers know their costs and the value of their prepress services and don’t discount just to get the work.
Marketing Services Providers?
Why are some printers embarrassed to be printers? The rush of some printers to change their name and drop the word printing and add the word marketing is still happening around the country. Just adding the word doesn’t mean instant profits and new customers. Printers have to market themselves if they are going to try to change their brand in their local marketplace.
But look closely at those printers who have changed their names. Are they marketing themselves? Are they using the new marketing and communication tools? Are the printers building case studies for customers based on their own experiences using the tools and technology? The basic purpose of marketing is to let more people know about you so you can get more leads that you can turn into sales. If you are really a marketing company, you should be building your own leads, then getting in front of the customers and selling services.
Helping customers communicate with their customers and get more leads is a valuable service printers can offer. Printers have been helping customers get leads for years with direct mail, brochures, sales flyers, and more. I don’t think this is a case where the cobbler’s children have no shoes when printers aren’t getting their own leads. I think it is a case where printers hope that someone will walk in the door and ask for the service. Until these marketing service providers actually start marketing themselves, they will remain traditional job shops waiting for work.