In 1991, offset accounted for 45 percent of sales for franchise quick and small commercial printers. Copying (analog) made up another 34 percent, while prepress (6.4 percent), bindery and finishing (7.8 percent) and brokering/other (7.6 percent) rounded out total sales.
Today, offset accounts for only 22 percent of sales while digital accounts for 42 percent. Other profit centers, such as bindery, wide-format, mailing services, brokering/other, account for 35.4 percent of sales.
I led off with the latest findings from NAPL, which illuminate the obvious point that even in hard times some printers do better than others. Similar surveys over the years have found the same general reality. Some printers do well no matter whether the economy is vibrant or the economy is lousy. This isn’t going to change, but here different influences will continue to come into play.
Far too many quick and small commercial printers (and their larger brethren) have been sitting around waiting for the economy to get better so they can get healthy again. Such wishing happens in every recession and those who spend too much time wishing and not enough time working are the ones who falter and fail.
There isn’t any magic formula for being successful in hard times. You do the same things you always should be doing—but often don’t do—when good times and steady business make you comfortable. You work to get new customers and get more work from existing customers. You try to take market share from competitors. You keep an eye on weak competitors and either take work from them when they fail or acquire their assets. You also do all of the mundane business and financial stuff that needs to be done so you will know exactly where you stand. And you keep a close eye on change.
What differentiates these particular changing times from those changing times of 10 or 20 years ago? We’ve already gone through the digital evolution as far as digital workflow and output are concerned. Now digital has brought us a once unanticipated change with the Internet and electronic alternatives to print. Digital has also driven down run lengths, enabled faster turnaround, and one-to-one personalization. Customers are doing more work in-house, but that’s been going on since the introduction of the personal copier and the fax machine. Postal costs are rising even as printed mail volume has fallen as a result of communication migrating to the Internet. Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important. Most of all, however, is that potential customers want to buy stuff that many quick and small commercial printers are unable or unwilling to provide.
Where is growth going to come from in 2012? Certainly not just from putting more marks on more paper. Successful printers will be able to create and sell cross-media campaigns. Some are already taking advantage of QR codes as a way to use print to drive traffic to the Internet. Some see an opportunity in managing social media for their print customers. Website design and maintenance is seen by others as a potential profit center. Mailing and fulfillment will continue to increase in importance, even though mail volume will continue to decline. There will be growth in wide-format to include signage, wraps, and finishing. Some printers may have the skill set to offer database management. Every franchise system in the country has rebranded its franchisees as marketing service providers, although there seems to be some confusion about just what that entails. And maybe sometime during 2012 printers will figure out how to sell the value of one-to-one marketing or personalized printing.
Bob Hall is senior consultant to the Cygnus Graphics Media Group, which includes Quick Printing. He has been active in the printing industry for more than 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-744-7022.