What do printers have to do to make money with technology? I am always receiving calls and emails from disgruntled printers who complain that vendors over promised and under delivered on the new piece of equipment or software they just purchased. But for every disgruntled printer, I talk to a printer who is making money on the new service the technology provided them.
Automation is one area that printers need to keep a close eye on and start using. Quick printers still work with small orders and it is becoming more important that the number of human touches be reduced. Every time someone touches a job it costs more. Printers need to spend time learning the capabilities of their equipment and software and how automation can be used.
Automation on Board
Most printers have already purchased the equipment or software they need for automation. They just haven’t’ used it. EFI has a number of training videos online about how to use Fiery RIPs more efficiently. There are a lot of automation tricks and procedures on Adobe’s website and through Adobe experts’ blogs that explain how to automate steps in InDesign, Photoshop, and other software. There is software available that will automate the order entry process, allow buyers to create their design online, and place and pay for an order. Other software automatically preflights and fixes common problems and moves the file to the next logical hot folder.
Almost every major print vendor has introduced automation solutions for a faster workflow. It is up to the printer to make sure their employees are trained and know how to use them. The big print companies have years of automation experience and those processes are migrating down to smaller shops.
Get Serious about VDP
Variable data printing has never really caught on with small print shops because most owners believe it is too confusing and too hard to train customers to provide good data files. Most digital printer vendors now build VDP solutions into their equipment and provide extensive support online.
Anyone with a digital printer and a RIP should be promoting VDP services. Whether it is mailing or personalization, the equipment and software are already in most shops. InDesign, Publisher, and Quark have VDP capabilities. Printers just need to invest in the training to get their employees up to speed. Third party companies that provide database support are available, so printers don’t have to bog down their prepress department with database support.
Websites are a hot topic, especially for printers who are trying to rebrand their companies as marketing service providers. Many of the new MSP printers have added Internet development services, such as Web design.
Traditional print shops need to realize that the real money doesn’t have to come from creating websites. Printers can make money by selling customers the print collateral needed to support and protect the customer’s brand and provide a uniform message.
Many customers forget that they still need to communicate via print with customers who find them on the Internet. Once the prospective customer makes contact through a company’s website, printed collateral is needed for presentations and follow-up information. That printing may include mailings, brochures, newsletters, product flyers, etc.
QR codes can still generate print revenue for printers. QR codes had a checkered introduction to the North American public. The first QR codes sent users to sites that were unreadable on a smartphone because the sites were designed for a desktop computer. QR codes took viewers to sites with too much information, forcing customers to search for what they wanted on a tiny cell phone screen.
Now printers are more proactive about teaching customers how to connect effectively with QR codes. Some even provide special mobile sites linked to relevant information that helps keep customers coming back.