Soothsayers aside, normal people cannot accurately predict the future. We can speculate, however, and even hypothesize about the direction it will go. So here, with input from four seasoned industry veterans on both sides of the buying-selling desk, is MPR’s educated guess about the future of...
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There is printing to sell and buy now and in the near term. Many modern-day reps feel vulnerable, too, and with good reason. “I truly believe you are only as good as the last job you shipped,” said Farquharson, who has spent two-thirds of his 30 years in the industry as a sales coach. “The days of sitting around taking orders and milking huge accounts are long gone. Many veteran reps who lose major accounts have not been working to replace them all along,” he noted, adding that “diligence is one thing that hasn’t changed. It is the one [attribute] that can substitute for a lack of sales ability.” As a sheetfed sales manager once said, “We can hire monkeys to run around handing out equipment lists!”
Metrics is another big buzzword among marketers, “the holy grail of CPG [consumer packaged goods] companies,” Burnett’s Duncan said. “CMOs want dashboards at their fingertips.” Yet nobody has been able to truly measure the effectiveness of print, he noted. “There are bits and pieces, especially in publishing. We’ve seen some clever uses of QR [quick response] codes, too, but also some really bad ones that have backfired. A bad brand experience is the worst possible world because there is no data [generated] if people walk away.”
Skeptical reps wonder, does customer loyalty still exist? Of course it does, said our seasoned panel of experts. “Take away my pain,” a customer told me, “and I’ll be loyal.” Rocco of DDB said the good trinity of service, quality, and timing build loyalty in her world. “I’m looking for someone who has suggestions, who can bring something to the table, not just quote specifications,” she urged. “Give input on color, on paper, on formatting, on postpress finishing effects. It’s worth paying a premium for someone who adds value by acting almost like a project manager. The less I have to think about it, the better.”
Print sales guru Farquharson added a caveat, however: “If you do not consistently and continually work to earn a customer’s business, that loyalty will disappear. There’s an old sales adage that still applies: ‘Solve the problem; earn the order.’” But, he warned, “There are always going to be people who will undercut you for a nickel. Always.” Apparently, that hasn’t changed, either.
20 Questions from ‘30,000 Feet’
Last month, Print Buyers International (PBI) released the results of an online survey conducted in December 2012 of 162 print-buying professionals. Respondents were primarily senior-level print buyers with over 15 years of professional experience. The data collected reveals some top trends. Nearly 60 percent of print buyers believe color management is “extremely important” to them, yet 61 percent reported that they do not select printers based on certification in color management.
Entitled “View From 30,000 Feet: Key Trends & Sourcing Practices,” the survey asked 20 questions of those in charge of sourcing print for their companies. In addition to questions on color management, there were questions on job titles, dollar amounts of the printing budgets managed, whether buyers are sourcing more digital vs. offset printing, and what value-added services they prefer when choosing print partners. (Participants were not compensated for their participation; data was collected anonymously.)
In addition to including all data and charts, the final report includes commentary PBI founder Margie Dana. Long considered an expert in print buying, and a former print buyer herself, her conclusions and recommendations outline action steps for print firms and print customers. “Uncovering and identifying current trends among print buyers has always been a major goal of mine,” said Dana. “I think some of the results will surprise printers.”
Early feedback includes high marks from Tim Freeman, president of Printing Industries Alliance, who noted, “If you are trying to understand today’s print buyer, Margie Dana’s newest publication … is a must read. In addition to sharing a wealth of survey data, Margie adds her own expert analysis, drawing on years of experience as a print buyer, writer, blogger, speaker, and founder of Print Buyers International. There is no doubt that our industry continues to be challenged by enormous change – so, too, [are] our customers’ worlds,” Freeman continued, adding that PBI’s report provides “an unprecedented glimpse … along with concrete, actionable information that you can utilize in your sales and marketing efforts.”
Dana’s 40-page report is for sale as a PDF at www.printbuyersinternational.com.