Digital Original: The Next BIG Thing?

Printers always are looking for the next big thing that will drive customers to their door without having to make a sales call. There has been a flood of discussion recently about several new products now available. Is there something out there that customers can’t wait to buy and will bring business into the shop?


Right now, 3D printing technology has some commercial printers trembling with anticipation about the explosion of business they are going to get from home-based manufacturers and inventors who need to fabricate prototypes for their latest patents. Even though Adobe is integrating 3D printing into Photoshop CC, most printers don’t have the sales and technical expertise or customer based to carve out a new niche. Some dedicated 3D print retail stores are opening in major markets, but few offer any traditional printing services.

Another newer technology is Near Field Communication (NFC) chips that can be embedded into paper and printed., a UK-based company with production facilities in New England, is touting a business card with a “third side.” The card has a NFC microchip embedded, so when a user touches the card to a smartphone, the phone will respond based on the instructions in the card. The card is used to download information, play music or video, load web pages, maps or apps, and save contact details.

The NFC industry is hoping that their technology will be the basis for a digital wallet where users can use their phones to make financial transactions. What other applications commercial printers will be able to find for this wireless link between smartphones and the chip remain to be seem. One major pitfall for NFC is that Apple and its iPhone do not support the technology. Apple is teaming up with other developers to offer similar wallet technology, and it doesn’t have plans to support the NFC standard.

Printed Electronics

Another UK company is marrying print and electronics. UK inventor Kate Stone has merged print with embedded electronics for unique print products. One sample was a large poster of a set of drums that would play a sound when the different drums were touched. The speakers and touch technology were embedded when the poster was printed. Stone has been featured on several videos from TED, a nonprofit organization that brings together people from technology, entertainment, and design to discuss new ideas. Stone outlines uses for her new technology at her website at, and on YouTube.

No matter how exciting and practical a new print technology is, it is up to the printer to get in front of customers and explain the benefits. Over the past decade, there have been a number of innovations that have directly affected printing’s role in the communication process yet few printers have capitalized on them. The printer must educate the customers about what they have and what the benefits are to the customer.

You may already have the next big thing that will increase business. Do your customers know the advantages of variable data printing or how direct mail can drive customers to their websites? Do they know how easy it is to personalize a printed piece or how simple it is to create a poster or sign?

For most printers, the next big thing isn’t a piece of technology. It is just going out to see a specific customer who they believe needs the service they want to sell.

Successful printers don’t sit back and wait for customers to walk in the door to ask for a service. Proactive selling is the next big thing that will put a printing business over the top.


John Giles is a consultant and the technology director for CPrint® International ( He is the author of 12 Secrets for Digital Success and The DTP PriceList. He can be reached at 954-224-1942 or You can also find John on at @JohnG247 and To order John’s books, visit