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|Dr. Joe Webb - For Premium Access Members|
Mondays with Dr. Joe:
MAN Roland is graciously sponsoring yet another WhatTheyThink.com event with yours truly for the fourth year in a row. I'll give a brief economic roundup, and then I'll head into “Renewing the Print Industry, Revisited,” where I'll update and extend the discussion about repositioning print, printing companies, and will discuss print as “offline media.” Hope to see you there. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17 th , at 8 AM, and will be held in Room S106B, McCormick Place. Click here to register.
Last week, I discussed the current state of print in the minds of media decision-makers. The springboard comment was uttered at a recent media event that was not attended by any printers or industry representatives, other than American Business Media. My comments stressed the need for the industry to acknowledge the new role for print and start advancing a new set of benefits of print to a media planning and communications executive audience who no longer maintain any instinctual need to include print in their efforts.
This week, my comments are for printing companies. Some print business owners have a deeper than typical understanding of media because they have firsthand experience. For many years, I have met thriving print businesses that were started by or run by executives who had left the ad agency or graphic design industries, and I have found their businesses to be quite innovative, and profitable. They fostered and cultivated an awareness of clients' grander plans. We see many of these executives talk about "communications programs" and not "print jobs" when they work with clients. They are far beyond the "here's our equipment list, can we bid on your next job" style of selling that is still too common in our industry.
What appears below may seem like a laundry list, but that's not really the case. The laundry gets folded and put away. These items, however, are more about a change in culture that must be nurtured day after day.
Understand the new world of graphic communications, and help lead your clients there. This is a tall order, and it starts with one's own business. If you don't use new media yourself, you won't have any credibility talking about it in front of customers. If you don’t think this is important, just look at how Staples and ZipMailUSA are already starting to breathe down our collective necks.
Work with small and mid-sized businesses who need media assistance more than corporations. Big companies tend to give print purchasing responsibility to agencies and designers, and that's not going to change. Expert buyers often feel that print's a commodity, and any value added services that might be offered may already be offered directly to them by agencies and designers. That's fine. But it's the smaller businesses that don't really want an agency because they don't advertise in magazines or buy broadcast ads that have the greatest need for print and good web sites. They also need to take their first steps toward integrating those media. Who better than a printer, already conversant in imaging and workflow, to do that? Beware: Staples is probably eyeing these opportunities next.
Get to the real media decision-makers, the people who create content - the creatives - and play a stronger role in recommending media choices. While creative practitioners may have a leg up in print specifying, but their experience with print over the years also may foster a view that "all printers are the same." But they may not be as aware of the latest technologies and trends as you would think, like digital printing, or how the effectiveness of print enhances other media. I just got a box of books from amazon.com the other day: they're using space on their shipping boxes to promote specific book and CD-titles. If you print boxes or envelopes, reminding even the experts about simple, almost cost-free enhancements shows a level of interest in their business that will often be appreciated.
Get involved in associations where media-selectors and media specifiers go, such as local agency associations and chapters, ad clubs, chapters of the American Marketing Association , DMA , PRSA , and others. Many years ago, I chaired the local chapter of the AMA, and we had many members who were also Public Relations Society of America members. We only had one printer come to our meetings. I asked him why, and he said that he always liked going to meetings where he had all the prospects to himself. While our members were not always the highest-level in their companies, they did seem to have a habit of getting promoted or moving up by getting new jobs. It is well worth your time to check these associations out.
Immerse yourself in "offline media" ideas and tactics that you can add to your business, and recommend to your clients. Print is now referred to as "offline media," and it sits with many tried and true offerings like signage, displays, promotions, events, sponsorships, and other print-consuming activities, often competing for the same budget dollars. Working with clients on an offline media strategy, and providing the support services to make them successful (like handling invitations, RSVPs, registration materials and kits, registration table staffing, meeting pads and materials, meeting signage, hosting web sites for post-meeting presentation downloads, etc.) is a service that many of them, especially the small business ones, may find of great interest.
Use new media in your own business, and do it exceptionally well; find tie-ins to your client’s work. You really can't grasp how e-media are changing things unless you have a teenager at home or make a decision to use new media in your personal life. Start using Skype for ad hoc, spur of the moment conferences, use instant messaging to work with freelancers. Get a "cool" cell phone that gives you access to Internet service. Use an iPod, a PDA. Visit popular websites like YouTube.com (and post a video about a service or a topic there). Make trying out new gadgets a habit. Products like Skype and instant messaging make corporate IT managers shudder. It is now common to find articles about the inability of large corporations to deploy these simple technologies while their small business counterparts do so with great ease.
Become a new media resource for your clients; if you can’t do certain new media tasks, get to know the people who can. The Varick Street area of New York City and Printers' Row in Chicago were filled with printers and trade craft businesses often in the same buildings. Everyone had a specialty, and everyone knew who to go to for any aspect of a print job. I have often said that the freight elevator in these buildings performed the same function that the Internet does today, as elements of jobs move from practitioner to practitioner with ease. Only this time, geography is virtually meaningless. It's time for printers get to know new media practitioners the same way they knew typographers, binders, laminators, platemakers, stat houses, and the color separators of the past.
Educate yourself on the weaknesses of new media, such as spam and image blocking, and who’s not online. This is media war. It's tough enough that too many of us have forgotten the benefits of print, but all great salespeople must know the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, not just their own products. This is not a war of “my spec is better than your spec,” but a need to position print and printers as understanding the world of business communications and how it is changing. It is a fact that mail gets delivered. It is a fact that e-mail has problems. It's also a fact that some target audiences are better connected for e-media than others. Understanding the demographic targets of your clients and being able to advise them about how print can ensure total market coverage is essential to making the client's efforts more successful. One should be able to explain the deliverability problems of e-campaigns, and why print should be part of an e-mail and e-marketing effort. Clients should be aware that in addition to spam problems, e-mail addresses go out of date faster than physical addresses. Direct mail can be a real benefit in keeping e-mail address databases clean.
If you're not regularly online, be sure to subscribe to the best on-line newsletters that fit your business and personal interests. Since you're reading this at WhatTheyThink, you're already a step ahead. Last week, I mentioned a company called SmartBrief. They publish newsletters for many associations, and by visiting their sign-up page, it's likely there are a couple of newsletters from the industries of your best clients. My favorite is the one from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Most industry trade magazines now have an e-mail newsletter. Advertising Age has used the Internet to change its influence in the “ad biz” from weekly to almost hourly. Its daily newsletter is a must-read for anyone doing “big agency” or “big media” work. Don't sign up for too many newsletters: they'll just start piling up in your inbox. Get used to the idea of getting information in this format...and also start to get the insights of how to offer this kind of service to clients on your own.
Subscribe to an online newspaper so you’ll feel guilty if you don’t use it. I've never read the Wall Street Journal as deeply as I do now that I get it online. There are obviously many newspapers that offer their content at no charge online. But the one you pay for gets visited far more often. Ain't that just human nature?
In summary, "print can be a legitimate offshoot from the web," as the statement says. But we don't want to be. We want to be at the forefront of media deployment in the formats that make sense for us to do. Remember, to be proactive means that you're the one who takes the first step.
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