Making sense of the marketing services provider transformation

Printers are rising to the challenge of the transformation

The following is an excerpt from my book, Business transformation: A new path to profit for the printing industry.  

The printing industry is not dying. But it is certainly languishing. For many, if not most companies, profit margins are smaller, the number of clients is dwindling, and projects are fewer, farther between, and when you do land them, they are often much smaller than in the past.

These dynamics are driven by the fact that the use of print in the marketing mix has changed. Marketers and other buyers of print have many other options to choose from when they’re creating projects to communicate with others – whether it’s drawing traffic into a trade show booth or event, communicating important information to employees, or encouraging consumers to buy retail products. And, they are taking advantage of those alternatives, often to the detriment of print. What once might have been printed is either not printed at all, or printed in much smaller quantities, on demand, to eliminate waste, keep information more current, and to produce communications that are more targeted and relevant. This means shorter runs of different versions targeted at specific market segments, or even one-to-one personalized communications directed at a specific individual.

This is not doom and gloom for the print industry, however. It is just another iteration of an industry that has been successful and resilient for more than 500 years. It’s just that the transition is happening faster than ever, and that requires businesses to stay agile, reacting quickly to market changes – or better yet, proactively leading customers to new products, services, and capabilities that will benefit both parties. This time of change actually presents a huge opportunity for providers of printing services to augment their offerings with the related products and services that make sense for their businesses and for their customer base…marketing services.

And many print service providers are standing up to the challenge. The most overt sign of this transformation is the many customer-facing web ordering systems that can be found by visiting printers’ websites. On the flip side, it’s also telling how many websites proudly show a photo of their building and list their many offset presses by size, number of colours, and brand. The good news is they can be found on the web – possibly; the bad news is their websites are often static, electronic brochures about their company and are not inviting to the buyer who has limited time, limited knowledge about the industry, and wants to buy printing quickly, efficiently, and online. And don’t kid yourself…that describes an increasing majority of buyers of print.

Make online ordering inviting

Having an inviting and easy-to-use online ordering solution is the first step in making your business more accessible to today’s buyers of business communications – some of whom are obviously still buying printed materials. It opens the door to allowing customers to maintain an online catalog of items that can be repetitively printed, even modified before printing, as well as to upload files for ad hoc on-demand printing. It also begins to allow the print service provider to more easily add new products and services.

Perhaps you might partner with a provider of promotional products and add them to the mix. Can users upload mailing lists for that postcard they just ordered and have you mail it? They should also have the option to acquire and/or upload email lists, using you as an email service provider. (In Canada, you have to keep in mind our CASL legislation before offering email services.) Or, maybe it’s simply the ability for customers to access and download information in electronic format to be distributed or printed in small quantities locally. If you can do these things, you are on our way to becoming a marketing services provider.

Enjoy the excerpt? To read the full book, or to contact me directly with any questions, comments, or feedback, please email me at – I’d love to connect with you!