Play Offense, Not Defense — Sherburne

I’M NOT A big fan of defending print. I know, a strange way to start a column in a printing trade magazine. Clearly, the graphic arts industry is undergoing a time of dramatic change, and we speak a great deal about competition from alternative media and why print is still important in the media mix. But it seems to me that we all too often take a very defensive posture when presenting this argument. You know, “You should print because paper is portable, and you can fold it up and put it in your pocket…”

Sure, we all know the value of print media. We live it every day, and we are proud of what we do. That is as it should be. But our customers—now, that’s a different story. As we have discussed in this space before, they are not really even buying print. They are buying the ability to better promote their products and services, or a way to improve communication with valued customers. Increasingly, the buyers of print are not the traditional procurement folks we have been dealing with for ages.

And, in fact, they often don’t even have much knowledge about the art and science of printing. Nor do they really care. Their eyes glaze over when you hand them an equipment list, and start talking about your fully automated offset press, or that new full-color digital press that can do all sorts of magical things.

ROI on Marketing Spend

But start talking about improved return on marketing investment and how you can help them differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and the conversation goes to a whole new level. We should not be defensive about the value of print or its role in the media mix. Rather, we should take some time to consider what our clients are buying and why, and frame our conversations from their perspective. It is not about print; it is about the most effective way to achieve the business objectives associated with any given customer communication or campaign. This is a subtle difference, but one that can make a big difference in the sales and marketing process.

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