Marchand--Now's Your Chance to Integrate OperationsDecember 1998
The difficulty verges on asphyxiation in more than a few smaller companies that have opened with plant and equipment built almost entirely around short-run digital. Many of them have been forced to depend on small business and consumers while waiting for corporate and large retail demand.
What to Do?
There are print users inherently able to understand the short runs, versioning and customization—direct mailers and catalogers foremost among them. AEC (architects, engineers, construction) belongs on the list, too.
In the long run, the greatest gains will come only when forces already at work elsewhere in our economy lead commercial customers to take advantage of digital presses. Shorter times-to-market, reduced cycle times, more frequent new product introductions and updating all point toward adoption, as do continued demands for cost-cutting in the form of reduced inventory, down-sizing and outsourcing. These tendencies and other competitive pressures will lead buyers to digital printing.
Meanwhile, it's necessary to do missionary work for short-run digital business. Moving upstream in the customer's organization is difficult at best and sometimes an outright political risk, requiring high-order diplomatic skills to keep threatened print buyers happy, while you conduct the education process with marketers in your customer's company.
If I were a commercial printer with a serious commitment to leading the way in this market, I would hire a rep from a package printer, someone experienced in introducing new kinds of packaging. Better yet, I might hire a marketer familiar with versioning and customization to lead a task force devoted to this project.
Adoption curves are always flatter than expected, especially when the technology requires a paradigm shift in the customer's process. Looking backward over a few years more than we had originally expected, the installed user base seems to have been achieved more quickly and to be wider than anyone had originally imagined. Which is the more accurate perception? It depends on where you are in the process and on whether you had the obstinacy and staying power to still be in the game when it became highly profitable.
Counsels of patience are seldom welcomed, especially by people who must produce sales this year, not next. But maybe the advice is appropriate and more welcome in this time of hope and good cheer. I wish you and your loved ones a warm holiday season and a prosperous new year.
About the Author
Jacques Marchand may be phoned at (415) 357-2929. His firm, Marchand Marketing, provides strategic consulting services, research, market planning, segmentation, lead generation, positioning and marketing communications to help companies in the printing industry increase sales. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the firm's work for clients is also available on its Web site, www.marchand.com.