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Dana on Marketing Messages: Changing Role Of Print Buyers

February 2014 By Margie Dana

Somewhere around 2009, we experienced the birth of MSPs—Marketing Services Providers. That date sticks in my mind, because in November of that year I held a dinner meeting of print buyers here in Boston, as the recession was hitting them smack in the face. The buyers working for agencies were particularly angry that night; many had literally just lost their jobs. We talked about how the printing industry was changing. Specifically, we discussed the printer-as-MSP model (they were against it).

It didn't occur to us then that we were entering an extended period of dramatic change for print buyers, too. In the four years since then, I've watched the role of corporate buyer evolve. It's not done yet.

Last summer I conducted a survey, along with fellow industry consultant John Zarwan, to try and uncover what's changed vs. what hasn't in the role of the professional print buyer. With the information that 315 buyers shared with us, we learned some very significant things about who's buying print today—and what the industry needs to know in order to get in front of these people.

Who's Buying Printing Today?

If I wrote this column five or 10 years ago, I would have talked about buyers in corporate communications and publications departments. They pretty much "majored" in print buying. Their roles would've been defined by their print-centricity, and they'd have been spending most of their time on print-related responsibilities.

Changes in how we communicate with one another, with customers, with prospects and with consumers, as well as the widespread popularity of all sorts of digital media, have impacted professional print buyers in lots of ways. Instead of working mostly in communications departments, we find that a third of print buyers are in marketing, a third are in purchasing or procurement and the final third are distributed among a variety of corporate units, like creative, media, sales, communications/publications, general management and administration.

I happen to think this is good for the "career buyer," who now has a better chance at climbing that corporate ladder (especially if she's in marketing). Buyers who used to be 100 percent print-focused now have to learn new skills and capabilities. This will help their careers.



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