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Selling Digital Printing--Making Money, Digitally

May 1998
For SPG Graphics, the signs couldn't be any clearer. Customers wanted quicker turnarounds, but they weren't about to sacrifice quality—or cash—for speed. Their expectations pointed SPG to one sole destination: digital printing.

"It was inevitable," explains Beth Coleman-Stout, marketing and digital business manager for the Indianapolis-based company. "Customers were going to continue to expect jobs faster, but they weren't going to change their expectations from a color or quality standpoint."

SPG found that color digital printing could meet these demanding expectations for small-quantity runs better than conventional offset. "We felt strongly that we had to get into digital in some way, shape and form," Coleman-Stout says.

Some companies with equally strong feelings created departments crammed with all of the latest and greatest digital printing systems, only to find that the digital highway is not paved with gold. SPG chose a decidedly more subtle approach, installing a Xerox Docu-Tech and a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI. The company decided to add equipment that fit its existing, not potential, business.

"We didn't want to just get into digital to get into digital," Coleman-Stout says.

Apparently, this is a wise stance to take. Some printing companies and prepress houses that have jumped headfirst into the digital pool have received a nasty shock. In spite of "expert" predictions, print buyers have not barged down doors to order customized, short-run jobs on color digital printing systems.

Still, there are bucks to be made. This may sound redundant, but it's a point worth repeating: Digital doesn't sell itself. A wise marketing plan mixed with a modest digital printing department is a recipe for success.

Tour de Force

As part of its promotional campaign, SPG ran tours to build client interest in the Quickmaster DI. "When [customers] see a hands-on demonstration, the little light bulb goes off and they say, 'Oh, I know what job I can put on that press,' " Coleman-Stout says. "They have to see it to understand it."

And they have to appreciate its potential. That's why Winston Printing—a company with an Agfa Chromapress, Heidelberg GTO-DI and Xerox DocuTech in its digital department—decided to bypass the normal contacts when marketing its digital services.

"We've not been going to your normal print buyers," says Vice President Mical W. Fowler. "We've been targeting people in marketing.

"Most print buyers are only interested in unit cost," he continues. "You get up to the marketing people, the financial people, the officers of the company, they are more interested in cost per exposure in trying to target their efforts."
 

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