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Selling Digital Printing -- Pointing in a Digital Direction

March 2004
By Marie Alonso

Business Development Consultant

Once was a time when leaders at a commercial printing operation saw a new offset press, liked the new press, bought it and then made money with it. These were the days when the sheetfed and web offset printing process didn't require the word "traditional" in front of them.

That time is no more. While traditional offset printing remains a cornerstone of today's commercial print world, its more digitally savvy sibling—variable data digital printing—is maturing fast and is already looking to step into some of its older brother's shoes.

Today's commercial printers need support for the successful transition to understanding, selling, marketing and building profit centers around variable data digital printing. Recognizing this fundamental requirement, leading digital press providers are working earnestly to help customers embrace one-to-one printing technologies.

So, is this new avenue pointing today's printers in the right digital direction? Richard Sand, director of business development at Heidelberg USA, believes so.

"The role of commercial printers is changing due to the fact that their customers' businesses are changing. This is requiring them to become problem solvers and more marketing- and service-oriented—as opposed to just producing printed material," Sand explains. "These changes provide printers with new opportunities to generate greater revenues and stronger partnerships with their clients. But they have to know how best to leverage variable data digital printing to be successful. The days of just printing a job for your client are over; today it's all about understanding, marketing, educating and delivering new opportunities in customized print."

Heidelberg's Business Development Services team is one printing industry vehicle working with printers to do all of the above. Helping printers to best leverage new digital printing solutions, including hybrid printing, variable data printing and short-run color applications, Sand and his team provide consultation, education, seminars, sales and marketing tool kits, and ongoing support. They assist in creating marketing programs, supporting customer events, and educating their personnel on the benefits and opportunities that digital and variable data printing offer.

The team analyzes a printer's business and reviews with its executives the habits of highly profitable digital print providers, formulates a strategy of how to implement a solution that's right for a given business, as well as provides sales coaching so that the sales team of a newly digitized printing operation knows how to sell individualized communications.

Xerox also understands the needs of today's digitally minded commercial printers, according to Regina Testa, Production Systems Group vice president of business development.

"Being an integral part of a commercial printing operation before, during and long after the sale of any variable data digital press is simply the right thing to do," Testa states. "If a printing business utilizes a digital press and fails, the technology takes the blame, when really it is an issue of business development, marketing and sales understanding, strategizing and formulating business plans that transition commercial printing businesses into a true digital business."

In its efforts to better empower digital customers, notably of late the Xerox iGen3, Xerox makes itself assessable ongoing to provide education, seminar programs, developing sales and marketing programs and support services, as well as overall business development consulting to its commercial printing customers. Xerox deploys analysts, which are digital printing workflow specialists, post-sale to monitor and evaluate a company's progress.

Testa emphasizes that it's critical for commercial printers moving into the variable data digital printing market to understand they are entering a new revenue opportunity that requires tools, support and advisement to be successful.

Do commercial printers welcome efforts like those of Heidelberg, Xerox and other vendors? Perhaps the smart ones are most receptive to opening their doors to consultation and advisement—to encourage their company, as a whole, to think differently, change sales strategies, and become more education-centric with their own sales personnel, as well as their customers.

Duncan Newton, manager of segment marketing at Océ North America, stresses the critical nature of vendor support before any sale is made. Support for printers integrating digital printing into their traditional print environments should be a full-tilt resource before the fact—not an emergency quick fix for issues that arise once the technology is in place.

"Everybody is talking about solutions—so much so that solutions are sometimes the problem," Newton asserts. "For years everyone was happy focusing on the machines themselves. Today, that is simply no longer good business."

He says that Océ initiates heavy conversations and educational exercises with printers before, during and after the sale, as well as facilities management via Archer Management, a professional services company owned by Océ North America. "Today's digital printing customers are looking for answers outside of the machines; they want business support."

About the Author

Marie Alonso is president and editorial director of, a leading independent online news source for the commercial printing industry. PrintWriter is a free information site for today's printing professionals, featuring daily print industry news updates and special columns targeting the commercial printing industry. She can be reached by calling (856) 216-9956 or by e-mailing

Truth from the Trenches

The following two companies have turned to their digital press technology providers for marketing and business support. The results were positive—echoing the need for such support services, as well as the acceptance on the part of the printer to utilize the services available.

* Direct Mail Express purchased three Xerox DocuColor iGen3 digital production presses, with another on order, to keep the digital color printing segment of its business on the cutting edge of personalized communications. With the four iGen3s, DME is able to provide its customers with more four-color variable data print offerings and at more affordable prices. The installation is reportedly one of the largest to date at a single commercial printing site. "The challenge for Xerox was not just to deliver a new four-color digital press, but also to help us create a whole new market. They exceeded our expectations," reports Mike Panaggio, CEO. "We don't see a press. We see a high-speed fulfillment product that offers incredible quality, speed and flexibility with limitless potential."

* While digital@batesjackson llc had been successfully selling and producing jobs with its Digimaster 9110, partner E.J. Flammer was concerned about effectively educating customers on the capabilities of the company's NexPress after its installation in February 2002. "I wanted to make sure we'd find the best work for the machine: jobs that took advantage of the one-to-one, variable data capabilities," reports Flammer. So he called Heidelberg Business Development Services, a service available to all Heidelberg digital customers, to provide training for his staff members. Flammer credits much of the company's success to the training and mentoring his firm receives on an ongoing basis from Heidelberg.

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