Traffic Report: Speed Bumps, Congestion on Digital Highway —Michelson

ALL ROADS lead to the Windy City for our industry’s biggest annual confab, Graph Expo, this month. Although you might be reading this issue of PRINTING IMPRESSIONS just after the event—or perhaps on your way to the show—most pundits predicted that the overriding themes for this year’s edition would be digital printing and workflow.

Large exhibits from companies like Xerox, Kodak, H-P, Xeikon and Océ will surely be bustling with show floor traffic. Printers who have already entered the digital printing realm will be crowded shoulder-to-shoulder within these booths with those still pondering whether to make their initial leap. Some show-goers will just be on exploratory missions, while others will have done their homework, have clear objectives, and even be ready to pull the trigger on a purchase or lease. (Wherever your firm is along the learning curve, check out the special editorial supplement focused on digital printing and the upcoming PIA/GATF Variable Data and Personalization Conference appearing in select copies of this issue.)

Digital equipment buyers in the know realize that deciding which print engine to purchase should be one of their last decisions. The initial consideration should entail thorough conversations with customers and key prospects about their current, and future, business objectives. Digital print providers can’t foster an offset mentality, both from a value proposition and pricing standpoint. Nor can they afford a misstep in matching digital device to customer needs. A high-end color digital press with variable data capabilities is surely more firepower, and investment, than needed to largely fulfill orders for short-run, commodity jobs. And, yet, savvy marketers that can envision the value of sophisticated database management expertise coupled with complex, variable data printing can become a shop’s highest-margin—and most loyal—clientele.

For many larger corporations, print is increasingly just one integral component within a cross-media campaign. As such, smart communications providers are not pitting their ink-on-paper offerings against electronic alternatives; instead, they’re promoting how the two work in harmony to meet overall marketing objectives. This often requires entering the world of Website hosting and design, Web-to-print applications and personalized URLs. It also means mastering the delicate dance of bypassing traditional buyers and climbing higher up the food chain to reach C-level corporate and marketing executives. Individuals who care less about the cost per printed piece, but more about a supplier’s ability to offer comprehensive solutions that generate a higher overall ROI in the end.

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