I have been following Margie Dana’s blog regarding printers and their conversion to marketing services providers. Over the past six months, NAK and our partner firm, Partner Providers Inc., have conducted two independent Delphi surveys that relate to this issue.
The first research effort conducted by NAK was to a national base of 10,000 creative people, designers and art directors all of whom purchase print and, yes, print buyers. The second was a more targeted regional study conducted by Partner Providers that targeted 3,500 locally based titles, all of which purchase or influence the purchase of print buying. Both produced some very interesting results.
First, a little more about NAK. We have assisted over 12 printers convert from a print-based model to an expanded service model, often described as a marketing services provider—we prefer the term "chain of communications providers."
Briefly, what both studies revealed was that printers are printers and that is a fact that should not be hidden. But what the research also revealed was that printers need to become an extension of the communication process, not a standalone element, independent from the process of communication as they are currently viewed.
Offering communications services as well as some interrelated marketing services is part of this new model. They must become communications partners that offer multi levels of support, which include such “marketing solutions” as SMS, 2D barcodes, personalized marketing services and other expanded marketing and communications tools, in addition to the much discussed and needed digital footprint. They msut be able to link offline media with online media, or at least support that effort.
Why? Because the markets demand it. For example, the regional survey we created indicated that offering expanded services—ones that link the creative print and distribution process—are requested and needed by print buyers and marketers. The results speak for themselves; expect lower costs due to a convergence of services offerings, faster turnaround and fewer distribution nightmares. As well as expanded communications offerings.
So as much as I agree on one hand with Margie Dana, that printers need not present themselves as something they are not, the research indicates that a printer to first survive and then grow must provide additional services to be looked at as a valued print source and as a valid communications partner.
For example, of those surveyed in both studies, many felt that most printers present the solutions that are linked and tied to the current level of printer’s equipment and skills, with little or no understanding of the potential customers actual needs. Printers seem to focus on their equipment lists, which can be viewed as a poor opening, as we have seen many marketers don’t care about equipment, they look for a solution.
The convergence of media is placing added pressure on the printer to become part of that integrated communication chain, both from a solutions providing aspect as well as offering tools that can provide the printer with added profit.
We have guided printers to become communication firms that offer supportive services and tools that can be used by both creative and marketing clients—not replacing the marketing firm, but providing the added value of expanded services. What the research shows is that a new chain of communication is being developed, which is led not by the printers and the equipment they offer, but by the ability of the printer to offer solutions that can be measured, repeated, tracked and provide a shorter delivery timeline.
Whatever name you may attach to this expanded service model matters little. The key is that a printer must modify their current model not to be like others, not to follow the call of questionable experts, but simply to provide a new and expandable profit base. It is the smart business thing to do.