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Print Confessions

By Graphic Arts Professionals

About Print

Print Confessions is brought to you by Bill Farquharson and Kelly Mallozzi. Each week, read the thoughts of a different graphic arts professional who will share a point of view that can only be written anonymously, and then join in the conversation by posting a comment.

Quit Selling Printing

There’s much talk and concern, leading to handwringing, of late about consolidation in the printing industry, as a few big companies continue a pattern of buying up independent shops.

Many see this as a trend that foretells the demise of the printing industry. They envision a future in which all the world’s printing is done by a handful of large corporations that are traded on Wall Street or backed by investment bankers.

Some believe every printing company that isn’t acquired or consolidated or merged into one of these giants is destined for extinction. And if you look only at the traditional printing industry, there’s a compelling argument to be made that print is on it’s way out.

So even if you’re great at selling, it can start to look like maybe now’s the time to quit selling print.

But, from a slightly different perspective, there’s more happening here than just the consolidation and decline of an industry. From just the right angle, printing also appears to be experiencing a renaissance; new possibilities and opportunities abound.

Most people inside what used to be called the printing industry can’t see that side of things, however, simply because MOST OF THE GROWTH IN PRINTING ISN’T HAPPENING IN PRINT SHOPS! It’s happening in garages and basements, in labs, and in companies large and small that would never imagine calling themselves printers.

This growth is almost exclusively digital, and it’s being driven by developments such as printed electronic and 3D printing, and near-field communication (NFC), augmented reality (AR) and QR codes, along with a half-a-hundred other acronyms and abbreviations that many printers wouldn’t recognize as having much relevance to their businesses.

So while printing is a vital part of dozens of industries and millions of businesses, it appears less and less like an industry and more like a collection of technologies that share the ability to transform digital information into tangible, physical stuff.

The printing industry may well be vanishing, but PRINT IS GROWING.

And you can be a part of that growth...if you’re willing to stop selling print and start figuring out how to do all manner of things for your clients that they can’t, won’t or simply don’t want to do for themselves.

You’ve got to quit selling them print, and start helping them grow their businesses by using print to solve their challenges and capture the big opportunities in ways that nothing else can.

Leverage your skills and your experience—along with your imagination—and spend a lot of time immersed in both your customer’s business and in the realms of change, disruption and invention.

By learning to see beyond the fragmentation and dismemberment of the industry that used to call itself printing, you can begin to think about what you do in a different way. And that can make it possible for you to become a highly valued and trusted part of your customer’s business.

It seems to me to be a simple choice:
  • either sign-on with a big, old-fashioned printing company and keep selling what you’ve always sold—print— and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts, or
  • embrace the new, disrupted, fragmented awesomeness of what print is becoming. Quit selling print, and start figuring out the incredible new things print can do to help grow your customer’s business.

Any salesperson who can do that will be around long after the printing industry has vanished.

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