When I think about what separates an ordinary printer from a real standout, my mind circles around characteristics and behaviors that don’t even deal with putting ink on a substrate. (Because all customers expect you to do that well, don’t they?)
These days, printing companies that understand print’s changing role in business communications appear to be the headline makers. They have accepted the power and the reality of new media tools that have won the hearts of consumers and corporations. They get it.
Standout printers aren’t in denial. They recognize the seduction of social media, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and have been participating in them with excitement (if not a well-crafted strategy just yet).
They’re using these media for all the right reasons: to inform, to learn, to spread their own brand, and to meet people who are influencers in related fields. And they’re using them for another simple reason: to avoid being left behind.
They’re testing out new media on themselves and their own firms as they (perhaps) prepare to offer this sort of strategizing to their clients. I love that about them. They’re not using social media for nonstop self-promotion.
Exceptional printing firms make it their business to learn about their customers’ businesses. What are the burning trends and challenges their customers face, and more to the point, what kinds of communications solutions would help them grow or help them solve problems? Standout printers connect these dots for their customers by developing strategies that relieve customers’ pain and, quite often, offer up a healthy dose of dazzling creativity. These solutions may involve only print, but just as likely, they involve other media as well.
You won’t find standout printers’ heads in the sand. They are openly interested in following communication technology trends and are as likely to attend events, conferences and networking meetings that focus on electronic media as those on print media. If it makes sense for a printer to offer services involving other media, these are the printers who will do it. The standouts will surprise all of us when they master email marketing, QR codes, augmented reality, mobile advertising, social media marketing and on and on...and offer these to their market right along with print collateral. I think many customers are waiting for that day to come.
Here are a few more traits I’ve noticed about extraordinary printers. They’re enthusiastic. They’re excited about possibilities in the future. They like discussing other media as much as they jaw about print. They see the overlap among lots of media—maybe integration is a better term here—and they’re full of ideas for their clients. They don’t love print less; they’ve just made room in their roles for more.