Printer or Broker? The Lines are Blurring

The build vs. buy dilemma is alive and well as printers wade into new waters and print margins erode. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a few days with several printer owners successfully diversifying beyond print. The interesting thing was, these were small companies lacking the resources to build marketing teams in-house.

The whole idea of becoming a marketing service provider with in-house talent is daunting for an eight to 10 person operation. The challenge such companies face is becoming experts in the ever-growing list of emerging technologies and marketing services without taking their eye off their current print revenue stream. For years, we’ve been hearing about the marketing services provider model, but the group I met with is doing it.

Here is just a short list of some competencies necessary to broaden your marketing services offering:

  • Knowing how and when to use QR codes
  • Building and managing mobile websites
  • Designing and managing corporate websites
  • Using pURLs the right way
  • Managing social media marketing
  • Designing and managing e-mail strategies
  • Marketing promotional products
  • Creating show exhibits
  • Managing digital content

Can make your head spin, huh. The printers in this group know their core is printing and accept the fact that they lack the resources of larger printers when it comes to building a broad, cross-media team. They’ve come at the opportunity by leveraging a whole new breed of what I call “Behind the Scenes” suppliers, or BTS suppliers, that are filling the void.

OK, maybe we don’t need a fancy name for these guys, but they are different. These suppliers understand their role in life and have built services to remain hidden from the end-user, going so far as to even answering e-mail and phone calls as if they were part of a printer’s staff. The printer closes the deal and collects the money, then the vendor does the rest. And, the margins beat that earned on print.

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.
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  • gregprintpro

    I’ve been working for a western managed printing company in Asia for many years. We do a lot of business across the US. From my perspective, given the choice between working with an in-house print buyer or a print broker i would go with the print broker anytime, even though our profit margins are smaller for brokered jobs. Print brokers generally have had more extensive

  • Ryan Johnquest

    these links you’ve provided are severely out of date