Print Is a Commodity…but You’re Not

“Solution selling.”

“Consultative selling.”

“Communications partner.”

Does this sound like your firm? We can’t say that we’re selling a product, a commodity.

“Print is so much more than that. It can’t be just a simple product, like a loaf of bread or a set of screwdrivers.”

But really it is. It’s ink on paper—and that’s it. Solutions, consulting, communications…for the most part, it’s just lip service, a 21st century angle. Who are we to stay that we are qualified to be a communications or solutions consultant in any of the diverse industries we try to sell? In reality, what most us do is sell ink on paper and press time…and we’ll take it anyway we can.

Twenty-five years ago I started in the recruiting business in Los Angeles with a firm called Thor. Terry Thormodsgaard, the owner, set up his firm with people who had industry specific experience. “I can teach them to recruit, but they have to know the industries they’re going to find people for,” he believed.

It was excellent strategy. We consistently beat our competition—competition with much more recruiting experience—because we knew our client’s business. We knew hot points— the trends, the issues…and most of all, we could be informed “sounding boards.” The later often being the most important.

My specialty was desktop publishing at its advent in 1988. And within three years, it became electronic prepress. My expertise and knowledge base evolved with the industry. My buddy next to me specialized in IBM mini computers, the 36, the 38 and later the AS400. And he made $150,000 a year at age 28 doing it.

Now I’m not saying go and hire a sales rep that doesn’t know the difference between a shrink and spread just because they know the automobile industry, or restaurant industry. But just look at things a little different.

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Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced. His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.
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