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.

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Comments
  • Inkslinger

    I tire of scanning your colum. So we are now to look forward to escaping our role as tree killers [whew!], leave behind what once was a publishing industry employing nearly one in six Americans and finally cease our roles as occupiers of the most expensive advertising channel to cheerfully look forward to cowering in our two-car garages with a leased HP/Minolta-Ricoh machine depending upon driveway traffic as the future of our careers and the printing industry? Where does that leave you bloggers who conjure the future with your paragraphs of graphic truth and progress?
    Have a turn at making payroll in a print shop that consistently produces a quality product on time for a few weeks.

  • Tony Calo

    I agree Paul Rob
    I just wish that I could convince my partners who have been in printing a lot longer than me to occasionally let go of that life raft and start swimming.
    Money is tight and the paradox is that people are frightened to risk when its hard enough already…

  • Kevin Keane

    Terrific Guest Blog Paul, I think the world of Bill and Kelly and of course you too now that we have become good pals on your wicked, sly, and inspiring Linked In Group called "Disruptive Print." I am really glad to see Bill and Kelly give you a Bully Pulpit.

    Yesterday, on Mary Beth Smith’s Must Read "Market Your Printing Company" LI Group, Ed Symbol had posted a thought provoker from Seth Godin. Patrick Whelan offered a comment on Seth’s wisdom too and here is what happened next:

    Patrick Whelan • My fav "don’t sell what you do, sell why you do it"

    21 hours ago

    Kevin Keane • Right on Pat !

    I don’t sell estate planning services, I sell a deep passion for helping families face the inevitable.

    Seth’s apt aphorism is a pointed reminder to printers who sell an equipment list instead of the people of the firm who own a deep passion for helping their customer succeed with the customer’s clients! "

    Keep on kicking over the trash cans Paul, there is opportunity surrounding us, but not in the same old hide-bound way it wuz …..

    Folks if you like the idea of Disruptive Print (now not disreputable print, albeit someone sumwhere prints that cheesecake too :) sign on to Paul’s group, it’s a hoot, and it just may spur innovation.

    Cheers and Happy Christmas Buddy!

  • Rob Seaver

    I started a company several years ago called Stop Selling Print. Still have the LinkedIn group that I rarely monitor. The unfortunate thing, when I said it I was almost castrated because very few heard what I was saying after "Stop Selling Print"
    I still feel it’s only a matter of time for the industry as it has always been. Things are undeniably changing and I see nothing that tells me it will return as it was.
    If your print shop is not transitioning into some of the solutions mentioned above or sold itself to the highest bidder, you should be in a panic.
    Sure I know there are some of you out there that are still "making it". But it ain’t easy… I know that for a fact.
    I love print. I hate to see what has happened to such a great craft. But I do believe still today as I did several years back… You must stop selling print and move on to selling solutions that the consumer is asking for.

  • David Pitts

    I have also made payroll at a fair sized printing company and continue to. I agree that you must stop selling print. What one commenter seem to miss is that you stop selling print, you don’t stop printing, in fact when you stop selling print, you print more. Thanks to Paul for the article.

  • Matthew Parker

    Great article Paul. I hope that lots of printers read it. As a print buyer this exactly the approach that would work well with me. No more boring me with the finer technical details of your press – tell me how you can help my business and why you can do it better than the competition!
    Matthew

  • Pascal Smits

    Great article Paul. I see many printers struggeling these days, mostly old-fashioned printing companies who rely on old principles. But other printing companies are growing (this is true for both local as well as the bigger online printers – a great online example that everyone knows is MOO).
    Printers need to think in solutions, and offering value in order to be successful.
    There still is a lot of demand for commercial print – yes it has shifted – but i believe paper print is here to stay for a long long time to come.