In a World of Print and Marketing
Have you ever wondered why many, if not most, printers do not look at themselves as anything but a printer? They feel Pride, justifiable pride in an industry that has a long, positive, very wonderful history. An industry that has been in many surveys and nearly always rated as one of the top 10 industries in modern history, above the advent of the computer and the information age. An industry that was once more then than a job — it was a profession, an art, the glue that keeps advertising linked to the consumer and enterprise linked to its B2B base.
From it’s beginning, printing has defined what we called for a long time the information age, which transformed into the computer age! This is the reason why I believe, after working with print providers for over 25 years, those printers do not see themselves as what they truly are.
What are they?
To answer that question we have to understand that printing has a foundational element that is rare in the world of media, simply most items are at one time or another connected to printed work. Print provides, printing positive results. It creates an ROI (Return on Investment and an ROR (Return on Resources) that when dissected is real — real world real — bottom line real!
So what are printers?
What you may not be?
I can tell you what you are not. You are not simply printers, nor are you marketing agencies, sale promotion experts, and trade show planners, designers, copywriters, and social media platforms. No, despite what you have been told (and may believe) to be, and what you have attempted to be, you are not in most instances, any one of the above mentioned titles. These and many other offerings are part of who you are, part, not who you are.
You may be, as part of your commercial DNA, a firm, a brand that offers many of the above services, but in the end, you are not merely one of the above. You are more, much, much more.
So what are you?
You are, in part, a facilities handler, a warehouse genius, a deployment expert; you are a paper and substrate manager, a chemist, and a magician. Many of you are part banker, a bit of a psychiatrist, a dinner date, and an excuse. You may also be viewed as a planner, a facilitator, and a bringer of joy or a source of annoyance.
You may be all these things and more, but that is not really what printers are or should be. You and your competitors have more to offer than that — you are in part the foundation, the benchmark element that forms the first strain of marketing and communications DNA. You provide experience, technology, positive return on investment (ROI), return of resources (ROR) (in most cases), and act as a knowledge exchange portal. You serve as a problem solver, a trusted source, and perhaps even a friend!
If you need to provide additional services look to partnering as an option. Contact those that excel in the support and services your client is requiring and sign them on! Better, develop a partnership program as part of your marketing efforts.
To Print or Not to Print!
Your business is based on sales. Whether you provide sales support services alone, as a team, with a spouse, or with a partner, you are by nature or should be a salesperson. You are as salesperson that is heralding your brand’s most positive traits, traits that include many, if not all, of the terms I described above. But, in the real world, that is — may not be — not how your client base sees you.
Perhaps many of your clients, customers, actives/in actives and prospects see you and your industry as dying, a thing of the past or an industry that is on life support. Not to worry. These detractors are soon to be proven wrong.
The digital game is up. It is not gone but is undergoing, a world of change, that will undergo a type of scrutiny that few media have ever seen. We are now at the corner of reality and disbelief. How we proceed will define your future successes or start to illustrate our future problems.
What has caused or started the negative turn for our industry, lack of proven performance? It is ironic to me that that criticism is also a key current charge against the digital world. PRINT IS DEAD, we were told; it is not delivering, a dying format to a baby boomer segment that no longer purchases, that is on the way out, a media and market which needs to be replaced by the younger Turks and new emerging media.
Yes, print may be ill, but it is not dead, there are endless, yes endless stories that present, prove the argument that print has changed and is on a road, not THE road to recovery. Millennial’s now see print with an added level of value, direct mail continues to work, and interactive print may lead the way for a user-based future for print — have you considered the future of interactive print linked to gaming as a brand strategy? Our detractors never understood that we are not merely print, we are as stated by a Sappi promotional piece we are Print &. What we offer still delivers a knock-out punch in delivering the message — the data is out there, proven, valid and real data!
Few fully recognize that commercial printers offer one or more of three segments of the bigger business model — these segments are Information (newspapers, magazines etc.,), Product Logistics (packaging, et all), Marketing, sell, and advertising (self defined). Two out of these three segments are far from dying, and even the definition of death is open to discussion.
What has happened is that there has been a shift, a three part cultural shift that has forced an industry change that was and still is needed. You and your business can profit from this shift as long as you are willing to stop seeing yourself as just a printer.
So what are you?
You are a printer that is majoring in marketing a brand — not a marketing services provider, not a consumer brand (in most instances). You, your brand serves markets whose products are based on the time-honored model of transferring information, conveyance, targeted marketing, direct mail, packaging, direct marketing, interactive, digital and legacy technological wonders. All of these services are designed to make you and your client’s money, to turn a profit. The services you offer contribute success to many if not all of the 4 “P’s” of marketing that include price, product, promotion and placement perhaps there needs to be a fifth “P” = Print, which can also mean Profit?
Make no mistake, I am not advising you to become a firm that offers marketing services. Been there, done that, you will say. No, what I am saying is that you need to provide the broadest range of print-based communications services, services that are client, prospect specific, and you MUST start to think like a brand, a marketer. That is the combination that will lead to success.
You and your firm are the glue, the savings account, the investment portfolio, the technological wonder that not only converts the 0’s and 1’s of the digital pre-media world into a analog devices and into $’s, but also provides some of the most unique call-to-actions tools that marketers can ever hope for. You and your products are haptic, sublime, interactive, tractable, measurable, duplicable, profitable, and, yes, repeatable!
Does being called a “marketer” offend you? Perhaps it does, but in reality it should not. You are a retail store, a manufacturing plant, a distribution center, a call center, a funnel for sales — all the things that marketers wish they could be, you are a brand and more.
Welcome to the new world, a world based not on the past but secured in the past and built on the future — your future, your business’s future, the future or marketing and communication. You are a marketer that can help other marketers reach and achieve success, reach and exceed their goals, and possibly convert the red debt line to a black income line.
Where to go next?
Twenty-five years ago, you would have been on the phone with equipment manufacturers plotting your next purchase. Today you need to grasp the scope of the market, your clients’ market. If your clients are agencies, brands, enterprises, or a combination of all of those, you need to be well-versed not only in their needs, but also with the kinds of tools that you will need to understand, discuss, and perhaps use to move yourself and your firm forward.
What, me worry? (as Mad Magazine used to proclaim). No, you have been dishing out and serving your products to marketers for years. Now the time has come to build your business by using the same formulas that the big brands use to build their business — did I say big brands use print as well?
You need to think MARKETING, Marketing and Sales, and you need to link your sales team to your new plan, (when was the last time you branded your firm internally?) even if that means only giving yourself a new title. You need to develop a new understanding and recognize for yourself a new role as a marketer par excellence.
Let me restate my conclusion: Make no mistake, I am not advising you to become a firm that offers marketing services. Been there, done that, you will say. No, what I am saying is that you need to provide the broadest range of profitable print-based, valid, needed communications services, and you MUST start to think like a brand, a marketer. That is the combination that will lead to success and to an increased profit base. In fact according to the 2017 Print Buyer Survey, 84% of respondents have no interest in anything you do besides printing — so be clear, concise, know your market and know what they want!
Ready to move forward? The world calls. Go west, east, south, and north, young person. Grab for the stars. After all, you have been the shining sales star for your clients nearly all of your professional life.
You are a printer, which provides printing but majors in marketing!
Thad Kubis is an unconventional storyteller, offering a confused marketplace a series of proven, valid, integrated marketing/communication solutions. He designs B2B or B2C experiential stories founded on Omni-Channel applications, featuring demographic/target audience relevance, integration, interaction, and performance analytics and program metrics.