The State of the State of Print Buying
Greetings PI World! The holidays are among us and this season is a time for reflection, as well as anticipation for the coming new year. In that spirit, I’d like to dedicate this post to a topic close to my heart—Print Buying.
Oddly enough, I never referred to myself as a Print Buyer until I started hanging around all of you Printers, Service Providers and Industry people. I suppose that is an easy way to lump us all together even though buying print was only one part of my long list of responsibilities as an Ad Agency Production Manager/Supervsior/Director of Production Services.
To me, there are three types of Print Buyers: Agency, Brokers and Procurement people.
Agency buyers work within the creative department and have responsibility and influence in the creation of work, such as recommending printing processes and paper, introducing new print and marketing technology, working with printers and internal teams to get most bang for printing dollars...and things of this nature.
Brokers are just that. They sit in the middle of service providers and service requestors and receive commission for their efforts. I have known brokers who are actively involved in helping customers create specs and make recommendations, but in my experience they are mostly perceived as order takers, working with their suppliers to get the best prices so they can get the most commission. The perception is also that the margin is their main concern, but that certainly doesn’t apply to all.
Procurement is where you find your corporate purchasers. Some are very educated in print (PI Blogger Matthew Parker for example) and work for big companies with massive buying power; others literally buy print, office supplies, and whatever else needs to be procured. In that case, they may even work with a broker to help them, or send specs to "approved" corporate vendors and make decisions on whom to use based on costs—since that is their job.
Here is where our lovely classification takes a twist...now enter the surge of Print Management Firms and their Print Managers. Are they Agency Buyers? Brokers? Procurement People? A mix of all with some fluid morphing based on client needs?
These are probably rhetorical questions since I am not sure the people engaged in this even know what they are, or how they want to be classified. One thing for sure, it isn’t new. InnerWorkings (IW) has been infiltrating companies/agencies for many years and slowly taking over their production. It’s internal outsourcing! The IW employee works at a company but is actually just located there—they in fact work for IW and have their best interests in mind. I am not suggesting that IW’s best interests don’t include servicing their clients to the best of their ability, but there is ultimately a difference in where the buyers’ loyalty lies.
Recently, there was a discussion about Print Management Firms in my LinkedIn group that I gracefully bowed out of after a point was made that agencies/brands/marketers could spend more on print if they didn’t have to pay salaries and benefits to Print Production Managers. I typed with indignation that there was no quicker way to make print ALL about cost then to remove the artists from the process. But there were some bigger points made during this discussion that may be of concern to you...How can the PMF’s cover employee salaries, benefits, AND save their clients on printing? Who will ultimately only care about supplier price, and working with suppliers who provide profit margins for them?
As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to evaluate the buyers you work with, and make a conscious effort to help them keep their jobs! I am calling upon every printer to take time out of their week and send some educational information to their customers, and help them remain topical, relevant and print smart. This goes beyond relationship building, this is loss prevention—because trust me, if the bean counters win, we all will lose...and that includes the paper companies, the binderies, and the finishers!
What is your opinion? Are Print Management Firms simply Brokers with a new title? Is there an advantage for printers to work through them? Is this new trend "good" for print?
In case I don’t see you around before the holidays...thanks for sharing your thoughts now, and during the year. I’m honored to be a part of this community, and you all make me a better and smarter Ambassador to The Printerverse!
Print Long and Prosper—in 2015 and beyond!
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at PrintMediaCentr.com providing information and resources to the global print and marketing community ... with some fun in the mix! She is a noted a Print Buyerologist, Industry Speaker and Blogger, Cultivator of the Print Production Professionals Group on LinkedIn, and host of PMC's weekly #PrintChat on Twitter Wednesday's at 4 p.m. ET. Corn has more than 25 years of experience working in advertising and marketing, and currently works behind the scenes with printers helping them to form meaningful relationships with customers, and industry suppliers, events and organizations helping them achieve success with their cross media and social media marketing endeavors. Twitter: @PrintMediaCentr