What ever happened to annual reports?

•April 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I remember back about fifteen years I had a neighbor who was big into the market. His mental health revolved around the health of his stock portfolio. This annoyed me, especially since his portfolio always hovered around a half a million dollars. But one spillover benefit of this preoccupation was his annual reports. He had them neatly arranged on his living room table – Apple, ATT, IBM, etc.

I loved picking up these “works of art,” admiring them … not the numbers but the printing. I loved knowing that I was looking at the top print jobs in the world. The eight color production, the varnish (flat and gloss), the spot UV – all combined to make the equivalent of a seventy-five dollar coffee table book. The annual report was the “this is what our company is all about in all its grandeur” corporate promo piece.

While I didn’t have a stock portfolio, I had a new special order 1995 red Mustang convertible. And everyone who stepped into my apartment knew it. My glossy Mustang car book was proudly displayed on my coffee table.

What happened?

What happen to the annual report on the coffee table, or the car book for that matter? They’ve been replaced by the internet and the flash ridden corporate website. After all you can get the same information on the web, right? But the problem is you can’t put the web on the coffee table. You can’t covertly show off to your friends – or the girl you just had over on that first date.

The printing industry has always been, and still is all about doing the best job at servicing your customer. Whatever they want to print – you and your firm strive to provide the best service, the best quality at a competitive price. But what if your customer doesn’t know want they SHOULD print.

In the rush to save costs and adopt all “the latest and greatest new thing,” the annual report became a casualty – an unnecessary waste of paper and ink. But with it, went an image of corporate credibility. That high quality self promotion piece gave you the impression that company represented inside was real, a company you would be proud of patronizing or even investing in.

In their myopic thinking, these major corporations didn’t see the benefit in having this physical presence in the living room of their fans – a presence that isn’t temporary like a web page refresh. It’s something print provides, something a website doesn’t.

All the rage in the industry these days is integrated media. A printing company needs to offer web services, social media, QR codes or anything else that pops into the communications vernacular. If we don’t get on this wave … there won’t be another.

And I’m as guilty anyone else in pushing this agenda.

While you may not be any good at QR codes or social media – one thing you’re good at is printing. It’s also something you want to do – it’s your expertise. So maybe that’s what you should do.

Now here’s my point.

Printing serves a lot of purposes. But so does new media. If you’re going to try to fight “tooth and nail” for the same business – for the same applications, you may win … or you may not. But there’s certain things print can do that social media and the internet can’t – like giving your customers a coffee table presence.

I’m not saying every printer should go out and retool their business plan to reserrect the annual report or car book. But what you have to do – is find those items in your repertoire that new media can’t compete against. And you probably have to go out and do some educating. You have to tell them what they SHOULD print. Your have to present new ideas to your customers – ideas that they may have lost in the pursuit of the new and trendy. Here’s an idea. Be different by being “old school.” But you have to show them why they should take a step back rather than two forward.

It’s all about the applications – and uses for print, uses they haven’t thought about, or forgot about. You no longer sell print! You sell annual reports, or car books, or custom baseball cards for their kids or even cool business cards with outlandish finishing. Being a printer you have an advantage because your customers and would be customers can feel your products. They can feel the difference between the flat varnish and UV coating and how they can use it to emphasize the things important to them.

I was fortunate to cut my teeth producing world-class commercial art and printing directories in the Twin Cities and Los Angeles. We used techniques that were off the charts provided by world-class vendors. I was in the mists of the coolest stuff our industry had to offer … and I loved it. And I wasn’t the only one. Ten years plus after some of my directories were published – I still see them floating around. And they look as cool as ever. I bet you can’t say that about a website.

Get out there and sell some cool stuff. But don’t sell printing. Printing isn’t cool anymore. But the stuff that you print … well, that can be really cool.

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Check out my blog, “On the Road to Your Perfect World,” or follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

2011 is looking like a good year … or is it?

•March 29, 2011 • 2 Comments

Over the last few weeks I’ve read several reports on the state of the printing industry and the outlook for 2011. I’ve been surprised. Most of them project sales, especially in direct marketing to be up – not a lot, but still up. That’s a huge improvement over the last two or three years. Most of the top corporations anticipate spending more on print this year. One of the reports even surmised that volumes would return to pre-recession levels because of pent-up demand.

There might even be some logic in this. The stock market is in good shape. Fortune 500 corporate profits are higher than they’ve ever been. The recession has made process improvement and efficiency tantamount. We see a lot of that in the printing industry. The industry leaders, such as Quad and Consolidated are acquiring firms and merging operations to keep a handle on costs, while looking at how to handle the predicted increase in demand. It looks like printing is successfully holding its own against the social media evil empire. Maybe we can return to the good old days of the past after all.

But let me take off my rose colored glasses for a moment.

After I read these reports, I thought I’d talk to a few of my old printing clients when I recruited. These firms ranged from about two to fifteen million in annual sales – your basic range of the majority of commercial printing. Their client bases consisted mainly of local and regional firms cut across a wide range of industries. They print collateral as well as some direct marketing and even some retail signage.

While we can sit back  in our living rooms and read the latest NAPL report – we can’t help but see there’s an elephant blocking the view of our TV. And this elephant is the printers I called – printers like the majority of you that read my rants. But I don’t need to tell you that.

I didn’t hear about acquisitions. I did hear about plant closings though. I didn’t hear about hiring talent to gear up for the upturn. I heard about layoffs, layoffs of not just employees – but friends. I heard a lot about losing business to Groupon, from the smaller firms. The “evil social media empire” hasn’t so much been kept at bay as one would think reading the trade publications. All this talk of customers preferring the printed piece seems to have been lost on the customer themselves. The owners I talked to gave me the impression they’d just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. And they can’t wait to get out of the ring.

This is our real print industry. It’s not the one that has public shareholders to report to. It’s not the one that’s always on the look out for the next company with an owner that’s hitting the late rounds. The real industry is one where their son’s best friend has a father who out of work and worried about making his mortgage. The owners of the real print industry are worried about paying that college tuition for their kids they’d never thought they’d have to worry about. This the industry that doesn’t make the trade publications. They’re not necessary out of business … but they can sure see it a possibility – voluntarily or not.

If you drive around your community you’ll probably see a new coffee shop opening up. or you might see a new Walmart or Target store. But what you won’t see is a new printing company, even though you might see where one once was a year or two ago.

Most of the news we read or watch discusses the economy in macro terms. GNP is up or down. Unemployment is 8.8% or 8.9%. We might hear hear state numbers, but for the most part, it’s all national, it’s all macro. It’s looking at the forest from a mile up. It looks fine. The big trees stand tall. But what we don’t see is there is no growth down below. None of the nourishing sun reaches the floor. None of this supposed up turn in the economy has reached Main Street. And unfortunately – we live on Main Street.

But according to the reports, things are going to be fine again. Apparently all we have to do is  is be patient. Good times are just up on the horizon. Recently I read a couple posts here by Carl Gerhardt, with the most recent being yesterday.  In his articles Carl took the position that not all printers are set up to take advantage of the new communication world represent by social media, other online alternatives and 1:1 marketing. If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last few months, you’d know my opinion on the necessity of change in our industry. At first I wanted to comment, but I decided to step back and look at things from the perspective of someone in the trenches – especially a smaller firm like those in the Carl’s Allegra network.

I can only imagine that for a small printing company, adopting these new age products and services must seem a daunting undertaking, if not outright insurmountable. To most owners of these firms, Facebook and Twitter are useless internet things their children and grandchildren waste time on when they should be doing, well … anything else. And their opinion of Groupon isn’t much better. Even if these owners saw merit in these new technologies – how to incorporate them in their work-flow and revenue stream is another story completely. The time and effort just isn’t worth it. After all, things are going to get better aren’t they?

Let me ask you something. What did you do when you were teaching your daughter to ride a bike. What did you do, after she fell down, scraped her knees and said she didn’t want to try anymore. I guarantee you didn’t let her quit. You pushed her, and you helped her until she was successful. It was hard, but she worked her way through it. What did you do when your son wanted to run for student council, but was afraid to get up in front of a group to give his campaign speech. I’m willing to bet you encouraged him and gave him the support he needed and told him he’d knock’em dead.

Why is changing your printing company any different. Yea, it’s going to be hard … damn hard! Once the emotional momentum wears off – you’re going to want to go back to doing business the same way you have in the past. But you can’t. And you can’t turn back time. None of us are Michael J. Fox and have a DeLoren equipped with a flux capacitor.

Maybe your firm doesn’t have the talent to make this jump. Find it! You don’t have to load up your payroll either. I’m sure there’s plenty of small web or data base firms more than happy to partner with you. Just because you’ve always been the lone wolf … doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. The first post I wrote for Printing Impressions was called “the Alliance.” It would do you good to go back and read it if you haven’t, or re-read if you have.

Our industry has reached a critical juncture. And I believe we have not seen the end of the carnage either. Printing will still be a viable business. It just won’t be a business like it was … no matter what you read.

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Related post: Why Should We Keep Print Alive?

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Check out more of my rants on my personal blog, “On the Road to Your Perfect World” or follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

“Maybe they know more than you think”

•March 1, 2011 • 2 Comments

Ego is a double-edged sword.

On the positive, if you don’t have an ego, don’t have faith in yourself – then you’re probably not going to have a lot of success in life. But on the other hand, very often our egos make us feel that we’re infallible … incapable of making anything but the correct decision, regardless of what advice we get.

And it’s easy to micro-manage.  After all if you’re the boss, then you must know.

Back in college, thirty years ago, I promoted rock bands.  One show I did took place in Ortonville, Minnesota at the White Eagle Ballroom … in the middle of nowhere.  Even though Ortonville only had some two thousand people living there, it was a great venue to have small concerts in.  Since there was nothing else to do, kids from a hundred mile radius would flock.

This was my first show in Ortonville.  In fact, I’d never even been there before.

My modus operandi was to find a local contact to put up our posters and hopefully start the “idea virus.”  I found Gordy.  Seventeen, still in high school – and a police dispatcher.  How bad can this be?  Right out of the gate I got a discount on security.  Since I had set everything else up … all that needed be done was to put up the posters and get the word out.

Three weeks later, I traveled back to Ortonville to do the show with Dave Theige, my roommate.  We got in late the day before and checked into a motel.  The next morning, I got up before Dave and went out to get breakfast and survey the town for our show’s exposure.

I went everywhere I could to find at least one poster.  I found none! What happened to Gordy?  It looked like my police dispatcher dropped the ball.

After several hours, I finally tracked down Gordy.  “Where are all the posters?”  Gordy’s response was to hand me back forty of the fifty posters I gave him.  “I only needed ten” was his response.  “Great!” I said sarcastically. I only needed six hundred people to break even.  That’s only sixty per poster.  Unlikely.

Well, the show came and went and I made about two thousand dollars and Gordy manned the door so all Dave and I had to do was hang out with the bands and enjoy the music.

After the show, I sat down with Gordy.  “Where did all these people come from … and how the hell did they hear about it?”  Gordy came back with this:

“I put the posters in the places where the kids would see them when they were with their friends so they could talk about the show.”  This meant posters on telephone poles on the way to keg parties mainly.

In addition, Gordy enlisted members of his “Tribe” (in Seth Godin jargon) to spread the word … and make sure that there were no parties or anything else to compete with our show.

I wouldn’t have put up the posters in places like that.  Where I would have, the kids wouldn’t have seen them or if they did they wouldn’t have talked about it.   And there’s no way I could have squashed any potential competition.

So much for knowing everything.

Ooch, I just got cut.

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If you like this please retweet and check out more of my ramblings on twitter at @variable_edge. And if that’s not enough check out my personal blog, “On the Road to Your Perfect World.”

“Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas”

•February 20, 2011 • 2 Comments

As protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia:  “Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

You’d have to be living under a rock not to take note of what’s been happening in the Middle East over the last month. And it ain’t over yet. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the revolution in Egypt in my personal blog, “Millennials Rising.” It got me thinking.

“But what does this have to do with printing and why do I care?

Well I tell you what it’s not about. It’s not about the price oil, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood … and sure isn’t about terrorism – no matter what Glen Beck, or Rush Limbaugh says.  It’s about the “kids.”

And news flash – we have kids here too.

What we saw over there was the incredible execution of a game plan to overthrow regimes that had been in power for over three decades.  And they did it peacefully. The only violence committed in either Tunisia or Egypt was committed by those in power, not the demonstrators.

These young people used social media – Facebook, blogs and Twitter to communicate with each other and they followed a textbook … a textbook literally written years ago by a Harvard professor here in this country, Gene Sharp. And the disparate parts from all over the world worked together with military precision.

A don’t think this generation, Generation Y, the Millennials, hate their elders. On the contrary, they’re closer to them than we were at their age. It’s the truth. But for some reason their elders don’t seem to take them seriously.

“All they do is play video games and sit on Facebook.” It’s no different here in this country. And the ruling class of our industry, printing – probably feels the same.

I don’t think you’ll lose your firm to a coup of “twenty somethings,” but then again maybe you will … if you don’t pay attention to this group. The printing industry you built, is hanging on for dear life, while the industry they built, social media, is on the way to the “next great frontier.” Recent speculation puts the valuation of Facebook at $50 billion, Twitter at $10 billion and Groupon at $6 billion. And all three of these companies were started and are privately held by this no good “video game generation.” Find me a printing group worth $10 billion let alone fifty.

Gen Y isn’t going to need to take over anything, well not anything but your clients. Because in a couple of years, if it isn’t happening already – most of the clients will be their peers. These will be people who they have as friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. And what are you going to have … your Rolodex.

In the five short years since I quit recruiting,  my database for the most part has become a ghost of what it once was. Most of my contacts retired or just got burnt out and left the industry. I’m sure a lot of yours have too.

If the Millennials want to they’ll stay in the printing industry, they will … if they find it relevant. If not – they won’t. And with them will go their friends and followers – the clients.

But you don’t have to go of the way of Mubarak and Egypt or Ali and Tunisia. And all it takes is for you to listen and respect. Don’t treat this generation like you do your teenage children. Your priorities are not theirs.  The future of your firm will rely on how this group can identity with you and your company.

As I expounded on in my last piece, they are more concerned about others and the world than our generation is. If they don’t see you and your firm as being socially responsible – they will turn on you with the wrath of God. If you belittle their gaming culture or protest their socialization tendencies … they’ll do the same.

Remember your potential competition is not the same as it was twenty years ago. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to start a business. An extra bedroom, a couple of iMacs, that operator on your 2nd shift – and now you have your biggest nightmare. And there will be nothing you can do about it. Chances are they know more about technology than you do.

Why not use this knowledge … this resource. Do you let a perfectly good, new press just sit there because you like the old one you’ve always used? What’s the difference?

What sort of reaction would you get if you went into the plant tomorrow and called a meeting. Here’s the topic:

“What can we do to make OUR company appeal to young people and attract younger buyers. We don’t want to be old anymore.”

I guarantee you’d be enlightened. I also guarantee the word would get out that you had the coolest company to work for. You be the Google or Apple of the printing industry. And with it would come the best talent and the best ideas. And with that would follow profit.

Or maybe Mubarak has a spare room in Sharm-el-Sheikh. You can talk about the good old days.

Give, give … and then give some more.

•February 2, 2011 • 4 Comments

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had a pretty negative tone to my ramblings. “The status quo in the print industry won’t work and if you don’t change then your company is dead.” And I’ve had comments – positive and negative, both here and personally. It’s either it’s blasphemy not to wave the flag or … “yea, that’s the game – it’s all about the internet.”

Well … I’m done with the negativity. Now it’s all about solutions. Print is going to stay. The question is:  What is it going to take for your firm to be one of those that makes the cut? I’m going try to throw out some ideas over the next couple of weeks … here’s the first one.

Hire a CGO … a Chief Giving Officer. Their job is to figure out and nurture ways your company can give. And not talking about “giving back.” I’m talking about giving – regardless if you’ve received.

I saw this banner on a gas station in West LA yesterday:  “We give 20% of all our proceeds on Tuesdays to the Simon Wiesenthall Center for Tolerance.”  I’m not Jewish and I don’t care if they don’t have the best gas prices in town … but I’m still going there. They’re giving, they’re trying to be part of the solution – and I want to patronize a firm with that attitude.

People do business with people and companies they like and respect. The little bit I’ll save getting the best deal pales in comparison to helping someone who’s out there for the greater good. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. All your capabilities and “stuff” is not “the be all and end all.” Make your firm one that if … you don’t do business with then “I’ll feel guilty.” There’s always “work arounds” on capabilities.

Giving, corporate speaking, can be in two different forms:

1. Give to existing causes – like my example above. This is nice, but an easy out. Unless your clients and target market identifies with the cause … it probably won’t resonate, except for its symbolic value.

2. Create your own causes. This is where the CGO comes in. Remember most of your business is local. Local in the sense that your customers share the same “away from work” issues that you do. It’s their community too. Imagine if your firm is seen as a major player in helping make your neighborhood better. Don’t just give to the Salvation Army, for example. Organize “groundcrews” where you can solve local problems – groundcrews that are led by your employees and your clients.

Given the chance, you will be amazed at what happens. Buyers, who you have to go down a gauntlet to see, will be standing hand in hand with you – helping the homeless, working in a mentoring program (that you built) … or even cleaning a public neighborhood park and fixing its playground.

This isn’t about selling printing, and it’s not about any of the other services I’ve advocated over the last couple months. It’s about getting to core of human motivation and what makes us tick.

I have to believe we all, or at least most of us, want what’s good for all us. Call me an idealist. If you truly believe this – then why not demonstrate it in your company? Make giving such an integral part of your culture that without it, your company … well, it isn’t your company. Make it what your firm is all about.

Now this perspective may sound crazy. Well maybe it is. It’s not like Groupon where group buying and half off is all the rage. It’s not about advertising on Facebook, or tweeting till your figures bleed.

What it’s about … is being a person, being a company that people feel proud to do business with. And worst case … you’ll sure feel better about yourself.

Please throw in your 2 cents worth – yea or nea. Share your ideas on giving and making it a marketing priority and a business strategy.

Print is a commodity … but you’re not

•January 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“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 I stated 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.”  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 the advent of desktop publishing 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.

Just because printing technically is a commodity, doesn’t mean you sell it like it is.  Knowing what to sell and when it sell it will ultimately determine your success.  And in order to do this, you have to know your client’s business.  You have to know what works in their industry and more specifically – in their niche within that industry.  To be an effective business partner you have to be able to be on the same level as him (or her) with his business and industry.  Telling him you just bought a new press or have more capacity means nothing to their success.  Knowing the type loyalty program or window advertising for their store that is most effective – does.

Even though you’re selling a commodity, that commodity is a communications vehicle.  And it’s a vehicle that has to return a favorable investment.  If it doesn’t – your client will look elsewhere.  The more you know about what works in situations specific to them, the higher the likelihood you will have a long-term lucrative client.

Be a student – and not just a student of print.  Study the industries and niches you want to focus on and make part of your life.  Go to their trade shows.  Subscribe to their trade publications.  Learn what’s important to them … not to you.  Become so knowledgable that you can sell anything in their industry – not just print.  Whether your firm has an HP or a Xerox digital press doesn’t make any difference to them.  They just want to know how it’s going to affect their bottom line.

There is also something to be said about the satisfaction of becoming an “expert” in your own little corner of the world.  You’ll be the “go to guy,” the one they look to for answers … answers you’ll know.  Being a “jack of all trades (or industries), master of none” is not a path to financial success.  I’m sure all of you know the success stories of printing firms made of sales people with defined niches.  For example, a good friend of mine traveled almost exclusively in the community of firms that designed annual reports.  When annual reports were still big business, he made obscene amounts of money.  He was an expert.  He knew the players.  He knew the production issues and he had the industry relevant portfolio to back it up.

In my last article I brought up whether print was worth saving, whether it will survive.  If you’re just going to sell it like a commodity, then I don’t know if it is.  Make that ink on paper reflective of your expertise … the sum of what you learned – about and from your client.  Make it worth the money they pay for it.

Make it a vehicle for your client’s success … not just yours.

Why should we keep print alive?

•January 3, 2011 • 3 Comments

I’ve been following a group on Twitter called #helpprintthrive.  It’s a discussion about how can the printing industry can, well – thrive.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the printing industry … and I’m as much for keeping the industry viable as much as the next person, but I’m starting to have second thoughts.

In discussions I’ve had with many people in the industry – I haven’t really heard many good reasons why the industry deserves my support.  “You have to support print – just because it’s print.”  That’s not good enough for me.  And I don’t think it’s good enough for most people.

Every morning, I go outside and pick my newspaper only to have ten circulars fall out on the ground, or these days, in the snow.  These are generic ads trying to get me to buy something I have no interest in buying or even looking at.  And today took the cake … an empty paper grocery bag with just a logo on it.  I’m about ready to cancel my print subscription and just read the online version.

And the sad thing is, I’m a customer of most of these advertisers and they know what I buy – but obviously they just don’t care.  “Don’t push ‘everything under the sun’ to me just because you are too lazy or inconsiderate to care about my time and attention … and the garbage cans I’m filling up.”

And I’m going to add printers to this rant too.  The print industry can’t expect their clients to know all the great 1 to 1 customization options available – options that focus on effective communication, not print spam.  It’s the industry’s job to educate – not just be an order taker.  And if they don’t offer these options … get with the program.

In fact, I believe a good portion of the blame lies with the print industry.  It seems like too many of the reasons to “keep print alive” come out of tradition.  Print has been around for some 600 years and by gosh we have to keep it going another 600.  We bought equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions and we have to make the payments and pay for the people to run it … so buy our print. It doesn’t make any difference that maybe we didn’t really think it through when we bought all this stuff.

After all:  “Don’t they come if we build it?”  Unless you have Kevin Costner on staff – NO!

I want to hear some good reasons why I should buy and consume print.  If I’m an advertiser, I want to know why I should spend what little money I have on print, rather on this cool internet stuff that everyone’s into.  As a consumer – why should I go through mountains of paper … and waste my time and mind space on all this junk I don’t care about?  Granted print is better for reading and I like the idea of sitting on my couch and going through the Sunday paper … but that’s just one day, and just one or two papers.

And I’m not even talking about the environmental issues.  And I don’t want to hear about “more print means more trees planted” or the environmental effects of data centers.  I don’t buy it.  You can twist the statistics all you want.  Neither I nor the vast majority of the world buys this argument – true or false.

Well – since I’m not getting any good reasons … I’m going to give you my own.

  1. As an advertiser, I think it would be great to be able to make sure my customers know about things I had to offer, the things that are relevant to their lives.  And I want to make sure it gets to them at a time when they could use it most.  This would be great since I wouldn’t have pay for so much print and postage sending useless advertising to people who aren’t going to buy from me anyway.  Answer me why should I be sending a teenage boy an advertisement for discounted diapers.
  2. As a consumer, I’d like to receive something from the companies I shop at (or even just have visited), to show me that they have actually spent the time to realize I’m an individual - not like my next door neighbor or even my wife or my daughter. And if it was a printed piece that would be cool too, maybe even with a stamp on it – that would be even be best since it’s a lot harder to do and more expensive than just sending out an email or a text.  It’ll show me you care about me and my business.
  3. As a consumer, I’d like to get something on quality paper – paper that feels nice and memorable when I touch it … something I’ll want to keep and not just throw away.  I can’t get that with my screen or my mouse.  In fact it doesn’t even have to be paper, it could be plastic or any interesting substrate with message on it that I can use.
  4. And as an advertiser, I want my printer to realize that just because I want to try new media options, doesn’t mean I don’t still love them and want them part of my life.  And if they even add some of these new exciting options to their ‘bag of tricks’ – I’d be more than happy to give them the first shot. But, just because they don’t want to grow, doesn’t mean I don’t, and in fact I have to – to survive.

I’ve been through the ups and downs of the print industry as much as anyone has.  As an electronic prepress recruiter I saw my open job orders go from forty to zero in just two months time a few years ago.  Yes – zero, as in zero dollars.  Not a five or ten percent decline … but a hundred percent.  But that just the way it goes – life changes and you move on.  Having a business isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.  A privilege that has a finite life.  That life may span over several generations – but it’s still finite.

The world is in a constant state of change.  Our success as business people lies in our ability to navigate these changes and find ways to continually make ourselves and our businesses relevant.  All to often it’s easy just to coast and think we are above it all … but we’re not.

Now I believe that the #helpprintthrive discussion has a lot of merit.  At least it recognizes that the industry’s future needs be to addressed.  But we just need to get past the “wave the flag” mentality and really look at the issues and solutions.  You don’t see the online industry touting itself, just because it’s online.  Why do we we?

If we really want to help the print industry, we need to look past – our past.  The print industry has every bit as good of a chance to thrive as any other.  We just can’t keep looking at our business and it’s value to our customers, and their customers – as being the same as it was yesterday and the day before that.

But that doesn’t mean its value can’t be worth even more.

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You can follow me on Twitter @variable_edge.

 
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