The 'new normal' puts power in print's hands

Darryl Danielli
Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's no coincidence that print management's key opportunity, the demise of the skilled print buyer, might, as highlighted in this week's league table feature, perversely, also represent a precious gift to printers.

The ‘consultancy sell’ is nothing knew to many larger printers. Equally, jobbing printers are well versed in holding clients’ hands when it comes to advising them on the best ways to produce a job – after all most of their customers are fellow SMEs, for whom buying print isn’t core to their job.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed too that increasing numbers of printers of all sizes also boast a range of non-print services, such as email, SMS and online marketing, in their arsenal and adopt a unbiased approach, helping clients to identify the best route to market. Increasingly this means suggesting a combination of media – not with a view to downplay print’s role in the marketing mix, but simply to play to its strengths.

There’s no doubt that print management companies have a heavy burden to bear when it comes to taking the responsibility for the commoditisation of print, but then there’s an argument that printers themselves are hardly blameless either and playing the blame game gets us nowhere.

However, the past few years of tough trading conditions have levelled the playing field, making the consultancy sell approach not just an opportunity, but a necessity that, if done right, can benefit all.

Of course, under ‘normal’ circumstances moving a client relationship that was historically largely based on price, to one that is focused on ROI or effectiveness, is no mean feat, but there’s no doubt that marketing budgets and marketers themselves are under far more pressure than they were three years ago and in many respects this has created a ‘new normal’.

And it’s this ‘new normal’ that can be turned to everyone’s advantage, because it means that printers (and clients and print managers, to be fair) need a far greater understanding of the challenges facing their clients, and this insight can be gold dust.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power and if the client no longer has the knowledge in-house, then there’s a power vacuum to be filled – the trick is to fill it wisely.

Darryl Danielli is editor of PrintWeek

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