One of the questions that’s been swirling around the printing industry for years is –
“How do I charge my customers for providing additional services, like web-to-print or cross-media marketing?”
The underlying issues touch on many related questions. How to position and sell print as something that’s not a commodity? How to stand out from the competition? How to increase ever shrinking profit margins? How to develop deep and long lasting relationships with customers? Or to use a phrase that has been used so often that I think it has become trite – how to transform from being a print provider to a “marketing service provider”?
Despite all of the talk, recommendations and pure hype surrounding these questions, there remain no easy answers. At one point there seemed to be a bit of a trend for printers to hire salespeople from completely different industries, preferably a world where throwing around big numbers and catch phrases about value was standard. I don’t think that worked. Other printers have changed their compensation plan, recognizing that a solution sale can take time, but should ultimately be amply rewarded. That’s absolutely true – but isn’t effective in a vacuum. And of course the standard advice for printers trying to offer value is “Don’t talk to the print-buyer. Talk to a “C” level executive”. Well, yes, but not so simple…
At Pageflex, we’re fortunate enough to have numerous customers who are thriving. Who have clearly gone beyond print as a commodity, and creatively solve problems and offer solutions to their customers. We see them engaged in long-term relationships with their customers and are sometimes blown away by what they’ve managed to put together as a value-added solution.
Solving the deceptively simple problem of “pricing” often requires shifting deeply rooted business models, and even traditional paradigms of thought and behavior. And perhaps that’s the most critical starting point. Looking within, identifying a strategy, a message and business goals, defining a plan to execute the strategy, and then ensuring buy-in from the top down is the foundation for success. That’s what we see our successful customers doing. Although they certainly don’t take the same approach, and vary even more in their solutions, this is clearly what they have in common.
One of my favorite industry analysts, Jennifer Matt, often discusses this topic, offering great insights and real-life, practical recommendations. Today’s posting on WhatTheyThink, titled “What You Can Do to Save Your Customers Money” is particularly interesting because her starting point is completely aligned with the reality for most printers – they are dealing with someone in procurement who is all about saving money. And then she takes that it all too true situation and describes how convert it to a solution sale. Good reading!