Relevance: That is the key around which a successful print campaign will be built in the near future, according to Garth Ward in Printing Impressions.
“This was not necessary when print was the prime channel for advertising, information, communication with government and so on,” Ward explains. “Much of this mundane printing has transferred to digital and will never come back, but print is not shrinking. It is evolving into something smarter, more versatile and above all more relevant to those who receive it.”
“If a printer is not part of this development, the only option is to sell print services as cheaply as possible and this is no way to build for the future nor to create enduring partnerships with customers. Unfortunately there are many printers that lead with price and face the same inevitable fate as the wooly mammoth: extinction,” he warns.
A huge part of staying relevant is a commitment to investing in information technology: web interfaces for clients, automated workflows, data handling and communications infrastructure are all vital.
“The problem here is that printers continue to prefer to invest in a new printing press rather than in IT,” says Ward. “ It is as if the press is tangible and understandable. If it runs at 18,000 sheets/hr. … this is 20-30 percent faster than their current machine, so must make sense.
“But few give due thought to how jobs are to be processed either before reaching the press, or once printed,” Ward continues. “Across the globe, print runs are falling and time allotted is shrinking. A faster press magnifies the problem of handling more jobs in less time without introducing errors. In addition, too few consider training for their staff to be an investment rather than an imposition.”
Beyond technology, the printer must work with the customer to help them truly understand print’s role in the larger picture. Print that is price based only can be done by any dime-a-dozen shop. Print that truly engages – that offers the kind of quality look and luxury experience that today’s magazine readers are searching for – requires more thought and more care, more personalization and smaller runs.
“It means investment in technology that can cope with shorter print runs. It means the ability to print on uncoated papers, which are popular because of their tactile qualities, and this can be addressed through the new UV technologies that are spreading through the industry. It means being able to enhance the printed product using varnish, foils, raised print effects, diecutting and other processes that enhance the value of the printed product and make it more exciting and engaging to the consumer,” Ward continues.
Ward has some great advice for printers on how to provide the highest value to their customers.
“[P]rinters must become like project managers, shepherding the different aspects of the communication chain to achieve the result that the customers want, reaching a measurable return on investment. The focus on reducing overheads in the end to end supply chain has already transformed how books are printed and distributed; digital printing is starting to eat into packaging for the same reason. It is not the cost of producing an individual carton or label that is important, it is the overall cost of wasted materials and time in the supply chain that is important. Printers need to expand their thinking beyond the creation of the box.
“For those companies that can do this, that become engaged with their customers and work together to find solutions that embrace print at some level, the future is bright,” Ward predicts.
Not sure if your printer is ready to handle print for your company’s future? Maybe it’s time for a heart to heart — with them, or with us.