Staying Relevant as a Printer in a Digital World

Staying Relevant as a Printer

The days of being a “Me-Too-Printer” or a commodity manufacturer and staying profitable are disappearing quickly. Strangley however, the need for Print and Mail as part of a Marketing strategy is actually increasing. So why does it seem like you are falling behind the times? The answer and solution to the problem of staying relevant as a printer are much simpler than you may think.

Printing in a Digital World

The Number of Touch Points for a Sell Has Increased

The Marketing Calendar for the average Ad Director is massive these days. The number of touch points for a sell has increased from three, just ten years ago, to twelve today. This means that successful marketing campaigns have to utilize traditional and modern media channels. These channels must be a combination of higher cost per contact mediums like print and mail as the base. Mixed together with layers of modern mediums like e-mail, PPC, display ads, Social Media posts, and follow up funnels. These mediums are lower cost on a per touch basis but also much lower in response rate. Which is why successful campaigns are all about integrating print and digital.

Integrating Print and Digital

For most Marketing directors this means that they must run these lower cost touch points themselves. This of course takes up a tremendous amount of their time. The time it takes to write content, design creative and place an ad through Google Ads takes close to the same time as getting a post card created. However, where you may only mail one to two campaigns a month, Google Ads are weekly or even daily. The result of these new obligations on a Marketing Director’s time is a desire for their Manufacturing partner to produce/procure all of their print and mail needs. This is where staying relevant as a printer comes into focus.

The Shift to All-In-One

This is a huge change from ten years ago when there was almost a pride taken in the ability for someone to buy direct. They would source everything separately. For intanse envelopes, insert materials, list, data work, letters and lettershop would all come from different vendors. Conversely, now it’s looked at almost with disgust by this new generation of marketing directors. They ask “why waste so much time on traditional media that could be spent on creating click content”. Even though traditional print and direct mail marketing still make up the majority of their budget.

They want it now

It used to be that anyone who ordered print understood that 10 business days turn time was the business norm. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore and in order to stay relevant as a printer you have to adjust.  In a world where you can go on Amazon and order chairs and get them delivered the following day the idea of it taking 10 business days seems like your getting strung along. As a result of this expetation for immediate gratification is no customer ever hears the phrase “from proof approval”. For example you may tell your customer 5 business days from proof approval. Even though your customer takes four days to approve proofs, they still expect production to be completed the following day.

The only real solution to this is giving your clients the ability to order and proof approve online, all without having to speak with a single CSR.

They want data

For today’s marketing director success starts and ends with good data. They expect that once they tell their Manufacturing partner who they are looking to target and what their budget is. That they will then back a data file with those exact parameters. They aren’t looking to spend time chasing down mail lists from seven different vendors. Then having you or a data house do a merge/purge where they lose 35% of their list they already paid for. For most campaigns direct mail is the start of prospecting. The list of prospects will be those people who initially respond. That group is then filtered through multiple digital touch points. Which means they have to be certain they are starting with the best possible prospects.

While the campaign has to start with good data it also has to end with good data. Which means you need to be able to provide “post office to in home” mail tracking. As well as QR code creation and often PURL campaigns with analytics on click through.

They want you to be their designer

With the new crop of designers coming out of school focusing so much time on digital ads they aren’t as focused on how to build print files correctly. Unfortunately this leads to often having to go back to a customer and let them know there are problems with the file. For example RGB images (sometimes having to explain why converting them will change how they look on press). Also low resolution, full color build up on black text, no bleeds and sometimes things just built in CANVA.

Every time you have to go back to your customer and ask for a correction to the file, they get annoyed and they start looking for a different printer. It’s not fair and in no way are you responsible for their files being created but it’s a reality. It is becoming more cost effective to store a customer’s base files. Then you have them make revisions as needed for campaigns. The other obvious benefit to this is that it ties them to you closer.

They will stick around for much longer

One of the benifits of these changes that have happened over the last five years is that Marketing Directors don’t want to shop around for different vendors. So if you can find a way to meet all of the needs listed above you have a customer for life. Even in transitions that in the past would have meant a new marketing director bringing their current vendor with them. We are seeing the desire to just stick with what the previous director was using if it provides for all their needs. For you, staying relevant as a printer is just about adjusting to knew cusotmer expectations.