I am not what you’d call a Print Prognosticator. I cannot see into the future of print as if I was Madame Lozaro with a crystal ball. But I do believe that I can see an immediate future for growth in print using online storefronts.
I interviewed at a printing company this week, and was given a brief tour of their online storefront. And I must say that I was impressed. This particular company had built the entire software themselves, and it was completely integrated with their MIS, accounting, inventory, print-on-demand – in other words, a total online solution for their customers. And that is where they see the most potential for growth: the online customer.
These are not random clients that Google for a printer to do 250 business cards. These are clients that are looking for online solutions to help them with all their communication needs. They are looking for print-on-demand solutions with supplied files, template-driven print-on-demand solutions, job tracking, inventory status, inventory valuation, online fulfillment, online estimating for simple projects, reporting, data management, direct mail, social media marketing – all of this in one software solution. And that’s what I see is the model for the successful printer.
It’s not about ink-on-paper anymore. It’s about providing the client a solution that includes print, but is enhanced by other aspects of print communications, or items that do not include print. Now, I will be honest and say that for me to be “preaching” this gospel is a conversion, so-to-speak. A few years ago I would have been the type of print professional that advocated focusing on the ink-on-paper model, and that anything that we couldn’t or didn’t produce in-house were not worth our time. But I have changed my perspective, and recognize and embrace this new approach to print and communications. Because when it comes down to it, companies are downsizing, and their traditional print buyer role is different, and requires that they, as the buyer, secure other marketing materials that aren’t always ink-on-paper. And printers need to adapt to that new market (unless they are such a niche printer that they can choose to remain a traditional printer) in order to attract and retain clients.
So, from one converted printer to another, it’s time to get baptized in the new print model, and take up the online storefront solution.