Swimming in a bigger pond

It’s no secret that our industry is undergoing significant change. Electronic gadgets and applications are becoming a larger part of people’s daily lives, print run lengths continue to decline, and the competition for marketing dollars is stiffer than ever. As a result, printers are under increasing pressure to react, to adapt, and to change. But, change how?

There has been a tremendous amount of talk lately about printers moving from Print Service Providers (PSP) to Marketing Service Providers (MSP). The reason for this, of course, is the continued decline of traditional print work. The message to the printer is, “evolve and expand your offerings if you want to stay relevant. Do more things for your customers. Become more of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for your clients.” Admittedly, this is a necessary evolution, but I’m not so sure the term MSP is a good description of what printers will – or should – evolve into.

A wise and progressive customer of ours suggested a more accurate description of the modern day printer would be a Visual Communication Provider (VCP). By controlling the visual content for their customers, this printer acts as a “content consultant,” not simply another print purveyor. Print is certainly a key component of most campaigns, but more often than not it is supported by alternative mediums. For example, a direct mail piece may be coupled with a follow-up email campaign. Or a brochure may include a QR code that pushes a customer to a PURL. Cross-media marketing is not a threat to our printers, but rather an opportunity for growth and expansion into new areas of production and profitability.

When visiting a Smash Burger restaurant for the first time recently, I was greeted by a digital menu board. It was large, bright, easy to read and even incorporated short videos of a few of their most popular (and likely most profitable) menu items. I was impressed by the menu board…and the burger. But, it made me wonder – where does this evolution leave the printer? At first glance, it would appear the printer of the static menu board would lose a customer, but then I remembered the phrase “content consultant.” With a willingness to change and evolve his business, this printer could control and stream the content to these boards, he could create additional short videos highlighting seasonal menu items, and he could produce table tents to further promote those key items, maybe even include a QR code that would provide the scanner of the code with a coupon.

As I looked around the restaurant more closely, I also began to see very familiar items: tray liners, printed menus, P.O.P. displays, and calorie content brochures. So while my attention was first grabbed by the pretty, shiny new menu board, there were still many, many familiar items printers produce every single day. Digital displays, tablet computers, and smart phones have certainly modified the way we send and receive information, but that does not mean they will totally displace print. A tangible printed piece is still very attractive to many consumers. I see the creative use of coatings more and more in printed pieces these days and I assume this is to encourage the consumer to pick up the piece, touch it, and feel it. That is a sensory experience a digital menu board, a blog post, or a QR code simply cannot replace. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survive, but those that are most responsive to change.” Seems like a great mantra for the print community, doesn’t it?

Leave me a note…let me know what you think.

– Matt

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Filed under Business development, Marketing

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