I recently attended an evening TweetUp and the next morning a supplier focus group for a regional industry support and training center. At the supplier focus group there was a great deal of discussion about the printing industry since several of the attendees manufacture equipment like printing presses and bindery equipment. As we sat in a building named for Harry Quadracci I was reminded he once said that, we are not a printing company we are a communications company. We do not compete with other printing companies we compete with other communication options. so, my thought is stop printing and start communicating.
Having come from the TweetUp the evening before I began to wonder why you still refer to yourselves as printers working in the printing industry. Sure you still print, but the growth area of the industry is variable data, cross-media, digital campaigns. In such a campaign digital print will represent maybe 10% of the total campaign cost. Do you really want to be the printing company in that equation? No, stop printing and start communicating.
Instead I would follow the path out of print and into communications like my visionary friend Rick Littrell has done. Rick’s company Magicomm puts together kick butt cross-media marketing campaigns for some really big companies. I have seen his offices and while one of the tangible parts of most campaigns is a printed piece you will find no printing press at Magicomm. You will find experts in social media like Twitter, Facebook, PURLs, variable data video, and all sorts of other cool new communications technology. No need to tell Rick to stop printing he figured it out all on his own.
So how does a guy like Rick who spent most of his career working for a manufacturer of consumables to support the print industry end up being a communications superstar with no real ties to print anymore? (Other than writing the check for 10% of the campaign value to his printer) He does what you all have to do, think outside the box. If my company, ColorMetrix, was still trying to survive on sales of our ColorMetrix Classic product line I have news for you, I would be looking for a job today. Do I still sell that product? – Sure but I have also looked out at the color verification and process control landscape and found niches that other large players could not or would not fill. I have gone after and won that business to keep ColorMetrix a growing and viable company.
The time is now to learn about all the communications mediums you are complaining are taking away your business. Remember you still have the customer. Before the social media entrepreneurs steal him from you perhaps you should figure out how to sell him a cross-media campaign. There are a whole lot of social media consultants (and people who pretend to be!) out there you can hire to make it work. Instead of getting 10% of the campaign from the campaign owner, pay someone 10% and own the campaign!