Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Got a printer problem? Got a Customer problem?

Feel free to post under any name you like. Anon is fine. Whatever works for you as long as it's honest and in a real voice.

Just two rules:
1. Don't act like an asshole.
2. Try to keep the bullshit to a minimum.

Keep in mind what you say may someday appear in print.
Post accordingly.


  1. Dear Dr Print,

    In my work I speak to quite a number of folks in the printing industry and recently I’ve spoken to a number of shop owners that all seem to be facing a similar problem.

    Last week I spoke to a shop owner in the NYC metro area (names are changed to protect sales) “Frustrated Frank” (FF) was lamenting to me that he is having an enormous problem finding customers that are interested in Variable Data Printing (VDP). FF said he believes VDP is the wave of the future for printers and bought into it with all the bells and whistles necessary to make it happen, plus he said he has great support from his vendor(s). He also feels that his sales team is now up to speed on VDP and they have the ability to make VDP work for customers, but he can’t seem to locate customers, any customer, who will even discuss VDP, let alone consider implementing a VDP marketing solution. He has a broad base of existing clients that could benefit from VDP. But they are beyond resistant to VDP, they aren’t even willing to listen and will hide under their desk when his sales team calls. FF feels that he has hit one of the worst selling problems in his many years in the printing industry and is now wondering if he may have to take a loss and move on.

    The question is: Have we oversold VDP and is it just too complex right now, considering the economy, to make that breakthru for clients and their clients?

    Wondering Up North

  2. Dear Wondering Up North,

    Re: VDP. I agree with FF. I believe VDP is a very big deal. In my opinion, the mashup of database publishing and the ability to output with full color high design quality (VDP) is the most important technical innovation in Print since Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (thank you wikipedia) found himself in the middle of a mashup out of which came movable type.

    Q: Have we oversold it?
    A: It depends who is selling it to whom. The folks selling it to printers have been doing pretty well. The printers selling it to their customers, not as well. There are some notable exceptions in the world of direct marketing and statement printers. But they were experts at database publishing to begin with.

    Q:..."is it just too complex right now, considering the economy, to make that breakthru for clients and their clients?"
    A: I don't think that's the problem. The real problem is that printers are using the wrong words and they are not developing and selling new products.

    Consider this scene.

    Mr Gutenberg stops by his local parish in 1453. "Can we have a meeting about some great new thing I can do? It's called movable type. I've been working on it for years and years and it's ready to go. I want to be your communication partner. I can show you ways to increase the number of people that show up on Sunday and put some money in the plate. It will give you a great ROI. So....Can we get together for lunch sometime next week, so we can have a discusssion out about how I can can help you?"

    Do you think he would have gotten the meeting? Or does the parish priest head for under the desk?

    Without knowing the granular details of Frustrated Frank's shop or customer base or present product mix, it's hard to say anything really useful. But at a minimum I would make it a rule that no outgoing communication from the company, not a website, not a salesperson, not a brochure should use the phrase VDP. Not ever. Not once.

    Can you imagine any end user customer (not a printer) falling asleep at night and saying "Gee, I wish I could get some VDP tommorrow, for a good price?"

    If it were me here's what I do.
    I would look closely at what my customers and clients are already printing with me. Then I would pull together a team (if that is possible) or just myself, to think a lot about why they are printing it. Then figure out a way to do it easier with less risk with less of their time required. If it needs digital print and database publishing (the dreaded "VDP" ) so much the better. If it doesn't that's ok too. I would just move on to the next customer.

    It's sort of like Gutenberg eventually deciding to print bibles. Given that he did go broke, he may have never figured out that people buy products, not tools. But his investor's son-in-law, Peter Schöffer, built a very nice business selling Bibles, and other stuff, in Paris.

  3. Dear Future Print Sellers of the planet earth...

    I have been in the printing industry since the early '80's and I have one thing to say "listen". Let the client lay out their idea. I have to say you have to be an "active listener". Know what the client wants to have in their hands and when. I have done this day in and day out but each time it's different. So listen up and pay attention. Ask the open ended questions let your client speak. You are the vessel and they want someone to hear their story. A good learning tool for any sales rep is to understand. If you ask questions for things you don't get it's okay! Can I just say that doing this for so long I have taken paths that lead me to something I didn't know was possible...

    Enjoy the unknown and open up your mind! Most things are achieveable if you just open yourself to the possibilities!

    Cheers to Listening and Learning!

    Regina a very understanding print production person from Planet Earth

  4. Dear Regina,Production Person from Planet Earth,

    It sounds like a version of "can't we all just get along," - which I happen to agree with whole heartedly. Thanks for the post.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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