Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Power of Print(ed) Stickers

The reason that Print is better than the web is that it brings information into the real world. In the heyday of mass market advertising , "information" was used to persuade potentially everyone to buy stuff. It was straightforward because there were masses of people that needed the stuff that was being sold.
Richard Sears illustrated the cover of his 1894 catalog declaring it the "Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone," and the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth," claiming that "Our trade reaches around the World." Sears also knew the importance of keeping customers, boldly stating that "We Can’t Afford to Lose a Customer." read more
Today that mass market has evolved into millions of addressable niche markets. In the mature economies of the North - USA, Western Europe and Japan - masses of people already have alot of stuff. So the selling event is less about persuasion and more about taking friction out of the buying event.

But, buying and selling remain the same; a well enough informed consumer, a reputable enough seller, a clear enough value proposition, an easy enough way to complete the sale and a convenient enough way to get delivery. The only thing that keeps changing is the definition of "enough."

Today in New York City, a buyer can look at the menu on the wall and see how many calories that Starbucks latte is going to cost. Starting in 2009 in Washington State every car sold is going to have a sticker informing the buyer of the greenhouse effects of the car they are considering purchasing. Oh. . .and it's probably also on some website somewhere.
Sticker Labels for New Cars:
"Everybody wants to buy the best that their money can afford and if there is a sticker label on a vehicle with the greenhouse gas production of those cars, it is much easier for a buyer to choose a better car not just in terms of performance but taking into consideration what its environmental impact would be.

Starting 2009, passenger cars, vans, SUVs and light-duty trucks will have these sticker labels on their windows. It will become a standard for all new vehicles and without these sticker labels then the cars won’t be allowed to be sold. So it is everyone’s right to look for sticker labels when choosing to buy a brand new vehicle. This way you’ll find out whether or not the car you are eyeing is ecological or not."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The (professional) Print Buyer is your friend

For many years, the Print Buyer was the enemy. The conventional wisdom was that their only concern was to get the lowest price. Turns out that from the point of view of the employer, the print buyer creates high value. Below is an excerpt from a recent press release at
Based on surveys conducted by Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus, RIT, the savings come in seven specific areas:

1. Printer selection practices (equipment, capability, service, etc.);
2. Intelligent paper choices and buying practices;
3. Appropriate printing processes (digital, offset litho, etc.);
4. Efficient finished sizes, page counts;
5. Optimum print runs, on-demand practices;
6. Distribution approaches (targeted mailings, distributed printing, co-mingled mailings, etc.);
7. Other (online file delivery, preflighting assistance, etc.).

What is less obvious is the value the print buyer creates for the printer.

When printers invest the time to "educate" their customer, they have a low ROT (return on time, first coined by Dr. Joe Webb.) A professional buyer means that printers can spend less time "educating" the customer; more time discussing the right fit for print into solving the buyer's problem. Time spent thinking about the right use of your company's manufacturing capabilities has a very high ROT.

All your customers will still have questions to be answered. But a pro will ask hard questions. Hard questions and good answers lead to new knowledge. It's a win-win. From a time investment point of view, that interaction has a high ROT for both the buyer and seller. Simple questions, on the other hand, are just a transfer of information. The buyer gets a high ROT. But it's a low ROT for you, the seller. It's win - lose.

We all know that time is the enemy. Any time investment that gives you a low ROT should be completed as fast as possible. The good news is that mere transfer of information is often best accomplished on the Internet. One good example is Margie' s Print Newsletter at Print Buyer's International.

Now the necessary last piece is falling into place .
PBI's Print Media Professional Certification Program
Print Buyers International began offering its Print Media Professional Certification Program at their 3rd Annual Print Buyers Conference last month in Boston. Over 65 attendees filled the seats at Print Buyer Boot Camp, and many have already taken or are scheduled to take the certification exam. More certification programs are being developed for 2009, including an advanced-level program.

Interested print and media buyers who want to become Print Media Professionals as certified by PBI may write to

Now that Print Buyers International has started an accreditation program, the sales person has a reliable indicator that a professional buyer really has professional knowledge and ethics. PBI has taken on the job of educating the buyer. They focus on the kernel of value in the internet (plus many other activities) to do that job. For the newbie, getting answers from the the internet gives a very high ROT. For PBI, educating through the internet has a high ROT. This is a win-win.

An alternative print training vehicle is, the most extensive online training vehicle in the print industry, will unveil a new website Wednesday, October 22nd at the 2008 Print Solutions Conference & Expo. Powered by the Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA), offers high-quality, online training for new employees as well as industry professionals interested in taking their knowledge to the next level.
Win-win usually means solving the problem and making the sale.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

EHG: Government and Selling Print

As readers of this blog know, I believe that the growing market for Print in Europe and the USA is no longer in advertising/marketing. Instead it is in EHG, education, health and government. It seems to me likely that the professional print buying that we are seeing at the Federal Level will move through other levels of government.

Given the money being spent by State and City governments and the increased necessity to do more with less, there should be a growing opportunity for standards based, professional print manufacturers to fill their unused capacity. Unused capacity is found money. Going forward, printers are going to have find as much money as they can.

This morning I found a press release at that lays out the challenges of selling to the Federal Government. It's a hard problem, that is getting a little easier. But solving hard problems is exactly what creates value. Creating value is what leads to sustainable profits.
How the Government Printing Office Can Increase Profitability
Source: Press release issued by the company, unless otherwise noted.

(October 13, 2008)Founded in 1813, the U.S. Government Printing Office's core mission is Keeping America Informed as it supports the work of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. . . . Further, as required by Title 44 of the U.S. Code, all federal agencies are required to use GPO to procure their printing.
"Keeping America Informed" is the sweet spot for Print. "America" includes everyone. When informing "everyone," Print is a "must have," not a "nice to have."
Unlike most federal agencies, GPO operates much like a business, as it is not only reimbursed by its federal agency customers for the cost of work performed, but the GPO also receives from its federal agency customers a service fee which is based on a percentage of the work procured. Additionally, the GPO sells printing to its customers and this is done at the huge GPO printing facility in Washington for work that is not outsourced to the private sector, such as the Congressional Record, Federal Register, and U.S. passports.
The Congressional Record and the Federal Register will probably move to the internet. But that's what the federal government does in house. Doesn't affect the outsourced market.
For all outsourced work . . . $400 million in jobs the GPO awards each year. The good news is only about 400 or so printers are active bidders, allowing room for additional competition. Printing for the government can fill an important gap for a printer and can generate income that otherwise would not be there. It is a win-win for the GPO and the printer.
This is the different, sustainable business model: scheduled use of presently unused capacity.
Meanwhile $400 million of print buying is not bad. Add to that State and Local governments, and it can add up to real money.
But first, a printer must become a "qualified" GPO vendor in order to be awarded work. A printer must properly register with GPO, provide equipment lists and other detailed information, and submit stellar samples that can pass the muster of a rigorous GPO quality review. All of this is not easy and entails the assistance of a professional that knows the GPO business inside and out.
Professionals are available to guide through a complicated sales process. These days it's not that different from long term contracts with major corporations.
Once approved the printer still needs to grapple with the rules, regulations, paperwork, and red tape. Dealing with the Federal Government and its GPO is not easy for a novice want-to-be GPO printer. A printer must be able to read and understand the subtleties of the solicitation, specifications, contract terms, quality assurance guidelines, paper specifications, terms and conditions, and other requirements. This is no small undertaking.
Once this learning is earned it is the competitive advantage. Since most printers will not invest the time, the competition is limited. The problem is similar to that of selling to a large school district.
Doing work with the GPO is much different than working with corporate accounts. When a mistake is made, the printer cannot take the GPO to lunch and sweet talk its way out of the problem. The printer must know the rules and follow them exactly.
Standards based production is another new learning for many printers. But again this is not so different from working for a major corporation.
. . . Printers in the know are in general the profit leaders in the industry. Take Gateway Press in Kentucky, P.A. Hutchison in Pennsylvania or Corporate Express with its national footprint – all are profit leaders, all rely on the GPO for a portion of revenues, and none do work at paper cost or below.
What do these profitable printers have in common when it comes to GPO success? Here are the three most important things that they know:

• Open capacity is a unique opportunity to build profitability.

• Knowing the customer is as important in successfully accomplishing GPO work as it is in accomplishing work for any major commercial customer. . . . Therefore, successful printers understand the importance of working with a GPO expert in order to maximize profitability.

• Obtaining GPO bid opportunities that are highly competitive is relatively easy. These are readily available for a fee from a "GPO bid service" or for free directly from GPO on its Web site. Having those more profitable GPO bid opportunities available with sufficient time to bid is a different matter. Just like in the commercial marketplace, GPO bid opportunities are more profitable when fewer potential bidders see them; these opportunities offer fast turn-around in the bid process, the manufacturing process, or both. Also, there are the matters of amendments to which a response must be made before bid opening, how to assure 21-day pay so a printer does not have to wait for extended periods of time on its money, having access to past histories of prior jobs, reports on competition, and promptly obtaining accurate results of bids. Only an expert in GPO can fill these voids.
These experts exist. As for fast bidding turnarounds, this means a well organized, systems oriented bidding process. Again, not so different from working with major corporations.
The bottom line is this. If a profitable printer averages 4 percent profitability before GPO, partners with a professional government print management firm to avoid the long and expensive curve of learning to do work with GPO, and then adds the appropriate work, that printer can increase its profitability by 10 percent or more by utilizing what would otherwise remain idle downtime.