Commentary & Analysis
Small Printers Can Win Battles With Printing Giants
By John Giles Printers need to be concentrating on what services they need to provide to their top 25 customers.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: August 9, 2004
By John Giles Printers need to be concentrating on what services they need to provide to their top 25 customers. August 9, 2004 -- Small printing companies are wondering what the FedEx purchase of Kinko's is going to do their printing market. Some worry that if Kinko's get the power of FedEx behind it, it will become a non-stoppable marketing machine that will suck the printing market dry. Others fear a price war with Kinko's dropping prices to take market share. Kinko's is, and will continue to be, a force in the market. The FedEx connection will allow it to continue to roll out new technology and services that has made the company a leader in the retail printing industry. Printers shouldn't be worrying about what Kinko's or the other national retail companies such as Staples or Office Max are going to do. Printers need to be concentrating on what services they need to provide to their top 25 customers. You read that number correctly. Most printing companies get the majority of their revenue from 25 customers. Industry studies continue to prove this number, yet most printers continue to believe that have to market to the masses. Their time and energy would be better spent targeting their top 25 customers and meeting their needs. Technology is where FedEx/Kinko's and the others do have the advantage. They are large enough to try new technology and roll out new ways for customers to buy printing. Between their ad budgets and their highly visible locations, it becomes easier to draw customers in the door. The smaller printer will wait for new technology to mature. The small printer needs to be assured that the technology will work before making the large investment. They also have to have the right customer base that needs the technology. It is a numbers game and Kinko's wants the big numbers. Watch for FedEx/Kinko's to go after the top Fortune 500 companies that have multiple national and international locations and could logically use distribute and print services. Or do they? Some industry analysts expect Kinko's to become more focused in their marketing efforts. With the combined FedEx/Kinko's network, the new company is in a powerful position to sell distribute and print services. Watch for FedEx/Kinko's to go after the top Fortune 500 companies that have multiple national and international locations and could logically use distribute and print services. I don't expect to see FedEx/Kinko's going after the customers who use small printers. I predict a marketing strategy that focuses on large multi-national, many location businesses. The spill-off from that type of marketing will create an interest in their services by other businesses, but most of their energy will focus on customers who can buy hundreds of thousands of dollars (or much more) of printing. The marketing churn (or hype) that FedEx/Kinko's will create about new technology will educate customers about what printing services are now available. And small printers will find that many of the services touted by FedEx/Kinko's are available to them already. No one company is going to be a Kinko's killer, but a small printer can be competitive. For instance, Kinko's was one of the first companies to offer file transfer that automatically created a PDF file from the customer's file on the customer's computer and transmitted it over the Internet to the Kinko's store. That service is now available from a number of different sources including Prismatek, Datalogic, PagePath and others. Or consider online proofing and ordering, capabilities marketed by FedEx/Kinko's as being a unique product for them, can be offered through special web site companies such as PrinterPresence.com. PrinterPresence.com offers a portal system and business package services that can allow the smallest printer to have a professional web service with online, interactive ordering. Another example is Microsoft Publisher. Kinko's was one of the first printing companies to advertise support of this inexpensive page layout program included in many versions of Microsoft Office. Now, other printers are working with Microsoft through their Publisher Service Provider Program. They are getting free support and training to make it easy to accept the Publisher files. The real difference isn't size or technology. It is the ability to go out and get in the customer's face and sell something. No one company is going to be a Kinko's killer, but a small printer can be competitive. FedEx/Kinko's is educating customers how technology can make service better and print buying easier. The small printer can easily adopt the same technology and procedures and offer similar services. Where FedEX/Kinko's is going after Fortune 500 and the masses, a smaller printer can find his niche and go after 25 customers who will make him successful. The real difference isn't size or technology. It is the ability to go out and get in the customer's face and sell something. FedEx/Kinko's has, and is continuing to develop, a professional sales team to go out and call on the customers they are targeting. The smaller printer can do the same. Technology isn't creating a gap between the haves and have-nots. It is leveling the playing field so any printer, no matter what size, can provide professional modern services that meet the needs of today's business printer buyer. And if the field is level, all the small printer has to do is go out and sell.