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Commentary & Analysis

Chapter X: Mastering Your Craft

By Harvey Hirsch The needs of tomorrow&

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: January 17, 2005

By Harvey Hirsch The needs of tomorrow’s sales Samurai mean that today they must understand that they are an integral part of the marketing communications industry and not just printers. January 17, 2004 -- A true Samurai seeks knowledge because he must strive to excel in his warrior caste. If he was proficient with swords then he must endeavor to learn archery. The more weapons you could master, the better your chance for survival in battle. That was not enough, however! You had to put the lives of your fellow Samurai ahead of yours and that meant mastering as many different martial arts skills as you could learn, and your master encouraged this learning. This philosophy has actually been practiced for thousands of years by virtually every warrior based culture since humans banded together to defend themselves and form civilization. It amazes me sometimes how today’s printing sales Samurai do not get the same training from their employers in the printing industry. Most of the printing shops, brokers and sales people are still 1st generation-offering offset, web, rotogravure, silkscreen, etc. Some have analyzed the potential market for printed products and have included larger format banners, posters, vehicle wraps and signage while others have added broader digital print services that augment their traditional work. There are even a few who practice the Ninja art of VDP. But here’s the rub. The needs of tomorrow’s sales Samurai mean that today they must understand that they are an integral part of the marketing communications industry and not just printers. Caste Warfare But most printing companies don’t have training budgets or schedules for educating their sales people in VDP other than allowing them to attend trade shows or dealer demos. They must compete for dwindling and scarce budgets, usually at the fickle whims of the Ad Agency caste and a bidding system designed to shrink their margins. The philosophy of “if it isn’t made here we don’t sell it” is the death knell for any organization in such a competitive marketplace. The Ad Agency caste offers their clients everything. They are the ultimate brokers because they invent the strategy and the product (the project for the Printer Caste), then bill the client for managing all of the elements (with markup of course). These predator Sales Samurai Account Executives immerse themselves in technology in order to survive in some of the most hazardous terrain around and they must be proficient in their understanding or they cannot develop programs for their clients to utilize. They must become well versed in print, internet, broadcast, and strategies to utilize each media more efficiently and profitably. Today’s print sales Samurai can no longer just concern themselves with supplying a component. Printers have commoditized their products over the past 7 years to the point that a majority face a perilous next three months. The philosophy of “if it isn’t made here we don’t sell it” is the death knell for any organization in such a competitive marketplace. In order to thrive, today’s printer must consider offering their clients more services in order to, (a) position their shop’s services against all other rivals, (b) bill out on more profitable margins and (c) maintain a dominant market share position in their regional battle field. A first step for a lot of printers is inclusion of a mail center with database management, ink jet addressing and various finishing procedures. This weapon allows them to sell to a higher level of print user and keep the account active by storing and managing the client’s data. It’s the data component that expands the market. This particular weapon, when mastered allows the warrior to enter the world of VDP more efficiently because data manipulation has already been mastered. And make no mistake in projecting where the printing industry is going, Variable Data Printing and 1:1 communications will be the weapons of tomorrow in every client’s arsenal. The Samurai of tomorrow will be a communications expert, offering a plethora of marketing products to a client and bypassing the Agency caste The Samurai of tomorrow will be a communications expert, offering a plethora of marketing products to a client and bypassing the Agency caste offering creative consulting services through affiliate partnerships. This will enable them to bring in more diverse and profitable projects rather than waiting for someone else to invent them and bid them out. For today’s printer to maintain a foothold in the future, they must begin the education process immediately. It is vital that they begin the steps necessary to train them selves and their foot soldiers in the technology that will shape tomorrow’s battles for consumer dollars. By educating their sales people now they will build a formidable force of knowledgeable advisors that any client could rely on for help in approaching prospects. When the sales force can make informed decisions on applying all forms of communications to assist the client in generating new business for the client, then they will be generating amazing profits for the printer. And the printer of tomorrow will no longer be a printer but a major force for clients to use in their battles for market share. Banzai. May you live 10,000 years

 

 

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