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Commentary & Analysis

Listening to Print Customers

by Margie Dana One of my favorite things to do in this business is listening to print customers talk about their work.

By WhatTheyThink Guest Contributor
Published: December 11, 2007

by Margie Dana

One of my favorite things to do in this business is listening to print customers talk about their work. Whether I'm asking the questions --or in this case, Frank Romano asks them-- their comments are enlightening.

Banks and investment firms spend $12.3 billion annually on printing.

I attended Frank's recent webinar on WhatTheyThink.com as he talked with three high-level buyers in financial services. (I wasn't alone. WTT reported that over 500 people registered for this session.)

Since I worked in a mutual fund company for 11 years as a print buyer, I was particularly keen on listening to this session. The three buyers (who remained anonymous) were from some of the country's largest financial services firms. According to Frank, print is still a major portion of the marketing efforts of U.S. financial services' institutions. Banks and investment firms spend $12.3 billion annually on printing.

It's difficult for a new printer to get into their organizations, although it helps if a printer can offer them something new or solve a problem.

That's a lot of beans to be counted.

  • Do the comments of three seasoned professionals reflect the thoughts and actions of their peers coast to coast? Who can say? Nevertheless, based on my 20-plus years of either buying print or focusing on those who still do, I will say that their comments rang true. Here's a bit of what they said:
  • Though they may be currently working with printers within 50 miles of their offices, they're about to move the work further away to be closer to their fulfillment centers.
  • Freight cost is an issue. Lowering mailing costs is a hot topic. They're open to anything a service provider can do to decrease costs and timelines to help them get products to market faster.
  • It's difficult for a new printer to get into their organizations, although it helps if a printer can offer them something new or solve a problem they're experiencing. "I like to see what's out there," as one buyer put it. Keep in mind that vendor contracts may already be in place.
  • They are not buying printing from ecommerce sites.
  • They (and other buyers in their departments) are responsible for all the printing in their firms. There can be one exception - procurement departments may buy stationery items.
  • Creative services are part of their departments. The designers in their firms don't buy printing; one buyer said his designers "have no desire for the most part" to do so.
  • They have in-plant digital printing capabilities, both B/W and color.
  • They tend to be loyal to their printers.
  • Of the three buyers, none works with print brokers on a regular basis, but they might work with brokers for specialty items or, as one buyer said, "when we have more moving parts than we have time to deal with" on a particular project.
  • They buy more than financial printing. They mentioned posters, CDs and packaging, as well as a lot of commercial printing for marketing purposes. They have done interesting projects lately, including a lunch box, a job with complex folding, and a binder in a sleeve.

I'd guess that this 60-minute conversation was as interesting to buyers who listened in as it was to print providers. For all I know, their buying practices have parallels in lots of other industries. Future webinars will tell. By the way, these free webinars are archived on WhatTheyThink.com's web site.

 

 

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