By John Giles Many printers have the latest technology that could "wow" any customer, but they haven't taken the time to tell them about it. September 13, 2004 -- Printers now have an array of digital services available that they can use to sell printing and add services. Through their web sites, printers can do online proofing, offer easy online reordering, create business package ordering systems, provide automatic PDF creation, and offer customer training and education. New digital equipment usually means better service and quality to the customer. New equipment features can also mean the printer has new and different products to sell. Digital services should mean more profitable sales, but it isn't happening. Printers are missing one ingredient: they forgot to tell the customers. Many printers have the latest technology that could "wow" any customer, but they haven't taken the time to tell them about it. For some, it mirrors the old tale of the cobbler's shoeless children. Printers create beautiful marketing pieces for customers, but they never get time to develop their own marketing pieces. Printers rarely do mailings and when they do, they talk about features of their digital equipment rather than the benefits to the customers. For example, most printers don't provide much in the way of training for their customers. Training can be a perfect opportunity to show customers solutions to an array of print problems, but printers avoid the chance to demonstrate their expertise in front of the customer. Customers want to know how to make their print buying experience easier and better. Since customers don't know what they don't know. It is up the printer to create the need. Technology isn't going to automatically create a need; but it can fill it. Printers must have a plan to communicate the digital benefits to their customers. To be successful, printers have to stop waiting for their customers to ask for a digital service and start telling them about it. Customers want to know how to make their print buying experience easier and better. Printers need to: Develop marketing pieces that outline the benefits of various digital services. What may seem common to the printer may be extraordinary to customers. For example, online proofing may be something a printer uses every day, but for many customers it is a new benefit that allows them to see the document on their computer screen without having to leave the office. But unless the printer tells them about the service they'll never know it is available. Offer customers training. Customer training is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate digital services and create customer needs. At a recent training program, customers were amazed to learn that a printer could set up an easy-to-use reorder system. They were also surprised to learn that files created in some software programs caused problems for printers, which increased the price of those jobs. A printer offering an automatic PDF creation driver saw an increase in demand for it after demonstrating the benefits to the customer. Training can be a two-way street: the dialog that took place during the training seminar also pointed out areas where a printer needed to improve his service, such as support for Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher. Provide better educated staffs. Having well-trained sales people is another way to get the digital message out to the customer. The sales staff needs to understand the computer basics where they can explain the standards for preparing files for commercial printing. If the sales staff knows the general rules, they can help customers identify potential problem areas in the files. The salesperson can then connect the customer to the prepress staff member who can offer the necessary training to get the file correct the first time. If the salesperson doesn't know what digital services are offered or how help a customer take advantage of the special services, he'll miss opportunities to sell and just be an order taker--of bad files. Use their Web site as a resource. Studies are reporting that almost 50 percent of consumers use the Internet for information rather than as a source of entertainment. A printer's site can be an important resource for printing information. Printers can link their sites to printing information on web pages from Adobe, Quark, Microsoft and others. Some web pages offer online training that will teach customers the proper ways to prepare files. A printer can use a web site to become a resource that filters information for customers and become the perceived market leader. Customers were surprised to learn that files created in some software programs caused problems for printers, which increased the price of those jobs. Printers must stop assuming that customers understand the benefits of digital services and start educating customers. Customers really don't know what they don't know. And they won't know what they need if they don't know they need it. The printer who is the first to enlighten them will be the one who gets the business.