By John Giles October 26, 2005 -- Print 05 was a rousing success from all indications. Vendors were happy with the traffic and printers enjoyed getting a chance to lay their hands on the equipment and talk with experts. But I hope vendors were careful when they were talking to printers about their needs. Too often vendors make assumptions that end up confusing both parties and creating unrealistic expectations. There are still a significant number of printers who refuse to see customer-created files as a source of revenue. It's too easy to take things for granted when you are selling to printing companies. For instance, you would think that all printers would accept digital files from customers? They don't. There are still a significant number of printers who refuse to see customer-created files as a source of revenue. You would think that every printer would have a web site? They don't. Some printers are turning their back on web sites because they feel they are too expensive and won't be profitable. These same printers usually don't have high speed Internet access. You would think that every printer would have a computerized estimating system? They don't. Some printers still think it is faster to calculate prices with a pencil. Others don't trust their employees to get the prices right so they want to review every order instead of having it directly enter the workflow. Some printers still think it is faster to calculate prices with a pencil. Is it any surprise that the number of printing businesses continues to fall? Every study and report released in the past five years points to a contraction of the printing market. There are fewer printers to buy products and services. Is this the beginning of the end? I don't think so. We're finally seeing the shakeout that has been predicted for a decade. Bad operators who were able to get into business with a little money and a used press can't compete in today's market. To succeed, a printer has to understand the business of printing and not just the craft. We're finally seeing the shakeout that has been predicted for a decade. Suppliers can help printers understand the business of printing. They cannot only provide the products, but they can offer solutions and suggestions to make the products profitable. Suppliers just have to focus on the printing customers who are embracing new technology; not the ones who steadfastly remain in the past. What are successful printers wanting answers about in today's market? Color. Providing salable color is getting easier. New toner-based printers provide good quality and can overcome many problems printers have fought since they started receiving the first customer files. Printers are looking for ideas on how to sell more color to customers. Desktop inkjet printers have driven customer interest in more color and printers want to take advantage of it. Vendors can help by teaching printers how to sell color with value rather than making it a commodity. Vendors can help by teaching printers how to sell color with value rather than making it a commodity. Scanning. Many toner-based printers offer scanning features that turn hard copy into a PDF or TIF file. Printers are finding this is a service they can resell to their customers. They will appreciate any help on how to offer this service and who to offer it to. Some printers don't even know that the feature is available on their digital printer. Customer-created files. Files created by customers is still a growing segment of a printing company's orders and some are still having trouble understanding how to do it profitably. Suppliers who provide suggestions about standards and procedures for handling customer-created files will help its printing company customer increase his business. Internet services. The Internet can be overwhelming. Successful printers know that the Internet is an important communication tool, but they also know how to specifically use it. Suppliers who provide Internet-based services who take time to train their customer how to use it will grow their market share. The success of everything from ordering online from the supplier to helping the printer's customer use a supplier product or service depends on how quickly everyone can be educated to the process. Suppliers who provide Internet-based services who take time to train their customer how to use it will grow their market share. Variable data printing. VDP is the latest buzzword and printers are trying to figure out how to move beyond simple mail merge. Many of the new RIPs driving digital printers include software to make VDP possible. Vendors need to make sure their customer knows the software is available and how to use it. Most printers react to sales opportunities rather than be proactive. They search for printing's "Holy Grail," that piece of equipment or service that will make customers break down their door to buy. Too often the printer's sales strategy is to become the low-cost producer and sell it cheaper than the competition. Vendors have the opportunity to really partner with their print customer and show them how to sell the products and services in addition to just using the equipment. Installing a special printer driver to make file transfer easier isn't a solution if the printer doesn't know what a printer driver is. There are a lot of opportunities in today's printing market. We just can't assure that the printer will "grasp the concept." Installing a special printer driver to make file transfer easier isn't a solution if the printer doesn't know what a printer driver is. If a supplier wants to take advantage of the opportunities, he needs to make sure his customer understands what he is taking about. There are a number of printers poised to breath new life into the printing market. They want to learn the new technology. They want to learn how to sell it. All they need are suppliers to show them how.