Going for All the Marbles By John Giles January 30, 2006 -- Small print shops have found another thing to worry about. FedEx Kinko’s has announced it has added direct mail services and print online to its document solutions. Print Online is the company’s new web-based print management tool. This comes on the heels of another FedEx Kinko’s announcement that they plan to open more stores in the next two years and are spending major money on customer service training. FedEx Kinko’s has retrained its sales force to concentrate on “small and medium-sized businesses, mobile professionals and convention centers and hotels.” FedEx Kinko’s is clearly playing for all the marbles in what was once thought of as the quick print marketplace. FedEx Kinko’s is clearly playing for all the marbles in what was once thought of as the quick print marketplace. The reaction from various postings online by print shop owners and employees has been that FedEx Kinko’s was going to be more competitive and take away business from the local printer. Is the new push going to put local printers at a competitive disadvantage? For years, printers have complained that their industry is shrinking and it is becoming impossible to make money in printing. I see the biggest problem with the printing industry is that most owners allow themselves to become victims and ignore the very things the FedEx Kinko’s of the world are doing to gain new business. Does this Sound Familiar? Web sites are a good example. Most online yellow page services will include a listing of a printer’s web site along with the telephone number and address. Visit a list of printing companies in any given town and you will find that most don’t have web sites. And it gets worse. When you visit the web sites that do exist, you find they are either the home-grown variety that only lists the address, phone number and services with a “Send File” system or an off-the-shelf web site that has never been customized. During a recent visit to a small western Pennsylvania town, I found that seven of the 18 printers listed offered web sites and five used the same web site vendor. More interestingly was that many of the photographs of people on the site were the same. It was hard to see a difference between the different sites once you got past the initial skin. Someone visiting the sites would have thought the five shops were part of a printing chain. Doesn’t anyone look at their competitor’s web site try to be different? “Plug-and-play” web sites offer a good starting point for a small printing company, but the printer has to invest time in making his or her web site seem unique. Just posting photos of actual company employees will personalize it. Changing the text or creating an original page will add to the uniqueness. Doesn’t anyone look at their competitor’s web site try to be different? The off-the-shelf web sites offer a variety of tools to make buying printers easier, but sadly most printers don’t take advantage of the tools or promote their site to customers. All of the plug-and-plays offer an automated PDF creation system, yet none of the Pennsylvania printers in the small town I was visiting elected to offer the service. No room to complain Printers can’t complain that FedEx Kinko’s and the big box stores are coming into their markets with tools that put them at an unfair advantage. The cost for web sites and special tools are not that expensive. Almost all of the services offered online by the giant printing groups can be offered by the small shop. But most printers have just posted their web site and forgotten about it. A web site can be an important tool for making print buying easier. A printer can make it simple for a customer to electronically transmit a file. The printer can provide the information needed to help educate the customer on how to construct the file properly. The web site can host special drivers that customers can download to automate the PDF process. The site can have private secure areas where a printer can post jobs and customers can reorder. All of this can be done for less than the cost of a CSR. Printers need to be out telling customers about their sites and how it will make buying easier. Web sites are losing their “Wow” factor. A printer has to understand the benefits of a web site and continue to sell those benefits to the customer. How are printers getting beat by the big guys? The FedEx Kinko’s are getting in front of customers and telling them why the customer should buy from them. The local printer hopes that someone looking for printing finds his or her site on Google or Yahoo. Printers need to be out telling customers about their sites and how it will make buying easier. What should a printer do to compete? 1. Update and customize their site with new text and photos of the staff and shop. Put someone in charge of the site so you can be sure it will be used. 2. Visit the competition’s web sites and know what the competition offers. 3. Use tools that make it easy to buy or order. Document libraries, automatic PDF creation tools, online business ordering packages and shopping carts are usually available from the typical web site service. The services may add a few extra dollars to the monthly cost of the site, but the increased business should more than pay for the additional charge. 4. Train the staff about the benefits of the web site. Many print employees have never even seen their own company’s web site or used the services they’re suppose to tell the customer about. Just because a printer has a web site doesn’t make the company digitally savvy. It is not about having the web site. It is about how the web site is used. It is a digital world and printers have to understand it and be part of it if they want to succeed. Please offer your feedback to John. He can be reached at: [email protected]