by Tom Wetjen

The traditional approach to pricing commercial print jobs --charging the cost, plus some margin-- can help a digital printer establish the minimum acceptable price for a production job. But for setting actual market prices, digital printers need to factor in those attributes clients value beyond price, adopting a value-based approach to pricing.

The event reflected the fundamental values of vendor-based networking organizations.

This was the case made by Waleed Ashoo, president and chief executive officer of Lithexcel in Albuquerque, N.M., in his keynote presentation at a breakfast for Xerox Graphic Arts Premier Partners during Graph Expo in Chicago. The Premier Partners are a global network of more than 650 leading digital print services providers, and about 115 of them were on hand for the Graph Expo program.

Before, between and after the presentations the members networked, sharing views on the show and the state of their respective businesses. By session’s end, Louis Crockett, president of Keiger Printing Company, Winston-Salem, N.C., was entertaining a business proposition from a fellow member who saw potential synergy based upon award-winning work from Keiger that was on display at the meeting.

In delivering opportunities for learning, networking and business development, the event reflected the fundamental values of vendor-based networking organizations. Here’s a closer look at the proceeding --and the value it delivered.

Pricing Digital Print

Developing cutting-edge applications is one thing, pricing them is another. At the breakfast, Ashoo, who also serves as president of the industry group DICE (Digital Imaging Customer Exchange), presented on his company’s approach to pricing advanced services, such as variable-information printing and one-to-one marketing programs.

“I was impressed that he was willing to share so much information about their approach to pricing,” said Wanda Simpson, president and chief executive officer, Premiere Colors LLC, Ashland, Va. She was attending her first Premier Partners event. “We’re really struggling with pricing,” she said, and Ashoo’s presentation --along with recent feedback from her sales team-- is persuading her to entertain more of a value-based approach.

Ashoo’s talk also reinforced her company’s recently evolving strategy to sell services, in addition to printing. “We can be a printer or we can be a company that shows its customers what we can do for them,” Simpson said. Increasingly, she is championing the “what-we-can-do-for-you” approach with the company’s sales force.

Another attendee who appreciated Ashoo’s presentation was Keiger Printing’s Crockett, who attended Graph Expo for two reasons. One was to look at new equipment. The other was to attend the Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging (PIXI) awards, where his company took Best of Show honors.

Keiger's winning entry was a sample book showing the variety of paper stocks, finishes and colors that can run on its iGen3. After seeing the book on display at the breakfast a fellow Premier Partner asked about licensing the book for its own use. The two have since entered into discussions not only about the book, but about collaborating on some shared digital printing opportunities and specialty services the other firm offers.

“That request caught me by surprise,” Crockett said. “We created the book just for our customers, and I may have been short sighted about the type of interest it would receive.”

He also valued Ashoo’s presentation. “Frankly, I’m not used to going to this kind of event and getting the level of detail and information that Waleed shared with us,” Crockett explained, echoing Simpson's comments. He said the content would help him gauge how effectively Keiger handles pricing, possibly leading to policy changes.

Building the Program

A former Premier Partner from its earliest days who re-joined this fall, Crockett was impressed. “I could see from the breakfast that the program has matured and changed since I was first a member,” he said.

The seven-year-old program’s growth has been particularly pronounced this year. Membership has grown by 22 percent, with 145 new members bringing total global membership to 662, including 303 in the United States and Canada.

The North American program has had a number of enhancements this year. To add networking opportunities and expand the learning program, the organization moved from a single, large, annual meeting to seven in-person gatherings throughout the year. To improve knowledge sharing, the group introduced a new global e-newsletter and a free premium-content news distribution service from And to enhance business development opportunities, Premier Partners rolled out an broader search capability on its print buyer’s Web site,, enabling searches by a wider range of finer-grained criteria.

Wanda Simpson is among the members who recognize the value. “Premier Partners reinforces what Xerox is all about,” she said. "Xerox always emphasizes service, and this program is another avenue Xerox uses to service their customers.”