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Printer’s Marketing Efforts: The Untold Story

For many years I cringed every time I heard someone in the print industry say, “printers need to become marketing service providers.” My initial reaction was always, are you kidding me?


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About Jennifer Matt

Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.


By Stephen Eugene Adams on Jul 23, 2013

Wow Jennifer. You hit this one out of the ballpark. It has always been tough convincing our customers and prospects that we can help them with their marketing while at the same time, we struggle to figure out what best markets our own companies. We tend to focus on tools (QR codes, PURL's) instead of the process.

I am also interested in your thoughts on the profit model of a printer becoming a marketing services provider. My experience is if you aren't selling to the equipment, then the soft stuff is not very profitable.


By Jennifer Matt on Jul 24, 2013


Marketing is changing rapidly, don't get to bogged down in feeling a bit behind. I think the key is to look at marketing as a process, not a product. The process is simply get customers to know you, like you, trust you, and then pay you. Now the new part - you need to do a lot of this online. When you're selling the whole process, then there is value. When you sell a feature like a QR code, people will negotiate like its a unit priced item.

The "soft stuff" needs to be measurable. Your process needs to create leads and convert a certain portion of those leads into customers - that is what keeps a small business alive. If you can deliver on that, you are delivering quantifiable business results which will result in profits for you and your customers.



By Robert Miller on Jul 26, 2013

Jennifer your insights offer tremendous value to those print business owners who hope to eventually sell their business.

Print owners are sitting on a tremendous untapped asset. Just as the fracking process has permitted energy companies to tap into once inaccessible reserves of gas and oil, the processes and technologies associated with inbound marketing can provide printers the ability to tap those "inaccessible" reserves within their existing account base.

Offline marketers (those who provide internet marketing services to local businesses)are building the very same account base that the printer has been servicing for years. These Offline Agency's are selling services such as Local Search Optimization, Video Marketing, SMS Text Marketing, Mobile Coupons, Loyalty Programs and Online Reputation Management. Some Offline Marketers I know are even entering into selling print. This is all taking place while many printers are only selling time on their presses, along with ad specialties and wide format; all the time wondering why sales, profits and business values are diminishing.

If print business owners want to preserve the future value of their business they could do well to proactively embrace these new offline marketing processes and integrate them into their product / service mix.

The first place to start is to optimize one's own business. Here are some simple suggestions to get one started:

Google: Printing Services (your city). Are you listed in Google's 7 pack? Do your competitors have online reviews or just Google+ page under their name? What about You? If you have reviews are they positive or negative? BTW no reviews are a negative. For those who may search for your business on a mobile device, do you have a mobile web site designed specifically for mobile? These are a few of the important aspects of optimizing for internet marketing that I teach my clients.

To learn more about the importance of these elements I suggest that a print business owner Google ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth) It is an excellent guide produced by Google that will help Printers better understand how to tap into those hidden assets in their account base and build a strong viable and more valuable business.


By Jennifer Matt on Jul 26, 2013


Thanks for the thoughtful comments and adding more helpful hints for printers. I want to stop and empathize a bit with printers - this is a huge change, it hardly seems fair for people who have become experts at their trade and business over decades to be told they need to start over as beginners in this new business of marketing services.

The only thing I have to say about that is that virtually every company on the planet is facing the same thing - more change, more disruption, more OPPORTUNITY (if you look at it that way). Its all about your frame of mind. If you feel defeated by it, you'll be defeated by it. If you feel invigorated and up for the challenge - that's the first and most important step.

We want to help. We believe that printers can step up and take this business on.



By Jacob Aizikowitz on Jul 28, 2013

while its obvious that my comment is biased by having founded XMPie and running it through the years, this exact bias gives me a perspective, gained through the 13 years or so since founding the company. Hence, I chose to provide this comment.

The observation that the message "you should become an MSP (otherwise you will be gone)" is flawed, which is at the opening of Jenifer's article, is excellent!

Some printers can become marketers -- because of who they are individually, because of having people in their team that are marketeers in their soul (and may be upbringing). Those are the few (and most of them indeed do well).

Most printers can not become marketers. Indeed their business DNA is manufacturing. However,in addition to Manufacturing, their business DNA is also technology (at least for those that have the guts to move to digital).

Digital printers are quick to master technology; they are not foreign to technology. Becoming marketeers may be foreign to them, but mastering the essential technologies of the digital world is a challenge many more printers can tackle successfully.

Hence, we believe that printers should aim to first and foremost become a Digital (Multi-channel) Service Providers rather than their current focus of being Print Service Providers. This is a challenging yet attainable goal, whereas becoming a Marketing Service Provider is an aspiration that may not be within near-term reach for most.

Expertise in Digital Media technologies and "manufacturing", inbound and outbound, including digital print, is something that will become a highly valuable and needed capability; collaborating with agencies, interactive agencies, and similar -- rather than doing that on your own -- is way to bring the marketing aura to the overall value proposition.

Print business typically have established with their customers substantial level of trust -- for content, for deliver-ability, for quality, and for overall business value. These can be an excellent -- and accepted -- stepping stone as the printer business expands to become Digital (Multi-channel) Service Provider. So, while I agree that the value in digital marketing is not the PURL or the QR code or the ability to deliver email with personalized PDF,I would still say that a printer's ability to be the best in doing all of these, may be very valuable for the printer's business success.


By Jennifer Matt on Jul 28, 2013

Jacob thanks for pointing out a very important distinction. Marketing Services vs. Digital Services.

Printers have always extended their knowledge around manufacturing to provide more value (e.g. pre-press folks who can make changes to virtually any file without forcing another process with the designed/agency(. They did not (for the most part) take on the full design agency role but just a complimentary set of skills. I think that's what you're saying here - printers can evolve into the digital services space without taking the "become a marketer" role.

With digital services I agree with you, printers could transition all the way to offering marketing services (full lead generation process, etc.) or they could set up providing just digital services. One-off execution of an e-mail campaign, or a single cross-media marketing campaign. They simply have a different set of "manufacturing" steps in the digital product world, all of which involves people + technology (no physical products produced). In this scenario, your people are your product - AND I think printers are going to struggle to recruit the talent - I strongly suggest you GROW THE TALENT from within. You can get the equivalent of your Phd online in just about all the digital services for very little (almost nothing). You just need time, the right attitude, and some motivation.



By Carl Gerhardt on Jul 29, 2013

This is great article by Jen and a great discussion. What gets lost in this discussion sometimes is that all customers do not fit into the same mode. Larger businesses with resources to hire the right talent and/or agencies fit into a different category than smaller businesses without these resources. So where do smaller businesses get their marketing help. I think this is where the real opportunity lies for printers to fill that marketing space.

In general printers do the lions share of their business with companies that mirror their size profile. Most printers are small businesses themselves. Thus, if they can become good marketers of their own firm as Jennifer suggests they can develop the expertise to provide many of those same tools to help their customers, even the marketing strategy. Too often agencies and marketers in general try create the mystique that they have some inherent ability to divine a marketing strategy. In reality most effective marketing is really just common sense, trial and error, hard work and the discipline to "get it done".

The opportunity is there with businesses of all size categories for printers to provide all the digital services and marketing services needed. There is an especially large opportunity for businesses at the smaller end of the size scale. Agencies have abandoned this space if they ever really served it.

We have found that our franchise members that take the attitude that Jennifer highlights can have great success. They do need help with training and staffing to ramp up their capabilities and we provide this help as their franchise partner.



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