Bruce Ganger is the President of ePrint Advantage. He has a deep, real-world knowledge of the current challenges that printers face today. We asked him to offer an objective view of the on-demand industry - where we are today and where we will go tomorrow. Bruce has written for numerous magazines and is a well-known speaker and consultant. For disclosure purposes, his company is also an advertiser on our site - but know our request for this article was based on his experience in this industry and not connected to his promotion.
"It’s a services world!"
As we look back on the 2002 edition of the OnDemand Printing and Publishing Expo, the tone revolved around the theme of "services". For print service providers, the world has changed significantly over the past couple of years and it shows no signs of letting up or slowing down. The Internet has and will continue to capture the minds and imaginations of the customers, especially marketing people, who are creating more and more information, adding to an increasingly cluttered information channel.
All of this information has not slowed down the amount of printing being done, it has just changed the content of that which is printed and the intent of printing it. We’ve been inundated with the promise of variable data printing and personalization of marketing messages over the past five years. However, the early focus was too much on the printing technology to deliver the promised results, with little or slow success. The promise is starting to become reality because the focus is shifting to the customer side of the equation and is centered around services that support better marketing and customer communications, not on the printing technology.
According to NAPL (National Association for Printing Leadership) "In order to stay viable, printing companies have less than 5 years to provide integrated value added services as part of their standard offerings. Printers must offer non-print services in order to continue to grow their business." This is a tough challenge for those who are still wrestling with the transition to a digital workflow in their shop or are still struggling to understand how to accept digital files from their customers. PIA (Printing Industries of America) chimes in with their own predictions of the changing printing landscape in saying that by 2005, 29% of all printed material will have some variable content in it.
The signs are all around us. Print service providers of all sizes and types need to settle on the fact that this is their future. More of the creation and pre-press work is being done by customers on their own workstations, and that will increase. Traditional 4-color print and even typical "print-on-demand" applications are commodity work today. Revenues and profits are leaking away at both ends of manufacturing process. There is minimal distinction between printing suppliers based only on the printing technology they are using. The differentiation is now based on how that printing technology is tied to some value added services.
The days of growing your business based on traditional printing and print-related services are over. You will need to branch out into new, higher value services. Printing will still be key, but you will make your money going forward based on these services like mailing, fulfillment, database services and others. Remember, if you’re not speaking to your customer about these new services, someone else will or already is.
Interested in learning more? Bruce Ganger is the President of ePrint Advantage, a Graphic Arts training and consulting company that has developed a suite of web-based services offering personalized and customized direct mail, customized marketing materials and on-line fulfillment that they license to print service providers. Bruce can be reached at 303-416-3106 or [email protected]. Their web site is www.eprintadvantage.com.