All too often, it seems that within the printing industry, we spend more time talking to each other than to customers. Ask yourself: How well do you truly understand your customers’ businesses, the issues they face every day, and how your services could help them meet their goals and objectives in truly unique ways? What services could you add to be able to do this even better?

If you have the answers off the top of your head, good for you!  If you don’t, make getting those answers a primary goal in 2018.

In a recent discussion I had with NPES CEO Thayer Long, he mentioned that NPES and the CMO Council would be conducting a round table discussion with about 25 brand owners and 30 of his members. He promised to share some of the outcomes with our readers. We had that conversation late last week.

“A total of 74 people attended this round table discussion,” Long reported, “including 25 marketers. Our members benefited from the discussion from two perspectives – getting a better understanding of what’s going on in the minds of marketers, and gaining ideas on how they can better market their own companies. I also believe the marketers who attended gained a new appreciation for the value of including print in the media mix – not as it was in the old days, but in new and innovative ways. Information was shared on how print can be and is being used in packing and direct mail. And a presentation by Michael Chase from St. Joseph Communications in Canada was filled with examples of how companies have utilized print in unique ways and stimulated great discussion.”

During the session, the CMO Council’s Liz Miller also talked about the challenges that CMOs are facing and the new roles and responsibilities they are taking on. “Increasingly,” Long added, “marketing officers are helping to drive revenues for their companies. But at the same time, they have had some things taken away from them, like product development and pricing, key areas they need to be involved in order to diversify their portfolios and drive growth. Another area is packaging design – packaging has a tremendous influence on buying decisions, but the time many marketing offers are spending on packaging design is minimal; more often than not, procurement has responsibility for this. We did hear good success stories as a result of marketing officers being involved in packaging design that lead to growth. One consumer electronics company stated, ‘When you go into a store to buy headphones, my package has to compete. We were able to shift from black packaging to red, and that made a difference. That shift was a marketing function.’”

The CMO Council also presented research reflecting where marketing officers are spending or looking to spend in their marketing channels.

Long indicated that NPES and the CMO Council plan to continue these types of sessions in a program with a three-pronged approach. “There is a web site that we jointly developed to inspire the community to think differently about the user experience,” he commented. “We will also continue these conferences, and the CMO Council is putting together a thought leadership piece to be published next quarter. We would also like to be able to include more printers and their customers in these discussions. And we would like our members and the brands share case studies on”

It’s great to see initiatives like this where we are actually breaking out of our own echo chamber and learning more about the challenges and needs that print can address in new and innovative ways. This type of information sharing is critical. It is heartening to see this happening in other areas as well. EskoWorld, for example, reported that a third of its attendees were brands. The Color Conference, hosted by Printing Industries of America, also has been reconfigured to attract more brands and designers. Dscoop is also working to increase attendance by brands and designers. Brands presented at the recent Xeikon Café North America in Chicago. These are just a few examples of how we are becoming better integrated, and the result will be benefits to both brands and printers/converters, ultimately driving more innovation that will deliver revenue benefits across the supply chain.

How can you help? Attend more marketing functions. Host your own marketing round tables. And a final word of advice from Long: “Work on better articulating the value you can deliver, and be bolder in your discussions. Get more disciplines at the customer involved to help break down some of their silos. Don’t be afraid to suggest to procurement that others should be involved in the discussion, and have stories to back up that claim.”