A customer focus sets the stage for profitability

By Joanne Gore – For Print Media Centr

This and other A-Ha moments from Print 17

Back in September I had the privilege of attending Print 17. As a matter of fact, this was actually my first year attending Graph Expo during a “Print” year. For those of you who don’t know this, every year following drupa (which occurs every four years), Graph Expo is transformed into a larger, and longer event, that gives vendors from around the world an opportunity to showcase their products and services right here in North America.  And it didn’t fail to deliver.

There was a renewed energy on the show floor this year. I don’t think many will argue the fact that this is largely due to the show’s return to Chicago. But it was more than that.

From the huge PRINT letters outside the show floor that encouraged people to become the “I” in Print, to the creativity of print applications featured, what stood out the most for me was the focus on the customer.

Debates were waged around what makes for a true omni-channel experience, including the valuable role that print now plays as a complement to the digital marketing mix. Conversations focused on ROI and automation and workflow. Customers were looking for ways to improve profitability, not just by adding new products and services, but by investing in solutions that would drive more business, without the need to hire more staff.

As I walked the show floor and had conversations with prospects, industry analysts and marketing colleagues, I made a few key observations. These are my A-Ha moments:

A-Ha moment #1: When you invest the time to understand a prospect’s objectives, they will invest the time in learning more about your product/service.

This year, the show organizers made a concerted effort to focus the event on delivering ROI to the customer. Some vendors took that message to heart, and used it as an opportunity to change their talk track. They shared stories of profitability, cost reductions, customer success stories and impact to the bottom line. Of course speeds and feeds were discussed…eventually.

More times than not, a simple “Hi, what challenges are you experiencing in your business today?” led to a conversation that mattered to the prospect. Which led to a mini demo at a pod. Which led to an in-depth demo in the lounge. Which ultimately led to a sale.

A-Ha moment #2: Millennials matter…and they need mentors.

Here’s an interesting statistic: 87% of Millennials like receiving direct mail.

Unfortunately, the negative stigma of print often overshadows its valuable role in an omni-channel world. As professionals in this industry, it’s our responsibility to mentor tomorrow’s up-and-coming designers and marketers not only in the value of print, but in the craft of print itself.

One person I spoke with commented on how today’s press operators don’t actually operate a press. They skillfully operate highly specialized computers. While they are extremely talented and trained, there is less and less human-to-press intervention.

Students, interns and recent graduates need mentors in this industry to pass along the craft, and the pride, that goes into producing an excellent print job, whether it’s a business card or a multi-touch, digitally-integrated marketing campaign.

A-Ha moment #3: Print is not dead…it’s just been repackaged!

Shortly before I left for Print 17, my 15-yr-old son showed me his new school ID. His words: “Look, it’s not a piece of laminated paper crap, it’s a proper plastic card!” What he didn’t get was that the plastic card was still considered a form of print.

There was no shortage of examples like this on the show floor: printed pieces that don’t fit the typical “ink on paper” stigma. As written in the infotrends blog, “While Print is not a packaging, label, or wide format show, all major vendors were talking about these applications alongside solutions for enterprise and commercial print.”

The conversations around print, what it is, what it can do, and where it makes an impact are the conversations that set the stage for profitability…and ultimately drive sales.

Did you have a chance to make it out to Print 17? What were some of your A-Ha moments?