It’s Still About Making Money


Well-known member
It’s Still About Making Money

by Noel Ward,Editor@Large

Back in the days of film and plates, mechanicals and Rubyliths, my assistant Diane and I were having lunch with Hal, sales guy for the printer where we spent nearly a million bucks a year. Hal was talking about an employee in his shop, a guy he said was a stripper. Diane blinked twice at the term, otherwise hiding her uncertainty well, asking me about the term later. Fast forwarding an eon or so, I think of how things have changed.

Some of the moving parts are different now, yet it still comes down to making money by putting ink or toner on a page. I’m interested in some of the parts in play today, like how print customers have changed in the past few years. Since you’re on the sharp end if this stick I’d love your input. If you are inclined to share some thoughts, just put some words in the comments section. This is just a casual conversation, not a research study or even a focus group. You won’t be quoted or identified.

How smart are your customers?
A week or so back a print company COO I know said “print buyers no longer exist.” Copy that. I’ve seen studies referring to them as “communications buyers.” I guess this is OK, given that I bought radio, print and outdoor advertising about 20 years ago. My COO friend said he and his team have to educate customers who don’t know groundwood paper from coated free sheet. His shop is all digital and he has to explain that the inserts (buck slips) that used to go into envelopes are now often printed on the statement, bill or other communication he sends out.

On the other hand, some data I’ve seen indicates awareness of the print process and technology has increased. For instance, a millennial friend found herself sentenced to leading marketing where she worked and wound up talking with printers and deciding which ones to use. She now surprises me with her knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and printing!

So my first question is:
  • Are you finding today’s customers more knowledgeable about print than in the past?
Would you rather work or play golf?
Last month I was talking with printer who told me his normal turn time is 24-48 hours, usually 24. He’d prefer a couple rounds of golf on weekends, so his shop runs five days a week. He uses offset and digital presses and said run length can influence turn time. Two more questions....
  • Have short turnarounds become expected?
  • Has having more print-savvy customers increased demand for fast turns?
Got color?
I’ve long considered brand colors to pretty much sacrosanct but that other colors would migrate to being acceptable, or “pleasing color” as some vendors like to put it. Four more questions...
  • What are you seeing? Are customers more willing to accept (non-brand) colors that are less critical than they once were?
  • I’m also interested in the way you are printing today as opposed to a few years ago.
  • If you have both digital and offset presses, how has the use of these changed over the past few years?
  • How have run lengths changed over that past few years?
That's all for now. I hope you are making a few bucks and that things are good. I just need some input from people like you on the sharp end. I may do a real survey later but am not up to one right now and you probably aren’t either. Don’t blame you!

Thanks in advance for your help. I know some of these are simplistic, but I don't want to get into the details yet. Looking forward to some answers.
I've been too busy to think about this much. Summer has finally presented a break.

Dedicated buyers are smarter as far as digital print capabilities and deficiencies, but overall I think they are spread thin with multiple media and probably less knowledgeable on each facet. I think there is a definite decrease in knowledge of offset as clients push for more personalization and coordinated campaigns.

Definitely much shorter turnarounds on digital. Digital has moved editorial deadlines closer to delivery, while delivery is chiseled in stone. For us, 24 hours is the norm.

Brand colors, product colors and flesh tones rule. All others are far less critical if reasonably pleasing color. Some accept the standard builds for brand colors. Some have selected alternate colors for digital that are more pleasing. Some - mostly green and orange - must be outsourced to Indigo for digital work. I still don't understand why every manufacturer with a 5th unit doesn't have OGV options.

Run Length:
We are all digital. Offset has always been outsourced. However, we have been shifting more offset work to digital by showing clients how shorter, more targeted and personalized runs can lead to greater revenue while reducing waste. We are also shifting more black digital overprinting on offset shells to all digital, providing greater flexibility and taking full advantage of personalization in color. The more polished and professional presentation leads to better response. No client we have converted has regretted the change.


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