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The View From a Declining? Industry

Is print dead? Do we need to renew the print industry? Why are direct mail volumes down? Has social media replaced the need to print marketing pieces? Has print become such a commodity item that all printing needs can be met by online printers? Will everything go back to where it was before the recession hit?

Those of us in the printing industry have all asked these questions and we continue to ask these questions, sometimes without answers. Its no secret that revenues in the overall printing industry are down, advertising revenues are down, the post office is hemorraging red ink and public relations firms are struggling.  By the time that a full recovery is achieved by our economy, I will lose quite a few of my competitors who will just close up shop because of the hard times.

I have often ranted about how my competitors are pricing themselves out of business.  It is one thing to price from a position of strength (Walmart for example).  It is something else to price from a position of weakness.  Pricing at, or below, cost has always been a formula for disaster.  However, I can symphatize with businesses that are forced to use this as a marketing strategy.  It is hard to anticipate how much in costs and expenses that need to be cut in a declining market. To battle the loss of revenues, you can either cut your costs or find ways to increase your revenues.  The panic to increase revenues at all costs results in pricing decisions that would not be made in normal times.  They see that other printing companies are pricing at significant discounts and therefore they should price at those levels even though the pricing provides no profits or overhead coverage.  This is a formula for disaster.

So here are my thoughts on the future of print

No, print is not dead.  Yes, some may say that we are shopping for the best hospice center, but there is still life in this old bird. We are already seeing a resurgence in the need to have the printed piece in any company's marketing effort.  Businesses are starting to see that SEO, SEM and Social Media efforts, while significantly cheaper, are not always reaching the eyeballs intended, especially in a business-to-business environment.  Sure, print volumes will stay depressed as the trend towards shorter runs will continue, but the added value of personalized promotion pieces will offset some of those revenue declines.

The loss of some printers will not be bad.  Not only will some of the bad pricing that is happening start to decline, but the excess capacity of equipment and print employees will start to level out.  I hate to be a person who roots for their competitors to leave the business, but there are way too many printers in the market who are not properly acting as responsible business people.

The printing industry does need to renew itself. We have to be more marketing oriented.  Becoming marketing consultants to small and medium sized businesses will be a difficult transition, but it is a neccessary transition over a period of time.  A significant knowledge of marketing planning, website design, creative content, email marketing, SEO requirements, SEM, personalized direct mail (and email), blogging, demographic profiling, large format signage and fulfillment activities will be neccessary for the printer of the future.

Equipment purchases will no longer be the name of the game.  It used to be that a printer's status hinged on what equipment was in the portfolio.  The bigger the press, the better the printer and the more that printer received in revenue.  This will no longer be the case. Most of the digital equipment that is in an up-to-date printer will satisfy the needs of the on-demand and variable markets. Employee training and knowledge will become the focus of the new printer. We will need specialists in creative, website design, SEO and the other marketing arenas.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline-Printing Services 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot-Printing Services 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley-Printing Services 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: @steveadams291

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