Friday, February 1, 2013

Printers, Time To Do Or Die!

In my career, of some 4 decades in the printing and communication industry, I worked long hours that would cause weaker men do drop. Had the pleasure of winning an award or 2 for my work. Yet I need to ask you, that is if you’re in any area of printing, advertising or communications what the heck are you doing?

It use to be everyone was or wanted to be an art director. We use to say if we do it; the cost will be $30.00 per hour, if you watch $40.00, if you direct $50.00, and if you help $60.00. Now as if that was not bad enough everyone now owns their own computer which has some kind of graphic program on it so that designer who knows and understand how things get printed is no longer needed. Bad layout here we come. No typography needed so here come the rivers in the copy, poor character kerning, no ligatures, too much bold type and hyphenations on every other line.

It started back in the 80’s with the birth of “the Mac” as in Apple not McDonald’s but with more widespread use of window based PC’s now everyone (thinks) they can design their own brochures, create their own websites, write great copy and a hard hitting headline. Printing and the graphic industry continues to change but in the wrong direction. The owners of a small business no longer care if the design of their printed piece is of high quality, if the stock is picked out to fit the need, if the images scanned come out all pixilated. 20# thank you! They created it so they will accept what they never would have if you did if for them. Now they are running it out of their very own office copier. High end quality work?  Disappearing. And if it does make it to a printer how many times does it need to be redesigned so that the poor quality of customer supplied “art” or should we say files are made to work. And can the printer charge for this extra work? No way. Nope the file fixing charges disappear. It happened to typesetters when they became service bureaus now its the printers that are getting wacked.

Today you are earning less and working harder. It’s the truth and you know it! If you have been in the print industry as long as I have, then you know that the support staff has dwindled down to nothing. No more layout men, no more copy writers, no more proofreaders, no more NOTHING. We, you, me, your competitor are expected to know and be able to do everything at a high level. No more strippers, no more typesetters, the production schedulers, no more proofers. There is no money in the projects to have any of these specialists.  And that $20-$50 dollar an hour salaries you were able to pay out have gone too as low as $10-$15. It is no longer about working smarter it’s all about working harder and longer. To have any hope for profitability you and what staff you have managed to keep need to be multitasking your butts off because the idea of hiring any additional employees is just not going to happen. Everyone is doing the work of 4 or 5 no just people but different kinds of people and expected to not make any dumb stupid mistakes.

Shall we ever talk about the competition which is driving both your gross earnings and profits down the abyss? So what is happening? Company "A" gives a price break to get a printing job for 20% less than your company is charging. So what do you do? You go down 25% and so the cycle continues. Then there is the graphic artist who is straight out of school working in their parent’s house with the Mac that there parents bought them not even thinking about equipment break down and the need to upgrade as they work are to try to get into the industry and is willing to work for $10.00 per hour. Kiss that work goodbye. And think of the poor sales person. If you are a commissioned sales person, you just lost 30% to 40% of your commission or more if your commission is based on job profit not overall cost. There is no profit! Then the fact that your printing company might have to lower the quality of work to get any profit at all. Quality has no bearing on a job, now it is all about getting project out as cost effectively, and as efficiently as possible.

The Print Industry is dying or at least some parts of it are but it does not have to for you. It’s unfortunate but some parts of our industry are going to disappear and disappear very quickly like the typesetting industry 20 years ago in just a matter of 2-4 years. Even now look at the CD/DVD replication part of the industry. Half of what it was just 5 years ago and dying a slow painful death. We get a lot of our information online, no more books and pamphlets. Hello Nook! When is the last time you picked up a phone book to look for a telephone number? I still do but my sons and daughter hardly know what a phone book is. And 1st class mail? Email that letter! Then there is the push for a "paperless" office.

No the print industry is not going to die out completely, many once profitable companies are going completely under or companies that I thought would never consider a merger are coming together. Read anything coming out of the industry associations and although they might not say it outwardly they are worried. State wide associations are moving to regional associations to keep enough of a membership going.

So what are you gong to do?

Larson Notes & Satire:  Is there an answer? I think so. But the answer might not lie in print but a more board based idea of a Marketing and Communication company.

As I see it, the one biggest move you can be making for your company is to become that total communication company that your key accounts want. They need it and they know it and what's more if you don’t provide it they will find it from the guy down the street.

To do that you have 1 of 2 choices, You can go and hire the talent to do it yourself and I am sure that a number of you reading this will do that just that. That is the mentality of the printer and believe me I don't mean that in a bad way. We are individualists!

But there is a second choice and that is to join with a synergistic company like ours with all the talent you need who will provide it at not exposure financially to you and wrap it up in a private label service package. And that my friend is the good news!

If you want your business to be more, call us for an appointment.

Howard Larson
Larson & Associates
Target Marketing & Telesales Professionals for new account acquisition
Making good businesses great and great businesses even better

P.S. We make telesales for small business affordable by offering programs down to only 15 hours a week. Maybe you could add telesales into your marketing mix call today and find out.

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