Can a rep really earn a living selling just print?
What is print?
One of my readers asked me “Can a rep still earn a living selling just print?”. To answer this, we really need to define what “print” is. We are in such a diverse industry now and there many ways of describing what we sell.
For the purposes of this article I came up with three possible definitions of print:
By this, I mean the traditional approach of telling prospects that you will carry out any printing that they need. You have an awesome press with loads of bell and whistles. Your company offers excellent quality and service and your prices are highly competitive.
Many printing companies adopt this approach. But it is becoming very hard to create a sustainable business out of it. Most buyers do not want the hassle of buying print in a traditional way. It is too technical and too complicated. Going online is a much easier approach.
For those that are prepared to carry on with this approach, they will find a lot of competition. Many printing companies are still trying to grow business with similar messages. The competition is intense. In addition, the majority of customers that buy print in this way are print management companies or large companies with procurement departments.
Maybe it is better to offer products.
Selling printed products
Rather than sell the process of printing, many people are choosing to sell the final product instead. It is much easier for a buyer to understand business cards, leaflets and brochures than it is for them to try and buy “print”.
However, this type of business is moving rapidly online. It is very hard for an average printing company to compete with the well-established players in this field. You will need a huge online marketing budget and also be able to manufacture highly efficiently and cost-effectively.
If you really want to compete in this market, I recommend focusing on a niche market. It is much easier to gain traction as a provider of print for, for instance, cat competitions, than it is trying to compete with mainstream providers. And there is more business in niches like this than you might think.
However, I believe that there is an easier way to sell print.
Championing print as a channel
I strongly believe that the most fruitful role for a rep is to champion print as a channel. That means going to companies that do not yet understand how they can grow engagement and revenues from print.
This approach can work with all sizes of company. Large companies may improve their marketing greatly through the use of, for instance, direct mail. But even small businesses can benefit by, for example, using print to promote special offers in their deliveries.
Selling in this way requires a rather different mindset. It is not about the technicalities of print. Instead it is about how to help a company’s business needs. It helps if you have case studies on how print has helped companies in the sector you are targeting and using the products or services that you sell. In addition, for this strategy to work you may need to offer additional services such as copywriting, design and fulfilment.
However, when you sell successfully in this way it can be far more profitable. Your prospects are focussed on financial benefits rather than commodity cost. They are more likely to view you as a trusted advisor so they will be a more loyal customer. It is a strategy that encourages people to regard print as a benefit rather than something to be bought as cheaply as possible.
Many printing companies will ignore this third approach
It is much easier to stick with what you know. Many people will stay in their comfort zones and sell service, quality and price. Or they will try and compete in the commodity product market. However, using these strategies will means that traditional printing reps are far more likely to struggle. If you want to be successful, it might be time to redefine your idea of what print means.
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