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#UKvUSA: What should printing companies sell?

Two continents: US and UK. Two different buying backgrounds: procurement and agency. Two alternative ways of looking at things. I’m delighted to have teamed up with Deborah Corn from PrintMediaCentr to bring two extremely different views to some important print questions. So welcome to Print Buying: #UKvUSA where Deborah and I share information about our experiences from both sides of the pond.

At the end of this post I have linked to Deborah’s answer to the same question. We wrote our answers (each limited to 500 words) without any idea of what the other was writing. As Deborah says: “Maybe we will agree, maybe we won’t, maybe we don’t even see the question in the same way – who knows… that’s the fun part!”

Please do leave comments, thoughts and support at the bottom of this post and on Deborah’s post.   It would be great if also posted your thoughts on Twitter, using the hashtag #UKvUSA Remember to watch out for our answers to another question next month.


#UKvUSA: What should printing companies sell


It’s no longer about ink on paper

If printing companies stick to selling ink on paper they will end up in a commodity manufacturing war. We all know that there are vast amounts of over-capacity in the print industry. If all we do is try and sell capacity the buyers will be rubbing their hands happily and looking forward to some very cheap prices.

The same will happen if the print industry carries on trying to sell on service and quality. These are taken as a given by buyers in today’s world. The average buyer of print is not even capable of working out whether they have received excellent quality print or not.

So what’s the alternative?

Printing companies should be selling what their customers want. Most customers are not interested in print. They are interested in the results that print brings them.

Some customers are looking to reduce costs by becoming more efficient. Others are looking to gain more customers and improve the ROI on their marketing efforts. Others are looking for great branding to make their company stand out.

Printing companies can help customers in all these ways, and many others as well. If we focus on these end results, we start to have a very different conversation with our customers. We are moving away from talking about manufacturing. We’re discussing how we can help customers’ businesses.

Does that mean that all printing companies should turn into marketing services providers?

Absolutely not! It’s a great route for some companies to go down. But it involves a huge change in culture and it’s certainly not right for many companies.

For most companies it’s not about changing the products and services that you sell. It’s about changing the way in which you sell them. It’s simply about changing the sales message.

Nevertheless, it certainly helps if you have some additional services to sell as well as print. If you are selling design, fulfilment, workflows or data management then you are in a much better sales position.

So is selling ink on paper a sure-fire route to disaster?

Naturally, there are some companies that know what they are doing when it comes to buying print. They are very price-focused. However, it is often the case that larger print companies will need some of this volume to keep the press is turning.

There is definitely a case for an element of sales to be all about efficiently manufactured print. But if you are in this area, you better be really good at lean manufacturing and have a very tight grip on your costs. It will also make life a lot easier if you have a group of end-user clients who want to buy the results that we talked about earlier. It’s with those customers that the profits lie.

Here’s a quick action point for you

Go and talk to your best customers. Find out what they are using their print for. Discover that ends goal and what they really want. It’s the route to much more successful print sales

How did Deborah tackle this question? See here.


Look out for the next #UKvUSA battle next month: “Three Questions Every Print Buyer Should Ask A Print Supplier”

Download your free copy of “Ten Common Print Selling Errors And What To Do About Them” (worth £19/$29) right now



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