Posted on by Dave Erlandson | Comments Off

As we saw last time, the overall volume of print is in decline and printing companies are scrambling to find strategies to not only survive, but to grow revenue and margins.

What are Companies Doing?

  1. Acquire competitors
  2. Become the low-cost producer for a niche
  3. Add new services complementary to print
  4. Use technology to change the way print is ordered and managed. In this scenario companies don’t have to create what is printed, just produce it more effectively
  5. Add marketing expertise and technology to manage the marketing process which includes creating what gets printed – commonly referred to as becoming a Marketing Service Provider

Let’s explore the fifth option to see how companies are leveraging technology to create new ways of producing print. (Miss Part 1 or 2?)


Many companies today are using the internet, workflow automation and digital printing to create new business models that are changing the way print gets sold, ordered or managed. Here are some examplesSelling Print over the Internet vs. with Sales PersonnelSome companies like Vista Print, Mimeo and 48HourPrint

are changing the way print is sold. Rather than hiring sales people they are using the reach of the internet to attract buyers. While the costly expense of sales personnel is avoided, companies that choose this model pay large sums to Google and Yahoo and Bing to appear on the first page of search results. This strategy also requires an investment in a user-friendly web interface.

From Print-and-Store to Print-on-Demand

A printer in St. Paul MN, Western Graphics, has the service mark “Helping Our Clients Print Less” (sm). They work with their customers to produce just what is needed and avoid sending materials to a warehouse for storage and then later fulfillment. For example, one customer used to print long runs of multiple components and these components were sent to a warehouse. Then later a crew would pick and pack the components to make a complete order. Western Graphics redesigned the process to print smaller quantities and print the components sequentially so that complete packets were created at the time of printing, thereby avoiding the pick and pack operation all together. Print costs were higher but the overall cost of the process was lower for the customer, and margins are higher for Western Graphics.

Collateral Management with Web to Print Technology

The old process was to print sales collateral in bulk and mete it out to sales personnel, dealers, agents and franchises in bulk. The collateral was not personalized, took days to get after ordering, and often became obsolete as product changes occurred.

The new process allows users to order what they need anytime 24×7, personalize it and receive it quickly. Users prefer the convenience and personalization while the marketing department saves on labor and waste, while protecting brand integrity through the channel.

Automated Print Management with Web to Print Technology

This is the same scenario as collateral management only the web to print technology is used to automate the print ordering process for the print buyer(s) at the customer location. Using this technology, customers can submit an order, get a price and approve a proof all from their computer. The printer has lower  

handling costs per order as all files arrive print-ready. And because switching costs are relatively high this solution is “sticky”.

Creating Customized Enrollment Kits

When health insurance company CareFirst a gets a new customer they send that customer a personalized booklet that explains their specific medical, dental and pharmacy benefits. Prior to switching over to this newer process, customers received static, same to all information in a folder. The old process had higher costs and customers were given lots of irrelevant information. The new streamlined process is a win for the customer, for CareFirst and for the service provider who runs the program for CareFirst.

Automating Manual Processes

Professional offices such as dentists and doctors lose significant revenue when a patient forgets to keep an appointment. A common practice was for an administrative person to send out postcard reminders. This process required labor and often first class postage was paid. A clever service provider created an appointment reminder application that integrates directly into the major CRM system used by the majority of dentists in the US. This application is sold to dentists by the CRM provider. The CRM provider gets new revenue and the service provider gets a steady stream of print jobs each day.


As the total market for print declines printers need to find new strategies, some to just survive, and for others to thrive. For some the strategy is acquisition, for some it is low cost. There are other choices for those that are willing to look at print in a different way, as part of a bigger communication process. By using digital technology and marketing know-how companies are finding new ways to expand their reach and change the playing field in their favor.

If you would like more help moving your printing business to a more profitable model, PODi has a wealth of resources that can help you and your team understand your options, learn about new applications and opportunities, and sell more high-margin digital print solutions.