Like many business sectors today, entire service industries are trying to fend off the encroachment and effects of the global market, both in terms of retaining business dollars at home as well as trying to stay alive as a business in general. The days of assuming all the competition to worry about only exists in a surround 100 mile radius are long gone.
The printing industry is no exception to the global market problem, especially with ease by which printing design and production orders can be transmitted now via the Internet and desktop publishing. That said, in some cases, printers’ fears of the other side of the world taking everyone’s business are overblown. In other cases, there is room to be concerned. The fiction and truth need to be separated a bit to understand how today’s print shops need to proactively behave to compete.
Where is the Impact?
Yes, there is global competition. However, it’s unrealistic to think that every single print job available is being grabbed by overseas competitors. The print business and other industries simply don’t work this way. First off, it’s not economical to ship every print job overseas. Speed of delivery, scale of the job size, capacity, and unique details call all work against the argument of outsourcing globally a print job.
Where outsourcing globally does work involves large print jobs and corporate promotions that usually aren’t under a unique and immediate time pressure or specific design criteria requiring manual attention. These sorts of jobs can be produced over a larger time window, boxed, shipped, and stored until needed. Books and long-term periodicals are frequent candidates. Rush-to-print jobs, unique and manually designed work, and ongoing detail projects that require sensitive relationships are not going to work well be shipped to other side of the planet.
Where printers are exposed and vulnerable is to the myth of the overseas efficiency and lower price. While, as mentioned above, not every job can be shipped out, that doesn’t stop customers and clients from bringing up the possibility. This myth or negotiating tactic can be extremely annoying to hardworking print shops trying to make an honest living with fair prices. However, the practice is a reality and printers need to know how to fend it off. Initially, customers that bring up the price comparison will focus entirely on cost, trying to drive the home-based printer to lower his cost to get the job. This is a fatal error. Once a print shop is locked into lowering prices, customers will expect more and more discounts.
Stand Out, Create Unique
Print shops that don’t already understand the concept need to learn how to differentiate themselves. This involves a combination of creativity, commitment to doing more than just printing, marketing, selling, and up-selling with long-term customer relationships. When a customer realizes he is getting more than just a print job, it creates a loyalty. The customer goes back to the specific print shop because he knows the quality is high, the next job will be performed just as good if not better, and the service is reliable. These are qualities that a global provider can’t necessarily provide nor would they. It’s usually not economical for them.
Print shops in their communities have a significant advantage over any long-distance provider. There is a subtle but strong business power that still remains when being able to strike a deal face-to-face and with a handshake. Yes, business today lives in a world of electronics and stiffly worded contracts. However, people still want to trust. They still want to believe and see and touch the product produced. Business relationships and long-term trust answer this need customers have.
Printers also need to emphasize the value of their closeness. There are many times when print jobs involve sensitive materials. These aren’t materials that can just be calmly shipped overseas. Again, home-based print shops can build a reputation for secure work that clients and customers can depend on.
There’s also nothing wrong with a bit of isolationism; home-based printers should push and market their local existence. They should remind customers and consumers at all times that their business is part of the community, that doing business locally helps boost and improve the local economy. In today’s global market, home-based business strikes a tone with consumers, particularly the average worker who is constantly reminded of jobs leaving for cheaper overseas production.
Finally, home-based printers can provide peace of mind for customers. The fact is, working overseas is a high
risk venture. Even with electronic payment and credit tools versus actual cash transactions, customers can still be scammed by working with an outfit they have no idea about. Local printers are exactly that, local. They operate under local law and protections, so customers have recourse when there’s a concern. While nobody wants to be sued, it is a factor to remind customers of – they get what they pay for going overseas for cheap prices.
The global market is competition amped up on high-energy methamphetamines. Trying to fight it off just on dollars alone won’t work. The cost of living differences are too powerful and home-based printers simply can’t fight evenly just on labor costs alone. Local printers have to make themselves standout for other reasons that provide value to customers, enough that a higher price is returned with better quality, service, and consistency in product. This requires printer owners and managers to have to strategize regularly and change to their local and regional market needs. Those who sit on the laurels too long will find themselves getting left behind or fighting for business scraps.