Archive for the ‘Printing Companies’ Category

Does this Make me a Bum?

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Day 2, Bill Ruesch recession recovery diary

Dear Readers,

When I was a young salesman I was taught that “prospecting is like shaving–if you don’t do it everyday you’re a bum.” This quote is attributed to Jack Schwartz, the telephone sales guru.

In the pre-recession, business came to me through referrals. Sometimes I had to send customers elsewhere because I couldn’t handle them all. As a result, I haven’t made prospecting calls in twenty years! I think I’ve forgotten how to prospect, but it is obvious to me now that I’ve got to go out and beat the bushes for new customers. I was never very good at going door-to-door with business cards, calendars, and note pads. That seems to be a method best employed by quick print sales reps.

Asleep for 20 years?

You may have noticed that things have changed in the last twenty years. I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle. It wasn’t that I was asleep, I just didn’t have to deal with some of the harsher realities because my reputation carried me. With the onslaught of the recession everyone I know in the printing business has had a very difficult time.

Now the question is, how do I prospect in a way that boosts my reputation rather than damaging it? After all, I would like to come out of this stronger and not weaker than before. Would mixing it up in the fray of  hungry printing sales reps put me in the category of a me-too supplier? In other words, how do I re-establish myself as more of a consultant instead of just another commissioned salesperson? Not that I hold anything against sales reps per se it is just that consultants earn more money. I got used to a six figure income and would like to have it back again.


Is Printing Injured, Maimed, or Dead?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Don't be so quick to place the marker.

The Internet has been buzzing with reports of the demise of printing. The book industry in particular has been all aflutter about The Kindle, The Nook, and iPad. Are they right? Have electronics finally won? Is printing dead?

I am old enough to remember all of the predictions of a paperless office. Computers were supposed to eliminate the need for paper. Instead, printing flourished at a time when the era of paper was sure to be over.

It is different this time. Although I think it is too early to write off printing, I do believe that the boom we saw with the advent of computers won’t repeat. The business climate has changed, not only for now, but also for the future. There are several reasons for this:

  • Direct Mail Advertising has been wounded–not fatally, not yet.
  1. The first arrow to strike was postal charges. Unfortunately, the post office has a blind spot when it comes to pricing. They don’t understand that there is a direct correlation between rising prices and declining customers. The higher stamps cost, the more people turned away.  The US post office has been the greatest friend email could ever have.
  2. The second arrow was the Internet. Websites provide options that ink on paper can never duplicate and at incredible prices. Electronic advertising has eliminated much of the need for media. No paper. No ink. No presses.
  3. The third arrow was the recession. Companies of all sizes hunkered down behind walls of cash refusing to spend until the customers were ready to buy. The customers, of course, having lost jobs, having had salaries decreased, and in a tightening credit market find themselves unable to buy. It’s what is known as (with apologies to our neighbors south of the US) a Mexican standoff. Where were the easiest places to cut their budgets? Printing, particularly direct mail.
  4. The fourth arrow is book readers. Book readers are coming on strong. I myself, love books. I have a well-stocked home library, but there are books I can get free and others that I would like to be more portable. I, the defender of printing, will get a reader for myself. Actually I already have one in my iPhone, but every book bought electronically is a book that isn’t printed.
  • Form Printing and Envelopes have taken one to the chest.
  1. Nearly everyone uses on-line forms to pay bills, buy something, or get credit. It’s quick, user friendly, and no one has to buy a stamp or wait several days for delivery.
  2. The changes is bill paying greatly reduce the need for envelopes. From the millions upon millions of envelopes purchased by the financial industry alone to a bare trickle.
  • Catalogs, Newspapers, and Magazines are dropping dead in their tracks.
  1. Pundits warned us of the paperless office, but they didn’t tell us about the paperless home. Who could have predicted a family breakfast scene without the father figure sitting behind the daily news? Oh sure, we still have many of the same magazines, but their page counts are down to half or more. And their sell price has gone up. They raise prices and just as surely decrease buyers.
  2. Catalogs are experiencing the same problems as magazines. It costs too much to mail, so they reduce their page count. The point where catalogs split from magazines is the Internet. Newspapers and magazines have served for hundreds of years as paid information sources. Information on the Internet has been free. People expect the Internet to be free and therefore they are unwilling to pay. Catalogs never had, and never will have a paid subscriber base.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Printing has changed and many of the changes are permanent. All that being said, I’m optimistic about the future. There are innovations introduced all the time to make printing, better, cheaper, and faster. The Internet for all its puffery and bluster has been proven to be less effective than direct mail as an advertising medium. Yes, you can get a great CPM (cost per thousand) but there is such a massive overwhelm that customers have learned to tune the advertising out. If you want a buyer to pay attention to your message, put something in their hands.


19 Excellent Reasons Why Print Brokers are a Godsend

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Print Brokers and search engines

I keep a close watch on the words and phrases that readers use in search engines to find this blog.  Questions about print brokers lead the pack. I guess I should have figured this out on my own because when I’m asked what I do for a living, and I say I’m a print broker, most respond by asking, “What is a print broker?” They wouldn’t do that if I said I was, for example, a stock broker, or even, as I saw on a television commercial recently, a shrimp broker. There’s something about the conjunction of print and broker that creates confusion, and often curiosity.

Why are print brokers attracted to the business?

I don’t know why others become print brokers, but I did because I wanted to provide better service for my customers. I reasoned that as chained print sales rep I was strictly locked into the capabilities, pricing, and business philosophies of the printer employing me. My customers, however, often needed either print production we couldn’t provide, or a redesign of their job to make it fit our capabilities. Either way I found myself in an awkward situation. What should I do, send them away or frankensteinize their project?

(Don’t bother looking up the word frankensteinize, it isn’t dictionaryized because I just created it, and neither is dictionaryized for the same reason.)

What services do print brokers provide?

In my experience a print broker typically performs these duties:

  • Consults with customers regarding parameters of the print order. Reviews and discusses any job particulars that will affect the outcome.
  • Suggests ways to decrease cost and/or improve quality depending on the requirements of the project.
  • Provides samples like paper dummies, paper swatch books, foil stamps, or any other visuals the customer requires to make informed decisions about the print order.
  • Aids the customer in determining and clarifying the specifications so that printers will bid apples-to-apples and identify production problems before they ruin the project.
  • Pre-qualifies printers or other providers to determine which is the best match for the job.
  • Submits bid specifications to qualified printers.
  • Consults with printers as needed to answer questions or address production concerns. This is particularly critical when the job is complex.
  • Gathers competitive bids.
  • Scrutinizes the submitted written bids to make certain the directions were followed, and nothing added or neglected.
  • Submits bid with specifications to customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to double-check the specifications at the same time as they receive pricing. The objective is to make sure all parties are in full agreement about the scope of the job.
  • Facilitates the transfer of files, or other art to the printer.
  • Works with both printer and customer regarding terms of payment and makes sure all conditions are met.
  • Arranges and facilitates all necessary proofing steps.
  • Attends press checks. Helps the customer understand the printing process and translates printerese into business normal.
  • Arranges for delivery of the product to the required destination.
  • Oversees and coordinates all parts of the job, this is especially critical if the project consists of multiple pieces.
  • Invoices the customer for the work.
  • Pays the printer. The customer writes one check and the broker takes care of the rest.
  • Most important–deals with problems that may surface during or after the job is delivered. The broker acts is a shield between the customer and the printer in the event of a disagreement.

What is the most valuable service print brokers provide?

The bottom line is that both customers and printers need brokers. Brokers provide the most valuable service of all, we facilitate smooth communication between customer and printer, and that in itself, prevents a whole raft of problems that could occur. Printing, as I always say, is not an exact science. The process, from creative idea to finished product involves so many steps and demands that every one of them be done right. It is a miracle anything turns out as planned, but despite the odds 95% come out great. It’s the 5% that keep us in the graphic arts industry awake at night.


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