Our important customers get our attention and our dedicated resources. What happens when customers prefer online tools over dedicated resources? Read on to find out.
How many printers today use this statement in their sales process?
“We will assign you a dedicated account manager.”
My guess is most printers use this line when chasing large accounts. It’s a line that we use assuming that the customer will appreciate the fact that you’re offering up the services of a full-time employee just for them. The world is changing, and I witnessed a telling interchange between a prospect and a printer the other day.
The prospect found the printer online for a very specific and sophisticated data-driven print program. Here’s the first clue on the prospect: they are looking online for a very specific solution. In the qualification process, the customer was very happy with the offering; their last and what turned out to be their most important request came in the form of an email with the subject line:
Are we required to work through an account manager?
In the body of the email, they described that their strong preference/requirement was to be able to manage, control, monitor, and administer the program in a self-service fashion online. The customer’s requirement was to not have any human interaction with the printer.
This email bewildered the print sales representative who is at least two generations older than the prospect. The world is heading in this direction. There is one primary reason for this change. Full-service equates to both sides of the equation utilizing their most precious asset: their time. This prospect sees dedicated resources (account managers) as an inferior offer to a technology solution that allows them to control their program themselves when it’s convenient for them. Throwing people at it isn’t going to differentiate you anymore.
In another sales event, we were told that the customer wanted the printer to do everything for them: manage their data and create the composed print files, while the only thing the customer wanted to do was proofing and approvals. When we got into the sales call, we showed the customer how they could easily manage their own data, easily create their own composed proofs, and even initiate proofing and approval workflows on the final print files themselves. Once the customer saw that it was possible for them to have control and it was in an interface that they could use, they completely changed course. They went from assuming they were going to outsource everything to wanting full control because they saw how that is the best way to decrease the time to market and enable them to make last minute changes.
The future of printing is going to be defined by innovative printers who can give the customer more and more control through technology and use less and less human touches in the carpeted area of their plants. I like to focus on the carpeted area of a print business because the rest of the industry is fixated on the production floor. Print industry profits are pouring out of the carpeted area while printers are obsessing over a press that prints slightly faster.
If your business doubled tomorrow, what parts of it would break?
I can almost see the thought bubbles over a printer’s head on this question. The very first thing they think of is production because that’s their default thinking. Their face changes; they think about adding additional shifts, buying more presses, and adding redundancy in bindery and finishing. Then their thoughts move to the carpeted area of their business and their facial expression is less positive. They are thinking about how inefficient that area already is, how it seems like there is an army of people in front of production and they take months of making mistakes before they gain enough context to do their jobs.
For most printers, the carpeted area will break if your business doubles tomorrow. You can’t fix this area by buying another press. This area is inefficient and this is the area that interacts with your customers. Your customers want less full-service interaction and more self-service tools to give them more control. What your customers want is what will save you in labor costs and allow you to scale. It’s a classic win-win.