What’s Broken?

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What’s Broken?

There are several “newer” print companies succeeding on all fronts; revenue, top line growth, and market share. VistaPrint, Moo.com, Zazzle, Blurb, CafePress, etc… What do they all have in common? Ecommerce is their primary way of doing business.

What’s broken? There are more than 30,000 printers in the United States, most of which are not growing on all fronts. What is their primary way of doing business?

I just watched Seth Godin’s entertaining speech titled, This is Broken. Its worth a watch and a laugh but it made me think about how reluctant our industry has been to embrace the digital economy even when newcomers have entered the print space and shown incredible growth during a recession and a major transition in the information business.

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Ecommerce isn’t a fad, its a critical component to your online business strategy. America is more web-centric than not, 73% of Americans turn to the web as their first option to find more information, search for products and services, and ultimately transact in a self service manner. Ecommerce is a critical component of your overall participation in the online ecosystem.
Local and regional printers can and must compete online, but it requires you to change your strategic approach from “push” direct sales to “pull” conversational marketing.

Similar to the offline world, the sales cycle of “Know Me”, ”Like Me”, “Trust Me”, then “PAY ME” operates online, but in the online world the entire sales cycle can be self service! The direct sales equivalent online is consistent, compelling content and an engaged conversation with your customers.


  1. David Uno on September 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    While many customers find us through the web, we have the advantage of local contact in providing printing needs. Fortunately, paper choices, different finish sizes and other options make phone contact easier and quicker than ecommerce. We can talk to the customer and recommend solutions that are unavailable on the web.

  2. Jennifer Matt on September 27, 2010 at 3:18 pm


    You touched on a great subject. Why isn’t everything you sell offered online? I understand the logic – you get to personalize the interaction, but you have to do both. Create an online experience that sells everything you sell offline and enable up selling via the technology. Some customers do not want to talk to you and that group of customers is growing (digital natives).

  3. Steven Schnoll on September 29, 2010 at 8:40 am

    i believe the real issue is not print or ecommerce – it is delivering relevant content in whatever form or fashion the recipient desires. We all know people who are print centric and others who are web oriented and yet others who only want content via some time of mobile device. That eclectic mix is what will propel successful companies forward. Come to the PIA Converge Conference http://www.printing.org/converge and hear Jennifer talk about her philosophies and network with other movers and shakers in the industry we love so much.

  4. Jennifer Matt on September 29, 2010 at 10:38 am


    I agree that the big picture is delivering relevant content to users when they want it and how they want it. Why is ecommerce important for the print industry? The digital economy operates on the web, today the majority of printers are participating on the web without a cash register! Yes, having a website without an ecommerce solution is like having a retail store without a cash register. The world is moving into the digital economy, the expectation of the digital economy is SELF SERVICE transactions. For businesses who are in the business of selling physical stuff like printed products (atoms based economy), the key is to leverage all the efficiencies of the bits based economy (unlimited scale, deflationary, ability to service customers in a self service fashion).

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