The print industry is changing. Not really a news flash, right? But here’s the thing about change. It can be a daunting task. Today’s printers, many of which continue to sift through the ever-shifting dynamics of technology and customer behaviors, have come to accept that you must, forgive the honesty here, adapt or die.

When the topic of change comes up with Thanh Nguyen, he likes to repeat an old Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Nyguyen, CMO of The Standard Group, an award-winning print management and marketing logistics company located in Reading and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has had a front-row seat to sweeping changes that have engulfed his industry. The best piece of advice he can offer is that when it comes to change, you have to start small, increase incrementally, but be consistent in your approach.

It’s all about the commitment. Try putting it on your calendar. “Add it to your appointment schedule to strategize, plan and execute,” Nguyen says. “Get an accountability coach to make sure you are addressing your changes. And embrace the change.”

Here’s the kicker when it comes to change and every single company that turns its head when the light of change starts shining through the window—you either adapt or die. That’s right, there’s’ that phrase again.

“It’s more dangerous to do nothing or keep with the status quo,” Nguyen says. “I used to lament that the print industry is hard. But I wouldn’t want to be in the taxi business competing with Uber or Lyft, or in the hotel industry competing with Airbnb or in the retail sector competing with Amazon. No industry is safe, we just need to reinvent ourselves.”

Reinvention is something much of the print industry continues to chase. The reasons are simple. As part of a mature media industry, printers compete with traditional media for a share of marketing and advertising budgets. They also are under siege by new channels of communication such as digital marketing, social, mobile, apps and home-connected devices. Add to it a continually evolving consumer and the need for reinvention must be faster, nimbler and more integrated than ever before.

“Part of our job is to show how we can use print and its sister services like direct mail, fulfillment, collateral management, personalized multichannel communication to drive sales, generate leads and help businesses grow,” Nguyen says. “And like every industry, printers need to figure out how to utilize the tools available to integrate and automate the services we provide. Clients want things better, faster and cheaper. They don’t just want to choose two of the three; they want all three. We have to figure out how to provide that.”

Think before you jump…

In a time when everything is happening fast and customers want things done now, there has to be a method to the madness. Rick Baarman believes that’s one of the surest ways today’s printers can set themselves on a course for redefining their strategies.

That means while diversifying your offerings, it that’s part of your strategy, it takes getting a complete grasp on where and what you want and can do. Baarman, VP of Sales and Marketing for Zeeland, Michigan-based Holland Litho, says you must start where it matters most—with the customers.

“Spend time with them to learn what their interests and needs are before diving into various new services,” Baarman says.

Holland Litho’s diversification has centered on it’s digital print and offset print offerings, along with a greater emphasis on its bindery, mailing and fulfillment services, all of which feature state-of-the-art equipment it invested in.

“If we can build relationships with a lot of clients and are able to produce the majority of what they need under our roof, we’ve just positioned ourselves for a strong and healthy relationship,” Baarman says. “But it’s not just the equipment that makes the company, it’s the people. And if the right people have the best equipment, they can do so much more.”

With as many demands as printers have on them today, Baarman says that they need print projects to flow as smoothly as possible. There are just too many choices out there.

“Consumers want the most impact from what you do for them and the best value possible,” Baarman says. ” It’s a buyer’s market. We don’t want to be viewed as just a vendor. We prefer to be viewed as a partner. We like to develop relationships where we build such a track record of service and trust that we become their only go-to source.”

Part of the strategy of redefining yourself lies in your ability to grow. Attend trade shows and conferences. Partner with someone who isn’t a competitor to provide and learn the services. Ask a lot of questions.

“There are 1,000 ways a print job can go wrong and only one way it can go right,” Baarman says. “The amount of variables are out of this world. People have no idea unless they’ve been at it a while. Our goal is to help our customers navigate through the steps of their project and have them enjoy the process.”

Making the brand owner happy lies at the true heart of finding a strategy that works. “Today’s brand owners want to find great prospects, better ways to influence and convert on these prospects, and better ways to tell their business and brand stories to connect with these prospects and their current customers,” Nguyen says. “They want a reliable partner that can help them achieve these items through reliable business partners.”

In the end, in an industry that continues to evolve, staying in front of the curve is a business plan that will remain sustainable. Consolidation. Millenials influencing decisions in the workplace. The integrated way consumers are buying products. The world is changing.

“Printers need to think digital and mobile first when it comes to the operation of their business,” Nguyen says. “They also need to reinvent themselves on how people should buy from them. And they must hire people that can speak the language of the new buyers.”

7 Takeaways You Can Start Using Today

  1. Embrace the concept of change
  2. Add the process to your appointment schedule so you can strategize, plan and execute.
  3. Get an accountability coach to make sure you’re addressing your changes
  4. Start small, increase incrementally, but be consistent in your approach
  5. Think digital and mobile first when it comes to the operation of your business
  6. Stay in front of the curve
  7. Attend trade shows and conferences; partner with someone who isn’t a competitor; ask a lot of questions

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