If you print it, they will come. Print buyers are sure to flock to your proverbial field of dreams if you give them what they want and need. But if demand continues to dwindle, and clients expect more for less, will there be anyone left to make that all-important purchase?
Margie Dana, a former print buyer and founder of Print Buyers International, LLC, and its member-based organization, Boston Print Buyers, said the recession has posed a serious problem for this profession.
"Think about it: print volumes are down everywhere. With less print to produce, companies are questioning whether they really need in-house expertise. Layoffs have been taking place all year in marketing and corporate communications departments as budgets have been trimmed," she noted. "The larger issue faced by professional buyers is simply this: what's to become of the career? As corporations mix up their print campaigns with newer, digital media—including social media—what role will full-time print production specialists have?"
For the printing industry to stay relevant, she argued, print providers must acknowledge the various rising trends pertaining to market media, and assist buyers in developing programs for their companies that transcend isolated print projects. The same logic applies to buyers and distinguishes the savvy from the average.
"Print is not, nor will it ever be dead, but it must make room at the table for newer media," she insisted. "The most successful print-buying professional will help his or her employer develop a communications strategy that integrates print projects successfully with other efforts like e-mail marketing, PURLs, web-to-print campaigns, Twitter presence and so on."
In addition, it is the print buyer's role to source printing in the most cost-effective and appropriate way for their employers. However, Dana stressed while buyers must be sensitive to price, smart buyers also need to focus on the product at stake. For instance, they must inquire whether the printer can deliver what's expected, when expected. Is the company reputable? And, will a printer explore alternative avenues to achieve optimal value for the project? "Believe me, these are not examples of lip service. I have interviewed hundreds of buyers in depth, and they look for real partners in their print providers," she added.