So far, 2008 is awfully unlucky for printers, but hey, who cares? We “only” sell the stuff. And, as the economy tanks, we may soon be the only ones “up-and-running” on the sales side.
Mismanaging management staff, from Quebecor on down, are firing sales and marketing personnel for no other reason than to cut costs. These same people, who gambled on capital investments in the good times, are counter-intuitively shifting blame to the working ants in what our trade associations call “the current period of challenge.”
Opposite of salespeople who are passionately outward-directed and customer-centric, the bosses are typically inward-directed toward their machinery—a peddlers versus mechanics paradox. The latter almost compulsively seeks productivity gains even at the risk of losing customers. New cylinders, which make-ready and run faster, fed by direct-plates that pop out in less time than pizzas, now render state-of-the-art printing plants counter-productive. An old shop with paid-for machinery is at an absolute economic advantage over new facilities drowning in debt or, worse, sinking in fixed lease payments.
So, how do we purveyors of the top-line get rich during this commercial equivalent of the sub-prime meltdown? Let’s pull the slot handle and see what lucky eight, progressive combinations for ’08 we can hit.
• Find the most underserved demanders. There are many print buying sectors not called upon, even during the good times. Now, with fewer salespeople and no marketing departments left to identify and qualify them, business is forfeited. The Printing Brokerage/Buyers Association’s (PB/BA) annual “HOT markets” forecast details winning combinations, including packaged foods and beverages (for point-of-sale) and proprietary higher education (for sheetfed and half-web inserts and direct mail). Meanwhile, the mechanics continue to pander to the most price-elastic, yet obvious, categories such as publishers and ad agencies. The pervasive volume-over-profit mentality lives, but it shouldn’t be at our expense.