Is It Really Success or Failure in the Printing Industry?

Dr. John Leininger, professor in the Department of Graphic Communications at Clemson University, was kind enough to join us again for a two-part guest post on what makes companies successful in the evolving printing industry. Don’t miss part two of Dr. Leininger’s post next Wednesday, June 25.

I have had several interesting experiences in the last month. I traveled to Australia to speak at an event and visit customers for Fuji Xerox, and I just returned from the Printing Industries of America (PIA) Print Leadership Conference in Dallas. At both of these events I met people who were successful in the printing industry but still looking for the next competitive edge to take advantage of. It has always been clear to me that those companies who regularly attend trade events are the progressive thinkers, focused on what they need to do for the future. In contrast, those companies not attending because they are so worried about what they are doing next week are losing the battle—they just do not know it yet.

When I was in Australia, I met with one printing company that was trying to add variable data and cross media to its toolbox. We talked about strategies focused on database management, marketing strategies, designing a promotional piece that will intrigue the customer, and finally, coming up with a call to action to engage the customer. The stumbling block seemed to be that it would need to bring the design work back in-house. My reaction was simple − what are you waiting for? To them it was a risk that continues to hold them back. I talked about the opportunity and that if they were not willing to fully engage, then some other company would—and they would just be a commodity printer. The point is not about success or failure. Inevitably, if they do nothing, they will fail.

In the presentation I made at the Fuji Xerox “Dine and Learn” event, I talked about a project my students had worked on where we replicated a case study on a cross-media marketing campaign that used social media to engage customers. It did not work out the way we expected, but we have a new plan for next semester. I hear this a lot from people trying to create a variable data or cross-media campaign for the first time. They have a good idea, but if it does not work right the first time, unlike my students, they throw in the towel.

What I have learned from reading more than 500 case studies is that in almost every situation, this was not the company’s first attempt. After any campaign, you need to debrief to glean from the project what changes need to be made for next time. Success is typically the result of good ideas and hard work; it is only occasionally the result of pure luck.

As I looked around at the successful printers in Australia and at the PIA event, it was evident that they constantly take risks—testing and experimenting with the next big trend. They were investing in their future by putting the resources (people, equipment and IT) in place to be successful. At the PIA event, one presenter talked about how the printing industry has gone from more than 50,000 printers to approximately 27,000 printers today. When you look at the companies that are not just surviving, but actually growing in this difficult economy, it is clear that their success comes from a commitment to do what it takes to satisfy the needs of customers by bringing them solutions that can offer more relevance and increase the value of their marketing campaigns.

So what did I see at these two events that compelled me to write this post?

Companies that are successful and growing need to be constantly developing their company. Their managements have found the time to work on the company and not just work in the day-to-day operations of the company. How can you do this? Check back next Wednesday to find out!

Blog Author

Dr. John Leininger
Dr. Leininger is a Professor in the Department of Graphic Communications at Clemson University. You can reach him at ljohn@clemson.edu or 864-656-3447.

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