Thursday, 6 June 2013

The print buyer’s perspective.

Have you ever wondered what happens when we stop looking at printing from the traditional printer’s perspective?  Try looking at it from the buyer’s side.   Quite honestly, the print buyer doesn’t really give a damn about how the job was printed – unless of course he’s intending to photocopy over it.  So it’s pretty much irrelevant for your marketing to trumpet about how you’ve just acquired a new XYZ Digital press.  He’s not going to understand, let alone be impressed.

All he wants is a guarantee of quality, and a short delivery time. Oh yes?  Actually, no – what he really wants is entirely different – the promotion of his business, the roll-out of that new product line, or whatever   And of course to be made to feel important – don’t we all?  So as far as your customer is concerned that elegantly printed brochure is simply a means to an end, and the real purpose is entirely different object.

To make things worse, with the advent of desktop publishing many potential buyers nurture a secret belief that they could do it themselves on their office inkjet or laser printer.  To be honest, maybe some could.

So how can we break through?  Well,  you have to convince the buyer that your offering is a necessity, rather than a luxury, that you are the best person to do it, and that if you do it, he is a lot closer to reaching his goals. Whatever they are.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Printing is obviously too difficult!

Well, I was wrong. (See previous post)

As I surmised, printing is self-evidently too difficult for Lord Sugar's apprentices.  I didn't see the actual program but I now understand that unlike in the trail I heard, they weren't actually getting their hands dirty themselves.

What they had to do was simply get some mugs and t-shirts screenprinted, and then try to flog them to the public.

In other words they weren't doing or supplying anything useful, unlike the poor benighted printing fraternity, but paying a printer to produce something which nobody had asked for or wanted, and then trying to create a market for it.  Well, I suppose it gave work to a hungry printer, and taught the apprentices about selling stuff in the market, so it can't be all bad.

I can't help wondering whether it wouldn't be more interesting to get them to do something useful for a change?

It's a mad world, my masters!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Apprentice?

I heard on the radio today about the latest new series of 'The Apprentice' (to non-Brits out there that's a UK television program putting would-be entrepreneurs through their paces).  Apparently it's going to start with Lord Sugar's latest victims being given the task of ...

Yes, you guessed it. Starting a printing company.

Well, after I stopped laughing, I thought a bit about it.  As we all know, any fool can start a print company.  And also, as we all know, the problem is keeping it going.

It does illustrate the fact that the cost of entry to the trade is lower than ever.  If they had to start by buying a GTO, or signing a year's contract on some serious kit, I reckon the BBC might be less enthusiastic.  I can only presume they are just going to buy some cheap and cheerful laser printer from PC World and take it from there.

We've all seen hopeful startups. They tend to burn their money very quickly, and by under-pricing they take the work away from real print companies.  To think that they will make a go of it is more than a bit unrealistic, especially in the time frame of a television series.

It should be very entertaining. And after all they are bright kids, most of them, so maybe, just maybe, they might come up with some good ideas.  Or maybe not

Maybe someone should suggest something easy for the next series - how about being a brain surgeon for a week?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Turning an idea on its head

I was talking to an old printer friend the other day and asked him how he was doing.  I expected the usual cautious optimism (people say you have to be an optimist if you're still in the printing game at present) but instead he said "We're making money for the first time in years".

When I picked myself up off the floor I asked him what had changed.  "It's my new marketing guru", he said.  Apparently this new advisor had asked him what boxes a new client had to check in order to be accepted as a customer.  "Are you joking?" replied my friend "it's the other way round. There are so many printers for each job that the buyer can pick and choose".

"Well," said the advisor "why not stand that idea on its head?"  What he recommended was to see if the the customer had what it takes, by checking things like:
  • Will you pay me up front?
  • Will you accept my prices including a reasonable profit?
  • Will you accept a reasonable time frame? 
I cautiously asked my friend whether his business had shrunk at all.  "No" he said. "The customers who were haggling away my profits, paying late, or defaulting now go to the big on-line boys, where they get what service they can.  But if a customer wants proper service, with the knowledge that we'll continue to be here to serve him next year, there's a price and it's worth his while paying it.  So that proper service is what we've been selling, and successfully too."

I've heard similar views expressed as an ideal by printers, but I think this was the first time I've seen the profitability increased in this way without compromising turnover. 

I take my hat off to him!

It's a funny old game, printing, isn't it?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

IPEX South Asia

I was really annoyed at not being able to attend IPEX South Asia in Mumbai, but I now have the pictures to show you. It seems to have been a great success - we signed up several new users at the show, and are currently talking to a whole lot more. I think we seem to have hit the spot, as they say. Good software at a reasonable price really does seem to be a winning combination.

(Left to right) Vikas Nikam from FMV, Rajesh Vartak, Sameer Vartak

Sameer Vartak runs through the system with a customer
One piece of breaking news is that we had a 'proof of concept' meeting to see the first rough version of our new 'cloud-based' version, which was impressive.  It will work natively on Windows, Mac, or even in a browser, and users will be able to use both the current and the new interface to address the same on-line database simultaneously from different devices.

When I add to that that we're currently testing the system with Windows 8 you'll understand that we are a bit busy just now ...and despite all the doom and gloom, I get the general impression that many of you printers out there are a bit busy too!

Happy printing!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Green Shoots of Recovery?

I've always said that if the advertising industry is the sharp end of the ship - first into recession, first out - then printing, which after all mostly depends on advertising, must be the bowsprit.  So it's interesting as I talk to printers on a daily basis to notice a change starting to happen.  Whereas a month or so ago I was getting remarks like "it's OK for a bit but then it all goes dead again" or even "it's all because of the politicians - they keep talking the market down",  just recently I've been hearing "things seem to be picking up a bit".  Well, it's about time, too!

We've had a relatively quiet summer here, but that's about to change - we're off to exhibit at IPEX South Asia in Mumbai on 16th September.  I say "we" but to my great disappointment I won't be going myself as we have a family wedding for which my attendance has been secured by a 3 line whip.  I'll be sorry not to be able to catch up with old friends there.

Anyway, as we progress into Autumn ("Fall" to you Americans out there) we're looking forward to more optimism in the industry.  Maybe, just maybe, we're through the worst.  Let's hope so.

yours optimistically

Richard Fergusson

Monday, 23 May 2011

Northprint - post-show reflections

Well, we've been back for a week now, and I've finally managed to clear my desk a bit.   Northprint was, despite pessimistic forecasts,  actually a very successful show for us.  We signed up our first new user within half an hour of the show opening, and from that moment on we didn't look back!

I think that the reason for our success was that it was the official U.K. launch of our 'Software as a Service' offer.  Basically we are offering the full system for just £65 per user month, with no contract and tha ability to opt out at any time without notice.  The other M.I.S. companies there seemed a little alarmed at this, as without exception they either ask for a major fee up front, or bind you in for a substantial number of monthly payments.  I should just mention that you can still pay up-front, which probably makes more financial sense if you want three or more users.

It was great to meet some of our northern friends at the stand,  and for those of you that couldn't make it I've posted some of our handouts and other Northprint-related material at

I think the star of the show, though, was undoubtedly Norman Marks, who was invited by the organizers to give the lunchtime address each day - and the subject he chose was "Digital or Litho? Why not both? Balancing the issues".   I've uploaded his powerpoint slides here.  I think you'll agree that this subject is an important one, as it holds the key to the future development of the industry, and I hope you find it useful.

Warm regards

Richard Fergusson