There is no question that the economic recession that began in 2008 has taken a bloody toll on the digital and printing industries. Company after company, big and small, have been decimated and forced to close. Being a service and product line that already relies on the health of other businesses to receive its sales and revenue, going through a recession hit these industry players painfully. Not only were commercial customers folding their graphic work in-house, removing jobs from the market altogether, they were also looking for ways to cut down paper consumption for operating cost avoidance, reducing reprographic work available. Both worked against print and digital production companies in the form of lost accounts and sales.
Contraction of markets and image customers has been widespread, but those companies that have adapted to the tougher environment have held on because they are proactive in finding new solutions for customers. Image and print work are still in demand; the need has not suddenly just disappeared due to a lack of widespread operational funding. However, digital and print companies have had to find more efficient ways to reach the same communication goals with potential customers and new accounts.
The Old Standby – Volume Accounts
Up until recently, digital and print companies enjoyed a lot of sales from one-off jobs and smaller projects. There was so much demand companies could enjoy working on specialized or customized print work. However, when sales dried up, these were the first jobs to disappear. That said, big clients still need someone to help produce large , volume jobs efficiently, a task they cannot usually manage in-house. Successful printers went back to basics, offering and pursuing volume jobs with discount pricing. They reminded clients of how valuable their outsourcing is as a process resource. The large capacity offer along with good pricing brought sales to printers aggressive enough to chase these opportunities. It kept them financially solvent while others fell by the wayside.
Diversity and Expand
It’s not enough to sell a print product. The majority of need in digital and print work is on the service side. Many clients today already know what they want, but they need someone to put it together for them. In this respect, those printers who can serve both sides of the market will naturally capture more clients, even in hard times when customers are not as common. Diversification also allows printers to open up doors otherwise closed to them due to their own offerings shutting out customers prematurely.
Many printers believe that marketing their business consists of just having a web page and a phone book listing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Active marketing uses every tool available, from social media to traditional flyers, to create and increase awareness of a printer’s business in the minds of consumers and clients. When people and businesses have a need, their awareness provides the answer of who can solve the problem. But they don’t call a printer if they don’t know that the company even exists. The Recession survivors understood this concept, and it allowed them to keep sales flowing when others were having to fold shop and go out of business.
There are a number of business strategy lessons to learn from the 2008 Recession and how it contracted the digital and printing industries. The most important, however, still applies: printer and digital companies can’t rest on their laurels. They have to get out and hunt every job, every task and every potential client. This is not a new concept; many businesses have to fend off dozens of consumers every day to break even, even more to make a profit. But survival matters and, sometimes, reminders are necessary to bring business reality back into focus.
The printer and digital markets are not going to get easier anytime soon if economists are correct. World economies have contracted for good reason, they got too big on borrowed money. As a result, when a recovery does occur, it is very unlikely that the same successes enjoyed before 2008 will be seen again anytime soon. So the tools above matter in providing critical access to customers and, more importantly, sales revenue.