2019 CMYK Manifesto: Invest in Your Audience

2019 CMYK Manifesto

Greeting Citizens of The Printerverse and welcome to a New Year!

My role as your Intergalactic Ambassador gives me a pretty unique vantage point since it allows me to be able to meet with, speak to and learn from so many of you out there each year. This annual post is my contribution to the bigger picture, and will hopefully give you some things to think about as 2019 kicks off.


  • Take inventory of your offerings and messaging.
  • Take inventory of how your services are helping others.
  • Take inventory of who represents you, and how.
  • Take inventory of your workspace.

Getting your information out to customers is important. Getting it to the right hands, eyes, and ears of recipients is imperative. Now add in delivering a result for your customers’, customers as your most important mission in 2019. Here are a few ways to get started.

Take inventory of your offerings and messaging.

How you say things and how you deliver a message is important, but not if no one cares what you are talking about. Listen to your customers, no one else. Get more involved in subject matter with them, and less in sales matters. Deliver information without any pitch attached, follow up with how you can help, and at another point in time.

Create products and services that will resonate with customers. Name (or rename) them to sound cool and valuable. Introduce them, INDIVIDUALLY, to each customer. “Hey Deb, I’d like to talk to you about some new opportunities we have with direct mail”… or… “Hey Deb, I’d like to talk to you about our new, rapid-response direct marketing initiative”. The latter example may be a little cheesy, but I am still curious. That counts.

Take inventory of how your services are helping others.

This is a reality check moment… look in your mailbox over the course of a week. How much of what you see is an obvious use of data? How much is using variable data? How much is generic marketing?

More likely than not, generic marketing is the clear winner. The obvious use of data will be second because it’s obvious… the exact shoes you left in your shopping cart, a map to my local car wash from my house, my vet (not the office) reminding me it’s time for a check-up for my cat, Mr. Cletus Jefferson Corn (vs. “your pet”). Variable data is not so obvious. As a consumer, I may never realize the picture of a cat on my otherwise generic grooming coupon from a Pet Superstore was planned based on past-purchasing data. I certainly won’t know there are varied versions for dog owners unless I see them.

Through Project Peacock, I have met with over 600 print customers from ad agencies and brands and shared information about the new communication and execution opportunities available through digital printing. I have spoken to many of the printers out there who have adopted cutting-edge digital printing capabilities to provide data-driven print. It’s fair to say the industry push on variable data is much greater than the pull from these print customers. Did your mailbox experiment agree?

While it is imperative for marketing innovation and the future of print that we continue to share new ways to communicate with all of the end-users, don’t put all your eggs or messaging into the VDP services basket just yet. The print customers love the shorter runs and quicker turn-around. They love the ability to use funky substrates, digital finishing, and digital enhancements. They like the idea of big chunk versioning… 5000 in English, 3000 in French. Most don’t want any part of 5000 people getting their own thing. Selling on or leading with that capability is a mistake.

Project Peacock Print Fair launches in NYC on March 14 to share Printspiration, new applications, technology and more with print customers, marketers, and printers. We will hit at least 4 cities this year with a cool, 1-night only, pop-up event. While I focus on getting the industry to help me pull it off, focus your messaging, products and services on what print customers currently care about. Educate as you go along about what they don’t.

If Print Fair lands close to your zip code, invite your customers to join you. Follow up and talk to them individually about the technology and applications they were drawn to or had the interest to use. If you don’t have it, work that out. If you do, start selling on what THEY SAW IN IT.

Take inventory of who represents you, and how.

I get at minimum 20 or so emails a day from the “industry” that are completely inappropriate solicitations, on top of the daily barrage of non-industry spam. If you are a business owner, and/or in charge of Sales or Marketing and you are allowing useless information to flow from people you manage into the inboxes of customers or potential ones… shame on you. If you don’t know it’s happening, this is your Google alert to go and check.

Differentiation applies to all aspects of your business to truly stand out. If you send me one marketing or sales message about something I totally care about, I will give you many chances to do it again before I opt out. If the first time I hear from you or your company it’s about YOU or useless… buh-bye.

Same goes for the people who represent you out in the world. It’s time to develop a company culture that is dedicated to making every interaction count for the recipient of the message, not your sales. Repackage and repurpose your talk tracks so they sound new. Deliver your messages in a unique way. Don’t say anything, when you have nothing new to say. When you are ready to communicate something of importance, it will stand out.

Millennial Office

Take inventory of your workspace.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? It’s more likely that college graduates would strive to be Abe Froman, The Sausage King of Chicago, than work in a print shop. Abe drove a Ferrari and could get lunch reservations in trendy restaurants. Your print shop office area looks and smells like 6 people have died from emphysema, and in the office furniture, you are sitting in conducting interviews. No Bueno.

It’s time to invest in your image… all of it. Here is a quick test to know if you are in need of an office make-over based on some recent visits I’ve had…

Are the non-visitor areas of your office as welcoming as the customer areas? Any visible smoke or other stains on the ceiling tiles? Are your walls some shade of fading pale green to some shade of fading yellow not found in nature? Do you have desktop computers older than applicants? Is everyone sitting in cubes from 1988? Are your bathrooms CLEAN??? Have you set an office policy about what is appropriate to hang on a wall?

A college graduate who dreams of working on a Silicon Valley campus will not want to work in a space that has more in common with an institution, and an aging one at that. Invest in infrastructure, now! You don’t have to include a coffee/juice bar, big balls as chairs, standing desks or a nap room, but trust me, you should.

Take inventory of your goals for 2019 and refocus them to help your customers achieve theirs.

Take inventory of how you can give back to the industry to help it grow.

Take inventory of how you can PRINT LONG AND PROSPER!


Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse™ at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist™, industry speaker and blogger, host of Podcasts from The Printerverse, cultivator of Print Production Professionals the #1 print group on LinkedIn, Head Girl in Charge (H.G.I.C.) at GirlsWhoPrint, host of #PrintChat every Wednesday at 4PM ET on Twitter, the founder of International Print Day and the founder of #ProjectPeacock. She is the recipient of several industry honors including the 2016 Girls Who Print Girlie Award, and sits on the boards of the Advertising Production Club of NYC and The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi.

Deborah has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer. She currently provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through PMC, and works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers, and achieve success with their social media and content marketing endeavors.

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One Response

  1. I do agree that “generic marketing is the clear winner.” Its just looks a more efficient way of being. Exited to witness it on my own.