Since 2014 I have shared an annual Manifesto in January to set the mission of print for the year, and a recap post in December to measure print industry success and reflect upon what we have learned along the way.
The 2023 CMYK Manifesto focused on utilizing the power of print to safely and securely establish a connection to the digital world, being authentic and accountable, and ‘doing better’ with customers and customer communication. The post ends with this: “I describe myself as a realist. Adding some reality-based optimism that signs point to this year being the start of many good years to come is not a stretch.”
It’s 12 months later, and my perspective in January was more of a stretch than I had predicted.
In speaking with printers, print customers, vendors, analysts, organizations, events, marketers, and more in 2023, there is one thing everyone had in common – this year was a twisting, turning road of uncertainty, and everyone responded accordingly.
The print businesses that invested (and continue to invest) in their workflow and online presence had the best 2023. Their margins were mighty, and they were able to remain flexible and competitive with fluctuating prices in the supply chain. They were able to take on more work with fewer people, say yes more than no, and continue to make investments in equipment, goods, and services.
The 2023 print industry news was filled with obituaries, business closings, revenue losses, and great concern over a recession that never came. Plans were put on back-burners. Risk/Reward considerations were overtaken by keeping with the status quo, getting through the year with the least amount of damage, and hoping things would get better.
Many print businesses were acquired or changed hands in 2023. Some were shut down for client lists and equipment, some were merged into the purchasing business, and some were kept as is and/or treated as additional locations of the purchasing business. This group had a lot of movement combined with big decisions that will impact most of their decisions in 2024.
The Bottom Line
Print volumes are shrinking, and they will continue to do so. That doesn’t mean print is not an effective medium for communication, sales, and marketing. It means fewer people on this planet look to print first, and more companies will reinvest their dedicated print dollars in a multi and omni-channel approach.
That isn’t breaking news.
As you reflect upon 2023 and plan for 2024 think strategically about getting yourself into the best position for the future.
• If you own the company focus on gathering or acquiring partners who can help you deliver on multi and omni-channel marketing.
• If you work at a company that isn’t making those investments, find one that is or is already established and jump ship.
• If you can’t change jobs, invest in yourself and learn everything you can about print + digital marketing and print + Artificial Intelligence. Use that knowledge to help your company and customers the best you can, for as long as you can.
The road ahead for the printing industry is not paved with gold. It won’t be navigatable by those who aren’t ready, willing, and able to put in the hard work to transform and evolve with the digital media landscape in the most effective and efficient ways.
From my realist perch, I see great reward for those who risk leaving their comfort zone and plan their future by looking at the world through rose-colored, metaverse glasses. The destiny of print is there.
Print Long and Prosper!
See Deborah’s featured post: How Printers Can Save Local Businesses from Themselves
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international industry speaker and blogger, and the cultivator of Print Production Professionals, the #1 print group on LinkedIn. She provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through education, events, Podcasts From The Printerverse, ProjectPeacock.TV, and an array of community-lifting initiatives including Girls Who Print, Elevate Print, International Print Day, and Print Across America.
Deborah also helps companies create more meaningful and profitable customer relationships by utilizing more than 25 years of experience as an agency, brand, and corporate print buyer who has assessed, hired and worked with a plethora of printers and service providers.
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