Making print sales isn’t easy these days. Supply chain issues are disrupting the process and the ability to promise everything will be ok with 100% certainty. This situation can make even the most seasoned print customers nervous especially if they work as a print producer at advertising agencies, brands, or corporations that plan their print marketing and media placement strategy well in advance. These plans often require that campaign materials are coordinated to hit the market on target dates. Not so easy these days, as I’ve said.
On top of the pressure to deliver materials on time and on budget, the great resignation has significantly impacted advertising agencies and marketing departments within brands and agencies.
The creatives have gotten a taste of remote working and working on their time. There is no going back to the office, they are quitting to work from home. They are also turning away full-time job offers with significant to ridiculous salary increases that would never have been turned down in 2019. NEVER.
With creatives quitting rather than commuting, a ton of pressure to get projects done, by any means necessary, is falling to the print producers.
I reached out to a friend who is the VP, Director of Production of a specialized full-service production agency with a roster of clients that includes other ad agencies in this space. When he didn’t answer I followed up and this was his reply.
“Sorry Deborah. My department is hemorrhaging. 3 rounds of layoffs and now 3 more people resigned. I went from 17 people down to 3 and I’m working 65 hours a week. I’m literally just trying to survive.”
What if he can’t?
He is one of 3 overworked and overwhelmed print producers responsible for every job from every client at this full-service production agency. Think about that. Three people doing the job of 17 and trust me the 17 were already doing the jobs of at least 2 people.
I spoke to another VP of Production from a premium cable entertainment network. She told a similar story. Working from 6 am to 10 pm most days, work has never been harder or more stressful. She is also trying to survive and now the company has reorganized which presents an entirely new set of obstacles to overcome with the requirement of time that doesn’t exist.
We are at a pivotal moment. I know from holding the position for more than 25 years that professional print producers can be pains in the ass, but we – you, me, agencies, brands, marketers, and printers cannot let them go extinct. Our world without them is only about price. Craft will eventually transform to commodity and then game over in so many ways unless you are Vista and Canva, or can operate like them.
WHAT CAN WE DO????
I am glad you asked!! I have been thinking about this for 2 days. Here is what you can do right now.
Stop bothering these customers unless you have something very specific to discuss. No phishing sales calls. If they need your help, they will find you. You can send a ‘checking in’ email, text, or social media messages now and them to remain top of mind from a human vs sales perspective, and without any expectation of a reply.
Review all their past work. If they always do a mailing in June, don’t wait on them to contact you. Figure out how to get the paper and when it can arrive, share that information and a quote with the customer – NOW.
Repeat that process or everything you can think of to preempt a quote request and be super attentive to being super proactive every way you can. Especially with paper and postage. Price increases are coming.
Inform your customers now, and help them create a plan to print everything they can before it happens. Provide a list of projects they have printed in the past; suggest how they can be improved. Provide estimates for all scenarios with very clear caveats around securing supplies and the pricing and payment terms. The fine print is critical when hard costs are fluctuating.
Consider a Next-Level Move
Unless we figure out a workable solution to help professional print customers, the infiltration of Print Management Services (HH Global, Williams Lee, Schawk) is imminent. This podcast is from 2018, but it is still a very relevant, first-hand account of what happens when these companies get in the CFO’s door.
The situation for printers when Print Management Services take over is more complicated. Some printers benefit and can get more work from the network if they can print at the price required. In many cases, they can’t afford to print at the required pricing for PMS companies to profit and they lose work they may have had for years. Work that they counted on to keep the lights on – next month.
My counter-proposal is this: Create your own Print Management Service.
Find a freelance print producer to work for you – remotely. Be the friendly alternative to being forced back into the office to do the work of 17 people.
The cost of professional Print Management Services (plus your mark-up) can be built into the job as a line-item option on the estimate. If they need help, you have it. The opportunity to discuss what this service is and entails opens with every quote you send out.
Your print producer functions as they would in the agency – presenting project options to creatives and account management, developing specs, and getting an estimate. But instead of just sending back a quote, your print producer is also part of the customer team. They manage the projects for the customer and liaise with a CSR and/or salesperson in the print shop.
Your print producer has definitely worked with project management and purchasing systems during their career. And, they can learn new ones quickly to navigate internal job scheduling and secure agency approvals. Base Camp is worth looking into if you are entertaining this idea. With the project management software on your end, you can offer this print production help to just about anyone who needs it.
You can also consider offering this service on an ongoing basis. It’s less expensive for agencies to pay for help job-by-job than to find and keep employees, and your customers don’t need to spend time that they already don’t have to look for freelancers if you can help them manage the job from start to printing to finishing.
The agencies will bill their clients for this service. Don’t focus on that. Charge accordingly. Be flexible and be accomodating. You have created this service to help them …and help them to print with you. Closed-loop.
If possible, arrange a test run on a small project with a really great customer and a potential candidate for your print producer. Work out the process kinks on YOUR END before you launch the service. A seasoned print producer knows the agency process and can help develop a workflow that works for everyone. I can help you develop a process, too. Find me and let’s figure something out.
As professional print buying inches its way towards commodity the printing presses, finishing equipment, paper, and substrates used to create craft will be reduced to a wish list.
Please take some time and consider how you can help your professional print customers do their jobs, literally. It just might save yours.
Printspiration Bonus! Check out the new series “Making it With Print” on Podcasts From The Printerverse with my co-hosts David Drucker and Noel Tocci. If you can DREAM IT… you can PRINT IT! Listen here or listen and subscribe where you get your podcasts.
See Deborah’s featured post: https://printmediacentr.com/dscoops-edge-rockies-signals-the-industry-is-back-to-business
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, the cultivator of Print Production Professionals the #1 print group on LinkedIn, Girl #1 at GirlsWhoPrint, host of #PrintChat every Wednesday, the founder of International Print Day and the founder of #ProjectPeacock.
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 sales, social media, and content marketing endeavors.
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