Welcome to my blogging duel with TEAM UK’s Matthew Parker. If you have been following along you can skip right to the post… and if you are just joining us, here is some background…

Matthew and I haven’t always seen eye to eye when it comes to Print Buying. He comes from the UK procurement world, and I come from the USA agency world. We used to argue about process, but over the years it has turned into a mutual respect. However, that doesn’t mean we now agree, or see things the same way! As a matter of fact, most of the time we don’t. So we decided to turn that into Print Buying: #UKvUSA and share information about our experiences from both sides of the pond!

At the end of my post is a link to Matthew’s post on the same subject. We don’t know each other’s response before writing our own. Maybe we will agree, maybe we wont, maybe we don’t even see the question in the same way – who knows… that’s the fun part! We have also set a 500 words or less format to keep things moving along.

Please do leave comments and if you happen to support one side over the other let us know on either blog! I am proudly representing TEAM USA, and we are using #UKvUSA on Twitter. LET THE DUEL COMMENCE!


#UKvUSA: Should Printers Talk About ROI?

That is a loaded question for sure! And before I answer, I feel the need to caveat two things. First, coming from the advertising world I deeply distrust any marketing based on STATS, and ROI falls under that to me. Second because of my advertising background, this topic makes it pretty much impossible to put that aside and be diplomatic, so take that into consideration as my perspective may indeed be the same for countless agency/marketing buyers out there – whether you agree or not.

There are only a few situations when a Printer can legitimately speak of ROI, and let’s just agree that the parameters for ROI fluctuate project by project, and in this question we are referring to “ROI” as a tool to prove something beneficial to customers. Here are a few:

You Own It! The Printer creates the project in question from start to finish. This includes copy, design, offer/promotion/call to action, printing, distribution, and a credible and transparent tracking method for “results” that formulate what the ROI is.

You Enhance it! The Printer adds value in some manner above and beyond the established project created by the customer. Even then, to claim ROI there needs to be a solid measurement against the same project WITHOUT your enhancement. For example, client sends out 5,000 postcards with spot varnish to make their product images pop, and 5,000 without. Even though the postcards wont go to the same people, if there is a higher response from the ones with varnish, an ROI case could be made about using spot varnish.

You Bring A Friend To The Party! The Printer adds value through a white-labeled application, or by partnering with a marketing technology company. Granted, it’s not YOUR creation, but if you had a part in adding it, and it wouldn’t have been used without you, you have had a part in the ROI. As long as you don’t claim full ownership, presenting results as a Customer Case Study that includes ROI info is fair game.


In most other cases when I see a Printer talking about ROI it’s just complete BS. Stats about “direct mail” having a higher response rate than email mean NOTHING to me in regard to why I should send my direct mail projects to you. Discussing the ROI of a project you printed, and only printed, is like me taking credit for LinkedIn’s IPO success because I manage a few groups there. And going back to the advertising thing, it’s a bit insulting to those of us who spend our careers creating the materials to have Printers take credit for our work because they printed it. I am not implying that Printers don’t play a part in positive results if the printing execution is exactly as we wanted and paid for, but if that is also achievable without you, you cannot claim ownership of the ROI results.

Now the big questions – How do you define ROI for your business, and for your clients? Do you cite ROI in your marketing materials? Have you ever been asked for the data to back it up?

See how Matthew Parker answered this question here: http://profitableprintrelationships.com/ukvusa-should-printers-talk-about-roi/

And stay tuned as next month we tackle “What new printshop investments attract new customers?”


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