For the past two years I have sent out some poignant questions to the print buying community with two goals in mind; first and foremost to find out what they care about, and second with my Print Buyerologist hat on, help printers and suppliers understand what they care about, in a manner that will resonate.
The latter can sometimes be quite a challenge. Companies can get stuck in what THEY want to talk about vs. what potential customers and end-users of their products and services want to hear.
I am way more optimistic this year. The information flow seems to be heading in a more positive direction now that Gen-Xers are taking over the industry. They are more adaptable, proactive, and willing to take risks – with technology, customer communication, and with social media – in a manner I rarely experienced with the Baby Boomers. “This is the way it’s always been done” has given way to “Try it, let’s see what happens”. That is good news for everyone – especially print customers.
The topic of my 2017 Print Buyer Survey was “Color, Quality and Consistency”. The industry talk track has been HEAVY about color management since last year, and it’s going to continue this year. I wanted to check in and see if print buyers cared as much about it as some would have you think… and they do, to some extent.
I sent a personal note to U.S. print buyers from the agencies and brands shown above, and more. I asked them to answer 12 questions via Survey Monkey under the topic of color, quality and consistency. Within 48 hours I had 100 responses, and a total of 142 when I shut it down. By the way, 67% of these buyers source print globally, so if you are a print provider out of the U.S. this still pertains to you – keep reading!
What did I learn…
QUALITY was the number one reason these buyers work with a printer, and the number one reason they reject jobs. That makes sense. However, I asked them to define “quality” in 50 words or less in an open field, and that’s when it got interesting.
In most of the first 100 responses, quality was measured by FINISHING in some form, in regard to whether they received an acceptable result for their job. NOT COLOR!
At first I was a bit surprised. Hearing the industry and the G7 people spouting about color and color management as often as I do I was hoping (for their sakes) that color would hold the top spot. But then it clicked in. During my 25+ years as a buyer working for some of the agencies and brands I surveyed, anytime I rejected a job or got hell over it, finishing was the culprit in all but a few really color critical instances. Things like scratched covers, uneven crossovers, and bad trimming are glaring issues in most cases, whereas whether or not the blue is the exact blue I specced, or close enough, is subjective in many ways – even with a pantone chip in hand.
To go one step further, out of those instances I rejected jobs and needed my sales person/CSR to make it right, the ones who did and proactively made sure the issues never happened again are the ones I still recommend today, regardless of where they are currently working.
My takeaway on this intel:
Don’t stop at color when you boast about your quality. Make sure customers have a clear understanding of what they should expect when they get their printed work delivered, and what they can expect if finishing issues arise. No one wants to admit to a potential customer that mistakes happen, but I promise you – buyers KNOW they do. Let them know up front how you handle it, and deliver on that promise. Tell them about your quality control process, and if you don’t have one in place, don’t call on these buyers.
Throughout the year I will be sharing more about my 2017 Print Buyer Survey here on PMC, in my LinkedIn Group Print Production Professionals, and during sessions I present at events. For now I wanted to help you strategize a little on how to do things differently, and dare to see what happens.
Finish Long and Prosper!
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at PrintMediaCentr, a Print Buyerologist™, Integrated Marketer, Industry Speaker and Blogger, Cultivator of the Print Production Professionals Group, the #1 Print Group on LinkedIn, and host of #PrintChat, a weekly industry gathering on Twitter every Wednesday at 4PM ET. She has more than 25 years experience working in advertising and marketing, and currently works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them to achieve success with their social media marketing endeavors, and meaningful relationships with customers.