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Trade Comment

Keeping up with the market

With the pace of change in our industry continuing to increase, Brendan Perring asks: “What boxes does a print-service-provider need to tick to prosper in today’s market?”

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Dave Jones, group marketing director, Premier Paper

Keep your friends close  


The key to success for any company is to understand the needs of its customers and then tailor a service to meet those needs. 

From looking at some of our most successful print customers there appears to be a common theme; they have a number of key clients where they are almost an integral of their businesses. They know what their customers are trying to achieve and then do all they can to support them. This requires the print service provider to adopt an agile approach to their business as organisations are often looking for a wide variety print solutions. The trends towards shorter runs, more colour, more personalisation and more creative solutions has fuelled the growth in digital print. In turn the variety of digital media available and the versatility of digital print machines allows more creative solutions to be offered. At Premier we provide a vast range of digital products and have a team of specialists working with printers in order make them aware of the choices and to maximise or diversify their output to increase their profit margins.  

The key to success for any company is to understand the needs of its customers and then tailor a service to meet those needs

The more you know about your customer the better you are positioned to provide solutions. For example, a customer may have a strategic goal to reduce their CO2 emissions or have certain corporate social responsibility objectives; if the print-service-provider is aware of this then they can work with their customer and their paper suppliers to help achieve these objectives. Premier has recently launched its Carbon Capture Programme that allows customers to compensate for the CO2 generated from the manufacture and distribution of the papers that they buy. This is achieved by planting trees and creating native woodland right here in the UK. The programme is facilitated through the Woodland Trust’s Woodland Carbon initiative, a Government sponsored scheme and the first of its kind in the UK. 

So for any company to prosper in today’s challenging market it is imperative to work closely with customers, listen to them, understand their objectives and be prepared to be flexible in your approach and service offer. If you can add value to your customer’s business by providing expert advice on print and visual communication, then you will add value to your own.

Keeping balls in the air 

Mark Hinder, market development manager PPD, Konica Minolta 

Today’s market is changing rapidly, and to have every box ticked may be difficult when juggling shifting demands from customers, whose own requirements are changing as they adapt to the global market conditions, and the impact of digital.

The issue therefore is to identify your priorities, and focus on the ones which can make a difference. Konica Minolta, through our own research, studied this intensively and identified four key questions that a customer should ask, when reviewing their businesses.

Do you want to enable your business by, saving money, adding new services, being more productive or increasing profit?

Do you want to enable your business by, saving money, adding new services, being more productive or increasing profit?

In most instances it is probably all four, or a mixture depending on the type of printer you are. By keeping to a small number of focused questions, this will ensure you’re not distracted and be clear on what can really make a difference to your business. 

Our business development program enables the customer to do just that. We consulted heavily with trade and industry experts prior to launching the program at Drupa 2012, and our customers are seeing the real differences this approach can make. 

In most cases they focus on workflow to drive efficiency, online solutions that can add new services and digital press technology that is more productive.

To help the our customers we created a free to view website where we have published our findings and guides to help guide you with the simple plans and questions needed to help you enable your business to be more successful. www.digital1234.biz will help printers identify their priorities and review where they concentrate their efforts; Konica Minolta encourages all printers to contact us for more information on our digital 1234 business development programme.

Protecting profitability 

Dirk Deceuninck, managing director, Müller Martini Northern Europe

The demands customers make of their production systems, and therefore also of the manufacturers of these systems, grow in tandem with changes to market demands. Individual solutions are more in demand today than ever before. Every business is facing very specific challenges from the market which must be overcome.

To survive in this environment print-service-providers need to protect their investment. Operating and investment costs have to be optimized whilst productivity, quality and added value has to be secured. What our customers finally want is to maintain and increase the profitability of their equipment. 
Speaking from my own experience at Muller Martini, we offer under the label MMServices a wide range of service options. I think our most successful customers mirror this type of approach. Our experienced specialists plan and direct new investments, such as the restructuring or expansion of a plant. And our service professionals ensure that commissioning is executed rapidly and that the equipment has a high level of processing reliability. 

What our customers finally want is to maintain and increase the profitability of their equipment

Since even the best equipment can fail occasionally, highly qualified service engineers are also on hand quickly to provide expert assistance. Original spare parts ensure uninterrupted, high-quality production.  Regular upgrades and updates also prolong the life span of the machines and ensure that they maintain their high performance for many years. 

Our experienced Muller Martini experts furthermore provide operating personnel with a host of tips and tricks as well as in-depth know-how.  This is then complimented with a service contract so customers benefit from a comprehensive and expert Muller Martini service programme. This all means our customers stand to profit from Muller Martini’s core competence as a total supplier in print finishing and narrow web offset printing equipment. If a printer can look at their core strengths and communicate them to their customers in this way, they will also be able to prosper and grow. 

Ahead of the pack 

Luke Martyn, marketing manager, Perspex Distribution

Most businesses spend years finding, building and cultivating their customer base but to prosper in today’s competitive market there is a need to exceed the customers’ service expectations to make you the supplier of choice.

We find that each customer we have places greater emphasis on different service attributes—this may be our product range, stock levels, price, relationships, delivery speed—we therefore strive to maintain a service expectation across the board that means they don’t even consider anyone else for their requirements. This is the same strategy that the most successful print-service-providers (PSPs) adopt with their customers and is certainly a tick in the check box. 

For instance, we specialise in semi-finished sheet material for the print market including aluminium composite, PVC Foam, fluted polypropylene, polyester, and of course Perspex cast acrylic sheet.

We also recognise the most successful PSPs are those making significant investments in the latest print machinery, it is therefore paramount to provide them with the latest materials on the market

By stocking a specialist range of materials rather than trying to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all print consumables, we can concentrate on our key service attributes—the best products, the best delivery, and the best staff. We are also fortunate to have recently expanded our network with a new sales and distribution centre in Surrey—largely to further improve the service experience for our customers as well as supporting our continued growth. 

If PSPs replicate this strategy with their own products and services, they should find that their customer retention levels rise and they will be able to then expand. 

The focus on continuous training for our staff is also a key factor and ensures they are true experts in the materials we supply, thereby adding a technical support service to our customers which has proved invaluable. Again, this is something our most successful customers do really well. 

We also recognise the most successful PSPs are those making significant investments in the latest print machinery, it is therefore paramount to provide them with the latest materials on the market. We strive to keep ahead of the market with our offering, for example our entire white Alupanel aluminium composite now comes in an ultrawhite finish as standard for brighter digital print.

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