HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT — FINDING AND WINNING BUSINESS FROM IN-HOUSE PRINTROOMS

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For resellers seeking new growth opportunities, in-house print offers enormous potential. All businesses need to sell things, all organisations need to communicate, and so all need some form of professionally printed collateral. Your initial point of entry to the business might be a conversation about a projector or a multi-functional office printer, but if you have access to the right production technology portfolio, the opportunities for up- and cross-selling could be very lucrative.

You’ll find, however, that printrooms don’t advertise their presence as obviously as commercial print service providers (PSPs). The days when heavy offset presses were confined to the basement are mostly gone. Print functions — and the associated output devices — are as likely to be found in the IT department or distributed throughout the office environment. In fact, it’s not uncommon for employees to be unaware that their organisation even has a ‘printroom’ as such, so if you call and ask to speak to “the printroom manager” such a person might not exist.

There are many flavours of ‘printroom’, but they have one thing in common: they’re fighting to survive. Either they have to justify their existence to a host organisation focused on cost savings, or they’re resisting the drift to digital communication at the expense of print. Which means they need the support of partners who can give them ideas and insights that help them create value for internal stakeholders and fight their corner.

Your first task, then, is to identify the ‘printroom’. Given what I’ve said about the variety of models, don’t get hung up on what you think a printroom looks like. You need to dig deep and not take things at face value. Take encouragement from the fact that there’s no limit to the industries and organisations you can target. Corporates, finance, legal, publishing, retail, travel and general leisure — the list goes on. Pharmaceuticals have huge print requirements, and budgets. Local and central government are big users of print, while in the education sector, universities have some of the most sophisticated in-house print facilities around, and a growing need for multi-channel marketing, including print.

Wherever people work, print is needed. For each prospect, your job is to define it, understanding the level, volume and quality of print, and then create the right solution for you and the customer.

To do this, you’ll need to talk to the right people who might be in the IT or facilities management department, or both. At some stage, you’ll be talking to the procurement and finance people. And two other departments that are especially important where print is concerned are sales and marketing because they’re potentially heavy users of any solution you’re putting together.

Each conversation will be subtly different, but in every case you need to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” For example, when you talk to sales and marketing, gauge how important colour accuracy is for brand security and consistency, and whether they need variable data for personalised direct marketing or transactional customer communication. If they handle design in-house, then aim to inspire the creative people with exciting print samples. And demonstrate that there are digital print solutions available for in-house environments that can offer the quality of print and finishing that they’d expect from a professional print service provider.

By asking a full range of questions you’ll gradually home in on the right solution. Find out as much as you can about the applications they need to print — and also the applications they don’t think they need to print any more. Drill down into the design function. How creative is the department? Do they design everything, or outsource some collateral? Are designers involved in print purchasing? How do they handle proofing? Would a large format printer in the department make life easier? How much print, or finishing, is outsourced, and why? Is it because of volume, size, colour accuracy?

Don’t shy away from questions about how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the organisation’s strategy. How and where do they see their people working in the future? Do they plan to bring everyone who’s been working at home back into the office,  or to adopt “hybrid” working? In which case, is there a requirement for mobile printing?

Looking ahead, you also need to discover as much as possible about the prospect’s digital communications policy, if they have one, and how it might impact on print volumes. It’s no good designing a solution that’s only right for today; you should aim to future-proof it for at least three years. This means having a frank discussion with them about how they see the business moving forward — how do they see volumes changing, or the sectors they serve evolving?

One important point to bear in mind is that in-house printrooms differ from commercial PSPs in that they don’t compete with each other, so feel free to help them network with similar operations. They will appreciate the chance to share ideas, and you’ll enhance your authority and credibility as an industry insider.

Fundamentally, most in-house printrooms are looking for suppliers that will help them create more value for their internal customers, prove their worth, and navigate a changing business environment. Anticipate the issues that this partnership will encounter and be prepared to provide support. For example, print volumes will fluctuate; they always have, and always will. Next, automation of more processes is inevitable, and you can help your customer use automation to free their people from the mundane, repetitive tasks as well as reduce production errors and make it easier for internal users to work with the printroom, with value-added services like online ordering, job tracking and file submission.

Printrooms may well be hidden in plain sight, but if you follow the steps described here, you’ll uncover plenty of new business opportunities. You may need to look and listen that bit harder, but the rewards are there for the taking.

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