An Application-Centric Sales Approach to Production Can Be Significant Differentiator for Dealers
Unlike the world of office and document printing, which focuses on “feeds and speeds” when selling new equipment, production printing tends to focus more on the applications—what new markets or jobs can a print service provider (PSP) create with this machine? And for dealers looking to start selling into this market, taking a more application-centric approach to the sale can really set them apart from the competition.
“Applications are key,” stressed Susan L. Weiss, manager, Global Premier Partners & Customer Business Development Programs, Xerox Corp. “There are differences in the various technologies of course, but from a business development perspective, it’s all about what those technologies can produce—and that’s the applications. It’s the apps that are going to make a difference for the end customer—the dealer’s customers’ customers.”
The PSPs that most dealers have been working with for years have the same kind of statistic mindset, but as the markets continue to converge and they find themselves needing more and more to target the same customers as more traditional commercial or wide-format shops, they are going to need the ability to make the application sale. They must speak the same language to effectively compete, and for dealers, this is an opportunity to offer new services and expertise that will cement the relationship as a partnership, rather than simply a vendor-transaction situation.
“[Dealers] should be helping [PSPs] get in the minds of their end customers,” said Weiss. “How can the technology they are looking to buy produce the applications that are going to generate results for their end-customer—in helping them launch a campaign, open a store, raise funds, etc.”
Thinking Outside the Box
For dealers, it might be tempting to dismiss this trend toward a wider range of equipment types and styles under the same roof as one that won’t impact their customer base, and so one that can be ignored. But the fact is, production print is expanding into every segment of the print industry. Quick printing, packaging, commercial printing, large-format—in short every conceivable type of print is slowly being condensed into a single shop as successful printers either acquire the competition, or buy new equipment to allow them to compete in more markets. The print buyers and end consumers are driving this trend.
Today’s print buyers want a single point of contact for all of their printed materials, no matter how large, how small, how long or how short the print runs are.
“Dealers should be [seriously] thinking about diversifying their offering [in today’s climate], said John Stevens, NA HP Latex Business & Channel Development, AMS Large Format Sign and Display, HP Inc. “They can do this by adding higher margin niche large format applications such as digitally printed wallcoverings, canvas, and soft signage/textiles [to their current offerings]”
Stevens went on to note that it’s about more than just demonstrating a faster machine with more clicks or slightly higher quality. But selling applications doesn’t have to be any more complex than that traditional sales approach.
“Dealers can be doing a better job of demonstrating the versatility of their equipment with large-size samples, sample books, success stories and real-world examples,” Stevens said. “These tangible examples help the end user visualize what is possible.”
“They should have examples in their shops—work with their vendors we’ve got LOTs of applications they could run or display to get the wheels turning for their customers,” Weiss added. “They could hold an event like an open house or educational event, discussing applications. If they can get their customers thinking about the possibilities of what they can produce for their end-customer, then I think it makes the selling conversation much richer. It goes from ‘speeds and feeds’ to much more.”
Targeting New Markets
So what types of applications are hot right now? One big trend at the moment is a push toward custom wallcoverings and wallpapers. Wallcoverings are projects that cover only just part of a wall, or one wall in a room, whereas wallpapers cover every wall in a given room. “Wallcoverings is a fast growing/high margin application with numerous media suppliers offering a large number of finishing options,” noted Stevens.
Textile printing is another significantly big trend, as designers are starting to realize the power of having custom printed furniture, window coverings, and more. Dealers can encourage those with end-user customers in the corporate world, for example, to print fabrics for their chairs and couches in the waiting areas that match the brand colors and logos. Or those who target restaurants could offer custom seating options for chairs or booths. And those are just two examples of many; smart dealers will take the time to get to know the markets their customers are now targeting, so they can offer strategic suggestions on applications and ideas that are specific and relevant to their business.
At the end of the day, printing businesses of all types are facing the daunting task of either diversifying their offerings or going out of business, and that is where a dealer can really step in and offer a valuable service.
“I think the opportunity for the dealer is how they position themselves and promote themselves to prospects and customers,” said Weiss. “If they can position themselves in the educational role, it will help them get business. A lot of people out there are struggling, and if the dealer can be the one to provide the info to help their customers, it’s going to help them along the way.”
It doesn’t just have to be offering in-person training, or just during the sales pitch either. Stevens noted that dealers have a wealth of options open to them for taking on this new role, but no matter which path they take, having samples is a key component. “Dealers can go to the usual channels such as web, social, local, WOM, and others, but end users don’t understand what large format graphics are or what a digital wallcovering is, so the message needs to convey to the end user what is possible with examples.”
“The dealer could partner more with their vendors—hardware, software, and media companies,” suggested Weiss. “They could position themselves to serve in a more consultative or educational role. If dealers could help their customers take advantage of more of their devices’ capabilities, it is better for everyone. This will require some good old marketing planning on their part. Assess their customers, look at trends/opportunities, and identify three to five specific tactics.”
Wrapping Up the Apps
Selling applications is a much different approach than selling “speeds and feeds.” There is certainly no denying or dancing around that. As the market continues to evolve, both the dealers and the printers will have to find a way to address the shifting approach to print buying that end-consumers are increasingly adopting. Changing to a more application-centric approach is one of the best ways to address that shift. Dealers who set themselves up as the source of educational content and training for their customers and printers facing this change will have a serious competitive advantage in the years to come.