Epsonby Larry Trevarthen, Epson America

The average SMB faces a number of challenges when it comes to marketing their business, including the requirement to develop a strong brand presence to attract customers, and be mindful of how they’re presenting themselves to and interacting with existing customers. While marketers today are focusing a lot of attention on online marketing, clearly printed marketing materials play a significant role in helping a business stand out from the competition. 

Especially when they’re in color. 

According to Admap Magazine’s 2017 article, “How colour impacts subconscious decision making,” the average consumer “make[s] a subconscious judgment about an environment, product or person within ninety seconds of their initial interaction, and 62-90 percent of that assessment is based on color alone.” What’s more, the same report claims that color can account for up to 85 percent of the reason why anyone would buy one product instead of another, and increase brand recognition by 80 percent. 

And according to the LA Times, 60 percent of their readers recalled color advertisements compared to 29 percent who recalled black-and-white advertisements. The paper also said that color ads “increased purchase intent” for 85 percent of readers, compared to just 52 percent who viewed black-and-white copy. But even more impressive was how color could inspire action. “Color ads generate more actionable responses, such as gathering information, visiting a store or visiting the company website,” and “score 20 percent higher than industry norms for ad recall and reader action.”

Ultimately, color is like an aphrodisiac for consumers that can help businesses captivate and compel buyers to connect with their brand and buy their products. 

Historically, SMBs would outsource their marketing projects — namely color brochures, direct mailers, flyers, and so on — because it was too expensive to be done in-house, especially for the quality that they demand. But in doing that, they were relinquishing some control over the message they were putting out there. In a world where personalized marketing is critical, the need to make last-minute changes or personalize a printed piece is very important. These and many other scenarios create increased benefits to printing materials in-house, on-demand, rather than relying on someone else to bring your marketing materials to life.   

Improvements and changes in printing technology have eliminated the financial hurdles that once prevented SMBs from adopting their own affordable color solutions. Now, they can take complete control over their marketing, from the drawing board to the printing press, and print their own professional-quality marketing materials in-house, on demand. 

And it couldn’t come at a better time. According to an IDC market overview, “customers understand the value of color, and they want to bring more of it in-house.” With today’s inkjet technology, the dealer channel has a tremendous opportunity to provide SMBs with fast access to affordable, professional-quality color printing that can be used more freely, so they can bring their marketing in-house and grow their business. 

Use Business Inkjet Technology For In-House Marketing

When businesses outsource their printing, they are sacrificing time that can be spent polishing their vision before they send it out. By doing their printing in-house, they can squeeze out every last bit of genius before they have to start printing. High-speed business-class inkjet devices can bring their vision to life in no time with minimal interruption. 

But speed and reliability are only part of the equation. Marketers also need a dynamic machine that can print on a wide range of media types and creates output that will stand out and hold their audience’s eyeballs hostage. And today’s inkjet devices and ink formulations are up to the challenge, maintaining consistency throughout the entire run and offering enough finishing options to create any number of materials. Quick-drying ink formulations mean prints are ready for shipment as soon as they’re done printing. 

The Best Combination of Affordability and Print Quality

Today’s business inkjets are even more accessible to the SMB because they can integrate into print management agreements that offer predictable monthly payments. Such an agreement is particularly beneficial to SMBs because they won’t have to burden their IT departments (if they even have one) with managing devices or stocking and ordering supplies. And with a healthy choice of SMB-centric print management solutions on the market, it’s easy for SMBs to control their color costs so they don’t run out of control. Such a solution can be used to manage which users can and cannot print in color. For instance, administrators can disable color printing for users in the accounting group, but give full color access to those in the marketing group. Other features, like pull-printing, reduce waste and increase security by ensuring that the owner of the job is there to release and print it. And with the ability to track who is printing what and easy integration with cost accounting and billing systems, businesses can recover print costs easily to maintain their bottom line. 

But even outside of an agreement or print management solution, inkjet technology has a few inherent traits that make it affordable. Inkjet devices aren’t as complicated as other technologies and are not as expensive to manufacture. Plus, inkjet technology uses a simple writing system with few moving parts, doesn’t have many breakpoints and doesn’t require as many serviceable items. And it’s not just the machines themselves that make inkjet technology so cost effective. Today’s ink is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and is formulated with high-volume printing in mind. All together, this contributes to reduced costs upfront as well as across the lifetime of the device. 

Color Growth in the SMB

According to IDC, print volumes have held fairly steady since 2014 with total pages hovering around 1.2 trillion pages, with a very slow and steady decline. But while total monochrome and laser pages have fallen, color inkjet is on the rise — especially in the business inkjet space. IDC predicts a 19.4 CAGR from color inkjet machines through 2020 in business class printers over $400. 

Given the projected growth numbers, dealers can find new revenue streams by incorporating a color inkjet strategy into a current business plan, especially into a laser-centric portfolio. According to IDC, the share of office inkjet units shipped will rise from 48 percent in 2015, to 60 percent by 2020, with most of that growth coming from workgroup color printers and MFPs. And compared to 45+ ppm color MFP pages — which IDC expects to rise from just shy of 16 billion to 18.22 billion by 2020 — the growth in $400+ inkjet MFPs is going to skyrocket from just shy of 16 billion to over 30 billion by 2020. Right now, the SMB continues to represent the strongest growth opportunity for color. 

To take advantage of the transitioning market and growth potential, dealers have to approach the SMB with a good blend of A3 and A4 devices to meet their varying needs. And if you want to take the MPS approach, the SMB is its own cup of tea. Unlike enterprise-centric plans that try to consolidate devices, controlling color and paper usage, transitioning from paper to digital, and improving business processes, the SMB requires a different approach. First and foremost, dealers need to focus on providing affordable color when working out their SMB MPS strategy. From there, it’s about managing devices and simplifying device management, automating processes and improving workflows to make them more efficient, and keeping their device and business information secure.

A Mutual Relationship Built on Color Inkjet

Both dealers and SMB customers stand to win from the disruption caused by affordable, high-quality color with business inkjet technology. SMBs can save money by bringing their marketing in-house, while gaining more time to perfect their message and taking over complete control when bringing their vision to life. For dealers, inkjet can drive new net business, increase their revenues with more color pages, while lowering their labor costs and widening service margins. 

In a world dominated by online marketing, SMBs can compete against their larger enterprise competitors with a strong online presence. Not only that, SMBs have the additional capability, with the intelligent use of printed collateral, to compete very well in a local market. Business inkjet printers have matured in many ways over the years, and are now a powerful tool for SMBs for internal and customer-facing materials. 

Larry Trevarthen
Epson America

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of The Imaging Channel.