Production Print Offers Diversification and Future Success to Savvy Dealers

As a dealer of printing devices and other office equipment, it’s quite possible you’re wondering about the future of print. Maybe you’re figuring that digital marketing and social advertising have taken the place of print in customers’ minds – along with their spend – reducing the need for output on paper and other substrates. But in reality, that is not the case at all.

Digital print production is not only here to stay, it’s also providing a path to diversify your business, expand its utility for your customers and offer new profitability to you, your customers and their customers, all thanks to – yet again – the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic woke a lot of people up in our industry, because over these last few years, innovative trends emerged that have served to fast-forward print in ways that are providing exciting new uses for brands around the world.

OEMs are on to this new wave in production print. Laura Blackmer, President of Dealer Sales at Konica Minolta, admitted during April’s Channel Chat that while the traditional office copier continues to be on a decline, “printed material is being used for marketing, both internal and external, and is really on the rise. Label and packaging continue to grow, particularly small runs with variable data.”

Even better, the products used to create these types of output have become more available to commercial and in-plant providers through dealers. It’s time to take a closer look – and plan for future growth.

Three areas in major growth (and profit potential) mode

These include wide-format printing (think of all the floor signs and banners you saw during the pandemic); labels (in fact, a major food manufacturer bought all the capability from label converters early into the pandemic); and packaging (because brands need to stand out to consumers and grab their attention on store shelves).

Cross-channel opportunities in packaging have multiplied over the last few years. You may have seen some packaging boxes that enable mobile phone users and online users to connect to brands quickly and easily. Packaging and labels now function as springboards to let customers connect to microsites and promotional offers, making these enhanced materials especially attractive to marketers, in addition to bringing unique customer information to the forefront.

While the digital label and packaging business today is about 40% digital, Smithers Future of Packaging Long-Term Strategic Forecasts to 2030 states that this will jump to 60% in the next ten years. That’s largely because of these cross-channel opportunities featuring tech-enabled interactive packaging and print marketing that include links to social media, QR codes and interactive games.

Completed packaging and embellished labels through inline finishing

New finishing options and software are now available at scale – and for short runs – allowing the digital production print industry to offer customers finished output from a manufacturing perspective – meaning that all the finishing is automated in-line with the printed product. This has been, and will continue to be, critically important from a labor perspective and will save your customers a lot of time and money.

A few of the embellishments that are growing in popularity include laser die-cutting, foil stamping and digital varnishing techniques. Studies show that packaging with specialty printing and enhancement delivers a 46% increase in quality perception. High-end packaging is moving from one-size-fits-all to customization and personalization, thanks to new digital technologies, and their use is growing at over 10 percent per year. The increased demand for aesthetic printing and packaging solutions is growing especially fast in end-use industries, such as food and beverage categories, and in pharmaceutical packaging. But a wide range of creative brands are putting new packaging technologies to use. According to a 2021 Markets and Markets report, the global packaging printing market is expected to grow from USD $352.1B in 2020 to USD $433.4B by 2025. That’s a CAGR of 4.2 percent in a five-year span.

Embellishment is a viable and valuable marketing tool

Digital print embellishment allows for real-time variability in data, precise registration and substantial cost savings for short-run, customized and personalized product, label and packaging applications.

Embellishment has become a valuable tool for brand marketers because it elevates print to heighten first-impression emotional connections and brand affinity. In fact, an InfoTrends industry analyst reported in Printing Impressions that print buyers are willing to pay premiums of 24% to 89% over CMYK-only printing if the piece includes embellishments. These buyers also indicated that print embellishment could be applied to enhance a significant amount of their work. Consider these additional statistics – which you’ll want to share with your prospective label and packaging customers:

  • Embellished printed items are 2.5 times more attractive to consumers (FSEA).
  • Packages with print enhancement are viewed as 46% higher in quality (FSEA).
  • 69% of PSPs offer or plan to offer print embellishment to their customers (NAPCO Media). 

How to get into selling these new technologies as quickly as possible

While everyone is short on time, and it does take some time to get into a new line of business, leveraging the opportunities that these industry trends offer is likely to put your dealership at a competitive advantage and protect your future. 

But time is money, too, so of course you want to get going as fast as you can. The best way to do that is to ask your device manufacturer to review their digital products that offer these new technologies, see the devices operate in person, and learn just how easily they can turn creative concepts into brilliant solutions for the brands your customers work with. In other words, take some time to educate yourself and your sales reps, and find out if the OEM has sales materials to help you get up to speed quickly and use with your customers.

Your team’s education should also include learning about similar products from competing manufacturers to understand how best to present specific products to customers. Many of the newest devices offer complete, inline, ready-to-box output, which can present a very attractive sales proposition to those customers you want to target, many of whom have lost employees during the pandemic.

Also make sure to cross-train some of your service reps, since serviceability will provide you with revenue down the line, helping you make up the lower margins on devices you sell through the volume created via finished output.

Another tip: Ask your equipment manufacturer for a demo device you can keep on the sales floor for six months, so that you can wow customers with sample output and the device’s capabilities, many of which are automated to save time, prevent errors, and avoid wasting materials.

Also valuable: hiring an analyst – if it’s the right person

Once you’ve decided to sell this new production printing equipment, you’ll naturally want to initially reach for the low-hanging fruit – your current customers in government, education and healthcare. Let them know about the new devices. Invite them to see a demo. Find out what they’re printing now and show them how the new devices can amplify and extend their marketing and communication efforts, internally and externally, with new capabilities that also save time, labor and outside costs.

Then, after you’ve sold a few units, consider investing in an analyst dedicated to your new production printing devices to help you spread the word in the key verticals you target and deliver a new pipeline of qualified leads. You’ll want to make sure your new hire is a go-getter with:

  • Initiative and a high energy level.
  • Good technical skills, including using CRM platforms to stay on top of leads.
  • A full understanding of the printing process and the applications that can be produced by your devices.
  • A professional appearance and personable manner to make the best impression on customers and prospects.
  • Excellent presentation skills and a demonstrated ability to simplify complex information in ways that prospects can understand.

Finding the right person isn’t easy but is definitely worth the salary when they can help you take your business in new directions and diversify your business for the future. 

Dino Pagliarello is Senior Vice President, Product Management and Planning, for Konica Minolta. He is responsible for Konica Minolta’s portfolio of industry award-winning office and graphic communications technology within the U.S. He leads a team of product planning and marketing experts that bring new products to market, from multi-functional printers for the office to high-end industrial printing equipment, overseeing the complete life-cycle of these devices.