The future of printing

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Susan, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? What do you do and what areas you are working in?

I’ve worked at Xerox in Rochester, New York since 1981, and I’ve held a variety of marketing and strategy roles. I’ve been in my current position since 2006, and it’s been my favorite — manager of Worldwide Customer Business Development. In this role I’m responsible for creating and deploying our customer business development programs worldwide, including our ProfitAccelerator® Digital Business Resources, a collection of marketing programs and tools designed to assist Xerox customers in growing their digital printing businesses. I have the privilege of working extensively with customers and their Xerox sales representatives to take advantage of these revenue-building resources. In addition, I manage the Business Development Services program and implement our BusDev Webinar Series, case studies and publication program, which showcase our successful customers from around the world.

Looking at e-books, Apple’s iPad, iPhone and other digital devices that allow people to be online wherever they are, do you think printing will ever be unnecessary?

I think we will always have print, but the way we use print has changed and will continue to change. While we see traditional, offset print volumes decrease, we see an increase in digital printing, and the applications it enables—especially the use of variable data and the integration of print and mobile technology.

We had an interesting Business Development Webinar on this topic in October 2012 called Mobile Marketing: Exploring the Opportunity and Technologies. In that session Barb Pellow from InfoTrends said that the use of mobile codes, augmented reality and mobile messaging are making print interactive. Print has become the bridge to the mobile world. This is critical for marketers and brand owners who are communicating about their products and services—they need to reach their customers through whichever channel the customer prefers. The message also has to cut through the clutter of the thousands of messages we are all exposed to each day. Integrating print and mobile is an increasingly popular and effective way to do this.

Personalized print products were predicted to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the digital printing market. Do you think this has realized or is going to realize in a near future?

Offering high-quality, short run static documents can no longer be counted upon as a differentiator. The wide availability of these solutions has led to pricing pressures that are turning it into more of a commodity. Digital businesses that are growing often are the ones using variable data to create personalized, relevant products for their customers. The importance of variable data and personalization as a growth engine was reinforced in a recent Quick and Small Commercial Printers Trends Report from NAPL” that asked printers: Whether you offer the service or not, which of the following services do you expect to grow fastest over the next 2-3 years? The top five responses were:

  • Digital Color (70%)
  • Digital Color: Variable (50%)
  • Wide Format: Color (48.8%)
  • Web-To-Print (31.3%)
  • Signage (28.8%)

At Xerox we’ve been advocating for personalization and 1:1 marketing for over a decade, and some of our customers are doing amazing things with them. Of course, not all digital technology owners are taking advantage of these opportunities, but we can help them get started either by using our ProfitAccelerator® Resources for a “do-it-yourself” approach, or for customers who would prefer more interaction, through our Business Development Consulting Services. For example, Hdemo Network worked with our customer, Copygraph, from Verona, Italy a few years ago and helped them leverage the variable data opportunity to experience 40% growth in color page volume. You can read about it here.

US market has been often anticipating changes and trends in business and I suppose printing can be seen in general as a media in the mature stage of the life-cycle both in Europe and in US. Are there any strategies pursued by American printers you would recommend their European counterparts to get out of this “price and turn” perception in the marketplace?

The successful printers we see are growing their digital printing businesses. Most use variable data to produce relevant communications that are targeted to each recipient. They are working with brand owners and business managers who have business issues to solve, and they create and manage campaigns—often in electronic as well as print media—that measure the ROI (return on investment). These printers are making the transition from traditional print service providers to marketing services providers.

We also see many of our customers focusing on specific vertical industry segments, such as healthcare, real estate, retail, associations and many more. By targeting your efforts at a customer segment you already know, or one you can become an expert in, you are able to develop a much more strategic relationship with your clients and focus your resources around specific offerings. Among our many customers who are succeeding with this approach is Calagaz Printing in Mobile, Alabama. You can read a case study about how they grew their business by focusing on the restaurant segment, here.

Nowadays communication is a multi-channel world, no question about that, but digital and online media seem more and more trendy: web, social media, videos, ebooks. Do you think printers can be still effective and play a role in the media business?

Yes, and we see it every day! The integration of print and mobile I mentioned earlier is a great example of how customers are leveraging many communication channels to bring value to their customers. An InfoTrends research study found that firms offering cross-media marketing services reported that their digital printing volumes increased by 14% on average. Many of our customers use multiple media to create their own self-promotion campaigns that let their customers experience a cross-media approach. For example, Alphagraphics, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina implemented a cross-media campaign using print, e-mail, QR Codes, pURLs and more to create a successful open house event. As a result, they received more than eight new orders from current customers for new projects. “Our customers suddenly wanted to do things that they hadn’t done with us in the past, simply because they never knew that we had the capabilities”, the owner said.

My opinion is that printing business people, beyond this “digital evolution” they have to struggle with, are nonetheless paying off a traditional production-oriented management style, with poor attention to marketing and customer relationship: what do you think?

We have seen that printers who take the time to create a marketing plan for their business, properly train their sales reps to sell digital applications, and also use their ability to create personalized campaigns for their own customers are very successful. Having the technology capability is great, but to be successful today you also need to focus on the requirements of your business that go beyond print technology. These include marketing, developing sales skills, understanding and becoming indispensible to your customers’ businesses, and building an efficient workflow.

Creative Graphics in Jacksonville, Texas worked with our remote business development consultant specifically on conducting an assessment of his business and creating a 90-day tactical marketing plan. The owner saw the value and said, “Having this plan in front of me is like a springboard to new growth and my renewed printing business!”

A few years ago we studied our iGen press customers who took advantage of our sales and marketing resources and business development consulting services and found that they grew their digital press volume over 30% more than those who did not use the support. The importance of planning for success can’t be minimized.

Printers have been generally suffering a decline in volumes, orders and profits: what would you suggest and which market segments you foresee to grow?

The easiest way to grow your business is to take a close look at your existing customers and determine what additional services you could provide to them. Consider their industry segment. Analyze the kinds of jobs they do with your company, investigate what other work is needed by that industry segment, and pinpoint where there may be gaps. Create a plan to get all the available business you can from your existing customers and to ensure you make the appropriate investments in your business to provide new and profitable solutions to them in the future. You want to be seen by your customers as a strategic partner, bringing solutions to their business problems. Having that business connection will become a strong differentiator for your company.

Our 2013 Webinar Series is focusing three out of six sessions on the idea of targeting your efforts, because it is an approach we are confident can help our customers succeed. To register for the webinars or watch a replays you can visit

In closing Susan, are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

I am incredibly positive about our industry and the opportunities for our customers to be successful. When we see our customers understanding their customers’ business challenges, and offering innovative solutions utilizing digital technologies, the possibilities are endless. There are some amazing and highly profitable applications being produced by Xerox customers around the world using digital technologies — and they are re-defining what we think of as the “printing business”. I encourage you to visit Xerox Premier Partners Best-of-the-Best Award Winners to check out some of these incredible applications. In looking at this innovative work, I can’t help but get excited for the future!

Xerox Corporation

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