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The Soap Box

Key industry challenges

Brendan Perring listens to print’s most influential trade associations as they consider key industry challenges and the steps print companies can take to secure a successful future

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Sidney Bobb: declining sales, fewer customers, cashflow difficulties, slow payers, rising costs, resulting in problems with suppliers are all part of the story

Keep the faith: talk up print

We are happy to help
Sidney Bobb,
chairman,
BAPC

Although every business is different, there are some common reasons for downturns. Obviously, the general economic climate has an impact, but that affects everybody in recessionary times.

Declining sales, fewer customers, cashflow difficulties, slow payers, rising costs, resulting in problems with suppliers are all part of the story. Frequently, the BAPC is approached by members facing such situations. Being an organisation run by printers for printers the association can call on businesses who have real frontline experience in dealing with such matters and are happy to pass on knowledge, help, and advice in order to resolve the situation.



If a company believes that marketing is too hard and are reluctant to do anything about it they are essentially shutting down the possibility of finding new customers

The first hurdle in providing a solution is convincing a business owner that all the difficulties being faced are not necessarily brought about by outside factors. Responsibility for some of the situation has to be accepted by the business in question. Once identified there must be a serious commitment to take action.

Common factors contributing to the downturn generally include an inability to market the business. If a company believes that marketing is too hard and are reluctant to do anything about it they are essentially shutting down the possibility of finding new customers that are sorely needed in difficult times. In addition, sales effort must be analysed and a plan to implement action created and fulfilled.

Pricing is another major issue. All too often businesses do not know their actual costs. It is relatively simple to price products–buy at x and sell at y with the difference being profit. Pricing services is more complex as there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Every business wants to be competitive, but there is no point in selling at a loss. Understandably there may be a reticence about increasing prices as there is a fear that customers will be lost. One solution may be to increase prices to new customers and see what the market will bear.

Frequently the business does not really know its customers. In order to survive and succeed it is vital that the business knows what makes its customers tick, what problems and issues they face. This situation can be resolved by speaking to customers, perhaps initiate surveys. Treat them like people, not just numbers.

Ignore the importance of social media at your peril. No matter what size a business is they need more customers and should therefore seriously consider a SEO campaign. An attractive website, which includes the right keywords on the pages helps people find your business.

It is rare for a company not to face tense times and one of the advantages of the BAPC community is that there are experienced and knowledgeable people who are happy to listen to any issue and provide help.



It’s all about self help
Marian Stefani,
chief executive officer,
IPIA

I think this industry could do a lot more to help itself.

We are brilliantly technical and very, very, good at delivering print. We are also very good at talking to ourselves and delivering solutions for clever production. But we are not much good at talking to our customers and delivering solutions for clever ROI.

We are also not good at selling ourselves to the outside world–I have talked to lots of marketeers recently, in senior positions, who are digital by default and who know nothing about print. They do not know the clever ways we can help them promote their brand and get a better outcome within their budget.

And our industry’s answer to this should be to educate, inspire, and prove the value of what we do, however, with a few notable exceptions that is not what happens.

There would be a cost and a change of focus and some would need to partner with creative or marketing agencies to arrive at the right content

Most printers are not equipped to add value to the page, not physically as we all know how to make clever stuff happen, but in getting inside the mind of the marketeer and understanding what the outcome of a job should be to make it more valuable to them.

Most standard jobs are won on price, but what if every print company took the initiative to challenge the customer and offer to do something much more creative. It could be personalisation, texture with clever laminates, foiling or any number of techniques that will deliver a better outcome.  What if the printer paid for the additional costs, or at least subsidised them, and chose one project a year or every six months in order to inspire their customers?

There would be a cost and a change of focus and some would need to partner with creative or marketing agencies to arrive at the right content. But I think it would change how customers viewed us if we became proactive in helping ourselves.

We thought about all this and the IPIA Council have debated the issues around promoting print.  We held several roundtables so that members could tell us what they thought and how they viewed market conditions and opportunities. 

Our answer has been to create an initiative to connect the brands and agencies and marketeers who are our customers and to educate them to reconnect and use more print.

We have called this Everything’s Possible in Print (EPIP) and I am delighted with the sponsorship and involvement we have had from a number of organisations.

However all too often I still get feedback that what we are doing “is not relevant for our customers/members/associates”. I know we will not get everyone behind us for a myriad of reasons. But I find it hard to believe that there are still those old school industry dinosaurs who do not get the fact that we need to help ourselves and do something different in order to grow our industry and support printers with new revenue streams.

Interest from local MP
Charles Jarrold,
chief executive officer,
BPIF

On a recent Friday I found myself, not unusually, on the production floor of one of our member companies down on the south coast. This time I was accompanied by Sir Robert Syms, our member’s MP for Poole, who had responded to our joint invitation to come and get the lowdown on all things print.

While I often have good conver -sations with MPs while in Westminster, notably those in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Print (APPG), this was something quite different. I had not met Sir Robert before, and I was hugely encouraged by the time he gave us and the interest he showed. Bringing him into the premises, meeting the managerial team, staff, and apprentices, gave him a unique perspective into the day-to-day running of a small business.

Charles Jarrold of the BPIF says discussions in the APPG meetings, in the Chamber of the House of Commons, in Select Committees and roundtables, and informal debates, are hugely useful

Discussions in the APPG meetings, in the Chamber of the House of Commons, in Select Committees and roundtables, reception events and informal debates, are hugely useful. They allow high level policy ideas to be chewed over, debated, and taken forward (or rejected). But there is no substitute for bringing policy-makers face to face with the people who live the print business every day, who face the big and small challenges and often have creative, sensible, and practical ideas for how to fix them. Investment, skills, the Apprenticeship Levy, Brexit and capital allowances were all discussed on that sunny spring Friday. I have no doubt that Sir Robert went away with plenty to think about and work on, having had an insight into the realities of running a business that I know he appreciated.

I have no doubt that Sir Robert went away with plenty to think about and work on, having had an insight into the realities of running a business

At the BPIF we have really focused on bringing MPs closer in recent times. The APPG Print annual reception in Parliament does that too, with a focus on ensuring that those of our members who attend have the opportunity to talk to their local MP. We are now finding, as a result of the local visits, strong relationships being formed between MPs and their printing constituents, with the reception a great opportunity to catch up over a drink and–of course–to promote our key messages about the future of print and how Government and Parliament can support it.

The All Party Parliamentary Print Group Reception takes place on July 4th in the House of Lords, as part of the BPIF’s Members’ Day.



Public Notice:

  • Ignore the importance of social media at your peril
  • Most standard jobs are won on price
  • The Parliamentary Print Group Reception is on July 4th



To find out more about the issues discussed in this article please contact the relevant organisation via their website: www.bapc.co.uk, www.britishprint.com, www.ipia.org.uk

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