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Top tips to triumph in 2010 – Andy McCourt

Friday, 11 December 2009
By Print 21 Online Article

There is no use for reflecting on the year that was, it’s time to focus on what lies ahead. Industry commentator, Andy McCourt, has some thoughts on where businesses should be headed.

It’s customary to look back at the year in flight for the final 2009 issue of Print21, but being the ardent rule-breaker that I am, I’d like to offer readers my ideas for ten pointers to success in 2010.

After all, why write about a truly rotten year when we can all look forward to a much livelier New Year? We can’t undo what has happened but we can learn from it and, to all those printing businesses that have survived and even prospered during the financial meltdown, a big pat on the back!

1) Attack yourself. Sounds crazy but many large corporations use this tactic. Attacking your own weak spots is actually the best defensive strategy there is. It’s not a form of masochism – properly executed it is an organisational improver. Example: you are a mid-sized printer and those pesky print management companies keep sniping accounts away. Tactic: set up a print management company and use your own print operation as just one of many possible suppliers, having to compete along with the rest, no favours. Another example, if you are a high-quality printer fed up with delivering premium product at a knock-down price, set up in opposition to yourself with an ‘El Cheapo Print’ type of concern. It will be profitable, and will improve margins on your premium offering.

2) Get a business coach. No man is an island, we all need to rub shoulders with peers and exchange ideas. But business coaching and/or mentoring goes several steps further. It’s not just for struggling businesses, far from it, fast growing highly successful businesses use professional business coaches to mange the growth and deliver on KPIs. A business coach is your ‘Jimminy Cricket’ or that inner voice that says “don’t do it this way, consider another plan.” Objectivity is paramount and so many printers are nose-to-the-grindstone types who can only see subjective issues. Hire a competent business coach. Google it; I’m not going to do all the work for you!

3) Zig when others are zagging. Bandwagons can be profitable for short spells but you soon fall off. If everyone else is in on ‘the next big thing’ – find something different. Classic Greek sage Ovid wrote: “In the pool where you least expect it, there you will find a fish.” What else can you produce on your existing equipment? Niche markets can be beautiful places until the ravaging hoards de-niche them. Create new niches constantly. And make hay while the Sun shines on them, which it will.

4) Down-sell. “Now he has gone bonkers,” I hear you say. All the sales logic in the world points to up-selling where possible. I’d like to say that in 2010, this should not apply to the printing industry. Get out of the habit of offering longer print runs for diminishing margin return. It just makes you work longer for less. If Mr/s Customer says “okay I need 5,000”, why not say “why don’t we print 1,000 and you can asses the response, we can make any changes, and then print another 1,000 next week.” Naturally, for very short runs that means digital. The customer sees you are saving him money and you are also avoiding redundancy, so saving waste into the bargain. It also puts you in contact with the customer more regularly, which is a good thing and keeps the oppo at bay.

5) Tell fibs about digital. Like it or not, hardly anyone gives a toss about “offset quality” anymore. The ‘in’ word is digital; it is in synch with the zeitgeist of the second decade of the 21st century. So promote your business as ‘Digital, Green and Proud of it.’ You’ll need a digital machine of course but when jobs come in that are screamingly, obviously, common-sensically better placed on an offset press – just do it. And don’t volunteer the fact to the customer. Let them complement the high quality of your digital print. Offset with CTP is really a digital process anyway and if you have a Presstek or other DI press even more so. It’s not really a big fib; just using the secrets of the back-room to provide better customer service and maybe make a bit more margin. If it really bothers you, just say three ‘Hail Caxtons’ and consider yourself absolved of all sin.

6) Advertise more. I don’t mean Yellow Pages. Use your own processes to create dynamic DM to your local business market. Try not to mention “printing.” How about: “We can show you how to attract 50 per cent more customers than you are currently doing.” Something like that. Fish where the fish are.

7) Wrap your truck/s.
Your delivery van or truck is a mobile billboard. If you haven’t already vehicle-wrapped it with snappy graphics, get cracking and experience the cheapest advertising you’ll ever find! Leave the grubby white Toyota Hiaces for the contract courier drivers.

8) Adopt a charity. Charity support is not only good corporate citizenship, but also a great networking method. It puts you in contact with other businesses and individuals and makes you look positively engaged with society.

9) Go to Ipex. Ipex 2010 is on at the National Exhibition Center, Birmingham, UK in May. There will not be a better opportunity to stimulate your brain and see the full glory of print communications until drupa 2012. And they speak English. Well, of sorts.

10) Be a print champion. We’ve all had enough of the “print kills trees” bollocks. As the APIA   urges, tell your friends at the BBQ, we are one of the most sustainable industries around and those that criticise us most are the biggest polluters – there are plenty of facts to back this up. Be a printer and be proud of it, proudly read newspapers and magazines and if someone persists with the ‘print bad’ fallacy, take them off your Christmas card list and send them a text message or tweet instead.

Wishing you and yours a very safe and happy Christmas and prosperous New Year!

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