Why Promo Distributors Should Consider Selling Print (If They Aren't Already)
You’ve probably heard someone spout on about how print is dying, right? That selling print is impossible? That news might have come from some nay-saying colleague, a morbid news article, or maybe even your academic advisers when you told them you were going to major in journalism. (That last one might have just been us.)
No matter who you heard it from, all of it has one thing in common: It’s wrong.
Print isn’t dying—it’s changing, just like everything else. And Bob Kenehan, owner of DBP Chicago, has a pretty good idea of what distributors can do to keep their print sales alive, or even to get started selling print.
“[Print’s] certainly not dead, but it requires the person who sells it to be a value-added partner in the supply chain,” Kenehan said. “So, for example, if you used to sell catalogs, I would say that, yes, catalog business has gone down and directory business has gone down. Those kinds of things are just not done as much anymore, whereas they used to be the mainstay of a lot of printing companies. And, printing companies are going out of business. That’s true. But, as a print distributor, we have an opportunity to be innovative with our customers on the things they do need to be printed. It just may need to be different.”
To be different, Kenehan said that distributors can look to applications like variable data and printing information relevant to the end-user. He added that promotional distributors who ignore print would be leaving money on the table.
“Our goal is to be a single-source supplier and expert on a wide variety of branded materials,” he said. “And if we don’t or cannot supply our clients with printing, there’s somebody who’s selling printing that probably is also selling promotional products, right? So, really, our industry is becoming print and promo—not just promo, not just print. And it’s extremely important to have some level of knowledge on being able to supply whatever your client is in need of.”
It can be daunting to start selling something new to you, especially when the print industry has been around for so long. Kenehan advised new print distributors, or promo distributors looking to expand their product offering, to rely on the wealth of knowledge from industry vets.
“There’s a tremendous amount of learning that needs to be done to sell print, because of the challenges with all of the different specifications of paper and all of the different printing methods there are,” he said. “So, I would say that the first thing that anyone should really do is reach out to a paper distributor and get a set of swatch books on all the different types of paper they have available. Or, go to a manufacturer […] where they might have a distributor kit.”
Since there are so many options for printing processes, materials and substrates, it’s absolutely vital to know the technical details when selling print. One small mistake could mean a very unhappy customer and affect your future sales.
“The other thing to keep in mind on printing is 99 percent correct is 100 percent wrong,” Kenehan said. “And that’s what I instill in our employees. You can have the perfect job, but if the ink color is off slightly or if it’s printed on the wrong paper, or any of a wide variety of variables is incorrect, it’s not useful to the client. So, we have to be very careful to understand what we’re ordering and speccing.”
Sure, that sounds intimidating for first-timers, but if you do your research and allow other print professionals who know it inside out to school you a little, there’s certainly an incentive to start selling print. Three incentives, actually, according to Kenehan. He calls them the “three P’s”—paper, printing process and pricing.
“The first place would be understanding paper,” he said. “And then, second would be understanding the printing process. So, the printing process would be all [of the] different ways of getting items printed, because in our industry, there are small printing presses and large printing presses, and that drastically affects pricing. It also affects how the overall job looks.”
So, if you’re not afraid to ask a few questions, think creatively with your product offering and applications, and take the time to really engross yourself in the detail-oriented world of print distribution, the opportunities are there. At some point, every client needs printed products. Why not be their solution?