2019 Roadmap: Planning for Change

  • Howie Fenton
  • |
  • January 18, 2019

As the new year begins, it is prudent to consider how the business may change and how to prepare for that change. One way to prepare is to stay up to date with market research from companies such as NAPCO, SGIA and Keypoint Intelligence|InfoTrends. Another way is to listen to the voice of your customers using focus groups or surveys.

Recent Research Findings

According to Andy Paparozzi, the Chief Economist at SGIA, 2019 will be a good year for companies in the printing and mailing industries. In the latest SGIA Critical Trends Reports: Commercial Printing, Winter 2019 report, Paparozzi predicts that sales in the commercial printing segment will grow between 1.5%-2.5% to $87 billion, which is an increase over the 1.7% growth in 2018. There is evidence that the applications that are growing the fastest are marketing pieces, direct mail or business cards, postcards and signage.

One of the main findings of the SGIA research is that companies are diversifying their products and services. Only 34% describe themselves as a strictly a print provider. Over 47% describe themselves as offering a diverse portfolio of services and also define themselves as offering mailing services (42.6%), fulfillment services (28.2%) and marketing services (20.1%).

Why and How to Diversify Your Portfolio of Products.

In the SGIA report, the 241 participants were asked to predict how volume will change between print related and non-print related work. As you can see in the chart below, the clear trend is less print and more non-print products and services.

Source: “SGIA Critical Trends Report: Commercial Printing Winter 2019”

In a 2018 NAPCO study about buying preferences (below), the fastest growing demand was for marketing collateral, direct mail, business cards, postcards, and signage.

Source: Printing Impressions: “How Smart Printers Are Responding to Evolving Print Buying Preferences. Are You Prepared?“

The alternative to market research is customer research or listening to the voice of your customers. In our consulting projects, in addition to benchmarking financial and operational performance, we also perform survey customers. 

Two Advantages of Customizing Surveys

Two of the benefits of doing your own research is that you can ask questions that are more in-depth, and you can demonstrate strategic alignment. For example, the graphic below does not ask University customers about specific print products (business cards) but instead tries to quantify to goals, such as marketing pieces to solicit donations, recruiting pieces to increase attendance, classroom materials to support learning, and information to share alumni to increase their customer experience.

Customizing surveys is also a great way to demonstrate how you are aligned with the mission of the organization.  If management or administration is looking for an excuse to outsource they often say, "The in-plant is not strategically aligned with our overall mission". However, if you know that the goals are to support education, recruit students, increase fundraising or support the brand, then you can measure this in your customized survey.

Source: Howie Fenton Consulting, University Audit

Advantages and a criticism of combining market and customer research

In planning for a new year, the first step is to conduct your due diligence, which is gathering as much information as you can. If possible, try to combine national studies with more specific information from your own customers. Combining both will result in better planning because national studies may help identify larger trends that are just starting, while surveys may identity the unique needs based on your market and customers. In part two of this series we will discuss a criticism of listening to the voice of your customers- that customers may not know what they want. How is this relevant to in-plants? Because too often the in-plant gets pigeonholed as only providing print or mail services, which is dangerous and unsustainable.

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About the Author

Howie Fenton

Howie Fenton is an independent consultant and trusted advisor to in-plant printers. He recommends equipment, best practices and workflow automation tools to streamline operations. To learn more about measuring performance, benchmarking to leaders, and improving your value e-mail Howie@howiefentonconsulting.com

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