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Helping Decide Which Frogs to Kiss

Understanding your business and providing value-add services is key.

If you're investing in a digital workflow, wouldn't it be nice to know where the work is going to come from? It's one thing to have all the latest technologies and variable print capability as well as PDF processing and Web ordering. But once you have all of that in place, how do you keep the machinery running and the dollars flowing?

That may be a question that's best asked before the initial capital outlay is made. Even if you find yourself in a position of having the workflow technology without the work to fill it up, however, a new program announced at this year's Print 05 show from the Digital Printing Council of PIA/GATF"?the "Marketing 4 Digital" series"?may be able to help.

Beginning in November, the council will offer a series of reports that takes an in-depth look at 24 different digital printing market segments and explores the status and potential of each market"?how to reach it, who the players are, what printing applications each segment uses, and so on. These industries represent nearly 80% of all print buying in the US, according to the council.

Twenty-four market segments
The Digital Printing Council Steering Committee, under the leadership of David Torok of Padgett Printing of Dallas, approved the Marketing 4 Digital (M4D) project in October of last year. The program is being researched by graduate students at Cal Poly, Clemson, and RIT, under the direction of Frank Romano. Eleven students are on the initial team, with three working on the project full time. Administrative and production assistance for the project is being provided by the PIA/GATF staff. Project sponsors include Adobe, Canon, HP, Kodak, and Xerox.

The M4D project will analyze 24 market segments specifically to aid printers in marketing digital printing as well as variable- data printing. It will also provide information for marketing of offset printing in general.

"Smart printers know that understanding their customer's business is key to providing more value-added services," says Torok. "M4D helps you decide which 'frogs to kiss,' and where your next top 10 customers might be."

The market sectors covered in the 24 reports will be segmented into three separate groups:

  • Set 1: Advertising Agencies, Health Care (HMOs, hospitals), Cruise Industry (hospitality and tourism), Department Stores (retail trade), Gambling and Wagering (casinos), Automotive Industry (manufacturers and dealers), Insurance, and Real Estate (brokerages).
  • Set 2: Gas and Electric (utilities), Hotel (hospitality and tourism), Office Supplies/Home Improvement (retail trade), Banks (financial services), Investment Companies (financial services), Travel Agencies (hospitality and tourism), Telecom (utilities), and Professional Services (legal, accounting, etc).
  • Set 3: Food Services-Wholesale, Food Services-Retail, Associations, Education (public and private higher education only), Publishing (magazine and journal), Pharmaceutical (drug manufacturers), Religious Organizations, and Other.
  • Each report will contain a Market Overview including major trends, marketing budgets, and dollars spent for printed products "?plus a look at the sector's customer base and special terminology used. There will also be a section on print applications used by the segment and opportunities for digital and variable-data printing. Top companies in the sector will be named and key contact information provided; a company overview and organizational structure for these companies are also included.

    Perhaps most important is a section on "How to Market to This Category," which gives the common print-buying practices and hot tips on how to get a foot in the door. Supplemental data will include government-supplied data, associations, and publications serving the sector and other information.

    I was able to get a sneak peek at a preliminary version of the first of these reports on the Health Care segment. It might surprise the average print-shop owner that this is a $4.6 billion print market with $800 million being spent annually on directories alone. That's about 100 billion sheets of paper, primarily in black and white, according to the report. This market segment also spends $100 million a year on packaging labels. Both of these sectors are ripe for digital production.

    The report also delves into market-specific terminology like HMOs, PMOs, and PPOs, and explains the differences in layman's language. And it covers major trends, which today include strong incentives for controlling costs and close federal and state regulation.

    Some of the opportunities for digital print in the Health sector cited in the report include open enrollment advertisements, customer billing, prescription packaging, and even basic patient instructions.

    Different issues, attitudes, and dollars
    It's good to see PIA/GATF take on an initiative like this. Print shops tend to get lost in the day-to-day production challenges and have neither the time nor the opportunity to take any kind of marketing surveys of their customer base. Plus, all too often we attempt to sell the same thing to every customer.

    These reports, however, will help printers understand that customers in different sectors face very different issues"?and have a very different attitude as to how they spend their printing dollars.

    Being able to access a wealth of important information about 24 different sectors that has been gathered with the specific intent of serving the interests of the digital print community makes this collection of reports a "must have" set. It's true that not every shop currently deals with customers in all of these sectors, but it might not be a bad idea to read all of the reports"?just to see what you may be missing out on.

    The first set of eight reports ("Set 1," listed earlier) will be released at the November 6-9 Variable Data and Personal- ization Conference in Phoenix, where Romano will present the findings to event attendees. Set 2 will roll out in January 2006, and Set 3 will do so in April 2006, the council reports. The studies will be available for purchase through the PIA/GATF bookstore (www.gain.net) in packages of eight reports. Price: $500 per set of eight ($199 per set for PIA/GATF members), or $1200 for the entire series of 24 ($499 for PIA/GATF members). Members of the Digital Printing Council receive the reports as part of their membership.

    Stephen Beals (bpworkflow@verizon.net), in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.

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