Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is there Print "Industry?". Not yet, but soon.

Another interesting thread over at PrintCeo. This was started by Andy Tribute whose opening post is titled Does the Printing Industry Exist?.
Ryan said
. . . some manufacturers get their own classification, but that’s usually only when there’s dozens of multi-billion multinational corporations in it. Let’s see, in printing, I can count the number of those companies on one hand.
It all depends how you look at it. If you are seeing an integrated infrastructure that outputs Print, the outlines of the emerging Print Industry are becoming more clear every day.

The disruptive innovation is the ability to print anywhere, not just within a commercial print shop. For consumer it's printing from the little cloud of MS Word or the big cloud that outputs photo books. For the workgroup/home office it's the MFP. When appropriate it's the pay for print or in house print shop.

The next piece is organizing the various Print output nodes.
The organizing engine for enterprises - both large and home office/workgroup may turn out to be MPS. The real energy is coming from the ground in the entrepreneurial engines that were once called copier sales and the retail outlets once called "copy shops." Copier sales have morphed into MFD's - multifunction devices (also called MFP's). Copy shops have morphed into multi location networked retail output in the model of AlphaGraphics and Staples.

The .."dozens of multi-billion multinational corporations" are the XORiHK sector (plus others whose letters I couldn't easily fit in the acronym.) Consider that HP has introduced a cloud functionality that will most likely strengthen the connection between retail (Staples and Tesco) and commercial print with the Indigo. IBM has entered the space with Ricoh, who just introduced v 2.0 of the commercial print piece. Ricoh is digesting the IKON purchase as Xerox is digesting the Global Services piece.

Free advice:
The best way to strengthen a network is incentives for all parts of it. Amazon built their business on affiliate advertising. Google built their business on Ad Sense. The faster the disruptive innovations are embedded into the commercial space with well designed incentives, the sooner all the pieces jell to create the Print Output Industry.

A possible scenario and new value creation:
Jane, who started a catering firm, when she got laid off a couple of years ago, decides that she needs a brochure and a website. She could go online to do that at VistaPrint, but it's too much hassle. Meanwhile, Jim, a copier sales person who has been calling every once in a while said that he could show her some easy ways to get that done.

In the ensuing conversations, she decides to buy a box to do them herself. She calls her friend Alice, who used to work at the Lehman's communication department, to design it for her.

Two months later, Jane will be catering a large event. JIM, who has been staying in touch to make sure everything is working well with the box sale, suggests that she produce tent cards to put at each setting. It's a great idea, but she doesn't have the time and Alice's business is really starting to take off, so she doesn't want to impose on her again.

The sales person says either A or B
A. "Let me take care of that for you."
B. "Let me connect you with someone I trust that can take care of that for you."

The new value creation:
The new value created for Jane is saving time and managing risk of failure. Everyone will pay some amount for saving time and managing risk. It then only becomes figuring out the right price.

But, why should the person on the ground get involved?
The incentive for A is clear. This works if the MFD or MPS sales outfit has gone into the production business.

But where are the incentives that reward the copier person for risking Jane's trust to deliver the new value that has been created? An affiliate, referral or finders fee seems like a no brainer, to me.

More free advice:
Since I've spent my 35 years in the game, first in the sheetfed offset and then in digital, I depend on the others to follow the action in MFPs. The best place I've found so far is Pay4PrintHotel.
There's a nice wrap up today of what's going on in MFP as of last week.

What might happen if local newspaper ad sales people are brought into the mix with the proper incentives. Then there is the real possibility of offering true multi channel marketing campaigns to Jane and the millions like her. One trusted contact point for a Newspaper Ad, a web ad on the newspaper's web site, print collateral and signage. The time and hassle saved and decrease in risk would be a simple solution to one of her hardest problems.

Simple solutions to hard problems create lots of new value.

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