By Pat McGrew
Every printing company faces business challenges. Some print markets are shrinking. Others are becoming more competitive forcing commodity pricing that challenges long-established margins. Start-ups come into the market with a different cost basis, while the needs of print customers are under pressure. Be cheaper! Be more innovative! It’s not an easy business, but there are three steps you can take to lift your visibility and establish your company as a leader in the market you serve. And, it’s not about having a Twitter account or posting a blog on your website. It’s about laying the groundwork for efficiency and success.
The three things that will move the needle toward success are an educated sales team, workflow efficiency, and accountability across all job functions. You might ask: Isn’t that true of every company? Of course! But companies who are adopting production inkjet would do well to take stock of their current status across these vectors. Here are some questions to ask to ensure that you are on the road to success.
1. Educated Sales Teams
The sales team is tasked with selling inkjet print, but in many companies the team is missing the education that can help them position the capabilities correctly. The learning curve will depend on the starting line, but whether coming from offset or toner, there should be a lesson plan for the team. Why? To ensure that the sales team understands the true capabilities of your modern inkjet device and to prepare them for potential objections. Like it or not, many buyers still think that inkjet print is what comes out of their desktop printers. There is suspicion that production inkjet might not meet their quality needs. The sales team member is the person on the front lines, so they need to be equipped with the facts and bring confidence to the story. Your lesson plan for the sales team should include:
- Basic education on the press and how it works.
- A review of the quality capabilities, as well as the substrates you intend to stock.
- What you want them to sell – keep them focused on specific applications, especially in the early days.
- Finishing options, both in-house and outsourced.
- If you began as an offset shop, show the same file on the same class of paper on both technologies. Do the same if you care coming from a toner-based device. Talk through how you want to address the fact that the material will look different. Not better. Not worse. Different.
- Review the current quoting and estimating process so that team members are using the correct costs to position pricing and discounts.
See also “The Number 1 Question When Selling Inkjet”
2. Workflow Efficiency
While you are working on the sales team, take the time to look at the workflow that is in place. Your inkjet device may have more capability and capacity, which could shine a spotlight on workflow inefficiencies. Review your current on-boarding process, as well as your color management and other job preparation functions to ensure that you can keep up with the inkjet press. The hardware vendor will train the operators to ensure they are comfortable with the press, but they often rely on the workflow team to do their own education to ensure they are managing color and imposition characteristics. If you have the option, ask your vendor to walk your workflow to help point out challenges. If they can’t help, consider bringing in an inkjet expert to help position your workflow for the highest efficiency in support of the inkjet press.
See also “Designing Workflow to Do More”
And finally, there is the issue of accountability. In many print shops, with the best of intentions, new processes are laid in, quoting and estimating programs are updated, and workflow management is tuned, but somehow, there are still bottlenecks and missed deadlines. If you dig down, you may find that well-meaning team members are not actually using the processes and software that have been purchased and installed, but are, instead, keeping spreadsheets that are the true production view. When that is the case, no one in scheduling can accurately schedule. Management doesn’t have a single source of truth for the production floor. Without accountability, that shiny, fast, brilliant new inkjet press may become the scapegoat for problems that evolve because the efficient software solution that should be aiding in automation of the production workflow is being circumvented.
The sales team should be held accountable as well. It’s easy to fall into old habits, selling offset or toner print work just to avoid the inkjet conversation. Watch the numbers. They will tell you if your sales team members are selling the capabilities of the press.
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note.