Something Out of the Ordinary
Figures from German industry associations clearly indicate a
shakeout of printshops, and yet the remaining companies are still
facing fierce competition. What is the solution?
As companies define their strategies for dealing with the
crisis, some fall back on a wait-and-see approach. Erich Zahn,
Senior Consultant at Heidelberg Business Consulting, says this is
definitely not the way to go. Instead, companies should make use of
the current lull in orders to prepare for the post-crisis period.
This includes operational measures such as optimizing the
efficiency of processes (see the article entitled "The Pursuit of
Success" in this edition) and getting the most out of
existing equipment. However, this on its own is often not enough. A
further step and one that is key from a strategic viewpoint is to
strengthen customer loyalty. "The aim is to become indispensible to
customers by offering additional services," stresses Zahn.
For example, printshops can send print products to end
customers on behalf of their own customers. "Direct shipping by the
printshop is normally quicker and more cost-effective for customers
because it dispenses with an intermediate step," explains Zahn. If
the printshop has the necessary know-how and space, it can also
store and manage its customers' print products. This is a strategy
that Franz Kuthal GmbH & Co. KG in Mainaschaff has adopted with
considerable success. "Had we invested in additional prepress
services, we would have been no different from other printshops,"
states Managing Director Helmut Kraft. Today, the Kuthal affiliate
RMD stores, administers, and dispatches not only printed matters,
but also advertising media and merchandise for companies in the
most diverse sectors.
Other options besides consignment activities are possible,
depending on the core skills and infrastructure that are in place.
For instance, one printshop based in the Black Forest (Germany)
makes luxury presentation boxes, fills them with bottles of liquor,
and delivers them to its clients' end customers. Another company
located in the south of Germany prints personalized letters for its
customers' mail outs, sticks in or shrink-wraps the relevant
product samples or advertising media, and sends them out.
The written and visual contents of items such as product
brochures are often reused in different media, including other
print products, the Internet or DVD-ROMs. Printshops often own the
content, so why not offer to prepare the text and images for the
various media as a complete package? No reason at all according to
the ABT media group in Weinheim, which has built up a media-neutral
data pool. Customers have access to a wide variety of different
media at the touch of a button. "Our customers benefit from quicker
production, increased market presence, and lower costs. This has
made them more loyal to our company and brought us many new
customers by word of mouth," stresses owner Irmgard Abt.
It is also possible to expand the range of products on offer
by cooperating with appropriate partners. Tecnografica, based in
Lamazzo in northern Italy, is a prime example. The five
specialist companies - one each for prepress and postpress, two
printshops (web offset, sheetfed offset, and digital printing), and
an agency - each operate independently as far as the outside world
is concerned. In actual fact, however, they work together. This has
the advantage that customers can obtain virtually any print product
from a single source - from business cards and brochures to posters
and magazines. And of course things can be scaled down, too, for
example by working with a digital printer who handles personalized
jobs such as mailings or very short runs. The appeal of this
business model lies in the fact that sheetfed offset printshops can
respond flexibly to a wider range of customer requests. They can
also establish whether it is worthwhile entering the relevant
cooperation partner's area of business on their own account.
Which additional service is the right one?
Deciding on the right additional service depends on the
equipment available, the job makeup, the skills of the company's
workforce, and potential customers for the various business models,
explains Zahn. Heidelberg helps companies establish which model is
most suitable. For example, the Business Consulting section
performs profitability analyses and helps printshops make the
necessary preparations for the additional business. Valuable
assistance is also provided by the Print Media Academy with its
comprehensive range of courses covering activities such as
unlocking new fields of business and marketing additional products