Traditional print buyers are going the way of the dodo.
The priorities and responsibilities of a print buyer have shifted, and the dynamic between buyer and printer has changed as well. The ‘new’ incarnation of print buyers have different expectations and needs from their printers, altered by the march of new technologies, the digital age, and how print is utilized by businesses today.
While print will always remain a critical component for marketers, there’s no doubt the print industry has lost market share and mindshare. As a result, the role of a print buyer has changed in the fluctuating marketing mix. Many companies are phasing out dedicated print buyers, whose sole purpose is mediating the purchase of print for the company. Instead, print buying has become a side component to other jobs. More companies are using other professional services, like print brokers/managers or agencies, to manage and coordinate their print buying.
In that sense, it’s crucial for commercial printers to adapt to the new obligations and restraints of a new wave of print buyers – if we can even call them that. The days of mandatory press appovals, and old-school print buyers with extensive expertise and background in print procurement are steadily disappearing.
How can a relationship be forged between buyer and seller? What are the new barriers on each side, and how can they be overcome?
Who Are These ‘New’ Print Buyers?
The print buyers of today come from a variety of backgrounds – marketing, communications, design, procurement, and graphics, to name just a few. Generally, they’ve transitioned from marketing roles. Job titles that solely denote ‘Print Buyer’ or ‘Production Manager’ are all but obsolete. These print-marketing hybrids focus on more marketing-related functions, production, and even buying other things.
Now that these print buyers are no longer the masters of their craft, not only has their job title changed, but so have their needs and priorities. Selling points such as price, quality, and time of delivery are no longer simply relevant – they’re seen as a given!
What do these new print buyers really want from their commercial printers?
Ideas and innovations on new print services or concepts, personalization, web-to-print functions, and process automation are all important areas these “marketing service providers” are looking for.
New printing concepts tops the list, and this is where a printer can take advantage in closing a deal. Printers can showcase they care about their client’s business, by offering compelling solutions to their custom printing projects.
New print buyers are rarely looking for a printer to ‘just print’. They will naturally gravitate to printers that are on wavelengths similar to their own. Most being marketers, they’ll be inclined to favor a printer with other marketing services and ideas, database capabilities, and multichannel support. That’s not to say a printer must have these services to be competitive, but having that knowledge and understanding will at least create a rapport and relationship with the multi-tasking print buyer.
Challenges with Today’s Print Buyers
Print buyers of the past focused on colour management systems and prepress, adding an element of skill in the buyer’s role. Today, the need for expertise in these areas isn’t required, and that’s where some commercial printers may fall out of favour – focusing on elements that aren’t as relevant anymore.
Again, what the new age craves is innovation. They want fresh custom printing ideas, with consultation and planning for their print marketing strategy, and other value-added services, say graphic design or multichannel support. Many printers don’t offer these services, and if they do, they don’t promote them enough. With price, quality, and time of delivery being a given in today’s marketplace – at least in the eye of modern print buyers – the competitive advantage must lie in value-added services to complement printing services.
Today’s printers must also contend with a rising trend of puzzlingly obscure job descriptions. With new print buyers coming from a wealth of backgrounds, appealing to different industries is more important than ever. That’s undoubtedly a challenge when they come from various design, communication, or marketing fields.
How Can Both Sides Adapt to This New Landscape?
As the veteran print buyers continue to phase out, so will the understanding of the value of print, and where it’s irreplaceable. Some of that is on the print buyer to educate themselves in print procurement; for the most part, printers must prove themselves to be indispensable.
How can this be done?
Besides the aforementioned touting of value-added services – this can’t be stressed enough – printers can focus on one aspect that hasn’t changed between the outdated print buyer and the modern one. Both appreciate and covet long-lasting relationships, regularly working with a small group of commercial printers they can trust. This actually may be more important now, due to the inexperience, change in responsibilities, and upswing in online purchasing of the up-and-coming print buying generation. A print buyer is entrusting their career and brand with the printer, so a strong relationship is essential.
Another element that goes hand-in-hand with the new incarnation of print buyers is to make any technical process easier to understand and manage. The buyer doesn’t want to be bogged down with technical details that’ll go over their head. Information conveyed to the print buyer must be simple and robust. Automating the print sourcing and management process goes a long way here, or innovative web-to-print technologies – like Enfigo’s Custom Printing App, allowing for instant print quotes and efficient online ordering – will greatly appeal to modern print buyers.
The takeaway for printers is to understand what their print buyers are doing these days, and the new responsibilities and restraints they have. This will help printers with their new time constraints in a fast-paced digital world, as well as take advantage of opportunities to provide the modern customers other non-print-related services.
Print buyers must continue to foster relationships with corporate printers, like traditional buyers did. Proactivity in print procurement education is valuable in working with the commercial printer, as well as producing innovative print for the business. Inventive print products can create extra revenue for the company, solidifying the print buyer’s role as…whatever job title they want to call themselves.
Enfigo’s modern approach to automating printing processes for print buyers makes it easy to source and purchase custom print jobs. We also offer value-added services that meet the dynamic needs of print buyers from backgrounds of various expertise.