As with any business, it is important for print distributors to regularly take inventory of the strategies they are using to assess their effectiveness. The paper and printing industry has been undergoing major transformations over the past few years. To maintain an advantage over competitors and ensure their organizations remain sustainable and successful, it is crucial that executives adapt to emerging trends and changes.

While many of the operations and functions have remained unchanged, there are a handful of shifts that have altered the way print suppliers find, onboard and retain new customers. Between more organizations looking to transfer traditionally printed jobs to digital platforms and the Internet of Things dominating communications and content distribution, the role of print providers isn't the same as it was even a few years ago.

Key qualities of reliable print firms
Companies must be strategic in how they approach virtually all aspects of their respective business models and functions, from marketing and customer service to ordering and distribution. Below are some of the top qualities and factors the modern day printing solutions supplier needs to be successful.

  1. Flexibility. As we have discussed in previous posts, the paper industry is far from dead. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that the market is changing. Failing to adapt to shifts in consumer preferences, buying behavior and customer trends is a mistake. As digital technologies continue to evolve and influence the way businesses operate, it is going to become increasingly necessary for print providers to demonstrate agility in their operations. It is also crucial that print service providers are capable of handling a wide range of needs. Not all customers want the same things. As Louella Fernandes pointed out in an article for Computer Weekly, "Some may want a provider to take full control of their print infrastructure while others may only want to hand over certain elements." Demonstrating the ability to be flexible according to the specific needs of an organization can increase the chances of success.
  2. Speed. Whether it is a product or service, customers expect that the purchases they make will be delivered in a timely manner. Many companies rely on paper documents, business forms and print products to carry out daily transactions and activity. This is why it is critical that the supplier they work with is able to offer quick turnaround on projects. 
  3. Transparency and accessibility. Supplier relationships run significantly more smoothly when there is ongoing, clear and consistent communication between both parties. Print firms must operate on a platform that allows its customers to gain insight into essential operations. This concept was also explored by Fernandes, who explained, "Consistent service delivery is built on consistent processes that employ a repeatable methodology" and that businesses should "
    [l]ook for access to secure, web-based service portals with dashboards that provide real-time service visibility and flexible reporting capabilities." By partnering with a print provider that uses an online system, businesses will be able to access the information they need, when they need it. Another way this helps companies is that it enhances transparency which, in turns, facilitates stronger feelings of trust.
  4. Security. One of the biggest areas of concern for organizations today, given the rapid proliferation of digital devices and processes, is security. Successful print suppliers must ensure that payment and other sensitive data and information exchanged between them and their customers is protected. Also important is that the paper products purchased from the seller contain multiple layers of safeguarding that combat criminal behavior, such as counterfeiting or identify theft. 
  5. Innovation. To stand apart from competitors, print providers must be willing to do what others in the industry are not – or, at least, haven't done well. And one area where this is particularly relevant in is the adoption of modern, innovative solutions and uses for printing services. As Idealliance pointed out, cost, level of quality and the delivery are no longer the only qualities a business looks at in a provider. They expect all those things, but they also want fresh ideas and opportunities that relate to print. This is why suppliers need to be forward-thinking in their approach to marketing and service.

The the above skills and qualities are what print suppliers must demonstrate to increase their respective bottom lines, position themselves as credible and authoritative sources and, ultimately, drive long-term success.