The printing industry is in the midst of one of its most momentous transformations. As a participant in this field, you've no doubt experienced many changes over the past few years, with more still to come. Still, it's important to establish what is and isn't happening. Yes, the process of selling paper products and the related services is different than it was a decade ago. But the industry is not vanishing or crumbling. Your clients still need your help, and they will for the foreseeable future. You may just have to offer a slightly different value proposition.

What do your clients really need?
A recent Printing Impressions column by T.J. Tedesco explored the new world print service providers find themselves in. He explained that the key to success is isolating the ideas that companies really care about – the business challenges that they face. Rather than just serving up a buffet of services and assuming clients will gravitate to the ones they really need, it's now your mission to study the industry forces impacting your customer base and propose solutions that will improve conditions for these businesses.

You're likely focused on selling your particular print solutions in specific fields. Becoming a value-adding factor for organizations of those exact types, you can become a partner that is worth keeping. Tedesco works in health care, and explained that this vertical is currently dealing with difficulty receiving reimbursements. He proposed that if print providers focus their service offerings on facing down these problems and improving conditions that health care organizations actually face, they will become indispensable.

Tedesco gave a name to what print providers need to thrive today: "domain expertise." By honing in on a few types of companies and truly realizing what the leaders of those organizations want and need, you can make your printing business really stand out in a field where that is far from assured. This kind of customer-centric philosophy can inform all your operations, from the top down.

Communication problems were once the major value proposition you could give companies as a print partner, according to Tedesco. He warned that thinking this way is no longer enough. While print products and services can still function as communication facilitators, there are a world of issues beyond that subject matter. If you can make the shift and become an ally to certain industries, understanding and solving their problems, you have a path forward in contemporary print, even within the digitally-dominated landscape.

Practical perspective shift
We've previously shared WhatTheyThink contributor Jennifer Matt's suggestion for print providers to get out of their own perspective and think like their customers. That advice is worth revisiting here as it relates to Tedesco's point. Becoming aware that your default perspective is not neutral and is actually shaped by your industry surroundings is a great first step in becoming customer-centric. The things you take for granted may seem different to your customers.

For instance, Matt explained that as a printer, you are likely thinking about printing industry innovations, becoming a more efficient company and tackling market-defining issues. However, your clients may be completely unaware of these issues. Re-framing your offerings to be more in line with customer perspective instead of your own may be the turning point that makes your product lineup a leading choice.

Surviving in any service business is all about solving problems – not yours, your customers'. This is a simple change of perspective that can have huge implications. Taking your company to the next level doesn't necessarily mean beating competing print providers in an arms race of features or offerings. Instead, it means practicing empathetic marketing and becoming the most helpful and value-adding partner available.