Becoming a leading print provider has always been difficult. This is a tough industry filled with companies working on both local and global levels to deliver great products. In recent years, this challenge has remained present while the terms of battle have changed rapidly. Now, being the most successful print service provider may not be about outputting huge volumes of products or securing mega-contracts. Those opportunities don't exist anymore in many cases, which means it's up to you to find a new lane.

Searching for novel projects to undertake and surprising clients to work with may be the key to leading this new and changed print environment. Discovering important needs that other providers are not meeting is an approach to the printing industry that requires hands-on attention but may yield inspiring results. Surprising new sources of business could be waiting where you least expect them.

Doubling back on old methods
A recent WhatTheyThink column by Joe Webb highlighted a recent story from Australia that points to a possible source of printing business – industries or groups that have gone paperless, but done it wrong. The author explained that when the Australian government attempted to make its census paperless, the process was deemed a failure. Now, instead of trying again as is, some are calling for a switch back to paper. Webb explained that, despite the fact that the world is becoming more digital, it is not necessarily digital-only. Media types exist side by side, and when one tries to take over, the result is often failure.

Content creators who don't follow the dictates of their users' preferences may find themselves with image problems or an inability to advance their plans. As Webb noted, this usually leads to iron-fisted control of media giving way to multiple format options. Pleasing the consumer is the game, no matter what the product is. As the Australian example proves, even a non-optional government service can be met with backlash if the consumption options don't fit what people are looking for.

This desire for multiple channels of engagement and formats may be where a big opportunity comes in for print providers. You could soon find yourself acting as the official print partner for organizations and agencies that swore to go paperless without really knowing what that would entail. Your new role in this case will be as part of a multimedia campaign, so brushing up on integrating your print projects with other types of outreach will be a key competency. Fortunately, this is a common role for print partners to fulfill today, so you may already be proficient in cross-media work.

Reaching out to clients
Of course, simply knowing that there are great opportunities out there to capture client interest isn't enough. To secure new contracts, you need to zero in on good prospects. Printing Impressions contributor Margie Dana recently suggested a good tactic to find a few new leads worthy of concentrated sales pitches. Namely, Dana recommended starting up an email newsletter. By sending out periodic information about your brand, you not only get your name and message out there, you get data about who is most interested in the information you're providing. That feedback could point the way to great leads.

The author stated that it's good to use a dedicated email newsletter tool to distribute your thoughts rather than working on an address list yourself and simply hitting 'send.' That's because specialized products deliver important reports on which recipients are opening your email missives. This kind of data points the way to likely clients – maybe these are companies that are interested in going back to using paper, or they are simply ready to launch a new campaign and want paper to be part of the roll-out. In any case, a follow-up is warranted.

Mastering the new status quo
Companies today still need the unique services you provide. What they don't need, however, is a print partner that acts like the glory days of the pre-digital era are still underway. To reach prospects, you will have to offer the right services for their particular situations. That might mean promising great integration with campaigns that incorporate other channels, and discovering what role suits your brand best may call for some intensive research. The reward or a job well done, however, is dominance in the new print world.