Selling print services to companies today has noticeably changed from 10 – or even five – years ago. Companies that may once have needed your products for a variety of internal and external communications tasks may have other priorities now. There's really no way to convince these potential clients to turn back the clock and operate as though they are still existing within the physical-media-dominated world of the '90s and 2000s. Instead, you'll have to face the changes head-on.

Changing your organization to be more in tune with modern sensibilities is far from impossible. If you've survived in the printing business so far, chances are you've already aligned at least some of your practices and offerings with what clients are looking for. That is the crux of print today, becoming aware of your audience's needs and working hard to give companies what they're looking for. You can get far by sensing the market's direction.

Being a multi-channel leader
The latest column from WhatTheyThink contributor Barb Pellow delved into the question of what a successful print service provider looks like in 2016. The answer is that this ideal company is able to contribute more than physical products and services. Clients today are interested in becoming more data-driven and intelligent players in their respective markets, and they may need partner organizations to accomplish such goals. This is an opportunity to make your presence felt, provided you can offer the digital services they seek.

Pellow recommended getting involved with data processing and analytics. Companies want to understand their consumers on a fundamental level, and know that analyzing detailed information is the surest way to gain such insights. If they can't perform those tasks internally – and many firms can't – you may be able to step into that role. The fact that you've always helped your clients connect with their audiences puts you in a great position to sell a multi-channel strategy that includes digital services. Your communications leadership is ready to expand into the IT realm.

Remaining old fashioned and unable to provide services that suit companies' present objectives can be a losing strategy. Even when it comes to your bread-and-butter offerings, namely those based on physical printing, digital integration and data are keys. Pellow pointed to InfoTrends data on top elements companies are looking for when creating strategic plans. Personalized print communication was labeled very important by 36.4 percent of executives. If you can send out customized and personal print mailings, the relevance of your paper offerings should remain high – if you can't, it may suffer.

Potential clients will also want more direct and digital engagement with and management of the print supply chain. Pellow indicated that 32 percent of officials find print supply chain rationalization very important, with 46 percent saying it is important. A reliance on outdated practices at any step of the print production process could drive a wedge between your firm and the companies that want to ensure they are as fast and plugged in as possible. The printing industry, as a service-providing sector helping others out, must remain in tune with the interests of those markets.

State your brand's value
Becoming more attuned to customer wants and needs gives your company a powerful "hook." Once you have a modernized set of competencies, you can confidently expound upon what you provide. That, according to Printing Impressions columnist Mike Jacoutot, is exactly what you have to do. He explained that when it comes to providing sales pitches, representatives should be able to tell prospects right away what their organizations do, how those offerings are different from competitors' and what, exactly, the brand's value proposition is. If you are either behind the times or unsure of your current direction, these pitches can fall flat.

Jacoutot explained that today's buyers have short attention spans. If your sales message can't be summed up quickly, you may lose the interest of huge portions of your potential audience. Fortunately, if you have highly valuable offerings that resonate with the current needs of clients in your field, it shouldn't be so hard to follow the model above and make them seem highly valuable and appealing to prospects. Pivoting into the right business model for the current landscape gives you a ready-made sales pitch for all seasons.

Printing and more
From now on, printers that become trusted allies of large brands will likely go well beyond the physical act of printing materials. If you can become a meaningful contributor to marketing efforts, using a new data-driven approach to customer research and knowledge, you may extend your value and convince leaders to entrust their campaigns to you.

Even the physical elements of these efforts, the actual printed products that are sent out to customers, will be better if you're able to inform the whole project with data. Multi-channel service provider may not have been the role you envisioned 10 years ago, but it could be the one your clients are eager to work with.