Selling contracts for print products today means keeping up with what consumers want and demand in service offerings. Consumers believe that their print service providers are old-fashioned, and PSPs need to shake off this assumption by being as forward-thinking and effective as possible in their product offerings. It's clear that the printing industry can't stay alive on tactics that worked decades ago, such as producing huge volumes of deliverables for all facets of marketing and communications. Instead, they have to adapt.

There is still demand for print as a marketing tool. To keep the printing business alive, service providers need to figure out how that requirement differs from the high-volume direct mail campaigns of years past. Rather than making flawed assumptions or sticking with what worked in the past, print service providers should listen to their customers. Leaders who aren't afraid to modernize their outreach may find a whole new industry waiting for them.

Integrated campaign components
Today's marketing moves quickly and treats consumers as individuals rather than inextricable parts of an undifferentiated ad blitz. According to WhatTheyThink contributor Barb Pellow, printers can become central participants in these positive and personalized campaigns. Of course, such a customized approach to marketing requires a healthy dose of technology – paper products alone aren't going to cut it. This means that coexistence with mediums outside of print is now a core value for printers.

Pellow added that the impact of generic marketing has dulled over the years, and this holds true across both the digital and physical realms. There is something special about direct mail that addresses a person individually and makes a direct link between the company's personnel and the consumer. When data is part of the mix, that is possible. When service providers can't effectively work with large banks of customer information, they'll naturally struggle to adapt to this personalized mode of communication.

Customer experience is the key watchword. When companies reach out to their clients in exactly the right way, with the correct frequency and through channels that make sense, the bond between brand and individual flourishes. Print service providers that become part of this ecosystem and improve contact between the two parties are ready to step up into the modern world of marketing. Pellow pointed out that when print service providers have the assets to optimize customer experience, they can assume roles as strategic partners for clients, not just interchangeable parts of a strategy.

What kinds of channels will have to intertwine with print to create an ideal customer experience? Pellow indicated mobile communication, as well as social media and online interactions. Print service providers that understand where these elements fit in are better positioned to be leaders.

Reacting to demand
It's time for printing industry leaders to think about the internal changes that will bring them in line with modern business models and client expectations. Printing Impressions columnist Tom Marin pointed out that when customer requirements shift noticeably, companies that don't change their structures and processes may end up disconnected and at loose ends. He added that when systems remain static for too long, they end up reflecting market conditions that don't exist anymore. Never a good sign.

Implicit in Marin's recommendation is the fact that there is no such thing as a totally neutral organizational structure. Print service providers didn't spring up fully formed at the dawn of time. Current processes reflect the best way to serve customers looking for certain deliverables. As needs have changed over time, from huge orders of paper products to more targeted items that work alongside digital efforts, the ideal ways to cater to those requirements have also evolved. Companies that acknowledge the change are in the best position to answer it.

Marin stated that when businesses find themselves stalled in growth or haven't made an update to their processes in a long time, they may be in need of internal reorganization. He added that external changes don't cut it when fundamental shifts are called for. While improving elements of the company such as customer care isn't a bad idea, it's doesn't have the same transformational potential as a strategic internal reorganization.

Welcome to the modern market
Print service providers haven't suddenly dropped into the digital marketplace. Conditions have been dominated by data and online connectivity for years. Chances are that all printers that have made it this long have at least some proficiency at meeting modern clients' needs. Now, they need to lock in best practices, update elements that are behind the times and settle in for further change.