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Using PrintROCKS! to win customer hearts and minds

Posted Monday, May 20, 2019 by Kristin Baldwin.

In business, we are always trying to find ways to connect and deepen our relationships with our customers. Use the PrintROCKS! competition as a reason to contact your customers about their past projects, let them know that you are entering on both of your behalves and bask in the glory together if you win.

In a previous life, as a sales and marketing director, I actively looked for opportunities to connect my customer with their target market. It was a win-win solution to helping my clients find more customers of their own and then my clients became more loyal to my business in the process. Submitting an entry into PrintROCKS will give you an excuse to reach out to that client, let them know that you respect their creativity and passion for their work and that you are their partner in creating the best-printed piece.

As a former marketing director, I would have been thrilled if the printer saw our relationship as more than just one-sided, but as a partnership in producing the best. So, reach out to your customers in the process of submitting your best work to PrintROCKS! (Deadline is July 1st – so hurry on that one). And if you do submit with a client, make sure to invite them to the PrintROCKS party on September 27th at the Redd East in Portland.

You can’t win if you don’t enter. Entries are now being accepted for 2019 Rock, Paper, Print - PrintROCKS!

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Registration Opens for PRINTING United

Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2019 by Kate Achelpohl, SGIA.

Printing United

Fairfax, Va. — Registration is open for PRINTING United (Dallas, October 23 - 25, 2019), the new event from the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) and NAPCO Media.

“There’s a transformation taking place in the printing industry, a blurring of segment boundaries as print service providers (PSPs) seek out new products and technologies to better serve their customers,” said Mark Subers, President/CRO, Printing and Packaging, NAPCO Media. “Convergence is changing how PSPs and their suppliers do business, the technologies they choose and the information they need to stay ahead of the competition.”

“PRINTING United represents a sea change in event strategies for addressing the industry environment. Rather than focusing on a single industry segment, it’s welcoming in the entire community,” he added.

Bigger.PRINTING United brings the universe of printing under one roof, serving markets including apparel decorating, graphics production and installation, functional printing, commercial printing, packaging printing and in-plant. More than 570 suppliers have committed to exhibit, bringing the show floor to 93% sold out.

“PSPs who want to improve their businesses and better serve their customers need access to suppliers and manufacturers. PRINTING United provides this access across market segments. It’s critical that PSPs have the opportunity to build their connections,” said Ford Bowers, President & CEO, SGIA.

In a Fall 2018 survey by SGIA and NAPCO Research, 80% of PSPs said they believe a consolidated printing industry event would serve them better than single-segment events.

“PRINTING United will provide a powerful return on investment for PSPs who see opportunity for expansion within and beyond their primary market segments,” Subers added. “With less time out of the office, they’ll reduce travel expenses but achieve more with access to the equipment, education and networking that drives innovation.”

Better. PRINTING United is built on the strong foundation of the SGIA Expo, strengthened and extended by NAPCO Media’s trusted brands and extensive audience reach.

“It’s a time of great opportunity and convergence in the printing industry. According to our research, 95% of printers are seeing remarkable opportunities for expansion. Commercial printers are considering adding wide-format graphics and packaging. Rigid packaging printers are adding flexible packaging to the mix. Digital textile printers in the home furnishings realm are exploring fast fashion,” Bowers said. “To make all that happen, they need education and interaction.”

PRINTING United programming will bring the community together. The 96-session conference program features sessions tailored to apparel, commercial, functional, graphics, packaging and in-plant printing on topics ranging from technology to business operations. Three pre-show intensive workshops on October 22 focus on starting a wide-format graphics business, digital textile printing and convergence opportunities. Three amphitheaters on the show floor will bring additional opportunities to learn from exhibitors and thought leaders.

“Learning is critical, especially in an industry that’s changing as quickly as printing is,” Bowers said.

Supplementing the conference, workshops and amphitheater sessions are networking events featuring informative speakers for the apparel, functional printing, sustainability and Women in Print Alliance communities.

Bolder.The expansive show floor is more than a comprehensive view of the latest printing technologies. It’s also home to The Experience Zone, a 4,000-square-foot exhibit with over 100 printed applications that demonstrate how printing shapes consumers’ lives.

“Our industry touches everything around us,” Subers said. “The Experience Zone will put a face on it, with displays from in-home, out-of-home and retail environments. We want the PSPs visiting The Experience Zone to leave inspired to try new product lines and markets.”

Work hard and play hard! PRINTING United is hosting an Opening Night Party at iconic Gilley’s Dallas on October 23.

“The launch of PRINTING United is something to celebrate,” Bowers said. “It encompasses and serves today’s printing industry better than any event in the printing and packaging space has before. If you’re part of the industry, you need to be there from the start.”

Registration for PRINTING United will be free through September 10. Some events have additional fees. Learn more and register today at

About Printing United PRINTING United, a new event owned and operated by SGIA in partnership with NAPCO Media, will launch in Dallas, Texas, October 23 - 25, 2019. Focusing on the opportunities presented by the convergence of printing technologies and markets, PRINTING United will cover print and finishing technologies in industry segments from apparel to graphic, packaging to commercial, and industrial. Its objective is to convey all components of integrated solutions to satisfy virtually any client need.

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Earn an A+ in Marketing

Posted Thursday, March 28, 2019 by Jules VanSant, Partner - bubble & hatch a marketing, consulting firm.

Time for class! How would you grade your marketing efforts? Let’s evaluate!

  • Are your clients buying everything they can from you? Are they aware of all your capabilities?
  • Do you have a system to contact your customers for feedback? What do you do with this information? Have you checked your yelp or Google rating lately? Glassdoor?
  • How do you track prospects? Do you utilize the very technologies you sell to support your own direct sales efforts?
  • Have you taken the time to evaluate the information in your MIS to track the type of work each client is purchasing? Are these projects profitable?
  • Have you identified the verticals where you shine? Do the “not yet customers” in this segment know what they’re missing? Do they know your story?

Most print companies get a C- when it comes to marketing themselves but shine on behalf of their current customers …why? The easy answer is they’re too busy trying to manufacture stuff. This requires continual attentionto process, details, that human interaction thing and keeping on top of technology and materials. This all takes time, and we only have so much of it. Yet, the age of “build it, and they will come” has long passed. What printers produce is taken for granted by clients and their customers, but it remains a key and disruptive piece of today’s marketing mix.

It is time to bring your A+ game and take a moment to market your company and the community inside your facility by creating your story, then tell it regularly to clients and prospects. Growth comes with innovation and investment but doesn’t create a return if the business doesn’t continue to evolve. Taking some time to add this to your 2019 business planning will not only open up areas of growth but support better investment choices. Let’s break down a team study plan to help raise the grade (many hands make for lighter work)!

Align – Gather as much information as possible on your customers buying habits and document it. Identify the top three customer profiles (non-profits, manufacturers, fortune 500, consumer brands, etc.). List the top 3 – 5 types of products and services they purchase with you. Then get feedback from vendors, your sales reps and a few key customers (7 – 10) as to why they buy from you. Use the information along with some instinct to create targets.

Adapt – Shift your thought process away from putting out fires to creating fireworks and grabbing attention. Write a story that goes after your targets and share it internally and externally. Tell it with signage throughout the shop, email signatures, simple collateral, direct mail and leave behinds that utilize your technology and unique capabilities (enhanced, variable data printing, die-cutting, digital prowess, etc.).

Attain – Create a marketing plan that can be executed within all aspects of your daily business. Repeat often at the press, via customer service reps, on social media channels, a blog on your website. Pick a minimum of 3 – 5 outreach vehicles where you can maintain this storyline throughout the year.

Achieve – Now you’re making the grade! Celebrate the wins with all of those employees and customers who helped you get there. Adjust your story as needed and continue to take a team approach with fresh perspective and buy in. That’s how you earn an A+!

JulesAbout the author: Jules career has spanned the gamut of the communications spectrum, giving her a well-rounded perspective in marketing. She started her career working in traffic, print production and account management positions on the west coast with advertising agencies as well graphic arts firms. Jules took on the role as the Pacific Printing Industries (PPI) Association Executive Director from2006 - 2018. Her high-profile presence on national task forces, committees, and industry networking initiatives, plus her business and marketing acumenpositions Jules as a leader and inspiration catalyst for the print and visual communications industry. She is currently a partner at bubble & hatch bringing ideas that pop and deliver sales and marketing results into small to mid-size companies internationally.

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The Age of Web-to-Workflow

Posted Monday, October 29, 2018 by Ryan McAbee, Director, Production Workflow, Keypoint Intelligence.

Print providers have been steadily investing in technologies and processes that enable customers to order and track jobs online. One key technology is web-to-workflow software. Web-to-workflow is a key enabler to a “lights out” manufacturing workflow. Submitting print work through an online ordering interface is the first step to automating workflow and reducing manual rekeying of critical order details.

Although web-to-workflow is similar to web-to-print, it encompasses the additional processes needed to produce and fulfill a customer’s online order which expands beyond the capabilities of traditional web-to-print solutions. For example, preflighting, color management, imposition, and job ticketing are just a few of the common steps in between the customer placing an order online and the print service provider printing that order.

Adoption Trends and Benefits

Web-to-workflow solutions are integral to production automation and can encompass all steps in the printing process including design, file submission, job tracking, soft proofing, online payment, online shipping, and inventory management.

The complexity and scope of a web-to-workflow solution can vary greatly but there is some commonality:

  • Product specification: This includes attributes such as color, size, substrate, binding, and finishing requirements.
  • Order requirements: This includes quantity, delivery date, customer information, and delivery information.
  • File submission into the workflow(s): The ability to upload a file which will be sent into the appropriate workflow.
  • Proofing: An electronic proof of the job should be provided and approved; a photo realistic proof is preferred.
  • Pricing: A price is calculated and presented for the job.
  • Payment: Payment should be enabled within the web-to-workflow solution.
  • Job status tracking: The status of the job is reported, automatically or by production staff, which can further notify print shop staff as well as the customer of the job’s progress.

Web-to-workflow offers many benefits and print service providers expect the volume of work submitted via web-based systems to increase. In addition, customers prefer the simplicity and always-accessible nature of online ordering. Web-to-workflow also aids print shops in managing jobs through automation. Savvy print service providers maximize their technology investments in order to reduce production costs, strengthen customer relationships, and widen the profitability window for production volumes. Industry leaders pursue new technology and use open standards to ensure that:

  • Internal processes function with rare interruptions and few errors
  • Little data is re-keyed
  • Units and functional areas collaborate
  • The organization is streamlined and cost-effective
  • The organization interacts with its stakeholders by sharing processes across the supply chain
  • The organization provides its customers and stakeholders integrated end-to-end solutions
  • Procurement processes are coordinated with suppliers, and the suppliers’ order fulfillment processes
  • Common data repositories eliminate duplication of effort, time, and cost, while providing higher levels of service
  • The web is used as a common business tool
  • Workflows are automated, where possible, from submission through printing

The Bottom Line

Success in today’s market is less defined by what a PSP can print and instead by how quickly and accurately the order can make its way to the printer and into the customer’s hands. Automation through software is the new intellectual property and competitive differentiator. One way to increase that competitive advantage is by channeling incoming orders from online storefronts through W2P into automated print production workflows. Enter the age of web-to-workflow.

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Workforce Development

Posted Monday, October 15, 2018 by Brian Regan.

alt textThe printing industry has a serious talent issue. The problem is multifaceted and will require a combination of ideas, actions, groups and dedication to solve. The time is overdue to take workforce development seriously. Lip service is no longer cutting it.

We all know why we are here. Baby boomers retiring, school programs dwindling and for many years now, it is the reality to many that print is dying. And today we hear increasingly that students are not motivated to seek careers in manufacturing. They see it as less flexible, lower paying and easily automated without long-term job security. “It’s not the future, it’s the past.” This inhibits new workers from considering the industry as they select their career path. That is a very challenging message to overcome.

The reality is we need quality workers. Old approaches are failing and our industry’s workers average ages increase. Employers can no longer rely on taking workers from each other and they most certainly can no longer suppress wages. The talent pool is not sufficient for those tactics to yield fruit any longer. Even with consolidation, plant closures and fluctuations in the economy, (which often leaves skilled workers and companies that need them in geographically different areas) the issue will remain. What the industry needs is a concerted effort both public and private at workforce development.

We must look at a variety of potential solutions, identify the ones that will work for each of our organizations and implement them. We need to expand our talent ecosystem.

Take heart. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it discussed the changes employers were undergoing to adapt to the new reality. The majority of employers were willing to drop the experience requirements for their open positions. The catch phrase for this process is called “Down Skilling” This is a dramatic shift from the days of the great recession that saw employers asking for very highly skilled workers and getting them. Point being, our industry is not unique in its need. And don’t let a key factor go by missed. These firms will take people from any industry if they have the right competencies and transferable skills.

Recently a large digital printer closed its plant. They held a career fair that my company attended. There were 5 printers, 3 staffing firms and 3 non-printers. They were there to take the print skilled workers and transition them to their industry. Looking back at all the other non-print career fairs we have attended in no instance was a printer or print group seen. Why are we passive when others are not?

We need to take action. What skills do we need now and how do we train for the future. It makes sense to develop a series of competency models and assessment tools to identify people that will fit these roles. Once identified these competency models will assist us in marketing to and recruiting those with the raw skills and talents we need. This is how we develop robust pipelines for our industry.

Partner with our associations that are focused on these issues and help fund them. And unfortunately just paying membership dues is not going to fix the issues. Recruitment in today’s market is extraordinarily expensive. Top companies thoroughly understand and appreciate the best talent continues to be a key success factor for their businesses. They are very aggressive in this area. In a recent Semper survey we asked firms how much they spent monthly on recruiting. Smaller firms reported between $500 and $1000 a month with larger firms well over $1000. That is per month. Imagine the obstacles any one group has in trying to solve an industry wide problem. This survey did not take into consideration onboarding, assessing and training the found talent. It’s a big dollar item.

We will also need to become more aggressive as an industry attracting young people to our school and training programs. Reaching out to schools, guidance counselors and parents to change the discussion from dying industry to an evolving tech industry. Connecting with students with a powerful positive pro-print message. Once the young talent is identified we support them via scholarships and programs into our schools and plants for education and training. The remaining schools with applicable programs are dwindling and are in need of all of our varying support from local and national private and public entities.

Key Elements

  • Going to career fairs or hosting ones to be visible and communicate a viable message that inspires and shows the value of the industry and how each person can impact it.
  • Understanding the competitive landscape as it pertains to wages, career growth, benefits and opportunities. With understanding comes targeted solutions.
  • Developing training programs within companies. Identifying and empowering the trainers and programs. Set the programs up for success by rewarding the trainers and cross training employees.
  • Work with the various associations / consultants to demystify apprenticeship programs and unlocking state and federal money. For example in July 2018 the U. S. Department of Labor release data on $150 million of additional funds for apprenticeship programs. In the list of areas they site as viable for the support is advanced manufacturing. Print fits squarely in that realm.

The first step is to recognize there is a problem. Then work and support each other, our associations and each other in building a solution or series of solutions that target the key areas of concern. Each day we remain disjointed in this area is a day lost. This industry is an adapting, technologically focused and evolving. We have a lot to offer the next generation. We can do this!

About Semper International.

Semper International, LLC., a Workforce Solutions company, with over 25 years in staffing the Print Industry with Skilled Print Industrial / Light Industrial, Marketing, Creative, Administrative & Clerical Talent. Semper serves 3 main vertical markets;

- Consulting: Talent Attraction, Employee Retention & Training Programs

- Staffing Solutions: Payrolling, Staff Augmentation, Flex Staffing, Contractors, Direct Hire, Talent Acquisition, Strategic Partnerships & Talent Management

- Career Fair Services: On-Site, Campus, Regional / National

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