Professional print buyers working in businesses and agencies are the print industry’s most powerful influencers, bar none.
These print production specialists, particularly those who are baby boomers, are responsible for keeping print part of the discussion within their organizations.
But they do much more than just keep print in those conversations when marketing considers channels for a campaign, because experienced print buyers tend to have a history in print manufacturing. Many were once employed in commercial printing as sales or service reps. Many are trained as graphic designers. They identify with print.
As someone who’s studied print buyers for over two decades, I know all of this to be true.
Experienced print customers in industries and in agencies are their organizations’ de facto print experts. Their managers and team members, their bean counters and their purchasing agents, all look to them for recommendations. Who should print this job? What’s a fair price? When do we need to find additional print manufacturing expertise? What paper or other substrate will work best? And at the heart of it, why should we print this at all?
Whether you’re a printer reading this post or a print buyer, you recognize these print customers. You serve them or work alongside them or identify as one yourself.
I know many of these “print insiders” personally. And to a person, one quality they share that needs to be acknowledged is their passion for print. They strive daily to share this enthusiasm with their colleagues and to enlighten them about advances in printing technologies.
Imagine how difficult this is today, in our world of Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps, and Pokémon Go.
These experienced print insiders bring an acute appreciation of all-things-print to their roles. They are the keepers of the print flame inside of their organizations. They wield enormous clout in the decision-making process where print is concerned. And if they happen to work in marketing environments, this clout is even more significant.
Here’s what I’m talking about. When a marketing team plans a new campaign and the issue of which channels to use (and why) comes up, print buyers working with them are – best case scenario – more likely to offer ideas, reasons, examples and arguments for print. (If this marketing team includes a print provider in this discussion, so much the better. But in a study I did with John Zarwan, only 16% of brand owners invite printers to the marketing table.)
John Zarwan and I conducted a webinar recently for PRIMIR, on a white paper we developed for them about brand owners and the print purchasing process. While I was speaking, I had a few “a-ha moments,” like this one:
If highly experienced print buying professionals are the primary champions of print for and within their organizations, what happens when they’ve exited the workforce?
Do you think the new wave of entry-level marketers and media staffers will take up the torch of print? How well do colleges and universities cover print as a medium in marketing and media curricula, or even in graphic design programs?
When the baby boomer print buyers retire, will those who fill their positions bring the same enthusiasm and print sensibility to their roles?
This changeover in personnel isn’t about to happen this month or even this year. But as old positions are filled with new marketers, the graphic arts industry stands to lose some of its most stalwart supporters: the print insiders.
Getting ahead of this changeover is what I’d recommend to the print industry. Now’s the time to develop strategies for dealing with a generation of marketers and purchasing professionals who lack print manufacturing knowledge.
How can the industry generate enthusiasm for print, once senior-level print customers take their passion out the door with them when they retire?
(c)2016 Margie Dana