Over the last 20 years the printing, screen printing and sign writing industries have changed completely. Anyone who did their apprenticeship in the early ’80s in any one of these industries would find what they studied would have little relevance today. Our customer’s perception has also changed. They all want it today and they also do not in most cases appreciate what we do for them. They believe because they can design something on their home or work computer, save it to disk and give that to us we should be able to do the job for free. I believe the only way to change the perception of what our customers think of us is to change what we think of ourselves. Rather than seeing ourselves as a sales representative for our company, we must see ourselves as a purchasing officer for our customers. In this way we transfer "our" wants and needs to the "clients" wants and needs. At the end of the day they may start to appreciate us for the talents we have.
The best way to explain this is to liken our industry to the building industry. If I want to build a home I will not be speaking to the plumber, electrician, carpenter or landscaper. I talk to the home building companies. In a sense they don’t build homes, they just coordinate the tradesmen. We have been educated to buy our new home this way because it saves money and time. We do not have the knowledge to know who to talk to first or even if we are getting a good price. The same can be applied to our industry. Imagine a company that could produce every job that has your company logo on it. A real estate agent for example at present has to talk to a printer for stationary, a sign writer for their shop front, a screen printer for their For Sale signs and the list goes on. It is no wonder most small businesses today do not have a coordinated image. Every time the logo is reproduced by a different trade the image will change.
Another thing that has compounded the problem for our customers is that each industry has become fragmented. No longer do I go to a printer and expect them to do all the printing in house like it was 20 years ago. If I need to place an order for some raised printing, some envelopes and some four colour proc jobs, chances are I will be talking to three different companies. How on earth can our customers be expected to go to the right supplier for their needs?
The only way I found to solve this problem is to build a network of faithful suppliers from the screen printing, sign writing and printing industries. Not only did this give me a wealth of knowledge for my customers, it also gave me a number of other companies selling for my business. Chances are when a sign writer is asked to sign write a ute, their customer also needs business cards.
This is why we must become a purchasing officer for our customer, more than just an order taker for our company. For example, if I am asked to print a green on a business card for say a plumber knowing he wants to sign write his van, then I should find out if a sign writer can match the green in their limited vinyl sticker material range. Otherwise the only way to sign write the green is to paint it on, hence costing a lot more. Our job is not just to supply product from our trade, our job is to coordinate the image of our customers’ businesses.