W2P Advice to PSPs: Part 4 – The Horse, the Cart & The Rider

Your business is shrinking.  Look anywhere and the writing is on the wall.  Your sales staff cannot forecast into next week, let alone the rest of the quarter.  Print is fickle and print buyers are even more fickle.

You’ve been through the digital melee.  You have a digital press.  That just sunk you deeper in debt.  You still don’t know whether you’re making money on it.  You’re now convinced that the platform you’ve been building upon, along with your present staff will not support a profitable digital directive.  You’re also convinced that building value add into your offerings can only happen with digital solutions.  Where do you turn? Your sales staff won’t sell the low commission work.  You’re tired of hearing about how it cannot work from your sales staff, but in a way, they’re right.  You need to keep those expensive cylinders moving on those 40″ presses and your payroll content because there isn’t any young blood coming into the print business.  After all, that’s where all your money is coming from.  Leave them be.

If you’ve read previous posts, you know that trying to pose as an MSP, by selling more marketing services is not the answer.  You’re a printer, not a market consultant.  And you’re now convinced that the advice coming from the typical PSP vendor is not the way to go either.  You’re in need of more revenue at a higher profit margin.  Building solutions and finding customers that will value those solutions  is now your main concern.

To do this is 180 degrees opposite of how you built your conventional business.  You bought iron, you hired print personnel and you then went out and got business to fill up that iron.  Your footprint is regional and your sales force is local. You belong to local organizations for leads and relationships and these are strong, but shrinking as more people vacate printed matter in exchange for online and digitally produced, short run and small quantity jobs.

Your new target:  Your new target is national and/or global.  They have a large footprint and they need vendors to do all of the heavy lifting as their staff is slim and stretched.  They have hundreds, if not thousands of satellite locations spread all over.  They need stuff every day, but it’s minimal and it needs to be as efficient as going to McDonald’s.

Your product offering: Small jobs like business cards, flyers, brochures, sell sheets and training manuals is your new shtick.  Exactly opposite of the types of jobs your sales staff is comfortable selling.  Low quantity, quick turn, warehouse and fulfillment at a minimum, print on demand whenever possible and absolutely no AA or other ala carte charges are to be tolerated.

In order to pull this off, you must find the customer first, then have the framework by which to demonstrate to the customer that you’re capable of handling the work and the load at very little cost (preferably no cost) for development and deployment.  Only one problem, you don’t have the framework and you don’t have the people to demonstrate your capability to meet this type of client’s needs.  You have no horse, no cart and no rider.

Option 1: Buy a company with these capabilities.  Roll it into your corporation.  The order is tall and you’ll most likely spend 24-48 months searching, vetting and traveling to determine who the players are and whether or not they’re competent, qualified and affordable.  This is the longest most expensive shot and requires you find just the right company with the right horse, the right cart and the right rider, on your first shot.  Bring your banker and all your money. (Not an easy thing to do if you’re a traditional PSP.)

Option 2: Partner with a sales entity and become their manufacturer.  Again a tall order in finding a potential partner that has the sales expertise AND the network of C-level contacts.  This option excludes the framework.  You’ll have to scramble and spin to land your first client and hope you pick the right solution partner for the technical piece the first time.  Finding a partner in this space is another needle in the haystack.  Very few exist.  Most are just brokers and don’t have this type of presence.  This is the horse without the cart or the rider.  Most are donkeys or plow horses.

Options 3: Resort to finding the right technical person to build the framework, the process and bring in the staff to support this new direction.  Then hire a national salesperson (good luck in finding a true player) with contacts at national corporations to bring in the business.  This is building the cart and then trying out horses until you find the right one.  Odds are you’ll be several years before you find a thoroughbred and a jockey capable of a championship race.

It’s not easy and don’t forget the role of the trainer (strategist).  It must be a committee of your best people and it must be in place.  If you misstep, you can choose the wrong horse (sales), build the wrong type of cart (framework) which means you lose your rider (technical guru) too.  You must hold your water and go after the national clients.  Unlike conventional print, you cannot be all things to all people.  You must hold out for the big clients.  You must have enough foresight to realize that you’ll have to walk away from the deals that don’t fit.  In essence, you are forced to learn a new language, a new discipline and build a new type of model all the while keeping your conventional business running smoothly.  The two are opposites and you’ll lay awake at night wondering much of the time.  But hey, that’s capitalism at its best.  Disruption is now commonplace.  It’s what pushes us to the next discovery, invention and more profitable business plan.  PSPs have been commoditized.  Reinvention is the only answer other then selling out and closing one’s doors.  That’s an option too, but don’t expect a valuation you can live with now that supply has far outstripped demand in every market.

About marcomstudio

Solutions Architect/President of SPC Marcom Studio - a forward-thinking marcom execution solutions provider.
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