A recent blog post on What They Think really sums up the current PSP’s dilemma with regards to their W2P strategy:
Lets move the conversation about web-to-print where it belongs – SALES. Printers need to sell solutions, web-to-print enables printers to wrap value added solutions around their printed products.
My response is posted below as I’m not very confident that my comment will survive WTT’s moderator:
I couldn’t disagree with you more. 99 in 100 Salespeople on the PSP payroll cannot spell “solutions”, let alone sell W2P solutions. They are cut from the wrong fabric. W2P Solutions are as foreign to them as PCs are to their pre-press departments. And to their defense, they were hired to sell volume, take orders all while schmoozing clients to further obligate them. The marketplace is no longer about quantity or volume. It’s about convenience and immediate service. While today’s buyer is less knowledgeable today than ever before, their demands are over the top.
Just as PSPs are hyped up at seminars and trade shows to buy overpriced presses and equipment on a “build it and they will come” spin or “if you don’t have it you will lose your client” spin, W2P software companies have assumed the same sales tactics to sell their wares to PSPs. It works on many for awhile, but most W2P purchases end up in moth balls in only a few months. As a W2P consultant, I know you are familiar with the fact that W2P is a huge undertaking if done correctly. It only truly works when PSPs have existing long term clients demanding a W2P solution. Having vetted dozens of products in this space and deployed on multiple platforms, I can attest to the fact that the viable W2P players are now going after the enterprises clients of the PSPs. They have all but given up on the declining PSP marketplace. There just aren’t enough PSPs out there who will ever get it. Buying iron and selling its capabilities just no longer works. Yet, it’s the only way of operating that they know. Their regional sales staff mindset won’t work with digital on-demand print, low quantities and very low minimums. HP can attest to this. The economy is now global. It’s about just-in-time and only-as-much-as-I-need-now. Quantity is over. The PSPs cannot build globally on a regional framework, mindset and staff.
The market is ripe for a new type of “player”. The new player knows every aspect of the solution from the design of the interface to the back end database architecture. They understand how to build in the cloud or on the floor. They know digital press technology, interfaces and communications. Data asset management, data transfer and version control is a language they understand. Foremost, their astute business acumen knows the solution proposed must not only satisfy the needs of the least-savvy end user who will log on from afar to use the system, it must also fulfill the complex needs of the executive team. It must bring convenience and efficiency with measurable savings which can be clearly communicated to the board of directors.
She knows what top decision makers in the organization to approach, how to engage with them and how to make sense of such a complex proposal. She knows how to listen attentively to the prospective customer, ask the right questions which convey her investment of time and research in learning their business model along with the collection and retention of her client’s unique needs. She then knows how to propose, articulate, close and then build the solution which will stand the sniff test when examined by every executive in the company. Please introduce to me any people you know at a PSP who have all these skill sets and I’ll hire every one of them on the spot!
As a solutions architect of virtual and physical marcom solutions for national and global clients, I cannot hang my hat on one manufacturer, one software provider or one architecture. Clients come first. We must own clients or land clients prior to build out. And to your point, it’s all about the application, not the technology. Until this new breed becomes a force, hardware and software manufacturers selling on hope and fear will continue to mislead PSPs and continue to marginalize the print industry. The old ways of the PSP are obsolete. They have refused to conform to the new world and it’s only a matter of time until they will be returned to their previous state of being a simple manufacturer, never owning the customer and being completely ruled and owned by the new player who listens to the needs of the customer and thus owns the business. The PSP will resort to the mundane task of putting ink on paper and being ruled by price and turn.
The unfortunate reality is that PSPs continue to take the advice of partisan consultants who are being paid by manufacturers to promote their boxes and software. These “consultants” take money from press manufacturers and software manufacturers to push their stuff. A true solutions provider does not operate like this. The ad revenues to support trade rags are all from these same manufacturers who are on a leash by Wall Street’s insatiable greed brokers demanding higher and higher revenue, stock numbers, dividends and higher profit margins. The fallout is being realized by those PSPs who buy presses without a plan, have sales staff incapable of selling the work that these presses can accomplish and a business model that will never support the new world with its growing demand for less print, less paper, speedy delivery and a just-in-time culture they have been raised in. It’s the seventies all over again. Some of the largest companies in the volume print space are filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. Size does not mean stability. Read Mark Hahn’s target report here (http://targetreport.blogspot.com/). Static volume printing that survives is going offshore and what is left will be picked up by those who throw the old model away and adapt to a solutions model for their clients.