The CPO's Corner
Help! I’m a Print Buyer in the Digital Age – what do I do?
Varick Street in New York City was once the epicenter of print production in the United States. Driven out by high rents and falling demand, printers started leaving or closing in the 1990’s. And according to industry source PrintImpressions, that decline has continued for the last 25 years.
How have printers responded? With sales nearly 15% below pre-Recession levels, many commercial printers now make a third of their revenue from services that support marketing, design, mailing, and fulfillment. In other words, printers have diversified into other forms of communication because the world has changed. So they support the ways that companies communicate –ways that didn’t exist in the heyday of Varick Street.
This question hits home to me because of a personal experience. Pete (not his real name) is a real master of print. With experience in many aspects of the print business from the ground up, he was the perfect person to help an employer with a significant spend in that space. He did a great job. He rightsized our suppliers to match print jobs with supplier capabilities, ensuring that plain black-on-white statements were no longer printed in a shop full of eight-color presses. He conducted reverse auctions at first and then eventually created an automated print tool that allowed our buyers to instantly determine the best match for the assignment. Pete was highly respected by the legal, compliance, finance, and marketing communities within our firm, and had full access to our senior-most executives.
But as time went by things changed – our firm converted to online reporting and email marketing. More emphasis was placed on social media. The number of print jobs decreased, and the opportunity to show significant savings was gone, because the right infrastructure was in place. The firm could no longer justify someone with his laser-focused expertise.
Countless print experts are facing that very challenge today. So if you’re “the print guy (or gal)” in your office, what does that mean for you? Perhaps you should be taking a cue from the broader industry and use this opportunity to diversify yourself. If you aren’t doing it already, consider implementing a technology tool to help you with your print spend. They are more comprehensive, flexible, and less expensive than the first iterations that were created a dozen years ago. Then, leverage the efficiency you get with the tool to take the time to educate yourself. Look at the emerging ways your company is communicating to current and prospective clients. How can you help? Where is there no sourcing gatekeeper? Are there multiple email marketing platforms in use, for example? How do you become the “communications” procurement professional?
In spite of consolidation, many printers are thriving because they’ve broadened their expertise. You can, too.
Joanna Martinez is a global procurement / supply chain leader and the founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC. She is a frequent lecturer and blogger on procurement topics and also provides coaching, strategy development, training, and cost reduction opportunity assessment. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to technology startups.
As either regional or global CPO, Joanna has led transformation initiatives for companies in many different sectors: among them Johnson & Johnson (consumer products), Diageo (beverage), AllianceBernstein LP (financial services) and Cushman & Wakefield (real estate services, property management). She has also held client-facing roles, effectively giving her the opportunity to “sit on both sides of the table”.