The printing industry is fueled by innovation. You see it every day, all around you. And while this is not a new trend, the pace of innovation seems to have accelerated. But what does innovation really encompass? The new products coming out of the digital, inkjet and wide-format space are remarkable. And let’s not overlook the new offset press and bindery technology that includes features that are truly transformative. I know that I’ve probably not mentioned your favorite area of innovation, but I’m sure that you’ll be able to see them all for yourself at the upcoming shows (yeah — shows are coming back)!
One area that isn’t talked about much though, is innovation in how you do business. That’s right, how you get and keep customers, and how you process the customer orders — all the way to how you get paid. As customer behavior has changed and the options that people like to use to conduct business have multiplied, you don’t hear much about business process innovation.
Solving customer problems is a segment of business process innovation that often gets overlooked. There’s much talk and product innovation focused on the solutions, but not as much on how to identify and work through a customer problem. Customers are probably more interested in your level of interest, and ability to help them solve their problems, vs. hearing about all the great solutions you might have.
If you are in a client facing, tip of the spear role, you know that working through a customer problem helps to separate you from your competitors. During your discovery, you work to uncover the areas that could make life easier for your customer. And, if you can create a path that will connect your solutions to their problems, you are well on your way to becoming a trusted resource.
In your business, how is this being done today? Is the sales team comprised of hero sales reps who “do what they do best” every day, or is there a model that you use that is both scalable and repeatable. What are the best practices you use for discovery and working through solving customer problems? When was the last time it was revised? How is it working? Is it still relevant? How many new “ideal” customers have come on so far this year and what does the sales pipeline look like?
Let’s look at a what-if scenario. What if you were able to show that by working with your company, you could add substantial value to the products they use to help drive their business. That value could include factors such as time, effort, redundancy, effectiveness, maximizing their print spend, etc. And don’t forget, it’s only real value if they acknowledge that it is. What impact would it have on your business if you were able to do that before you just started quoting on jobs?
There’s no magic here. And while this isn’t a new concept, the methods that you use probably have changed or should change. Earning a seat at the table is worth its weight in gold.
I’ll leave you with this thought. What impact would it have on your business if you were able to get acknowledgement from a customer that you in fact, have identified a problem and provided a value based solution, before you just started quoting on jobs? That would be some worthwhile innovation.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions