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Research results

Jun 1, 2010 12:00 AM


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In August 2009, Penton Media's (parent company of AMERICAN PRINTER) research department conducted a study of the commercial printing industry. The study generated 551 responses from printing industry executives. Research objectives included gauging participants' awareness of virtual trade shows, discovering subjects of interest for online education, identifying trade show attendance intentions and industry information preferences for content and product purchases.

How printers prefer to receive information

Now, before reading any further, printing industry suppliers and printers themselves should know that over the past 12 months this same Penton Media research department conducted studies for Microsoft, TD Ameritrade, IBM, UBS and SAP to help them gather market intelligence. Although these “blue-chip” firms have significant research resources, they still relied on the “vertical expertise” Penton offered in their markets of interest.

Further, the study has a margin of error of +- 5% at a statistical confidence level of 95%. This means that if the study were conducted repeatedly, the results would be the same 95% of the time. I mention this statistic because I know the suppliers serving the commercial printing industry are a skeptical bunch. So, if you doubt the findings, and you might because they are disturbing, we will give you the questions, and you can go out and do it yourself and get the same results.

Send us a salesperson

The research results revealed that commercial printer executives ranked supplier salespeople (60%) as the No. 1 preferred source of product information. The second most preferred source of product information was from advertisements in trade publications at 41%. Ranked third was visits to supplier demonstration facilities at 39%, and trade show attendance came in fourth at 38%. Surprised that print advertisements scored so high? Remember, if you think the data is self-serving, we invite you to execute the same study yourself.

Now, this is where things get interesting. Fifty-three (53%) of printing executives responded that they meet with 2 or fewer sales reps per month and 68% said they meet with 3 or fewer reps per month. As past NPES research shows, executive management personnel in printing firms are the ones making key buying decisions. So, it is worth considering the odds of your message being delivered by your sales representatives to the correct executives when there are hundreds of industry suppliers out there vying for the same meetings.

E-mail advertising from suppliers ranked seventh and was cited as the preferred source of supplier information by 9% of printer executives. This score is not surprising as everybody seems to be buried in e-mail messages from all kinds of sources. Data measuring executive trade show attendance roughly parallels actual attendance figures released by GASC.

Suppliers have to be wondering how to more effectively communicate their unique benefits to commercial printing executives.

So, what do industry suppliers do next? It's your move.


Scott Bieda is Publisher of AMERICAN PRINTER and vice president of Penton Custom Solutions