CEOCOACH Summer 2013

June 30, 2013



Navigating the path from printer to marketing solutions provider and beyond

The printing industry is filled with sad stories of companies that have committed completely to new business models only to learn how long it takes to make the transition.

Many companies have a visionary view of a digital future, but they’ve been so focused on building a model for the long term that they’ve run out of money in the short term.

It’s exciting to build an entirely new business model, and it’s easy to overlook the burdens of bringing in enough work to cover daily costs. That’s why managing the process of profitable change isn’t a simple matter of choosing between being heroic or timid.

After a midsize printer closed about a year ago. he CEO of the doomed company told an interviewer, “We tried offering marketing services, and some clients went for it, but it was a long, hard slog. We just weren’t prepared for how long it would take and how difficult and expensive it would be to develop the new capabilities. It didn’t cost much for the equipment; it was the staffing in entirely new areas: marketing people, designers, programmer/developers, and people to sell the new services, because most of our existing salespeople just couldn’t get comfortable with the higher-level sale.”


Being successful in selling entirely new added-value services requires much more than calling yourself a “marketing solutions provider.” It requires an entirely new skillset, a new way of thinking, and new kinds of people who probably know very little (and care even less) about printing.


There are only three fundamental steps involved in making the transition. The details will take a little longer to explain.

  1. Fight hard (and systematically) to preserve the sales you have.
  2. Work relentlessly on being more cost effective and efficient—to become as low-cost an operation as possible.
  3. Reconfigure your company to make customers feel good about doing business with you while building new sales around enhanced services that often have little to do with ink (or toner) on paper.


New kinds of sales will require an entirely new kind of selling effort. In fact, they’ll require you to create quite a different kind of company with a different range of services, different capabilities and different kinds of people. Consider the following questions:

  • Is your staffing appropriate for your likely sales volume? Really?
  • Do you have the right kinds of people to do business in the new ways you’re planning?
  • Is your plant operating efficiently? Really?
  • Are your workflows helping or hindering you?

Your company will be different in almost every way—except that you’ll still be operating in a tough, competitive environment, and the underlying economics won’t be changing for the foreseeable future.


Bob is president of R.H. Rosen Associates. He’s finalizing his PRINT 13 speaking engagements as well as book signing plans for “The New Graphic Arts CEO: Getting Your Company Safely from Here to There.” 

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.Basic HTML code is allowed.