Product vs. Service

For the past five years, I have been living by the mantra, “Sell consultatively, don’t sell transactions.” Basically what this means is that I should focus on providing services, not products. It was back in my early days at Rochester Institute of Technology that I learned that printers should focus on “value-added services” in order to be true leaders in the industry. This was at a time when the marketplace was cluttered with print manufacturers all pushing the same products but at very different service levels. Since then, the printing industry has gone through a large consolidation period. Thousands of print manufacturers have either been run out of business or bought up by larger corporations. Those who still stand today offer additional services, which has distinguished them in the marketplace and ultimately kept them afloat in the troubled waters of our economy.

Before, when print manufacturers only offered products, those products were backed by the equipment that could manufacture them. Now that we see these same manufacturers offering a wide array of services, they are straying from their comfort zone. No longer are they depending on equipment to produce their revenue––they are instead investing in people and software to create their service offerings. Manufacturers have even begun to outsource services to outfits that are more capable of certain tasks. This is something unheard of in past years (unless, of course, it was in reference to a bindery job that simply couldn’t be done in house).

While I would argue that it is these services that have “kept the doors open,” I would also go out on a limb and say that many of these manufacturers are not completely qualified to offer everything on their sell sheets. Manufacturers have been forced to offer a spectrum of services, and for many, these services have become increasingly hard to manage. It’s time for every company in our industry to take a step back and focus on what it does best: pairing products and services together to offer clients solutions it knows it can execute and deliver.

Now more than ever, our industry has a need for highly trained and qualified project managers––people who are devoted to offering the best solutions for their clients and their company. Gone are the days of the print production person who just manages print jobs. Here, now, we all need to be project managers and client-service specialists. We need to keep abreast not only of the latest and greatest manufacturing processes but also of the cutting-edge technology that will transform our product lines into complete end-to-end solutions. If you ask Stephanie and Dustin, they will be the first to tell you that continuing education is a necessary element in today’s marketplace, and I would agree wholeheartedly.

What this all boils down to is the perfect win-win solution: offering our clients products and services that can help them achieve their goals while maintaining a healthy revenue stream for our company. In the end, it’s all about the relationship that we maintain with our clients and how we build trust by delivering what we promise.

So take a step back and think: Is it the product or the service that keeps you coming back to the same place? I’ll bet you I know your answer to that!

Author:  John Mehl

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