In storytelling and when writing a screenplay, there is almost always a beginning, a middle, and an end. Another way to put this is that there is usually an Act One, Act Two, and Act Three.

--Act One hooks you, grabs your attention, and creates excitement.

--Act Two is usually the messy part — it introduces the protagonist, creates anxiety, and often presents daunting information. As exhaustive and painful as it can be, Act Two is necessary to tell a complete, balanced story.

--Act Three solves the problem, smooths out the wrinkles, and/or provides resolve.

Ironically this three-act structure often mirrors the experience of implementing a new production inkjet press. This article summarizes all the “Acts” involved in acquiring an inkjet device, and also explores some of the pitfalls that may be encountered along the way.

Act One

The foundation has been set — you determine that a production inkjet press will help your business and solve many challenges with production and on-time delivery. You select a technology partner, make the investment, and implement a new high-speed inkjet press. Everyone is excited about the new opportunities and manufacturing improvements that inkjet promises. Even if the investment is sound, however, a big “a-ha” or even “uh-oh” moment can arise with little or no anticipation… bringing us to Act Two.

Act Two

The protagonist will generally show up after just a few months of running your new press. You might realize that the transfer of work from offset to digital toner merely moves tasks from one device to another. Perhaps the implementation helps you save labor costs, gives you the capacity to grow, and prints the applications that you transfer quicker and more efficiently. It is also likely that your profit margins will increase, but maybe your revenue has not — and now you have a LOT more capacity than you imagined. It’s possible that your current customers will fail to see the value of your investment and continue to request discounts or lower prices. Although inkjet might have solved some of your problems, you are suddenly faced with new challenges: you must find new business (the right business) to fill the capacity while simultaneously helping your customers recognize how they can gain from it so you can minimize the need for price cuts.

Act Three

Now comes the good part — most of your problems have been solved, you have educated your customers about the value of your investment, and they understand that it can ultimately deliver better business results for them. Your sales team has a renewed interest in your capabilities as well as the confidence and insight they need to engage in new opportunities.

The Complete Story

Production inkjet presses continue to grow in popularity. In fact, Keypoint Intelligence’s latest forecast data indicates that US production inkjet placements are expected to rise from 901 units in 2019 to 2,211 units in 2024, demonstrating a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.7%.

In time, nearly every key player in the industry will be leveraging the expansive technological changes and advantages that a production inkjet press can deliver. At the same time, however, placing value on the device and the technology behind it is old school thinking. It’s natural to want to talk about your new capabilities, but such a discussion will only confuse most of your customers and prospects without reference. You must examine your current product offerings and map the value of your new capabilities to your customers' needs.

When print service providers were asked about the biggest surprises they encountered after installing a new inkjet press, nearly all reported that although they expected to have more capacity, they had no idea that an inkjet press would deliver so much capacity. Many also cited that age-old problem — customers simply don’t know what they don’t know, so the capabilities of the new technology are often underutilized and underappreciated.

While it's ideal to focus your sales efforts on finding more business to fill the new capacity, you will likely encounter several challenges. First, this is a very competitive market. Most of the customers that require printing services will already have a provider, so attracting their attention, holding it, and eventually bringing them on board can take time. Furthermore, your salespeople will need proof that the "new" press will be able to deliver what they promise. New technology should generate energy and enthusiasm, but this excitement can often be thwarted simply because the rep doesn’t have enough confidence in the change.

This puts the focus back on the relationships you have with your current customers to fill that capacity more quickly. It is likely that they already enjoy the relationship and service you offer, so this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the value that comes with an inkjet press. Even so, merely sharing the news of your latest investment will bring no value to them. In fact, articulating the value that you can deliver in terms of “better, faster, cheaper” might very well encourage your customers to explore other offerings— you certainly won’t be the only provider that’s making this claim!

The thing that truly matters in today's business environment is helping your customers achieve better business results. Teaching your clients how your new capabilities can provide better communication and experiences with their customers is the first step in filling the capacity gap. Once print buyers understand the benefits that they can achieve with personalization, full color, and faster time-to-market, they will often uncover additional print opportunities that need to be transformed.

Customer education remains a much-needed area of focus in our industry. This is even more the case when it comes to leveraging inkjet technology. Instead of pointing out that your new press is faster and less costly to operate, inform your customer that you finally have the capabilities to deliver highly personalized printed content in full color that can drive more sales when used correctly. This approach can help you avoid pitfalls like underutilized capabilities and overlooking the immediate abundance of capacity.

The Bottom Line

Businesses that invest in production inkjet technology must refrain from using words that might damage the value they deliver. Start by omitting terms like “better, faster, and cheaper” from your vernacular. Make a list of exactly how you can improve the effectiveness of the work that you are already providing to your customers. Teach, provide examples, demonstrate case studies, suggest best practices, and find solutions to help your customers get more from their print spend. Although this has been said before, it bears repeating — bypass technological conversations, no matter how excited you are about the features and functions of your new inkjet press. Walking into a conversation with nothing but technical jargon will not communicate the value of your new capabilities. Instead, focus on the single most important thing that your customer wants to hear… the business outcome that your solutions can help them achieve!

Karen Kimerer is Director of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Business Development Strategies service. She has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.