Increasing print profitability: a four-step guide

increasing print profitability

It’s often said that there are three ways to increase profits. Sell more, spend less or push up your prices. 

It’s unlikely that any printer will be in a rush to do the latter. The print market is competitive and print buyers are savvy. Hiking up your prices will likely do you more damage than good. 

So we’re left with two options: selling more and spending less.

In my role as Business Development Lead at Ricoh UK, I speak to a lot of commercial printers and I often make a point of asking them what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes they ask me the very same question. Whichever it is, there are a few things which come up time and time again.

In this post, I wanted to share a few of the proven ways that commercial printers are increasing profitability by spending less or increasing sales.

Diversifying your offering

It’s far easier to sell new services to existing customers than it is to find new customers. In almost any industry, if you want to do this, you need to diversify your core offering. After all, in order to sell new services, you first need to develop new capabilities.

In a print context, this usually means investing in print technology. New advancements in digital print such as print enhancements can give you an edge over your competitors and increase wallet share with your customers. Speaking to your customers about their print needs outside of what you currently offer may give you a sense of what else they’re buying and provide a steer on where you could invest.

Of course, sometimes it is necessary to look outside of your current customers. And if you are trying to find new customers, one approach is to target verticals where you have had success in the past. Referrals are a key way to do this. An introduction will almost always go better than a ‘cold call’. Being able to talk knowledgeably about the prospect’s sector and its unique challenges will also put you in good stead.

Improving efficiency

Print tools that enhance workflow efficiency are vital. There are many options out there and no one-size-fits-all solutions. It really comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. However, a few areas where workflow tools can add value are:

  • Automating the receipt of orders
  • Pre-flighting of print-ready files or normalising digital assets
  • Speeding up volume, substrate and SLA assessments

All of these can allow printers of all sizes to group jobs together, reduce make-readies and find efficiencies. 

Software such as Ricoh’s Digital Storefront can facilitate efficient management of projects, replace manual processes and reduce the likelihood of errors. 

Customers can use an online booking form to select their print requirements. Once the job is submitted, it’s processed automatically and passed onto an appropriate digital press which adjusts the settings to suit the project. Once printed, the software tracks delivery or collection and invoices the job. End-to-end processes with minimal manual intervention should be the goal when digitising print processes.

Adding value

It’s important to consider and understand the purpose and value of every print job. All print has a purpose. It’s being created to serve a particular need or function. People don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on print for fun, after all. 

Quite often, as an industry, we simply produce the job, without considering its purpose. But if you don’t understand the purpose or your customer’s goals, you can’t possibly offer advice and add value. Both of which not only opens up opportunities to sell more services but also deepen the relationship. Buyers of all stripes want suppliers that do more than follow orders. They want a trusted partner who can give them the benefit of their expertise.

Creating compelling value propositions is another way for printers to add value. Print customers may not have considered the various ways that print can be used to support their marketing or other activity. By combining services, educating customers and showing the full range of print applications available, you will not only stand out from the competition but become more of a thought leader in your own right.

Reducing waste

A key way of reducing waste is exploring digital print technology. Not only is digital a better fit for the current climate of seasonal, personalised, short-run print jobs but it creates far less waste than its analogue counterparts. 

Plate-making is a time-consuming operation involving expensive metals and chemicals which are hard to dispose of appropriately. Run-up sheets on presses are also very wasteful, especially for short-run work. 

Continuous Feed Inkjet Printers are cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to offset. They can support variable data and personalisation, making it ideal for transactional and direct marketing jobs, and can match offset for speed, quality and media support.

One way of understanding the point at which litho is no longer cost-effective is to benchmark your cost-efficiency crossover point. Multiple factors such as cost, speed, quality and volume will determine whether litho or digital is the best option. It’s a good idea to quantify the point at which a print job crosses over from being a digital job to a litho one.

Improving quality

Any attempt to speed things up or reduce waste can’t happen at the expense of the final product. From the customer’s perspective, the quality of the printed product and the fact that it’s delivered on time and on a budget is paramount. Internal considerations should always come second. 

With this in mind, quality assurance measures are essential. These become even more important when you’re trying something new – whether that’s a shift in process or technology. Pay close attention to the final product after you introduce anything new to make sure that whatever you’ve changed isn’t having a negative effect on the end product.

It’s worth returning here to the ‘digital vs litho’ crossover benchmark mentioned above. Consistency is one of the virtues of the digital printing process. Repeat jobs can be challenging for lithographic printing, as customers don’t tend to appreciate the small differences that can appear between runs. These only become more apparent with repeated work. With this in mind, it may be worth factoring consistency and whether a job is likely to be regularly repeated when choosing between litho and digital.

Click here for more information on how you can improve efficiency, quality and efficiency with our Continuous Feed Inkjet Printers. And you can click here to learn more about the full range of Ricoh digital printing presses.

Danny Narey

Business Development Manager at Ricoh UK

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