Friday, July 31, 2009

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

A recent essay in the July issue of New England Printer & Publisher looked at why printers constantly self inflict damage on their business. Jack Epstein, a consultant, took the industry to task about not billing customers for valuable services.

According to Epstein, the industry is its “own worst enemy” when it comes to being treated fairly by customers. “Who else makes custom products under extreme deadlines and doesn’t collect full or partial payments along the way?” said Epstein. “We are more lackadaisical about getting paid than cobblers, dry cleaners, and the building trades.” Epstein believes there is a lack of respect for printing. He also thinks printers have low self esteem. He provided a number of rationalizations printers use when they are giving away their services. Do you recognize any?

• Rush delivery charges. “They’re not a house account, so we’re not paying a sales commission.”
• Additional RIP time. “That’s the nature of the beast.”
• What started off being a two-color job needs to be four colors. “We can print four-color. It made the job look better and maybe we’ll win an award.”
• Fronting postage. “Nobody charges extra for that.”
• The price of paper has gone up since the original estimate. “They can’t change their PO without sending it back out for competitive bids’
• Finance charges. “Nobody pays in 30 days”
• Press checks. "Chalk it up to relationship building”
• AA’s. “No way on that job. We were late and there were quality issues”

Among Epstein’s recommendations: instant notification to customers whenever specifications change or AAs occur; clear understandings with customers about services included in the base price vs. those that will incur additional charges; and tighter coordination of effort between estimating and sales.

Epstein argues a printer’s survival just might depend on being able to collect for justified expenses by applying them only when and where they belong.

Are you giving away services? Are you leaving money on the table? Do you overlook prepress costs because you are afraid of losing the printing job? It isn't any wonder that most printers don't make any money.

Printers only need 25 good customers to have a viable business. Usually the ones who get the deals and special treatment aren't even in a printer's Top 25. They hope that by showing "they're a good guy" with low prices and free services they will end up getting all the customer's business. Usually all they get is more work that the customer wants free.

If you are a good printer with good service and quality and who brings extra value to the table, then you ought to charge for it. Let the cheap customers go to your competitors and drive them out of business. Your Top 25 customers usually appreciate what you do and will pay for it.

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