It's not about the press

June 1, 2011

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

Last weekend, I set aside a moment of quiet to commune with nature. The stillness, the chirping of the birds, the gentle wind in the trees, the mighty roar of jet engines … . The spot I chose for communing with nature was adjacent to O'Hare Intl. Airport, the world's busiest commercial airfield.

Staring up at the constant flow of tin behemoths taking off and landing, I was struck by the sameness of those jet planes.

I note the different engine configurations and see the individual tailfin artwork, but still, to me, all these planes look pretty much alike. Even when I know the differences, they still look alike. I imagine this is how your customers feel when they see your presses during a plant tour or view pictures of your pressroom on your website.

You may point out all the nifty features that you think (or have been told by the manufacturer) are unique to your particular brand of press. Your client is yawning all the while.

Digital presses are even worse. They look like copiers. People have them in their offices. You are starstruck by all the rockin' things you can do with digital. Your prospect is thinking, “Gee, this thing looks just like my laser printer. Hey, it is even made by the same company! Gawd, that thing breaks down every day!”

Mind over matter

Yes, most presses look alike to the general public. Should we educate them on the differences? Don't bother. Instead, educate them on the differences between you and your competitors. Those differences are not related to equipment.

When you book a flight on a commercial airline, does the make and model of the plane enter into your decision? Probably not. Even if it does, it takes a back seat to price, itinerary, frequent flyer miles and locations served.

Would you pause before boarding a bus, train or taxi to check the make and model of the vehicle? Even if you have such knowledge (which isn't likely) the only factor affecting your boarding decision will be whether or not it goes where you want to go.

Let me give an example that is more realistic and closer to home. Most of you reading this article use freight companies to ship raw materials and finished goods. Someone in your organization spends a lot of time managing logistics, which usually means shipping by truck.

Does the brand of tractortrailer even come up in the decisionmaking process? Does anyone, including your shipping clerk or traffic manager, even know what model of truck is pulling your freight around, or what make of engine is under its hood? Of course not. Such considerations would be absurd, especially when there are so many more important factors to consider.

True differentiation

I do advocate meticulous research and scrupulous comparison before the purchase of any press. When considering a digital press, the devil is in the details. Study them, learn them, know them, but don't pester your customers with them.

Instead, go directly to explaining what is truly unique about your firm. What can you do that no one else, not even those with the same presses, can do to benefit your clients?

If you have been touting your particular brand of press as your differentiator, try this thought exercise to get you started. Make a list of all competitors who use the same equipment as you. What separates your company from all the rest? What are you doing differently?

If there isn't any significant difference, you need to look at more than just a new press. When considering a digital press, the devil is in the details. Study them, learn them, know them, but don't pester your customers with them.