Commercial Printing Industry: Great Lessons from the Great Recession

By Andrew Paparozzi
In March 4, 2011

Recovery from our industry’s deepest recession on record has finally begun. Once that would have meant good times for all—because once surviving recession was enough. Now we either prepare for recovery or get left behind.

Learning from the Great Recession is an important way to prepare for recovery. Among the lessons NAPL State of the Industry participants have learned:

• “One second of lax attention and you’re gone!!” Recovery used to widen our margin for error. Not anymore. One second of complacency—one second of thinking that we have it all figured out—and we’re overtaken by competition that we didn’t even see coming.

• “Without a plan you just float along. Success doesn’t happen without knowing what you want to do.” When nothing much is changing, finding better ways to do what we’ve always done is good enough. But our industry isn’t simply changing—it’s being redefined, making it essential that we plan effectively based on, as one State of the Industry participant puts it, “all favorable business intelligence that can be gained from the marketplace to the shop floor.”

• “We can do more with less.” Recessions force us to do things we should have done long ago. The key is to keep doing those things—to not let bad habits creep back in—as recovery progresses. Quoting another State of the Industryparticipant: “We’ve learned that we can’t use being busy as an excuse for not getting better.”

• “Add value or die.” There are a lot of ways to add value in our industry, from being the most efficient, lowest cost producer in a commodity market to creating marketing programs that integrate print, variable-content digital, database management, purls, landing pages, etc. Whatever we choose, we have to quantify our contributions to the client’s success—How much money have we saved them? How much have we increased ROI to a marketing campaign? How much have we increased traffic to the website?—and never assume that they recognize our contributions.

• “If you aren’t thinking differently, you aren’t in business.” Put another way, there’s plenty of opportunity out there—just not in the same old places or by doing the same old things.

 For a complete list of lessons learned and a detailed discussion of what’s ahead for the commercial printing industry, see the NAPL State of the Industry Report, Ninth Edition, January 2011.

 What have you learned from the Great Recession? Please let us know by commenting below.

Andrew Paparozzi

Epicomm's Andrew Paparozzi, Vice President/Chief Economist, is well-known for his accurate and thoughtful discussions on the economy and US commercial printing industry. A foremost author and speaker on economic business trends in the printing industry, Paparozzi heads Epicomm's Printing Economic Research Center.

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