Thursday, April 29, 2010

Topping the Five Star Printer

Some of the most memorable experiences you will have in your lifetime will take place over a meal in a restaurant. For some, this would include a wedding rehearsal dinner or a first date. For others, these experiences might be the excitement of dining out on a vacation or when your friends and family get together for a holiday feast. Rarely though, will the great meals and moments of your life ever occur in a fast food chain. Quick, cheap and impersonal usually don't equate to a memorable, amazing experience. There is a reason restaurants are rated on a "five-star" system and the law of averages would say that the higher a restaurant is rated, then the more likely it is that the restaurant will deliver on a memorable and amazing experience.

Sure there is place for fast food. You certainly can't beat the convenience, but if it weren't cheap then I'm not sure what the value proposition would be. This theme holds true for any business. Unless you are cranking out widgets and your core strategy is lowest price, you can't afford to not be great in every thing else you do. If a business truly wants to succeed in the coming years, then it better be in the business of creating memorable and amazing experiences.

Take for instance the printing industry. You have your cheap and convenient options available with one-click online printers or the neighborhood quick-copy store. These operations are highly standardized and can get by without great people or product. On the other side, everyone else in the industry is fighting relentlessly to create that little bit of differentiation that makes them a hair better than their competitors. The competition is stiff and just like restaurants, printers are doing their best to create "five-star" memorable experiences.

The five-star printers have world-class quality. They don't miss deadlines. They have a solution for every problem and they invest in bright and intelligent people that provide top-notch customer service.

There is a problem with focusing only on the five-star model though. One of the reasons why so many restaurants and printers lose business to competitors is that if you are only creating difference in a five-star model then your limiting your services. There is a new type of printer out there that stands out even among the elite five-star printers. They are the caterers. Like in the restaurant business (e.g. Why Catering Is Crucial), printers that focus on catering are more memorable and valuable than the most quality driven print shop.

Catering, by definition, means to satisfy and provide what is needed and required. Too many printers have equipment and standards in place that focus on what the printer wants to sell. Some of these printers may be great at what they do but if they are not adjusting the services they provide on a daily basis to fit perfectly to the customers needs, then they will become obsolete.

Printers must be caterers now more than ever. They must give the customer the power to create their own customized experience. Catering is creating personalization. Catering is attacking every problem and opportunity with a blank sheet of paper and not a predetermined set of rules. Catering is to look at a customers business and create a completely customized solution that manages print and improves their marketing. Catering is a memorable experience.

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