April 23, 2012

Fixing the Local Print Business – The LightsOn Solution – Part Two – "Who" is Invited to Dinner.

Previous blog entries have outlined the changing market, the problems (as I see it), and solutions with general business examples that were somewhat vague, non-specific and non-committal; this entry begins changing that.  As I always note, these blog entries are my white paper outline / business plan.

To be specific in our “how’s", "why’s" and "who’s”, we must define a specific “who” and then the “why” – Those are the easy parts; “how” is the magic part - I am going to pretend I have that answer too (No, I did not major in Dr. Seuss in college (RIT BS ’79 - - UnivDayton MBA '83).  Dr. Seuss's microscopic creatures were "whos").

The biggest obstacle to get over (common amongst all the ‘who’s’) is that they can bypass us and draw a higher gross margin (we pay 30%) – let’s pretend that is true, which if it mattered, I would argue, but it doesn’t. If the phone rings to one of our affiliates, we tell them, take the order and bypass the website – it is all about the service you provide.  Our objective is not to get your customer, but get the Vistaprint customer to come to you.  You will come to us most of the time as our program is ‘priced right’, but this is not the entry for defining this.

The Who’s
‘Who One’: Independent and Freelance Web & Print Designers.  This is by far the easiest group to identify and get to – the problem is, it is individuals, each one, needing to go through the learning and training process individually – remember, we are not selling a product, but a collaborative process.  Some of these ‘Who One’s’ just do design, some partner with a printer, some broker the work themselves and some (our favorites) broker through us.  By the designer affiliating with us, not only do they make the 30%, but they stand to get new clients as well being our local affiliate. The most important thing here though, is that they have made it easier on the customer, the print buyer, who now has one less vendor to deal with saving them time (and thus, money).  Remember, printing is a service business – sell service with the product – your client will love you more for it.

‘Who Two”:  Independent local printers, marketing and promotional product firms.  Much like the ‘Who One’s’, but typically have a larger base and physical location.  To be a Local Primary Affiliate / Partner, they must be at least this.  The best thing about this group is that they are happy with 30% of something (because they understand the ‘why’s’) versus 35%-40% of nothing.

‘Who Three’:  The franchise local printer and the local independent printer.  When I first conceived this concept, this was my logical and obvious 1st choice – the problem comes with the bureaucracy of the franchisor, current UFOC stringencies and an attitude of defeatism (maintain business rather than get more).  This is a slow process, but will have one soon – they seem to understand the opportunity when we talk about mini-franchisees (our secondary affiliate) to their retail franchisee (our primary affiliate).  This is the only area when we may have an exclusive grouping, even though not an exclusive LightsOn affiliation.  These local print franchisee’s understand this and us better than anyone else.

‘Who Four”:  The local postal store, franchise or independent.  These businesses are winning purely on the market’s force, with little knowledge or expertise – and they are everywhere.  The only stores with more organic foot traffic are the Apple stores (but it’s Location – Location – Location).  I would venture to say, they are the water cooler of the 2010s – where busy (key word = “busy”) small business people pass almost daily.  Most, if not all, are already in the low end print business.  Just one funny note – I was in a postal store the other day (doing research) mailing a package and the client ahead of me requested EDDM help – He sent them to a local printer to get their brochure printed and said “come back when you have that and we will handle the EDDM”.  That customer never came back as the printer surely closed the loop and did the EDDM as well (many are today).  I shook my head thinking “box of rocks’…. Shame on the franchisor for inadequate / incomplete training (or simply not keeping the franchisees up-to-speed).

For more information about how the LightsOn Graphics affiliate program works go to www.LightsOnGraphics.com/affiliate_long/.

Blog entries (expanded insight) specific to “Who Three” and “Who Four” coming soon – Stay Tuned.

Bob