Adding Value to Print: Having value-add that spans wider

This article was first published in the September 2021 issue of Australian Printer, authored by Lamson Paragon Group CEO Rodney Frost

More than ever, we are seeing a more fragmented and diverse print market in Australia, with most players finding their niche. Not many ‘me too’s’ have survived. Those in general print that purely focus on marketing material, events, travel, education and the like are struggling due to the limitations resulting from COVID.

On the flipside, those that are producing packaging, labels or have wide format expertise for COVID-19 signage and stickers are flourishing. Having seen businesses merge, sell, close and some grow, the key to survival and success has been the breadth of revenue streams a company has both from the vertical markets it serves and the products/services offered.

For example, look at IVE Group’s breadth; As an industry leader, it offers anything from catalogues, magazines, commercial printing and packaging, to point of sale, window displays, fit-outs and branded apparel. Its four core areas of business are creative, data driven communications, production and distribution, and integrated marketing.

Last year, it pivoted in a fortnight to utilise its supply chain and distribution network to become a powerhouse offering every piece of PPE you could possibly imagine for COVID-19. Some of those areas have a high cost of entry, but some do not and they’re relevant.

Finsbury Green is another example. The team there have expertise in print, mail, digital, promotional products, print management, campaign management, creative management, retail management, warehousing, fulfilment and distribution.

And there are pure print managers whose value-add spans even wider. Look to WINC, Rothfield, PMA Global and Stream Solutions as examples here. As such, if you are only selling printed products, you are at risk of being a ‘me too’ business. All that prospects and customers can differentiate you against is your price.

Two areas where printers can offer value today would be to follow the value chain of a product or service vertically up the chain and down the chain. It is seven times harder to get a new customer compared to working broader with your existing relationships by widening the value you offer.

This could be anything from creative of the idea/concept right through to warehousing/logistics and then even further in to the analytics of spend for your customers.

For the smaller printers, the best advice is to talk to your customers and simply ask them what they wished that they could buy from you. That intel together with your understanding of what is available will hold you in a strong position.

At the Lamson Paragon Group, we are Australia’s only ‘trade only’ business in the products and services that we offer. Strangely enough, it’s our set of values – which we do not compromise – that has set us apart. 

From a product/service perspective, we added a high-end wide format latex-based division prior to COVID to give our smaller printers and print managers more products to offer. More recently, we have driven hard in to automation, system integration and building e-commerce sites for our partners which no longer limits us to only print.

This allows our partners to spend more time building their businesses and less time processing orders for basic products that could be simply put on the web.

As such, adding value and diversifying ensures for a business with less risk and reliance on a single revenue stream.

To kick start a strategy, always start with listening to your customers as to what they want from you. Then define what your appetite for risk looks like, what assets and skills you have in your business and start to knuckle down on your next move. Run this past those same customers first once you have it clear in your mind to ensure you are on the same page.

Everyone can afford to value-add, and you probably already are. If there are capital commitments required, see if there is a ‘trade only’ partner like us in that field. Utilise their existing capital and build yourself a business in partnership with them so that you have clarity on the revenue you have before taking the debt risk.

When looking to the future, other areas of value-add that printers should consider include:

  • Navigating away from a ‘just in time’ offshoring procurement model as it is far too risky. So many boats were caught up for weeks and months and companies couldn’t get their materials. As a result, both production on demand and warehousing/logistics seem to have a solid future.
  • Fiber based digital packaging has an enormous potential given Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Covenant Targets. A lot of the devices we use now for digital print are able to print the base sheets for this work and it is a big growth area.

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