Grafica News - January 2012

“Do not leave money behind on the table” Part I
Strategic business model to embrace added-value Special Effects - either swim with the alligators or against them!

By Mike Young, Imagetek Consulting International, North Haven, Conn., USA

The problem? not offering what they would really desire!
In the world of professional salesmanship, (that is not an oxymoron, contrary to belief), there is only one thing judged worse than 'overselling' consumers from a business standpoint—and that is 'underselling'. Suppliers rapidly lose business once customers realise they have been hoodwinked from being oversold with worthless bill of goods. Conversely, if customers feel they did not get the right type of support or assistance, ideas, recommendations or desirable options openly available to them, even if costing more¯you bet they would quickly switch their business to someone that addresses those missing facets, making them feel special and one-of-a-kind. If anyone feels indifferent to this supplercustomer relationship scenario, then you better read on.

The desirable options referred to here are any final additions, a valueadded enhancement if you will, that could improve upon an otherwise plain-looking print. While such business transaction should be part and parcel of the selling process to begin with, a new lucrative market has recently developed that has suddenly changed the whole portfolio of finishing enhancements by making desirable features so much easier to apply. This is nothing more than making use of a range of specialised UV ink coatings that explicitly creates an abundance of varying characteristic effects—usually known simply as Special Effects printing.

While the Indian printing community is certainly ahead of the curve providing these special effects to its home-grown marketplace, as opposed to their way behind western hemisphere counterparts, it occasionally pays to revisit these value-added features strategically as a way to tweak one's business model to improve upon its bottom line—irrespective of company size or market specialty. It is critical to realise that any printing company not stepping into this lucrative field of added-value special effects means they will leave money behind on the table—by far the worst thing that can possibly happen in any business situation!

The mainstay of customers' mentality is no different from yours or mine. We often do not know what we want. We knowingly want that something but do not know how or what to ask for. You call a taxi only because you know exactly where you want to go but not know how to get there. You ask for a menu because you do not know what to order—even in a favourite restaurant. You walk into a showroom to buy a car and if you know precisely what you want, then you are fortunate to be in the top one percent projectile that does. However, the reality about that 'one percent' analogy is the odds are still not in your favour of driving the car home exactly of your choice. Interior/exterior colour may not be your first choosing; options wanted was either not available or you had to settle for others you really did not want. Same thing happens when you walk into a clothes shop—we generally search for things until was see something we like and want—if we're lucky.

At a restaurant, you may ask the waiter what is good on the menu or even for the chef's recommendations. In reality, we want the waiter to 'sell' us something that arouses the appetite because we cannot figure out something ourselves in a timely fashion. While waiting for my breakfast to be served one morning on a recent business trip, a different waiter came by my table and asked if I care to have a refreshing glass of ice-cold freshly squeezed orange juice. As the cup of tea was doing nothing for my thirst, the suggestion sounded very appealing so I accepted—in spite of the fact I do not like pulp in my juice. Nonetheless, I was clearly sold in a creative manner purely by the waiter's enthusiastic description of his add-on enrichment [enhancement] to my already chosen meal. Very clever and enterprising waiter, or restaurant, I thought later when noticing the additional price but happy to pay it.

One cannot readily assume print buyers/customers know such wonderful features exist out there unless it is brought to their attention. Think of them being in a restaurant and not having a menu to guide their choices. Like everything to boot, specialty items have to be continuously sold at every opportunity or else the account will eventually be lost. Do you think I would be the last person to buy freshly squeezed orange juice in that restaurant—of course not. Chances are though; perhaps over 80 percent of their patrons did not intend buy the juice to until it was expressively offered separately as a condiment, since it was not visually displayed anywhere! This is classic selling at its best.

For the very same reason, special effect enhancements do not outwardly sell themselves but must first be made known in order to whet the appetite. Once that part of the alluring-process has been fittingly handled—then selling automatically takes care of itself by natural impulses! For this 'process' to succeed properly, it is important to develop the situation where the customer wants to buy the feature rather than it being pitched and shoved down their throats. When they chose to want something special in their own mindset and space—they are more incline and willing to pay the extra regardless.

The world of printing is no different. Yes, customers and print buyers alike ask for what they need printed; perhaps even a repeat of a previous job—but that may not necessarily be what they are actually asking—even when stated in a clear commanding tone of voice. What they are really asking between the lines is there anything else you can do or offer that will improve; such as a faster turnaround, lower cost solution or, more explicitly, increase visual appeal that jumps out from the status quo. The fact is they want you to make a 'counter-offer' even though they may not ask or outwardly display the signs for such.

Think of the times you bought something specifically from a supplier who gave you much more information and little-known tips about its use. One is then contentedly inclined to pay a little more, because you were wholly satisfied in which the way the item was handled and sold in a professional way—unlike less-than-good previous experiences. This is what separates ordinary businesses from extraordinary profitable ones. Despite being constantly reminded to the contrary by customers; price is far from being number one in the quality stakes. Giving customers something that is spectacularly stunning is the ultimate win-win situation for both parties. What you do to make that customer number one with your print finishing is the most important trait in the whole process.

Think outside of the box
The typical inner mechanisms of the printing community have undergone seismic changes globally during the past decade or more—some regions/countries more than others. Rules and, in some instances, even ethics of the game has changed too where one dedicated process effectively steals business away from another processes' traditional territory, all in hopes of bringing in much needed profit. It is no longer fun, not what owners wanted nor signed onto when they chose this line of business by operating in this fashion. Even so, the scenario is playing out everywhere right now, where profit margins are squeezed so tight that many jobs printed are a gift, as the proverbial pie seems to be getting smaller.

When everyone competes for the same job profits take a hit, while indications suggests such scenario will continue to stay this way with no letup in sight. Printers of all stripes (offset, flexo, digital and screen) are desperately seeking resourceful ways to shore up their own bottom-lines just to stay afloat in business. One printer at a recent exhibition bemoaned the fact that he could not hope to stay in business much longer because virtually every job he recently completed has been for love—not profit! Others told similar accounts to the fact. There has to be a better way to devise a business plan if it is to become profitable and healthy once again.

In this respect, too many printers are not thinking outside the box but rather focus on ways to minimize cost per-printed-unit in their relentless but futile means of shoring up profit. Innovative printers no less, those who are willing to 'think outside the box', can simply grow their businesses and enjoy handsome returns on their venture by offering value-added features that radiates excitement for customers' future business in print. When special effects become product? profits automatically increases! Perhaps the most resourceful and least costly approach to succeed in winning additional profitable business is to provide the much admired and sought after valueadded finishing features¯the type that characteristically brings unique sensations by effectively transforming ordinary looking prints into extraordinary breathtaking ones. Entrepreneurial-driven companies are beginning to recognize the potential of this new and extremely lucrative market niche that has suddenly increased the size of the proverbial pie, simply by screen printing 'value-added' special effects that virtually guarantees a windfall in profitable business.

Providing value-added finishing enhancements to commercial/graphic prints have been around for a number of years, albeit, limited in features and usually intricate to process. Notwithstanding, many of those finishing treatments might now be endangered species as a new level of Ultra-Violet family-range of coating technology empowers the development of special effects as it steadily advances.

Print buyers today are more demanding than ever before; wanting more and better for less! On the other hand, they are also clamouring to provide excitement for their own markets and customers, something wholly different and imposing, something spectacularly unique and very stunning. These buyers are no different from you or I; they are willing to spend additional premiums for something that visibly sets their prints apart if it boast some form of electrifying enhancements that special effects can excitingly bring to the table.

Even though screen printing is recognized as the poor cousin of the allied printing industries, its prowess inexplicitly provides some of the most spectacular visual-enhancing results that no other process can hope to emulate any time soon. The type of special effects referred to here are those created either by a single pass or multiple layers of specially formulated UV curable clear coating (varnish), together with additives as necessary that aesthetically provides an abundance of different effects according to desired needs. Further impressive results are obtained with combination layers as well as those being applied onto unprinted/uncoated stocks, thereby visually creating an inexpensive assortment of exclusive-looking substrate types, such as foil-likeness but in selective areas (Pic. 1). Special effect UV inks is applied only by screen, which can be printed onto any previously printed matter to additionally provide visually amazing enhanced effects, whether the print job was originally offset, flexo, digital or screened. The extraordinary pulling-power of these arresting effects can produce incredible looking deep high gloss, texture, abrasive-feel, wrinkle, coral, icy snow, genuine-looking silver/gold, bubble, glitter, selective foil stamping and an infinite range of fine line micro-embossing and 3D holographic designs as well as other unbelievably incredible results for a host of applications and desired eyecatching appearances.

The purpose and target for special effects?
Printed value-added features provide subtle but distinctive characteristics to any print, an extraordinary unique boost in appearance with unsurpassed quality; for example to an advert, poster, display, item or application, so it will be more prominent and standout against the rest. The aim is to draw immediate awareness or natural impulse; by its tantalizing and effectual unspoken message being remembered the most and longest and, if required, entice viewers into taking action by its powerful sensuous alluring-powers.

Take five small similar size posters displayed together in a bookstore or travel agent for instance. Other than the book covers' graphics or vacation destinations' sceneries, chances are none will particularly standout unless one had that something visually compelling to attract viewers' sensory interest more than the others (Pic. 2). Be mindful that real-life special effect samplings provide more pronounced and accentuated three-dimensional characteristics of the added features than in a two-dimensional print shown in these pages. Strangely enough, these inks are the type people want to see, touch and feel. And for some they feel a need to go further to smell the feature too! It is a known fact that consumers are easily drawn-in by what is sensuously encountered visually? especially when the aesthetics are utterly breathtaking in comparison to just 'ordinary'—leaving the gullibilityfactor aside.

While gaining more business is the obvious reason to take on such work, the underlying motive is clearly to improve the bottom-line figure. As alluded to earlier, the marketplace today is competitively entrenched in every way measurable where more jobs are accept with ridiculously low margins, a trend unheard of just a few short years ago. To turn this fruitless dilemma around in favour of the printer, it is refreshing to know print buyers will pay virtually whatever it takes to make their prints, or products, stand out from the rest in a pleasing eye-catching way. In many instances—as reported by providers of these printed features, the application of special effects are often the largest or even singly the only money-making part of the entire job, regardless of which printing process was originally used! This powerful statement must be an early wake-up call for many printing businesses left behind at the crossroad that needs to strategically realign their future goals.

Like many varieties of superlative enhancements, marketplaces for special effects are virtually endless. Those presently benefiting are general merchandise, posters, POP/POS displays, children's' books/games/toys, reference books/encyclopaedias, book/magazine covers, digitallyprinted- books, catalogues/folders (Pic 3), greeting cards of all types, calendars, door-opening business cards, advertisements, annual reports, leaflets, diaries, magazines, pictorials, audio visual products, publishing materials, Braille (inexpensively replaced with micro-embossinglike features), garment tags, stationary, gift wraps/bags, etc. Separately, high-end product labelling and consumers packaging are also a huge rewarding segment of the marketplace for these addedvalue features, ranging from a wide variety of items such as boxes/enclosures for confectionary,

(Pics. 4 & 5), jewellery, gifts, business & mass wedding cards, cosmetics, sarees, clothing, garments

(Pic 6), exotic beverages/spirits and the list goes endlessly on.

Combining value-added special effects to enhance offset, digital, flexo or classical screen graphic packaging/label applications, in almost every horizon of the industry is a gigantic lucrative niche; a gratifying one that offers marketers, designers and print buyers a roaring success with unique-looking possibilities to make the initial difference¯increase sales? the only outcome that actually matters! Ultimately, special effects packaging/product labelling carries their own enormous brand of power to draw widespread attraction and curiosity; excite consumers by its sensational realism to create desired action for ownership.

Shifting to a multi-process printing operation
Screen printed special effects uncannily provokes a significant response from market-hungry promoters, to foster new ideas by exploring innovative solutions that adds stimulating value to a print which no other process can creatively equal. Many offset/digital companies who are now embracing the screening process felt it was the missing link that stunted their growth and from reaching achievable goals. One offset printer with 12 presses reportedly took the bold step of investing in screening capability in-house because they considered it a backward step! Their expectations have since been widely superseded by providing some 100,000 sheets weekly? a runaway success as the appetite for creative value-added special effects finishing rapidly soars with print buyers' continuously increasing demands.

In recognition to adjust to this lucrative profitable market, many offset/digital printing businesses without in-house screen printing capabilities have begun to shift from a single-process to multi-process approach as print buyers' requirements become more passionate in today's highly competitive environment; one that clearly wants to be able to differentiate themselves from rivals. Leading screen printing consumable suppliers have estimated that 35% of offset printers require some form of special effects finishing that they are unable to execute in-house. While difficult to determine realistic present-day activities with screen printers, the same suppliers readily agree offset/digital printers are supplementing their in-house capabilities with screening at an annual rate of about 5%, anticipating it could expand to some 15% in the near future.

Coming up in Part 2
As a way to increase business and shore up profits, we have talked about thinking outside of the box as it relates to the fantastic opportunity of offering customers screen printed special effects to enhance the success of their prints or products. In the final part, our discussion will take us the all-important reason why you should leave no money behind on the customer's table, the types of effects that can be created, who and what it takes to print them successfully as a flourishing business enterprise.

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