A new Insight report from Canon Europe suggests that there significant opportunities for commercial printers to increase the range and depth of services that they offer their marketing clients, but also internal and external obstacles to overcome in being able to develop and sell the additional services that would increase client loyalty and the profitability of the relationship.

Titled Creating Customer Value, the report is based on 253 phone interviews with senior marketing managers in a variety of organisations, predominantly end-buyers of print rather than agencies, across the EMEA region, carried out between March and June of 2020. Key finding were that 80% of buyers felt a need for more creative input from their print providers, with 75% of brand marketers wanting a more consultative approach, and 86% saying they would welcome advice on combining print with digital campaign elements, though most look to their colleagues for help with this rather than their printers – but less than 20% saying that their PSPs actually deliver this.

The report discusses how a number of factors have driven a ‘drift to digital’ in marketing channels due to time, expectation and budget pressures, especially since the pandemic, with print still being seen by many as slow, expensive, inflexible and hard to target or measure. Against that is a growing acknowledgement of ‘digital fatigue’, as evidenced by declining open rates for emails, the rise of ad-blockers for web browsers and an overall trustworthiness concern with digital channels; print by comparison is seen as trusted, authoritative and as an excellent way of cutting through and imparting quality.

Commenting on the gap between the respondents’ stated wishes and reality, Canon’s EMEA senior marketing manager for the professional print business Matthew Faulkner said, ‘PSPs are meeting their customers’ basic needs but not rising to the further opportunities. One in three [customers] don’t understand how to measure print’s effect but they would like to see printers as an extension of their team.’

Mr Faukner also revealed that long-term loyalty and reliable quality were seen as important factors more than having the lowest prices [a perception that many printers would probably not share] and warned printers against ‘commoditising their own product’.

To help PSPs close this gap, Canon is introducing the Ascent programme to provide help for commercial and in-house print departments to develop closer working relationships with their customers and to expand their offerings, via ‘insights’, workshops, mentoring and community knowledge sharing. ‘Our mentor-led content looks for quick wins,’ elaborated Mr Faulkner, ‘starting with existing customers, ask are you offering them everything you could, and then grow from there.’ He acknowledged that it is a clear sales challenge in which targeting and motivation were key aspects.

Both the report and the Ascent programme can be found at Canon’s UK’s website.