When it comes to printing technology, the world is doing anything but standing still. From elevating your brand with a high-end show piece to generating a response with a targeted message, there are a variety of benefits print can add to omnichannel campaigns in any industry.
While all of this is common knowledge to those of us that work in the industry, many of the benefits of various popular printing technologies are largely unknown to the average print customer. So, how do you explain the differences in these technologies and the benefits of each to print buyers? This blog walks through the top three printing technologies used today – offset, digital toner and production inkjet – and outlines the main benefits from a print customer perspective.
Offset printing is still the largest segment in the printing technology space, with some estimates still running as high as 90%. To the print buyer, offset printing is still “king” when it comes to quality – it’s the technology they request if they have a job that’s important to their brand where color and printing quality are a top priority. In terms of paper, they have a lot of options in this space in a variety of weights and finishes – from uncoated, to coated, to colors, to unique textures or the usage of a combination therein.
From a creativity standpoint, there are a lot of possibilities, but most of the time a quality white paper is the most appropriate choice for most projects. If your customer is looking for uncoated paper and doesn’t have a specific stock in mind, guide them in the direction of a paper that will produce the end results they’re looking for, such as even solids, vivid color, lifelike skin tones and incredible detail in photos. Look for a paper known for quality and consistency, like our Cougar® Smooth and Lynx® Opaque Ultra. To deliver these results, the paper should feature a clean sheet, good surface, high brightness and white shade. Compromising in this area will result in disappointment for your customers. While they may not know exactly what to attribute the results to, you can certainly loose this customer to a competitor if another printer is able to better guide them through the project and deliver the results they’re looking for.
From a practical standpoint, your role will be to pull your customer towards reality, especially concerning budget and timeline, while also guiding them in a direction that results in an outcome they’re happy with. Many of the deflating experiences for the print buyer occur simply because they didn’t involve their printer earlier in the process. For instance, they may design for an offset print project, but their quantity might be more in line with a digital print job. Or, perhaps they planned the project around an offering in a swatchbook that will not be available in time for their deadline. Instead of hoping they call you earlier next time, try telling them about your role in successful projects where print buyers involved you early in the planning phase so you can help them plan accordingly, keep their project on track and deliver the desired results.
Digital toner is the printing method your customer is interested in when they say the term “digital printing.” As most of you already know, the print quality of digital toner has improved drastically over the last decade. There are many benefits that appeal to print customers, such as affordability for small print quantities, the ability to use variable data to personalize messages and visuals to target audiences, and even new digital techniques. The downside for the printer is the costly consumables and slower print speeds.
Another downside to digital toner is that most print buyers still associate ‘digital printing’ with a job that should be done quickly and cheaply. In addition, many are not familiar with the digital techniques (such as digital foil or digital emboss) or how the final print result can vary greatly from one digital press to another. Most print customers are familiar with variable data, but may not understand how this can be utilized for their business or the steps they would need to take to begin this sort of project.
This presents a wonderful opportunity for printers with these capabilities to connect with their target audience. A fun idea could be to set up a virtual lunch and learn. Make sure that your current and target print customers have samples in their hands of what they can expect from the result of your digital toner machine. You can do a single meeting, or a series. For example, perhaps one virtual event can be a workshop on planning for a targeted direct mail campaign and another a walk-through of all the digital techniques (which could include advice on suggested project lead times and recommended substrates).The main thing to keep in mind is to keep the focus on what value your capabilities add to their business, not the value it adds for your business. Your priority should be to be a resource – make them aware of the possibilities and present helpful information that can help them plan their next project.
While you are educating them on digital print, you may want to throw in a bit on paper education as well. The papers made specifically for digital printing are made to lower our moisture targets to resist curl. With some machines, you may need to use a treated digital paper that keeps the toner adhered to the page, such as our Cougar® Digital Color Copy. This is especially true for end uses where the piece could be handled regularly or sent through the mail.
Also referred to as highspeed inkjet or digital inkjet, production inkjet technology is the newest printing technology to capture the interest of the industry. Currently composing approximately 6% of equipment, production inkjet is migrating the work away from offset and legacy toner devices due to the reduced cost of consumables and speed (compared to digital equipment).
How’s the image quality? It certainly depends on the machine, the run speed and the paper you choose but in many cases the quality is at a higher level than your customer may realize.
When deciding between treated and untreated papers for production inkjet equipment, it’s important to consider the end use, customer and the art associated with the job. Treated Inkjet paper features a surface treatment that lets ink sit closer to the surface compared to untreated paper, resulting in higher color gamut and faster speeds on press. Depending on the specific variables of the project, it may also be possible to use less ink. Inkjet treated papers are also engineered to withstand the rigors of post-processing commonly associated with transactional documents or direct mail. Different treated sheets deliver different results – the choice that’s right for your job depends on the results your customer would like to achieve. For instance, our HuskyJET® is an excellent choice for transactional documents that feature consistent pops of color while LynxJET® delivers a larger color gamut and enhanced opacity compared to Lynx Opaque Ultra, making it the best choice for direct mail, catalogs and transpromotional applications that utilize photography and a variety of colors.
So how do you talk to your customer about your new equipment? The ability to run personalized and targeted print campaigns at higher quantities than what would make sense for digital is certainly a plus. Print buyers that are interested in this sort of work have a goal of achieving measurable results – usually the printed piece is used to direct the recipient towards an action, such as using a coupon or requesting a service. In addition to showing them print and paper samples, share the results of other customer campaigns you were a part of, explaining the steps that were taken and how you guided the client through the process.
At the end of the day, print buyers need a true partner in the process – someone who can tell them about the possibilities of print, then guide them in the right direction. No matter what capabilities your business offers, there are always opportunity to better introduce your customer to the value that you can provide in helping them achieve their goals