October 2000
Estimating the benefits of print
How to help your clients get the maximum benefits from there print jobs
Estimators spend their day calculating the cost of print, but who estimates the benefits of print? After all, companies do not buy printing, per se, they buy the benefits of print. Book publishers don’t buy printing, they create books to sell. Auto manufacturers do not buy printing, they develop catalogues to help them sell cars.

Printers are busy estimating the cost of the printed product, however, we should take the time to estimate what the benefit of the printed product is, and how that benefit can help our customers achieve their objectives.

Let’s look at an example. Recently, a car company had a problem. A new model it was expecting to have on the lot when hundreds of leases came due was not going to be available. At renewal time, the leased vehicles would be returned and the customers would likely go to a competitor for a comparable replacement.

The solution was an innovative campaign that used variable imaging to capture the specific information about each customer’s lease plan. The company offered an incentive to each customer to extend his or her lease for several months, along with a discount on the lease of the new model. Not only did each piece include information about individual lease plans, it included images of each make, model and colour of vehicle.

The response for this campaign, was approximately 58% and the car dealership retained over $30,000,000 in business that it risked losing.
The printer charged a fair price, however, this is not a project that would have been awarded solely on price. It went to the printer with the technology and expertise to create an effective solution.

Our approach used to be to promote the benefits of reduced unit costs with longer run lengths. Because of economies of scale, customers often ordered quantities that would last them six months to one year. Most of the products are warehoused until required, even if the cost of the warehousing, inventory and distribution can be very expensive. In the end, changes or demand for information can make the printed product obsolete before it is used. In some studies I have seen, as much as 25% of a company’s brochures can become obsolete. When waste reaches that level, unit cost does not increase by 25% but by 33%!

Digital printing has allowed more economical production of shorter-run lengths. See the list on pg. 14 for some of the features and benefits of digital printing, and some ideas of how this can translate into customer benefits. You’ll notice that digital printing can facilitate faster turnarounds, more flexibility, reduced obsolescence and reduced inventories that can significantly cut down or eliminate warehousing expenses. The key now is to work with your customer to determine how these benefits can be quantified and increased in value.
Spend some time thinking about what the customer wants to achieve with the product and then put your knowledge to work for them. The benefits realized will be inestimable.
Bob Dale is the president of Pilot Graphic Management Services Inc., a company providing management consulting and custom training for organizations. He is also on the executive of the Toronto Club of Printing House Craftsmen. Bob can be reached at (416) 410-4096, or via e-mail at
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