05 April 2020 Print Companies

Covid-19: Strategies needed for new times

Printers have to keep close to customers during tough times, involving the use of technology and outsourcing work if needed.

Printers need to keep in contact with their customers during these difficult times when many have furloughed staff or even mothballed print capacity, according to Simon Biltcliffe, CEO of Webmart. The period will end and customers will need to source print. And they will go to those who have kept in touch or continued to support customers even though work has slowed to a trickle.

“Some customers will be needing some stuff printed and by outsourcing, customers will not need to say 'no' to this work,” he says.

Biltcliffe has removed the barriers to doing this through the Trade Print Management website, removing the monthly fees that would normally need to be paid. The £99 a month fee will be waived until the end of the year.

“It is really important to keep close to your clients through this difficult period, but at the same time to safeguard the future of the business, you may have to suspend production,” he says.

“These two seemingly contradictory needs can be helped by outsourcing via our fully managed service and instant pricing web portal. We’ve already had printers, large and small, getting in touch to outsource what they would have usually been printing themselves – or indeed other requirements that they would usually not be able to produce.”

The Webmart approach differs from online trade printers by matching needs with capacity that other printers have, rather than offering a number of product lines that can be produced with greater efficiency than using internal capacity, thus offering greater scope for bespoke jobs.

The need to keep close to customers when it is all but impossible to organise face to face meetings has led to a flourishing use of Zoom and other virtual meeting technologies. And with work scarce, meetings need to take a broader, more supportive approach.

This has led Dave Stones, marketing director of B&B Press in Rotherham, to set up twice weekly Zoom meetings under the guise of its Be Brilliant Club. This has been the banner to bring marketing and creative agencies into the factory to talk about common issues and for educational sessions, rather than to speak about the attributes of its LED UV printing technology.

The Zoom sessions continue this with one dedicated to educational sessions and the other intended to be highly motivational. Neither is about selling print.

While many will be coming across Zoom for the first time, B&B Press had already been using it. “As a team we use Zoom quite a lot, while our Be Brilliant Club events are normally in real life though. My team are finding new ways to engage with people and new people.

“It’s not about trying to sell them print though for the time being, we want to be known for being the company that tried to help them through this difficult time.”

Stones has also contributed to the more informal chatty atmosphere at The Crown, a virtual pub opened by software provider VPress and a twice weekly hangout for a wide selection of printers, suppliers and specifiers, to share views and come together in isolation.

Printers needs also to talk with the suppliers. Many report conversations with printers about difficulties in making agreed payments and most have been accommodating. Others have sought help from banks or through the CBIL scheme. "In the first week it was frantic," says Jamie Nelson, director of Compass Business Finance, "only now at the end of the second week has it started to calm down a little.

"People are looking for a moratorium or for reduce payments and are asking what can we do to help them." Government has stipulated that the banks and the CBIL scheme are prepared to support good businesses without further explanation of what this means.Compass has access to this and, while not lending its own money, has contacts with most lenders of both asset and invoice finance.

The key, he suggests, is to keep up the conversations: "We are here to help if we can, ready to talk through the options if they are a customer or not," he says. The way that Government help is provided needs to be clearer and changes are being made to broaden the security that is needed. The requirement to take a charge on personal property has created resentment as those needing help are suffering through no fault of their own.

Until this becomes clearer says Nelson "we ae trying to help our customers, to provide the advice about what they should ask for and what they should expect to be asked for".

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Sinon Biltcliffe

Sinon Biltcliffe

Printers need to keep close to their customers even though orders are thin and even if production has been stopped, says Simon Biltcliffe. It means a combination of virtual meetings and outsourcing work.

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