We all know the benefits of educating our staff. The better they can be equipped to do their jobs, the more effectively they will work. So why does this principle not apply to buyers?
If our customers have the right skills, it benefits both their company and the printer. The customer will get more out of using their supplier – and the supplier will find the customer more efficient to deal with. These days, many buyers do not have the skills to carry out their jobs properly and this is having an adverse effect on our industry.
Many companies worry that if customers know more, they will become harder to deal with. Conventional wisdom argues that if buyers are more knowledgeable about print, then they will be able to shop around more and be better equipped to drive prices even lower.
Not just feeds and speeds
It’s important to realise that training print buyers is not all about the technical side of things. Most printing companies that offer customer training tend to focus on the print process and how to create specifications. I would argue that this knowledge should actually be a low priority when it comes to educating buyers. Instead, there are some other basic skills that will be of greater benefit to everyone involved.
The first thing is to educate companies on why print is still such an effective communication channel. People need to realise that print can help businesses achieve good results – and can often be more effective than digital channels
Many people do not realise how powerful communication can be if we combine different communication methods. Even if they do understand this, they usually do not know how to achieve this. Part of the education process should involve explaining how print can fit into a multi-channel mix.
Teach your clients how – not what – to buy
This is not about how to raise a specification, nor is it about what type of printing company to use. This is about understanding the difference between price and cost. It is about understanding when to start talking to a supplier and how they can help you create the right solution. It’s about how to manage your suppliers effectively and build a beneficial relationship.
If your customers understand how to manage their supplier then it allows you to work with them. This, in turn, allows you to educate them on the more technical side of things as a relationship builds.
So who should be responsible for educating buyers? The whole industry needs to come together on this. Everyone needs to do their part, including industry bodies, equipment manufacturers and, last but not least, individual companies.
Remember, customer training is as important as staff training: ignore it at your peril.