How Publishers Can Use Personalized Print to Better Connect Buyers & Sellers
How do we as an industry help to drive change and create revenue opportunities for niche magazines and the organizations that use them as their main communication vehicles, whether they are B2B, association or special interest publishers?
This was on my mind when I attended a convention in Las Vegas earlier this month held by Safari Club International (SCI). Focused on wildlife preservation and hunters’ rights advocacy, SCI is a cross between an association and what can be thought of as an outdoors adventure travel and equipment sales enabler. In other words, SCI is much like a typical B2B or niche publisher, with a relatively small group of members with a very focused mission and a loyal and dedicated set of suppliers to the membership.
SCI produces Safari Magazine, a bimonthly four-color glossy publication mailed to its roughly 50,000 members as part of the membership fee. In the issue of Safari Magazine published and mailed prior to the convention, there were 228 total pages comprised of 110 ad pages and 163 advertisers. Over 18,000-plus members attended the convention, which in addition to seminars and meetings was a showcase for almost 1,000 companies that furnish destination hunt experiences or the equipment and services needed for these experiences.
The more than 18,000 people who attend the convention spend around $225 for admission, plus extra for various supporting events before, during and after the daily hours of the show. There is a printed show directory and SCI provides a few online tools to help its members map out the show experience, but the site is not that easy to work with, especially on mobile.
I attended this show to do research on four specific trips I would like to take over the next few years. There were dozens of potential supplies for each experience, and they were spread out all over the Las Vegas Convention Center. I spent hours prior to the show putting together a list of 60 people I wanted to talk with over the two full days to help me make decisions and book some trips. My time was incredibly valuable and I was there, like many other SCI members, to make decisions and spend a good amount of money.
At the end of two days I was exhausted and frustrated. I had seen less than half the people I wanted to see and had made only one of the four decisions I needed to make. I needed more help from SCI but they did not have the tools. In talking to people at breakfast, lunch and dinner I was not alone in my frustration. We all needed help.
Using Digital Printing to Increases Relevance
The difficulty convention attendees had in focusing on the relevant products and information demonstrates how SCI could provide a service to its suppliers and members by taking advantage of automated workflow and digital printing technologies. SCI could provide a personalized plan for anyone who attends the show. While browsing is always part of the fun in attending an event like this, having something that helps focus on the primary reason one is at the show would be a huge benefit to the attendees and the suppliers. Time is the most precious commodity at an event like this and SCI could help optimize time with personalized print.
So what would this solution look like?
Today’s print technology would easily enable a document personalized for each attendee based on their individual needs and goals for attending. In my case, I would request information on the four experiences I was interested in booking, along with the relevant equipment suppliers and service people that could enhance those experiences. I would have paid $20 to $30 for a personalized directory that could come complete with a floor map to show where each of the people I needed to meet was located among the 1,000 booth locations. Links and QR codes could be embedded in the individual suppliers information to facilitate contact and scheduling. In short, this personalized document would help me maximize my time and investment while simultaneously providing better sales opportunities for the suppliers and new revenue for SCI.
This brings me back to organizations that utilize niche print publications. Many B2B, association and niche media organizations have events similar to SCI’s, with members that run into the same problems at their shows that I ran into at SCI. All of these organizations have as one of their primary assets a reservoir of information and contacts that can help provide knowledge and solutions to their customers. Providing a personalized print document that supplements the magazine and that can be offered any time of year (not just at an annual event) helps strengthen the brand and becomes a platform for growth.
Publishers should start approaching their print suppliers about these opportunities. You have the content, the audience and the data about how those two assets connect. There’s a good chance you can find printing partners willing to experiment at a low-cost on this type initiative in order to generate a product demo to showcase in the market. The alternative is to sit on your hands while traditional print publications become less and less relevant to their readership.
What the Supply Chain Should be Doing
A personalized print publication for a trade show is executable with tools and print technology widely available today across the US. One reason the rate of adoption for this kind of solution is slow is because the supply base (printers, equipment manufacturers, software providers) has failed to invest the time and resources needed to educate publishers on the whole solution.
If we are going to drive change and create new opportunities for print, then it is the print supply chain that must assume the bulk of the responsibility and risk for driving that change. We can always wait and let things grow organically, but this is publishing and experience tells us that is a very slow path.
We need to enable a couple of what I think of as “Mikey’s” from the old Life Cereal TV commercial:
If we enable a couple of niche publishing Mikey’s to test run personalized print programs for their events and succeed, then the industry may follow at a much faster rate. And this is just one specific solution. Imagine where it might lead. This is the only way digitally printed pages are going to grow.
I will be taking my concept to the folks at SCI as a concerned member and begin the education process. What are you going to do?
John Conley has been working in the Book Business and Graphic Arts since 1976. He spent 28 years with RR Donnelley in their Book Group starting in the Estimating and Contracts department then moved on to Sales, Sales Management, Manufacturing, Strategic Planning/ Marketing and finishing as SVP of the Education Group. Along the way he also began working with Digital Print. In 2005 John moved to Xerox Corporation where he has focused on Marketing and New Business Solutions for the major Publishing Segments. John has recently retired from Xerox and has formed his own LLC, Borderland Advisers, to continue to work within the Publishing Space on new supply chain solutions enabled by the ongoing innovations in Digital Printing.