Recently, I was mulling over what appear to be dropping numbers of printers involved in Web-to-print. When it comes to document repositories and document branding, this is in large part due to customers managing this process in-house. When it comes to online storefronts, the elephant in the room is differentiation in a sea of online vendors. What differentiates one from another? If there is little or none, what justifies the expense of offering the storefront in the first place?
In the end, it’s not about software selection and workflow. It about the deadly serious, down and dirty, nuts and bolts challenge of getting customers. Sure, the interface and workflow are important, but if you don’t have the customers, what does the rest of it matter? It’s that simple.
That’s why I was interested to hear about this guy who is licensed Web-to-print portals — fully functional and during the unlicensed period being serviced by trade printers — that come with a full set of customers. Yes, really.
He’s not a printer, but he understands the world of the Web. The sites are territory-based (examples include www.miamibusinesscards.com and www.torontobusinesscards.com, which have #1 search engine rankings in their categories.) He search engine optimizes them. He lets them build large customer bases. Then he licenses them to printers who want to purchase a Web-to-print business in a box with existing traffic and customers. If the licensee is a print broker, the franchise has 60 trade printers behind the concept that they can use. If the licensee is a printer, they keep it all—money, customers and files.
This is a new concept to the printing industry, and it makes me wonder why it took so long. This concept is being replicated across 10,000 domain names in the printing industry. It even reaches as far as the United Kingdom.
According to Slava Apel, CEO of AmazingPrint.com, which powers the W2P component of the sites, www.localprintdomains.com is the largest print domain owner in the world. The site owner captured every available printing domain in all of the major markets, blowing one million dollars in domain names alone. So if you’ve ever gone looking for a geographically based printing domain and there has not been a single one available, now you know why and whom to get them from.
For some, this concept may seem like a godsend. For others, it might inflame fury. It’s a sterile, cookie-cutter approach to online marketing that relies on search engine optimization rather than intimate, value-based customer relationships. Those can be built over time, of course, but the truth is, printers who need this kind of “Web-to-print in a box” probably aren’t the best at developing those relationships to begin with. So while this is one of the best business ideas I’ve heard about in a long, long time, I see the double-edged sword here, too. I’ve love your thoughts.