Two things I read last week hit me with a one-two punch: first I read about Warren Buffet’s investment in IBM, and then I read information from a Gartner report on leveraging customer loyalty.
The AP article on Buffet’s investment says: Warren Buffett said Monday that his company has spent $10.7 billion to buy more than 5 percent of IBM’s stock this year, a surprising move by the billionaire investor who has long shied away from investing in high technology companies.”
Why the change is a kicker!
“Buffett has long refused to invest in high-tech companies because he has said it’s too difficult to predict which technology businesses will prosper in the long run.
“But he said he recently realized his view of IBM was wrong based on what he read in the company’s annual reports and what he learned by talking to information-technology departments at Berkshire subsidiaries. He said he should have realized years sooner that hardware is no longer the heart of IBM’s business.
“”Now they’re very much a services company, and they’re very intertwined with their customers,” Buffett said. And he said IBM’s customers are reluctant to change once they start working with IBM.”
Now for the Gartner quote on loyalty and customer experience:
“”I don’t think it’s ever too late,” said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. “Long-term loyalty initiatives depend on building trust and affinity. The more relevant you are to the customer, the more likely they will be loyal to you.””
So what does this mean to us in the world of Print, or Print and Mail? What can we learn from these two seemingly unrelated pieces of information?
For some time now, everywhere we turn we see studies, reports, and market recommendations about how moving from a Print Service provider to a Marketing Services provider is the way to expand and grow our business. However, it is certainly a complex transition to make, and maybe even too costly. It is hard to figure out where to begin and even if to begin.
What I take away from the Gartner information is that for our industry, and for us as companies or individuals, to compete and succeed we must stay relevant to our customers. Communication channels and technology are changing fast, and some say Print, and Print and Mail are becoming irrelevant. We need to adopt a customer-centric view and prioritize discovering what our customers need, and change our organizations to meet those needs. We are experiencing changes, but so are our customers. There are new regulations and changing demographics impacting how our customers communicate to their customers. We cannot afford to take a product or technology only view, and ignore the changes impacting our customers. We must stay relevant to them.
My take away from the Buffet article relating to our business and our industry is that some very smart investors have stayed away from high tech companies because of the difficulty in picking a product or technology with long lasting impact. They are instead placing their bets on companies that are service providers because a good service provider becomes very involved with their customers and it becomes difficult for the customer to change. The technologies and the tools supporting our industry in producing communications have never been more widely varied and in flux. However, if we focus on the needs of the clients and their communication requirements with an outside-in view instead of inside-out, we, like the giant IBM, can change how we are perceived and increase our value, longevity, and profitability.
So in the end what does it mean? Listen carefully to the clients, learn and understand their needs and even what is driving those needs, and then no matter what you call it, offer service solutions that meet those needs.
Are you interested in learning how some printing companies have accomplished just this? Visit OceWow to watch best practice videos. Watch as we highlight what makes print operations like i3Logix, Yurchak Printing Inc., and Ideal Printers Inc. successful.