Johnson's World: For Us or Against Us

Have you ever listened to a pitch from a salesman who didn’t believe in his own product? How are you ever going to convince your prospects of the value of print if you don’t believe in it yourself?

January 1, 2013
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The wisest man I know (who, nonetheless, often speaks in riddles) once said, “whosoever is not against us is for us.” He was talking about larger issues, but he might as well have been speaking of print. Today, more than ever before, there are two distinct schools of thought regarding the role of print in communications.

Before I proceed, let me clarify that the divided world of which I speak is that populated by those of us in the business of print. With all of the misguided assumptions and misinformation out there, I understand why some members of the public at large may underestimate print’s advantages. It is our job to educate them to the facts and present them with a solid case for featuring print as a key ingredient in their communications mix.

The folks who mystify me are the ones who make their living in print, yet still don’t believe. Have you ever listened to a pitch from a salesman who didn’t believe in his own product? How are you ever going to convince your prospects of the value of print if you don’t believe in it yourself?

I’m not a Luddite. (Look it up.) I don’t believe print is the solution to all of our ills. I use email, text, Web, and the telephone every day. The truth is that we should all be focusing on identifying the areas in which print is actually the best way to go, of which there are many. We should be enthusiastically leading our clients on this journey.

Let me share with you two examples, one from each side of the fence.

Case #1: Do As I Say

Every month, sometimes twice a month, I receive an email from a printer in Florida with a subject line like “Sell More Products with a Beautiful Catalog” or “Your Beautiful Brochures Printed in Full Color”. The body copy is always the same: superior quality, fast delivery, lowest cost, etc, etc.

My favorite line from these messages is “Your Printed Catalog in the Hands of a Qualified Prospect Will Make You Stand Out in Age of the Internet.” Problem is, the sender’s text-only spam email doesn’t stand out at all in the age of the Internet. He obviously doesn’t believe his own sales proposition.

To my knowledge, this fellow has never sent me a printed piece. The only thing he does is spam me. He’s telling me how great his color printing is, but he isn’t showing me. I’d no more buy print from an email solicitation than I would buy stocks or bonds from a telephone solicitor.

Ironically, his sales message is spot on. A well printed brochure or catalog is a superior way to gain the attention of a client or prospect. Too bad this printer doesn’t believe his own slogans.

Case #2: Do As I Do

Harry Richards was a second generation printer. Those of you who think that printers had it made in the pre-Internet world never had to deal with the technology changes that Harry oversaw. When he took the helm, Richards Typesetting & Printing was behind the curve in technology. He oversaw the transition from handset type to hot metal, then to phototypesetting, then to desktop publishing. On his watch, his company moved its primary focus from type to print, and from letterpress to offset.

Today his children and grandchildren carry on at Richards Graphic Communication and Richards Network Solutions. Clients turn to Richards for IT services, Web hosting, marketing services, and—oh, yes—printing. Lots of printing. Richards is a printing company and proud of it, offering their clients whatever it takes to get their message out. Usually, that includes print.

Harry Richards passed away earlier this year. He was laid to rest with a rosary in his hands, and an “I Love Print” button pinned on his lapel. Harry believed in print. Do you?

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at, or send direct feedback about this column via