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Mon, Sep

Ron Johnson is not stupid. He made Target hip and launched Apple's fabulously successful retail operation but he is having a tough time as CEO of American retailer JC Penney. One of his mistakes was to do something very logical. Instead of offering shoppers constantly changing markdowns on a high priced product, he thought it made more sense to just start with a low price. The trouble is shoppers didn't agree. As James Suriowecki noted in the ‘New Yorker’( http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2013/03/25/130325ta_talk_surowiecki) the "game of cat and mouse with regular, ever-changing discounts is illogical, but it's one that lots of consumers like to play."

Surely there's a lesson here. If retailers, who have been manipulating prices for decades, can get it so wrong, what hope is there for the rest of us? One of the secrets of a successful pricing strategy is to persuade each customer they are getting the best deal. Sounds obvious but by the time the number crunchers have analysed each proposition to death, this powerful, simple truth is often forgotten. Remember that all finance departments in whatever sector or country they are based have one thing in common: they never lose a sale - at least that's what they'll tell you.

 

George Osborne isn't the only British boss looking for growth. The effect of recession on the UK high street, the development of wide-format and the decline of commercial printing have prompted an intriguing debate (http://whattheythink.com/articles/62098-wide-format-graphics-printing-numbers-speak-loud-clear-those-first-mover-advantage/) sparked by a report by industry analyst Marco Boer who sees industrial print as the great growth opportunity. You'll have your own opinion but wide-format printers should read his forecast before defining their strategies for the future.

That was what the ghostly voice told Kevin Costner in the inspirational baseball fantasy ‘Field Of Dreams’. It works in the movie but the surprising thing, as Steve Blank points out in his book ‘The Four Steps To Epiphany’, is that many companies operate under this very belief.

Companies have various methods for developing new products but often the last people who are considered in this process are those who matter most: the customers. In too many companies, the voice of the customer is refracted through someone with a vested interest - typically the sales or marketing director - and, for everyone else involved in product development, the success or failure of a product seems entirely mysterious. As one engineer who bought this book put it, if a product didn't succeed we just tried again.

Blank suggests that companies stop focusing purely on product development and think about customer development. What does he mean by this? For a start, he means get out and engage with customers, arguing that: "Inside your building there are no facts, only opinions." Listening to customers isn't the same as making a list of what each one wants and then trying to tick them off but it should give you a clearer idea of whether your views about your products and services are realistic or delusional. It's much cheaper to find this out before you launch something than afterwards.

 

Managed properly, this process can encourage your staff to see customers more clearly. Too many managing directors curse employees for not understanding the marketplace while doing their utmost to prevent their staff from interacting with customers. Sometimes, this reaction is driven by fear - what if they say something inappropriate? - but too many organisations just fail to make time for this crucial activity.

 

Blank's book is turgidly written at times but it is essential reading for anyone running a business who isn't sure why product a worked and product b didn't. In other words, for almost anyone who is running a business.

 

If you’re thinking of selling-up, take note of these preparatory ground works to ensure you get he best value out of your business. Dr Colin Thompson, managing partner at The Cavendish Academy gives his top tips.

InfoTrends is globally renowned for its research and consultancy services in the imaging, print and digital media industries. As its director of wide-format printing, Tim Greene is well placed to talk about the trends within the sector. As usual, he’ll be involved delivering the analysis from the data collected in the Image Reports’ annual Widthwise survey - currently being conducted among the UK’s wide-format participants. So in the run up to those findings we discussed how the UK wide-format sector fits into the bigger global picture and what’s impacting the market.

Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, explains dispute resolution tactics.

Disputes are time consuming and, even when successfully resolved, will very unlikely lead to both parties being happy with the result. Given that the majority of disputes relate to print quality or problems relating to equipment or software, which can be very costly to settle in court, it pays to take another tack. And the fallout can have more than a monetary cost of course. So if a dispute does develop, what can you do to reduce the impact on your business?

Have you ever read that business bestseller about the seven habits of highly effective people? 

There is no such thing as a domestic market. 

Matthew Parker, consultant and director of Print and Procurement, provides strategic steps to help you increase print profit margins by over 12%.

What do key manufacturers have in store for us in terms of technical trends and developments in 2013? Melony Rocque-Hewitt investigates.

2012 was a huge year for Hollywood Monster, formed in 2009 through the coming together of Hollywood Signs and Monster Digital. During the past year it has invested £2m in print kit, announced the formation new digital sales team and the appointment of a business development manager to generate new leads, and forecast a £1m growth in turnover to take it to £6.5m. And behind all that was a canny marketing plan that put Hollywood firmly in the limelight. So have Hollywood’s efforts paid off so far, and what are its mission targets for 2013 and beyond?

Believe it or not, there are still funding programmes in the UK, but it can be a nightmare to identify those right for your business. Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, explains how to find project funding.

Searching the Internet for funding is a long-winded process, but bookmarking useful sites and signing up for RSS and Twitter feeds is a useful way to keep abreast of developments as programme criteria are often altered and deadlines launched with very little notice. Similarly, the regional press is a really good reference source. You may read about a funding programme when the funder announces the successful applications under that particular round. While it does not help you this time around, it is always a good idea to make a note of the fund details so that you have a folder of potential funders you can refer to at a later stage. And there’s the BPIF funding search service (called Funding Finder), which allows you to home in on funding opportunities according to various criteria.

 

Towards the end of January Fespa will bring its annual Global Summit to the UK. And this year, Fespa is throwing open the doors to what has previously been an ‘invite only’ event for the industry’s top brass. It’s where the great and the good meet to take the temperature of the wide-format market and discuss the way forward. So is it worth putting your hand in your pocket to get an insider’s perspective at the 2013 summit? I ask Fespa’s Duncan MacOwan, what’s in it for printers?

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