Billion Dollar Broker

This past week industry power-house InnerWorkings announced it reached $1 Billion in annual sales.  Their motto of “We make marketing happen” is one that should truly resonate with print providers, yet very few firms have been able to execute at this level.

The concept of a print management company (or if you prefer the old-fashioned moniker – print broker) succeeding to this extent was unheard of 20 years ago, and 13 years ago when the company was founded, most folks would have laughed you out of the room if you suggested that they could generate even 1/10 of their present annual sales.

For me, the InnerWorkings success says a lot about how print buying has changed in that time.  Over the past 15 years, while many print providers were struggling with the question of should we go digital or remain offset, this company was taking advantage of how corporate America was changing.  The buyer could care less (although they didn’t always say it) as to what kind of press you were using.  All they wanted was a competitive price and their print problems to go away.  InnerWorkings made it happen because their vision went beyond ink on paper and focused on managing the logistics of print, and it didn’t hurt that they also were able to make the industry’s over-capacity work for them. They’ve become the low cost producer for distributed enterprises who see print as a commodity.

Although I still think our DNA is one of a manufacturing industry, the success of InnerWorkings tells us how much the industry has changed from being purely manufacturing centric to becoming more customer centric.  Therein lies the kernel of truth of how to succeed in the 21st century of visual communications.  It’s more about providing solutions than it’s about being a manufacturer of print.

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