I was hoeing out my office over the holidays when I found a book of Calvin & Hobbes, my favorite comic strip, penned by Bill Watterson. The strip ended on New Year's Eve in 1995. That happened to be a Sunday and I had cut the final color strip from the newspaper and kept it with the book. Copyright laws prevent me from showing the strip here, but it opens with Calvin and Hobbes trekking through deep snow with a toboggan.
"Wow, it really snowed last night! Isn't it wonderful?" exclaims Calvin. "Everything familiar has disappeared!" replies Hobbes, "The world looks brand new! It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!" "A day full of possibilities," affirms Calvin. As they mount the toboggan and push down a hill of fresh powder, Calvin notes, "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy. Let's go exploring!"
And that's just what we are all preparing to do, here on the edge of a new year. In talks I've given lately I've noted the pent-up demand I'm seeing among print providers who have adjusted to the current edition of "normal" and are looking to invest in new print engines, hardware and software. They are looking at ways of making their businesses more productive with new workflows and becoming more competitive with new services ranging from variable data printing to mailing and fulfillment to web-enabled print. These providers are going exploring: looking to take advantage of new opportunities and to grow--and even transform--their businesses. I see more and more transactional service bureaus adding color to their offerings. I see direct mail shops adding various web capes while financial services and insurance companies are being smarter about targeting customers with relevant marketing messages. For the early adopters, these very things have long since become business-as-usual, and now the followers are realizing the market is ready and they have to play the game if they are to survive. There is plenty of room left for all players--it's a matter of finding your own comfort level and making the moves you need to fit the needs of your customers and your market.
This article originally appeared in On Demand Journal on WhatTheyThink.com in January 2005.