by Deborah Corn, Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse

Earlier this year, I was invited to present a keynote at the FSEA Binding Summit, which was held the day before the 2019 Odyssey Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, sometimes when I am asked to speak, I scratch my head because I am just not sure what I could offer that would be a fair exchange in value for attendees’ time. Quite honestly, being asked to speak at the Binding Summit was one of those moments, and I respectfully declined. The folks from FSEA talked me off the “no” ledge and convinced me I was the right woman for the keynote job … They wanted to shake things up a bit. That was something I could deliver! Deborah The Disruptor was going to Georgia. Now, I just needed to formulate a presentation.

Understanding the print service provider

My experience with “bindery” comes from my 25-plus years buying print for ad agencies and global brands. It was limited to knowing that bindery included all the finishing I needed for my work, and that bindery processes had to be accounted for in an estimate. I would know I needed something trimmed, scored, folded, glued, diecut, varnished and so on – but, I didn’t always know how or where that happened. That was not my concern; it was my printer’s problem to work out. That is how the system works.

It also is “the system” that print buyers – even those with giant global brand budgets – cannot dictate or influence the choice of bindery partners for their print service providers (PSPs). We only can ask for what we want achieved, and printers either can find a way to offer it or pass on the job. It either will be cost effective or it won’t. The more bindery services that PSPs send out (rather than performing in-house), the higher the cost for the job. Work can be won or lost based on this line item in the request for proposal.

While that information is not new, what is important is the in-house vs. outsource pricing advantage for PSPs. And, the printers need that advantage, so they are buying equipment. The finishing manufacturers are answering the call by making machines smaller, easier to use, adaptable to needs and affordable.

Sending finishing work out of a print business now is an act of desperation, not a business strategy. So, what is a trade finisher or trade binder to do?

Show the buyer what exists

When buyers and designers see things they didn’t know were possible, everyone wins. Photo courtesy of Project Peacock.

For the past two and a half years, I have been traveling with industry partners on a mission to share new opportunities and innovations for print marketing with print customers at agencies, brands and corporations through my program, Project Peacock. We have met with more than 1,100 buyers, designers and students to date. In March of this year, I took the program out of conference rooms and into event spaces by launching the Project Peacock Print Fair. Now – with more Peacock partners to show off their stuff and more room – PSPs have been invited to attend along with the print customers.

In every city we have visited, Project Peacock has generated print business. The attendees see things they didn’t know existed, or were even possible, and they are working with new service providers to execute these print innovations in their own companies’ promotional and packaging designs. That fact got me thinking that the trade finishers need to step up their education and marketing game in order to generate new business from new and existing customers. So, that was my message at the Binding Summit, and to my surprise, it really energized the room.

The concept is relatively simple. Trade binders and finishers should create meaningful, topical samples of their capabilities for their PSP partners to show to their customers. The finishers can create and distribute customized sample kits to their PSP customers, only sending materials for the capabilities each PSP doesn’t have in-house. Using the Project Peacock model, PSPs can use those kits to show off a wide variety of finishing and bindery options to their customers and educate them on the possibilities available for future projects.

Based on the results from Project Peacock, the print customers will be enlightened and perhaps inspired to try something new they didn’t know existed. When that happens, everyone wins – customer, PSP and finisher.

The presentation was well received (for the most part). The concept I outlined takes time, effort and money, and that had an influence on the reaction I received since those three items are sometimes in short supply. In addition, some in the room would prefer the finishing manufacturers to stop selling directly to PSPs to keep food on their plate rather than go through any reinvention of their business model, but – psssst – that is not going to happen. The manufacturers have to eat too, and they have more mouths to feed. After I spoke, a few attendees came up to me with wide, panicked eyes and blood-drained faces … these were the people I reached! They heard my message and were ready to look beyond the cost, time and effort needed. They heard “do something or die.”

Subtlety has never been my forté.

Building a sample center

Sample and Resource Center and conference room at Art Laminating and Finishing in Atlanta
The Sample and Resource Center and conference room at Art Laminating and Finishing in Atlanta allows print service providers
to bring clients to a centralized location to view samples.

One of those attendees was Phil Blalock from Art Laminating and Finishing in Atlanta. He told me he was inspired, and he was going to assess his ability to create a new sample program when he returned from the conference. A few days after I returned, I received an email from Phil. Not only did he assess, he ACTED! He decided to create a Sample and Resource Center, and the company was beginning construction to accommodate it. The sample center would allow PSPs to bring their customers to a dedicated showroom and for meetings to take place in new conference rooms.

“We’re showing more than 200 finished samples,” Phil told me. “These are samples showing what the Bindagraphics family of companies can do – things we can do at our facility in Atlanta or those we could do in our Baltimore facility.”

Art Laminating also has displays set up from vendors, such as a foil stamping supplier that has dies on display along with foil options. With more vendors on tap, customers will be able to stop by the sample center to see the entire spectrum of materials and processes available when they’re designing a print project. And, to get PSPs in the door, Phil is asking printers to use Art Laminating as the location for their customer meetings – and even buying their lunch!

The Sample and Resource Center already is receiving rave reviews from printers, including Mark Stanko from New London Press. He told Phil, “The Resource Center was perfect for me and my customer to visit to work out details on a specific project. While there and viewing various samples, a new foil stamp box project came directly from this.”

Phil knows that education is an ongoing problem and the binding and finishing partners are being left out of the picture when a print project is in the works. When he heard me speak – as a representative of the buyers who are craving this knowledge and not finding it – he went on a quest to help print buyers see the possibilities.

I am so grateful to the FSEA for not taking my “no” for an answer. I am equally grateful to every attendee in that room. They took the time to get themselves to an event and participate for the future of their business and the industry. And then, there is Phil. He sat down for my keynote with one business model and stood up with a new idea to build upon – and build he did, literally and figuratively. There is no greater reward than his success!

Finish Long and Prosper!

Deborah-CornDeborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, providing printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through her website, She has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a print producer and now works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations to help them create meaningful relationships with customers and achieve success with their social media and content marketing endeavors. For more information, visit