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So you want to be a

By Aaron Hale Yesterday we looked at some of the reality check a "

By WhatTheyThink Guest Contributor
Published: September 10, 2007

By Aaron Hale

Yesterday we looked at some of the reality check a "print provider" must make in making the transition to being a "Solutions Provider." We covered some of the necessary thinking, soul searching, technology investments, and resources equipment vendors offer, but that's only the beginning. Here's more.

Utilize Trade Organization Resources

While equipment and software vendors include varying levels of business development services and support with acquisitions at none or nominal fees there's more you can take advantage of. It's a good idea to hedge you bets via consultation with an impartial trade organization advocate such as, PIA/GATF, NAPL, PODi, InfoTrends, IPA, DMA, etc. Or maybe some of the consultants available through WhatTheyThink.com


The demand for internet and data driven solutions in the market place has never been greater. As a MSP or solutions provider you will need a web-to-print and/or cross media marketing service in your tool kit, and the prerequisite is a thorough examination of your company's infrastructure and key business segments. Some verticals require special attention:

- If your primary business segment is in the financial, banking, insurance or investment management industries then an SAS-70 (Statements on Auditing Standards no. 70) certification will suffice. See "SAS Certification" for some details.

- If it is healthcare, pharmaceutical, health insurance, or medical services related then an HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) certification or at least compliance could be mandated as a requirement for doing business. If it is a retail client and there is a transactional component, then PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance would be necessary.

Externally providers today usually have a reliable ISP and a robust firewall. Most probably also maintain a solid and regular anti virus DAT file update regimen too, but requirements can go deeper internally, such as: who has access to data at every step in the workflow; storage and backup; recovery plan; data transmission; intrusion incident reporting and resolution policy.


When servicing the Fortune 500 business segment, the rigid SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) security compliance requirements will probably be passed on to you, the provider. Section 404 mandates the ability to report on and certify the effectiveness of internal control structures and processes. And Section 409 dictates the disclosure of material information on a rapid and current basis.

SAS Certification

The SAS-70 certification has broad coverage that satisfies many security concerns.

- Type I: Audit describes the controls on one specific date and time

- Type II: Audit describes the controls during a minimum span of six months

- Renewal: Annual

- Who performs the audit: An independent auditing firm such as a nationally recognized CPA organization

- Duration of audit: 60 days

- Cost: Can be in the low five figures range

According to Vice President and Co-Founder of MindFireInc, David Rosendahl it moves a company to the head of the line when responding to in-depth RFPs and can serve as a bridge to a client's often resistant IT department. "Without an SAS-70 report a provider can find themselves entertaining multiple audit requests and that can really strain resources," says Rosendahl.

Solution Selling: Nothing Else Matters!

Nothing else matters if this critical component is not intact. The differences in solution selling vs. transactional selling are many, but both do share common ground. Understanding if the customer has a need or is not satisfied with the current state; the qualifying process; and proof of concept are the same. Though they transcend both models, that's where the road divides.

Although I have much experience with solution and consultative selling, I am going to bow to my long time mentor and solution selling extraordinaire, Patrick Morrissey, President of Larus Marketing in Chicago who has a very succinct way of putting it: "It's a different tool box," says Morrissey." "The need for a solution has to be there before I show up. The hunt becomes finding those who are ripe for change, and the CHANGE has to dramatic enough that it really matters."

So how do you prospect for these types that want change and are in need of a solution? Walk the talk! Use a VDP and cross media self marketing campaign to develop good data profiles. PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising with keywords is an invaluable way to qualify prospects.

After all if a buyer is using, "Target Marketing" or "PURLS" as a keywords to search for a direct marketing provider then most importantly they know something about the technology and they also have a need. Once they click your link they can be redirected to a landing page where you can further qualify them with a very brief questionnaire. MindFireInc's ClickCapture feature does just that. Now you have a very qualified lead and have gained valuable insight in how to close them.

It's not the technology (PURLS, VDP, Web2Print, etc.) or the service that you are selling, it the benefit. You must articulate the benefit to the client, re-enforce the need for that benefit and co-develop the value proposition with your client. They are now part of the solution, and much more pre-disposed to give you the business.

Give specific attention to the political landscape. The trusted print procurement manager must now be the champion to gain entry to the "C" level and decision making players. Don't forget the "Hero" factor.

I asked Patrick how he would prioritize the necessary sales training that most companies should employ for transitioning:

1.  Product knowledge

2.  Gaining entry ('C' level, or decision makers)

3.  Discovery (unearth and understand -- "leave you samples in the car!)"

4.  Articulation of the benefit(s)

And some recommended must-reads:

- "Vendor to Business Resource." by Arthur Stapleton

- "Selling is Dead," by Marc Miller


OK, so everything was done right. The mental anguish and sleepless nights are a blur and the growing pains are now just a dull ache. The business plan that your primary advocate helped you create was real after all and the company's new go-to-market strategy is working. Profit margin has increased from 16-17% up to 30-35% on most projects. So what now?

Today's global economy has created demand and opportunity that didn't exist before. A technology company in Japan needs training and operating manuals printed and distributed throughout the U.S. A commercial bank in the UK needs presentation materials for a meeting in New York. A pharmaceutical company in the US needs marketing collaterals versioned and distributed throughout Europe, etc.

Should you go global? At this stage of the game it further expands your breadth of services and solutions. Larry Letteney, President of HubCast Inc. says, "For those breaking through to the Fortune 500, it gives the company an elevated seat at the table." HubCast maintains GRACOL certified print-on-demand facilities in 25 world markets.

"It starts in the very first stage of the discovery dialog -- where do you do business? If a provider can save a client significant operational costs by utilizing local postal delivery vs. more expensive world-wide couriers (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.), and at the same time reduce the process from weeks to a few days, its huge", remarks Letteney. In addition, document and marketing collaterals can have fresher localized content.

So what are some of the challenges related to managing global business?

1.  Production: delivery, speed, efficiency, consistency, versioning, quality

2.  Business: how different local currencies flow through the system

3.  Country specific knowledge: processes and tactical acumen with the local politico


You tend to administrate through little bits of a lot of people's time. Coordination vs. centralized model.

How about the investment required to engage this process? It can be in the millions of dollars if the approach is to co-develop multi-geographical in-plants which would usually be in line with multi-year contracts, or in the middle ground like HubCast with a SaaS (Software as a Service) model anchored with a global peer network.


So are the terms, Solutions Provider and MSP just marketing gimmicks to sell us all new expensive stuff? I've heard that said often enough. Contrary to new workflow and operational shifts that are more tangible and thus more easily adopted, Solutions Provider and MSP are just now becoming better defined. For those that have made the plunge, the results to-date are mixed depending on the level of understanding and due diligence of the company.

Gina Testa's group at Xerox conducted a year long Sixth Sigma project study that yielded 17 factors that determine whether a candidate is in fact: an opportunity, competent, or a benchmark. That's a lot to get right. Look for the 17 factors to be announced in detail at Graph Expo.

IPA President, Steve Bonoff remarks, "our members view this shift as a huge opportunity and are not at all threatened." "If you don't have an infrastructure with a solid digital workflow, then that's a barrier that will keep providers from successfully adding value added services."

Feel free to contact any of the generous folks who contributed their valuable and time for this article:

- Joe Manos -- jmanos@mindfireinc.com

- Bob Barbera -- robert.barbera@kodak.com

- Rich Raimondi -- rich.raimondi@hp.com

- Gina Testa -- gina.testa@xerox.com

- David Rosendahl -- daver@mindfireinc.com

- Patrick Morrissey - pmorrissey@laurusmarketing.com

- Larry Letteney - larry.letteney@hubcastinc.com

- Steve Bonoff - steve@ipa.org


You must have one primary focus as your stepping off point: You must have a solid business plan. Whether you tear off a big chunk or just small bites it is more than just food for thought.

These are your primary building blocks:

1.  Decision to commit

2.  Business plan

3.  Champion to drive the process

4.  Resource network

5.  Solid infrastructure

6.  Solution sales model

7.  Courage

On thing is for sure, the clock is ticking in the grab for market share, but then that's another article (stay tuned). So burn some midnight oil. Start some conversations.

You will be glad that you did.



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