Commentary & Analysis
Future-Proofing Your Business: People. Process. Technology
In Part One of this two-part series, we discussed how printing companies are responding to changing market dynamics to future-proof their businesses, and offered some of the questions you may consider asking to stimulate new customer conversations. In Part Two, we look at people, processes and technology required to successfully and profitably change the conversation and deliver new services.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: May 8, 2014
Editor’s Note: This content is sponsored by PTI Marketing Technologies
At a recent digital marketing conference, Adobe’s CMO Ann Lewnes stated that one of the reasons consumers are bombarded with marketing messages is that marketers are not using personalization in the way they should, adding, “Personalization is the number one priority area for marketers now.” The conference, which was attended by 7,000 marketing professionals, was about the need to reinvent marketing.
Many in the printing industry are working to reinvent their own businesses, and in that process, shifting to more of a marketing services focus. That means that we are trying to learn about marketing, while at the same time, marketers are trying to unlearn marketing in order to reinvent it! Quite a conundrum.
In Part One of this two-part series, we discussed how printing companies are responding to changing market dynamics to future-proof their businesses, and offered some of the questions you may consider asking to stimulate new customer conversations. Now let’s take a look at the people, processes and technologies required to accomplish this transformation, especially in light of all of the changes occurring in the world of marketing.
Let’s start with Lewnes’ statement that personalization is the number one priority area for marketers. This should be a no-brainer for us, right? We have been talking about the value of personalized print since the early 1990s and there have been solutions in the marketplace to enable implementation for almost 15 years. Yet we are just now seeing personalization reach critical mass … and perhaps, as Lewnes suggests, we still don’t have it right.
However, I would suggest that printing firms are in a unique position to assist marketers in better understanding how to effectively implement personalized communications, not only in print but across all media in an integrated fashion. I would also suggest that if we don’t play a leadership role here, we will be pushed further and further into a commodity business, and marketers will end up implementing their own solutions … perhaps without consideration of the value of print, opting instead to focus on more measurable digital media.
In today’s marketplace, there are a variety of licensed and cloud-based solutions available to printing companies that provide good linkages between the printer and the enterprise, including customized dashboards that can be accessed by both marketers and printing companies to accomplish their respective tasks. In addition, these systems offer linkages to systems and databases in the enterprise as well as to the back-end systems in printing companies for the seamless flow of information required to effectively produce multi-channel personalized communications campaigns.
If you are looking for a more in-depth discussion about future-proofing your business from a software perspective, you might consider reading Make Great Software Decisions by Jennifer Matt and her team at Web2Print Experts. They delve much more in-depth into the people/process/technology considerations than is possible in an online article.
As the book points out, an important step to future-proofing your business is to put in place the right software infrastructure to support marketing services. These are not trivial decisions, and they must be made in a way that ensures that you do not end up with shelfware—i.e., software that just sits on the shelf and doesn’t bring you any return on investment, or worse, has a negative impact on your profitability.
But even before you tackle that challenge, you must have the right people in place. Paul Hudson, CEO of Hudson Printing in Salt Lake City, recently told me, “[Innovation] has to be driven by process, software, smart machines and smart people.” Not only does the company have a Director of Innovation, a title we don’t normally see in printing companies, its CMO was sourced from outside the industry and has a great deal of experience in the online and digital worlds, where marketers are placing an increased level of focus. Hudson stated, “We have changed the conversation with customers and are having some radically different discussions with them. Our shift to a more consultative approach has opened lots of doors for us. We are working with our existing sales force to make this transition, but we are also hiring people with a native digital background from outside the industry. It’s really been a game-changer…Anywhere print and digital intersect, we have to pay attention…We want people to think more expansively around the world of print than what they think they know.” That includes people in the customer and prospect base as well as people within the company.
That leads us to the third area: process. This starts when the customer first starts thinking about a project or campaign. To the extent you can be involved early in these discussions, the more you will be able to influence the outcome. This includes making sure that the files and data you receive from the customer are clean and ready to go, and that you are able to work with them to ensure they have the best possible media mix, including appropriate use of print, to achieve their business objectives.
The customer-facing web portal is also critical: How easy is it to use? What about ensuring accuracy before the files leave the customer’s desk (which, of course, is the best time to correct potential errors!) How does customer data get integrated into the process, and what level of data security is there? How easy is it for customers to follow the progress of the project, including tracking and reporting of results? Does the portal stimulate an annuity business model—is it easy to create new projects, copy old ones or reorder items that have been ordered before? Are there templates that allow a pre-approved level of customization, or even personalization, by end users within the enterprise?
The web portal is critical, but if it does not seamlessly integrate with your back end, significant problems can result. Bottlenecks and mistakes can occur. And the result will be a dissatisfied customer, which is something no one wants to have. The objective, of course, is to remove as many touches from the process as possible in order to speed the highest possible quality work through the shop.
People. Process. Technology. They go hand in hand with reinventing print and future-proofing your business. Making the right decisions and executing well will enable you to, as CEO Paul Hudson suggests, have radically different customer discussions and to benefit from the shift in business model that goes along with those.