Premium Commentary & Analysis
Own Your Print Software: Web-to-Print and Print MIS
Let’s get one thing perfectly clear, you DO NOT invest in print software to run your business as it is today. The whole point of software is to enable you to run your business differently - creating more efficiency.
By Jennifer Matt
Published: February 9, 2015
When we buy a house, we generally go through the responsible steps of assessing its value, having third parties check out things we can’t see or aren’t experts on like the stability of the foundation and termite damage. Once we buy it, the house is ours. We own it. When things happen we deal with them as our own problems, even if they are something we might have missed during the purchasing process; like a deck that needs stabilization or a sink that leaks. Generally we don’t consider getting out of the house, selling it because a few issues came up. We accept these issues as part of owning a house on this planet that is subjected to gravity, moisture, and our daily use and abuse.
I’m suggesting we look at our print software purchases in a similar manner. The most important perception to have for print software is the feeling of ownership. When companies own their technology purchases, they take on the challenges (and there will be many) in a much more proactive and responsible manner. Ownership makes the technology something that you are making uniquely yours to fit your business.
Too many business owners and technical resources are stuck in the role of the victim rather than the owner. By victim I mean the whole approach to the technology is from the perspective of “this is somehow being done to us or forced on us from the outside.” We don’t have any control, we are at the mercy of the vendor, all we see is issues with this technology and how it does not fit how we currently run our business. When you are in this ‘state’ you only see roadblocks and you only feel frustration. Throwing out one print software solution and buying another is a common reaction to this ‘failed state’ – it’s a really expensive option. You may temporarily enjoy the relief of throwing a vendor out but the honeymoon ends quickly when you realize you brought your same victim attitude to the next go round and you’re in for another round of frustration.
How do we get in this victim state, and most importantly how do we get out of it? Let’s get one thing perfectly clear, you DO NOT invest in print software to run your business as it is today. The whole point of software is to enable you to run your business differently - creating more efficiency. The biggest mistake print businesses make it to try and force a piece of technology into the exact workflow they are performing today that generally involves far too many touches and lots of dead end (non-integrated) processes. Why are software investments so disruptive? They force the business to look at how they are doing business. This is where the fork in the road happens; does your business merge onto the path of ownership of the print software technology and the creation of a “new normal” workflow that incorporates the technology to create efficiencies? Or does your business head down the path of resistance? The path that is full of roadblocks and attachment to “the way we’ve always done it.” The path of I’m going to zero in on everything the sales representative said and make sure the software does exactly that. Good luck with that, my guess is you will be very busy proving your point but it will do nothing to improve your business and it keeps you solidly in the ‘victim’ mode.
In particular, for web-to-print I love when printers say, my customers are not asking to order online.” Did your customers ask for digital printing? When did we outsource innovation to customer surveys? You want loyal customers; the path to loyalty is about bringing innovation, read the book The Challenge Sale. If you’re not bringing new ideas, then you’re just like all the other sales people trying to get customers to buy their undifferentiated stuff. The other side of customer loyalty is lowering the customer’s burden of doing business with you. In their incredible book The Effortless Experience, Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi describe how true customer loyalty comes from investing in making it easy to do business with you. Amazon’s one-click purchase and Amazon Prime (annual subscription that makes standard 2-day shipping ‘free’) are excellent examples: in about 5 seconds you can spend money with them. That is the ultimate frictionless transaction. Compare that to the steps I have to take today to order a postcard from a local printer.
Step 1: e-mail with a description of what I want
Step 2: get an e-mail back with questions that I didn’t answer (e.g. finishing: gloss or matte)
Step 3: get a quote as an attached PDF to another e-mail
Step 4: approve quote
Step 5: send files (too big to attach to e-mail, another e-mail explaining the FTP process)
Step 6: get a proof, they ask me to physically sign it – I’m on the road with only my cell phone
Step 7: do you get this yet? This is customer burden. This creates disloyalty to you and to print as a medium in general. I can get a home mortgage with less friction that this transaction.
Are you waiting to offer self-service options for order entry until you customer’s ask for it specifically? Not a good idea because your competition is looking for ways to disrupt existing relationships. Saving customer’s time is such a good angle to use in the ‘disrupt an existing vendor relationship’. If the customer has a 5+ step process for every order they place with you, there is so much room for an improved customer experience. Customers are busy. Customers don’t want to talk to you for every order. Customers want it to be easy.
Ownership of print software is about making improvements to the way you work. Ownership means you adopt the tools as yours. You dive into learning them, if you’re on the right learning path at about six months you should start realizing you know more about the product than the people answering the phone at the vendor’s support desk. It’s time to get a peer group of other printers who are on your same learning track because together you can push the product to do things that the vendor didn’t even think of. You are the expert at your business; once you fully adopt and learn your tools you make them uniquely yours.
I think a key to taking this ‘ownership’ approach to your technology tools is the relationship between the business owner and the technology lead in your company. The two of you set the tone for the rest of the organization on how to think about new print software investments. At the upcoming DscoopX event we will be presenting and discussing this topic at the Dscoop Nerd Herd meeting. Chris Reisz-Hanson, former CTO of Progressive Solutions and I will talk through how he has learned to own print software solutions and work well with his business owner bosses. Join us at the Dscoop Nerd Herd, Friday March 6, 1:30pm – 2:30pm.