This article is sponsored by Liftoff as part of WhatTheyThink's Print Software Product Spotlight series. In preparing this article, the WhatTheyThink Print Software Section editors conducted original research on Liftoff’s web-to-print product. This Product Spotlight describes what the editors feel are the product suite’s strengths in the marketplace. Liftoff reviewed the final article for accuracy but had no editorial control over the content.

The software tools you select for your print business have always been important. In the digitization of everything age, these choices are getting more and more critical. Whether you are a print distributor, a print broker, or a print manufacturer, software can make you more efficient, more sophisticated, and enable you to manage larger, more complex customers.

The Liftoff product suite has its roots in the distributor world, which I see as an advantage for several reasons. A distributor has always had to figure out how to add quantifiable value to the purchasing experience for the transactions they manage because they are representing their customers to the manufacturing partners they source through. This relationship puts the buying experience at the center, and a lot of distributors are smaller organizations who can’t be bothered by software that requires a team of people to configure and manage. Liftoff’s roots forced them to enable small distributors and scale to handle the most complex compliance (e.g., HIPAA) and scale for distributors who brought them into very large corporations.

One of the strengths I noticed in my research of Liftoff was the breadth of the product. It isn’t a traditional web-to-print solution. Rather, it has expanded its feature set out into other software areas (e.g., CMS, ERP). For example, the Liftoff product suite allows you to create content like blogs on your web-to-print solution. Business-to-business (B2C) commerce sites are moving more and more towards the characteristics of B2C where the customer wants to be educated about their purchases. One of the challenges of a B2B commerce site is keeping it “fresh” so that buyers don’t get a sense of staleness when they return to the site. It is also a chance for the buying community to be better informed.

As any printer, distributor, or broker knows, the customer’s demands are in constant flux, this impacts the technology solutions you use to engage with your customers. It is important when deciding about a software solution that you not only understand whether it has the features you need today but how the company/culture is producing features for the future. In virtually all the customer testimonials for Liftoff you see a pattern of feedback around their aggressive release schedule and responsiveness. When you buy a web-to-print solution you are purchasing a ticket on a train. That train is the roadmap for the product. You want that train to keep moving and you want to make sure it’s moving in alignment with where your customers want it to move. This is one of the main reasons you should be fully engaged with your web-to-print vendor, providing them feedback from your customers and feature requests for how to make their product even better. Based on their customer feedback, Liftoff is managing to be responsive to their existing customer community and keep their product moving via an aggressive release schedule.

Another challenge of the entire web-to-print market is the trial and tribulations of getting your web-to-print solution up and running (implementation). We see it time and time again: printers and distributors purchase web-to-print solutions and then never manage to get the solution returning the full ROI that they were sold. This happens for so many reasons. Liftoff has instituted a policy for protecting against these implementation mishaps. They assign you a single point of contact who facilitates your journey through the implementation process. This can help with a common misunderstanding over what technical support really is. So many printers fail to really learn during the implementation phase of their web-to-print and then rely on technical support. Technical support is not set up as a learning environment, it is for very specific tactical challenges. With Liftoff, you can contact the individual assigned to your account who has the necessary context over your business and your staff. This keeps you in good hands while you’re still learning and has the potential to relieve a lot of frustration.

Liftoff offers a free 15-day trial. This is a very common offering in general with software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, but it isn’t all that common in web-to-print. Generally, a complex B2B web-to-print solution might be too difficult to initial setup or not a self-service setup at all to make a free trial useful. A free trial offering means that the solution must be easy enough to take for a test drive or at least get a sense of what you can and cannot do. A free trial to me means that you can get past the scripted sales demo experience and click around for yourself. If nothing else, it will give your people a sense of what they must learn to build expertise with the solution.

As with all software solutions, the roots of the company and the product matter. With Liftoff, we have a product that was focused early on with a priority on creating value in the purchasing experience because of their roots in the distributor world. Then we have the fact that often distributors can deliver the most complicated and compliance driven customers (financial services, healthcare, etc.) so Liftoff has had to keep up with compliance standards of these industries and pass the IT requirements to operate in these secure environments.