I recently had the opportunity to review the Fifth Edition of PODi’s Best Practices in Digital Print. This edition reports on 45 successful projects, including

  • 18 new direct marketing cases spanning 8 vertical markets
  • 16 new digital collateral case studies in 8 vertical markets
  • 4 new transactional cases each in a different vertical market
  • 7 new cases in specialty printing and publishing in 5 vertical markets

PODi has built up a substantial Best Practices library over the past several years. In fact, there are over 220 case studies in PODi’s online searchable database, which can be found here. As we approach Print 05, it seemed like a good time to review a few of them and to encourage Print 05 attendees to carve out plenty of time to visit the various purveyors who will be exhibiting at the show and whose solutions are being applied in these successful print operations.

PODi tracks 13 vertical markets, as well as two main value propositions across all markets and applications. Each case study includes information about the business goals of the project, the solution that was chosen to meet those goals, and the results that caused the project to be deemed a success. Hardware, software, and other production details are reported as well. This is a unique resource, and these real-world stories provide valuable insight for print service providers who wish to gain an understanding of how others have been successful in the provision of these services.

The best practices PODi enumerates in its Fifth Edition capture the essence of a sea change that has washed over the printing and publishing industry. While the organization specifically focuses on digital print, the lessons learned from these case studies have a much broader reach. Everything is changing—from the types of services you sell to way you sell your services, and even who you call on to sell those services. This consultative, solutions-based approach is a legacy that the digital printing discipline has brought to the overall printing and publishing market. If you don’t offer digital printing, and you think these best practices don’t apply to you—think again. They signify the wave of the future, and the only way printers will continue to be successful and profitable into the future. These best practices also lay out a strategic approach that will benefit the industry as a whole as we struggle to find the balance between print and alternative media and to ensure that print remains a viable, accepted business communications alternative far into the future.

Here, then, are selected best practices for print service providers that PODi has included in its Fifth Edition.

Offer solutions that address business problems. The report states, “A solution is not just a more complex printing project; it is a combination of strategy, services, technology, and output that meets a business need.” Doing this successfully requires not only that you understand your customers’ business objectives, but that you pitch the solution to the right person within the customer organization. In one PODi case study, Screaming Color Ltd. of London worked with Christie’s to streamline renewals for its catalog subscribers and to simplify communications with customers. Among other things, there was a 30% drop in customer service calls from subscribers in the first month of the program. These types of results represent serious business process improvements for the customer, and increase the probability of a long-term and profitable relationship for the print service provider.

Offer Web-to-Print Solutions. This expands your geographic reach and makes your services available to customers and their agents and employees, regardless of where they are located. In a case study with Bridgestone and its print provider CopyCo of Des Plaines IL, a key objective was to make it easier for Bridgestone dealers and retailers to develop advertisements and other marketing materials. As a result of a Web-to-Print solution, lead time for marketing programs was reduced from 10 weeks to 72 hours, and Bridgestone brand integrity was protected. Reduction of cycle times, and placing control and accountability for customer communications in the hands of local representatives while protecting brand integrity are often easily accomplished with Web-to-Print programs.

Price services separately from print. In these more complex projects, set-up costs can be high. Those set-up costs should not be used in the calculation of per-piece costs. The ideal is that these projects will extend over time, and over many different individual print jobs, more widely amortizing the set-up costs, changing the analytical dynamics relative to set-up and implementation costs. Both the Christie’s and Bridgestone examples cited above delivered compelling results almost from the outset. Customers can quickly and easily see the benefits they will accrue over the long term, and will understand the long-term value they stand to gain from the programs.

Use ROI models to close the deal. Marketers are increasingly being required to justify their marketing expenditures with a return on investment according to corporate standards. To the extent you can help them do this, you will gain more business. In the Borgata Hotel/Vestcom International case study included in the report, the hotel wanted to capture and use guest information to encourage repeat visits to their facility. By compiling daily information from the hotel, casino and food & beverage operations, the hotel’s database is augmented to allow production of fully variable and extremely relevant mailers created using tens of thousands of available combinations of images and offers. These highly targeted mailers delivered a high 20% response rate (i.e., actual return visits) compared to 10% to 20% for other types of mailings. Because the hotel is able to classify visitors based on their spending habits, this higher response rate was easily translated into a compelling ROI.

Create sticky solutions. This means that your offering is so compelling and so intertwined into the customer’s operation that the customer will have difficulty switching to a new provider. The Borgata Hotel/Vestcom international example cited above is a good example of a sticky solution. Daily data feeds are delivered to Vestcom by the Borgata, and mailers go out to visitors within 72 hours. Vestcom executes flawlessly, and the Borgata reaps the reward. There is little incentive for them to shop the business around.

These are just a sampling of the service provider best practices, and the report also contains best practices for marketing as well. These best practices aren’t new, and they aren’t rocket science. And they don’t apply only to digital printers. You will have heard them stated in one way or another at conferences, in trade magazines, and in the virtual pages of WhatTheyThink.com and OnDemandJournal.com. And of course, the PODi Best Practices report and database contain much more detail than we have space for here.

Even though you may have heard these principles discussed before, they bear stating again. Clearly, based on the lackluster performance our industry is seeing, the demise of another 1,500 printing establishments in 2004, and the still-wide gap between PIA’s Leaders and Laggards, there are many companies who have not yet seen the light. Don’t let yours be one of them!

In addition to looking at the products and services being exhibited at Print that can help your company epitomize these best practices, take the time to attend conference sessions. And look up PODi or click here to see how they can help you as you evolve your company into the digital future. PODi will be leading or participating in several events at the show, including:

  • PPML Hot Spots at Print 05: PPML, the Personalized Print Markup Language, is a nonproprietary, industry-standard page definition language for digital print developed by PODi. Click here to learn about PPML Hot Spots at Print 05.
  • Click here to download the free Digital Printing Guide describing PODi’s self-guided PPML tour.
  • Pick up a Best Practices Sample Pack at Print 05. Click here to find out how.
  • If you are a PODi member, be sure to attend the PODi Industry Member Briefing, Monday September 12th, 7:30 to 9:00 AM at the Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago. Click here to register.

Make it your mission at Print 05 to learn as much as you can about the digital aspects of this new world of print. And when you return, waste no time in planning a strategy session to take advantage of all that you have learned, and set your business on a path to increased profitability.

See you at the show!