By Tom Wetjen January 31, 2006 -- "Our industry is not simply changing, it is being redefined. It is becoming something fundamentally different, something bigger, something beyond what it was --creating historic opportunity for the prepared and profound threats for the unprepared." So stated Andrew D. Paparozzi, chief economist, NAPL as he helped kick off the Xerox Graphic Arts Premier Partners Congress, held during the Print 05 show in Chicago during September. For much of the two-day congress, the 125 print providers in attendance from North and South America participated in discussions with industry experts and colleagues on capturing the "historic opportunity." "Who ends up on the right side of the gap will be a matter of who can make the redefining changes." Paparozzi suggested that the blueprint for success in today's dynamic print communications industry is still being created. "Who ends up on the right side of the gap will not be a matter of company size, equipment type, ownership structure or any other conventional method of classifying printing companies," he said. "But rather [it will be a matter] of who can make the redefining changes --seeing business opportunities rather than threats --because they can be either." But how do you find your way to the "right side of the gap?" I'd like to help show the way by sharing some of the strategic issues that were raised at the meeting in Chicago. What are the characteristics of a successful, modern print operation? According to Strategies for Management 2005, today's most consistently successful print service providers are skilled at integrating print with other media, have efficient and innovative workflow, have marketing savvy and insight, and treat a client's corporate mission as if it were their own. Paparozzi says fast turnaround, high quality, competitive pricing, service excellence and strong reliability are givens. Additional value comes from serving as a single-source supplier of a range of services to make the client's life easier, offering marketing communications solutions that expand client options, and following through to ensure that solutions are helping clients succeed with their clients. Value comes from supplying services that make your client's life easier and helping them succeed with their clients. What are the best growth opportunities in today's market? Digital print is the growth engine in the commercial print market, and it is growing by 15 percent this year, compared to 3 percent for offset, yet only three percent of the U.S. market's 1.1 trillion monthly pages are digital, and most of those are monochrome. Therefore, the greatest growth will come from offset jobs moving to digital and monochrome jobs moving to color. Critical Imperatives The NAPL Creating Value Survey found no single business imperative to ensure long-term success -- rather, three were each cited by about 60 percent of print providers: * Strategic/environmental analysis (60.1 percent): knowing where the industry is going, which markets to pursue, which services to offer, and recognizing the company's strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. * Communication with clients (59.4 percent): ensuring the print provider understands and addresses the customers' needs, and ensuring the customer knows the print provider's capabilities and that customer concerns are addressed. * Operating excellence (59.2 percent): optimizing efficiency while minimizing costs and turnaround times. New directions "The world of print communications is radically changing due to the impact of the Internet, but it's not dying, just evolving," according to Jorian Clarke, chief executive officer of SpectraCom Inc., an online marketing company. "People still read, and they like a tangible form of documentation in addition to its electronic counterpart of web pages or e-mails," she said. "The key is to integrate online with offline print. The opportunities exist, but the print provider needs to begin thinking like a communications company, partner with others, recognize distribution as an important service component and consider ways to profit by taking customized consumer catalog or fulfillment item requests for their customers' products and services." Almost three-quarters (73.4 percent) of responders to "The NAPL Creating Value Survey" say their plans for the next five years are to focus on offering a combination of lithography and value-add services. The most often-cited value-add services were mailing (74.7 percent), fulfillment (73.5 percent), variable information printing (65.7 percent), static digital printing (60.4 percent), and database management (32.2 percent). Improve client relationships Mapping out your customer's experience -- and embedding pleasant surprises at each step -- is a powerful way to improve your client relationships and develop a competitive edge, according to speaker Mark David Jones, president, Small World Alliance, Inc., who has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including Walt Disney. He framed his discussion around a four-step "world-class chain of excellence:" leadership excellence engenders employee excellence, which cultivates customer satisfaction to deliver financial results and repeat business. In addition, several case studies presented at the Premier Partners Congress demonstrated the power of one-to-one communications for improving the client's business. Executives from Hogue Printing Solutions and eNeighborhoods discussed how personalized covers on a recent issue of RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine featuring aerial photography of the recipient's neighborhood generated more inquiries than any previous issue. The 1:1 Lab of Xerox Canada ran a pilot with Heritage Education Funds, which generated a lower overall customer acquisition cost and a response rate that was 10 times higher than the control group's in the first three weeks of the campaign. What characterizes today's successful sales and marketing programs? According to Joe Rickard, president, Intellective Solutions, LLC, successful marketing generally is based on sound business plans, clear targets and well-documented success metrics. Top sales programs use consultative selling, seek to understand customer business processes, target non-traditional contacts and are built around high-impact applications. When will the intense competition in our industry ease up? Not any time soon. Based up on federal census data, NAPL estimates that 5,900 printing establishments have been lost due to closures and consolidations since 1998, and projects that another 5,100 will be lost by 2010, cutting the total by nearly a third, to 26,640. One of the best ways to chart a company's course through a changing market is by consulting with market leaders. Organizations like the Xerox Premier Partners regularly offer such opportunities with networking and knowledge-sharing events among the world's leading print providers. The goal: helping print providers improve customer relationships and experience, introduce new solutions, and boost growth and profitability. "No one can do it alone," said Jim Firestone, president, Xerox North America, at the conclusion of the congress, "It takes great partnerships." And in today's highly competitive market, success increasingly requires the across-the-board excellence that programs like the Premier Partners seek to foster. As Paparozzi stated, "A well-conceived, compelling value proposition that establishes how you are going to bring value to your clients -- how you'll get them and how you'll keep them -- is no longer a luxury in our industry."