by Gina Testa May 22, 2006 -- The core of any successful business is a strong business plan. The printing business is no different. Before adding any new services or offerings to your business, you should attempt to calculate the return these investments will yield. As the printing industry gets more competitive, many customers are asking for help to evaluate where the digital printing opportunities are within their business The following seven competency areas are will show you how to maximize your digital technology investments and grow your business: 1. Build your print volume by developing high-margin applications . The best ways to build volume involve knowing how to develop highly competitive applications, recognizing applications that present expansion opportunities, and being aware of vertical market opportunities. Before committing to equipment acquisitions, you should be confident you can build suitable volume. 2. Be ready, willing and able to change. Adopting digital printing services inevitably requires fundamental changes to the way you do business. To succeed, you not only must be willing to adapt, you must foster a culture that enables effective organizational change. Generally, the most successful adopters of new work practices and business objectives are companies that define operational procedures, success metrics, and roles and responsibilities with the most precision. And common traits among leading digital service providers are cultures that address challenges and opportunities with creative, "out-of-the-box" thinking and that embrace change with a highly motivated, "early-adopter" attitude. 3. The importance of buy-in and support from management can't be overstated. For management truly to buy in, it needs to understand the consultative nature of being a digital services provider and to recognize the benefits of digital technology both operationally and for its customers. Further, management must have realistic expectations of what it takes to build a digital printing business, and the willingness to support all the necessary steps to grow and sustain print volume. The chances for success are increased when the digital initiative is supported by a formal business plan that is effectively communicated and followed. Ideally, management drives the actions required to put its plans into effect and proactively implement some of the plan's elements, such as hiring, skills development and infrastructure upgrades. 4. Your new services need serious sales and marketing support. Many print providers claim that sales and marketing are the greatest challenges to offering new digital services. Printers know they can make a press operate. Typically, they are less confident in their abilities to reach new customers and new markets with new services. The most effective sales initiatives usually have dedicated digital sales forces and representatives who are effective, knowledgeable and skilled in consultative sales, which is very different from the traditional printing relationship approach. Good training and good hiring are critical The model marketing and business-development program consistently incorporates business development activities into everyday work processes. Model staff behavior includes a passion for continual education and for following every interaction to completion. The most successful programs generate a reputation in the market, for benchmark service and offerings. Marketing communications agencies, consultants and vendor tools can help you get there. 5. Creatives can be valuable partners -- Print providers and creatives work together on multiple levels. Creatives are print buyers who benefit from the guidance of print providers to optimize designs for specific digital presses. Creatives also can be partners in pursuing new business opportunities, such as relatively complex cross-media communications programs. And creatives can provide marketing services to help print providers develop their businesses. Many of the most successful digital print providers tap the richness of these relationships. 6. In the digital world, you can (almost) always make your shop floor more efficient and effective. Computing power continues to double every 18 months -- an observation known as Moore's Law -- enabling ever more processing power, intelligence and compact designs to supercharge your operations. Digitally enabled workflow can automate and boost efficiency in every department, for tasks from job creation to distribution. Increasingly, these initiatives are your price of entry. And digitally savvy staff with the ability to learn new skills plays critical roles in harnessing this power to minimize pre-press time, program variable information work that can differentiate your services, and effectively run digital presses. 7. What your customer knows can help you. When your customers understand digital printing and submit the appropriate data streams and files, they help you run your business more smoothly. And customers who see digital printing as an enabler to profitably growing their business are potential long-term partners. Whatever the knowledge level of your customers, helping them to better understand digital printing is in your best interest. Guide them on the strengths and limitations of your digital presses. Set their image quality expectations, and see that your output matches it. Help them tap the greater value of digital printing. Do these well, and you may have a customer for life. Xerox determined these seven key factors by studying the phenomena of how one print provider can generate incredible volume on its digital press, while others don't reach their full potential. We analyzed the businesses of some of our best customers using the powerful Lean Six Sigma statistical tools, which Xerox has used in recent years to boost its own operational efficiency. Building upon four decades of Xerox experience in this market, these findings are the foundation for the new Xerox Digital Readiness Assessment, one of the latest additions to Xerox's ProfitAccelerator™ Digital Business Resources collection. Clearly, the emphasis on these seven factors must vary to fit the digital services you offer. Print providers need to identify the factors that will give them the biggest competitive advantage and pursue those opportunities to best position the business for success. Please provide your feedback to Gina. She can b