Editor’s Note: This content is sponsored by PTI Marketing Technologies

Every printing firm should be considering what its business should look like in the next two to three years.  Each business will make different decisions, but the likelihood of maintaining a successful business with a “business as usual” approach is slim.  As Will Rogers famously said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Vistaprint has carved out a niche in the small office/home office market, making very small orders profitable to produce and distribute. Companies like Tukaiz in Chicago, early adopters of digital printing, have added grand format to the mix to better serve their retail, sports and other clientele with a wider range high margin services. Franchise operation Allegra has implemented a Marketing Resource Center at its headquarters operation to both educate and support its franchisees and their customers as they work to deliver a more compelling story to marketing professionals. These are just a few examples of how printing operations have reinvented themselves to meet the needs of today’s market realities while also future-proofing their businesses.

Not only has ink or toner on paper as a standalone service become commoditized over the years due to a highly competitive playing field, marketers have many other options for getting their message out that do not involve print. In order to address these changing dynamics, print sales professionals must “up their game.” This includes expanding the range of contacts they have within their enterprise accounts to include process, content or line of business owners who are generating the demand for print and other communications.  In most cases, this means the marketing department.

Like most people these days, marketers are busy people, and to get their attention with a discussion about print is becoming more and more difficult. Even talking about web-to-print may not get you an appointment. The key to getting their attention is to speak their language.  That means expanding the conversation to include such things as Marketing Asset Management (MAM),[1] Marketing Resource Management (MRM) and topics such as brand management, content customization and repurposing, user permissions control, dynamic access to content and effective field communications. This completely changes the complexion of the discussion (and the marketer’s receptivity). This is where enterprise customers are living and breathing.  The challenge for print service providers is to be as knowledgeable as possible in these areas and to put together a compelling story—and service offering—keeping in mind that enterprises can accomplish many of these things on their own. But at the same time, they are often strapped for time and resources, and many find that it makes sense to outsource to a partner that can competently offer a wide range of services. This serves two purposes: It reduces the drain on often overburdened marketing teams, and it reduces the overall number of suppliers they must manage.

There is some basic information that will help you in offering the right type of marketing resource management services to an existing or prospective customer.  For example, how many locations does the company have? How many employees and where are they located? The more distributed these employees are, especially the employees that are most likely to require marketing resources, the more opportunity there is to provide the marketer with a centralized repository accessible to all authorized users. It also makes it easier to expand your business to a nationwide—or even global—footprint, serving these customers wherever they may be geographically.

You will also want to understand what type of branding guidelines are in place, and how successfully are they ensuring brand integrity?  Do they have a problem with “rogue marketing”?  This often happens when field personnel create their own materials without regard to corporate branding guidelines.  By making it easier for authorized employees, partners, franchisees, dealers, distributors and more to access and customize appropriately branded material, you can help marketers not only control rogue marketing and ensure brand integrity, but you also will likely be able to provide them with a more streamlined process that often includes fairly significant cost savings. And you can provide them with the tools to track and report usage and other related metrics.

Most marketers understand this formula … but enforcing it across a distributed base of users can be difficult. Brand guidelines must be clear and concise, and systems must empower those closest to the customer to make certain decisions about content, including personalizing it to themselves and their customers.

Other questions you can pursue in conversations with markets include:

  • How is advertising and marketing supported on both a local and global level?
  • What type of governmental regulations must you comply with and how do those vary from location to location and region to region? What processes do you have in place to ensure compliance?
  • How are the company’s digital assets currently maintained?  These include logos, marketing collateral, documents, videos, corporate images and more. Are the most current versions readily available to authorized users?
  • For items in inventory, how is waste and obsolescence managed?
  • What types of systems are in place that are relevant to the management of marketing resources?  For example, does the company use Salesforce.com? Do they have an ERP system in place?  Often, the ability to integrate with these systems in the delivery of marketing resources creates huge synergies and even huger customer stickiness.
  • Are they willing to share with you the number and type of suppliers involved in the delivery of marketing resources?  The ability to consolidate the supplier base can also deliver significant financial and process improvement benefits.

With the answers to these questions in hand, you will be in a better position to deliver unique, innovative and valuable services that can entirely change the dynamics of customer relationships and future-proof your business.  And before you start worrying that offering more online or digital-only services will cause your production platform to go begging for volume, we consistently hear from companies that have taken this path that this type of business expansion almost inevitably increases the amount of printing they are able to deliver for customers. This will generally involve the delivery of both physical (e.g., printed) and digital resources.

In Part Two of this series, we will discuss the type of infrastructure—people, process and technology—required to successfully and profitably change the conversation and deliver these new services.

[1] Also referred to as Digital Asset Management (DAM) or Media Asset Management (also MAM)