User group meetings have become a very important part of our industry. Like anything, you get what you put into them. Some travel primarily for the restaurants and booze (often a well-deserved break!), others arrive with a clear mission of what they want to accomplish. The host vendor does a lot to prepare an agenda that maximizes your opportunity to learn, but the best thing the host vendor does for you is to bring you together with a large group of potential peers that you can collaborate with.
If I had one message for print owners facing this incredible wave of disruptive change in our industry is “don’t go it alone!” You need a peer group that you can lean on, collaborate with, and share your learnings with – you cannot take on the burden of keeping up with just you and your staff, band together and help each other. If you’re attending EFI Connect or HP’s Dscoop, set a goal of meeting at least three other printers at these events that you can collaborate with on a regular basis.
This could take the form of a very formal peer group or it could just be a group of print owners that you call when you are stuck or need to get a second opinion. My favorite use of a peer group is printers who have similar technology stacks (e.g. the same Print MIS, web-to-print, production workflows systems, etc.) These systems are complex and ever-changing, when you have a peer group that you can collaborate with, you give yourself an edge because each print business is going to use the print software a little differently, dive into different areas, and learn different things. When you’re in a group – you can share in all the learnings vs. being faced with that steep learning curve all on your own.
You need peer to peer relationships at all levels of your company, do not reserve this level of collaboration to just the owners. Help your lead technical people find peers at other printers, help your marketing people find their peers at other printers, help your accounting people to find their fellow bean counters. The learning curves are so high we need study groups to divide and conquer. Teaching others is the best way to learn yourself.
Next week in Las Vegas, EFI will host their annual user conference. At this year’s conference I will be participating in three sessions (one interview and two presentations). For those of you attending the conference, I invite you to attend the sessions. For those of you who are not planning to attend, I want to provide you with some of the key learnings that will be delivered.
Search for: Jennifer Matt
Business Builder Interview: Execution with Print Software Enables Your Business to Profitably Scale
Thurs, Jan 19 @ 9:30am – 10:30am
This is the session I’m most looking forward to, maybe because I get to interview two people I have a ton of respect for Jane Mugford, Web2Print Experts, Inc. and Courtney Sumners, SVP Benson on a topic I am extremely passionate about (digital transformation of print businesses). Many of our customers are starting to use the term “digital transformation” of their business. This refers to how they need to refresh, replace, and deeply engage with the software that runs their business in order to thrive (and survive). Benson Integrated Marketing has spent the last two years undergoing a complete digital transformation (replacing virtually their entire technology stack from order entry to invoice). The results are staggering; tremendous growth and profitability and maybe most importantly the ability to scale without chaos or hiring armies of additional staff.
There will be no magic pill revealed in this session, because there isn’t a magic pill. There is hard work, dedication, high expectations, accountability, and most importantly execution of software technologies to create four vital things inside the business:
- A trusted system of record for the business (Print MIS)
- Online systems to offer customers self-service access to an ever-growing number of products and services (web-to-print).
- Integration and automation to drive efficiencies up and head count down (workflows, processes, iterative improvements).
- The manifestation of a truly data-driven business.
How to sell Multi-Channel Communications to Your Customers
Wed Jan 18 @1-2pm
Building Your Cross-Media Business and Pricing Model with Jennifer Matt
Thurs. Jan 19 @ 4:45 – 5:45pm
Both sessions revolve around the idea of diversification of your print manufacturing business into a communication business that combines the power of physical and digital communications in order to increase the ROI of your customers. Your customers have an objective to everything they do with you today, for almost every business objective (e.g. create sales leads, compliance, etc.) related to a print product there is a complimentary digital product that could be sold in conjunction.
A print sales person sells manufacturing capacity. A print sales person sells volumes. A print sales person sells physical products that leave your plant from the loading dock. Most print sales end with the delivery of the product – a print sales person sees this as the conclusion of their services.
Digital products are different. They never hit the production floor, they leave your plant through the network, not through shipping. The traditional idea of capacity is somewhat irrelevant, you don’t need a larger press to create more email campaigns, you do need more skilled employees and/or software automation. The return on investment of the digital product really begins at delivery because one of the key advantages of digital communication products is the ability to track, measure, and learn about how your target audience engages with your messaging.
The number one advantage of a print company in the digital world is the power of combining physical with digital in an integrated campaign. Most pure digital marketing companies and technologies cannot “deliver” on the physical messaging because they do not have the print expertise.
Can a print sales team adapt and successfully sell digital communication products and services?
Difficult question, there is not one answer. In every print business, there are always a few sales people who are grouped as “not going to adapt, old school, etc.” Then there is another group that is more open to change, sees the digital communication market as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
Selling Multi-Channel Communication products takes a few key skills:
Basic understanding that you are in the communication business (not the manufacturing business).
If your current sales team can’t answer the question “what is your customer trying to accomplish with the printing we are doing for them?” but they can answer every specification of the printed piece – you have a manufacturing focused team. This is your first step in becoming a communication company, study your customer’s problems – fall in love with your customer’s problems. Understand how print is just one way to solve your customer’s communication challenges, you could be selling them a lot of other complimentary solutions.
Understand how print and digital communications work with each other.
There is a synergy to the combination of communicating across multiple mediums. When customers see messages across multiple mediums their “conversion” rate increases dramatically. We are all being marketed to everyday, hence we can all learn this by simply paying attention to what works on us! Do not be fooled by those who want it to look complicated and expensive. Simple sells. Simple can be executed on. Simple can scale.
Measurement is the Product
With printing, we look at the final piece, we touch it. For digital we look at the analytics – we measure it. You and your team need to practice at this and best place to practice is on your own business. Do your own cross-media / multi-channel marketing campaign for your own business. You will grow your business and learn how to deliver these services at the same time.
I am an optimist. I believe if you create the right conditions for people, most people can adapt and change. You must create the right conditions, they must put forth the effort to learn. You cannot learn it for them. Create the conditions where your sales team can learn, let them decide if they want to adapt or move on. The key is to make it very clear there is only one path forward. Your company will be selling complimentary digital products, all sales people will be expected to adapt or be replaced by someone who will.