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Xplor Report: Xerox's Shelley Sweeney Tells How to Grow Service Bureau Business

Press release from the issuing company

By Noel Ward, Executive Editor, On Demand Journal.com & Managing Editor, WhatTheyThink.com Trade Show Coverage Getting business--and keeping it--demands that transactional and direct mail service bureaus pay attention to market trends and look at what other players are doing, says Shelley Sweeney, vice president and general manager of Xerox's service bureau sector. In a special service bureau session Tuesday morning, Sweeney further recommended adopting a 7-step strategy, which we'll get to in a moment. Market Trends She noted the repositioning underway in the market with companies shifting from being print and mail "manufacturers" to communications providers. This shifts the focus of businesses from improving efficiency, quality and keeping customers happy to one of marketing, sales and developing partnerships with both customers and other service providers. This requires service bureaus to reassess skills and evaluate whether current capabilities match those in data, networking, security and more. And also determine what other expertise may be needed, such as graphic arts design skills and color management. "In addition," Sweeney noted, "companies using service bureaus now have a strong preference for a single service provider and is moving from looking for commodity print and mail services to higher value services that make better use of customer information to drive marketing and CRM applications." In addition, the market for outsourced services for transactional print and direct mail--and combinations of these--is growing. Through 2007, the combined forecast for facilities management, statement printing and other contracted print services is expected to grow at about 17% (CAGR), according to CAP Ventures. In 2003 alone, says the DMA, direct mail expenditures grew some 6.5 percent, and in the first quarter of 2004 direct mail volume increased 7.8 percent, according to Comperemedia. The confluence of these data and trends leads to the Seven Steps Sweeny encouraged the audience to follow to grow their business, keep the new work coming in the door, and better position themselves to survive in the future. Service bureaus are uniquely qualified to be the leaders in digital printing because of their knowledge of data handling and information management. But they still have to learn to better address customer needs and pay attention to what the market is doing and where it is going. Seven Steps Step1: Define your business. Position your offerings with your branding. It's important for your brand to define what you do. If you are more than print and mail, be sure to make that clear in all your marketing activities. Understand your strengths, especially those that deliver any unique skills or capabilities you can offer. Few service bureaus can offer everything a customer may need, so look for places you can partner with others to draw on each other's strengths. And "Walk the Walk," says Sweeney. Use the technology you sell in communicating with your own customers. Personalize direct mail. Add marketing messages to your own statements. Show what can be done. Step 2: Walk, Don't Run. Especially if you are new to using some of the techniques for, say, full-color variable data printing, start with simple jobs such as targeted, relevant post cards. Then move on as you gain experience. Begin with current clients first. You have (or should have!) a better knowledge of their needs and they already know you as a resource. As your knowledge and skills expand, offer your support to large direct mailers and look for ad agencies you can partner with to help them deliver more for their customers. Step 3: Find the Data. Customers may be unwilling to open their database to you. So build and use your own customer database to show them how you can leverage data for marketing applications. Then to reach them, offer to do some targeted marketing using information you have bought. If you do the work correctly they will see results and be more likely to open their databases to you to reap even stronger results. Step 4: Capitalize on the Web. According to a 2002 Interquest study, more than 60 percent of corporations are involved in some level of web-fulfillment activities. So learn how your clients are using the web. Help them build personalized web fulfillment programs, such as one that delivers personalized information to their customers based on data entered into a web site. You can even offer to maintain their web sites, or perhaps the interactive portion. These can be complex endeavors, but they have the benefit of locking you tightly to a customer, making it too complex and costly for them to go elsewhere. Plus, these are high-value programs that help change the nature of your business and help it evolve into the service bureau of the future. Step 5: Define your Markets. Look at most businesses these days and you find the most successful are increasingly specialized. This means looking at the vertical markets and industries you can serve most effectively and focus on delivering the services that are most meaningful to them. Sweeney recommends capturing details on a "lighthouse" account, track the results of what you do for them, and then work to repeat that success--and even do more. Keep raising the bar. Step 6: Know Your Client. You may already use consultative selling as a means of offering your clients more and better services, but you can probably go deeper. Research their industry. Learn all you can about your client and their competitors. Watch the trends and look for ways you can help your customer take advantage of them. But you also need to go further. Within your customer, who are the document owners? For example, what individuals and departments stand to benefit the most from a successful direct mail campaign? Those are the people you need to reach out to. Step 7: It's Not Business as Usual! You have to remember you are no longer selling print and mail services. Done correctly, you are selling a process for improving loyalty and retention, increasing response rates, and improving ROI and the bottom line. If you are on a path to transform your business you can no longer define your business as you have in the past. This relates back to the first step, so look for ways to move forward and do business as the company you plan to become. When you take all the steps Sweeney recommends, you stake out new territory. You redefine what you do and how your customers think about your company. Your business can become something entirely different and your competitors can be left wondering why they are not doing quite as well as they once did. "Successful print providers," says Sweeney, "are going to be utilizing CRM programs, selling the ROI of what they do, leveraging technology advances, and selling the value of documents to marketing departments and C-level decision makers." She closed with a quote from Dr. Joe Webb: "What will be needed are providers who see not only jobs, but strategies and areas of opportunity, from the customers’ point of view.” This was one excellent session, with lessons for virtually any print provider in these changing times. Coming next, a round-up of some software companies who have told me how happy they were with the show and a look at where Xplor goes next.