Commercial printers, print for pays, and in plant providers constantly monitor upcoming trends in both print and customer service. To stay ahead of the competition, successful firms research and properly implement synergistic services.
A stagnant business model may limit profitability. Adding new services motivates sales and creative professionals to think outside the box and better service clients. Offerings that are added with little overhead cost or learning curve include large format printing; variable data publishing (VDP); and multi-channel marketing efforts such as Web-to-print (W2P), email, quick response (QR) codes, and analytics reporting. Adding such services creates a well-rounded print provider and facilitates their transition into a marketing service provider (MSP).
Making Music Together
Synergistic services are implemented somewhat effortlessly into an existing workflow. They fit and work well with existing hardware, the staff easily adapts to them, and the organization as a whole is knowledgeable and comfortable educating customers on the benefits of these new offerings.
"The integration of creative services offers a high-value progression to clients beyond the traditional offering of printed output. These services—and the creative expertise that appropriately integrates them with print—expand the value from print-only direct mail to true integrated direct marketing, and ultimately, fully trackable return on investment (ROI) analytics and end-to-end campaign management," explains David Murphy, director of marketing, Americas, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Graphics Solutions Business.
Large Format Printing
One beneficial addition to a service portfolio is large format printing. Point of purchase, labels, decals, banners, posters, apparel, packaging, fine art, wraps, trade show, and billboard graphics are all attainable with the addition of a printer 24 inches or wider.
"This area offers tremendous revenue potential for print for pay and commercial print providers. Many businesses have already invested in the technology infrastructure required for large format, including computer workstations and design software. These businesses leverage technology investments as well as knowledge of printing processes to build new revenue streams," recommends Hiroshi Ono, group product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
"With a large format printer, users provide high-quality prints for walk-in customers, corporations, or anyone in need of a sign or banner within in a short turnaround time. The advancements made to improve the workflow of these printers allow business owners to do most of the work, which was once outsourced to a color management specialist or graphic designer," suggests Rich Reamer, director, ISG large format product division, Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Multi-channel marketing is another element to consider instituting. If a print provider harnesses its ability to offer personalized URLs (pURLs), W2P, direct email blasts, and other Web-based marketing tools, it provides customers with a complementary component to print. Mixed marketing is the most effective sales tool. Embracing the Web is an important step for all print providers that want to remain competitive.
"W2P is a synergistic way for both print for pay and in plants to expand capabilities, produce more jobs, and grow business. By building a Web storefront, users provide many benefits to end users or brand owners," shares Tracy Yelencsics, VP, production products and programs, Xerox Corporation.
The Web provides 24/7 access, improves communication, and eliminates waste. For the print provider, it simplifies order entry, streamlines fulfillment, and improves customer service.
Yelencsics provides the example of Simon Fraser University, who uses Rochester Software Associates, Inc.’s WebCRD for W2P. WebCRD as the production control center for receiving, monitoring, and processing internal production. FreeFlow Process Manager, integrated with WebCRD, prepares jobs for presses.
VDP is another service easily added to an existing digital print workflow. Many user-friendly software products are designed to extract customer data and use it to provide a unique mail piece—either print, Web, or both—for each individual recipient.
"VDP is a natural extension of digital printing and a great way to expand business with high-value and high-margin applications that grow business and satisfy customers with higher response rates. When you combine Web services with VDP, you then have the ability to turn a traditionally labor-intensive application, like business cards, into a higher margin profit job that drives revenue," adds Yelencsics.
For example, Keiger Printing is a commercial printing business that owned one of the first Xerox iGen presses. In 2005 they formed the Keiger Direct division. Specializing in personalized marketing programs, the company uses digital technology to achieve customization. Keiger Direct works in the business-to-business sector serving higher education, healthcare, and financial services industries.
Leveraging Each Tune
Once efforts such as large format printing, W2P, multi-channel marketing, or VDP are in place, users learn to leverage each component. Selling and promoting to a current customer base is the first step, but recognizing the potential of these services is important—they can take you much further in terms of geographical location and new markets.
"PSPs can extend their reach. If they have provided a successful service or offering locally, they should replicate and branch out of their geographic region. Web-enabled solutions allow them to have a broad reach for new customers," says Rich Lloyd, offset to digital offerings manager, Ricoh Production Print Solutions.
If you find success in one segment, test another. Work with partners to find a vertical market right for you. Attend trade shows to educate yourself on trends in a particular market.
A print provider becomes an MSP when services integrate. This in turn becomes a true commitment to customer relationship management (CRM).
"There are still many companies that want or need help with that piece of their marketing efforts. Digital print providers that understand data management and know how to drive lift and response, there is a clear growth opportunity," insists HP’s Murphy.
Lloyd suggests offering creative services to bolster brand and improve ROI as well as running analytics to show how each campaign performs. One possibility is to initially offer these services complementary to illustrate your commitment to the customer.
Investing in the Instruments
Adding new services requires investment. If you are thinking of adding VDP, digital print equipment already in house may be used. The software component for VDP is what really drives the cost. A range of tools are available, and these extend as the company’s confidence in executing and marketing the product grows.
A similar investment occurs when adding multi-channel marketing components, which can be purchased out of the box or as a software as a service. Xerox’s Yelencsics states that 60 percent of print providers indicate that Web-enabled services improve production efficiency, customer acquisition, and retention rate—a nice ROI.
To add large format, Ono recommends beginning with a printer/cutter. The devices are highly versatile and incorporate printing and contour cutting technology into one device to produce graphics of virtually any shape.
Implementing a new service comes with growing pains. Employees should understand the technology. For commercial printers, print for pays, and in plants in the know, adding large format, multi-channel marketing, or VDP isn’t difficult.
For those familiar with other printing platforms, large format is generally easy to incorporate. According to Timothy Check, product manager, professional imaging, Epson America, Inc., the skills required to fulfill large format print services vary depending on the specific service offered.
"Producing posters can be as simple as selecting file and print from an application while installing a vehicle wrap to an exotic sports car requires a great deal of technique. The important part for the sales staff to know is the capability of the printer operator when working with large format systems. A low-risk solution is to start with relatively simple services such as posters and signs to boost experience, and then expand offerings to include more intricate services that customers in the region are seeking," he recommends.
Before implementing multi-channel marketing it is important to understand how the Web enhances print. Many software products offer step-by-step tutorials on how to implement W2P storefronts for customers or add pURLs, QR codes, and other email-based services.
Data management and analytics may present some issues for new multi-channel and VDP users. Understanding the value of click-thrus, hits, and leads and leveraging them for customers is essential.
For all services, it is important to be educated on cost. You want to profit from adding an offering, not lose money. Determine the investment in time, resources, and money before committing prices.
The Music Makers
Partnering with trusted suppliers, dealers, and manufacturers to learn how to implement and leverage new services is an excellent way to grow into a MSP.
Canon directs new wide format imagePROGRAF users to its PosterArtist poster creation software, which provides a variety of templates for banners and signs. On the PosterArtist Web site, tutorials are offered for business owners and sales staff that explain how to create a poster, use VDP, and auto design.
Epson points new users to its network of Authorized Resellers, which provides knowledge on many of the large format products in its Stylus Pro line, as well as insight into current large format trends.
HP also suggests turning to user groups, such as the Digital Solutions Cooperative. The user group, made up of HP graphic arts customers, provides education and business development tools that enable print providers to grow revenues, expand into new markets, gain operational efficiencies, and better serve clients.
Ricoh works with the CMO Council to provide publications offer insight into new vertical markets. The company has experts from each market working in conjunction with print providers to build a solution within a key customer account that can be replicated into similar situations.
Roland dealers provide training and service to customers. Dealer training is offered through Roland Academy, which is also available to print providers. It offers instructional Webinars and hands-on workshops.
Xerox offers field support resources to help customers install and set up Web storefronts. Also, Web training classes and professional support services are available. For VDP, Xerox offers do-it-yourself and do-it-for-you plans. Sales team training, on-site workshops, and regional seminars are also available.
Synergy and Harmony
Adding large format printing, multi-channel marketing, or VDP may be a smart move for your business, depending on your capacity to grow.
"Print providers need to have a business plan to select the key customers and vertical markets they wish to target with these new applications. They can’t be experts in every field, they should play to their strengths and focus on markets where they have the insight into the customer’s pain points and build solutions to solve them," suggests Ricoh’s Lloyd.
Don’t stretch yourself too thin or forget what made you enter the print business. Implementing synergistic services is how a business helps customers succeed