“We’re not selling a product, but a process.” These words say a lot about the changes impacting the print/mail industry.
I first heard this comment in 2001 – 15 years ago – at an Xplor Northeast Region meeting in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The speaker was Roger Gimbel. At the time, Roger was the president of Xerographic Reproduction Center Inc. (XRC), one of six divisions that comprise the 500-employee parent company, Global Document Solutions. XRC was the largest on-demand printer in Manhattan. But as Roger explained, output isn’t the most important part of his business; process is. His company’s expertise extended beyond print to systems integration.
After hearing Roger’s talk I published this paragraph in a newsletter the following month:
“Whether you’re a vendor or in-plant manager, it’s important that you heed Roger’s message. If you’re focused only on production speeds and cost-per-piece, instead of adding value, then you’re headed in the wrong direction. You need to devote your attention to reviewing the entire process (not just the printed document). From development to design to multichannel communications to fulfillment to sales.”
Last week, I was back in Sturbridge. This time, to hear a talk from Gary Pawlaczyk of Epicomm. Gary laid out a 5-step process for organizations to become successful, profitable companies who provide full-service solutions (from concept through performance analytics). You must do more than print and mail, you must solve your customers’ problems. While the words were different, the message was the same as Roger’s in 2001. And it was just as true then as it is today.
So why are few people in the print-mail industry responding to this call for change? Why do most service providers and in-plant operations remain focused on cost-per-piece? Why are some shops expanding, while others are shuttering their doors?
For hundreds of years, print was the preferred means of information distribution. Other methods – fax, diskettes, file transfer, and e-mail were considered alternatives to print, but paper was still the standard. Due to the proliferation of Internet usage and improvements in technology, print is now only one of many options – and there is no standard.
This doesn’t mean it’s time to panic, or to throw out those printers and inserters just yet. It does mean you have to widen your sphere of influence from one step in document production – like print/mail – to being involved with the entire document process. That means reaching out to marketing, sales and advertising agencies.
For many operation managers, this requires moving out of the “comfort zone” of paper, hardware and scheduling, and into the worlds of marketing, databases and information technology. Similarly, IT and marketing professionals need to learn about the new capabilities available in print/mail, and forge cross-departmental relationships. These new hybrid organizations will work together to develop comprehensive solutions to document processing challenges.
Introducing this type of cultural change isn’t easy, but it’s critical to your company’s success. Don’t attempt this transformation all at once, but merge the components together gradually. Many people will balk at making drastic changes, especially if it means modifying established workflows. The changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
So reconsider your workflow, and make sure you’re developing a solution that provides the correct information to your customers, in the media they want, and with whatever additional messages they want to send. Leverage the new tools available to you, and take your first steps to becoming a true solutions provider.