Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

The Performance Challenge: How Would You Score?

Friday, October 24th, 2014

As digital production equipment begins to equalize to a certain extent, I am increasingly seeing vendors differentiating based on tools and business development support to help them get the most out of their investments. One of the most recent tools I’ve seen as part of this trend is The Performance Challenge from Canon Solutions America.

The challenge is designed for inplants looking to benchmark their operations or provide objective validation for capital investments. It was developed after the success of Canon’s Productivity Challenge for the enterprise community. Both are backed by InfoTrends research.

The Performance Challenge is available online, is free, and can be taken in a basic, 20-question version or a more detailed 50-question version called The Ultimate Challenge. The tool sends participants a report with benchmarking scores based on their answers. It also kicks back little snippets of industry information dynamically generated based on respondents’ answers. In other words, this is what the best practice is, why you should pay attention, and how to use this information to engage in strategic planning for your operation.

Once the challenge is taken, participants can access InfoTrends white papers that give user more detailed dive into the respective categories.

There are five areas of performance benchmarked:

  • management strategy
  • products and services
  • management awareness
  • workflow automation
  • benchmarking competition

Uses for the tool range from increasing the inplant’s the level of confidence before making a major strategic change or investment, to providing objective, third-party backing when they are going to corporate for funding, to helping to place them in a position of strength against FM intrusion.

If you’re an inplant, it’s worth checking out. It’s free, so why not?



The Right Data and the Right Time

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Fall is here and the holiday season is upon us. For many businesses, this season correlates to the most profitable quarter of the fiscal year. Every year holiday spending numbers continue to grow as buyers become more and more informed on what businesses offer. It’s no coincidence that consumer spending has increased; the proliferation of marketing media—both print and digital—has become more prevalent in the customer experience than ever before. This enhanced customer experience directly equates to an increase ‘buy-in’, producing larger financial returns.

The Canon Solutions America PressGo! webinar, The Right Data at the Right Time, unpacks how this trend has surfaced and offers advice on how to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. InfoTrends’ Lisa Cross discusses the importance of data collection and analysis in the advancement of an enhanced customer experience. Cross defines the customer experience today, explains the value of the right data, and offers tips on how to harness the right data to drive results.

One key take-away Cross highlights early in the webinar surrounds the concept of “me-marketing”. With stark competition vying for consumers’ attention, me-marketing plays an intricate role in appealing to an individual customer’s wants, needs and values. “If you want to get someone’s attention, make it about them,” says Cross. Personalized and targeted messaging creates a stronger line of communication, which in turn fosters a stronger relationship with the individual consumer.

So what kind of data drives me-marketing? Data that quantifies and qualifies consumers’ likes, interests, purchasing behaviors, lifestyle, and so on. Data can be structured, i.e. numbers that fit into a spreadsheet nicely, or unstructured, i.e. text and multimedia data that require extra steps for organization and analysis. It is not difficult to collect these types of data. Rather, the challenge lies in identifying which data have meaning and in deciding how to effectively apply this information to improve returns and advance consumer engagement. According to a recent study, 66% of marketers believe data-driven marketing promotes positive value to companies today. By collecting customer and sales data, marketers are able to consolidate, profile, rate and analyze the information in order to create the most appropriate marketing campaign for their target audience. There are a number of technologies available to achieve data collection and analysis: analytics, infrastructure, open-source, to name a few.

Keeping true to the trends, the print industry as well has entered the data-driven marketing space. Printers are in the mix of providing data services in management and analytics. Not only does the printer provide the means—or channel—of a communications piece, but also the printer is able to actively participate in running the marketing campaign. Clients now partner with print providers for data list acquisition, programming, campaign dashboard creation and response tracking & management. These services are vital towards achieving a client’s marketing goals, and thus, larger returns.

As the trend continues to emerge, it will be interesting to follow how print providers respond to the call for data services. If you want to learn more about data-driven marketing and the challenges in executing personalized campaigns, be sure to check out the full webinar here!


Best Self-Promotion Ever

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

I have spent a lot of time recently poring over a printer’s self-promotion campaign. It’s a calendar, but not like any calendar you might have seen. Called “Twenty13: Details Matter” from McArdle Solutions, it has multiple layers of meaning and purpose.

The first layer of purpose is showing off what it’s digital presses can do. Each month shows a different combination of printing technique and substrate, and some of the effects are truly stunning.

But before you think McArdle is using this piece to get clients running to open their checkbooks, it is sometimes doing the opposite. It uses the imagery to open realistic discussions about cost. These techniques take time, multiple revolutions of the cylinder (up to 45 revolutions in some cases), and open the process to variance. Clients need to understand the true impact of these effects on cost, turnaround, and the final result.

After these discussions, sometimes clients will go ahead with these techniques. Other times, they do not. But whether they go forward or go another direction, their trust in McArdle is deepened.

As McArdle is opening these discussions, with their tenous balance, the calendar has another element of brilliance. True facts from history, such as Puxatawny Phil going social after 133 years or a whale being blown sky high because the engineers used 20 cases of dynamite instead of 20 sticks, are paired with the corresponding images to illustrate the value of a supplier to attends to the smallest detail.

True excellence is found in the details, and whether it’s in selecting the right ink and substrate combination to create a special effect or having the guts to discuss details of cost even if it means losing an upsell, it’s what makes a great supplier great.

This was a tremendous campaign, and it has sold a lot of clients on McArdle’s excellence. It’s a wonderful model that many others in this industry would do well to emulate.

Know what you’re talking about: Read.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

If you are old enough to remember that line (in fact, the only line) in a public service television spot that ran some years ago, you are in good company.

The spot featured a group of young men in a diner discussing something, and although there is no audible dialog (just background music) it is clear that the discussion/debate is quickly becoming heated and may very well come to blows. Just then, another young man walks in, calmly joins in the discussion and very quickly, all involved cool down and listen to what must be words of great wisdom. Frowns turn to smiles and nodding of heads, even handshakes. The camera pans in to reveal a paperback novel in our hero’s back pocket, followed by the narrator’s voice intoning, “Know what you’re talking about: Read!

I remember when my son was in fourth grade and I went to parent-teacher night. I met with his teacher who said how glad he was to meet me, how well Alex was doing in class, and how interesting and advanced he was. Nice for any parent to hear, for sure. He told me that Alex was far ahead of the rest of the class on a variety of topical subjects, domestic and world events, contemporary issues, history, etc. He then said something I will never forget: “Alex reads a lot, doesn’t he?”

I answered that yes, he does, and he has done so for as long as he could read. In fact, we are a family of readers. His response: “I thought so. He knows a lot about a lot of subjects, and you can only get that from reading”.

As I continue to work with an increasing number of successful executives, I’ve noticed something. They read. Business journals, business books, industry updates (such as NAPL’s State of the Industry Report, white papers, and case studies), what I call “wisdom literature” (everything from William James to The Screwtape Letters), biographies, historical works, and, yes, even a novel or two.

We have conducted any number of senior level executive searches for our member/clients here at NAPL. One question I always ask a candidate is simple, direct, and very revealing: “What are you reading right now?” Try it. The answer may surprise you, and it will provide great insights into the learning system of the person across from you.

So whether your medium of choice is online, on a device, or on good old paper, casebound or paperback (mass market or trade), make the time to read. Be selective if you must, but consider investing at least a little more time in this worthy pursuit.

Know what you’re talking about: Read!

Forbes’ ’50 Most Influential CMOs On Social Media’ Shows C-Suite Still Not Embracing Social

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Are you using social media effectively?

If not, you may be missing out on an important channel for reaching your customers…but you’re definitely not alone. Many in the C-Suite still haven’t embraced social media in any meaningful way.

Last month, Forbes published its ’50 Most Influential CMOs On Social Media’ list, and the results were telling. Only nine of the CMOs on the list came from Fortune 500 companies, and only ten were from software firms. This is a troubling statistic for us here at interlinkONE and Grow Socially, since we stress the importance of social when helping our clients develop their marketing strategies.

(Maybe that’s why our own John Foley, Jr. came in at #15 on the Forbes’ list — beating out big brands like Target, Visa, and social-savvy website Mashable. Congratulations, John!)

The C-Suite may be missing out on a major opportunity to reach and engage with customers and potential customers by not embracing social media. Their resistance is understandable: ROI of a social campaign can be hard to measure if you haven’t set concrete goals. And social media’s impact is often described in terms of likes or mentions — intangible results that don’t always appeal to the C-level’s concern for the bottom line.

If there’s one thing the Forbes’ report can teach us, it’s that CEOs and CMOs need more education on social media’s real business benefits before jumping in with both feet.

To that end, here are just a few things social media can do for your business:

  1. It can give you a leg up on the competition by letting you listen to buzz about your company and competitors. Social networks are rich sources of market insights if you listen carefully.
  2. It increases your brand recognition and reach. By adding your expert voice to the conversation, you have more chances to reach customers who otherwise may not have heard of you.
  3. A well-run social media campaign can significantly increase your inbound website traffic. Without social, the only people finding your site are those who already know about your company or happen to search for the keywords you rank for. Every social media post gives more people a chance to discover your brand and find their way back to your website.
  4. Social media is a very cost effective marketing channel. With just a few hours of work each week, you can increase awareness of your company and products, without spending a huge chunk of your advertising budget.

Forbes did a good job of summing up why social networking is so important for CMOs of companies both big and small: “Social media has become a part of our world…Social media is how we interact with friends, family, co-workers, brands, and media.”

That’s why John and the whole interlinkONE and Grow Socially team encourage our clients to get active on social media — and why we’re active on it, as well. As John says of the Forbes’ list, “…One of the mottos we live by is to eat your own dog food…or in other words, practice what you preach. This list is a great way to show we truly believe in the power of social media as a way to gain exposure and increase sales.”

Creating an effective social media strategy and solid metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but the business benefits of a social campaign are well worth the effort.


Follow John on twitter: @johnfoleyjr

Plastic Print Pavilion Re-Raises Questions about Business Models for 3D Print

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

In case you didn’t notice, a lot of traditional press vendors were touting their new 3D press offerings or soon-to-be offerings at the Plastic Print Pavilion at Graph Expo. So it seems like a good time to revisit the business models currently in use in the commercial printing industry.

These aren’t simply ideas presented by press vendors trying to get you to buy one of these devices. These are the actual business models used by printers having made the investment in one of these printers. I compiled these models while writing “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry,” which as far as I know, is the only report of its type looking at this technology exclusively from a commercial printing perspective.

Here are the current business models I see being used for 3D printing in the commercial printing industry:

  • Research and development (get your feet wet and learn the technology and what it can do). This is the most common model at this point.
  • Reframing the perception of your company in the eyes of customers. This is the second most common model.
  • Providing products to the consumer and hobbyist market. In other words, going into head-to-head competition with existing 3D print providers.
  • Targeting the traditional 3D printing marketplace (prototypes and models). Also going head-to-head with existing 3D print providers, perhaps trying to increase “share of wallet” from existing 2D print customers who might be outsourcing 3D printing to another provider.
  • Creating internal cost efficiencies within your own company (one printer used its 3D printer to print replacements parts for its platesetter and saved $10,000).
  • Being an output-only provider (assuming a printable 3D file). For those who have purchased 3D printers and are justifying the investment based on other factors (such as producing parts in-house or market R&D), there is no reason not to promote your ability to provide output if the customer provides a printable file.
  • White labeling
  • Incentives and promotional items used to drive responses to direct mail campaigns.

To me, the latter is the most interesting because the value of 3D printing isn’t in selling the 3D printed product itself. It’s using these products to drive sales of what printers really want to be doing anyway — more print.

In fact, I’ve pointed out in previous Digital Nirvana posts that in order to use 3D printing this way, you don’t even have to be producing the 3D output. You could be outsourcing it. In other words, using 3D-printed dolls personalized to the recipient as a box-opener/incentive for a dimensional mail campaign to C-level executives. You outsource the production of the dolls, then print the dimensional mail, handle the mailing, and do the follow-up email campaign, as well. It’s not the 3D printing you want. It’s just a tool (whether produced by you or someone else) to get the rest of the multichannel marketing work.

How have you seen printers using 3D printing? Any business models I’ve missed?

More info on “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry“.)

It’s Academic – Scholarly Journals are Big Business

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Digital content platforms attracted financial and strategic buyers last month, as increasingly sophisticated online systems drive information to centralized providers that automate the design, hosting and distribution of content. That content may or may not be printed, and often times will be printed only on-demand as the final consumer sees fit for their needs.

Academic journals caught the interest of private equity investor Accel-KKR, which acquired a majority interest in HighWire Press. HighWire, formerly a venture of Stanford University, has been spun off and launched into the competitive world of PE-backed companies. HighWire provides an open electronic platform for universities and other publishers of scholarly journals to develop and host their academic journals. Long noted for high page counts and short runs, academic journals were a natural and early adopter of online publishing. Notably, there is no actual printing press at HighWire Press and the content managed on its platform is delivered in digital form.

Across the country at another august institution, Princeton University, the ripple effect is being felt, with the announcement last month that the California Princeton Fulfillment Services, publisher and distributor of about 340 books for Princeton University, will be winding down and closing by this time next year. As the investment in digital publishing platforms continues to improve the management and delivery of online content, Princeton University Press has decided to outsource the hosting and fulfillment of publications to Perseus Distribution Services. Perseus boasts its own digital distribution services, linked to short run and print-on-demand partners, as well as over a million square feet for warehousing pre-printed books. The partner in the Princeton operation, The University of California Press, will be moving its digital journal content over to HighWire.

Two trends evident from recent transactions appear unrelated at first, but may in fact be connected, as larger companies invest in sophisticated customer-facing software platforms, and draw business away from the small mom-and-pop shops. Staples, the national chain of office supply retailers, acquired PNI Digital Media, a provider of digital print software that provides easy online ordering of consumer and corporate printed products. This follows on the heels of other recent transactions in the web-to-print space, such as Vistaprint’s acquisition of Pixartprinting last month. Over the past couple months, we have noticed an increase in the number of small local commercial printing and copying centers that filed for liquidation under Chapter 7; we found six that filed in May. This is in addition to an unknown number of small printing company owners that just gave, up, closed the door and walked away without the expense of actually filing bankruptcy. I expect that we’ll see more closures of independent small print/copy shops, driven in part by the increasing ease with which customers can go online and purchase their printing.

The buyer of the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette, acquired last August in the spin-off from The New York Times, sold off the Telegram & Gazette which serves the mid region of Massachusetts. The buyer was Halifax Media, backed by PE firms Stephens Capital Partners and Redding Investments. In a twist of fate, the sale to Halifax brings former corporate cousins back under the same management, since Halifax had previously purchased and still owns the former New York Times Regional Media Group which consists of newspapers primarily located in the southeast US.

In another newspaper industry transaction, the Baltimore Sun Media Group announced that it is acquiring The Annapolis Capital and other local papers in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun Media Group is likely to find itself as the target in the near future, as it is owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times and has announced that it plans to divest its portfolio of newspapers.

Wide format printers were targets in several deals in May, including the acquisition of wide format franchisor Speedpro Imaging in a deal backed by private equity investor Fairfield-Maxwell. The Garvey Group which as we reported in July 2013 acquired the western wide format division of Schawk, continued its growth by acquisition strategy with the purchase of retail display and wide format specialist Troyk Printing located in Franklin, Michigan. Industry behemoth RR Donnelley acquired the relatively tiny True Colors, a wide format shop in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

Friday, October 10th, 2014

I do a lot of writing for printers’ blogs, white papers, and, increasingly, their websites. There is a trend that I’m noticing that I think is very telling.

When it comes to blogs, I am starting to hear printers ask the question, “Why are we doing this? Who are we writing for? Are they reading what we’re posting?” A number of companies I work with are updating their websites as well, and I’m starting to hear them ask the same questions. “Do I really want to put out an online capabilities brochure like I’ve had for years? Or do I want something different? Who are we writing for? Is our website going to attract the kinds of buyers I really want?”

There are lots of clean, informative printers’ websites out there now. They talk about marketing services, they talk about variable data and database management, they talk about the benefits of sheetfed and inkjet printing. But they all sound pretty much the same. If I were to pull the copy off a dozen printers’ sites, even the best ones, I would be hard pressed to tell one print shop from another.

I have been going through an interesting exercise with one of my clients lately. They are updating their website and they contacted me about writing copy. But I had a suggestion first. Before I start writing, why don’t I interview key people within the company about who they sell to, how they sell, and what makes them different? When prospects contact them, what department are they calling from and at what level? Once I know these things, I can write copy that speaks directly to the kind of buyer they are looking for.

The more interviews I do, the more I am discovering that this company does, in fact, have a very distinct personality. They also have a sweet spot that’s not the same as other printers. It’s been a fun exercise, not just for me, but for the company, as well. They knew they had a company personality, but they hadn’t attempted to define it before. Now that understanding is driving the content on the site.

How about you? When someone comes to your website, what are they going to see?A company that is as unique as the people who comprise it? Or a company that looks pretty much like every other great company out there?



Best Practices for Getting User Buy-In for Web-to-Print

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

I have been surprised lately by how much traction my posts on Web-to-print have been getting lately. It tells me that I’m on to something. Currently, I’m working on an article for Printing Impressions on getting user buy-in once the system is installed. In other words, printers only make money with Web-to-print if their clients’ employees are actually using the portals you develop, so how do you ensure that happens?

You can’t guarantee anything, of course. But here are 5 of the best practices I’ve been talking about in no particular order. What would you add to this list?

1. Charge for development, template-building, and execution. If something is free, there is little perceived value.

2. Place the link to the portal in a place where employees regularly go to conduct business. Also known as, “If they can’t find it, they can’t use it.”

3. Proactively work with the customer on its launch plan. If the customer doesn’t have a plan to get its employees to buy into and use the system, then help them create one. Webinars, seminars, help desks, employee newsletters. What would you recommend?

4. Understand how people will actually use the system. For example, if they are salespeople out in the field, ordering on iPads, the site cannot use Flash. If it relies on Flash, then — newsflash — it won’t get used.

5. Keep the feedback line open and respond to user requests. If the templates are being designed by corporate and employees, distributors, or other authorized users hate them, guess what? They won’t use them. (Assuming they’ve been given a choice.) Solicit and respond to user feedback and give the users on the ground what they need, want, and will use.

There are lots of more, but it’s a great platform for discussion. What do you think of this list? What best practices would you add to it? What has worked for you in the past?


A New Philosophy of Blogging

Monday, October 6th, 2014

The amount of articles offering advice about blogging is overwhelming because blogging or content marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase your search engine optimization (SEO) status. The theories of what is important in blogging swing back and forth like a pendulum. Lately the trends are focusing on the creation of a content marketing strategy, the need to be a great storyteller, the frequency of posting, and the length of your blog posts. If you’re like me, when you see all these articles you try to consolidate them into a philosophy that makes sense. Here is my current philosophy of blogging.

Content Marketing Strategy

While many people talk about the importance of content marketing strategy, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend weeks of work and write a lengthy document that will gather dust on a shelf. Instead, consider simply talking to everyone who is contributing blogs, identify different goals and objectives from the group, try to reach a consensus of opinion, and, most importantly, create a schedule for blogging.


One of the trends I’ve seen lately are articles that focus on how to be a great storyteller. Personally I’m not sure how effective it is to train people to be great storytellers because while some people are naturally great storytellers, many people are not. But you don’t have to be a great storyteller to understand the basics. The basics focus on why this is important to the reader. For certain kinds of blogs you can actually create a template of questions. For example, when we write case histories our approach is to ask the following. What was the problem? How do we approach that problem? What were the findings? What was the recommendation? What were the results? With this tool, case histories write themselves.

How Often

Some people claim you should write a blog every day and others only suggest two a month. One camp that says you should sit down every day or once a week and create a routine where you write blogs. When I first started blogging in September 2007, I was writing three blogs a week for Graphic Arts Magazine and my strategy was to schedule four hours a week on Friday to write.

The problem is that if you write often, you will simply run out of subjects to talk about or new things to say. My personal recommendation is to blog somewhere around 3 – 10 times a month and focus more on quality than quantity. If you could write only one blog a month, but it resulted in 3,000 unique page views, it would be more worthwhile than 10 blogs a month with only 300 page views.

How Long?

Books and courses on blogging talk about a word length of 250 to 500 words. My personal belief is that a blog should be approximately 3-5 paragraphs. For me, 3-5 paragraphs often exceeds 500 words, as does this blog. But if you look at one of the best bloggers in the world, Seth Godin, his three paragraphs are often just three sentences.

Web-to-Print: Selling from a User’s Point of View

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

It seems that I’m seeing user stories about Web-to-print everywhere recently. I’ve written here about best practices, the most important of which, I have argued, is getting the user buy-in.

At Graph Expo, I attended a press conference by CHILI Publisher, and one of the elements of the conference really struck me. It was the promotional video at the opening of the press conference. The video didn’t talk about the features or benefits of the solution. It showed real business owners, real distributors, real consumers using it.

The video showed a brand owner, a retailer, a product distributor, and father and his daughter all creating a variety of elements that promote different aspects of the brand. Whether logging in on a laptop while sitting behind the retail counter or sitting on a couch with an iPad, the diverse range of users logged into a portal and customized documents, sliding and resizing elements like you’d do on a touch-screen mobile device.

The brand owner created a custom catalog. The retailer created custom product labels. The distributor created signage. A father and daughter created and received branded merchandise delivered to their homes.

There were banners, displays, and mailing labels for boxes — a wide variety of products created by multiple individuals within the marketing and distribution chain, each serving a different role, all creating products with the appropriate branding.

In just a few minutes, the video showed — not told – the benefits of an online document creator and editing solution.

This focus on “how this benefits me” is what has been sorely lacking in the Web-to-print discussion for a long time. We, the industry, understand how this solution ties everything together, saves customers money, and facilitates branding (especially in a decentralized marketing environment), but how well is that being communicated to customers?

I have blogged about the Webinar produced by What They Think and how both large brand marketers (The Toro Company and LifeLock) only recently invested in W2P after having the broader content marketing, document management, and time/cost savings demonstrated to them, not by a printer, but by a software vendor.

This is another example of a software vendor doing a great job of illustrating the benefits of these solutions. It’s an example that I think many printers could benefit from.

More on my perspective on Web-to-print.

Stop Marketing and Start Selling.

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

When it comes to marketing your business, always keep in mind one simple fact: your customers want you to make their lives better. Whether in business or outside of it, your customers are looking to you to improve their life in some way. Does your marketing clearly let them know how you can do just that? Or are you merely telling them facts about how great your product is and hoping something will stick?

If you want to streamline your marketing for greater effect and greater returns, it’s time to stop marketing and start selling. In other words, cut out over-inflated marketing that talks up a storm about your company and product, and focus on selling the value you can bring your customers.

In order to increase your profits as 2014 is wrapping up and you prepare for the new year, download, Stop Marketing and Start Selling, FREE for The Digital Nirvana readers.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at Do you have any other tips for boosting sales? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

It’s Not About Feeds and Speeds Anymore: It’s What’s Behind the Press

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

After three days at Graph Expo, attending press conferences, seminars, and lunch and learns for the show daily, I am heading home, but a mechanical issue on the plane has left us sitting on the tarmac for an undetermined amount of time. As I sit, I am playing with the question, if I were to pick one point out of those three days to say that was most interesting to me, what would it be?

I think it is this — the theme of many of presentations and panel discussions was to move away from feeds and speeds, to focus not the technology but on the human element. What does all this technology actually do for people?

In the “Deciphering Digital” seminar, designed to help printers ask the right questions before purchasing a digital press, Ed Wong, director of production product management for Ricoh, gave voice to this theme when he told the audience, “Don’t get lost in the weeds of specs. Service and support separate suppliers. Your partner should offer ways to help drive additional print volume. Hopefully, they are coming in on a regular basis, saying, ‘Have you thought about this type of print? Or, “Have you thought about these applications?’”

Konica Minolta’s Erik Holdo, vice president of KM’s production print line of business, BIS, agreed. “We all put marks on paper really well. I can point to great service departments at every one of my competitors’ domains. We’re all telling you we have great service, the best product, and the best image. It’s about applications. It’s what you surround that equipment with.”

Holdo then told a story about a study he conducted with a car dealership in 1996, back when he owned a service bureau. “We printed the piece in full-color, highlight color, and black-and-white, all with full variable images. We received a response rate of 28% on the black-and-white, 4% with the highlight color, and 28% on the full color. That’s when I learned that it’s not really how you are printing that piece. It’s how effective you are communication.”

From that perspective, I guess not all that much has changed in 18 years.

The Future of Print

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Everyone has an opinion about it. But we’re most interested in what the people closest to the action—owners and managers of companies that print—have to say. So last month we launched the Future of Print Survey. Early results are in. Among the key numbers:

• 53.9% expect the total demand for print (all products, all processes) to stay around current levels over the next three years. In comparison, 26.9% expect demand to decrease, 15.4% expect demand to increase, and 3.8% aren’t sure what to expect.

• 73.9% expect print’s share of their company revenue to decrease between now and 2017, 8.7% expect print’s share to increase, and 17.4% expect it to stay around current levels. Among all companies surveyed, print is expected to decline, on average, from 73.9% to 64.6% of revenue.

• 57.7% believe direct mail has the most growth potential of any printed product, followed by promotion (other than direct mail), wraps and banners, and packaging, each cited by 38.5%.

Many we’ve surveyed emphasize that the future of print will ultimately be determined by its ability to deliver value. The comparisons they draw between what print was and what it is show that ability is hardly static:

• Generic direct mail compared with highly personalized direct mail carrying “QR codes or pURLS that allow you immediate feedback on the success/failure of the piece.”

• Mass-market catalogs compared with “on-demand, evergreen catalogs with variable-data processing tailored to individual needs and delivered very quickly.”

• Traditional business cards compared with cards with “QR codes on the back to scan contact information directly into the phone without error.”

Of course the innovation will continue, with print incorporating new ways to create value over the next three years, just as it has over the past three years. But understanding only the technology side of the innovation, the “bells and whistles,” isn’t going to be enough. The opportunity for every company in our industry is to understand how our clients and prospects can benefit from the innovation—how it can help them get noticed, whether in the mail box or the retail aisle, attract and retain business, better understand their target markets, increase revenue, decrease costs and waste, etc.—and then to communicate those benefits to them, never assuming they just get it.

Web-to-Print: Just One Best Practice Worth Talking About

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

What are the best practices in Web-to-print? I’ve spent the last month researching, reading case studies, listening to Webinars, and doing a lot of mulling, I have finalized my list. In “State of Web-to-Print: 2015,” I have 11 of them. But I’ve decided that only one of them really matters.

Have a strategic plan to get user buy-in.

You can have the greatest Web-to-print solution in the world, with the best features and highest level of functionality, but if it’s not being marketed, if it’s impossible to find of the company’s intranet, if there is no incentive for using it, it’s going to languish.

A recent report on Web-to-print utilization by NAPL bares the stark reality: 58% of W2P implementers reported a client utilization rate of 5% or less and 92.8% reported a rate of 20% or less. The average rate was just 11.3%, or a little better than one in nine clients.

W2P guru Jennifer Matt has talked a lot about this issue, making the point that PSPs and their clients need to see W2P as a sales and marketing solution, not an IT solution. Implementation needs to be driven from the top, as a fundamental culture change, and there need to be incentives for making it happen.

It’s true. As human beings, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. When faced with change, we’d prefer to do what we’ve always done than to learn something new. It’s just easier that way.

So my best practice for Web-to-print? Before you build it, make sure you know how you are going to get people on the buyer side to use it. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Just as the data.

(Looking to market Web-to-print? Check out my brandable white paper you can use to educate customers and prospects on the benefits and best practices.)