It’s Hurricane Season. . . in Many Ways!

By | September 22, 2008

Here in Florida hurricane season runs from June 1st to December 1st. While it is a predictable event there’s a limit to what one can do to prepare for it. But no matter what storms cross this big peninsular state, none compare to the current turmoil in the financial sector.

There’s little doubt the situation in the financial and insurance markets will affect our industry at many levels, from day-to-day operations, to expansion opportunities to offering new products and services. Finding and maintaining the appropriate balance is difficult, but one way to manage through this storm brings to mind a term I’ve mentioned before. Today, it can provide a way of seizing opportunity from the jaws of economic fear and financial uncertainty.

It’s convergence. I’ve talked about it many times. It is the idea that different types of documents can be produced on the same type of digital press, but it also that there are ways of making educational, marketing, transactional and other customer-facing information more relevant, valuable and compelling to the recipient.

Thinking Convergently
Finding ways of embracing convergence can enable quicker and simpler approaches to leveraging the technologies you have today and to doing more with less. What I mean by that is adopting existing printing and IT systems not only for more types of documents but also bringing more value to the documents being printed.

Consider corporate printers, by which I mean in-plants and data centers, for which the average utilization rate is about 25%. To augment the overhead associated with this low utilization, some banks, for instance, have gone beyond encouraging customers to accept electronic statements in lieu of hardcopy, and are now looking for ways to charge their customers for the printed version. I have trouble understanding this because the cost of monthly statements is so minimal compared to everything else a bank has on its plate that it is akin to some airlines’ practice of charging for Cokes and bags of peanuts. What it does point to, however, is the opportunity to change the game by looking differently at the entire statement production process –and doing a little convergence.

For example, the majority of bank statements produced in data-centers and in-plants have other information enclosed. These are usually offers for and information about new services, customized savings programs, credit cards, lines of credit, loan programs, all kinds of things. All are generic and if your household is like most, they are ignored and thrown away, which costs the bank money. But suppose the extra pages were part of a TransPromo solution, targeted to individual customers and printed by the in-house print shop or data center. TransPromo is really just a form of convergence, and in this case it means increased press utilization and reduced outside print costs. That sounds like win-win to me. Here’s why.

A recent study of 536 consumers by Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR) explored 30 types of bills and statements across finance, utility, insurance and medical industries. It found that on average, 92 percent of statements and bills are opened and read, and 22 percent are read more than once. Another study, this one by INTERQUEST, indicates consumers spend an average of 5.6 minutes looking at bank and credit card statements they receive through the mail. With that kind of attention paid to these documents, they seem like a pretty good place to put some relevant information.

Of course some managers or executives will still object, saying doing this is too complicated. So two points come to mind. First is that one of the ideals of TransPromo is to incorporate marketing or informational messages into the actual statement. The difficulty, though, is that this frequently requires redesigning the statement, a costly and time-consuming process. Instead, having targeted, relevant TransPromo messages that “ride along” with the statement pages avoids the redesign process yet lets the targeted messages reach valued customers. You already have the customer’s name and account number on each page of the statement. Adding it to a page with marketing or other information –basic personalization– should not be a show-stopper.

Second, there is a lot of talk these days about how TransPromo documents must be full color. I agree that full color adds impact, but relevant information and effective offers can be delivered using the same monochrome or highlight color devices you’ve been using for the past few years. Don’t let lack of a full-color print engine be a limitation. Use the technology you have at hand to its fullest advantage. This will not only increase your present effectiveness, but prepare you for making a transition to more complex TransPromo documents, perhaps using full-color, in the future.

For any corporate print operations, additional opportunities to increase utilization include marketing materials, training documents, internal reports, and countless other documents that could be printed in-house instead of by an outside supplier. In many cases it is a matter of gaining an understanding of all a company’s printing requirements and looking for the potential points of convergence between documents and available equipment. Or, it may be that shifting enough work in-house can justify the investment in a more capable press, perhaps one that can print full-color documents.

In unsettled times, corporate printers must truly understand all their firm’s document production needs and be poised to seize opportunities, look for ways to implement new ideas and do the most you can with the resources you have at hand. The storms we are seeing will pass and by leveraging technology and thinking convergently, you can survive and even thrive.

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2 thoughts on “It’s Hurricane Season. . . in Many Ways!

  1. Bob Raus

    Guy brings up some great points here. From my experience working with Guy at Oce for many years (and surviving many hurricanes in Boca myself), I can personally attest to his deep knowledge and understanding of the transactional printing business and marketplace.

    I’d like to suggest we collectively build on the foundation Guy provided here and expand the topic a bit via this blog forum to discuss how the recent sweeping, historic and fundamental changes on Wall Street will affect transactional printing longer term. Do we expect to see banks and investment firms further adopt electronic information distribution to save money, or will we see a reverse trending affect where customers shift back to wanting more printed statements, bills, prospectus, policies and other documentation to provide a sense of stability and control?

    How will Transpromo play out and will the higher cost of printing in color really be adopted wide-scale in an area that is already under severe cost pressures? Will the US Government ownership of several institutions affect the printing behavior and practices within the industry overall? Will the GPO get involved at some point with the printing operations within those firms? What opportunities does all this turmoil and change afford in-house transactional printing departments and service bureaus alike?

  2. Ulbe Jelluma

    I’m not very familiar with the privacy rules in the USA, but understand from the FEDMA (European DM organisation) that there are some privacy issues involved in Transpromo. Monitoring for example clients spending patterns and making client-specific offers, requires in Europe consent of these clients. Most companies do not have an explicit permission from their clients to do these kind of activities. Therefore a generic “billing stuffer” is allowed whereas a client-specific stuffer might encounter problems.

    I’m wondering how the industry can take this hurdle, as it requires clients to opt-in. And we all know that is becoming more difficult.

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