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December 2009
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Converge Connects the Cross-Media Dots

ORLANDO—It's hard to argue with the advice that a company should take steps in a downturn to come out a stronger player; committing dollars to actually do it is another matter. More than 150 "printers" and industry vendors recently did just that by attending the Printing Industries of America's 2009 Converge Conference.

"The next generation of print and communication services" was the tag line used for this year's conference. Attendees covered the whole spectrum of this transition, from working at shops that had yet to install their first digital press to firms that dropped the printer label from their names years ago.

One issue discussed was whether "marketing services" provider or "cross-media" firm was the better designation to adopt. The former is a misnomer unless a company has a marketing department and offers services such as data analytics, contended Scott Dubois, vice president, cross-media services and marketing, at Reynolds DeWalt in New Bedford, MA.

Robert Kraft, president and CEO of First Edge Solutions in Milwaukee, described his company as a communications provider. He said that a company's culture was more important than what it called itself.

"I'm an entrepreneur, not a printer," Kraft remarked. "We don't want to be predefined. We define ourselves based on an individual customer's needs."

First Edge focuses on producing personalized print communications that help clients make more money or cut costs by eliminating waste. Its chief executive said today's business world is about delivering measurable results to customers, not building relationships through golfing or expensive lunches.

Multiple speakers stressed the importance of providing measurable results, but keynoter Mark Stevens, CEO of the MSCO marketing firm, put it in the bluntest terms: "You shouldn't do it if you can't measure the results." That's hardly surprising advice seeing as it comes from the author of the bestseller, "Your Marketing Sucks."

The formula for success is C+A+M=PG, noted the marketing consultant. Capture customers continuously, then Amplify customer relationships and Maintain customers for life to achieve perpetual Profits and Growth. He also advised attendees to educate—not sell—customers.

Even as the industry advises marketers to become more customer centric with one-to-one, variable data communications, several speakers noted that too many print providers still don't take that approach in their own businesses.


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