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Marchand--Digital Investments - Production vs. Client Comm.

September 1998
When I ask printing executives about how digital technology has changed their companies, most focus exclusively on production issues. That's hardly surprising in a manufacturing environment.

Digital capabilities have improved file management, prepress services, press work, finishing and distribution—providing significant gains in quality as well as overall production speed. Explaining the need to adopt this advanced production technology is a no-brainer: When used correctly, it will permit your company to operate more efficiently and, therefore, make the company more competitive. That's easy to understand—even self-evident.

But there are other changes that are worth our attention. The impact of digital technology on your company's work also includes customer communications, and sometimes the justification for improved customer communications is not so obvious. Yet how you are able to communicate with clients determines not only how well you work with them, but also how they are found and even the kind of companies with which you work.

Are your customers located at a greater average distance than in the past? Do you meet with them less often or more? How do you communicate with them, besides print and telephone? Perhaps you use e-mail, or have a Web site? Are your customers' organizations larger or smaller than in the past? Is your involvement with them about jobs sold one at a time? Or does your work with customers go beyond print manufacturing and distribution?

What do your answers to these questions reveal? Is your company improved by how it has changed itself in recent years? Maybe it's larger; I hope it's more profitable. Perhaps the company also provides wider horizons and increased opportunities for its employees, even more interesting work.

But what about the customers' points of view? Do they find your company improved? I suspect that if customers see your company as a better provider, it has a lot to do with communications.

Golden Gate Opportunities
I'll use my small marketing company to provide an example. We're located in San Francisco's Multimedia Gulch, just a few miles north of the Silicon Valley and purportedly the epicenter of innovation in the world of digital communications technology and content: the Internet, telecom, video, CD, print—in all their combinations and permutations.

Sometimes the location makes me feel that I have my finger on the pulse of innovation, especially as it affects marketing for companies in the printing industry. Other times I think our presence in San Francisco is only of limited relevance to the work done by my firm or any other business that makes significant use of digital technology.



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