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New Demands Result From Print-on-Demand —Michelson

March 2007
FORGET ABOUT the quality from your digital output device. Don’t stress over maximum rated print speeds. As the digital printing juggernaut continues to take hold, those embracing the technology face more pressing concerns. Industry wisdom proclaims that the successful companies are those able to morph from being printing operations into marketing or communications businesses that, by the way, also happen to provide printing. It’s an oft-repeated message evangelized by speakers at almost any conference or seminar focused on digital and variable data printing. But what does it really entail?

Re-engineering your printing business requires different skill sets. Equipment, and even service, capabilities are secondary to the importance of providing clients with the proper solutions to fulfill their business objectives. As print increasingly becomes just one component in integrated campaigns, we need to find those solutions that answer customer needs, not find customers that match our capabilities.

That comes down to people power. Owners and managers must disband manufacturing mentalities, instead relying on marketing and business development expertise to guide their companies. Salespeople must become experts within specific vertical markets and assume more consultative roles when calling on decision makers who increasingly are marketing executives, not traditional print buyers. Employees possessing strong IT and database management skill sets are also required, along with regimented procedures to safeguard customer data. Several related articles in this special issue illustrate just some of the ways companies of various sizes are achieving these, and other, objectives in real-life scenarios.

Take this month’s cover story on Lightning Source written by California-based, veteran industry journalist Noel Jeffrey (who recently joined us to beef up our West Coast and digital printing coverage). Outputting roughly 40,000 books every day—with the average number of books per title printed being less than two—publishers serviced by Lightning Source no longer need to maintain expensive in-stock inventories. Orders are fulfilled in a remarkable 12-hour turnaround from order receipt. Backlist titles never go out of print, providing publishers with additional revenue streams not feasible without on-demand book manufacturing. Very short run, even one-off books, become highly affordable. Providing publishers with a whole new business model, Lightning Source offers a solution that meets, and even surpasses, client expectations.

Consider, too, how the Internet is becoming a more important aspect within digital print providers’ business models. One of the hottest applications today, as part of a cross-media campaign, is the use of personalized URLs (or PURLs). As pointed out by writer Heidi Tolliver-Nigro in this issue, PURLs enable printers to economically offer highly personalized marketing and, more importantly, help customers expand and refine their databases. Response rates are measured in real-time, helping to validate an integrated campaign, as well as fuel the opportunity for follow-up print-related business. A new study by EasyPurl found that PURLs boost direct mail response rates by 30 percent.
 

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