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Noel Ward

Real World Digital

By Noel Ward

About Noel

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at His website is, and he has a YouTube channel.

DMM and Profit Optimization - Guys that Get It, Part 2

Mark Cloutier likes to talk about profit optimization. It's part of what his company's mix of skills and services delivers for customers by focusing on understanding their needs and building lifetime customer value.

We were chatting while I was setting up lights for a video I was doing at his firm for one of my clients. He was juggling a couple of calls and emails with customers via his iPhone while we talked. He described what was going on as he wrapped up a deal and how he viewed the process.

"Profit optimization is not about printing," says Cloutier. "It's how we can deliver complete solutions that save a customer money overall, add value to their documents and make them more efficient."

As any print service provider knows, it's easy to be viewed as an expense. And that makes one vulnerable if a customer is choosing suppliers based solely on price. But when you can show a customer how the services your company provides add value—and profits—that changes the game.

"You can still lose out on some business," admits Cloutier, "but if you're delivering real value that a customer can measure, you come out ahead in the long run and you build a stronger, deeper relationship with the customer."

Cloutier is head of sales and client services at DMM, a 25-year old family-owned firm that began with one employee and now services regional and national customers from a three-building campus in Scarborough, ME. Its services span direct mail, statement rendering, database marketing, packaging, fulfillment, Web-based solutions and more.

The company is a avid adopter of digital print technologies and has two Xerox iGen3s, one iGen4, a couple of DocuPrint 115 printers and an Océ PageStream. Inkjet print heads are used for addressing in part of the mailing operation. Document composition software and other tools from GMC Software Technology orchestrate and drive much of the printing done on these machines.

The full range of services and deep technical skills at DMM fight the wannabe competitors that compete on price. Still, on some price-sensitive work where fractions of a cent influence the purchase decision, DMM has seen customers leave. This is a common event for small- and mid-size service bureaus these days, as small commercial shops poach what appears to be lucrative direct mail and transactional business. A customer may leave for a lower price. Then reality sets in.

"They usually come back," smiles Cloutier. "We recently had one leave and after only two or three mailings they're coming back. The low-priced guys just came up short on some critical things like postal discounts; items that make a big difference in total costs."

Knowing which technology to use and being able to implement it to serve a customer's needs is a key differentiator for DMM. It might be postal sortation or meeting demanding SLAs (service level agreements). Or having the right print technology and workflows to implement a campaign quickly and the data analytics to measure its effectiveness. DMM focuses on developing the skill sets within its staff to help understand customer needs and anticipate how it can address them. Together, this strengthens relationships and helps make DMM a trusted partner.

I work with a number of mid-size marketing and print/mail operations like DMM and Datamart Direct, the one I mentioned in my last post in this space. The companies I consistently find are the most successful are those offering not only a full range of services, but that leverage all their skills in ways that deepen customer relationships and—whether they use the term or not—provide profit optimization.

This seems like an obvious approach to take, but given the number of print providers that have closed their doors in recent years, it's a concept apparently lost on many print shop owners who often focus more of price. Like other guys that get it, DMM and Datamart take a holistic view of the entire print and mail process, from document creation through print and mail to data analytics, seeing how every element adds value for their customers. They know value that customers can see and measure is a clear differentiator and helps their businesses prosper.

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