Mailing & Fulfillment Special Report — Getting Started In Fulfillment
MOST OF the printers I have visited over the past several years are already in the fulfillment business with one or more applications. In fact, several applications reviewed were very sophisticated, consisting of both static and dynamic content and requiring considerable data manipulation plus mastery of several shipping methods.
Printing companies are very entrepreneurial in finding ways to satisfy customers’ needs with their existing resources. In addition, printers have taken the leadership in the Web-to-print industry, which has provided them experience in establishing shopping carts for their clients.
So, getting started in fulfillment may not be an entirely correct title for this article, but it definitely is a guideline to growing the business—correctly. Even so, I’ve heard many printers say that they are in fulfillment, but don’t know if they are doing it right. The following steps are presented in what is considered the optimal order. However, the incorporation of fulfillment within printing operations is seldom orderly and optimal, so using the data as a guideline or checklist is suggested.
Step 1: Type of Fulfillment. It is my recommendation that a printer should focus its fulfillment activities on specific applications. There are many types of fulfillment, but the last two fulfillment surveys completed in conjunction with the annual MFSA/NAPL Fulfillment Conference substantiated that fulfillment projects (handwork) and literature fulfillment are the top applications completed by printing companies.
These applications are a natural extension of printing applications and represent the basic fulfillment applications. It is important to understand that a literature fulfillment program, which requires the printer to store and ship material for an infinite time period and maintain outstanding inventory accuracy, will also bring other applications.
These additional applications include: database management, returns processing, trade show and special events support, premiums management, print-on-demand applications, lead inquiry fulfillment and others. These applications are all a natural extension of “capturing the sales collateral material” for a company.