Mailing/Fulfillment Resources -- Posting Positive Results
Many printing companies are running profitable mailing and fulfillment operations as part of their evolution into full-service graphic communications solutions providers. The printers who are still evaluating whether these service offerings make sense for their organizations, however, may need a little guidance in making that all-important assessment, notes National Association of Printing Leadership (NAPL) associate consultant Clint Bolte, president of Clint Bolte & Associates and author of the NAPL book How Fulfillment Services Drive Print Volume.
"When done correctly, mailing and fulfillment can be a lucrative profit center for printers," Bolte advises. "However, these are areas where customers' tolerance for missteps is extremely low. Mailing and fulfillment has a definite learning curve that printers must respect when they're developing and implementing their programs."
As NAPL research has shown, a printing company that rushes headlong into a full-blown fulfillment program without the proper knowledge base and infrastructure runs a double risk. The offending company can lose not only fulfillment sales but also print sales, since a majority of a printer's fulfillment customers are print customers, as well. Therefore, printers should take the time to do their homework and call on a range of experts for input, including consultants specializing in mailing and/or fulfillment, software vendors, materials handling companies and trade associations.
Both fulfillment and mailing are client-driven, and customers' needs in these areas range from basic to complex. It's important, therefore, that printers not take on jobs they can't execute properly.
"Given the variation in the kinds of fulfillment and mailing services clients are seeking, a printer might be able to handle the first five or six jobs from a customer just fine," Bolte advises. "Then something pops up that it's not sure how to handle. When that happens, it's important not to bluff. Be extremely aware of the services you can reliably provide and those you cannot."