The Top 10 “Must Do” List —Sherburne
AS WE skate into the fourth quarter of what has been a very difficult year, it is none too soon to be thinking about strategies for 2010. With that in mind, I have put together a Top 10 "must do" list for 2010. Perhaps you have already done some or all of these things. Good for you! You are ahead of the game, or at least staying even. If you are at the other end of the spectrum and have done none of them, you will find 2010 to be even more difficult than 2009, regardless of what the economy does.
The votes are in, and the experts agree: While we may have been able to wait out previous economic downturns, this one is different. We are being lambasted by the ongoing effects that digital media, driven by use of the Internet and mobile media, are having on the way people—including marketers—communicate. This is only being accelerated by the sad state of the economy as marketers turn to what they perceive as less expensive, faster and more effective alternative means of communication in lieu of print.
To stay in the game, printing firms need to ensure that their operations are as efficient as possible, ferreting out and removing every single scrap of waste, whether it is paper, materials, energy, labor or time. At the same time, they need to carefully examine how they interact with their customers and what services they are providing them. What are the unmet needs? What else are your customers buying and from whom? How can you meet a broader range of those needs?
So here we go.
10|Make sure your environment is color managed from start to finish. This will improve overall quality and eliminate waste and rework. At PRINT 09, there were several new and innovative technologies on display that make delivering consistent color easier than ever before, including FineEye ICEsaver marketed by Chromaticity and EasyTrax from X-Rite. Take advantage of them. P.S.: The Must See 'ems committee still rates color management as the number 6 critical core technology for survival.
9|Analyze your customer base. Do you know how profitable each customer is, and which customers cost you money? Use this information to find more clients like the profitable ones you already have. Tackle the customers that are low-profit or are costing you money to find out why and fix the problem.
8|Assess your sales force. Are your sales professionals still just selling print, using an equipment list as their primary tool and acquiring work job by job, project by project? If so, they won't for much longer. Not only are professional buyers getting more savvy, the job of buying print and other media is shifting to other parts of the organization; namely, marketing. If your salespeople can't speak marketing and don't know how to sell solutions rather than print, they will find it increasingly difficult to sell.
7|What is your plan to market your company? If you don't have one, developing one should be a top priority. Printing and mailing flyers or postcards with discounts on business cards and brochures is not a marketing plan. You should carefully think through who your target audience is, and find a way to speak to it directly and relevantly. This is exactly what your marketer customers are doing for their businesses.
As media decisions continue to move farther from procurement, your ability to creatively demonstrate your marketing prowess as you market your own business will be your primary means of reaching marketers, gaining their confidence and their business.
6|Evaluate your production platform. Do you have the right tools in your toolbox to meet today's market demands? Short-run, high-quality, full-color printing with fast turnaround times; short- and very short-run versioned materials for more relevant communications; and personalized one-to-one direct marketing, including both print and electronic. These applications are indisputably gaining power in the marketplace.
Can you produce them competitively? If not, consider investing in hardware, software and the right people to get you there.
As part of the assessment of your production platform, you should also consider how much of your workflow is automated. We have already talked about the importance of taking waste out of the process. But this is even more focused. Examine every touch point for a job that runs through your shop and work hard to eliminate/automate as many of them as possible. Every touch point costs you time and money, and presents opportunity for error. One print service provider who was an early adopter of Web-to-print—which can automate an amazing amount of the process when properly implemented—reports that his company saves $40 on each job by having it come through the Web interface. That $40 may not be much on a $50,000 job but, as jobs get smaller and turnaround times compress, it could be the difference between being profitable or losing your shirt.
5|Look critically at your company Website. Is it current? Is it like a static brochure? Does it convey the message you want to convey to the market? Troll around the Web and look at some of your competitors' sites. Check out Websites from market leaders featured in articles in this publication. How does yours stack up? Increasingly, your Web presence is becoming your most important face to the world. Make sure yours is as attractive, informative and functional as possible.
4|Go cross-media. The Must See 'ems committee ranked this one right up there with color management. There is a difference between doing standalone print and e-mail campaigns for customers, and giving them access to integrated cross-media programs that allow them to leverage multiple media for maximum return. If you can't do this for them, many clients will find someone who can—and that someone will get the print business, too.
Before you ask, I am skipping numbers 2 and 3, and tossing my hat in the ring again with the Must See 'ems committee, which ranked Information Technology, Web-to-print and MIS as print's most critical technologies for survival. These were not just the top three—they were the three that were tied for first place!
1|Understand that today's print production operation is a computer-centric manufacturing process built around interfacing with the print buyer. It requires a platform that handles content, controls manufacturing and distribution, and provides information to help you effectively manage the business. Having a core competency in information technology, implementing a customer-facing Web storefront, and deploying a fully functional, fully implemented MIS solution are all inextricably linked to your future success.
These are my Top 10 for 2010. The problem is where to start. They are all essential for success. Sounds like a good basis for an off-site strategic planning meeting where you gather your best minds—and maybe an outside facilitator or consultant—for a roll-up-your-sleeves session. It is a lot of hard work. But the alternative is even more difficult. PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries. She was recognized as a 2009 Woman of Distinction and was awarded the 2009 Thomas McMillan Award for excellence in journalism. Sherburne has written six books, including "Digital Paths to Profit," published by NAPL; and most recently, "No-Nonsense Innovation: Practical Strategies for Success," written with Bill Lowe, the Father of the IBM PC and available on Amazon. She can be reached at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.