Getting the greatest return on investment from your production inkjet press involves a number of steps. Print service providers must prepare for the addition of this sophisticated equipment, must ensure a match between the equipment and their staffs’ skills and finally, must fill that machine with volume.
But often, the key to success is less about the device and more about leveraging data and analytics in the process of serving transaction print clients.
As several experts report, using data and analytics to help customers reap greater revenues by “bridging the personalization gap” can be a differentiator for print providers. That differentiation can help them to provide the value-added services that separate the best providers from less-successful practitioners.
To derive the greatest benefit from their production inkjet investment, print service providers should thoroughly prepare beforehand, according to Patricia C. McGrew, print evangelist with HP in Denver. “The most successful are those who have taken the time to understand exactly what they intend that press to do,” McGrew said. “When someone comes to us and says, ‘We just want to buy it from you; we know what we’re doing,’ that almost never works out.
“They discover very quickly that inkjet machines are very high-capacity machines, more high capacity than they understand. So if you’ve been running multiple cut-sheet devices, or even if you have been running offset, the way you approach your inkjet machine will be different. Who are your customers today? Are they long-run static jobs or short run, or use variable data? What’s the breakout among the jobs you have? And what kinds of changes do you want to make to your organization to accommodate what the inkjet will do for you?”
When print providers invest time and effort in that preparation, and can honestly size up the work in which they’re currently engaged and the kind they want to pursue, the next step is to examine their staffs. Often, HP discovers a mismatch between skills and attitudes. If PSPs fully embrace the power of inkjet, they will be moving into longer work, variable work and shorter work. They must ensure their staffs are comfortable with that expansion, and have a methodology regarding how the job will be produced, proofed, and delivered, McGrew said.
Moreover, is the sales staff comfortable with the press? If it isn’t both comfortable with the inkjet press and prepared to sell the capabilities the inkjet investment makes possible, “no one will have any work to do,” McGrew said.
Pete Georges, technical analyst with Screen Americas, a Rolling Meadows, IL-based manufacturer of precision equipment, also stresses PSPs prepare ahead of time. “Obviously, you need a plan for work migration,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of flipping the switch and moving to production inkjet. You have to plan and ensure you have your process defined regarding that migration before installation. Plan for future growth. In an ideal world, production inkjet will set you up to go after future opportunities.”
As the above suggests, PSPs must fill their newly-obtained machines with volume. So says Marco Boer, vice president of IT Strategies, a Hanover, MA. market research firm and consultancy focused strictly on digital printing.
The question, he adds, is just how do you fill it with volume?
“You typically see someone buy it having pre-sold about a third of the capacity the machine needs,” he said. “That’s a great start. But if you’re going to be really successful, you should be closer to having presold two-thirds of the capacity. That involves reselling your customers on the value you provide.”
Then, he added, it’s a matter of having the sales force sell the value of that capability, or having a senior manager go to the customer to reopen that conversation. “With 12 months, you get a knock-on effect,” Boer said. “If you respond really well for that customer, that customer’s competition will want this.
“And if that happens, you thought you would be challenged to fill that capacity, and suddenly you find you don’t have enough capacity.
“That leads you to buy a second press. And now the drive to fill capacity starts all over again. These are good problems to have, but you need to have a level of confidence and vision to embark on this path.”
For her part, Sheri Jammallo advises PSPs to work closely with manufacturers’ sales representatives to find solutions that can spell success for their shops. Jammallo, corporate enterprise segment marketing manager for Melville, NY-based Canon Solutions America, believes a highly-educated sales rep can act as a consultant for a PSP, examining her business and finding ways in which new technology can provide meaningful gains for that business.
“PSPs should also look for a manufacturer who will partner with them every step of the way from demonstrating presses and technology to test runs of sample applications to full installation and ramp up,” she said, noting a good partner will help PSPs get running quickly and avoid any potential snags during implementation. PSPs should also seek manufacturers with strong reputations for service. That will help ensure PSPs experience maximum uptime with the equipment. Maximum uptime means maximum productivity time, she said.
“Since inkjet is a relatively new technology, it’s a good idea for PSPs to network with industry peers who are also using inkjet to learn best practices and profitable applications. Something like the thINK Forum is a great way to bring together inkjet printers who are all looking to make the most of their investments.”
Georges acknowledged the reliability and usability of inkjet devices are crucially important. But the data side is where attractive margins can be made. That’s also where recurring monthly or semi-annual work is ensured.
PSPs might want to expand into program response capture, for instance.
“If you have a marketing campaign included in your transactional documents, you can find more revenue by managing that marketing campaign for your client,” he said. “That’s particularly a good idea because with full-color you have more opportunity to exploit the data you’re using.”
For example, a bar chart of past spending can be created for a customer who’s a credit card supplier, or a purchase history for one in the retail industry. “You can do it in full color to give your clients value add,” Georges said.
Jammallo noted that data is the fuel of marketing activities. Personalized marketing communications result in better performance, new revenue streams and increased revenue from existing lines. All this starts with knowing the customer and understanding what he or she wants. This kind of understanding cuts across a range of insights, including where the customer is and when, behavioral data, demographic information and purchasing practices.
“Savvy service providers are developing ways to help marketers [in] bridging the personalization gap,” she said. “They are blending direct mail and digital strategies to deliver an omni-channel experience. Service providers should work with their customers to blend online and offline data, and use mobile, web, direct mail and social media channels to gather information.”
McGrew said data and analytics have a laundry list of components. “Do you know the cost of the job to the organization?” she asked. “Do you know how much it will cost you in terms of staff, software, hardware, storage and file transfer capabilities in order to take on data-driven work?”
These are questions many companies never ask themselves until they install the press, she added. They may have already been taking on some of the work. But to fully unlock the power of a press this size, companies need to tackle work that is more complex. And that requires bigger, bolder software, hardware and file storage capabilities. “That’s one component,” McGrew said.
Another component is the data analytics you as a PSP might offer as a service, she adds. If PSPs are able to offer data management or data analytics as part of the service they offer clients, they can build that into big business.
“That is the stuff we put under the umbrella of value-added services,” she reported. “It’s often what distinguishes the more successful PSPs from the less successful . . . It’s the differentiator. Anyone who buys an inkjet web press needs a differentiator that lifts them above the rest of the market. That’s the path to success. It can no longer be simply that inkjet web press. Its role is to be the differentiator. You need to ensure you can give the customer a way to use the data they have and a path to provide analytics of the result of using the data.”