While it may seem easy for one to get over focused on the actual printing platforms that are the heart of most printing businesses, maybe your offset presses or the latest digital devices, it doesn’t actually matter.


What does matter is the fact that the industry is not just all about paper, ink or toner and the cost of goods sold: a key metric of any manufacturing business. It is about the applications themselves (what’s actually being printed) that should be top of mind. The communications might be in paper form, but just as likely, they are now being delivered electronically as well.

Naturally, the print industry today has a fixation with the ever decreasing volume of print being ordered and the ongoing threat of digital media. The issues are very real and we all know that printing is a volume based business, as there are high capital costs and an intensive labour overhead to be supported.

This brings me to the point of this article. In my view, there should be an equal focus on thinking about the dynamics of the market from the position of being a consumer of the information.

Recipients of documents, be they static or variable, printed or electronic, educational, marketing or transactional, have ever changing preferences in the way they want to receive and read the information.

This is creating a huge head-ache for those purchasing and managing communications.

Printers are in an ideal position to help their customers deal with this ever growing complexity. At first, it was just print to be managed. Then along came the internet, where content could be posted online. Then email became the universal platform for every-day communications. Then it became SMS for shorter broadcasts and now we have social media platforms like Facebook’s Messenger.

So let’s try and walk in the shoes of our print buying customers. That might be a local council, a government agency, a utility, an insurance business or a bank – it doesn’t matter, they are all grappling with the same issues. They ask:

<            How do I generate communications across a whole range of channels in a consistent and timely way?

<            How can I switch seamlessly from one channel to another?

<            How do I keep-up with the technology and the specialist skills required?

<            How do I manage an ever growing number of suppliers and pricing arrangements?

<            What happens when the next channel evolves?

The opportunity for printers, as I see it, is to take what’s known as an ‘outside: in’ approach, to the issue of falling volumes, in the traditional communications segment of print. That approach askes a simple question: “How can I solve the very real problem that my customer is being faced-with every day? (i.e. dealing with this every growing channel complexity)”

Back when I first got involved with print, we found it very hard to describe what it was that our business actually did. We were a printer, but we were doing much more that. We also didn’t like the term mailhouse as we were producing a lot more than just mail.

It’s only recently that organisations like Gartner, Forrester and IDC have defined this activity as CCM (Customer Communication Management.

Note that the definition has nothing to do with the how; it is all about the outcome being the management of customer communications. That CCM supply chain involves lots of elements and the more of them that printers can be involved in, the more secure revenue streams will be.

The CCM supply chain

Imagine if you the printer were to invest in the tools that allowed you to take control over all of the multi-channel document composition elements of the campaign.

At the moment many printers are simply unaware that there are equivalent and duplicated digital versions of the very same documents that they are printing. Look at the model below on the left below. However, the potential new model might look something like the one on the right below.

A better workflow

The new workflow described above, achieves several very real benefits.

It ensures that the printer is in total control over all aspects of the campaign. It opens the door for added value services like providing electronic delivery options. But just as importantly, it sees you walking in your customers’ shoes as you are solving a major issue being faces by the buyers of media: complexity.

David Allen has spent the last 25 years working with businesses to help them improve the way they communicate with their customers. One of the founders of Datamail in 1989, he saw the first Xerox laser printer installed in New Zealand; was on the team that purchased major print buying business Communication Arts in the early 2000’s and continuous digital platforms 10 years later; and was the majority owner of Kinetic Digital, now in Blue Star ownership. Today he is the NZ Country Manager of ReDigital, representing CCM software business GMC

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