“Marketing Automation” is a loaded term. If you talk to ten different people, you will get ten different definitions of exactly what it is and how print service providers (PSPs) can use it to streamline their business and increase revenue. It can cover everything from the systems used to manage customer accounts, to prepress, to postpress and even the data analytics that comes after a marketing campaign goes to market.
At its broadest, marketing automation is all about making things faster and more efficient so the PSP, the client and the end consumer all see better results, to more targeted messaging, that results in a higher ROI.
“It’s a very complex term with all sorts of different meanings,” noted Christoph Clermont, Director of Engineering for EFI DirectSmile. “It’s technology that enables PSPs to deal with the massively growing complexity of marketing. Back in the days, that was easy to handle, but today they have to upload across many different channels. That makes it complex. On the other hand, the core purpose is to drive results and make marketing measurable.”
“For me, it’s getting the relevant messaging to the target customers as efficiently as possible,” said Kevin Horey, vice president and general manager, Workflow and Solutions Business, Xerox Corp. “And there are so many different components inside of that. There are so many ways you can do marketing in today’s world, whether it’s all electronic and starts with an email, uses social media aspects, or of course we still think print is critically important in marketing campaigns and communication. We have a lot of ways to help automate the printed piece and/or the electronic piece.”
Judy Berlin, the vice president of marketing for XMPie, agrees with that definition, further expanding on it; “Marketing automation supports marketers’ efforts to manage their customer relationships. It performs by massively turning leads into prospects, and prospects into customers, with personalized content that is useful to them and delivered in their preferred way. It combines and enriches different customer acquisition techniques—email, print, social media etc.—replaces repetitive manual marketing processes, delivers insights across all touchpoints and frees up the marketer’s workflow. In truth, if used to its fullest potential, the technology can speed up and optimize the entire marketing process so that marketers can get back to focusing on higher value tasks such as marketing strategy for fast business growth.”
For Hewlett-Packard Co.’s InkJet Evangelist, Pat McGrew, the focus is on the data as well. “If we look at it from the high speed inkjet world, we recognize it has this really big umbrella that covers everything from trying to automate customer analytics, SEO, etc. All of the things people are generally concerned about within the marketing space. Marketing automation generally touches data and data management and gathering—data analysis—with the goal of developing triggers to be used with customer-facing marketing campaigns. In our world, that includes those with a print component.”
Putting it into Practice
For printers, the first step is realizing that print alone is no longer sufficient to have a successful marketing campaign. Websites, mobile devices, digital signage, interactive videos—all of these are potential pieces of the marketing puzzle. But PSPs are in the unique position to be able to step up and take on the role of managing not just the print side of things, but the entire campaign.
Not every printer will be ready and willing to take on every marketing role, however. The most important step to take, before investing in any software or pitching anything to current or potential clients, is to decide exactly what marketing automation services the shop really wants to be known for.
“Printers need to audit themselves and determine what their current understanding really is, what’s the baseline they’re starting from,” said McGrew. “And that is different for every printer. The next step is to have that strategic conversation; determine what level of integration your company is really prepared to take and where the margin and ROI will be. Depending on what market you serve, the competition, demographics, etc., those answers will be different. It may be that the market you serve is new to it, so you have amazing opportunity and should pull out all the stop and make it a big piece of production output. Or maybe you are in a market where there are a lot of other providers offering this service, and in that case may want to look at a niche you can fill. The worst you can do is what everyone else is doing—you want to make sure whatever solution you bring, you can differentiate.”
“The key to it is starting with some smaller projects and working out the kinks, if you will,” noted Horey. “All too often people plug [a solution] in and think it will automatically be a success, and that just having it will drive new business. But does the sales and service staff understand what new services the solution offers? Are they well trained? Do they understand the benefits for their end customers? Start with smaller projects first and work out bugs, then expand over time as you perfect the offering.”
Clermont agreed, noting that one important pitfall to avoid is to simply throw a solution out there and hope clients will come. “They should take concept seriously for their business,” he said. “Don’t say ‘I offer it’ if 90 percent of the sales team doesn’t like to mention it. Everyone has to take it seriously. Proper automation is not the big deal—it’s about the dedication to the solution and to train the sales people, and to really take a look at how the PSPs want to market their new solutions.”
From there, once the shape of the new solution is decided on, and the printer has done a few test runs with understanding clients on small projects, it’s about getting the word out and education clients as to exactly what new services the PSP is bringing to the partnership. “Proactively educating prospects and customers about the benefits of an automated, holistic, personalized marketing campaign is an important stage, since many customers may not even realize that PSPs can provide such services,” stressed Berlin. “A great way for PSPs to publicize their experience with marketing automation is to use the technology to market their own print and marketing services—illustrating its capabilities for both customers and salesforce at the same time.”
Risks and Rewards
But for printers that get it right, the potential rewards are huge. “The biggest benefit, the most crucial thing for printers and why they need to jump that train is to go up in the supply chain,” stressed Clermont. “The perfect world was the wonder of printing plates, but that world has broken. Now, the single most important thing is to gain back customer loyalty by offering more complex services that, once in place, give a constant revenue stream to the printer and binds that customer to them. That is the key reason why printers should go into marketing automation. Print got more automated, so now everyone can do it; now automation needs to go behind the paper stack. This is the next step to be better than the competition.”
“The goal is to grow the top line revenue and increase profitability,” said Horey. “This enables them to open up new revenue streams and hopefully allows them to attract new customers because they now have an additional level of service they can offer. Printers are constantly challenged to grow print volumes to grow revenue, and this could be great way to increase or hold steady there, and offer other components beyond print. Printers have to reinvent themselves.”
Berlin stressed the financial benefits of branching into marketing automation as well. “With marketing automation, a key benefit is the huge financial saving that can be made by minimizing the waste and redundancy caused by manual campaign execution, and by maximizing campaign response and conversion rates with intelligence-driven planning. PSPs can analyze results to determine what works, what doesn’t and why. Unsuccessful initiatives can be abandoned before they drain financial resources and past campaign results and data can be used for future campaign planning and execution.” She went on to note that PSPs who can quickly and accurately share that kind of information with clients, helping them refine campaigns on the fly to get better results for lower costs, will help create a more collaborative partnership that values more than just the lowest cost per piece.
At the end of the day, that is what marketing automation really is. Allowing printers to move away from being thought of as providing a commodity service, and instead becoming valued partners to their clients. It is about increasing the ROI on every aspect of the marketing process by tying all the components more closely together and tracking them all as a single campaign, rather than as individual parts. “The real baseline is that you are setting up a process that uses data to seed the development of the communications being sent out to end customer,” said McGrew. “Having automation tools allows you to measure the response then use that metric to inform the next cycle you go through. If you’ve set up processes correctly, the speed you can gather that data is greatly increased, and you can make much finer adjustments to the campaign strategy on faster basis at relatively low cost.”