Educating the market isn’t all about new application opportunities, it’s about selling the partnership benefits too as Octink MD Mike Freely explains.
Getting the message out to existing and potential new clients about all a digital large-format orientated print production company can do is not just about applications potential – but also
about explaining the benefits of closer partnerships. Take Octink, which is beginning to see the fruits of its labours in developing a streamlined workflow and Web-to print (W2P) capability. According to MD Mike Freely, the level of automation now possible has not only brought efficiencies for both the Brentford-based PSP and the first clients to be using the system, but has given both parties better process structure.
“We have been investing in workflow and colour management software for some time, and we’ve been able to develop a W2P system (that went live last year). We’re expecting it will have a significant impact on business in the coming months and years, once we get the message out about the benefits of using it.”
Freely explains that the W2P development was really prompted by Superdry - a longstanding client - that in the middle of last year “came in with a lot more work, and we realised that operationally we needed to be more efficient to make it work.” The resulting W2P platform meant that the artwork submission and preparation process was reduced from three weeks to half a day. “That’s a win, win all round,” acknowledges Freely, saying: “The question now, is how many other Superdry’s are there out there where this level of ‘organisation’ of the process can benefit them?”
The focus on W2P development continues apace at Octink, which is recruiting programming apprentices etc. to ensure it has all the right R+D capability in-house longer-term as it looks to provide this online service to more clients. The intention is to provide a “fill your basket” style storefront to companies, enabling their satellite operations to request pre-set items online, with an automatic purchasing approval and subsequent order route direct to Octink.
Getting clients – both existing and potential – to understand the benefits of this is a key focus for 2016, one that works in tandem with the company’s other key focus for the year – customer relationship building.
“It’s all about personal relationships for us,” says Freely, pointing out that Octink’s client retention is high at around 80-90%. But he’s not complacent about that, plus, the aim is to also develop new clients, particularly in the retail sector as the company looks beyond its core market in construction. At the moment the latter account for something like 60-65% of Octink’s turnover (£17.5m for the year ending 31 December 2015: £9m being large-format graphics, £4.5m it the fast growing ‘Build’ division for creating marketing suites, the remainder events/experiential). Freely would prefer to see construction market activity closer to 50%.
Referencing the Growth Accelerator programme Octink embarked upon in 2013, he points out that the business mentor assigned Octink highlighted the gains that could be had by having more intimate relationships with customers. “Looking after customers has always been a key part of what we do, it’s why they keep coming back to us. But we recognised that researching customers more, and having more face-to-face time with them would be beneficial. So we do more now in terms of gathering customer data, seeing where we can make a difference and getting front of client to discuss opportunities. It’s led to a whole different level of conversation and it builds a stronger partnership. We’re hoping that the W2P offering will strengthen that relationship further. It will help stay ‘attached’ to the customer.”
Freely explains that Octink “will ‘give’ the online storefront capability to them in exchange for say, a five year contract with us. It means we’re locked in.”
Octink is putting together a team that can build and manage these W2P storefronts in expectation of its traditional core construction market clients seeing the advantages, and in anticipation of target clients in the retail space being open to the discussion.
“We know that we need to get under the skin of companies and see what we can offer that will do that ‘easing the load from their shoulders’ thing that is so often talked about. We also recognise that requires us to impart knowledge about what’s possible with digital print, not just in terms of products, but in terms of efficiencies and organisational benefits. You can’t do that in an email or telephone call, and they don’t want to sit and listen to a seminar presentation on the subject, so we’re aware that we need to reach out to individually targeted companies and set out our stall in ways they can see will clearly benefit them specifically.”
The same face-to-face individual approach will be taken in the retail space, and with the likes of architects to educate them about digital print possibilities such as window manifestations, photographic wall installations and other ‘creative’ opportunities. “We’re continually looking at quirky materials and applications, and we’re continually looking at how we get the messaging ‘out there’. 2016 will be a very active year for doing that.”