Wed, May

Will cross media save my business?

“Not a chance” according to print management specialist Graham Reed, a founding member of the Print Tribe, part ofglobal consultancy firm PrintFuture. Yet it does need careful consideration as he explains.

Hopefully the headline got your attention: it should. What really concerns me about ‘our’ industry is the emerging trend that when a new technology comes about that has even the remotest association with images on a substrate, it is going to be the saviour of the printing industry. Take Web-to-print (W2P); more than half of organisations that have bought W2P systems across the globe have not implemented them so that they bring a profitable outcome to their organisation. So why is cross media going to be any different?

Fundamentally print services providers (PSP’s) have to recognise that there has been a directional change in communication services, understand the relevance of what they do in terms of the wider marketing/communication mix, and position themselves for the markets they wish to serve.

We are rapidly moving away from wanting to part of the commodity community. Everywhere I go printers tell me “we want to be different”, but do you?  I still see the same old “give you a price for that” chuggers, a standpoint that will never create profitable returns. One CEO of a large print group in the Asia Pacific region has recently launched a major strategy with PrintFuture based upon the following brief: “How can you make price not be the foremost reason why global brands engage with my business?” The answer is simple - sell enterprise and outcomes. And just to keep you with me, this includes digital cross media solutions.

If we all take one step back from our industry, what is really going on? Convergence. It is plain to see that the businesses that are doing really well are the ones that have embraced the array of emerging technologies that complement the manufacturing sector. For me, cross media is part of the convergence process, but it is just one part of a complex jigsaw and needs to be combined with other disciplines. Look at Apple. When Steve Jobs created the iPod, he could see that the although the ability to store and replay 1000 songs from a mobile device would sell in great numbers, it’s when you link the device to software that helps you store and organise music - together with giving the consumer the ability to search, access and purchase legally within three clicks - that the technology truly becomes a compelling piece of integrated wizardry. The same goes for cross media. Without great data - or a strategy to capture great data - cross media is nothing. Combine this with then variable delivery across various output devices, including print - then you have the essence of a true business structure. Combine this with outcome analytics and logistical solutions, and you have the control of an end-to-end process.

Do you question if 99p is value or not when you buy a song from iTunes? No, because you know that it works, the quality is great and there won’t be any issues, and this is what our industry should be striving for - driving business solutions using the combination of these new services.

When the platelets on our reshaped ‘print’ planet settle within the new post manufacturing period, our beloved industry will look totally different, and it doesn’t matter what sector you serve, your business will have to add value and support the realigned markets if you are to have an organisation that will return a good bottom line.

The convergence I see revolves around four main disciplines: data, digital delivery, output (digital and analogue), and logistics. But now the difficult part is how to define your service proposition, target your markets, and then engage in a relationship that is totally alien to how the majority of PSP’s have built business over the last 20 years.

The mere approach of price chuggers will not work in this new world; a more defined and orchestrated form of selling and positioning needs to now take place. Enter the creation of the ‘enterprise salesperson’.

Cross media solely will not drive substantial revenue – but as part of a cohesive and aligned business strategy that assesses the needs of target markets, it can help. But a PSP cannot leverage a compelling reason, solution or strategy with a customer without first creating a justifiable reason why such technologies should be used.

Just the other day I was engaged in a deep conversation with the marketing director of a major wholesaler/distributor. The opportunity covered several disciplines from W2P, POS, digital cross media, asset management, augmented reality and data management - all had a place in regards to particular needs. There were compelling reasons for his business to look at each one of these services as stand-alone applications. My challenge came when verbalising this conversation in outlining the joined-up approach in how this particular campaign would work in a progressive way, with all the various touch points and how they linked into a full and cohesive end-to-end solution. And there lies the rub.

Just the other month I wrote about ‘turbulence’ being the resounding response to a recent survey of the world’s top 400 CMO’s – there’s just too much technology and different channels for them to consider.

As a community of service providers we are on a learning curve when it comes to working out how to leverage the technologies and applications it has at its disposal; and so is the modern marketer, hence confusion reigns. I recently came across an article that listed over 133 types and styles of different marketing strategies, not one being the sole answer, more of a mash-up of combined strategies that will being the ROI the modern marketer is looking to achieve.

So, how do we string our ideas and solutions together in an easy and well thought out way so that our customers ‘get it’?

My suggestion is that you look at Xerox’s ‘Circle’ application within XMPIE. First off, it’s free. Sign up is simple and you can be up and running in minutes. You don’t have to be an XMPIE user either, which allows you to start the process of engagement with your customers without any high levels of investment.

Circle is a Cloud-based digital campaign canvas. It allows you to sketch out full campaign workflows that are relevant when leveraging and engaging in conversations with CMO’s, CFO’s or other marketing focused decision makers.

The beauty of this application is you can have a sketched workflow and scoped solution of your ideas within minutes. The simple drag and drop icon function allows you to drop all the significant folders and icons onto your canvas and then very simplistically link them up. Another great feature is the “snap grid” which makes your presentations easy to make neat and tidy and in a very fast way as well.

I call my sketches ‘Visual Articulation’ as they allow me to present my customers with solutions that are easy to follow, can demonstrate a seamless process in how campaigns are structured, and detail how achievable outcomes can be processed as part of the campaign planning process. I even include processes that are nothing to do with me or fall under my direct control because by ‘owning’ the process it puts me in charge of the architecture, and in the world of more collaborative working as services providers we need to understand that it’s cool to demonstrate the service capabilities of other suppliers that are suitable for consideration within the whole end-to-end process.

Not all the icons within the Circle folders will work for your thinking, but don’t worry. You are able to change the individual folder titles, but once you have finished your draft you can also save it as a PNG file and import into PowerPoint. Here you can overlay the folder icons with your own adaptions either from Icon Finder on the Web or just searching Google Images.

I have now used this process in several key presentations to position print and digital cross media and I can tell you this, the one slide or slides everyone ponders on and shows the greatest verbal interaction with are the Circle slides.

Circle also has enhanced versions that carry a charge but offer improved features such as upload of campaign artwork or visuals that can be viewed in a collaborative environment allowing all approved users to have access via a secure login.

For simple and compelling customer engagement this tool is a great start in understanding the journey in cross media and full end-to-end marketing communications planning. Play with it, understand it and present it - I think you will find it will assist you immensely in engaging in more meaningful conversation with your customers and allow you to become more familiar in more effective campaign planning of how our world is evolving to support the needs of the modern CMO.

Businesses that embrace cross media in a well thought out and cohesive way can really create shareholder value and be an absolute necessity to the clients they serve.

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