The corner newsstand may be a vanishing symbol of a bygone era for many of us, but printed materials remain a staple for most marketers. Business cards, direct mail, flyers, brochures, point-of-sale, forms and other printed items need to be produced and delivered to prospective customers, local offices, third-party fulfillment houses, trade shows and distribution centers.
Once upon a time, that meant guessing how many pieces might be used, printing them all at once, and shipping huge bales of collateral to local offices which had to store them, manage the inventory over time, and ship them again to other places where they were needed. Print management was a costly, cumbersome process.
Now, distributed multi-channel marketing automation solutions make it convenient and easy to select and order a single printed piece or a campaign featuring hundreds of thousands of multi-part mailers. Still, managing print needs can be a challenge in a large distributed marketing organization. So many corporate marketers are rethinking the ways in which they use printed materials.
Print’s 3C’s: Cost, Compliance, and Consumption
One of the primary reasons that marketers have moved toward managed print services through a marketing automation solution or an external provider is cost. No one in the post-recession economy can afford to print huge amounts of collateral in hopes that it will be used. Once restricted to the largest companies because it was hard to manage, printing on demand is now commonplace in most distributed marketing organizations.
Compliance is another issue to consider if you’re evaluating a print management solution. Once corporate marketers upload the necessary resources into a print management system, local offices and salespeople should be able to select, customize and personalize each piece in seconds. Look for a system with built-in compliance so brand and regulatory standards are maintained. Print orders shouldn’t be fulfilled until all required approvals have been obtained. Automating the process (and restricting reimbursements for unapproved print runs) encourages and speeds up the process.
Consumption is another reason why more marketers are relying on marketing automation solutions that include print management. There are two sides to consumption – one is managing internal consumables, like printer cartridges and paper, as well as wear and tear on company-owned printers. Most end users may be surprised to learn that it may be cheaper to outsource the printing on reports, proposals, and sales kits than it is to print them internally. (Of course, producing them as digital flip-books or interactive presentations is even less expensive, but there are times when nothing other than print will do.)
The other kind of consumption is part of the green initiatives that are an important part of many corporate plans. It’s costly and wasteful to have unused collateral sitting in a warehouse, and ensuring that the company consumes only what it needs in terms of paper and ink stocks is part of any eco-friendly company’s long and short-term plans.
Print Production, Mailing Lists and Fulfillment
On-demand, web-based print management for multi-channel marketing can provide vendor choices for printing, list verification and fulfillment so that you can complete your marketing campaign with just a few mouse clicks. Once your artwork file is finalized, it can be routed to the vendor of your choice or fulfilled using a pre-approved vendor who has access to the system.
Using a reputable and knowledgeable direct mail house is crucial to an effective mailing campaign. A multi-channel marketing automation solution with a built-in print studio makes it easy for local offices to find approved vendors who have been selected and integrated into the process. So it’s quick and easy to execute a campaign, pull a mailing list using specific parameters and demographics that you choose, and let the vendor do the rest.
The truth is that print isn’t going away anytime soon. We all talk about a paperless office, and we might dream of the day when social media will displace print as our mass communications media of choice, but it isn’t likely to happen in 2012. So if you’re involved in distributed marketing, and you don’t have a print management solution already, it’s past time to look into the technologies and solutions that are available.
Photo credit: Nicholas Nova made this photo of a newsstand available under a Creative Commons License available on Flickr.