Transforming transactional print

The transactional print market is adapting to a changing landscape where demand is shrinking as organisations shift communications online. With organisations reducing and eliminating unnecessary costs and increasing process efficiencies, production of high volumes of printed customer correspondence can sometimes be considered expensive and laborious when compared directly to electronic formats.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for print service providers (PSPs) in the transactional print market to rethink their service offerings. They need to consider how their workflows can integrate with their customers’ to become an efficient part of the communication journey. This is why data handling is becoming a core focus for PSPs – because working with data is becoming as important in transactional printing as the printing itself.

With the right software, a PSP can take ownership of the data and co-ordinate the entire customer communications journey. This enhanced service offering – underpinned by digital printing technology – represents a business opportunity to change the way they are perceived by this market. It’s about offering more valuable, targeted print to more customers instead of just selling more print.

For a PSP to change how their customers view print, they need to promote the value it can add to their communications. And for print to add value, the data behind it has to be accurate. By bringing data handling in-house and showing customers how they can update and better utilise data, PSPs are able to increase the quality and effectiveness of their customers’ correspondence.

As well as establishing themselves as capable data handlers, PSPs must harness and promote the capabilities of digital printing technology to address the cost and efficiency issues that have driven transactional communications online.

Many transactional print applications, such as bank statements, insurance documents and utility bills, are produced by digitally printing variable data in black-and-white onto pre-printed stock. However, with the right digital technology in place, it is possible to offer a ‘white paper solution’ that enables PSPs to print any document – including the template and graphics, as well as variable data – onto blank paper and send it to the recipient as and when it is required. This not only enables more personalisation, but because it can be done for different customers almost simultaneously, it removes the need to alternate between different pre-printed media. This in turn eliminates associated set-up time and storage costs.

An important selling point of print for PSPs is that there are some sectors where consumers prefer to receive printed communication, so companies can maintain good customer relations by corresponding with them using their preferred format.

In addition, some sectors consider electronic communications a risk. Reputations can be damaged if a customer’s data has not been securely handled, and government and industry regulations carry heavy penalties for organisations that do not keep personal data secure. With the right procedures, systems and software in place, PSPs can help customers to demonstrate their commitment to security.

PSPs can also add value to transactional print by offering transpromotional print applications, which incorporate timely and relevant marketing, promotional or customer service messaging into the completed document.

A PSP’s experience in handling data will determine what level of service they can offer. In addition to establishing the right end-to-end workflow and developing in-house data handling capabilities, it is important to develop the right business model and strategy. Only then will they be able to identify what investments they need to make in software, hardware, training and support.

Are you ready to seize the opportunity?

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      Are you heading in the right direction?

      A startling number of print businesses and in-house print centres embark on strategy changes or business development without consulting their business plan. This can be a costly mistake. While it may be time-consuming, time spent planning is always well spent because it forces you to step back and look at your business from an objective point of view. In the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive print industry, effective and continual planning is more important than ever.

      A business plan is a vital tool when you’re making decisions, helping you to determine if what you hope to achieve is feasible, realistic and sustainable. In addition, a credible business plan, regularly reviewed and fine-tuned, will help you identify the equipment and resources you need, and raise finance if required.

      Every business plan is different because every print business and in-house print facility is different. Similarly, the structure of a business plan will vary according to what you need it for. There are however a number of steps that every organisation will need to take in building a solid business plan:

      1. Work out where you are
      Before you can set an objective for your business or print centre, understanding the trends in your market and identifying challenges is key. When looking for insight, many commercial printers and in-house PSPs find Canon to be a powerful ally. Our customers draw on our experience of working with a global customer base, as well as having access to our in-depth research into trends in the professional print market and to views held by print buyers. Independent Essential Business Builder Program consultants and mentors add further to this with their market knowledge and real work experience.

      2. Decide where you want to go
      One of the ways Canon helps customers benefit from this insight is the Business and Innovation Scan. This business assessment tool has been developed by Canon to help both commercial and in-house PSPs review their business strategies and adapt them to the changing market. It assesses the capabilities of the print operation and helps identify opportunities that they may not realise exist. The end result is a report that proposes an appropriate strategic direction and action plan for each segment in which the PSP operates.

      3. Plan how you’re going to get there
      There are eight key areas to consider when developing a business plan:
      A. Executive summary
      B. Historic review
      C. SWOT analysis
      D. Financials
      E. Sales and marketing
      F. Staff
      G. Equipment
      H. Property

      Building your business plan shouldn’t be done by one person in isolation. It is equally important to seek input from staff, customers and professional advisors, as well as assessing competitors.

      Canon has a useful guide to business planning as part of its Essential Business Builder Program. Contact us to find out how to obtain a copy of the guide.

      4. Find the right partner for your journey
      In addition to the suite of tools, guides, knowledge and insight that Canon is able to offer its customers, Canon’s customers also have access to the Essential Business Builder Program, with education workshops and business mentoring delivered by independent industry experts.

      5. Stay on course
      No matter how busy you are, it is important to keep reflecting on market conditions and on how your business or print centre is doing so that you can adapt your business plan accordingly. The most successful businesses are those that stay in touch with what their customer base wants, so try to make getting customer feedback and looking for new opportunities in this part of your daily business.

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          Crossing over

          The media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. The emergence of social media and the birth of smartphones and tablets is transforming the way that people communicate and consume information. Yet while doom-mongers may view this as a threat to the print industry, forward-thinking Print Service Providers (PSPs) are looking for ways to make this new world order and information intensive age work to their advantage.

          For the innovative PSPs who have always looked for ways to make print more effective and add value to the services they offer, cross-media is an understandably exciting proposition. It offers a means to link the world of print with all the possibilities of online media, while simultaneously making print more measurable.

          The opportunity is undeniable. Adding cross-media marketing services to their service offering not only enables PSPs to differentiate themselves in the increasingly competitive and commoditised print market, but it can also enable them to grow their print volumes.

          What is cross-media?
          Cross-media campaigns are integrated multichannel communications in which digital media (web, e-mail, SMS, social media sites) works alongside print, often personalised, to elicit the desired response from recipients in business-to-business and business-to-consumer environments. Independent research strongly suggests that the combination of print and digital media increases response rates and subsequently the return-on-investment made in marketing campaigns.

          In fact, research by InfoTrends shows that most PSPs who have introduced cross-media marketing services have seen an average 14 per cent increase in digital print volumes[1]. As a result, cross-media print volumes are expected to represent 9.5 per cent of total print volumes by 2014[2].

          PSPs who have been using digital print technology for some time will no doubt already be aware of how Variable Data Printing (VDP) can be used to enhance the effectiveness of printed pieces by making them relevant and personalised to each recipient. When used as part of a multi-channel campaign, this careful targeting not only enhances the effectiveness of the piece, but that of the campaign as a whole.

          Research by InfoTrends[2] shows that using multiple media types (print, the web, direct mail, email, SMS, PURLs, QR codes, mobile, video and social media) can improve response rates by up to 34 per cent compared with using print alone.

          Smart marketers are certainly recognising this. Canon’s most recent Insight Report, The Bigger Picture: Your customers’ view on the value of print found that 58 per cent of organisations are using multi-channel campaigns as part of their communications mix.

          Yet while marketers clearly recognise the importance of multi-channel communications, integrating these channels is still a challenge. A recent study from The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in partnership with Canon[3] explored the key issues that marketers rate as high priorities for their organisations.

          The research found that 82 per cent rate joining up campaigns as their number one priority. Yet despite this, the same research found that less than one in five organisations currently achieve high levels of campaign integration.

          Many print buyers take their first steps into cross-media with a multi-channel campaign in which print acts as a signpost that directs the reader to a website where further information can be found[4].

          But taking their first steps into cross-media is not sufficient for most print buyers. The Bigger Picture found that cross-media is one of the areas in which print buyers feel print could help them meet their communications needs more effectively in the future[4]. The print buyers who gave this feedback envisage cross-media campaigns that mix print with online media and in which these cross-reference each other in order to track effectiveness and measure response rates.

          That is a key factor in the growing demand for cross-media services. When you add the interactivity that cross-media makes possible, the campaign doesn’t only become more effective, it becomes more measurable too.

          One of the priorities for marketers identified in the CIM report was the need to improve measurement and evaluation. In fact, only 11 per cent of organisations consistently measure the impact of different communication channels in a campaign[3].

          This finding was echoed in Canon’s research into the views of print buyers, which found that print buyers aren’t sure how they can measure the value of the print that they commission, and are looking for help from their PSPs in proving the effectiveness and value of print[4].

          Cross-media gives PSPs a means to analyse the responses of campaign targets and, with the added support of Canon’s recently developed return-on-investment tool, a way to help their customers create campaigns that deliver measurable results. For marketers, who are under pressure to measure and demonstrate the results of everything they spend, assistance with demonstrating the value they get in return for their spend is an extremely attractive selling point.

          Making the most of the opportunity

          For many PSPs, the question of how to make the most of the cross-media opportunity is still an open one. Through our experiences of working with PSPs at various points in the spectrum of cross-media services, we’ve identified some key points to consider before you take your next steps in cross-media:

          1) Lead by example

          Running cross-media campaigns for your own business will give you an opportunity to learn which tools you need and identify potential challenges, as well as to demonstrate your ability to deliver.

          2) Educate staff and customers

          Today’s marketing professionals want consultants who understand their business and who advise and educate instead of selling. Educating and training your staff about the opportunities offered by cross-media will make a huge difference to the success of your business.

          Educating customers and demonstrating credibility are critical success factors in marketing your cross-media services. In many cases, customers are not asking for VDP or cross-media services because they don’t know what they are or that their print providers offer them.

          3) Use the resources you have

          Simple VDP-based templates using standard software, such as Adobe® InDesign® and Creative Suite®, can easily be combined with customer data, text, images and barcodes to add significant value for the customer without having to compromise on production costs or lead times.

          4) Develop partnerships

          The shift to full cross-media service delivery is usually best approached in steps. If your business doesn’t currently have the right skills to deliver the service you want to, then developing strategic partnerships with external specialists who have complementary skills will enable you to broaden your offering without hiring additional staff.

          5) Analyse results

          Using cross-media, tools can be integrated into a campaign to make it possible to measure recipients’ responses and respondents’ preferences. This not only makes campaigns more measurable for the PSP, but it also provides the marketer with useful data that can be used to inform and improve targeting in future campaigns.

          To find out more about Canon’s cross-media offering and how an Essential Business Builder Program consultant can help you plan your next steps in cross-media, visit

          [1] The Evolution of the Cross-Media Marketing Services Provider, InfoTrends, July 2011
          [2] Multi-Channel Communications Measurement & Benchmarking, InfoTrends, 2012
          [3] Unlock the value of creative: Getting more from marketing assets and campaigns, CIM, 2011
          [4] The Bigger Picture: Your customers’ view on the value of print, Canon, May 2012

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              The value of print and its importance in the print buyers’ communications mix is the strongest selling argument for any print provider. Yet only one in ten print buyers have a formal process for evaluating the effectiveness of the print they commission. Having identified this challenge from conversations with customers, print buyers and the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF), Canon has developed the Professional Print ROI tool to help print providers prove the value of their services to their customers.

              The main reasons cited by print buyers for not evaluating their print were either that the value of print was too difficult to quantify or that they didn’t know how to measure it effectively. Very few said that they did not calculate the return on their investment in print because it was not important to them.

              In fact, one print buyer Canon spoke to recently went so far as to say that if any Print Service Provider (PSP) were to approach her to talk about return-on-investment (ROI) in print, she’d immediately open her door to them because at present no PSPs she deals with seem to take that level of interest in her business.

              According to Andy Harris, European & UK Graphic Arts Customer Marketing, Professional Print Solutions, Canon Europe: “Based on our insight research, we’ve been talking to our customers about their customers’ demand to measure ROI and it was clear that we needed to provide them with a tool to support this requirement. This tool is that conversation starter. We spoke to many customers before we started developing the tool, and we also held a focus group with customers, the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) and print buyers to gain industry input on how the ROI of print should be measured.”

              The easy-to-use tool enables PSPs to estimate the potential ROI of a print application and thus help customers enhance the performance and cost-effectiveness of print. With many of today’s print buyers eager to see case studies of previous successful campaigns, the tool also gives PSPs a means to enhance their own case studies by including costs, results and a more detailed ROI.

              Using the tool, PSPs profile the customer and their planned campaign, set out clear aims and objectives for the campaign and then determine which application or combination of applications would help the customer to achieve those objectives. They can then calculate what the potential ROI for their customer would be on the print elements of the campaign.

              Harris concludes:

              This tool is just the first step, both for our customers and for the market as a whole. For our customers, it enables them to start discussing the value of print with their customers. For the wider market, we hope that it’ll be the beginning of a wider debate around measuring the value of print. We believe that this is the first tool of its kind and so we want to evolve it as the debate on ROI unfolds. For now we’re providing our customers with the means to start the conversation with print buyers about the effectiveness of print, but we plan to refine and adapt it based on the feedback that we get from PSPs about what they and their customers need.

              Canon is working to develop the tool further based on your feedback. To let us know what you think about how the tool works and how it could work better for please contact us. You can also find out more or receive a copy of the tool by contacting your Canon Professional Print Account Manager.

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                  The Bigger Picture – Your customers’ view on the value of print, Canon’s latest Insight Report, shows that print buyers want Print Service Providers (PSPs) to highlight how printing innovations can help them to achieve their communications objectives.

                  According to Mark Lawn, Canon’s European & UK marketing director for professional print solutions, “We wanted to support our customers by finding out how today’s media buyers view print in the communications mix and how they want their PSPs to work with them. Buyers certainly value print – some 90% of respondents said that print is important to their organisations. What was most interesting was how many responses showed that PSPs could benefit from changing their approach to dealing with customers.”

                  The research highlights a communication gap in some relationships between media buyers and their PSPs. For instance, 26% of survey respondents said that their PSPs don’t meet their need to be made aware of new developments and alternatives or their need for proactive advice and guidance.

                  Some respondents complained their PSPs use too much technical terminology and sometimes even focus on features of printing equipment rather than on the benefits and outcomes that would result for the customer. Some media buyers surveyed also said their PSPs are not telling them about all their offerings or new print innovations in a way that helps them to understand the potential benefits or explain them to others in their organisations. In fact, some media buyers in communications and advertising roles went so far as to say they prefer their creative agencies to broker print services on their behalf because agencies are more likely to ‘talk their language’.

                  As a result, many PSPs are missing opportunities to highlight the services they offer that could enhance their customers’ communications. These missed opportunities equate to missed revenues, because customers can’t buy services they either don’t understand or aren’t aware of.

                  This is something that was reflected in many media buyers’ responses when they were asked to what extent they are aware of, and are considering or using, the latest digital print services and technologies.

                  The data shows that many PSPs could benefit from improving how they communicate with their customers about print innovations. For example, 59% of respondents said they are unaware of transpromotional print, 36% are unaware of print-on-demand and 24% are unaware of customised direct mail.

                  Lawn continues: “The responses have yielded some interesting food for thought, and from speaking to our customers it seems many of them are taking the research on board and using the insights to improve their approach to buyers, strengthen their relationships with their customers and grow their businesses.”

                  The key to success lies in thinking beyond what you can print for your customer right now, and thinking about what services you offer that might meet their needs better. This way you’re not only opening your business up to new opportunities from existing customers, but more importantly you’re showing your customer that you understand their business and are in an ideal position to advise them on how they can meet their communications needs.


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