Master in-plant leader Phil Larson, president of Shepherd Consulting OK and former director of AFPress and grafaccent at American Fidelity, continues his series of how-to articles to help in-plants build a road map for successful multi-channel offerings. Our first article discussed how an in-plant can get started, the second article covered how an in-plant can determine their direction and develop a plan to add variable and multi-channel offerings to their services. This week we talk about the support needed for an in-plant to offer multi-channel in addition to printing solutions.
The Five Friends In-Plants Need and the Two You Already Have to Offer Multi-Channel Services
Every new large initiative needs support from a variety of "friends." While as the visionary and project leader you "carry the flag," a new offering is not likely to be a successful undertaking without technical, executive, marketing, administrative, and human support. You can't account for everything, but you create a much greater chance for success by aligning these resources with your endeavor.
- Executive Support: Executive support is an absolute must for any large new initiative. You don't have to play golf with the president, but you do need a sufficient political level ally to represent you when you can't be in the room. Prepare your information for executive presentation. If you present as if you are addressing this level each time, you are providing good backing for your director, vice president, or whomever, to move decisions forward when necessary.
- Marketing Mavens: Multi-channel is a marketing message delivery system. It engages both marketing and sales when correctly executed. Marketing and sales don't mix well in many organizations. You are going to need to understand the needs of both. Make friends with marketers. You can do this via local marketing groups, supportive hardware and software vendors, support organizations like DMA, an acquaintance you respect in another industry, or even in your own organization. It may be hardest to find in your own organization. I made friends with some up and coming marketers with both vendors and outside companies.
- Trending Vendors: You have vendors now that you trust. You have vendors with whom you have maintained contact and relationships through visits and conferences. Make a list and talk to them. As you talk, make a list of all the options they offer and begin comparing ease of use, ease of training, integration with other products, features you will need, and means of support. Do they offer consultation on first attempts? How complicated is the technical implementation?
You need a service provider for variable print, as well as multi-channel PURL/GURL/email/postal integration/social integration. The services work together. We selected Rochester Software Associates (RSA) for variable print and EasyPurl for the other services such as PURLs, GURLS and QR Codes and campaign reporting and tracking. Make sure each component is consistent in variable presentation and can be easily coded. The postal piece, brochure, email, and landing pages all have to work together. IMB is a must. Integration into CRM is a must. You may not use these in the beginning; however, the understanding and support must be there.
Choose partners that will grow with you and understand what you need. Choose partners that will integrate with your approach to service and workflow. Choose partners that will create synergy, not chaos.
- Personal Cheerleaders (People Who Believe In You): Every new venture brings new issues. Talk to people who already believe in you and your services. They may never understand an IMB from a DMA from a variable image from a Purl or a Gurl. But, they can keep you going in the hard spots.
- "Technical Tonys": These folks are your Godsends. By a humorous twist, the first name of our variable print, multi-channel online software, and internal key technical person were the same— Tony. "Call Tony," was heard a lot when we first worked in multi-channel. There is a lot of software involved. Just because the software at the desktop creates a file does not mean it will deliver perfectly to the printer rip engine and output the same as the java- based landing page. Someone on your team needs to communicate with all the "Tonys" to coordinate and understand the "Tony" language.
Other friends you already have are:
- Customer Service: No matter what you believe about your customer service process, you need to beef it up for multi-channel. You cannot afford to have other customers complaining that they are getting poor service because you are doing too much or doing too many things. Offering a new service requires customer and staff training. You need a person who inherently empathizes with the customer and communicates concerns to the production team—and you— in ways that help you improve.
- A Visionary: This is you. You are the visionary. You need to lead everyone in the process, even when the path is not always clear or apparent.
Now that you have all of these people and the processes aligned, you are ready to do something. You have selected your software, decided on partners and are ready to make selections and train the team. Next time we will talk about the elements of a good multi-channel campaign and what makes it work.
Watch for our Next Blog Post. What other friends do you think you need to offer multi-channel as an in-plant or corporate print center? Let Phil know via email.