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Five Ways to Break into Marketing Services

It’s tough to reinvent your in-plant as a provider of marketing services if your customers have pigeonholed you. Here are some ways you can get the word out about the many new services you have to offer.

March 2012 By Howie Fenton
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If you look over last year's issues of IPG you will find articles about how in-plants are evolving from solely providing print and mail services to offering more marketing services. In the December 2011 issue, however, Lisa Cross of InfoTrends questioned the reality of that observation when she wrote, "The graphic communications industry is in the middle of an evolution to expand services beyond print to include cross-media and marketing. Unfortunately, the in-plant market is largely absent from the move."

To some, the concept of printers and mailers offering marketing services is not just gaining momentum; it has become a runaway train. At this point, no one knows if it will be more like the train in the Woody Harrelson movie Money Train, filled with the promise of getting rich quick, or the one in the Denzel Washington film Unstoppable, speeding out of control as it headed for a disastrous crash. The obvious question about the perceived move to marketing services is how much of it is hype and how much is reality?

I agree with my old friend Lisa Cross. Truth be told, while many companies talk about offering marketing services, few commercial printers and even fewer in-plants have been successful in making that transition. Let's look at one issue that we believe may often hinder an in-plant's ability to offer marketing services.

The 'Pigeonhole' Problem

One problem encountered by both commercial printers and in-plants is that their customers start to think about them based on products they buy. In other words, customers stereotype or define them as a business card printer, a large-format or poster printer, or a printer/mailer. The in-plant becomes pigeonholed, based not on all the products or services it provides, but only on those the customer purchases. The customer uses Shop A for business cards, Shop B for brochures and maybe the in-plant for stationery—and doesn't look beyond that.

When your business has been pigeonholed, the customer has categorized it and shelved it away. Unfortunately, many companies have no idea how much they have been cubbyholed by their customers.

When we at NAPL are asked to assess in-plant performance, we take a 360-degree view of performance that includes operational performance, financial metrics and customer feedback. We analyze customer opinions on service, perceived value and competitive performance through surveys and focus groups. In the latter, we listen not only to compliments and criticisms, but we are also on the alert for certain trigger phrases that can suggest the business has been pigeonholed—expressions such as:

 

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