A New Strategy in Minnesota

This team of managers and sales people met for months to develop a communications strategy for University of Minnesota Printing Services. Clockwise from front left: Dianne Gregory, Bob Swoverland, Tom Lucas, Dave Hoel, Gary Stoll, Jann Jarvis, Joe Sobota and Shawn Welch.

Printing Services employees gather in the pressroom. The success of the in-plant’s new communications strategy depends on how well they adapt to the changes ahead.

Customer service representatives Gary Stoll (left) and Jann Jarvis (right) work with designer Sysouk Khambounmy to develop the in-plant’s new creative campaign. 

Art Director Shawn Welch (left) was instrumental in developing the seven-step process the in-plant went through to create its new communications strategy. With him is Dianne Gregory, executive director, General Services, who launched the initiative.

With its business changing and traditional work drying up, University of Minnesota Printing Services embarked on an ambitious self-evaluation project. The result is a new communications strategy, which will help guide the in-plant to future success.

A Seven-step Plan

To get started developing its communications strategy, Gregory tapped Shawn Welch, the in-plant’s art director since 1999. He was given the task of researching and designing a customized procedure that would help the operation gain a clearer understanding of its business and competitive advantage, and determine a direction and message for its marketing collateral.

“In the recent past, Printing Services has relied heavily on past experience, intuition and anecdotal information when developing its marketing collateral,” says Welch. But the operation now needs to adopt a more strategic, comprehensive approach to marketing communications, he says, citing its evolving, technology-driven product mix and the university’s uncertain economic climate (due largely to steadily dropping state funding).

Working on and off for six weeks, Welch (whose Design Communications degree from U of M includes marketing studies) devised seven steps to help Printing Services asses its operation and its customers, and better determine the business direction in which the in-plant should be moving:

  1. Determine purchasing motivators.
  2. Evaluate buyer purchasing processes.
  3. Evaluate the competition.
  4. Evaluate external factors (opportunities and threats).
  5. Evaluate internal factors (strengths and weaknesses).
  6. Determine Printing Services’ competitive advantage by developing a 2×2 SWOT matrix showing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  7. Develop a brand positioning statement.

Gregory and her team (which included Welch, Print Manager Dave Hoel, Copy Center Manager Tom Lucas and the four-person sales team: Bob Swoverland, Jann Jarvis, Gary Stoll and Joe Sobota) worked through one step at a time at two-hour weekly meetings (with homework).

A True Team Effort

“Because the sales team are the ones out working with customers, they enabled us to accomplish more by contributing really good, realistic comments and opinions that the management team wouldn’t have thought of,” recalls Gregory. She says individual contributions from each salesperson were also valuable because they each handle different university departments, which can vary greatly in their requirements.

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