Somebody once said, stick to what you know; do it right and do it well. I suppose that could be said of many things. In business, it’s probably good advice. However, someone else said that change is constant. So with that in mind, how do you address this seeming paradox?
Webster defines marketing as “an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer.” If you are involved in touching print in any way, you are involved in marketing. As we move toward the paperless home and office, we still want to touch and feel paper. And while the marketing pie has a lot more slices than it did 10 years ago, paper is still one of those slices. Sure, we recently now have to share the pie with social media, but the more slices, the more interesting the challenge for the status quo.
If we look back a few years, the newspapers of the day had to suddenly share advertising and marketing revenue with radio. And then radio had to share with television. Today, the printing industry is coping with a post-recession hangover and advancing technology that is squeezing into that marketing pie. While business in general struggles to effectively implement this new communication technology, printing growth is stagnant or shrinking. Some printers have augmented their operation with other service offerings; Mailing being one of them. A logical question is “If I ship all this print to a mailing house, why can’t I prepare it for mail myself?” You could say that this would add to your revenue stream, provide one less stop for your client and add something black to the bottom line.
Before you can provide that added service to your client, it would be good to consider a few things first. Do you have the resources to add postal knowledge, processing equipment and mail preparation expertise to risk the relationship you have with your client?
1. How much do I really know about mail and where do I find out?
Canada Post is your partner here. They have access to every door in the land. No other entity has that kind of access.
Not even the ubiquitous internet. If you want to mail, you will need to build a relationship with Canada Post. They have an active sales force, and they are supported by technical expertise to help educate anyone willing to invest the time. They have mailing equipment you need to prepare the mail (trays, monotainers, etc) and a website full of technical specifications to help you design the mail. Not sure about how that coating will react to automated sorting equipment? Send in a sample for testing and get some feedback firsthand. Canada Post has plants that receive and process the mail and they have letter carriers that deliver that mail.
Sure, they are going through another round of contract negotiations with their labour force right now. And yes, they are going through the same revenue strain as the rest of us because of shrinking volume. But, they will always be there in some form or another so make sure you know them well. If you follow recent media reports on how they are beginning to transform under a new leader, you know they are still going to be there in the future.
2. What do you print now that ends up in the mail stream? Can I add the equipment needed to image, assemble or otherwise prepare it for mail?
Depending on what you are planning to do, it can require a variety of equipment. Do you print everything that gets mailed? Maybe you have the print contract for inserts that go into an envelope, but someone else is printing and manufacturing that envelope. Maybe what you print and convert is assembled by hand. How many different pieces are there and how much space do you need to start a hand assembly operation? How fast does it need to be completed? The equipment you need will require maintenance and service. Who does that for you? Is there enough work for this equipment to justify the investment in capital (short term) and physical space (long term)?
3. Mail preparation expertise is the key to putting item 1 and 2 together. Remember about Canada Post having access to every door in the land? Well, do you want your mail getting to a post office in Newfoundland and then finding out it was not prepared properly? If you are sitting in your office in Vancouver, you don’t want that phone call. Following the Canada Post guidelines for mail preparation can save a lot of unnecessary cost and delay. These guidelines are accessible to everyone with an Internet connection. Canada Post backs up these guidelines with a technical help desk you can use. They also offer a place on their website for anyone interested in becoming a Mail Service Provider. This helps clients who are looking to send mail find you.
Timing is so critical with coordinated marketing campaigns that any delay can really mean a wasted effort. Not the impression you want to leave with your client. If you can put these three points together with some good old-fashioned service, you might just have added something to your business that is worth talking to your clients about. And you will still be an integral part of that marketing pie.