In a digital economy, many print and mail shops struggle to remain relevant and profitable. The good news is that print and mail does still have a place in advertising and community events, according to some members of Forbes Communication Council, but its role may be shifting. The less-than-happy news is that you may need to redefine customer relationships, streamline processes and diversify activities to stay competitive.

Traits of Successful Print Firms

A recent study by IDEAlliance identified specific traits of successful commercial printing firms. While all had their own paths to success, they all followed several specific steps:

  1. Decide what you want to be;
  2. Decide what is a real opportunity given your vision, resources and capabilities; and
  3. Hire experts who will help you realize that vision, because you cannot rely on technology alone to get the job done.

What this boils down to is that successful print and mail shops don’t try to be everything to everyone. They make choices on who they will serve, how they will do it and assure that they have the right people to get the job done.

Diversification Can Be Key

Many print and mail shops are adding services that allow them to become involved in their clients’ work earlier, stay involved longer and satisfy a broader range of their communication needs – print and digital. These services include:

  • Database Management
  • Marketing Services
  • Web Services
  • Fulfillment

These actions are not necessary for success, but it can help in competitive markets. Fulfillment is an especially strong piece to add, as more and more companies have online stores and ship across the country and the world. It is important to remember that fulfillment services aren’t a good fit for everyone, but it can be extremely lucrative.

Improve Workflows

Saving time and reducing costs while producing great results will continue to be a significant factor in the coming years. For this reason, successful print and mail shops are:

  • Making investments in digital infrastructures (workstations, servers, networks, etc.) and toner-based and cut-sheet digital presses.
  • Purchasing workflow software and bindery/finishing systems.
  • Establishing more efficient workflows to reduce steps, touch and turn times to reduce labor costs.
  • Increasing automation wherever it is effective and affordable.

Bottom Line

Increasing customer engagement, diversifying services to meet client expectations and reducing costs are still the keys to success. How that looks in specific markets or individual shops will vary, but success is obtainable.