by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company
I recently interviewed a commercial printer with over 70 active online portals servicing tens of thousands of end users, delivering hundreds of jobs per day, and driving 65 percent of their digital business. Brian Losch, VP of Sales, shared some of what they learned on the way.
Worth Higgins & Associates is the largest sheet-fed commercial printer in Virginia. They have 170 employees across seven divisions ranging from traditional offset, to digital, to wide format, to cross-media marketing, but they primarily make their money through print. So, while they do charge for developing client portals, the main reasons they build them are to lock in accounts and to drive print order volumes. In fact, they initially wanted to simply make it easier for their customers to place traditional offset print orders.
Their need for online ordering went from nice to necessary when they began to seriously enter the digital printing world in 2008. They wanted to reach marketers rather than procurement and needed to make it easy for these clients to ensure brand integrity with streamlined approval processing. They wanted a competitive differentiator. And, with digital printing’s large number of small orders, they needed to streamline their order handling process.
Their solution was to integrate MarcomCentral with their clients’ ordering systems and to link it to their own EFI Pace™ Print MIS system. They then integrated MarcomCentral with HP SmartStream to streamline their digital production printing to their Indigos. The end result is that they can now aggressively price and deliver a majority of their jobs within 48 hours.
Their path to success was not without its hurdles, though. Like most companies, Worth Higgins began by using a build-it-and-they-will-come approach when developing sites for their clients. Few of these sites ever really took off and, since they also didn’t charge for developing them, few were heavily used and most were money losing ventures.
Today they take a different approach where they typically charge for developing storefronts and always share financials and the scope of work. But they do sometimes waive fees if order quantities exceed certain volumes within specified timeframes. The reasons this works are:
- It assigns a specific value to the storefront.
- It motivates clients by creating some investment risk.
- And it recovers at least some of the development cost.
But remember, Worth Higgins’ goal is to drive print. Storefront development pricing is set at levels that motivate their clients to internally push utilization in order to get their ROI, which translates into ordering more print jobs through it. It’s a model where both the printer and the client win.
Worth Higgins’ other differentiator is their developer staff. They have a dedicated team of people who can quickly mock up or completely design and build storefront portals. This is important because, while everyone understands online ordering and it is easy to explain customization, having a client customize and order their own brochure on a site with their branding somehow makes it real and often creates an “ah-ha” moment. Doing this not only helps convince a client, it helps an internal champion educate and persuade other decision makers of the benefits.
I encourage you to download and read the full eight-page PODi case study, which contains more details and examples.