Come Out On Top – The Service Provider Evolution

Service Bureaus Face Transitional Times
Print and mail service bureaus find themselves in a transitional time. The marketplace is demanding complex and comprehensive solutions more than ever before.  For some, the transition could be a little rough. Moving from traditional services such as direct mail, statement printing, postal processing, merge/purge, and mailing to one that includes channel preference, triggered responses, electronic distribution, mobile, and social media has been difficult.These companies are no strangers to challenging applications. Historically, they have been the ones to take on the jobs that demanded innovative ideas in order to produce the desired results – and still managed to make money. You’d think that these organizations would be well-equipped to handle the latest trends and market directions.
Overcapacity in the market compounds the problem. With print volumes decreasing, the competition to secure the remaining work can be fierce. Local and regional print and mail service providers are competing with each other and with large national and multi-national corporations. Service providers are looking for ways to get noticed, differentiate themselves from the crowd, and retain their own customers. This isn’t easy.

Traditional Core Competencies Not Enough

Service providers struggle with rapidly evolving changes in communication methods because they require an entirely different approach. Gone are the days when a service provider’s greatest value was finding ways to automate and optimize document print and mail workflows. Also diminished in value is access to expanded capabilities like color printing, mail piece tracking, transpromo, or email distribution that service providers could bring to their customers. These functions are quickly becoming entry-level capabilities.

To distinguish themselves from the competition and really get the attention of prospective customers a service bureau today must be prepared to help their customers develop an overall communication strategy. Customers aren’t looking anymore for someone who can just do the work cheaper (although cost will always be a factor). They are looking for partners that can advise them, take advantage of present day options, and keep them informed about future trends and technological advances.

New Sales Approach, New Marketing Methods

Selling these types of services requires a consultative type of approach. Some organizations may find that even their most experienced sales executives need to be retrained. Education may be necessary to develop expertise in areas such as data management, interactive communication, and personalization. Switching from transactional sales to solution selling is not easy. The sales force must be comfortable in the concepts and believe in their value.

Service providers should consider the multiple benefits of adopting the solutions they will offer to customers – for themselves. Not only do they gain experience and comfort with new methods and technologies, the actions taken by the service providers show prospective customers first-hand how the solutions work. Plus, the new marketing efforts will generate results by raising brand awareness, developing a reputation as a source of reliable information, and demonstrating that the service provider understands the issues and challenges faced by their customers. These attributes are all extremely important for service providers seeking to grow their businesses.

Customers look for information about a company before ever agreeing to talk with a sales representative. What they find about a company in the course of this independent research has a huge impact on who gets their business. Lists of shop equipment or services won’t fulfill their needs.

Organizations that create, distribute, and publish information about themselves, validating their value as potential partners will have more sales opportunities than those who stick with the commodity-driven sales model. The service providers that use multiple channels and approach the effort strategically will do even better.