By Elisha Kasinskas, Marketing Director

In-Plant Shepherd, Phil Larson Shares his Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Phil Larson Head shotHow can an in-plant build variable and Multi-Channel offerings?  Master in-plant leader Phil Larson, president of Shepherd Consulting OK and former director of AFPress and grafaccent at American Fidelity, has written a series of how-to articles for in-plant managers, vendors and consultants that sell to In-plants, and in-plant technical or client services staff. The series is designed to help in-plants build a road map for successful multi-channel offerings, and is a companion to his upcoming GRAPH EXPO Session “In-Plant Biz Development 101: ‘How-to’ Build Variable & Multi-Channel Offerings.”

The series will cover: how an in-plant can get started, including how Phil’s in-plant began; choosing a direction and developing a plan; identifying the “friends” needed in the process; and an overview of what a successful multi-channel campaign and it elements look like.

How one in-plant got started with Variable and Multi-Channel Offerings. Phil’s Story.
It all started when one division of a supported company challenged the existing team to build an on-demand method of printing sales collateral. The team succeeded, despite cumbersome hardware and software, ultimately delivering just-in-time results for the division and trimming costs by 50 percent a year. Gradually, related companies and more and larger divisions, each with a different business model, joined. In time, an on-line warehouse was created to service the companies’ compliance and marketing and legal department customers. Then, the team launched support for variable and customized jobs.  Wrapping ordering, prepress, preflight, production, finishing and shipping all in one coordinated Web to Print application and workflow was a necessity.

Volume for the group grew from 10,000 pages a month of color to two million pages a month of color on demand with 100-400 orders a day from multiple companies in static and variable, as well as custom press for small companies and non-profits.

Why Multi-Channel? The Irresistible Desire to Dare to Offer PURLs for a Customer.

One day a new client asked about running a multi-channel campaign mixing direct mail and email with timed delivery and feedback to sales reps. Together, the team created a new product line for the companies serviced.

Fast forward to 2011, and 80 percent of new business was multi-channel in support of multiple clients.  Multi-channel brought in a completely new clientele. As of this article, there were seven multi-channel campaigns in process for different clients and a full sales automation that has planned regular runs ramping up. All from an in-plant team who started on a dare.

Now, multi-channel and custom press have brought life and profits in a business that flipped from 99 percent High Volume Transaction Output to 47 percent HVTO, while losing profitability. Print on-demand has replaced it in volume and has excellent profitability. 

How do you discover the need for new product offerings?

When you live as a transformational department or group, people continually test you and approach you with new ideas. Listen. Modify.  Adapt.

An executive asks about those new bar codes (QR Codes) and why they exist.  Respond with facts, statistics and knowledge.

A creative yearns for new substrates or banners or books on demand.  Listen, study, and find cost effective ways. Ask others if they would buy and move.

Magazines, Twitter feeds, blogs, and other media are monitored continually for where the world is going.  Endeavor to pick the best.

What has this In-Plant Director Learned?

Skills are transferable. A team member who does variable coding for a mailer can do variable coding for a micro-site. An operator running a digital press can learn wide-format.  A finishing technician working a programmable folder can program an OMR reading, three knife booklet maker.

Are in-plants the New Commercial Printers? Is Multi-Channel Calling your Name?

Recently, a customer asked for a variable digital on-demand folder package to be ordered from 25 agencies and 100 agents across the United States.  The team expects to have it up in a month.

Phil really wants to share what he has learned so in-plants can thrive with new product offerings.  Perhaps in-plants are the new commercial printers?  They can at least be competitive and keep offering service from a group with vested interest in the success of companies and organizations they serve.

There is a corporate and organizational responsibility to be available and responsive. The new marketing world of integrated cross media is calling Phil’s name.  Is it calling your name, too? 

Watch for next week’s Blog Post.
Learn how to build variable and multi-channel offerings.

Next week we will talk about choosing a direction and developing a plan to successfully deliver multi- channel and variable offerings.

About the Author:

Elisha Kasinskas is Rochester Software Associates’ (RSA) award-winning Marketing Director. She is responsible for all marketing, public relations, social media and communications, and community building for the firm. Ms. Kasinskas joined RSA in 2010. She is a Marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience in sales, product management, and marketing in leading product and service business to business and business to consumer firms, including Pinnacle (Birds Eye) Foods, Global Crossing, Windstream Communications, HSBC, and a number of regional high tech firms. She holds a Rochester Institute of Technology MBA, and a BS in Marketing from Radford University. Ms Kasinskas is a frequent moderator for industry speaking sessions. She was awarded the 2015 In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) Outstanding contributor award, is a 2015 OutputLinks Women of Distinction inductee, and has secured multiple awards from the American Marketing Association (AMA) for recent work at RSA.

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