IPMA 98 Networking In Norfolk
Your competition is your enemy. If you want to beat them, you must be ruthless—even mean.
With this call to arms, Jeff Slutsky, of Street Fighter Marketing, rallied the troops at the opening session of IPMA 98, hosted recently by the International Publishing Management Association.
"Go after the competition with a vengeance," instructed Slutsky. "The first duty of a street fighter is: When you see something that works for somebody else, steal it."
And Slutsky did just that: he stole the show on the first day of the three-day educational conference and exhibit, held this year in Norfolk, Va. More than 620 attendees gathered to hear him talk and to attend the 39-year-old conference. Though the sun only appeared near the end of the four-day event, the weather in this coastal Virginia town was warm and the networking among attendees was as strong as ever.
The exhibit floor was open for four hours on Thursday and Friday and featured equipment from dozens of vendors, including sponsors like Heidelberg, Canon USA and Danka Office Imaging. Danka also sponsored the annual Fun Run/Walk (in which IPG's editor took a lowly third place).
At his keynote session, Slutsky told the crowd that conventional marketing and advertising is no longer as effective as it used to be; people are exposed to 1,700 commercial messages every day and they tune most of them out. He mentioned several attention-getting techniques that have worked for other businesses. One printer bought picture post cards while in an exotic location and then mailed them to potential customers with his message on them. This, Slutsky said, distinguished them from junk mail and ensured that they were read.
"We have to have an entirely different approach," he stressed.
When meeting with customers, he said, don't do all the talking; this gives them time to think. Instead, ask questions and gather information. You'll come out looking more credible.
In-plant Marketing Methods
Other speakers related their own marketing ideas. Nancy Cleveland, of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, pointed out that marketing is a never-ending job for an in-plant because customers (students, faculty, employees) constantly move on and get replaced by people who know nothing about the shop.
Cleveland's 20-employee in-plant holds at least one open house a year, advertising it through invitations, posters and e-mail messages. The in-plant tries to focus on one theme each time, such as a new press or a newly networked DocuTech. Cleveland suggested getting employees to help by utilizing their latent talents: if one person likes to talk, have him or her lead tours; if someone else is skilled at organization, let him or her handle scheduling.
Some other ways the in-plant promotes itself:
• When the in-plant bought a color copier, color fliers were made to advertise the service, and they were distributed around campus.
• The in-plant uses short-ends and extra paper to print up ads for the shop. They are slipped in with other jobs.
• Because the in-plant prints course schedules and student services booklets, the shop has been able to fill blank spaces in these publications with ads.
• The shop prints a quarterly newsletter with news about its services.
• A helpful paper sampler has been created using stocks of various colors, connected with a plastic spiral binding. On each sheet is printed the name of the color, the type of sheet and tips on what not to print on that sheet.
As organizations continue to try to reduce waste, it's up to in-plants to examine the items they are printing and come up with a strategy to control the process. This was one of the issues discussed in a session called "Enterprise Document Strategies."
Bob Tierney, of Allstate, noted that when his company realized its printing costs were getting out of control, it took action to consolidate its output processing and in-plant printing operations to reduce the number of people involved in printing. Tierney advised managers to get involved in planning their organization's document strategy—because it's likely already being planned without them.
At Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota, Carol Doffing was hand picked to consolidate the Information Technology and in-plant printing operations because she understood customer service. Her company now puts restrictions on print jobs for internal use, so that five-color posters are not printed to promote internal events.
West Barton, of Brigham Youth University, agreed that managers must think of ways to cut printing costs. His operation now puts appropriate items (like course schedules) on the Internet rather than printing full runs.
Taking On Web Site Design
Since having a presence on the Web has become essential for organizations, in-plants are now faced with the challenge of either taking over the design and maintenance of Web sites or losing this opportunity. At one session three managers elaborated on their differing experiences.
At Louisiana State University, Mike Loyd said his in-plant got involved in Web design when customers came to him and asked for help. He rallied the in-plant's designers to design the in-plant's site first and then tackled other departments' projects.
Conversely, at the Principal Financial Group, the company had its initial site designed without even consulting the in-plant. Diane Goodson said that Information Services took over the site and the in-plant did not have any input in its design.
At LIMRA International, Sally Miller said that, after discussing the issue with both the Information Technology department and the in-plant, the company put the IT department in charge of maintaining the network for the Web site and getting the proper contracts. The graphic designers are in charge of the look of the site, since they already act as the "corporate image police" with printed material.
Elsewhere, a panel of managers discussed outsourcing. Mike Loyd, of LSU, said that if his customers want to take their jobs to a commercial printer, he doesn't stand in their way. They often find inferior service, higher costs and time-consuming hassles, and end up coming back to the in-plant. He stressed that managers must inform upper management of their in-plants' value-added benefits—like when the in-plant staff works through the night to finish printing commencement materials or other tight-deadline items.
Ray Chambers noted that in-plants, at least those serving educational institutions, are part of the organization's core business. The university is in the knowledge business, he said, and that knowledge is stored on documents, which are printed in his shop. His job is to question whether that knowledge should be output on paper, CD or the Internet.
Panelists urged in-plants to charge back for each job—even if their organizations don't allow it. This will provide proof of printing costs in case the in-plant is ever challenged. It also tells customers how much they are spending on printing. This knowledge may convince them to curtail unnecessary printing and save the organization money. Chambers said he sends out a monthly report detailing how much each customer printed.
Other speakers included Howie Fenton, of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. He offered printers tips to avoid costly preparation and output errors. Fenton covered everything from fonts (don't rename fonts or use fonts named after cities) to folding (score cover stock before folding to avoid cracks on the folds).