What to Do With Print and Mail
According to data from nearly 100 North American colleges, the average cost to recruit a student has now surpassed the $3,000 mark. Roughly 15% of that money is devoted to print collateral and direct mail. The only higher data point in the recruiting budget is employee salaries and benefits.
Print collateral utilized for recruiting represents just a small portion of higher education’s overall printing and mailing budget. The top users of print and mail at many colleges are the departments of enrollment management, annual giving, marketing, event planning and alumni services. Each one of these departments has a story to tell, and often those stories are told through print.
Colleges and universities rely on printers to provide posters, marquees, brochures, schedules, programs, appeal letters, stationery, post cards and invitations. For students arriving to campus, there is a need for course materials such as exams, syllabi, journals, lab manuals and custom course packets. After students graduate, they receive newsletters, cards, invitations to college events and information on giving opportunities. Beyond all of this, there are millions of prints and copies made each year on local printing devices and multi-functional copiers. Although the business of higher education continues to be revolutionized by digital technology, print and mail are still very much a part of day-to-day operations.
The question of who should be responsible for the production of all of this print collateral is one that was recently taken on by the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA). Should colleges outsource their printing and mailing needs? Or are these services essential and thereby merit in-house capability and expertise? To address this question objectively and scientifically, IPMA, working in conjunction with Canon, hired Angela Whiteside, president and co-founder of KickStage Consulting.
“Our research shows there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question,” reports Whiteside. “Outsourcing is neither a panacea nor an evil.”
Administrators Favor Insourcing Model
What research did show, however, is that when senior administrators were asked “do you find the business model of insourcing your organization’s support services (i.e., payroll, safety, dining, IT, facilities, grounds) preferable and more advantageous to your organization than outsourcing them?” 92% stated that yes, they find the insourcing model preferable. The surrounding discussion conveyed a strong support for in-house printing and mailing, primarily due to the control and closer strategic alignment that it offers the parent organization.
“Over the last 20 years,” reports Mike Loyd, executive director for IPMA, “we know that many universities have reconsidered their outsourcing decisions. Support and auxiliary services are all trending back towards being internally provided, especially critically important services like those of print and mail.”
What is the explanation for this trend? Have rising external costs and risks decreased the lure of outsourcing vs. internal integration, or are company decision makers becoming better informed?
The conclusions from Whiteside’s research suggest that the most profitable sourcing strategy is one that identifies and quantifiably compares all lifecycle costs and risks associated with alternative sourcing choices.
Beyond Cost Reduction
If you ask most leaders for their motivation on outsourcing print and mail, the majority will indicate that cost reduction is their primary incentive. This is a valid and justifiable reason to pursue such opportunities, but jumping in while only focused on the cost dimension can be fatal to business and is often the reason for failed outsourcing initiatives. The most important lesson to learn in sourcing decisions is that the choice to outsource not only impacts costs and profit of the business, but also product/service, quality, risk, responsiveness and myriad other aspects. A full comparison matrix of supply options needs to be analyzed by a multi-functional decision-making team to assess every facet of the decision at hand, and to weed out any unforeseen costs/risks, prior to a path being implemented. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.
Worse, rarely after an outsourcing decision has been made, does an organization follow up and document whether or not savings actually even occurred. This may be mostly because when printing is outsourced, the parent organization loses the one resource that was tracking all of the costs: the in-plant.
“It’s a shell game,” says Loyd. “The only way to have a complete and accurate accounting for an organization’s total print and mail expenditures is to entrust that responsibility to an in-house printer. He or she will have the expertise and the incentive to track things accurately so that informed decisions can be made.”
Whiteside’s research includes a survey of college and university senior administrators. For a complete copy of the report, please contact IPMA at email@example.com.
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Dwayne Magee is now in his 17th year as director of Messiah University Press and Postal Services. His department was recipient of the 2018 IPMA Organizational Impact Award, the 2015 IPMA Innovation Award, the 2017 ACUP Green Service Award, and the 2015 ACUP Collaborative Service Award. Prior to joining Messiah, he worked for 17 years at Alphagraphics as an assistant manager and ISO coordinator. He is president of the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He is currently an English major (part-time) with a concentration in writing at the college where he works. Outside of work, Dwayne enjoys exploring spiritual, environmental and social concerns through creative writing and the arts. He can often be found speaking on the topic of diversity in bookstores, public libraries and elementary schools, where he makes use of his award-winning children’s book “A Blue-Footed Booby Named Solly McBoo.” His travel writing and fictional essays have made appearances in various publications including the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology and the Goose River Anthology published by Goose River Press. Dwayne is the father of two boys and he resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife Sue and their two dogs. Contact him at: DMagee@Messiah.edu