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Cross-Media Takes Hold: The Facts – Segment 1

August 8, 2011

By Barb Pellow, InfoTrends

For operations executives and marketers alike, the number one challenge in today’s market is reaching the customer. Customers are clearly in control of the media they consume. Mobile devices, iPods, DVRs, and the Internet have changed marketing forever. Marketers are trying to leverage every customer touchpoint with a mix of interconnected channels. One thing is certain—effectively using cross-media communication delivers better business results for both the marketer and the service provider.

Over the past several years, we have heard about making the transformation to a “marketing services provider” with a focus on 1:1 communications and variable data and cross-channel solutions.

The Facts
InfoTrends just completed a study entitled The Evolution of the Cross-Media and Marketing Services Provider. This study surveyed more than 280 print/cross-media service providers to understand the current state of cross-media and the evolution taking place in the graphic communications market. The first key message is that service providers as a community understand the critical importance of getting into cross-media services. Of the 285 respondents, 58% are offering some level of cross-media services today. Furthermore, 87% of respondents were either offering these services today or had plans to offer them in the next 24 months.

The providers surveyed understand that print is still a very relevant medium, but they have also acknowledged that print is evolving. As print evolves, print service providers must transform. Print used to be the only tool in the tool box, but now it’s one of many integrated tools in the marketing solutions mix. It is clear that there is a good understanding of the technology available today, and that enables printers to take advantage of all cross-media channels to help customers market smarter with relevant 1:1 content.

The Keys to Success
The statistical data as well as in-depth interviews highlighted eight key critical success factors for those making the move into cross-media. Part 1 of this article will look at the first four market differentiators for cross-media success. Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this article, where InfoTrends will share the other four factors in getting involved in cross-media marketing.

A Clear Strategy, Direction and Positioning
The Chief Executive Officer of a Midwest firm with 200 employees and $47 million in revenues concisely captured the driving force behind the cross-media evolution. “Determining how to stay strong in the future is a big challenge that we're trying to figure out,” he noted. “Some say that the printing business is a 12-inch pie that's become a 9-inch pie and is on its way down to a 7-inch pie. There's a lot of capacity in the marketplace and not everyone is going to survive. One of our strengths is that we are very diversified. Offering a bundled package of services has been one of the keys for us. In addition to printing, we provide mailing, fulfillment [of printed materials], store displays, and online ordering of products and services. We have to solve the needs of our customers and help them do more with less. We don’t have the word ‘printer’ in our company name because we don't want to be associated only with printing.”

Solve the Customer’s Business Problem

Firms that have successfully evolved into cross-media marketing service providers reported that a key catalyst to capturing business is identifying a unique business problem in a particular vertical market and solving it.

Of the PSPs offering cross-media marketing services, 59% reported having a vertical market focus. A vertical market focus is defined as targeting a particular industry or group of enterprises in which similar products or services are developed and marketed using similar methods (and to whom goods and services can be sold), such as insurance, real estate, banking, heavy manufacturing, retail, transportation, hospitals, or government.

Those respondents who did have a vertical market focus were asked which markets they targeted for cross-media marketing services. Healthcare (55%), Financial Services (45%), and Education/Training (43%) were the most common verticals targeted for cross-media marketing services. This finding is not surprising given that these firms are big users of direct mail, and therefore a visible target for adding other media channels linked to their print marketing.

Walk the Talk and Self-Promote!

Educating customers and demonstrating credibility are critical success factors in offering cross-media services. In many cases, customers are not asking for cross-media services because they don’t know what they are, or they don’t realize that the firms they buy print from offer these services. To fill in the customer knowledge gap, the cross-media marketing service providers that we interviewed reported creating a mix of self-promotion efforts that included developing educational events, creating contests to awards competitions to grain recognition, producing promotional pieces that demonstrated competency in the ability to deliver on all facets of a cross-media campaign, and documenting efforts in a case study that is accessible to clients and prospects.

Customers Need Education

A number of the PSPs and in-plants that we interviewed reported hosting recurring educational events, both virtual and brick-and-mortar. The Senior VP of Business Development for a cross-media marketing services provider in the Midwest reported that his firm created an ongoing branded customer education forum. The program consists of a conference event, ongoing Webinars, an e-newsletter, an educational Website, and a printed magazine. “We came back from an industry users’ group event and were extremely motivated by the cross-media opportunities we heard about. So we decided to take that model and see if we could motivate our customers in the same way,” he recalled. “What we developed was a program that is non-threatening to customers. The event is about knowledge sharing and peer exchange, and it is winning us new customers.”

Cross-media marketing services are the here and now. Rather than a revolution, the shift toward cross-media services is an evolution that starts with simple offerings and then branches out into more complex services. Print service providers, in-plants, and vendors all need to find a way to be strategically relevant by understanding the market as well as marketing. Stay tuned next week for part 2 on critical cross-media success factors.