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The Big Data Picture

Big Data

We live in a world filled with data. Every time we “like” something on a social network, share an email, use a loyalty card or respond to a marketing piece by visiting a Website or scanning a URL, we are generating yet another piece of information that can—and probably is—be tracked and organized in a database somewhere.

The question isn’t whether or not the data is there, but rather, what can print service providers (PSPs) do to capitalize on it. From large institutions like Harvard to Fortune 50 companies like Microsoft, everyone these days is talking about “big data” and how it will shape the world around us. But for printers, that question centers around marketing, and how to help clients increase their ROI with more targeted, more effective campaigns. But doing that isn’t just a matter of managing a spreadsheet or two.

“Data management is a science—it is detailed work and goes beyond just the offer and layout,” noted Kurt Konow, director, Vertical Marketing, Ricoh. “The print service provider (PSP) has to commit to understanding what the true value of data management brings and decide to make that a key aspect of the process, not just an afterthought. That involves a lot of work.”

But the payoff is PSPs who aren’t just a commodity, providing work for the lowest price, with no customer loyalty. Rather, they become full partners to their clients, working together with them to create powerful marketing messages that drive results. “Data is complex, yet it is the key ingredient to successful marketing programs,” said Shelley Sweeny, Xerox Corp.’s VP/GM of Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors. “Data is what drives the relevancy in any program and is the distinguishing factor in delivering bottom line results.”

Making it Work
One of the huge factors that hinders PSPs from truly embracing and using data and data management tools to their full potential is that in many cases, they don’t actually own the data—their clients do. And managing and analyzing that data, and then finding ways to use it to make campaigns more personalized and relevant to the end-users, isn’t a service that PSPs should be offering for free, so before they can even begin the process of data management, they first have to convince their clients of the value. They have to prove they have not only the capability of handling the data, but that they can keep it secure and used only for its intended purpose. “These are no small tasks,” said Konow, “and frequently the customer is resistant to both relinquishing the data and the additional charges. As a result, often what happens is some customer responses get captured, but then nothing is further is done with the data.”

To ensure that doesn’t happen, printers have to demonstrate that they bring real value to the table with their data management abilities, and that means bringing measurable results to their clients’ bottom line. And to do that, printers need to fully embrace data analytics, committing to it at every level of the organization. “To embrace data analytics, providers have to have a fundamental understanding of data, security and capabilities,” Sweeney noted. She went on to say that fully embracing the concept doesn’t have to mean spending large amounts of money on new equipment and technologies, however. “Printers may believe that embracing big data will require a large, complex investment, but there are many solutions that can deliver powerful results with minimal investment.”

Konow agreed, noting, “If a print service provider commits to making the data work for them, they can put a system or process in place to ensure something is done with the data. That kind of process can help printers work with their customers to identify and analyze the intended recipient for each campaign and streamline data into personalized, pertinent messaging which increases the likelihood that consumers will respond in ways that increase bottom lines.”

And that is part of the key to making big data work—it’s not just about improving one-off print campaigns, but rather it is about informing an entire marketing effort, with multiple approaches including print, mobile, web, email and other sources of touch-points. Successful data management will allow PSPs to help their clients take the results from each piece and further refine and personalize the next step along the way, reaching more relevant consumers with more relevant offers.

“The key to successful direct marketing has always been personalization,” Sweeney stressed. “When consumers are exposed to nearly 3,000 messages per day, but only notice about 50 and remember just four, earning a spot in the ‘final four’ is the goal. Printers need to drive the importance of data and deliver meaningful, engaging content that won’t end up in trash.”

“We hear all the time about how data management creates better conversations and dialogues with customers, but without a process, that information can get lost,” said Konow. “If harnessed, though, it can not only help craft targeted print campaigns but help printers create multi- or omni-channel experiences for customers that allows them to access content in numerous ways depending on their preference.”

He went on to stress that printers can’t just be one piece of the puzzle anymore. To be successful today, and in the future of the industry, PSPs will need to be knowledgeable about the entire marketing picture, and not just the print segments. They will need to be more aware of how the print fits with the branding and the message, and be able to suggest ways to improve the overall results, not just the results of the printed components. It is no longer just about putting ink on paper and being done with it, and printers both large and small will need to find ways to integrate into the workflow more seamlessly.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean up-ending the entire organization and restructuring around this new paradigm. Print might just be one component of a modern marketing campaign, but it’s still a critical one. For smaller operations, that kind of undertaking might seem out of reach. That is where partnering can fill in the gaps, and allow PSPs to offer the expertise of seasoned data management professionals to their clients right from the start.

“For some, having all of the tools at the ready to be able to do everything from printing a simple bill to being able to provide services for a cross-channel marketing campaign that incorporates postcards with digital leads to online documents with more information, will allow them to expand their scope of business enough to justify the expenditure on the equipment and software needed to make that happen,” said Konow. “For others, particularly with smaller print shops, working side-by-side with a marketing partner that can manage most of the data analytics, workflow and other marketing-related services makes the most sense from a total ROI standpoint.”

“The printers that are delivering bottom line results for their clients will win the business, whether they partner with agencies or marketing firms or do the work themselves,” agreed Sweeney. “The opportunity here is to reach consumers through simple, focused content. Getting your message noticed in today’s oversaturated media world is an ongoing challenge. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, so successful marketing communication companies need to focus on relevancy and personalization in order to cut through the clutter and deliver results. Some of the most successful campaigns have been a partnership with the end client, agency and print provider. Measurement is the key to any successful campaign and the agency may be strongest partner to perform the closed loop tracking necessary to demonstrate the results.”

At the end of the day, data isn’t going away. As our world continues to embrace always-on forms of communication and continues to share more and more details of their daily lives on the Internet, effectively using data to personalize marketing messages is going to become even more important. And PSPs who position themselves today as the hub that the entire campaign and data management can revolve around will find themselves far better positioned to find success in the ever-changing marketing landscape.

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