In-plant printing centers operate in an in-between world. They’re not commercial printers who must constantly hustle for business, but their continued existence is not guaranteed, either. The traditional model for in-plants to passively print documents for internal departments no longer works well. In many instances, those departments can outsource work to third-party printers or turn jobs over to staff members who may have only a passing acquaintance with design and production.
In this environment, we recommend in-plant centers develop strategic approaches that keep their operations relevant and thriving. In-plants can build a good strategy around adding value, selling services, and a little self-promotion.
Every department needs to prove its value to an organization. In-plants are no different. However, simply holding the line on costs is no longer enough. A better strategy is to add value by aligning in-plant operations with corporate goals, such as improving customer relationships. Here are a few suggestions.
Help marketers with data management skills, like segmenting customers, adding personalized messages, and suggesting opportunities for data-driven variable content. Use specialized knowledge and experience of print production, paper, toner, and ink to produce projects cost effectively.
Help internal departments design and prepare materials for the mailstream and keep postal rates low. Or track physical mail delivery to trigger personalized follow-up emails and help the marketing department boost response rates.
Data security is key in most organizations. In-plants are uniquely positioned to safeguard corporate data and protect privacy. Having access to a secure in-plant can be a huge advantage for some companies.
Printing technology available to in-house print centers now rivals commercial shops. Most times, the equipment is the same, and it can be less expensive to print shorter runs in-house.
Also, why not consider an internal web-to-print system to make ordering easier for basics like business cards, or to place re-orders? The technology to offer this time-saving function is available.
Sell Like a Commercial Printer
An in-plant is not a commercial printer, but taking inspiration from one makes strategic sense. Think of supported departments as clients. Give great service, sound prices, and earn their business.
Consider selling to external customers. There is no reason it can’t be done, assuming the print center has excess capacity. Base services on value: charge less for commodity products and more for value-added products like variable-data printing and direct mail campaigns.
Engage with the marketing department. Get involved with projects in their planning stages. Make sure marketers know what the print center offers and show them how print center services can help meet their goals and needs.
A big challenge for in-plants is that top managers don’t know what they do or why they’re important to the company.
While it’s important to do outstanding work and add value to projects, it’s equally important to make sure decision makers know what the in-plant does. Do a little intelligence gathering to find out how managers perceive the in-plant operation. Then execute a strategy that corrects any inaccurate perceptions and actively promotes positive opinions.
Show executives and department managers the exceptional work that print center employees produce. Build relationships and keep everyone informed about streamlined job submission processes, improved proofing practices, new pricing policies, or any other changes.
In-house newsletters can be effective in spreading the word about the in-plant’s print capabilities. In newsletters, in-plant print centers can share success stories, profile key employees, or provide guidance about best practices. Open house events or private tours for a department can be another extremely effective way to open channels of communication and capture work that department administrative assistants are out-sourcing, simply because they were unaware of what the in-plant operation can do.
In-plant operations have one great advantage—the inside track. In-plant managers have access to people and information that almost no third party has. Learn how to leverage that advantage to raise the profile of the print center within the organization and fend off proposals to shut down the print center and send the work to outside service providers.
Gimbel & Associates assists companies in assessment upgrades, planning, developing and operating successful in-plant print operations. For more information on how we can help with your in-plant projects