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Aug. 2 2010 08:17 PM

Trust on the part of your customers involves more than them being assured that their work will be done on time. Back in the old days of document print and mail, that might have been enough. Not anymore.

With the cost of printed communications perceived as being an expensive and complicated channel by some, customers who want to use the mail are looking for print/mail providers that understand the big picture. They want to be sure that your operation has the tools and the know-how to produce and distribute their valuable documents with 100% accuracy and within a precise timetable. They need help integrating all their communication channels. They want to know that you are up on all the latest USPS developments and regulations so they don't pay extra postage or fees. In short, if they are going to spend the money on physical mail pieces they want to be sure they've got the best chance at seeing a reasonable return on their investment.

This goes for in-house operations as well as independent service providers. If enough of your customers fail to recognize the value you can provide there is a danger of being perceived as the purveyor of a commodity. And when that happens, corporate directives regarding the outsourcing of your work become a real possibility. And service bureaus can lose the work to a lower-cost provider. By being involved and helping your customers understand their options you can help them design a communications strategy that helps them reach their goals. That's a pretty good start towards the development of a trusting relationship.

Take Action Now - Before It's Too Late
I've been preaching to print/mail operations managers about outreach programs for a long time. Those efforts are more important now than ever before. Business line managers and corporate executives are subjected to relentless press coverage about using internet-based social networking tools, email marketing, and search engine optimization. Add to that the mostly negative stories about the postal service it's no mystery why marketers and corporate executives are looking for reasons to reduce mail volumes and spend their budgeted money elsewhere.

The electronic channels are critically important. They do need to be utilized. But we have all read the studies about how consumers prefer targeted, personalized, and relevant direct mail. And about how electronic campaigns integrated with direct mail yields better results than either method alone. But we can't help our customers take advantage of those benefits if the resources dedicated to physical mail are constantly being reduced. You cannot add the intelligence and customization required to make mail more effective without some investment in time, people, and tools. Departments with constantly-shrinking volumes and staff are not going to get those tools.

Customer Ignorance Will Kill You
I think education is key. The average department head or corporate executive has little more than a basic understanding of the potential impact of physical mail upon customers and prospects. And much of that information is tainted with half-truths or misconceptions. If those of us who understand the details take some time to inform our customers, more of them will recognize that they already have a valuable, and often untapped, source of knowledge that can help them be successful. They can trust the document center because it is clear that everyone is on the same page.

There are lots of ways go about increasing awareness, educating your customers, and creating trust. Some managers make presentations to customer groups, some hold open houses or have guest speakers. Creating videos or setting up demonstrations may work for you. Many find that publishing a newsletter is an effective strategy.

Developing trust by educating customers doesn't happen overnight though. Just as in any marketing effort it takes a consistent effort and multiple approaches before you start getting someone's attention and can start shifting their perception. That is why it is important to get started now.

Mike Porter is an expert in Print and Mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide be more productive, adapt to changing requirements, and lower costs in their document operations. For more suggestions about reaching out to your customers visit or email Mike directly at