The following is an excerpt from my book, "Business Transformation: A New Path to Profit for the Mailing and Fulfillment Industries." To read the full book, or to contact me directly with any questions, comments, or feedback, please email me at - I'd love to connect with you!

Mail is not going away, nor is the need to centrally aggregate products and materials for efficient distribution. But, for many companies in these industries, profit margins are smaller, the number of clients is dwindling, and projects are fewer, farther between - and when you do land them, they are often much smaller than in the past.

These dynamics are driven by the fact that the use of print, and thus direct mail, in the marketing mix has changed drastically in recent years. Marketers and other buyers of print have many other options to choose from when they are creating projects to communicate with others - whether it is drawing traffic into a trade show booth or event, communicating important information to employees, or encouraging consumers to buy retail products. And, they are taking advantage of those alternatives, often to the detriment of print. Budgets are not larger in most cases, especially coming off of a recession. Budgets are simply being reallocated. What once might have been printed and mailed is either not printed at all, or produced in much smaller quantities, on demand, and directed at very segmented audiences to eliminate waste, keep information more current, and to produce communications that are more relevant. This means shorter runs of different versions targeted at specific market segments, or even one-to-one personalized communications directed at specific individuals.

This is not doom and gloom for the print and mail industries, however. It is just another iteration of an industry that has been successful and resilient since the days of Pony Express. It's just that the transition is happening faster than ever, and that requires businesses to stay agile, reacting quickly to market changes -or better yet, proactively leading customers to new products, services, and capabilities that will benefit both parties. This time of change actually presents a huge opportunity for providers of mailing and fulfillment services to augment their offerings with the related products and services that make sense for their businesses and for their customer base marketing services.

And, many mailers and fulfillment operations are standing up to the challenge. The most overt sign of this transformation is the many customer-facing web ordering systems that can be found by visiting print service provider websites. On the flip side, it is also telling how many mailing services websites proudly tout their fast, high-volume services and adeptness with CASS certification and list hygiene. The good news is they can be found on the web (possibly); the bad news is their websites are often static, electronic brochures about their company and are not inviting to the buyer who has limited time, limited knowledge about the industry, and wants to buy mailing services quickly, efficiently, and online. And don't kid yourself that describes an increasing majority of buyers of mailing services.

Online Ordering

Having an inviting and easy-to-use online ordering solution is the first step in making your business more accessible in today's buyers of business communications - some of whom are obviously still buying mailing and fulfillment services. It also opens the door to allowing customers to maintain an online catalog of items that can be repetitively ordered, even modified, before shipping or mailing, as well as to upload files for ad hoc on-demand printing. It also begins to allow mailing and fulfillment companies to more easily add new products and services. Perhaps you might partner with a provider of promotional products and add them to the mix. Can users choose from a variety of designs for postcards that you not only print but mail for them, based on mailing lists they have ordered from you? They should also have the option to acquire and/or upload email lists, using you as an email service provider. Or, maybe it is simply the ability for customers to access and download information in electronic format to be distributed or printed in small quantities locally. If you can do these things, you are on our way to becoming a marketing services provider.

From that point, the service offerings become more complex, but they can be added in easy, manageable phases as you begin to gain more experience with combining printed and non-printed media into integrated, cross-media campaigns, lead generation programs, literature fulfillment, and more. Whoa! Wait a minute! Let's read that again. No, I haven't thrown you a curve ball. With the right infrastructure, it is actually that easy to take the next step, and the step after that, and the step after that toward becoming a full-scale provider of marketing services.

Of course, online ordering is a tactic that is an important part of the overall marketing services strategy. You do not want to simply sell one mailing. You will receive far greater benefits by focusing on selling services, including multi-channel marketing campaigns that include multiple mailings and other channels. If you see someone order one postcard mailing from your store, don't be afraid to ask if there's more behind that order.

Be advised that it is not a good idea to call yourself a marketing services provider before you are ready. Having an online storefront is a step in the right direction, but it is not a full transformation. Mailing and fulfillment companies who are not properly prepared, not properly staffed, and not properly trained in marketing and who try to sell marketing services may demonstrate a lack of knowledge that could potentially damage the credibility of all. With that said, though, online storefronts are rapidly becoming a non-negotiable. You have to have one, but it needs a plan and it should ultimately carry you beyond basic services, into the ability to offer many additional and innovative products and services as well. I personally never fell in love with the term "web-to-print." I believe we should be thinking about it in terms of "web-to-anything." Your website should allow for any type of request, whether it is for a marketing campaign, a print order, or even an email blast.

Enjoy the excerpt? Contact me directly at to receive a free copy of the complete book!

About John Foley, Jr.

John Foley, Jr. is the CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially. John and his team provide a unique software application specifically designed for mailing and fulfillment companies to execute multi-channel marketing campaigns. They also consult with companies in the industry on sales and marketing techniques, write strategic online marketing plans to get them on a path to marketing success, and John speaks frequently to print, mail, and fulfillment providers about expanding and transforming their businesses to grow revenue. Learn more about John at, and his companies at and