Back when I was in the print/mail service bureau business, we won contracts to process a company's transactional documents by doing it cheaper than their current provider. Investments we’d made in technology and some innovative custom software allowed us to print and mail statements economically. That approach worked for a long time but made for low profit margins. It also conditioned our customers to shop around for a lower price.

Cost savings may still be part of the pitch for document service providers, but it is getting difficult to find significant new savings. All mail processing companies have worked for years to make their operations as efficient as possible. Postage discounts are the same for everyone, so there’s no real competitive advantage to quote low postage rates on customer proposals. Relying on cost savings to attract new business may not be your best move today.

A New Sales Pitch

As a print/mail service provider, your sales discussions should focus on the results mail can produce. This may mean talking with a different group of people from your client's organization. It means taking the time to learn their business objectives and discussing how customer communications sent through the mail and other channels can help them achieve their goals.

Be aware that emphasizing business results over print/mail production can cause mail volumes to drop. This is never a popular idea when your revenue is based heavily on how many pages you print, insert, and mail. However, avoiding discussions about how to best serve your clients because the answer might involve lowering print volumes is detrimental to your company’s long-term success.

Become a Business Partner

Some studies suggest that certain categories of consumers are more likely to leave a company with whom they do business if that organization cannot offer relevant personalized documents, a choice of communication channels, and a consistent cross-channel experience. If your clients are concerned about trends like these, they will welcome your help as a customer communications expert. New services that help clients address their customer relationship challenges are billable.

Common business goals your clients may express, such as improving the customer experience and getting better at retaining customers, don’t always coincide with sending more physical mail.

Faced with shrinking volumes of traditional transactional documents, print/mail service providers should look for ways to add value to the services they offer. Take steps to make printed documents more personal and relevant to each recipient, facilitate consumer-driven communication channel choices, add interactivity to digital documents, or track consumer interactions with the documents. Trigger direct mail fulfillment and supply clients with critical information about their customers’ behavior.

Other value-adding ideas might include increasing color in transactional documents to aid in comprehension and information retention. You might embed data-driven transpromo messaging or promote your client’s automated chat service or other support channels to lessen the burden on their live customer support teams, which may be short-staffed.

Adding payment processing might be another way to transition from a client-vendor relationship to an integrated partner. If your organization is sending out bills and statements, it makes sense to handle the payment part of the transactions as well. A new revenue stream from payment handling will help offset the income lost due to lower print volumes.

Times Have Changed

Chances are good that your clients are working on projects internally to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning or to automate more of their processes. Find out about those projects and look for ways to leverage your print/mail environment to support their efforts. On-demand triggered documents might be an area of expansion, for instance.

Underpricing your competition or taking over the work from an in-plant print/mail operation based solely on cost savings succeeded at one time. It did for the company where I worked, but that was years ago. Now, the opportunities to cut costs have dwindled and the interests of clients have changed. It’s time to take a different view as a print/mail service provider.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content that helps attract and retain customers for companies in the document industry. Learn more about his services at Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.