Or not... Yesterday's WhatTheyThink e-newsletter had an interesting and statistic-filled article by Howie Fenton titled "Web-to-Print: The Best or Worst Investment." The article provides credible evidence gleaned from InfoTrends and NAPL reports about how printers view their web-to-print investment. The good news is that a majority of printers (roughly 60%) who have implemented web-to-print conclude that it has increased sales and profitability.
However, the not-so-good news is that an even larger percentage of printers express some level of disappointment with their web-to-print system. At least some of the disappointment undoubtedly comes from missing features, and is perhaps a reaction to being oversold on capabilities by a less than scrupulous vendor. Expectations and reality are not always aligned!
But what stood out for me is that the "disappointment" for roughly half of all printers was due to the fact that their customers were not using the service. We have all seen the "build it and they will come" phenomenon, as printers have heard about the numerous solutions and products that are essential for them to be more efficient, retain customers, gain new business, provide higher quality, develop new services, increase profits, become a marketing services provider, and do whatever else is necessary to survive and thrive in today's business climate.
Too often the industry at large - both vendors and analysts - has pitched features and benefits to printers without recognizing the importance of defining underlying business goals. Understanding short and long term business goals, and developing a comprehensive plan to attain these goals is essential for success. The role of a software (or hardware) solution is a component and an enabler, not the end result.
This sort of discussion and decision making has to be driven from the top down. An owner or executive needs to clearly understand what the business goals are, and be able to articulate and even evangelize this vision to the rest of the organization. He or she must completely support these goals, including whatever is developed as an execution plan, along with the tools that will enable the plan.
Without this, the chances for success are remote. Execution requires planning and effective collaboration between management, sales and marketing personnel, as well as the technical folks, and needs to be communicated in a customer-centric way to customers. In other words, what's in it for them? An open dialogue with customers on how their problems and challenges will be addressed, what the benefits for them are, and what is expected of them will go a long way in ensuring that they are part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
Our most successful customers adhere to these best practices, and I guarantee that they are not in the group of printers who end up being "disappointed" with their web-to-print solution.