4 Ways to fail at web to print (without really even trying)

By Joe Fedor

Joe is the Channel Program Sales Manager, Print and Web Technologist at EFI

The print business has been my home since I was 15 years old, and now I’m… well, let’s just say it’s been a long time. In the portion of this career that’s been spent specializing in software for printers, I feel lucky to have had multiple perspectives:

  • Once upon a time, I was a commercial printer, helping build a digital department from the ground up.
  • I’ve been a consultant helping printers select and implement web to print platforms or bring customers onto existing platforms.
  • Multiple times, I’ve been a vendor, as I am now, spending a lot of time observing and talking with customers about their needs and experiences.

These varying points of view have given me visibility into differences between printers doing well as they bring online services to their customers and those who aren’t as pleased with their results. Not surprisingly, there are similarities in common among both groups.

Today, let’s shine some light on what I would say are four of the most common approaches or decisions I’ve seen lead to less-than-impressive outcomes and how to avoid them:

#4: Don’t make a big deal about web to print with your team or in your business.

When printers suffer from a lack of web to print traction, you can usually trace it back to before they even selected a technology partner, where they treated the whole thing as a side project or a skunkworks. They never thought about what they were trying to do other than “get online.” They either never developed a vision or didn’t share it with their employees and generate excitement around it. This in turn translated over to their customers, who never knew about their online capabilities unless asked about it themselves. On the other hand, printers that did share a vision, generated interest and set priority internally have better buy in from their people, and encouraged their folks to come up with ways to leverage web to print, and suggest customers to bring on. Everyone understood what it did and why it was essential to the business – and so they had better results.

#3: Just pick someone and send them to training.

This one, I’ve seen time and time again. There was a period where I was responsible for a popular web to print vendor’s training department, and each Monday, I would help kick off each week-long class session and welcome the latest set of customers. First thing, we would go around the room and have each student introduce themselves and talk about what they were looking to do with web to print, or at least what it was important they got out of the class – and sure enough, in each group, there would be one or two folks that would say “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m not sure what I’m doing here… my boss told me to come, so here I am!” These individuals would typically get through the week, okay, but they were struggling within six months. They were frustrated with support, or with the platform, or even making noise about wanting their money back.

“Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m not sure what I’m doing here… my boss told me to come, so here I am!”

Not so with the printers that fully briefed their trainee before they came (see item #1 above), or had selected their Print eCommerce manager early on, and even involved them in the selection and buying process. Those people came in with context. The training made more sense because they were already applying it to their situation as they learned. When they got back, they jumped right into it because it was their job, so they better retained the content. Their business owner or manager had set expectations ahead of time, making it much harder to fail. The folks that did not have this coming in and “just showed up,” they primarily went back to their day jobs in prepress or at the CSR desk, or in estimating – so when that “hot rush” for a customer website came up months later, they were basically at square one in setting it up, and worse, were not able to accurately set their customer’s expectations, or those of their sales team.

So – don’t do this! Give your Chosen One a chance at success by communicating their new key role in your business, and get them excited about it, and your prep time will pay off big time.

#2: Focus on what your web to print tech does for you, instead of what it does for your customers.

I talk to plenty of printers that have not yet gone live after months or years because they are still working on getting their internal workflow just right, their automated processes 100% in place, to the point where their customers are waiting on them without a site built, or worse yet, they haven’t even approached their customers. Yes, the right combo of internal technologies and business/production systems can indeed fit right into your overall automation strategy designed to increase your profit – especially if your systems are from the same vendor and designed to integrate out of the box.

But it’s important to remember the #1 driver of your success in web to print will not be which of your problems it solves, but which of your customer’s problems you can solve with it. So make it your #1 priority to find their pain points in the path their print jobs take before they get to you, and after you deliver, and figure out how you can leverage your web to print investment to ease or eliminate that pain. Of course, get your automation in line; it’s critical, but don’t let it keep you from going live… it’s not more essential than making your customer’s interaction with you easy and self-service.

#1: Blame the software

Once you get your web to print platform up and running, you are certain to discover something you wish it did, or thought it did, but it doesn’t. And how do you feel?

Yes, that’s probably about right, and your Web to print vendor will probably be your number one resource in finding solutions to situations like this. But if you take responsibility, use all the resources at your disposal, apply the time and creativity to find a solution then you are moving again and in control of your destiny, which is an excellent antidote for dissatisfaction. Make sure your Print eCommerce Manager (or whatever title you’ve given your web to print right-hand person) knows this kind of self-sufficient approach is what you expect – instead of blaming the software and giving up.

Honorable Mention

Well, that’s my list – though there are a few other items that could be included in it – like for example, launching web to print services without having a clear strategy in place… or not doing anything to market your services… or forgetting about training and compensation for your sales team… all of which could eat up a whole article on their own!

For more information about EFI’s web to print products and services visit www.efi.com