Written by Susan Weiss Manager,
Xerox Worldwide Customer Business Development

Expertise working with data is increasingly central to the graphic communications industry’s fastest growing applications. However, gaining that expertise—and convincing your customers that you have it—can be a daunting challenge.

This was the topic of a recent webinar, “Big Data… The Right Data!” featuring Barb Pellow of InfoTrends and Matt Graham, senior vice president of Digital Solutions at Qdmh Marketing Partners.

Pellow established the importance of data with one-word answers to three simple questions. What drives your customer’s business? Sales. What drives sales? Marketing. What drives marketing? Data. xer_security

Yet a survey by data-dashboard provider Domo found that despite near unanimity among senior marketing executives that they rely on data to do their jobs, two-thirds are overwhelmed by the volume of their marketing data. And half said their data reports lack key information, such as return on investment (ROI).

Helping marketers meet these needs is a great and still unsaturated opportunity for graphic communications providers. An InfoTrends study found that more than 60 percent of marketing communications are personalized or segmented one to few, yet 62 percent of 99 providers surveyed did not offer personalized, cross-media communications programs. “There’s a discontinuity between what customers want and what print service providers see,” Pellow said, adding, “Those who haven’t looked at it, clearly have time to get in the game.”

One company that decided to increase its stake in “the game” is Qdmh Marketing Partners, a $300 million direct marketing services provider, which produced 1.2 billion mail pieces in 2013, mostly for non-profits, from facilities in the United States and Internationally.

Two years ago the firm took a cold look at how the industry is changing and identified several key business challenges. Non-profits were finding attrition rates running higher than acquisition, a younger generation that was more likely to share on social media than donate, and a growing need to differentiate from other non-profits. Qdmh also recognized that multi-media campaigns were delivering better results than Qdmh’s direct mail-only offering.

The firm’s response was to “move upstream,” Graham said, to build expertise in data management and analytics, enabling a broader range of print and digital media services, and higher-level strategic involvement with customers. A key challenge was a lack of data, Graham said. “For most customers, the extent of their data is in their CRM (customer relationship management) system—name, address and transactional data. So we developed partnerships with leading data compilers, and began appending consumer data to the donor files so we can better tune images and copy to be closer to the interest of the recipient.”

Convincing customers to source data services from a firm known for non-profit strategy and manufacturing was another challenge. “We started doing simple data audits and some basic profiling, and giving insight into what we were seeing,” Graham said. “From there we moved into opportunities for modeling and analytics, and the business grew organically.”

Today, Qdmh has about a dozen analytic staff members and over 50 with data-related responsibilities, grown organically and through acquisition, and they continue to work with partners.

A key customer acquisition tool is a calculator that shows how improved data can increase campaign ROI, or “net revenue.” ”That moves us from a pricing conversation to an ROI conversation, and that’s where this starts to make sense,” Graham said.

Two years into the transformation, Graham calls it a success “We have a new identity in the market. Today people look to us for analytics, data and online marketing solutions in addition to digital color printing on our Xerox CiPress, iGen and other presses. And our transition continues. It’s more a journey than a destination.”

You can hear a replay of “Big Data… The Right Data!” here. The next session in the 2014 Xerox Business Development Webinars series is “Print-to-Mobile: A New Services Opportunity” on May 7 from noon to 1 p.m., E.T. You can register here.

Where does data expertise fit into your firm’s growth strategy? What has worked for you in building your expertise—and your customers’ awareness of your new capabilities?