Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant


Digital Leaders

The NAPL 2012 Digital Services Study—our second research project on Digital Services and our fourth white report—examines the fastest growing digital services, the infrastructure required for success and identifies what leaders do differently. The report talks about the decline in demand of traditional services, such as lithographic and mailing services and the changes in responses to this question since 2006.  For example, mailing, which used to occupy the #2 spot, has dropped to #6, while four-color+ litho has fallen completely out of the top six (it came in at #10, selected by just 17% in 2011).

In contrast, categories not considered very important in 2006—web-to-print, 1:1/cross media, and database services—have risen to three of the top six spots.  The services expected to grow the fastest include variable-data printing, web-to-print, static pages and 1:1/cross-media services.

Digital Leaders
One of the main goals of the latest study was to identify how Digital Services Leaders outperform the rest on the industry. Many things are discussed but one subject that is resonating with many companies are new training strategies. For example, while many companies offer training for digital staff we are starting to see a difference in how leaders support sales more.

In order to overcome some of the difficulty traditional sales reps have when selling digital services, leading companies report working with subject matter experts or SME’s. Nearly half of our study group uses a team approach to selling digital services, pairing a technical expert, marketing expert, and often someone from the executive team with the sales rep.

These SME’s are teamed with sales reps, engaging the client in deeper and more meaningful conversations that continue through the sales process. The study shows that 48% of Digital Leaders have staffed to sell digital by hiring sales reps compared with 19.3% of all others.

In a Newstalk Live interview available on the NAPL website we discussed six things leaders did better than the rest:

  1. Leaders pay more attention to their customers, listen better to their changing needs and build solutions to meet those needs.
  2. Leaders dive deeper into the gaps between existing and needed staff skill levels and provide more in-depth and ongoing training.
  3. Leaders appreciate the need to hire new subject matter experts more often.
  4. Leaders focus more on creating but are constantly changing their value proposition and unique competitive advantage.
  5. Leaders are more willing to invest in and work through problems such as sales issues or production integration issues.
  6. Leaders work on team sales more.

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on: benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research.