When prospective clients evaluate us as a new business partner, our Marketing Resource Management (MRM) platform often competes against online tools supplied by printers. And naturally so, especially when an RFQ is more "print-focused", since some of the basic print-on-demand functionality overlaps with what is called a "web-to-print" system.
What is the difference?
Web to Print "storefronts" have been around since the mid nineties, and not much has really changed other than bettering interfaces and plugging in some new modules that compliment the original technology; like direct mail and list purchasing. MRM technology platforms, on the other hand, offers a more holistic approach to managing a brand, as well as innovative turnkey workflows to support the deployment of branded messaging across mediums - print, digital, internet, etc. This often goes hand-in-hand with successful field marketing programs and user adoption. Why is this difference important? Aside from the obvious reasons of being able to grow with a platform beyond print, as well as being aligned with a partner that can strategically develop technology to support user engagement, there are inherent support issues in selecting a printer to drive a successful local marketing strategy.
- Printers usually aren't in the technology driver seat. 100% of the online tools supplied by a potential "printer" comes from what we call "off-the-shelve" software , unless it is home-grown. Printable, EFI, etc. - these companies sell their software to printers who desire an online presence. This means anytime a printer's client has a good idea needing development, the request is funneled in with thousands of other printer-client requests and the third-party software provider gets to decide whats important - no matter the size of the business relationship with the printer.
- Misalignment with client interests. Decent size printers spend millions of dollars in capital investment per year. This means if they want to survive, their core focus better be to sell print. That printer's resources then moves to that very effort, rather than the programs to drive a successful marketing strategy across mediums. They'll have dozens and dozens of pressmen, but lack other critical personnel. A great MRM partner won't only have cutting-edge technology, but also the staff and support system behind it - to drive successful user engagement initiatives and first-class customer service and IT support.
- Lack of impartiality in procurement. Tying into a printer's solution or print broker, for that matter, means tying into pricing and production quality. I've even heard stories that some will contractually prevent companies from sourcing print elsewhere. Although some workflows in a system may mandate this type of control due to production complexities, a solid MRM partner will have the print and premiums (inventory management) expertise available without the fine print. They will be vendor agnostic, which means clients can still keep pricing in check merely by the possibility of them purchasing elsewhere.
- Printer's locations are fixed. Solid MRM offerings will offer multi-location vendor management in terms of physical print/inventory, as well as turnkey integration with third party provider services to compliment the overall offering. A large organization may even have their own warehouses.
MRM platforms vary in focus While our MRM technology focuses on local automation for companies needing to support a local or distributed marketing network, other applications can be more enterprise focused. Since the focus of the organization providing the technology will impact the types of features, modules and support systems, a Corporate Marketer, Channel Specialist and/or Brand Manager should understand the business needs thoroughly before embarking on selecting a platform.
About the Author
Gary Ritkes, President of SproutLoud, oversees all Business Development and Marketing for the company. Gary, a pioneer in the emerging vertical of Distributed Marketing Technology, is an industry leader and innovator with 20+ years experience in graphic communications and marketing strategy. Gary has been involved with SproutLoud since the inception of the company. Prior to joining SproutLoud, Gary was VP of Marketing for Rex Three, Inc., SproutLoud’s first and largest vendor among its network of providers. He has served many Fortune 1000 clients and worldwide advertising agencies in providing marketing technology direction and optimization. He was an original founder of U.S. based Earth Color Group and co-founder of Advanced Digital Services (ADS), which was sold in 1996 to publicly traded Katz Digital Technologies. He has served as a board member of the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation chapter and other national industry associations, including the DMA and AGA.More Content by Gary Ritkes