W2P is a technology that has only been around for about 10 – 15 years. I consider it a tweener. W2P offerings are all over the place. (A google search of “web to print” returns about 6,220,000 results.) Most have been derived not from real life application experience, but from geeks with an idea and manufacturing service providers who need more revenue to make Wall Street happy. Some purchase technology while others have toggled together their own solutions. Xerox bought XMPie, Ricoh just gave PTI an infusion of capital to marry Marcom Central to the sale of its machines (to PSPs and the enterprise). Pageflex and Interlink One are stand alone while EFI has a hybrid offering.
Today’s W2P technology companies pitch “cross media marketing“, “workflow ease of use“, “improved customer service“, “access to new markets” and other incorrect claims to PSPs to get them to buy in. To all of this I simply reply BUNK! This is all part of getting the PSP to bite into the apple of hope of more business. Printers are cut from the fabric of manufacturing. The only technology they understand is that which either streamlines their internal workflow, reduces payroll and/or gets more ink on paper with fewer passes through the press. Today’s printer problem isn’t about their internal processes. It’s about their slumping sales! The market demand isn’t big enough to keep their presses humming and their debt is growing. Buying more technology isn’t going to fix that.
Today, there are two targets in the eyes of a W2P salesperson. The most common is to sell their big ticket item to the PSP. The second is to bypass the PSP and sell directly to the enterprise customer. In essence, the W2P companies are frustrated with the lack of sales to PSPs. They are now bypassing the PSP’s and going directly to the enterprise. I actually don’t blame them. They need to make their numbers and the PSP middle market is buried in debt and disappearing rapidly. PSPs with national or global enterprise customers are today’s only takers for the PSP sell.
The sale to the enterprise is a marketing widget sell. It’s based on bringing all of the collateral and marcom into the control of the marketing department of the enterprise and moving it out of the manual marketing process between the enterprise and its vendors. Unlike the sale to the PSP, it pushes things like email blast engines, pictorial fonts, QR codes, direct mail, CRM hooks, PURLs, GURLS and all other types of marketing processes housed under one roof. Delivery is often PDF to the desktop and eliminates print altogether. The attempt to control brand dilution is also suspect considering most people who use the system in the field will end up having their jobs printed on a cheap desktop printer or take it to a FedexOffice for higher quantities. Tell me this doesn’t make a CMO cringe.
In order to sell W2P to the enterprise, the enterprise has to understand the value of W2P and have the staff and/or the budget to build the foundation, once the initial purchase is made. This is a very long sales cycle for the W2P concern. Successful sales include up front costs and then their build out. The W2P now can reap huge fees for on-boarding, maintenance, add-ons and upkeep. The only problem with this model is that the sale is usually made to the marketing department and longevity hinges on how successful the enterprise is and the tenure of the CMO or VP (and their team) who purchased it. The average life of a CMO is less than 18 months in today’s volatile marketplace. Even if that CMO understands and has a successful implementation, if they move on, no one now owns it and it often simply dries up, gets turned off or just runs on auto pilot to produce business cards. If a CMO truly cares about the brand, then they will control the vendor selection for output, creating yet another layer of complexity and logistical challenge for her marketing staff.
Neither one of these approaches is going to reap the home run. PSPs are dying and marketing departments are pushing vendors to do more for less and relying on the vendor expertise to help them execute their strategy. W2P must come full circle and the firms that marry W2P with the manufacturing components, thus executing the marketing campaign strategies of the CMO, will win.
The true application of W2P is in addressing real business problems. By itself, it’s not going to bring in more revenue and it cannot be seen as a standalone solution for marketers.