Fresh from taking out one of the inaugural HP Indigo Print Awards in Singapore, Group Momentum CEO, David Minnett talks to AP’s Brian Moore about his company’s transition from print service provider to marketing service provider, with a few observations about life thrown inWhen David Minnett took over a typesetting and artwork business, then known as Photo Headlines, from his father in 1992, he sensed that change was in the wind, but he had no idea how different the business of print was to become.
He’d seen the collateral damage done by the arrival of new technologies, such as the Apple Macintosh, and the impact this had on traditional printing craftsmen and tradesmen, such as typographers and typesetters. And having seen the changes wrought by new technology lay waste both to careers and businesses, he was determined that neither he nor his business would suffer a similar fate. Though the technical terms mattered little at the time, with the investment in his first HP Indigo digital press in 1998, Minnett was taking his first baby steps on the path from being a print service provider (PSP) to becoming a marketing service provider (MSP).
A first visit to Group Momentum’s North Sydney premises reveals a business that acts and looks more like an agency than a print shop; but that’s exactly the look and feel Minnett is trying to cultivate.
Though he is seen by his peers as having completed the transition from PSP to MSP rather well, Minnett says it was no walk in the park. “The biggest challenge is to change your own thinking,” he explains.
“There is a tendency for some print customers, especially agencies and corporate customers, to look at printers simply as manufacturers. “Printers are quite often seen by creative staff as running sausage factories, with a very limited range of services - and basically nothing beyond putting ink on paper.
“But if you can imagine all of the additional services a print customer or an agency might be in the market to buy, you can get a good idea of the sort of services an MSP can offer.”
Minnett says customers should value the ideas and opinions of their MSP whose ultimate aim is to obtain the best possible result for the client in terms of a return on investment.
“Because we’re dealing every day with marketing and creative people, we’ve learned to speak their language; to talk in terms that they not only understand but respond well to,” continues Minnett.
Except when it comes to the point of doing quality checks – quality is a given in today’s market – Minnett says his customers really couldn’t care less about the minutiae of printing with all its jargon and dogma: their first point of reference is the result they expect to achieve from a campaign, and they and their teams work back from there.
The actual traditional printing component of most projects or campaigns Minnett and his team work on can be very small; so when they print at Momentum Digital, they like to do things far from ordinary.
Whilst Minnett prefers to send the basic offset components of jobs out of the house, he enjoys the creative challenge of working with creatives and customers to get them campaign results which are beyond their expectations.
Increases in campaign response rates of 200 per cent or more have been achieved by Momentum for customers through its self-determined approach to marketing challenges and opportunities.
Personalisation, though important, is only part of the mix explains Minnett who is ever mindful of the day householders receive multiple personally targeted mailing pieces in their letterboxes and become a bit bewildered by it all - and switch off.
Differentiation is an important if not crucial ingredient in the recipe for successful marketing communication in a world where individuals are groaning under the stress of being bombarded physically and electronically by an enormous amount of information every day.
The messages that actually get through will make the difference for the marketer – and for his MSP.
“To be a successful MSP, you need to know far more than just about print”, urges Minnett. “You need to understand electronic communication in all its manifestations, from TV and radio, to email, the internet, podcasts, SMS, MMS and so on. And most importantly, to understand how any combination of these, perhaps with print, might get a potential customer of your client to respond positively. In a good way.
“Technology is the powerful enabling tool that helps make campaigns work and deliver unheard-of results for customers, but it is nothing without creativity and careful planning, all involving the human component”, maintains Minnett.
Much is made of databases and how powerful these resources are, when combined with the technologies mentioned. But, contends Minnett, even people who should know better are getting it wrong, with the resulting waste of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of misdirected campaigns. “Imagine targeting a wireless broadband product direct mail campaign to a group which includes elderly migrants who have never owned a computer” suggests Minnett. “Sheer waste, not only of the print but of all the other resources employed to deliver the campaign.”
Even printers understand waste and what it costs them and ultimately their customers, so Minnett is surprised when he confronts it so often at the big end of town, in direct mail and elsewhere.
One of the huge advantages of digital print, he says, is that its power and immediacy can be harnessed in order to test campaigns with short runs: so good campaigns with a high chance of success can be implemented faster – and the dogs can be quietly buried without fuss.
Minnett has high hopes for a new breed of companies which are harnessing digital technologies to cleanse and optimise data, aiming always to more perfectly target and deliver a marketing message to an individual – who is more likely to say ‘yes’.
“We need to put more emphasis on more intelligent use of data and of customer profiling in order to improve response rates and to eliminate waste,” Minnett urges. “Classic direct response rates of one to two per cent should be totally unacceptable in today’s world of personalised communications.”
Recounting instances of his own children never opening bank statements or mobile telephone bills, preferring to check online how much they owe, Minnett marvels at how quickly the world is changing, and how difficult trends are to predict. His own kids, he says, whilst leading largely digital lives, are all voracious readers of books; yes, books printed on paper!
Looking forward, Minnett is both excited by the pervasiveness of the world wide web: “The web has and will have a huge impact on the way we select, order, conduct and transact our business. Whilst in some respects, it is taking the personal interaction out of the way we do business, in other ways, it is enabling that contact in different ways.”
Momentum Digital enjoys the best of several worlds as an MSP, exploiting technologies and ideas unavailable to the strictly ink-on-paper business.
It offers sophisticated multi-channel one-to-one marketing solutions, photography and retouching facilities, image management, web design and development, digital printing and web-to- print services.
Its customers have included iconic brands in the telecommunications, utilities, finance, consumer electronics and FMCG segments. You may even have responded to a campaign initiated or delivered by Momentum Digital.
Whilst print has been an important part of all of those campaigns, it is mostly personalised and database driven and used in combination with web or other delivery paths.
Minnett urges printers to think about providing more for their customers, beyond commodity printing services. Add a little digital, some creative and some logistics, for example.
“There is little or no solidarity between printers,” he offers. “The industry does not have enough respect for itself, and as a result, seems to be caught up in a never-ending spiral of price cutting to win business.
“All this means less profits for PSPs to invest in the technologies and ideas which will be needed to address the coming changes in market dynamics.
“Imagine a scenario where cost is no longer the biggest issue for a marketer considering a campaign which will include a fair bit of print. “Imagine the customer being so confident of a campaign delivering a profitable result that its cost is not the major issue.
“This is the market space MSPs trade in: where they can charge more for their services, because they, and their customers know that the end result will be a thoroughly successful and highly profitable outcome. No need for undignified haggling over a few cents here and there; just a sharp focus on a great end result,” Minnett concludes.