The in-plant is unique because it services what I call a “captured community.” Servicing a captured community online has the main advantage of being seen as part of the community and knowing a lot about the community. Embedding that knowledge into the web to print solution further increases the value of the in-plant.
This post if Part 3 of 3: Online Target Markets
An in-plant print production center is a unique breed of print provider, mainly in that its charge is to service what I call a “captured community.” This community could be a university, a company, a non-profit, or a government institution.
The variability in the in-plant target market really depends on the level of “capture” in the community. This spectrum can range from strict procurement policies that forbid you from purchasing print products and services anywhere but the in-plant all the way through situations where most people in the community aren’t even aware of the services offered.
What is unique about transitioning the in-plant business from offline/manual processes to online, self service ecommerce? Most of the process is the same as commercial printers, the uniqueness of an in-plant is the level of knowledge successful in-plants have about their communities. Because many in-plants are run by employees of the organization, they are seen as part of the community, a tag any business would value highly in the commercial space.
I have found that inside an in-plant you find individuals with huge knowledge stores about the organization, its communication challenges, and its operating procedures. This knowledge store can be embedded into an online interaction if its properly mined and implemented.
Many in-plants look at self-service as a lower value service, whereas their customers value convenience over high touch. A web to print solution in an in-plant brings greater reach throughout the community (removes geography) and enables the in-plant to better communicate the entire breadth of products and services available.
The in-plant market does have some key features and functionality to look out for when deciding on a web to print vendor:
- Authentication Integration
- Making it easy to seamlessly use the services, remove the need for duplicate registration / authentication.
- Put the security burden on the centralized authentication system
- Community Segmentation
- A single community isn’t always homogenous – the solution must enable segmentation (for instance students vs. faculty, or executives vs. staff)
- Procurement Integration
- Most large organizations have a centralized procurement system, integration into this system greatly eases the burden of the in-plant’s accounting/budgeting/chargeback processes.
- “Soft” marketing and Promotion
- Remember “captured community” does not mean “mandated” – the in-plant still very much needs assistance in promoting their services and maintaining relevance inside their community to continue to grow and expand their offerings.
- Marketing to captured communities is different than commercial marketing. Generally tactics like e-mail campaigns are not allowed. Innovative promotional activities are required to spread the word organically when mandates are not possible.