All posts by Caroline

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The best of 2015. From interactive print to multichannel

My final blog post to round up 2015. Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (9 of 10)

Like you, I’m sure you are sitting at your desk wondering how this year came and went. Sure scares the heck out of me.

Although the world has been troubled and unstable, marketing, social media and print are holding their own.

I think 2015 has really been about making content and marketing work better through cross media marketing and personalisation.

Connect Connection Networking Communication Concept

Companies are waking up to the knowledge that it isn’t good enough emailing or sending a generic marketing piece whether it is print or electronic.

It is about understanding your audience and knowing how to ensure that they get the information they need.

This is easier said than done.

I read a lot about ‘big data’ how organisations need to monopolise data capture and customer data to get the sales pitch right.

No one really knows what big data is and what impact it is having.

In reality big data is a load of data that has been captured either digitally or via traditional methods, like direct mail, web, social media interactions and then entered into a CRM type system.

Then comes the pondering moment, what the heck do we do with all this data?

multichannel servicesMy posts this year focussed on the importance of using print with digital methods of communication, ensuring the customer has the choice how they choose to receive information.

Augmented Reality is still in its infancy optimised by magazines, newspapers and larger organisations.

I expect to see this develop as we all see the benefits of reading something in the physical world before being transported into the digital world.

In March I introduced you to multichannel services – what is it and what are the benefits.

Multichannel marketing is the ability to interact with customers on a number of different platforms giving the customer the choice.

multichannel servicesMultichannel service works similarly allowing customers to simultaneously access their transactional information like invoices, statements and payslips online or being given the choice of receiving a physical printed document.

What makes multichannel so appealing is the fact that any of the above information can be accessed via a smartphone and I wrote about the benefits of it here.

In July, I reported on the Royal Mail’s findings following a survey they conducted into email and print marketing.Stacked Mail

There is a genuine misconception that print is on the decline but the report found when used in conjunction with email marketing it is an effective marketing tool.

The point I’ve tried to convey during this year is that we don’t need to be solely in the digital world.

Customers want to be able to access information on a variety of devices when they want to and not be forced into making a choice.

Print and digital work well together, print is now the first touchpoint before the consumer is taken into the digital world via QR codes or AR (Augmented Reality).

qr code on smartphone screenPrint use to be the end of a marketing campaign now it is the start of a journey for the consumer to make a purchase.

One of the services we provide at Digital Print Management is our Print-2-Mail service.

It is a great way for companies to mail out residual statements and invoices, for those customers that won’t or can’t accept electronic equivalents.

One of the reasons hybrid mail is so useful is the ability to upload documents from your desktop, we take care of the rest and it is cheaper than doing it in house.

In November I attended a really interesting seminar on the transformation of print in an ever changing world.

Unsurprisingly speakers from big organisations including Sky were adamant that print plays a crucial role in their marketing initiatives.

Far from being dead, print is not better than digital it is simply another way of consuming information and is demographic dependent.

Producing content means that we really do need to think about where our audience is, are they mobile, internet based?

Marketing departments have to produce content that is digestible on all platforms from print to web, online and social media.

I end where I started, in my penultimate blog ‘the future of interactive print’.

I emphasise the importance of using print as well as electronic means of communication by optimising new technologies such as interactive print (AR).

Making content come alive on the page and jump out at you is a fun way to really engage with an audience that is continually bombarded with mass information.

Wherever you consume information and whatever your thoughts on print and digital the argument will continue.

Our world is so fast paced and we are forever being bombarded with information.

Sometimes winding down with a good book or magazine without the distractions of pop up ads and links takes us away from reality and into a place of calm and slowness.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts this year and I appreciate the time you have taken to read and share my content.

I hope that they have been useful.

From all of us at Digital Print Management…

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Print or digital? Do we really need to choose?

The future of interactive print

In my penultimate blog for 2015 I take a look at how interactive print can take us from the physical into the online world and make content we read more fun and entertaining. Print or digital? Do we really need to choose?

In this post, the transformation of print in a multi-channel world, I showcased innovations that are now available and essentially transform print into a work of digital art.

I hope I highlighted that print isn’t dead.

Like many of you, I live in the digital and physical world of online and print consuming content determined by where I am, what I’m doing and how much time I have.

Print has been doggedly fighting new digital technology and innovations, from email marketing campaigns to online banking there can be no disputing the fact that print dominance has gradually been eroded by new forms of media.

Why have the paper version when the mobile option makes it truly portable and flexible?

multichannelIn spite of this there is a growing reluctance to admit that email marketing and online marketing never really reached its full potential, with many of us reaching saturation point with overflowing inboxes full of junk e-marketing.

Increased awareness of the environmental impact of technology, print is seeing a resurgence particularly in direct mail and a real desire for the printed word.

Why is print often perceived as the naughty boy?

I hear comments like oh, print is finished or we’ve cut right back on all our print and so forth.

Why not look at print differently?

By utilising the benefits of new technology and delivering all the advantages of traditional print but incorporating the latest digital innovations that take print from paper into the digital world.

You can read more about that here.

Only 10 to 15 years ago print was seen as the traditional safe means Stacked Mail of delivering communications.

But with consumer habits changing almost daily, using a wide range of devices to access information from apps, to social media to contactless and apple pay purchasing, how information is digested has become fragmented.

With an audience that switches anywhere between smartphone, tablet to PC to view and purchase this makes it difficult for the marketing manager to create campaigns that engage with their customers.

Technology has helped marketers and brands to understand better their audiences and target them with personalised information suitable for them.

We have become so reliant on mobile technology and there is a generation of young people who have little interaction with print and I think it is really important that we don’t lose print altogether.

The challenge for the print industry is to be able to reinvent itself through new innovations like augmented reality/layar technology and capitalise on these developments by making print truly interactive so in effect the printed word speaks to you.

In the past five years there have been significant developments in digital technology working with print.

AR (augmented reality) transforms  print into interactive content with videos and more digital content.

Layar was one of the early mobile augmented reality browsers to come to market in 2009 providing augmented reality and interactive print bridging the gap between print and the digital world.

By scanning items with the Layar logo, items such as magazines, newspapers, movie posters and more, print is brought to life enriched with videos, web content, links to social media, websites and purchasing.

Layar is now part of the Blippar group and according to their website have had more than 46 million downloads by consumers who are keen to digest more content both from print and digital.

Video on demand gives marketing and brands the opportunity to deliver highly personalised advertising and content.

Think BMW or Mercedes Benz highly targeted and personalised print and digitalprint advertising with a AR allowing the user to scan and view how the car performs.

After you’ve visited the showroom, expressed an interest in a particular make and model, marketing then send you a highly interactive personalised piece of direct mail allowing you to scan and view the content.

Imagine how engaging that is for the recipient if combined with a limited discount offer or free servicing.

A badly designed print item will deliver a poor result much the same with interactive print, simply adding interactive content to a poorly designed print item won’t yield good results.

But create a great bit of print and then add an engaging interactive video or content will deliver great results.

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The challenge for the print and marketing industry is not solely the creation of content to drive revenue but encouraging the adoption of interactive content as another touch point for the audience.

Educating marketers to use interactive print and digital that will link all their marketing channels and engage with an otherwise fragmented audience is the challenge to making print interactive and engaging in the long term.

 

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How to make multichannel work and add value to your business?

Giving your employees and your customers choice to access documents online or view them in a physical format ensures they have choice. Multichannel How it works

When organisations deliver multichannel communications they are moving into a complex and bewildering world of ‘communications’ with the customer?

How do organisations decide what to send by email, print and mail?

How do you understand what your customers preferences are?

And, how do you integrate paper and digital so they work effectively?

How do you make sure that the document flow is secure and document storage available so the employee and the customer has a record of the document in both the paper and  a digital format?

Business documents need to be accurate, timely and easy to digest, get it wrong and the invoice isn’t paid or the document is not responded to.

Get this wrong and you have an unhappy customer and a miserable workforce.

Communications is about making the working environment positive for its employees and this is then reflected forward to the customer.

Customers and employees want to be able to engage on the channels they prefer – SMS, mobile/smartphone, call centres, post, email and web.

Keeping this audience informed and happy is a tough ask for any business.

Factor in different work locations, UK and abroad and the language barrier, suddenly communication is a real business challenge.

Switching off offline communications and putting in place solely online is a surefire way of alienating much of your workforce and your customer base.

With employees and consumers often more comfortable on mobile devices it is important to be able to deliver both a paper and digital version of the same document.

65% of customers who prefer paper bills and statements would consider defecting to a competitor or would leave straightaway if a company removes that choice. 29% of customers who prefer to receive information electronically would consider moving if the option to receive paper statements was removed.

If data can be supplied for printing, that very same data can be also used to generate the digital version of the exact same document.

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How does multichannel add value to your business?

New technology allows companies to deliver transactional documents both on and offline to meet different customer preferences – all from one data file.

  • Greater flexibility in page formats accommodates the needs of the audience – quick and easy to read or detailed and long depending on whether it is a financial portfolio or a statement
  • High quality colour printing means shorter runs can be personalised, targeted and relevant for the audience and in combination with online communications makes it cost effective and easier to manage
  • Transpromo messages can be embedded into online and offline communications promoting offers, discounts, services and reminders for customers

In a digital world your employees and customers want to access information, marketing messages, promotions, employee communications anytime, anywhere and on multiple devices.

MultiChannel delivers choice for your employees and customers allowing them to choose whether they want to be communicated to via paper or online making it critical to online business success

See how it works in the video below.

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Mobile devices

The transformation of print in a multi-channel world

That was the theme of a conference I attended in London last week.

Is print finished? Print or digital? Do we really need to choose?

It is transforming and is a crucial element of the digital media world we live in.

Print is the first touchpoint for the recipient to touch, feel, read and even smell before they join you in the digital world.

Surprisingly of the eleven speakers not one tried to bury print.

I was expecting at least one speaker to talk about the demise of print but whilst everyone in the audience and speakers agreed that print has declined in the newspaper sector, the opposite is happening in magazines, direct mail and print in general.

In 2015 £13.9 billion was spent on print, in 2010 it was 14 billion so print is holding its own over probably one of the most difficult economic periods we’ve experienced in the last thirty years.

print in a multi-channel worldPrint continues to adapt and so are the manufacturers of print who recognise the need to provide a digital and physical version for people to consume content.

Producers of content need to be aware that it is the content that matters and not necessarily the medium it is consumed on.

Producing content means we really do need to think about where our audience is, are they  solely mobile and internet based or do they like to receive the written word.

Measuring consumer engagement in other words, how long they spend reading the content is more relevant than where they actually read it whether it is print, digital, web or mobile.

Print is not necessarily better than digital it is simply another way of consuming information and is demographic dependent.

Deloitte undertook a survey and discovered that while we may qr code on smartphone screenperceive that books are on the decline the reverse was true 8% were in favour of physical books rather than E-books.

Whilst a tablet offers an immediate reader experience, print is a slow burner.

One of the main points to come out of the conference was the statistics demonstrating people’s desire to slow down.

Reading content on a phone or tablet is quick and responsive it also has distractions that can leave you feeling anxious and stressed.

Where print means you ‘make time’, tablets or smartphones is about ‘fill time’ and advertising messages tend not be be remembered because the mobile experience is faster and more stressful as we are constantly distracted.

Whether content is read on a tablet or in print the emotional reactions to the content tended to be similar but it is the actual content that determines how and where we consume it.

multichannelPlatform VS content drives what is read, making it snackable or bite sized in a digital format makes it easier to digest.  With print we find it easier to read more and for longer.

Digital technologies allow a brand to use more personal touch points to engage with the audience and in a ME world it is about building relationships making it personalised, targeted and individual.

Coke’s branded bottle campaign of 2014 was a great example of how by personalising individual bottles with christian names led to a 7% increase in consumption, 2.1% increase in sales and 18.3 million impressions.

Coke’s marketing goal was to engage with a younger audience and they achieved this by making it personal and individual.

The physical printing of names on the bottle created greater engagement, interaction and differentiation.

Digital brands notably Google, Net-A-Porter, Apple, Facebook, Linkedin and Airbnb are some of the large brands combining print with their digital marketing.

And whilst the above have been busy telling brands that the best way to reach consumers is through digital communications, they have learn’t that they too cannot do without print advertising to connect with audiences.

Google, in 2013 spent £5m on outdoor advertising and £3.5m on press ads, likewise LinkedIn created a direct mail pack in 2014 to announce it had reached 15 million UK subscribers and to promote the launch of its student hub after it emerged that students were one of its fastest growing groups.multichannel services

Print is still meaningful, emotional and enhances the reading experience we spent £1.3 bn in 2014 on magazine media and 73% of the adult population subscribe to a monthly magazine, digital or in paper format.

Leading magazine brands are writing their exclusives in print and then delivering snippets of information via social media. Vogue magazine has an estimated viewing time online of 9.02 minutes but with an average 50 minute per issue readership.

Microsoft concluded from research that the changing nature of attention has now decreased from 10 to 8 seconds on a mobile device translated that means if the advert is irrelevant or doesn’t hit the spot then the reader is off.

It’s not about digital or paper it is about both and print along with digital is one of the many platforms available to get your message out there.

Stacked Mail

6 Reasons to use hybrid mail

This week’s post gives you a quick guided tour into why hybrid mail sales at Digital Print Management are on the increase and why our customers are converting to hybrid mail. hybrid mail

Firstly because they are significantly reducing costs on their mailings but they are also saving a lot of time which is their most precious asset.

The onset of the recession meant that many companies were forced to look for cheaper alternatives when it came to managing their customer mailings.

Organisations still send large amounts of letters through the post.

iStock_000014348375SmallThe running costs of doing this in-house can be prohibitive so it is often one of the first areas a company looks at when it comes to streamlining its business processes and printing requirements.

Information is sent via email or communicated online daily by thousands of companies and by automating the process of print and mailing alongside digital, companies are able to send paper communications as easily as they would making it available online.

Customer expectations have changed and whilst they may have reported a problem to a call centre on the phone they want a follow up letter to confirm the actions that have been taken and one of the most cost efficient ways of sending this follow up information is by using hybrid mail.

Hybrid mail is ideal for those ad hoc mailings allowing the customermultichannel services service representative the opportunity of uploading any number of letters on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and in whatever quantities.

By outsourcing those letters that are required to be posted, hybrid mail gives companies the flexibility to upload letters any time of the day, freeing up printer resources and the staff time taken up in generating and creating letters.

What are the 6 key benefits:-

  1. There is no installation (just the print driver that communicates with hybrid mail) Customers are able to send documents through hybrid mail in minutes. A username, password and an internet connection are all that is required to upload documents directly from your desktop.
  2. With no set up charges hybrid mail could potentially save you 60% on office print and mailing costs. Hybrid mail costs less than a 2nd class stamp including paper, envelope, printing and posting
  3. Ease of use – Hybrid mail is so simple to use there are four easy steps and as long as you are comfortable with creating documents that are ready to print then hybrid mail is straightforward to use.
  4. Hybrid mail comes into its own if your company has branches located across the country, departments can have access to specific documents and templates which means there is complete control over what is sent out and by whom.
  5. Documents that are uploaded by 4pm on a working day are printed and mailed the same day this means you don’t have to panic about that forgotten mailing. Hybrid mail does the rest.
  6. Hybrid mail allows you to store any number of document templates, you also benefit from post code validation, user and department spending caps, custom signatures and document archiving for future reference.

The important thing to consider with hybrid mail is that no matter the size of the organisation or how many documents you send out a day you WILL benefit from a hybrid mail solution.

Hybrid mail is a 21st century mailing solution designed to take care of those ad hoc letters – whether it is an accountancy business, a firm of solicitors, a dental practice, a fitness company or an organisation that sends most information electronically but still has residual letters and bills to send out, hybrid mail is a cost effective alternative to printing in-house.

For more information click here

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Who IS your target audience?

Having attended a very informative seminar on finding your audience on Facebook I asked myself do we really know where our target audience is? iStock_000015939922Small

Have we got it right?

You many think this is strange given that I’ve been in transactional printing and mailing or ‘transpromo’ for 20+ years but my point is sometimes you need to stand back and take a good look at the market place.

Is it the same as it was five years ago?

iStock_000017041643SmallFacebook and I have a frustrating relationship.

Many of us manage personal and business profiles but what to post, when to post and how to keep the snippets of information coming are time consuming.

As a social media platform it doesn’t seem natural to me as twitter or Linkedin. I guess we all have our favourites!

Having said that most of yours and my target audience is likely to be on this platform but not necessarily in their work guise.

For example our target audience is HR, Payroll, Credit/Collection Managers and so forth, Linkedin is seemingly where you’ll find this very experienced and professional tribe.

But I also know that many are likely to be on Facebook keeping a personal page and updating it with status updates, but they will not necessarily have their job status or title and where they work advertised on their personal Facebook page.

The key to generating leads is knowing and understanding where your audience are and that’s why I thought I’d share with you how Digital Print Management is re-thinking it’s market and making sure we go back to basics.

Sound easy?

Definitely not. Delivering your services to a big audience without knowing who they are and what they look like is like finding a needle in a haystack.

  • Who are our audience?
  • Where do we seek them out so our message gets heard?
  • Why should they even consider our services?
  • How will they benefit even if they do find us?
  • And what can we do to make it easier to find us?

iStock_000037124348SmallAlthough this has been done before I’ve put my spin on it but more importantly it really got us thinking, checking and making sure we know where to find our audience.

My first thought was how do our customers benefit from our services and what problems did we solve for them?

Thinking about the range of services we deliver to our customers from Digital Print Management’s point of view I looked at our largest and smallest customers and came up with the following:-

  • What have they bought from us?
  • Why did they choose to work with us in the first place?
  • Why do they continue to work with us?
  • What problems did we solve for them which means they sleep easier at night?

This helped us then drill down and understand the type of customer that is attracted to our services.

iStock_000023869795SmallThat completed, where do we find these prospective customers and how do we get our message out there?

How did the customers that we currently serve, find us or hear about us?

This gave me the opportunity to sketch out an outline of a typical prospective customer that ‘feels the same pain’ our current customers experience prior to outsourcing their ‘problem’.

Which then led me to the type of customer that will gain from the value in our service offerings.

AngerWhat problems are these Payroll/HR and Credit Managers having to deal with?

Do they perceive them as troublesome? Are they even aware they have problems?

What would the reputational damage be if the cost of not sorting out the problem is greater than the cost of leaving it?

Being niche certainly helps as we provide a very distinct service in the payroll and accounts area this makes it easier to identify our audience.

Aiming to be a big fish in a small pond means that we can be heard above the rest of noise and hopefully stand out from the crowd rather than the other way round.

By understanding our areas of expertise, the knowledge we’ve amassed over time and how we’ve helped our customers means we can understand our prospective customers  better.iStock_000018668499Small

Also, knowing what areas we have been successful in and why helps us to maximise this further for more success in the future.

And finally, I asked these questions, why are we uniquely placed to solve our customer’s problem, and what makes us stand out from the crowd?

We are still working on re-defining our marketing and social media objectives but focussing on the above has really helped make us re-think and re-visit what we’ve been doing?

I hope you find it a useful exercise too!

How have you found your audience?

How do you get your message heard?

How successful has it been?

Share your views!

 

 

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What to look out for when you outsource your data?

Whether it is data security, management of information or how to outsource outsource a business function, one of the main questions or challenges I have to overcome is the secure management of customer data files in the form of payslips, cheques, statements and invoices.

When organisations consider outsourcing one of their business processes data security is the first area of concern that needs to be addressed and quickly.

Data,  information security and privacy is an extensive topic in its own right too long to cover in one blog post but let’s start with a definition which I think wikipedia sums up very well:

Information privacy, or data privacy (or data protection), is the relationship between collection and dissemination of data, technology, the public expectation of privacy, and the legal and political  issues surrounding them.

Privacy concerns exist wherever personally identifiable information or other sensitive information is collected and stored – in digital form or otherwise. Improper or non-existent disclosure control can be the root cause for privacy issues.

The issue with data privacy is to share data while protecting personally identifiable information.

There has been a seismic shift in how information is used, everyday we find ourselves either completing online forms, signing in and entering passwords or subscribing to newsletters and updates.

And whilst we were initially cautious about  how and what our personal information is being used for we are, as consumers more comfortable with understanding how our data is being used.

But when it comes to a company outsourcing a process that involves handing over data files that contain sensitive information like an employee’s payslip this is a very different ball game because the company is responsible for how they manage their employees or customers information.

In 2014 there were over 1,800 incidents of mismanagement of information that was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office leading to fines in excess of £5 million.

The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) conducted a study to understand how we, the customer view data privacy and what we think about it.

The infographic below summarises the findings:

Data privacy the customers view

Millions of data files are transmitted daily to third party providers from payroll, billing and cheque data.

From an organisation’s perspective looking to outsource that kind of information to third party for printing and mailing payslips through to electronic distribution of secure transactional documents there are some key points to consider.

Does the supplier hold the most up to date ISO 27001 Information Security standard – the latest version is 2013. This is the main standard for information security ensuring confidentiality and integrity of your data.

The service provider should be able to demonstrate compliance and guarantees in respect of the handling of your data files.

Are they on the Data Protection register?

This ensures personal data is processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under the act and protects how your personal information is used.

What security infrastructure for receiving and sending data files is in place?

Do they have SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) which is more secure than FTP and allows for automated transmission of regular data files reducing the potential for 

What audit procedures do they have to ensure the receipt and transfer of your data?

Do they have a comprehensive disaster recovery system that enables you to continue to forward your files?

And finally, how do they manage and store your data once the file has been processed, printed and despatched or electronically distributed?

For more information about data security and outsourcing feel free to ask a question here.

 

 

process automation

What is process automation?

In this post I wanted to get to the heart of document management. Process automation

I talk about the benefits of paper, print and digital and, how it impacts our lives.

We continue to generate so much information daily and organisations are  deluged with information from invoices, letters, reminders and so forth with all this information how does a company manage to stay above the paper flow?

That is where process automation comes in.

What is process automation?

It is the digitising of any manual process that collects and centralises information within an organisation.

For example an electronic filing system that reduces or replaces administrative tasks to a solution that can streamline whole departments.

Managing the lifecycle of documents and data within a business is the cornerstone to better control, greater visibility, security and efficiency.

process automationProcess automation can be broken down into four key areas each of which can be managed and improved independently of each other or improved as a whole.

Data capture – capturing important data is key to any business process. Manual capture or data entry can be time consuming and inaccurate. Automating the capturing of data is quick, efficient and error free. It involves taking the information and scanning documents, collecting key bits of information and then digitising the information.

Document management – this is the heart of process automation.  Information and documents are stored in an electronic filing cabinet whereby it can be controlled in a secure and central location.

It is useful for freeing up physical space by storing electronic copies of historical documents and archiving for documents that have completed their life cycle.

Document management enables instant retrieval with indexed rich process automationsearch ability, administrator based access for added document security, traceability for audit control, records management for lifecycle control and integration into other business systems as a central source of data.

Workflow – allowing key bits of information and documents to be routed around an organisation giving people accessibility to the documents and the information they need when they need it.

Workflows ensure that the users are updated with any up and coming tasks that need completing this may mean authorisation, payment due, documents missing, invoicing errors.

A simple workflow might be internal documents that are required to be printed routing around an office to a specific printer or copier thus reducing printing and copying costs.

A complex workflow might be creating a document electronically from the point of capture and fully automating it, removing the need for paper and resource required to manage it

process automationReporting – the final part of the process which creates and distributes information that give a visual representation of ‘live data’ giving a snapshot in time of that current process.

Collating accurate data in real time can be impossible when trying to gather information manually.

Reports take time to produce and once published they are quickly out of date.

Electronic reporting allows data to be collected from any source at any stage within a process.

This means with up to the minute accurate reports informed decisions can be made which could be critical for the day to day running of the business.

How can process automation benefit your business?

  • Understanding what information is being held and what documents are in the workflow ensures better control and visibility allowing the right people to access the information they need at anytime
  • Business functions can be simplified making it easier and more streamlined
  • Automation = being proactive = efficiency
  • Less reliance on paper and people
  • Data can be shared with anyone in your business
  • Compliance targets and government legislation are met
  • Disaster proof your business processes

That’s it in a nutshell. Process automation involves you taking a hard look at your key business processes, being critical and then looking at areas that can be improved by removing the manual effort and using automation.

 

 

What to look out for with e-billing

As you are aware, I am a big advocate of offering the customer the option of choosing how they receive their bills in paper or electronic format.transpromo

Ask anyone in business what their biggest headache is and the answer usually is getting paid on time.

The second is the cost of processing and sending invoices.

As the cost of technology has reduced more businesses including SMEs have or are considering implementing electronic invoicing/e-billing to save invoice processing costs.

The advantages of e-billing include the speed and control you have over your financial documents; you decide when your customer is sent an e-bill.

You save staff time, postage and stationery costs.

slider02But, trying to establish the true cost of billing is a lot harder than you think because most don’t consider all of the related costs.

Many assume that paper has to be more expensive because it involves staff time, stationery costs, processing and cost of postage.

Making electronic billing the obvious winner.

There have been many comparisons on paper versus electronic ranging from £8.17 to send out a paper invoice VS £3.31 to send it electronically.

Document

Sending invoices as email attachments doesn’t constitute electronic billing.

E-billing may save on postage costs but this represents only a small percentage of the actual cost of processing an invoice.

How do you work out your invoicing costs?

What costs are associated with the invoicing process?

An organisation needs to be able to break down what the true costs are and these can be direct, indirect and those hidden costs that we tend to forget about.

What are the direct costs?

These include preparation of the invoice and are the most obvious costs to find in the process.

  • Printing
  • Envelopes
  • Inserting into envelopes – often a manual exercise this might also include a mailing machine
  • Postage costs

What are the indirect costs?

Although these costs are part of the invoice process they do not involve the preparation and sending of invoices and may or may not have a bearing on your invoice process.

Even so, they are often overlooked when working out the cost of invoicing and should be considered.

  • Queries and resolution – is the invoice accurate, does it have the required information. If it is wrong other functions in the organisation are involved including finance, credit control, operations, distribution and sales/customer service
  • Account reconciliation
  • Time spent on missing or undelivered invoices
  • Storage and archiving – how are invoices stored? As paper or electronically?
  • Credit notes – how long does it take for the company to generate a credit note, does it require hierarchical  approval, time taken to issue, delay in payment until the credit note is issued

multi channel services

What are the hidden costs?

Although not necessarily related to the processing of invoices they should be considered as part of the process

  • Payment processing errors
  • External debt collection agency fees
  • Staff time addressing and reviewing invoice problems
  • Additional finance costs due to the length of time time taken to get paid
  • Invoice financing or factoring costs.

Most of the costs associated with the invoicing process involve the number of staff that are involved in what can be a labour intensive task.

Even if the invoice preparation is streamlined and automated, if the order processing, AP and AR are manually intensive then the invoice processing will cost more in staff time such as:-

  1. Dealing with copy invoice requests
  2. Chasing purchase orders
  3. Chasing the sales team to solve pricing issues
  4. Reconciling accounts

iStock_000002289637SmallSending an invoice as an electronic attachment is not e-billing it is simply sending the customer an email with an invoice attached to it whilst it removes the postage and stationery element it is highly likely that your customer (the recipient) will print and allocate the invoice accordingly.

But it doesn’t take away the other costs associated with invoice processing like requests for copy invoices, misplaced invoices.

We never got your invoice, it never arrived in the post has been replaced with we never got your email.

Careful consideration of your invoice processing and understanding the true costs of the process can in the long term reduce the impact on the business.

Customers ultimately know they have to pay your bill the key is to making sure your bill is on time, consistent with the information they need to process the bill which in turn helps you gain visibility and enable better cash management and cash flow control.

Evernote-and-Hipstamatic-on-Iphone-5-000037558608_Small

How to make print and digital work together

In my last post I looked at how print acts as gateway for people to interact with printed content digitally and for any type of marketing to be successful print needs to be integrated with technology to be successful.

print and digital

By having print and an online presence helps your brand or proposition become more credible. This should include social media and website on print.

Your starting point should be all company print  such as business cards, letterheads, compliment slips, (yes people still use them) invoices, in fact any type of informational product should have your website details and social media platforms so that customers can check you out and join you in the online world.

The print world is constantly reinventing itself by finding newer and more interactive ways of getting in front of customers.

Scanning QR code with mobile phoneTechnologies such as NFC (Near field communications, still in its infancy) QR codes and Augmented reality give readers the opportunity to use print as the gateway to online channels, by simply pointing your mobile at the printed page a whole new multimedia world opens up for the reader.

Magazine publishers are finding different ways to engage with their readers by providing interactive online content.

A brand that is trusted by the consumer leads to high levels of engagement across all platforms.

Print use to be the end result of a campaign now it is the start of the journey for the consumer to make a purchase. It provides the step to the next stage of the journey in the buying process.

Any kind of print advertising from direct mail to your newsletter is one step in the process of getting the customer moving whether it is to buy, sign up for something or to engage online.

It starts with print using a QR code or Augmented Reality which takes the customer to a personalised landing page or activation of an app.

An example of this might be a car dealership sending out a print and digitalpersonalised mailing to ex-customers offering an incentive to get back in touch. (There’s more information about that here)

Using PURLs in the direct mail the customer is directed to their nearest dealership and are offered incentives to book a service.

Print and digital are even closer than you might think take the Evernote Moleskin smart book; you can make notes, sketch and draw then, using the Evernote app, scan and upload to Evernote so you have a digital version.

The same with the moleskin smart notebook that connects to the Evernote-and-Hipstamatic-on-Iphone-5-000037558608_SmallAdobe Creative Cloud via an app on your smartphone, your hand drawn sketches can be converted to workable digital files that can then be manipulated using adobe illustrator or photoshop.

Newspapers and magazines are still considered credible sources of information and are more trusted than digital.

Print delivers powerful and vibrant communications the eye is drawn to a particular piece of information more so than a digital pop out advert which is annoying and distracting.

How do you get print and digital to work together?

Think about what is most effective in print and digital channels and make sure that the same tone and message deliver a unified brand across all mediums. Using your print medium you can direct your customers to your social channels via your print ads.

When you combine your print and digital strategies so they deliver the same message you engage with the customer and build up trust.

You can add print to your media mix to engage more customers and drive traffic to your website by using a mini catalogue with PURLs that send them to certain landing pages.

Print shows authority and allows the customer to have something tangible that they can connect with  by giving them something they can review at a later date.

Digital on the other hand offers flexible content which can also include other elements like audio.

The communications landscape is changing with new channels emerging and as they gather pace it doesn’t necessarily mean that the existing communication platforms you use should be cast aside, not if they deliver the results you want.

So don’t disregard print out of the media mix  in collaboration both print and digital are complementary creating a great experience for the end user if done brilliantly.