For decades, companies have struggled with the best way to create and distribute business documents. Should they print, mail, and distribute digital communications themselves or outsource the responsibility to someone else? On the surface, this seems to be a simple financial decision, but the right answer for many businesses depends on several other factors. Often neither the buyer of outsourced document services nor the seller spend much time investigating those other areas.

Every prospective document processing client wants to trim expenses. They are interested in saving money on equipment leases, software licenses, maintenance, and labor. Shutting down an in-plant print and mail operation can make for a persuasive outsourcing argument. That’s why outsource document service providers usually focus on cost savings as their primary sales pitch.

Lower Cost Is Still Important

There’s validity to the financial argument. Print/mail service providers process higher volumes of documents. They invest in efficient equipment that does the job quicker, at a lower per-piece cost, and they reduce labor expenses through automation. They can also qualify more mail for maximum postage discounts; something standalone businesses cannot do on their own.

Not so long ago, outsource print and mail companies did just fine by showing a prospective client a cost comparison. It wasn’t necessary to dwell on other benefits their company provided. As long as the service provider could lower costs, they had the prospect’s attention. This is no longer the case.

When I advise print/mail service providers today, I recommend they change their approach. Leading with cost savings reduces the value of their offering to a single measurement — one that rivals can easily match or undercut by doing the work for less. I suggest sales representatives start the conversation by talking about the client’s business objectives and highlighting the value the service provider can add to outbound customer communications. Save the cost-reduction discussion for later.

Take the Focus Off the Price

The actual value of an outsource print/mail service provider is how well they can help their clients achieve their business goals. No company mentions lowering print and mail costs as their organization’s prime objective! They are more interested in items like gaining market share, retaining customers, growing profit margins, or improving the customer experience. Every situation is different. The one-size-fits-all outsource provider sales pitch will not work.

Discussions with prospective clients will reveal their chief business objectives. Modern print/mail service providers have many tools that allow them to deliver the benefits each of their clients sees as most important. It’s up to the salespeople to match their client’s goals with the outsource provider’s strengths. Some examples include:

  • Sophisticated equipment that creates full-color personalized documents and ensures items are distributed accurately.
  • Dashboards that allow clients to track work in progress and request last-minute pulls or inquire about individual document disposition without disrupting production.
  • Multi-channel document composition software and channel preference management tools that enable print/mail service providers to satisfy the demands a client’s customers have about the way they want to receive communications.
  • Service provider access to payment gateways, which can provide more payment options to the client’s customers and improve cash flow.
  • Expertise with postal products like Informed Delivery, Informed Visibility, and One Code ACS, which give document service providers the ability to track the mail, add interactivity, and correct addresses in ways their clients could never accomplish on their own.
  • Business continuity arrangements that ensure print/mail service providers continue to process client work, even during natural disasters (or a worldwide health crisis).
  • Speedy response to client requests for document changes. Clients often experience long waits for internal IT resources to change legacy documents. Print/mail service providers are more responsive.

Offer Other Benefits and Price Won’t Matter as Much

As new technologies and techniques develop, print/mail service providers invest in them and become experts in how to use the new components to serve their clients. Individual companies processing lower volumes cannot justify the expense of a million-dollar inkjet press or inserting machine, for example. Outsource document service providers can deliver the benefits expensive equipment provides, without requiring capital expenditures.

With the right approach, print/mail service providers can attract new business without competing on price and cutting their rates. By showing potential clients how improved printed and electronic documents and associated processes help meet business objectives, the price becomes less important. Clients save money by shutting down in-plant document operations, reallocating space, and re-purposing employees into higher value jobs, but they gain much more with access to new features and capabilities their outsourcing partner provides.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.