"If I'm not in the document business," you might say, "How do you explain the pallets full of paper and envelopes sitting all over my shop?" OK, that’s a reasonable question.

    What I mean by saying you’re no longer in the document business is more about a frame of mind or an approach to business than a comment on your products.

    Once upon a time, life as a document service provider was straight-forward. Customers sent you print-ready files or data from which you produced paper documents you inserted into envelopes and delivered to the post office. You provided a service. In fact, you might have referred to your company as a “service bureau.” The company I worked for thought of themselves in that way. We weren’t concerned with the reasons behind those documents we produced, and we weren’t worried about what our clients hoped to achieve with them.Our focus was on how to get the mail out efficiently and make a profit doing it.

    Plenty of companies are still doing business that way, but it puts them at a disadvantage. How do they differentiate themselves from the competition? Everyone provides great service, so that’s no longer an advantage. With a few variations in hardware or software, the processes service providers use to create and mail documents are almost identical among competitors, so there’s not much room for innovation there either. As a result, companies compete for business on price — not a great growth strategy.

    I advise print and mail service providers to take a step back from the mechanics of document processing and think about what their clients are really seeking:

    ·Bills or donation solicitations prompt people to send them money.

    ·Statements are a way to keep their customers informed and maintain regular contact with them.

    ·Marketing materials generate leads which turn into sales.

    ·Notices and government-mandated communications keep your clients from getting into hot water with regulators.

    Once you consider the motivations behind the mail you send on behalf of your clients, it changes your approach to sales, product development, and customer service. That’s where you can stand out from your competitors. If you think of mail as a by-product rather than a singular goal, you become more open to opportunities and in sync with what your clients are trying to achieve.

    This change in thinking also requires an adjustment in how you value your services. In my service bureau days, we charged clients based on the amount of pages we printed and mail pieces we produced. We were hesitant to suggest any modifications that caused the volumes to drop, even if that made the application more valuable to the client. I can recall a few occasions when I saw opportunities to improve a client’s monthly statements. I was immediately shot down because the idea hinged on a document re-design that would have trimmed the page counts. I guess I was ahead of my time.

    When you look at your services as ways to help clients achieve their objectives, you can bill for items that are not directly related to document volumes. Examples might include:

    ·Bill payment/donation reminders sent via text or email

    ·Duplicate removal


    ·Delivery point validation


    ·Data appending

    ·Transpromo personalized marketing

    ·Informed Visibility mail tracking

    ·Informed Delivery campaigns

    ·Conversion to paperless bills

    Because efforts like these help your clients accomplish something important, they will pay you for the work you do to move them closer to their goals. Your efforts can bring the money in faster for your clients, increase donations, improve customer experience, reduce wasted printing and mailing expenses, or make their marketing messages more compelling. Make up for any revenue lost from a reduction in document volume by charging for the services that add value to mail make a difference to your clients.

    Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at www.printmailconsultants.com and www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.