Don’t Get Paid in Shoes: Service Provider Transformation

It’s fall of 2012, and I am standing in one of the fanciest elevators I’ve ever been in (it looks like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles). Today will be the biggest meeting of my life, where I will propose my omni-channel marketing campaign for one of the biggest luxury shoe designers in the world.

Once off the elevator, I meet with two creative directors. They lead me into a conference room that is stacked high with piles of shoes. We all sit down at a conference table. I explain my campaign idea of pop-up shops, content marketing, and print. This brand had been ignoring distribution in key areas in the western United States and consequently had a cult following of consumers willing to pay more for their shoes.

After 5 minutes of not taking a breath, I notice big grins on the creative directors faces. “This is great! Really innovative, I love it!”, says one of the directors, “But…we can’t work with you.” The other creative director then chimes in, “Yes we love what you did but we don’t trust working with a print service provider with a marketing campaign. However, you did such a great job why don’t you help yourself to a pair of shoes.” And this was the bulk of my experiences when I worked as a marketing specialist for a print service provider.

As shown by my experience, changing from a service provider to marketing or media provider is an uphill battle. It’s most likely why an industry survey published on What They Think showed that in 2015 only 31% of service providers offered digital services to clients. Despite the challenges of transforming a business, there are several important steps that a service provider can take to avoid being in the situation I was four years ago. These recommendations are as follows:

  1. Internal buy-in: In my years as an analyst the most successful marketing service providers I saw were those that had the internal buy-in of the company. Employees from production to sales understood that making this transformation was critical to the business. Many times to gain internal momentum, special training courses or education was offered on the benefits of marketing services to the business. Those that did acquire an agency didn’t keep those workers separate either, they made great efforts to integrate new employees into the company culture.
  2. Use the print advantage: One big mistake I experienced was the service provider trying to make a prospect forget they ever did print. However, the way I see it, print is a huge advantage especially when dealing with CCM based communications. At GMC Software we estimate 80% of paper based CCM content is also found in web and mobile –so using the angle that you already know/are compliant with this content is a huge plus. By using tools such as GMC Inspire Designer, you can also easily use the same file for not just print but email, web, and mobile.
  3. Sales enablement: This recommendation is the hardest, especially since you are asking people who have sold the same way for 30 years to change. However, sales are the key to success. Make sure that sales know and understand the benefits of selling marketing or digital services. It’s important to reinforce to sales that print isn’t going to disappear but has just become another channel on the customer journey.

The transformation of a business is not completed overnight but is critical to continuing survival.

After all being paid in shoes is OK for a twenty-something out of college but not for the longevity of an established business.

photo source: The role of iconography in the creation of Dior’s iconic image

Originally published at