"If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near." - Jack Welch

Change and innovation in our industry used to come from within. For instance, engine manufacturers would invent a new/faster way to print or a better way to finish printed goods. However, forces outside our industry are driving the change around print purchasing. The purchasing of virtually ALL goods has dramatically changed with the advent of the Internet and e-commerce. Web-to-print is about responding to the radical change in purchasing processes that has hit every industry; print is not an exception.

Your customers and prospects expect to be able to transact with you over the web. They are privy to web-based procurement in other aspects of their lives (outside of buying print). The standards by which your web-to-print offering will be judged by isn't so much about your direct competitors, but rather it's about how Amazon handles the checkout experience, how fast Google's pages respond or the payment options on eBay. Very tough comparisons to live up to! No web-to-print vendors have anywhere near the resources of Google, Amazon or eBay, but the Internet giants are setting the standards.

When looking at your web-to-print offering, remember features sell software, people create strategies and execute on business initiatives. From my experience, a well-articulated online strategy, along with the appropriate resources (the printer's resources) and basic due diligence will drastically improve your chances of success on the web. Spend the time defining the challenge and getting perfectly clear on your online strategy. It will make choosing the vendor much easier.

As an industry we are more comfortable on the production floor than the customer's web browser. The result of retreating to this comfort zone is web-to-print solutions too heavily weighted on production features. I have been in sales cycles where the first question raised about a purchasing solution is, "How will this solution solve all my pre-press challenges?" Unfortunately, this is the wrong question and wrong focus. I would encourage printers to ask the following questions: How will this solution inspire my customers to want to order more frequently from me and have a better understanding of my capabilities? How will this solution help me win new customers by demonstrating to them how we are easy to do business with, accessible and cutting-edge? How will this solution further embed me into my existing customers so the perceived cost of changing vendors allows me to compete on value instead of price?

The full report, "Insider Perspective: 10 Web to Print Mistakes to Avoid," is available here. In a special partnership with EDSF, a portion of the sale will be donated directly to EDSF's worldwide scholarship program supporting students pursuing careers in the Document Management and Graphic Communications industry.

JENNIFER MATT [en@jennifermatt.com] has over 16 years in the web-to-print vendor community. She offers an insider and independent perspective based on direct experience with six different technology providers and literally hundreds of web-to-print projects.