Industry, Weekly Digest

Buying Business Communications Services

In my last post, I talked about designing a communication strategy to improve the efficiency of your organization’s document management. Now that you’ve come up with a strategy, you may have found that you need help pulling it off.

Services you may need to buy (either from your in-house agency or in-plant printer, or from an outside provider) include strategy, design, development, production, delivery, and more.

The business communications buying process doesn’t start with a request for proposal. It also doesn’t end with the contract.

find plan measureBusinesses should treat their vendor relationships as partnerships for continuous improvement. This way, business communications become an asset instead of a major source of wasted time, money, and effort.

According to the Towers Watson, improved communications translate to a 29.5% increase in market value. Improvements in communications also result in employee turnover rates below — sometimes significantly below — similar companies that don’t have formal, strategic corporate communications programs.

With these benefits in mind, it’s crucial to get your communication strategy streamlined and more efficient. Your vendors can help you accomplish this goal, but you have to know where you currently stand first.  Just as with the strategy development process, this decision requires answers to a few key questions:

What are we buying now? The answer to this question may not be simple, especially if your company is large and has gone through major changes such as mergers and new management. If you don’t have a good communication system between departments within your organization, no one may know for sure every document that’s going out the door.

Your first step, then, is to perform an audit to determine what documents every department is producing. This may not be a simple or quick process, but it’s a crucial step toward more efficient — and more cost effective — communications.

What are we paying now? Answering this question requires that you answer the first one. And while you may think that this is a simple question of how much you’re paying vendors for your document production, you also need to take upstream costs into consideration.

Manual intervention — especially if the document has to go through several different hands before finally getting approved and sent out — can significantly increase the cost of production. This cost is easy to miss, since it doesn’t show up on a convenient, itemized bill. Likewise, look into costly issues such as returned mail handling, bounced emails and other manual processing due to design or production flaws.

How can we improve? It’s fairly common for companies to end the discussion on how to improve by figuring out ways to squeeze better prices out of vendors. However, improvements in your internal business processes can far outweigh price concessions. Postal optimization, eliminating redundant mailings, improving your online services adoption, and eliminating manual intervention can all save you as much or more than bargaining for a discount from vendors.

 Contrary to popular procurement wisdom, business communications are not a commodity. It is a function of your business that is experiencing accelerated transformation that precludes rigid contracts that can’t be adjusted to meet changing needs. Consider printed communications where postage is likely the greatest portion of expense; if you focus your efforts on negotiating the lowest price per page you may lose sight of the need for postal optimization services or support with marketing to drive paperless adoption. Find a service provider with a plan for providing continuous improvement and look at your cost savings in a holistic way – you’ll have better results and a much better time getting them.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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