Archive for Marketing

Vistaprint’s New View of Globalization

As globalization continues to affect everyday lives, we are seeing a corresponding repositioning of business resources and factors that promote growth and success, particularly in sectors hitherto untouched by globalization’s reach.

The small, local, family-owned enterprise is no exception. Nor is the “old fashioned” printing sector.

In order to remain competitive, “traditional” companies can no longer rely on rigid structures, and thanks to the commoditization of technology, they must now look for ways to reinvigorate their business models.

Vistaprint is one company that has leveraged new technologies and the means of globalization not only to excel in the global marketplace but also to dominate of all things the business card/postcard/T-shirt segment! An aggressive web advertiser, Vista now has 2,700 employees across 13 countries.

One time, Vistaprint—born in Europe—was a small business, but by leveraging the Internet, multi-channel marketing, and global supply chains, it has grown exponentially, reporting $817 million in revenue in 2011.

Vistaprint is now the poster child of how companies—especially those in “traditional” sectors—must adapt to globalization’s new paradigms: aggregated mass production, global supply chains, offshoring, innovative use of the web, etc.

Farther, Faster, Cheaper

Prior to the Internet, operating across geographies was a challenge, but manufacturing today can occur anywhere there is physical infrastructure, shipping access, and/or digital communications. A production facility can now encompass many locations and serve a global demographic—Vistaprint’s facilities, for instance, are in Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

As Thomas Friedman says, “[T]echnologies are making it easier … for traditional nation-states and corporations to reach farther, faster, cheaper, and deeper around the world than ever before.”

Putting it another way, Vistaprint CEO Thomas Keane explains, “[T]he Internet and the ability to pull orders instantaneously … is the death of distance between these different areas. That’s why we can put manufacturing where it is most competitive. Technology has accelerated globalization to a really exciting place.”

An Element of Salvation?

In the now-globalized world, those who rely on out-moded, rigid systems will never grow beyond a certain level, or they may die on the vine.

The localized, small business printer, for example, realizing that its market share is shrinking, might react—systematically—by buying another distressed business for reasons of purchasing technology he or she covets. But this tactic alone cannot provide long-term growth.

Online ordering with supply chains located all over the world is challenging an industry that once relied on craftsmanship and local business ties. New services and new ideas—ones that leverage globalization’s tactics and that are spread over wider geographic areas—are needed to maintain the same level of success, let alone to grow.

Although online marketing has diminished the printing industry significantly, moving processes and products online might provide an element of salvation. It may be that globalization and new technology benefit the industry and make it suffer simultaneously.

From Production to Service

That is, small printers have the ability—if they have the wherewithal—to move beyond the print shop floor to produce expansive cross-media marketing campaigns for clients that include an element of printing but that also include the management of assets, supply chains, and fulfillment requests.

Online tools allow the printing industry to become less like a manufacturer and more like a service provider. In other words, the print shop can now become an advisor to its clients and sell holistic business and workflow solutions such as fulfillment, warehousing, and cross-media marketing.

And small printers can use online systems to gain efficiencies for clients (such as online prepress, proofing, or print-on-demand), thereby counteracting the fact that digital marketing is competing for client printing budgets.

The changes in the printing industry are reflected in its staffing model, which has seen a significant shift from the manufacturing floor to the front office. Because technology has created machines that need fewer people to produce more goods, printing companies are replacing blue-collar staff with service staff—sales, account management, production, creative, and marketing.

All this is a perfect illustration of the shift in the labor force that Daniel Bell predicted would happen to industry as technology and communication improved. The growth of the knowledge economy requires businesses to include technology and knowledge along with labor and capital as key factors of success.

David Beats Goliath with a Rock (Solid Approach to Market Entry)

I recently received some great feedback on my University of Maryland Doctorate of Management paper on “Globalization and the Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME).”

Despite many challenges, I argue that there remain some tremendous opportunities for SMEs to gain market entry in a global environment through alliances, virtual organizations, and symbiotic relationships with other companies both large and small. At the end of the paper, I included an interview with Ian Bothwell of Rover Technologies, a technology-based SME.

Here’s some of the good advice Ian passed along regarding how to launch technology-based products and services in a global marketplace.

Play the Field: Market in More Than One Segment

“The ability to market your technology to more than one segment is valuable. Multiple segments implies the potential to also scale in a larger market, while the risk of failure is reduced in any one segment. However, switching segments is usually not practical very early in the market entry process, primarily because customer acquisition and product customization costs can be prohibitive.”

Horses for Courses: Find the Right Niche

“A scaling strategy in the face of an established market is extraordinarily difficult, in terms of differentiating oneself and establishing presence and credibility. For SMEs scaling is predicated on finding useful niches and entering with an attractive price/performance and matching customer needs. In Phase Two, upsell the early adopters.”

Jack Be Nimble: Use Size to Your Advantage

“The primary advantage an SME has is its size. There is no market too small or any customer too unattractive. Its agility and willingness to take risks makes it a potent market force. For technology-based products and services, this advantage means being able to adapt to diverse customer needs without incurring significant additional development, testing, or market validation costs. This requires an inherently ‘flexible’ product that can be customized rapidly, easily, and at low ‘delta cost.’”

Pipe Dream: Rapidly Introduce New Products/Upgrades

“In order to scale in a segment, while sustaining first-in-class momentum, you must introduce product improvements in a rapid tempo, usually more than once a year. This calls for a fundamentally superior design concept and flawless execution by the product team. A useful concept here is product line architecture (PLA), which has become the rage with large enterprises in their drive to eke out efficiencies.”

Triumph of the Commons: Design for Rapid Product Evolution

“A well-designed product line embeds a superior design of sufficient abstraction and commonality that it allows for the assembly of a majority of ‘common’ elements along with a small number of unique variations—to yield rapid development of a range of product forms. R&D advances fed into the pipeline allow for variations to take advantage of these technologies first before they are incorporated into the enterprise. This provides a viable implementation framework for a large range of products prior to the market entry of even the first one! Synergistically designed software and hardware provide a powerful foundation for an affordable and efficient PLA to leverage an SME’s agility in order to make a big market impact.”

Fully Baked: Design Agnostic Hardware

“Hardware design needs to be device agnostic to allow for significant upgradeability for emerging technologies that are as yet undefined. Similarly, scalability has to be ‘baked-in’ at the outset, since the PLA supports different products with widely different scaling needs. The use of standard interfaces allows for interoperability of different classes of devices, opening the door to a variety of application concepts with the same hardware framework.”

Reading the Future: Use Services-Based Software

“Software design needs to mirror the abstraction of peripheral devices. Core software design must generalize these device constructs using a meta-framework to define and model them, to allow software to understand device types yet to be developed. A services-based software framework can encapsulate various aspects of product-related functions and allow the development of common and unique services.”

Like Ringing the Bell!

Working on an essay for my doctorate at University of Maryland University College analyzing Daniel Bell’s The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit, he was a visionary! Here’s what I say about his theory of the shift from manufacturing to technology/knowledge-based economy as applied to the printing industry.

Visit for all this put into practice with one of Nine-A’s clients!

Jobs continue to shift away from agriculture and manufacturing toward service/knowledge industries such as government, finance, and healthcare. As technology has improved, we have seen efficiency and productivity improvements reduce or even replace manufacturing and other businesses.

For instance, online marketing has diminished the printing business significantly. As we are able to move process and products to online venues, the printing industry benefits and suffers simultaneously. Printers can use online systems to gain efficiency, yet digital marketing has reduced client printing budgets.

In order to remain competitive, companies can no longer rely on a rigid structure. With the commoditization of technology, we must now look for ways to expand business models. The print shop must now become an advisor to its clients and sell holistic business solutions such as fulfillment, warehousing, and marketing.

The staffing model has seen a significant change from the manufacturing floor to the front office. Technology has created machines that need fewer people to produce more goods. Therefore, printing companies are replacing blue-collar staff with sales, production, and marketing staff. All this, in an industry I am familiar with, is a perfect illustration of a corresponding shift in the labor force. Bell notes that this change will occur at different rates across sectors.