It starts with a phone call.
By Laurie Hileman
Perhaps it’s your fifth clarifying phone call on what should be a one-email-and-done order. Or maybe it’s a repetitive task, done day after day, that triggers the little nagging voice in the back of your head whispering, “There’s got to be a better way.”
It’s a voice that grows louder with every redundant job, every inefficient process that weighs down your work day. “There’s got to be a better way!”
You’re suffering from OCD.
Obsessive Cost-saving Disorder. It’s the unshakable craving for cost savings when money is squandered, profits needlessly lost.
Fear not. There is a cure.
Digital storefronts make the lives of marketing, purchasing, and accounting departments more effective and efficient the world over. Born out of the web boom of the late ’90s and the rapid evolution of digital printing, digital storefronts are newer, sleeker, more powerful versions of the online warehouse portals of years past.
However, today’s users not only access warehouse inventory, but they enter, customize, proof, and order print jobs with the click of a button. The ability to create customizable templates within a brand framework makes marketing departments swoon. Purchasing and accounting departments get downright giddy over the ability to systemize ordering protocol, control accounting expenditures, and deliver single monthly invoices— all while saving on labor costs.
And because digital storefronts are completely customized to individual organizations’ systems and structures, they’re a genetically tailored wonder drug for OCD. Here’s a look at how one company found its perfect cure.
Fewer touches, fewer mistakes
“Too many hands in the pot!” That’s how Stacey Parzuchowski, marketing associate at Howard & Howard, a business law firm with more than 130 attorneys in five offices throughout Michigan, Illinois, and Nevada, describes her ongoing struggle with her former printer.
The tasks of ordering business cards, letterhead, and marketing materials falls to Parzuchowski, one of only two marketing personnel at the firm. First she tried emailing orders, then using purchase orders. However, with so many people handling the order on the print side, the propensity for human error remained high.
Orders were shipped to wrong locations, zip codes were incorrect, and old information reappeared on new materials. The list went on as frustrations mounted. It was time for a change.
Representatives from Howard & Howard sat down with Bay City, Mich.-based The F.P. Horak Company to learn more about the company’s digital and online capabilities. The concept of a digital storefront immediately appealed to Parzuchowski. The efficiencies and cost savings appealed to everyone.
“We knew we were going to save money right off the bat,” says Parzuchowski. “Even with the minor maintenance fees that are required through the storefront and the warehousing, they were still meeting and mostly beating the prices we were already paying.”
Parzuchowski and a team from F.P. Horak went to work structuring a digital storefront to manage all of Howard & Howard’s ongoing print needs, which included business cards, note pads, FYI cards, letterhead and billing paper, envelopes, and mailing labels.
“Anytime you change a major component of your business, that’s challenging in and of itself,” says Parzuchowski. But from collecting all of the firm’s files from the other printer and getting them moved over, to setting up cost centers and customized templates for each office, she relished the chance to set it up exactly as she needed it to be.
Then came one final decision: user access. Parzuchowski opted to retain sole access to the storefront, rather than delegating control out to the offices. “I have a very high attention to detail, almost to a fault. I feel more confident when I’m doing it,” explains Parzuchowski, who places all orders on the site.
Now, it’s her hands—and her hands only—in the pot. All of the soft touches that led to human error and added cost are gone.
Empowering others, retaining control
While a digital storefront cuts down on the soft touches to an order after it is placed, the platform itself is flexible and scalable to fit almost every company need—from a small business requiring business cards and letterhead, to multi-billion dollar companies with locations worldwide.
At organizations like Howard & Howard, one person can easily manage the storefront thanks to built-in, time-saving efficiencies. Other larger companies opt for—or in many cases require—a different approach.
Companies spending millions managing carefully crafted brand identities like the ability to empower users across their departments and locations while retaining control of the brand standards. Storefronts are loaded up with approved marketing communications templates, complete with customizable fields for locations, experts, and other pertinent information. Budgets are set.
The result is targeted, branded content, printed on-demand and within budget. No more boxes of brochures headed to the recycling bin because of an address change. No more flyers hitting mailboxes with the wrong logo color. And no more frazzled marketing reps or frustrated accounting departments.
That’s the beauty of a storefront. Wherever a company feels the pain of inefficiency, a storefront can heal it with measurable cost savings.
What you see is what you get
When is red not red? Er, well, that depends.
In the initial set-up stage of the Howard & Howard storefront, Parzuchowski shared struggles with nailing the correct shade of her firm’s red color across various print mediums. Despite having the correct PMS color in the past, when materials printed digitally they tended to look brighter and more red. But when they went on press, the red looked more orangey and pink.
Her F.P. Horak team set out to fix the issue before it could become a problem in the storefront. They tweaked each individual template based on what print mechanism it required, to ensure the finished pieces would meet her exact specification. “Now there are no issues with the color,” she happily reports.
The storefront also provides her with instant online proofs to double (and triple!) check before she places an order. “It’s nice to know that when I click ‘order,’ I know that that’s what I’m going to be given. There’s nothing that’s going to happen from the time I click on that button to the time I get it that’s going to change. That’s really, really helpful,” says Parzuchowski.
By taking the guesswork out of ordering and carefully crafting flexible templates, Parzuchowski is able to focus her efforts on other marketing initiatives.
In certain situations, the desire for a digital storefront comes from the ranks of the purchasing department rather than the marketing department. Purchasing requests for everything from pencils to promotional items to trade show displays can bog down those controlling the purse strings.
In the case of Howard & Howard, Parzuchowski set up billing and various cost centers related to her locations. Bills arrive on her desk already allocated to the correct cost center, saving her time and helping her stay on budget.
For larger organizations such as hospitals, universities, and multi-national companies, the ability to seamlessly integrate accounting systems with the backend of the storefront makes purchasing and accounting departments breathe a sigh of relief. One monthly summary invoice can replace hours of allocating, check-cutting, and mailing costs.
It also offers a way to monitor who is ordering what. That’s good information to know for both accounting and marketing.
Access, whenever and wherever needed
For Parzuchowski, gone are the days of wondering whether her printer contacts have left the office, or if they’re not going to have a chance to place the order until the next morning.
Instead, she takes great comfort in knowing the storefront is always available, even after “normal” business hours. Whether she’s in Michigan, Las Vegas, or at home on her laptop, the site is there whenever and wherever she may need it. “It’s one click!” raves Parzuchowski, who has ordered business cards off her storefront and received them the next day.
Sometimes it’s the little things in a workday that make one happy. Little things like less paper shuffling, incredibly quick turnaround, print-on-demand, and automatic monthly billing are just a few of the digital storefront benefits driving big cost savings at Howard & Howard.
At the forefront
Staying at the forefront of a printing industry that has literally reinvented itself in the past 25 years requires a keen understanding of new technology and how it can seamlessly integrate into a client’s business model to produce consistent, meaningful results.
As digital technology evolves, the print revolution continues. Small, customizable print runs are now the norm. Print-on-demand offers flexibility and cost savings that were once out of reach to all but the largest organizations. Digital storefronts are the face of it all, putting the power of automation, customization, and control directly into the client’s hands.
So, the next time you hear that little nagging voice in the back of your head whispering, “There’s got to be a better way,” see what a digital storefront can do for you. You just might find the cure you’re looking for.