Lars Langbo, the production manager of Norwegian publishing firm LO Media, has a curious mind. Whether it’s an innovative technology or a new business approach, he readily embraces new ideas and concepts. Always searching for the best ways to optimise his customers’ communications and business needs, his promise to them is simple: “Whatever your objective, we will deliver the results.”
His approach is evident in LO Media’s previous investment in a web-to-print service and digital printing technologies during 2009 and 2010 to combat declining print runs and rising overheads, owing to an evolving communications landscape increasingly driven by digital practices.
The reasons for these investments become clear when considering LO Media’s two core areas of business. Not only is the company the largest publisher of magazines for the Norwegian Press Association (NPA), creating and designing the content for a range of the country’s leading publications, but it also provides trade unions and political parties with communication and marketing services.
“Our ambition is to help the unions improve their communications with their members through proper and constructive dialogue, timely information and ease of response,” explains Lars.
The short-run and variable data printing (VDP) capabilities of digital print have helped LO Media to produce print-on-demand cost-effectively, as well as to reduce costs by keeping previously outsourced short runs of magazines and marketing collateral in-house. By combining the technology with a comprehensive web-to-print offering – the team builds and maintains a large number of e-commerce sites for over 2,000 customers that sell over 450 print products – the safety of the printing department has been secured.
“We have saved around 500,000 Norwegian Krone (NKR) (approximately €56,699) a year in printing costs, and have generated over 1 million NKR a year in new revenues (approximatively €100,000),” estimates Lars. “That’s 1.2 million NKR in sales, and then 240,000 NKR for maintaining the systems for customers. Selling the web-to-print store is only the beginning.”
But for a man of Lars’ foresight, he knows that evolution must be constant to remain successful and that LO Media “could not stand still: business development has to be perpetual.” Recognising that his customers wanted more types of digital communication, in 2013 he set out to create a more expansive communications service via a cross-media solution.
LO Media tested out a basic cross-media solution from the US to get a flavour of what could be achieved. The team was impressed by the potential of the technology and the capability to create highly personalised customer communications across multiple channels. However, the experience told Lars that he needed a more comprehensive software package that, crucially, included local supplier support and training to maximise the investment.
Moreover, the security of the software was also essential, given the need to handle confidential data for LO Media’s core customer base in the political field. He consulted his long-term partner for digital print and web-to-print solutions, Canon, for advice.
“Based on our previous experience as a Canon partner, we knew they would put forward a proposition that was more far-reaching than just a product in a box,” continues Lars. “So while Canon’s business consultant recommended DirectSmile Cross Media Suite, he also strongly advised that our whole production team received training from an independent consultant in Sweden.”
The Canon training consultant explained that selling cross-media services to customers and publishing content across multiple platforms is a steep learning curve. “We learnt it would take a strategic approach and a lot of work to get things right,” adds Lars. “But this is to be expected with any new business venture. Fortunately the training didn’t stop there. Canon’s business consultant is very dedicated, and we knew his expertise and advice would be invaluable moving forward in successfully entering the cross-media market.”
Customer demand for digital publishing services is up and, on the back of its extended service offering, LO Media has won profitable long-term contracts worth over 1 million NKR per year (approximately €100,000) from new organisations to support their communications for large events, conventions and major polls.
While the cross-media service is still being fine-tuned, Lars and his team are working hard with Canon to make the transition from charge-based selling to value-based selling: “This approach ensures the buyer feels they’re the most important element within the equation. We can offer a broader range of communications and analyse what works best for them, becoming an advisor that has its customers’ best interests at heart.”
LO Media is now able to analyse valuable data to establish what is working for individual customers and what isn’t. “For instance, we may not have email addresses to reach all of our customers’ target audiences, but we have their mailing addresses, so we can send a personalised direct mail piece to elicit a response and acquire that information,” explains Lars. “Alternatively, if we don’t think a poll campaign involving print is going to be effective for a campaign, we can go down a digital route instead. The best communication channel isn’t set in stone – each customer and campaign is different.”
By applying the knowledge we obtained from Canon and from the independent training, we have the capability to offer high quality digital services, and have the vision and patience to think more long-term. We’re building long-term relationships with our customers and foresee a profitable future.