The present-day business cases for print service providers have changed in some ways from what they were at the peak of paper's popularity. You're no longer able to become an organization's main source of internal and external communication products in the digital era. That said, this isn't the death knell for the industry that some may have predicted. Or, it doesn't have to be. If you can become a strategic partner to your clients, one that's ready to delve deep into data and deliver solutions that actually address today's marketing needs, you can thrive.

Selling this new style of business requires you to ensure potential clients that you are in touch with their target audiences. Essentially, your ability to reach consumers will be your leverage in becoming a trusted marketing partner. As long as you are willing to design or refresh your products and services to meet current demands, you will still find plenty of businesses willing to take on a print service provider.

The power of personalization
Direct mail has a complicated legacy as a marketing tactic. No one likes "junk mail" – the spiritual predecessor to email spam. But what if you could give clients the ability to send out mailings that aren't junk, but instead actually address their customers on a one-to-one basis?

That's the idea put forward by WhatTheyThink's Barb Pellow in her recent column. She explained that marketers have seen the impact of impersonal information dumps go down in recent years as consumers have been inundated by a wave of content. They're looking for methods that can cut through the chatter with surgical precision. This is where you come in.

Direct mail that is addressed directly to particular customers could be an effective way to reach individuals. Pellow explained that when communications are aimed at one person, rather than a group, people are far more likely to read them. The numbers, from an Ipsos survey, are telling: More than six in 10 American consumers feel more favorably about companies that address their marketing messages to individuals than ones that go for generalized strategies.

You can capitalize on the demand for personalized sales prompts by applying those principles to your direct mail operations. Of course, to do so, you'll have to cast aside the image of the printing industry as outdated and embrace modern data. Pellow noted that what marketers need is an infusion of relevance, and the ability to target their audiences more effectively. Many today lack these qualities, and if you can provide them alongside your printed mail-outs, your company may become a vital cog in a forward-thinking marketing strategy.

The author specified that leaders in the marketing-focused side of the printing business are refreshing their offerings for 2017 and beyond. If you can provide the data-based strategies that go along with physical media campaigns, you can boost your offerings' relevance and suit the market as it exists now. Be ready to run numbers that will directly prove the return on investment your mailings provide, and be prepared to branch into modern predictive modeling. Even in the long-tenured print industry, there's no reason to cling to old-fashioned operations.

Millennials read mail
Of course, the present state of any outreach method only tells half the story. It's important to invest in tactics that have a future. In news that may surprise some printing industry observers, it seems physical mailings are ready for a strong next few years. According to Financial Brand contributor Nick Romano, millennials respond to mailings at impressive rates. This is a breakthrough finding, considering that these young individuals have grown up with access to email and are fully accustomed to handling communications through smartphones. The continued appeal of paper proves that your offerings still hold worth to marketers and their customers.

Romano, like Pellow, cited InfoTrends data on the state of the mailing market. He explained that the average 18-to-24 year old responded to a direct mail item within the past 2.6 months. That's a little lower than the 25-to-34 age group and better than any range from 35 up. As it happens, those just growing into their roles as active consumers are more active than previous generations when it comes to mailed offers. This should give you the confidence to move forward with data-driven direct mail approaches. Just as digital means didn't kill print books among millennials, email hasn't slain snail mail.

Personalize and cut through the noise
A letter or postcard sent out to a particular customer, based on that individual's previous purchases or stated interests, is a rare beacon of clarity in a marketing world that is generally getting faster, louder and more chaotic. Becoming adept with data behind the scenes means you can take this calm and effective approach to reaching customers. Mastering this skill will make your print services a great match for marketing departments that know personalization is a hit with audiences, but haven't yet found a way to make it work.