Whether your business is a large format print specialist looking to expand its services and capabilities to include VDP—or commercial print shop that’s just now dipping its toes into the variable data printing (VDP) waters—it will quickly become evident that the relationship between you and the customer is truly unique when it comes to fulfilling the VDP job.
Unlike a typical print runs where a customer simply hands off a digital file representing the precise content it would like printed, a VDP job requires not only a seamless workflow, with creative, production, and output technologies all working hand-in-hand, but also a true collaborative partnership between the two parties.
Because the nature of the relationship between print buyer and print supplier is more intertwined and consultative when it comes to VDP work, the print company really needs to change its mindset and begin "thinking like an agency," advises the November 2006 publication Pricing for Variable Data Print by The Industry Measure, a business unit of Reed Business Information.
"How do you price intangibles like brainstorming, helping clients to develop customer databases, analyzing and culling existing databases for the most lucrative prospects, and analyzing the effectiveness of campaigns, and working with clients to tweak future ones?" questions the report. "This requires a lot of experimentation, and even many experienced VDP producers are still refining their pricing models—almost always upwards. At the same time, you don’t want to overprice and scare off your clientele, either. It’s a delicate balancing act."
Based upon variable information (VI) file standards, there are plenty of technologies to support all phases of the VDP workflow—from content creation to production and output—enabling most print buyers and their manufacturing partners to tailor the process to their, and the project’s, needs.
"Those who have not begun to offer VDP services need to transition to being value-added service providers and marketers, and not simply manufacturers," suggests Kathy Wilson, director of product marketing and strategy, EFI. EFI integrated XMPie’s personalization technology into its We- to-print and business management solutions.
The following is but a sampling of the creative and output tools to support VDP.
DirectSmile SE uses Adobe InDesign to create variable data documents. With the software it is simple to create all variable elements, whether they are addresses, salutations, text, images, logos, customer codes, and barcodes. Then rendering and printing occurs in one seamless workflow.
Document Science’s xPression Suite automates design, creation, and production of highly customized and personalized business communications across the enterprise. This dynamic content publishing technology is based on standards like J2EE, XML, Web Services, JMS, and MS .Net. xPression provides a comprehensive set of components for document design, assembly, composition, output processing, and delivery.
Exstream Software’s Dialogue offers design and workflow flexible enough to produce fully personalized document—from complex statements to interactive correspondence—for delivery through targeted print and electronic channels. It easily integrates with existing enterprise environments through its comprehensive connector technology and open architecture.
GMC Software Technology’s PrintNet Suite serves industries such as banking, financial services, insurance, telecom, utilities, and more. PrintNet delivers control over many sources to create effective communications. PrintNet does more than produce documents; it lowers costs and increases your marketing precision.
Kodak Graphic Communications’ Kodak INSITE Variable Data System delivers quickly customized campaigns including direct mail, POS, and flyers. Pre-defined templates include selectable image and text options.
Meadows Publishing Solutions’ DesignMerge Professional Bundle is a suite of software modules for QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign that provides mail merge, VDP, and document assembly features. The entire process is database-driven, completely flexible, and very easy to use.
Objectif Lune’s PrintShop Mail PlanetPress Suite enables easy creation and printing of transactional and promotional variable content documents as well as offering advanced automated distribution and workflow management capabilities. Documents created with PlanetPress Suite can be printed, archived, emailed, and/or faxed as part of an output management application driven by PlanetPress Watch. Conditional text, business graphs, and images can be incorporated based upon information contained within the data stream.
Pageflex by Bitstream is a variable publishing platform that provides a flexible, scalable platform to meet the demands of a broad spectrum of variable data projects, regardless of the media used to deliver them. A wide variety of printed materials can be produced including direct mail, business cards, signage, packaging, and custom books. It also has the capability to extend a marketing campaign to include personalized URLs (pURLs), microsites, and HTML email.
Pitney Bowes’ Group 1 Software is a document composition solution that provides personalized one-to-one marketing content for online and print communications, both inside and outside the envelope.
PrintSoft’s NEWLEAF is a completely WYSIWYG document-formatting tool for direct marketing and color applications. NEWLEAF is able to fulfil a wide variety of color letters, brochures, postcard, statement, policy, and mailing applications.
Responsive Solutions Variable Data+ helps generate a mix of personalized printed mail pieces, email, and pURLs using campaign design templates easily created on or offline by the end user. Internal CRM and SFA lists can be combined and duplicated with third-party data to create lists of target recipients. The system allows the user to define business rules that determine the message and imagery that each recipient receives.
Saepio Technologies’ Dynamic Content Engine is a modular, Web-based tool that makes it easy for franchisees, branch managers, and others to customize and produce locally relevant and brand compliant printed marketing pieces including print ads, sales flyers, direct mailers, brochures, point of purchase displays, and Web to print documents. This proven technology includes an array of powerful features including dynamic cropping, VDP, multilingual capabilities, improved approval processes, dynamic page scripting, and more.
XMPie PersonalEffect is a software suite that unites customer databases and creative content right on the desktop. It is designed specifically for print providers, direct marketing agencies, and corporate marketing professionals. With PersonalEffect, VDP is not limited to one-color texts or simple graphics. Full color imagery can be used, including rich graphics, photographs, tables, and any other design element normally embed in a layout. Each design element can be automatically personalized, resulting in highly relevant messages that are individually targeted to each recipient.
Smart VDP Opportunities
"Only a small minority view variable data printing as a top sales opportunity," EFI’s Wilson confides. "But savvy printers get it. When they start to offer this value-added service and realize that VDP offers their customers a means to increase response rates, increase the value of an average order, improve response time, improve customer retention, repeat orders, and improve overall revenue and profit, the business benefits of VDP become clear."
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Getting Personal.
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, VDP: The Smart Approach.