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Cutting Through the Clutter

Advances in Variable Data Printing

By Barbara Pellow

We live in a multi-media world where consumers are bombarded with email, billboards, television, periodicals, and radio. Estimates are that the average consumer receives over 4,000 media impressions every day, and marketing executives face the challenge of cutting through the clutter and capturing the consumer’s attention. Marketers are beginning to acknowledge that variable data solutions—also known as database-driven, personalized, relevant, or one-to-one marketing—are the answer for improving return on marketing dollars.

Graphic communications service providers also see variable data printing (VDP) as a viable solution for anyone with a marketing message and a database. Innovation and advances in digital print systems make color quality levels more than acceptable for the majority of marketing applications. Improvements to the software driving VDP are delivering solutions that are more versatile, affordable, and user-friendly than those available just a few years ago.

The issue is not if there is a variable data market opportunity, but how to get in the game. There are plenty of options and alternatives that can be customized to meet the needs of your customer base, whether your need is large or small.

Options and Alternatives
VDP is being successfully applied in a number of applications, ranging from simple 1:1 business correspondence to the integration of transaction documents with marketing messages. Custom communications techniques have also been applied to more comprehensive multi-channel marketing campaigns. Businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to harness the power of personalization to improve the ROI on marketing dollars.

Personalized Business Correspondence
There are entry-level solutions that incorporate a name and an address with static information to produce a unique piece for each recipient. Tools like Atlas PrintShop Mail are fast, efficient, and very easy to use. By simply dragging and dropping database fields onto the document layout, PrintShop Mail creates a link between the database field and the document. PrintShop Mail gives users an instant preview and provides a resource checking option. It accepts any database format and any page layout or design application and can drive any PostScript print engine. Even novice users can get started with some of the entry-level tools on the market.

Web-to-print applications target users with template-driven solutions for the design and purchase of their print jobs from their own computers. The primary focus of Web-to-print solutions has traditionally been on large corporations with distributed sales forces, agents, and franchisees. The remote user has the ability to incorporate variable information with a standard template to make the piece more relevant for a local targeted audience.

Richmond, VA-based Worth Higgins and Associates is a 36-year-old sheet-fed commercial printer with 140 employee owners. Its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in metropolitan Richmond was designed and built in 1994 and currently features traditional as well as digital printing capabilities. According to president/CEO Rick LaReau, "Three to four years ago, we firmly believed that Web-to-print would be embraced by our clients. We beat the drum and nothing happened, but now it has suddenly taken off."

Worth Higgins is leveraging Printable Technologies’ solution and now has more than 25 template-driven sites. Corporate clients have a need to protect brand image, but no longer have the staff in place to manage print projects. LaReau states, "Web-to-print enables our clients to protect the brand while distributing the workload." Worth Higgins has a strong relationship with Wachovia Securities for its PrintSmart Program. Wachovia’s network of 10,000 brokers can access marketing support materials, postcards, and birthday cards online and upload mailing lists, while Worth Higgins handles the production and distribution. According to LaReau, "Web-to-print solutions have become the fastest-growing part of our business. We are getting one hundred plus orders in a week through Printable."

Data-Driven Custom Communications
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) is one of the nation’s leading independent restaurant groups—it currently owns, manages, and licenses more than 50 establishments. Shortly after re-acquiring Big Bowl Asian Kitchen, LEYE needed to educate its frequent diners that Big Bowl had joined its family, hopefully driving them to dine at the restaurant.

Specialty Printing came to the rescue. Established in 1938 under the name LeFebvre Intergraphics, Specialty Printing is now a $60 million company that services an extensive roster of regional and national clients. Specialty produced a direct mailer to customers who had not visited Big Bowl since the re-acquisition. The customers received a postcard with 14 variable data components, including special promotional codes for discounts on dining. Specialty was hoping to achieve a 3.75 percent response rate after 40 days, and it achieved a 9.7 percent response.

The Transpromo Opportunity
Using a combination of bold design, color print, and variable data, statements—or any transactional document—can be turned into valuable marketing tools that enable companies to retain and inform clients. By using—or allowing others to use—the white space on your transactional documents, it is now possible to generate valuable extra revenue.

Transpromo is the inevitable fusion of transactional printing and proactive marketing. Transpromo documents are intuitively based on the knowledge of client demographics and consumer markets. It is a well-known fact that statements, invoices, checks, and pay slips are still the most common communication between businesses and consumers. Consumers expect to receive transaction documents, and due to their relevance for financial records, they are usually guaranteed to open and read them. With graphical representations of their transactions, dynamic input, and personalized proactive marketing ads, marketers can grab your client’s attention, enhance their perception of the corporate brand, and engage in cross-selling opportunities.

Integrated Campaign Management
A key trend that we are seeing from the solutions providers is the extension of VDP solutions into the multi-channel world. A full range of new software tools are beginning to deliver on the promise of integrated campaign management. MindFireInc, Pageflex, Responsive Solutions, and XMPie have tool sets that can help graphic communications service providers develop integrated marketing campaigns. They link the power of direct mail with the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The objective is to convert more direct mail recipients into qualified prospects and valued customers by sustaining an integrated and evolving dialogue with those customers and prospects.

Miami, FL-based Franklin Communications invested in production digital color in late 2005. Hilton Hotels was looking for a way to attract more corporate clients, specifically meeting planners. When the hotel chain mailed a static, non-focused piece, it only received a one percent response rate. Franklin worked with Hilton to produce a complex one-to-one marketing program that included personal URLs and incorporated a 800-number to track responses. Hilton used an existing database of meeting planners and also purchased a database of potential corporate meeting planners. Franklin produced a full-color custom die-cut oversized quad fold card with variable data in six places. The mailers described Hilton properties and associated amenities. There was also a card insert describing U.S. properties. Through the 800-number and personal URLs, Franklin tracked the response rate. The initial mailing of 10,000 generated a five percent response and the second mailing received a 13 percent response.

60-year-old MA-based Reynolds DeWalt worked with the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center to drive event participation. The objective of the campaign was to develop an understanding of the types of performers that would have the most appeal as well as sell more tickets. Reynolds DeWalt used the limited data on season ticket holders and those that had ordered single-event tickets. This was augmented with additional information purchased from Accudata, including age, annual household income, marital status, and number of children. The company determined that the best prospects were males between the ages of 40 and 55 with an income in excess of $75,000. They developed a postcard mailer indicating that the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center had a seat with the recipient’s name on it. The offer to encourage recipients to link to the Web site was an opportunity to win two free tickets to a performance of their choice during the upcoming season. There was a 14 percent response rate to the pURL offer. Of the individuals that linked to the landing page, 29 percent actually provided the email address of a friend.

New Dimensions, New Opportunities
ROI reigns supreme in the marketing world. New software applications combined with high-speed digital color technology have matured to the level where marketing executives will take notice of the results they can deliver. Marketing personnel are beginning to understand the full range of technological capabilities at their disposal. CMOs will want to leverage the array of personalized alternatives with knowledgeable suppliers that understand the new world of business communications. As you reflect on your business, there is no time like the present to take on this challenge.

Jun2007, Digital Output

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