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Marketing VDP Services

Commercial printers are offering one-to-one marketing to help their clients boost customer retention and sales.

by Kim Crowley

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has its place in any number of industries – from healthcare, to Fortune 500 companies, to small businesses, and beyond. All of these markets have one common need – to attract new customers and to keep the ones they already have satisfied. One of the most effective ways of employing CRM is through the use of personalized communications.

Print service providers are challenged with the task of selling variable data printing (VDP) to their customers who typically print static pieces.

Marketing, communication, and promotional agency Trekk Cross-Media of Illinois experienced a significant increase in revenue from variable data projects in the past year. Creative director M.J. Anderson tells us that in 2004 VDP made up for eight percent of the company’s revenue; just under 30 percent was from VDP in 2005; and he believes it will continue growing through 2006.

Why Offer One-to-One?
One-to-one marketing, or communicating with personalized messages and other data, offers customers or prospects a feeling that their personal needs are being addressed. There’s a connection that just can’t be felt with static, boilerplate communications. "The marketing world is moving to a relevance-based and one-to-one environment—just look at, and the print portion of that world is no exception," notes Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, TrendWatch GA analyst.

Savvy marketers use one-to-one marketing as part of their CRM strategy to develop current customer relationships, draw in new customers, make for repeat sales, and win back prior customers. Promoting these benefits of VDP to print customers is a provider’s first challenge.

Founded in 1984, CDW is a provider of technology solutions for business, government, and education. The company employs one-to-one marketing strategies to welcome their new customers and develop strong relationships.

Within the first 20 days of a new customer’s purchase through CDW, customer data is fed to Illinois commercial printing company RT Associates, Inc. There, a welcome kit is produced, which includes a personalized letter, a product offer based on their purchase, a static mini catalog, and a personalized link to the CDW Web site. CDW finds that one-to-one marketing increases retention, referral rate, and customer spending, while decreasing overall marketing costs.

One-to-One Sells Itself
Last fall, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) released the study U.S. Direct Marketing Today: Economic Impact 2005. Among its findings were a forecast for continued growth and high return on investment (ROI). Sales driven by direct marketing are forecasted to grow by 6.4 percent through 2009. DMA’s report estimates that for 2005, an investment of one dollar in DM ad expenditures will return, on average, $11.49 in incremental revenue across all industries.

Bob Radzis, owner of RT Associates, Inc., notes that his company is seeing its fastest growth areas in, "Web-to print and projects like CDW’s with PURLs (personalized URLs), tracking, and dashboard’s. VDP generates revenue from print, data management, building AMT sites (Automated Marketing Tools our branding for Web-to-print sites). Roll all this into variable data and it amounts to 65 percent of our billing. In 2005 this work was up 40 percent over 2003 and we expect similar growth in this area for 2006."

Make It Count
Profiled in a free online brochure on the power of direct-mail titled The Mail Moment, a 2005 study by The U.S. Postal Service reveals how important mail is to the daily lives of consumers. A surprisingly high 55 percent say they look forward to discovering the mail they receive, and 67 percent feel that mail is more personal than the Internet.

Mailers should be eye-catching and give recipients a reason to read them. VDP providers may need to guide creatives to make one-to-one marketing pieces count, otherwise printed pieces could wind up in the recycle bin. Service providers can also offer strong paper or finishing options to help users create pieces that stand out.

One unique option to differentiate communications beyond using just VDP, is by using an innovative multi-dimensional personalized mailer created by Digital Dimensions3, Inc. The company has received a number of patents for its personalized 3-D technology for printing. Unique mailers include fish-shaped postcards, Hot Cards that promote fiery offers on stock that looks like it has been burnt, and boxed mailers.

"If the goal is to reach target audiences with attention-grabbing messages, our one-to-one marketing tools have proven they can—cost-effectively—do the job," explains Harvey Hirsch, founder of Digital Dimensions3, Inc.

Digital Dimensions3 incorporates intricate die-cutting into all of its pieces. "By using a pre-die cut template, not only can you personalize and version the sales message or pitch, you can be in the mail in minutes instead of weeks."

Hirsch, who has a standout background as a direct marketing, business development, and sales promo specialist, reveals that, "Lumpy mail gets more attention than flat mail, generally, so packaging is very important." He adds, "Pop-ups attract 40 percent more interest level. Add versioning and personalization, and the response is even greater."

It is also important to remind VDP customers to make a substantial offer or call to action with a coupon, sweepstakes entry, or reason to respond. It should also be easy for recipients to redeem an offer, for example with a postage paid BRC card.


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