Getting Personal

Getting Personal

There is a lot of talk these days in the direct mail marketing world on the subject of variable data printing. If you are not familiar with this relatively new technology, allow us to give you an abbreviated overview.

Variable data technology (VDT) itself is not all that new to publishing. Its predecessor was the mail merge tool introduced on most desktop systems in the 1990’s. In it, the variable information found on one’s database could be accessed and dropped into a print field on a document, creating a personal greeting to an otherwise impersonal letter. In most cases, it was nothing more than a name and address at the top of the page.

Then came companies like Indigo (which was later purchased by HP) and Xerox, who saw the potential of this personalization technology and put it on steroids. More prolific databases, containing a much deeper level of a customer’s unique profile, could now be merged with full color art files in the actual offset printing process. Now, it is possible to create a printed piece, using variable data and variable images that appears as if it was custom written and printed for one person. From this the term was coined: one-to-one marketing.

What’s the buzz?
The main reason VDT printing caught on was because of the amazing response rates their direct mail pieces were achieving. On average, they were significantly higher than those of conventional direct mailings. Depending on the quality of the database, some VDT mailings were achieving double digit response rates. In some extreme cases, 30% to 40%. Now while the cost per unit would be higher to produce a VDT mailer, the ROI could be much more attractive. Print decision-making has begun to migrate from the purchasing department to the marketing department as the thought of leveraging customer information is seen more and more to be profitable. Conventional printing has evolved into customer profile printing. And the connectivity evolution continues today, linking the internet and landing pages to the back end of a campaign; tracking responses on a dashboard in real time.

But before you try it on your direct mailing campaign, there are a few important points to consider.

  • How deep is your database?
    The market place has become as savvy as the technology. If all you have is a list of names and addresses in your database, you probably won’t see an increased response.
  • Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?Yes. When you consider it costs more to find new customers than it does to get more business from existing customers. The wisdom here would be to invest in the quality of the database you have. Achieve higher customer retention by capturing “hot-button” data from your customer’s buying or, in the case of non-profits, giving habits. The more you know about the person you are talking to, the more likely you will keep their attention and evoke a positive response.
  • Is it a good fit?Not for everyone. But while this kind of higher level database management may not be practical for some at this time, it is the trend. So do your homework. Google some VDT applications and success stories. Get familiar with it. This is the way direct mail is trending in the future.
  • VDT Technology plus what else?The most successful VDT campaigns have additional components that are important as well, such as well-written copy that lends itself to a natural, one-to-one conversation. And full color graphics. The combination of all three maximizes your chances for success.
  • It’s a new paradigm.If you want to use VDT, throw away the old notion of buying based on unit cost. It’s not about unit cost savings. It’s about ROI. We are conditioned as business people to get the most for the least amount of money. While there may be room to haggle over cost between suppliers of the same technology, don’t fall into the trap of shopping price between conventional and VDT printing. They are not the same. If you want to achieve success based on leveraging the value of your deep dish database, then the cost per unit is largely irrelevant if the ROI is as high as some document it to be.

If you are interested in doing a deeper dive on this subject, let’s talk. We specialize in reaching people. And VDT may be just the right tool for you.

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