Print service providers who expand their capabilities to include variable data print (VDP) can gain further benefits from their investment in skills and know-how by offering additional complementary services to their clients. These services allow the printer to move away from the price pressures of commodity-based printing and towards value-based billing.
Because VDP combines print production know-how with database skills, as printers gain confidence with the latter, they become able to offer additional new services that stem directly from this expertise, expanding their portfolios and opening up new revenue streams. These services add value to the printed page and also improve client retention as their closely-linked nature makes it unappealing for the client to establish a new relationship with different service provider for each of the additional services.
Data clean-up is an essential part of maintaining a database, whether it's used for CRM (customer relationship management) or direct marketing purposes. In many cases, data is input by a variety of people over time with differing levels of care and attention. In addition to errors made on data entry, records can be accidentally duplicated or simply go out of date.
The range of information held in the database may be expanded over time, resulting in empty fields appearing in older records and consequent problems if these records are used to generate variable data documents. Incorrect or missing data might also cause the wrong records to be selected or to be omitted from a selection, which might irritate incorrectly included recipients or miss out on opportunities for interested prospects. By offering this clean-up service, not only is the success of a VDP project based on that data made more certain, but the burden of a tedious chore is removed from the client.
Data mining is a natural follow-on from data clean-up. It's the process of searching large volumes of data for information relevant to a specific purpose. By combining a number of search terms it's possible to find out how many customers or prospects might be interested in a particular product, service or offer in order to propose and plan new direct mail campaigns.
Analysis of the data sets can also reveal unexpected insights into customer preferences and behaviour which can in turn be used to further refine the target audience and further increase response rates; familiarity with the types of information contained in a database gained during clean-up work can also lead to new ideas for how to segment the data and approach different customer groups.
Specialised design services in which document layouts and templates for use with variable data are created is a logical complement to data mining. Knowing precisely which information fields are available, coupled with the necessary design and production skills puts printers in a strong position to create and execute variable data direct mail campaigns that speak uniquely to each recipient through clever use of the data, design, text and image choice.
Resource management is an essential part of VDP production but can be extended as a service in its own right by storing, tracking and otherwise managing a customer's digital assets, from images, text and video files to databases. Internet-based systems allow both printer and customer to access, edit and update material for print and online use. Providing value-added services of this type promotes closer and more lasting relationships.
Customised campaign management becomes an option as a printer's VDP experience grows, enabling printers to advise their clients on creating and running variable data marketing campaigns. As well as further developing the relationship with existing direct mail clients, these capabilities enable printers to pitch VDP-based ideas to clients who have so far only bought static print, to approach new prospects in similar areas or even to seek entirely new types of client, who would not do business with a 'print-only' supplier.
Response monitoring and reporting is another VDP component that can be marketed as a service in its own right. Tracking and analysing feedback from marketing campaigns is a job that's often given low priority at the client organisation in the rush to move on to the next project, but measurement of success or otherwise is critical to improving direct marketing activities. By collating and reporting responses to current campaigns in a timely way, the benefits of experience can be applied by the printer to the development of the client's ongoing marketing plans.
Cross-media services are the extension of VDP principles into digital channels that can support each other and the printed communications to provide more customer touch points. Research has repeatedly shown that the combination of print and online/other digital direct marketing yields the highest response rates. From a secure VDP foundation, printers can expand their services via re-purposing print output for media such as email and mobile devices, supported by links from printed media into the digital world via PURLs and QR codes, which may include websites where end-customers can request and drive the production of more variable data print.
For print providers, the bottom line benefit of VDP is in the increased business opportunities that translate into new services that command higher profits.
This is one of a series of articles based on The ABCs of VDP, a free e-book from EFI that explains the benefits of variable data printing (VDP) and describes with examples how print service providers can produce, promote and sell VDP services to their customers, expanding their business portfolio and increasing profit margins.