Boosting Your Chances of Success in Variable Data Printing

There is no question about it. Variable data printing (VDP), or 1:1 print marketing, is no longer the experimental, niche technology that it once was. Even so, there are many marketers who have not yet migrated to VDP because they are concerned about return on investment (ROI). Budgets are tight. Traditional direct mail is predictable, even if it’s not high return. What if the risk doesn’t pay off?

Fortunately, there are steps marketers can take to maximize their success. These steps can be summed up on one phrase: cross-channel marketing.

If you look over the vast collection of case studies from successful VDP marketers, one trend that stands out is that marketers are pairing their 1:1 print marketing with Internet and email components to boost the strength of the overall campaign. This has become a particularly effective approach for campaigns that involve some risk, such as prospecting.

Real-Life Examples

Pantone, a leading provider of color systems and technology, wanted to promote a new monitor calibration product. Pantone had a minimal prospecting database with only names and addresses so it relied on creative messaging to catch its audience’s attention. It then encouraged them to go to a personalized Web page for more information, where they could sign up for a sweepstakes to win a high-value prize. The program was coordinated with banner ads placed on Pantone distributor sites and followed up with a reminder email with the same level of personalization as the direct mail.

With traditional campaigns, Pantone’s response rate averaged 1.5%, but with this new multi-channel approach, response rates jumped to 7.9%. Sales of its product jumped 81% and exceeded sales projections by 13%. Not only this, but the information gathered from the sweepstakes sign-ups expanded its knowledge base for future campaigns.

A second example comes from a regional theater company, Zeiterion Theater. Like Pantone, it had little to no data on its customers so its printer took the theater’s box office database and appended the list to include a variety of demographics to create
a profile of the most likely theater attendee. To these targets, it sent a mailer with personalized text and a unique personalized image showing the recipients’ name etched into a plate on a theater seat being reserved for them. It then encouraged recipients to log into a personalized Web page in exchange for an opportunity to win free theater tickets. Once on the Web page, it asked recipients to share their
email address and information about the kinds of performances they would enjoy.

Twenty-one percent of recipients went to their Web page, and 14% provided their email address and further information on their interests.

What Makes Them Work?

Clearly, multi-channel marketing incorporating VDP works. What makes these applications so effective?
• Immediate gratification (sweepstakes, information)
• Sense of control (recipients can research without talking to a salesperson)
• Message reinforcement (benefits of multiple media)
• Tracking and follow-up (ability to append lists and tailor future campaigns based on information learned)

The lesson? Too many marketers think of VDP in isolation, but as the industry matures and we develop track records and historical perspectives on these applications, it becomes clear that like all marketing tools, VDP often works best when acting in concert with other media for maximum impact.


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