Archive for August, 2012

Get Closer to Your Customers With Variable Data

Love birds, customer relationship,Lately I’ve been opening more of the email marketing I’ve been receiving. I look at email in much the same way I look at direct mail.  I look for effective call to actions, subject lines, and intro paragraphs. I am constantly looking to see what it is that gets someone to actually open an email (or an envelope) and to get engaged with a marketing touch.

For years I have carefully paid attention to the emails I receive.  Email marketers are able to do extreme personalization using all sorts of items to test and create data models around.  What I love though about direct mail of today is that you can do the exact same thing now with ink on paper.

With variable data printing, you can market one to one, personalize your messages, your headlines, your offers, your calls to action, and the images in your direct mail campaigns. You simply need to identify the fields in the database to plug in and partner up with a good variable data print provider.

Variable data printing is a powerful tool for direct mail marketers. Direct mail has been proven to be the most effective marketing tool available, even in the Internet age. Think about it: the mailbox is immune to spam-blockers, pop-up blockers, caller ID, the fast-forward button and the mute button.

As long as people open their mailboxes, there is an opportunity for you to communicate with them and according to the US Post Office 81% of all households read their mail on a daily basis. Cater your message directly to the reader and you have a very unique opportunity, especially with the volume of mail being less than in years past.

Variable data printing is also a faster, more economical way to print. Consider these efficiencies and pluses:

  • Print only as many as you need (depending on the size of your database)
  • Test-market a piece with a partial selection of your database, adjust the piece based on response rate (or leave it unchanged) and finish the run at a later time
  • Print addresses directly on the piece eliminating the need for labels, hand-addressing, etc., thus reducing mailing costs and speeding up the process.
  • Increase response rates as shown below

personalization, data, variable data, vdp, direct marketing

Personalized Calendar Sample

Can I Get on Your Calendar?

In 2010 Mail Print sent each of its customers a totally unique desktop calendar. Each of the 24 pages in the two-year calendar had the customer’s name or initials on it – cleverly embedded into the graphic. And each calendar had each family member’s birthday noted throughout the calendar. Customers were thrilled and asked how they could produce more calendars for their family and friends. The success of VDP cannot and will not be ignored.

Everyone loves to see his or her name in print. It has been said that the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is the sound of one’s own name.  Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says that the fundamental act of calling other people by their name puts you solidly on course to establish a sincere relationship with that person.

Get a leg up on your competitors by using VDP in your digital and direct mail marketing efforts.


Assurant Employee Benefits Wins Top Industry Sales Award With the Help of Variable Data Printing

Assurant Employee BenefitsCongratulations to our client, Assurant Employee Benefits, for being named a leader in voluntary sales growth by Eastbridge Consulting Group.

Eastbridge recognized Assurant Employee Benefits as one of the industry’s sales growth leaders in 2011 and for exceeding the industry sales average during each of the last three years. Among large companies, those with $30 million or more in voluntary sales, Assurant Employee Benefits 2011 sales increased by more than 13 percent as compared to 2010.

Assurant Employee Benefits works diligently to be a responsive partner who anticipates its customers’ needs and develops targeted, customized solutions to meet them. One area the company focused on was making benefit communications clear, straightforward, consistent and easy.

Prior to the fall of 2009, Assurant printed 11 different, non-personalized employee benefit booklets depending on the employee location, pay rate, and circumstances. Upon receipt of one of these booklets, some employees would have to decipher data tables and do manual calculations to determine their individual voluntary insurance rate. The process was somewhat ineffective and caused lower participation.

Converting from Static to Variable Data

Assurant Employee Benefits decided to tap into the power of variable data printing to customize each booklet and show the rates applicable to each individual employee as defined by age, location, company, pay scale, benefits package and more. This required more than 1,300 text and graphic variables that could be printed and shipped within 24 hours.

To move from static to variable benefits booklets, Assurant Employee Benefits turned to Mail Print to provide the asset management system, print automation processes and print technology that insures each booklet can be printed without errors 100% of the time with no need for further client involvement, downtime, errors or disruptions.

AEB Book1 250x323 Assurant Employee Benefits Wins Top Industry Sales Award With the Help of Variable Data Printing

A Turnkey Variable Solution that Converts More and Costs Less

Assurant Employee Benefits’ IT team worked closely with Mail Print and made the commitment to test hundreds of variable combinations before the new variable benefits product could begin production. In the testing process, a book had to be built to reflect every possible combination of graphic and text asset. Mail Print also worked with two outside ad agencies to acquire compliance-related and creative assets.

The results have been outstanding. Mail Print began producing complete customized booklets for Assurant Employee Benefits’ customers that contain more than 1,374 variable fields and nearly 1,000 graphic and text assets that ship in 24-hours upon order receipt, error-free.

To date more than 400,000 benefit booklets have been produced for Assurant Employee Benefits. This communications upgrade, as well as many other internal enhancements, helped to increase the voluntary benefits enrollment rate by 5 percent the first year and 13 percent the second year.

“When Assurant Employee Benefits launched its expanded suite of voluntary, or employee-paid, products in 2010, our goal was to make these coverage options accessible to more employers and their employees,” said Tim Knott, senior vice president of strategic markets and product management. “We’ve met and exceeded that goal, as demonstrated by the Eastbridge sales report findings.”

What Can Variable Do for You?

Variable Data Printing generates response rates 3-10 times higher than traditional efforts.

Gina Danner, CEO of Mail Print shares this insight, “When marketers are able to share specific information with specific individuals – much like Assurant Employee Benefits was able to provide employees with the exact rates and the specific benefits available to them – they are able to increase engagement.  Essentially with VDP, marketers make it easier for people to buy.”

Interested in learning more? Download this VDP report compliments of Mail Print.


VDP Helps Surgeons Increase Response Rates by 50%

Marketing, Doctors, Healthcare, Direct Mail, Variable DAta PrintingIt makes sense that personalized versus generic direct mail better meet the needs of your customers, or in the case of a group of plastic surgeons, its patients.

A group of plastic surgeons found itself sending out far too many generic information packets as a follow-up to when someone would call in with a procedure question. In an effort to send more relevant communication and save on printing and postage, the surgeons developed a personalized response package through variable data printing that provides its prospects precisely the information they requested.

The shift to variable data information packets was driven by the surgeons feeling like they should be responding more intimately and specifically to their patients since electing to have plastic surgery is a highly personal decision.

To begin collecting the necessary data, the group coached its office personnel to collect the gender, home address, and type of surgery any caller was considering. This information was entered into a database. Twice a week the information was sent to a fulfillment center in a spreadsheet so a highly personalized packet could be mailed within a few days.

Five versions of a four-page, 8 ½ x 11-inch brochure covering two categories of plastic surgery was produced. The first category consisted of one direct mail brochure on reconstructive and three brochures on cosmetic surgery with varying copy. The second category targeted one piece at males, one at older females and one a younger female audiences. The cover graphics reflected the age and gender of the caller and were personalized with the caller’s name.

The inside of the brochure included up to 80 variable-printing fields. The brochure was addressed to the caller, used their first name several times and contained information on up to three procedures requested by the caller.

By moving from generic to VDP, the physician group reduced its information packet cost by 40 percent by only sending relevant, personalized information to callers. In addition, conversion rates of callers inquiring about plastic surgeries increased by 50 percent.

The Variable Data Advantage

By giving its patients exactly the information and graphics they needed to address their questions, the surgeon group profited. Here is what else they did right:

  • Moved from 1-to-all marketing to 1-to-1
  • Evolved from using static communications to using dynamic communications
  • Increased interest in sales messages by becoming more personal and relevant
  • Tap into new digital technologies that have greatly advanced in the past 2 to 3 years
  • Controlled their cost because VDP can be cost effective up to 50,000 pieces.

How are you moving your communications out of the archives and into relevancy? Your buyers have changed, have made the necessary marketing and communications adjustments to keep your customers?


Universities Fight, Fight, Fight for Students through Multi-channel Marketing

school, college, stealth, marketing, direct marketing,At 17 Johanna (the daughter of one of our team members) is receiving at least 17 pieces of mail a month. Colleges and universities have her number and want her signature on their enrollment papers.

Postcards, letters, self mailers, and view books are coming in from Ottawa University, Iowa State, Park University, the University of Kansas, Washburn University and even Montana State, all attempting to woo Johanna.


Iowa State Tempts Students and Tracks Results

Iowa University’s mailing may look old-fashioned in its #10 window envelope containing a pre-paid return envelope and information request form. However, look closer and you’ll see great bait – The Essential Guide to Finding Your College! It can be Johanna’s by simply going to URL and typing in her easy to track User Name and ID. If she enters this micro-site, she’ll also gain access to a dashboard that allows her to pick the campus activities she might like. Doing so will further arm Iowa State with personal info to use to push Johanna’s buttons in the next touch point or direct mail piece.

Iowa knows from a Cappex study that the most influential recruitment channel is a campus visit (74% surveyed students) followed by a college’s website (59%). So Iowa is handing out tools that seem altruistic, but are intended to lure the student to their campus for a look/see.


Park University Pushes Benefits

Park University mailed Johanna a series of self mailers boasting its student benefits of being adult-friendly and transfer-friendly. Unlike Iowa University, the direct mail pieces contained QR Codes® that take prospective students to information about its eight-week and 16-week programs that help students complete their studies for less money in less time.

Park’s pieces are professional looking and sized in such a way that they can’t be ignored in Johanna’s mailbox.


Ottawa University Hurls Purls

Of the three schools, Ottawa University had the least professional looking direct mail piece though it utilized several tools well – variable data, a personalized URL, and a strong call to action. Johanna was personally invited to Ottawa’s June’s Sizzlin’ Summer Search Day where she’ll get a tour of the university and a free gift. To get a student to trek out to a small town of 12,000 in Western Kansas to tour or commit two-to-four years of her life might require a bigger carrot or stronger strategy.


Finding the Stealth Student

It is estimated that across the U.S., approximately 30% of all college applicants for the fall 2008 semester applied to their college(s) of choice without ever filling out an inquiry card at a college fair. In the world of admissions, these applicants are commonly referred to as “stealth applicants.”

The national rise in stealth applicants, which is expected to increase to 40% in the next year, means that universities are slowly losing their ability to communicate with prospective students at the inquiry level. As a result, universities must evaluate the ways in which they are communicating with applicants, and they must make sure that these strategies are in alignment with the elusive stealth applicants’ preferred mode of communication.

So which University is Johanna leaning toward in these very early stages? None of the above, at this point. Johanna should be considered part of the stealth student population because she’s considering a two-year community college and then finding a university with a good transfer program. Park University wins the communications award for mentioning this benefit.

QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave.


How to Make Your Marketing Database Sparkle Like a Diamond

diamond, direct mail, databaseBeing a leading provider of variable data printing, we find that some of our clients are lagging behind when it comes to having their customer relationship management (CRM) system or database spit-shined and cleaned. Some clients we know have been mailing to the same customers for decades without touching base with them to learn if they still have interest in their products or services.

For example one real estate agent continued to mail to a client he sold a home to 20 years prior without a phone call in 19 years. His client never intended to move and fell into the group of people who don’t provide referrals. By mailing to hundreds of clients who no longer had interest in his services and who also didn’t provide referrals, this Realtor was wasting printing and mailing costs that could have been shifted to other tactics.

Similarly we see other companies and catalogers continue to send direct mail to customers for years and decades despite the fact that some customers haven’t made a purchase in the last 24 months. These mailers have chosen to NOT segement their database and just blast their pieces out to the masses – regardless of the recipient’s interest or likelihood of making a purchase.  The great things about data segmentation when married to variable data printing is that you can change the message to each segment and even to each individual so that you mail the right message to the right person at the right time.

Quit Wasting Money

Don’t waste money marketing to people who aren’t listening to your message – clean up your database to stretch your marketing dollars. Are you mailing to or calling people who are no longer interested in what you have to offer? Don’t assume anything, ask and remove them if you learn their needs have changed.

Take Advantage of Mailing Discounts

You need an up-to-date address that meets postal standards and qualifies you for discounts on postage. Visit the USPS website and read their itemized list of what you need to do to be compliant. Work with a supplier who can make sure that your database has been cleansed against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database and is CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) compliant. The cost savings justifies the effort.  (BTW Mail Print can help you with this aspect of your marketing effort.  Just ask.)

Ask Questions at Every Touchpoint

Make a point to ask your client if there’s been any change in their contact information every time you call, mail, email, or reach out to them. Every call should include the chance to ‘verify’ the contact’s address or key information in your database.

Go Beyond the Minimum

To take your business to the next level, you must collect more than name, address, phone number, and email address. You need to collect the core information tied to your product or industry that will help you make that next sale. How old is their home? When was their last propane fill? Last oil change? Last vacation? What are the names of the children?

If pertinent, all these bits of information can be placed in variable fields on your next printed pieces, catalogs or in your emails. Remember anything that you can customize in an email can be customized, personalized in print through variable data printing.

With the affordable technology available today and the lift that is earned by executing variable strategies, it still surprises me how few businesses are incorporating variable strategies into their marketing. Why wouldn’t you use the technology to take your direct mail campaign into the 30 to 40 percent response rate rather than the standard two to seven percent?

Use Your Data Regularly

The best way to keep your mailing list clean and up-to-date is to schedule and execute regular multi-channel campaigns. Every time you mail, email or call, you have the chance to ask more about your customer and correct inaccuracies. Every mailer should ask the recipient to let you know what they think or what they need, even if their address has changed or will be changing.

Work these practices into your cross-media marketing and direct mail campaigns and you’ll see higher returns. The continual collecting and updating of customer information is like mining for diamonds.

Why Variable Data Printing is the Future

Ask IT strategists, any printer, and most businesses what is in store for the future and those in the know will say data mining and CRM systems.  And in the printing industry they will tell you that having data allows you to personalize through variable data printing.

Transitioning from static direct mail to variable mail is how to stay ahead of the competition. In fact variable data printing allows the smallest business to compete with Fortune 500 businesses because when properly executed it can return  up to 30 times the ROI of a static piece according to data from Cap Ventures.

personalization, data, variable data, vdp, direct marketing

Variable data printing is being embraced by businesses that have data on their customers like grocery stores, retailers, catalogers, casinos, boutiques, hospitals, and insurance companies.

Casinos such as Harrah’s increased their customer spend 13% — from 36% in 2000 to 43% in 2002 with its Total Rewards program that involves monthly VDP mailings to four different customer segments. This concentration on individual motivation jumped Harrah’s profits $251 million in just one year of its implementation, according to a research study released by ICMR.


VDP Resistors and Users

While most organizations have an existing customer database, most of the time the data is not contained in a single system. This makes it difficult to get a 360 degree picture to target your messaging.

If this rings true for your organization, the sooner you tackle the integration issue the better. Leaving it for years later limits your ability to create strong response rates today.

An analysis of 40 months of data, from January 2009 through October 2011, demonstrates the growth of personalization/VDP (variable data printing) in the direct marketing and mailing process*:

  • In 2009, 28% of direct mail pieces were personalized.
  • In 2010, the number of personalized mail pieces increased to 34% — a 21% increase.
  • In 2011, seven of the 10 months recorded saw even higher VDP usage – another 21% increase from the prior year and a 46% jump from the 2009 levels.

* Source: Target Marketing, Nuts & Bolts – Trends : 2011 Direct Mail Trend of the Year: VDP, March 2012.


Stats to Prove VDP is the Beneficial Shot for Growing Your Business

NameBottlesSmall 250x376 Why Variable Data Printing is the Future

Although some may think the work to organize the data isn’t worth using VDP, the numbers make that argument fall flat:

  • VDP success is enjoyed by many sectors, from travel to education. La Salle Academy used a VDP self-mailer for an alumni fundraising campaign and increased the average donation by 67%.
    Source: The Print on Demand Initiative. La Salle Academy, 2010
  • A restaurant franchise used VDP to create customer cards printed with a unique URL and drew a 27% patron response.
    Source: The Print on Demand Initiative. Beef O’Brady’s. 2010
  • A municipal federal credit union used VDP postcards to drive $1 million in loan activity and achieve an ROI of over 2,700% for the first year of interest income.
    Source: The Print on Demand Initiative. Wallingford Municipal Credit Union. 2010
  • Combined with personalized URLs, email, and telemarketing, a local travel club found that variable data and imagery printing boosted bookings and membership.
    Source: The Print on Demand Initiative. CLUB ABC Tours Travel Campaign, 2010
  • VDP plus cross channel marketing earned Hershey Entertainment and Resorts a 17% higher revenue and 10% more bookings.
    Source: DM News: July 27, 2009.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence instead of implementing VDP, follow the lead of the savvy marketers above and build a marketing campaign made of bricks – a strong foundation of variable data printing (relevance, customization) and blow your competition away.

Fendi, Ferrari, Ferragamo Flaunt QR Codes®

Qr Code, Art, 2d barcode, Quick Response Code

Thanks to three luxury brands, QR Codes® are officially vogue. Fendi, Ferrari and Ferragamo, are flaunting them in their multi-channel marketing, on their products and in their fashion museums.  More importantly they’re doing so with style, finesse, and technically flawless integration into their brands. Applause.

In 2011 the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts created a QR-code-collage portrait of Picasso for its exhibition Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. The custom QR is a work of art in itself.

QR Code, 2d barcode, Advertisement, marketing, quick response

Look how this Fendi handbag print ad uses a QR Code sparingly, which screams class and clout in just four words and two images. It doesn’t get much cleaner:  Brand + Image + QR Code.  The code takes users to a simple nine-menu website for their easy entrance into boutique locations, breaking, news or online shopping.

Interestingly and daringly, Fendi uses the QR Code as the only call to action in this advertisement that it ran in the U.S. and U.K. No ULR, no personalized URL (PURL), no 800 number, no boutique addresses – the ad totally banks on QR as the only call to action.

From a fashionista’s perspective, Jenny Oh at Jen Rocks Fashion, QR Codes resemble the classic hounds tooth print so they blend perfectly into the direct marketing of fashion brands like Fendi and Ferragamo. Perhaps with this observation in mind, you’ll never call a QR Code ugly again.

Ferragamo Museum Educates Visitors with QR Codes

Qr Code, quick response code, marketing, 2d barcode,Situated in Florence, the Ferragamo museum opened in 1995 to delight the senses of museum visitors, show the history of Ferragamo shoes, and educate attendees through QR Codes. Critics say the exhibition is worth exploring, not just by lovers of fashion but also by anyone interested in interactive museology.

Besides photographs, patents, sketches, books, magazines and wooden lasts of various famous feet, the museum boasts a collection of draws 10,000 models designed by Ferragamo from the end of the 1920′s until 1960, the year of his death.

qr code, quick response, 2d barcode, marketing, gucci

The Gucci Museum follows in the steps of Salvatore Ferragamo by opening its own museum to boost its image in an increasingly competitive global luxury market. Gucci uses QR Codes in its museums and image ads. Notice once again, the code is the only call to action in these ads that showcase the power of QR is all the information can be packed in the destination of the URL if the image and headline is powerful enough to drive the CTA.

QR Codes Go Zoom Zoom

A Ferrari (Risi Competizione’s F458GT) sported a QR Code on the hood and rear of its million-dollar body at the Sebring International Raceway, Florida. The QR Code also appears on team uniforms and when scanned takes enthusiasts to its website. The website is not mobilized but who cares it’s a Ferrari!Ferrari, QR Code, 2d barcode, quick response code, marketing

How are you glamming up your multi-channel marketing with QR Codes? Are you shining the light on your brand and letting QR lead them to the next step?


QR Code® is a registered trademark of Denso Wave.