Sales Clinic: Marketing Imagination, Part 2

In last month’s column, I asked you to think about what it means to be a Marketing Services Provider. Most printers, I think, are banking on technical competence to help them to make this transition that much of the industry is talking about—in other words, being technically able to produce a PURL or VDP project. I, on the other hand, think the key to success will be marketing imagination and creativity, and I promised to write more about that this month.

Before I go any farther, though, I want to provide you with a reminder and a caution. First, the reminder. VDP is an acronym for a term that is an element of industry jargon. Print sellers may know what variable data printing means, but the evidence indicates that most print buyers really don’t get it. Personalization is a much better term, and I’m still pretty proud of the term I’ve coined—extreme personalization—which has proven to be more understandable to most buyers and gives you a more interesting story to tell.

Now the caution. Stop talking about PURL programs, as in: “We just did a PURL program for one of our customers.” Beyond the jargon issue, you’ll be a lot more successful in this Marketing Services Provider thing if you understand that what you did was a marketing program, which happened to involve PURLs.


PURL Imagination

Okay, so you (hopefully) know what a PURL is. In order to be an effective Marketing Services Provider, you have to know what it can do, and a PURL can do basically two things. It can lead to a place where a prospect or customer can get personalized information, or it can lead to a place where a customer or prospect can provide personalization information. (Please note that a Uniform Resource Locator is technically an address. What’s important in marketing terms is the landing page defined by the address. In other words, it’s not a PURL program, it’s a marketing program utilizing PURLs to get to landing pages.

Let’s say that you have a restaurateur as a customer, and he owns four restaurants, each with different menus and each in a different part of town. With nothing more than a basic mailing list—names and addresses—you could develop a marketing program using postcards and PURLs that could take people to a landing page where they’d see the menu for the restaurant closest to them.

If they 1) read the postcard, 2) enter the PURL into their browser, and 3) like what they see on the menu, they might go to the restaurant. (Please note that they might be more likely to do all of those things if there is an incentive involved. Free dessert anyone?) I think you’ll agree that if enough people follow that process, Phase 1 of the marketing program would be considered a success.


Don’t Lose the Picture!

But let’s not stop there. Getting people into the closest restaurant provides two opportunities. First, to impress them with the food, or the service, or the ambiance, or any combination of those, creating a desire to return. Second, to capture information to use in Phase 2—which I would see as a marketing program to get the customers of each restaurant into the others.

What information? Eventually, I’d like to know things like age, income range, favorite foods, and favorites among other things, but for immediate marketing purposes, I think we only need their email addresses. Why? Because with that information, we can open up an entire new channel of communication.

This is where many printers lose the picture. “I don’t want them doing their marketing by email,” one of my clients told me. “I don’t make any money on email.”

“Let me rephrase that,” I told him. “You haven’t in the past, but you can in the future. And beyond that, you can make money developing the marketing plan in the first place.”

“Even if that’s true,” he said, “I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to charge for it.”

“That’s actually the easy part,” I said. “You develop an hourly rate and then you estimate how many hours it’s going to take.”

I’ll write more about pricing in the future. For today, let me just tell you that I sell my own marketing planning services exactly that way. I just finished a project that I estimated at five to six hours at $200 per hour, and my client bought my services on that basis. It took almost seven hours to complete the project, so I “lost” a little profit on the deal—but I’ll also know to say six to seven hours next time I’m looking at a similar project.


Plan Imagination

Back to the restaurant marketing plan, once you have a customer’s email address, you can do many things—including a program using PURLs to lead people to a place where they can provide personalization information. What I’m talking about here is a landing page where you could ask about age, income range, favorite foods, and favorites among other things. Please note, though, that I’m talking about using email to get them to that page, not postcards or any other form of printed direct mail. Why? Because it’s easier to get people to click a link in an email than it is to get them to type a long URL into a browser. And it is, right?

But let’s not get hung up on high technology. If I were trying to sell a marketing plan to this restaurateur, I would also include a simple card device to try to capture the same information from “regular” customers (read that: people who found their way to the restaurants without being affected by Phase 1 of the marketing program). The marketing opportunity here goes beyond developing new customers. It also includes “maximizing” established customers, and I think you’ll probably also like the idea that this is something else you can print.

Let’s add some creativity to this part of the process. First of all, let’s remember that people are more likely to do what you want them to do if there’s an incentive involved. As noted, free dessert is a possibility, but how about a free coffee mug, imprinted with the restaurant’s logo? Again, that’s something else you could make money on, and it won’t hurt you to present your customer with multiple options to choose from.

Here’s one more thought for today. I have several reasons for wanting to know the age of this restaurateur’s customers, and I’ll get into those in Part 3 of this discussion. The thought for today is that I don’t want to ask their age, I want to ask for their birth date. I’ll explain that next month.

Oops, still one more thought for today. I have rebuilt my website, and I invite you to check out the new



Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, Cary, NC; a sales and marketing consulting firm serving numerous segments of the graphic arts industry. Contact Dave by phone at 800/325-9634; by fax at 919/363-4069; or by email at Visit his website at See the ad for Dave’s products and services in this issue.




Use email to get them to that page, not postcards or any other form of printed direct mail. Why? Because it’s easier to get people to click a link in an email than it is to get them to type a long URL into a browser.