“I also think most people are more annoyed at [‘your name here’ style] mailings, thanks to campaigns like Publisher’s Clearing House, but we have done some subtle customized mailings that were less obvious. For example, if we sent them a postcard reminding them of our specials, it would have a photo of ‘their’ sales rep on it with a personal note from them regarding their very last order, or we would do a year’s worth of personalized birthday greetings and hand them off to a receptionist to make sure they were mailed timely by date. The skyline on the front would be of their city—not some generic ‘Anytown USA’ stock image. Subtle, but effective.”
“I watch this stuff very closely (VDP, cross media campaigns, QR codes, mobile) and understand it pretty well,” says Scott Cappell of Sorrento Mesa Printing in San Diego, CA. “The funny thing about VDP is that we have all the tools and capabilities. I’m just not selling to it much. We do a ton of static color and this is extremely profitable. I need to be more diligent in the sales process to sell VDP so I can then actually do it.
“I think one of the limitations we face with this type of work, is that our mid-level production machines (Konica Minolta 6500’s) don’t have the ability to duplex heavier stock (14 pt.) for the mail stream. One of the biggest considerations in our next color machine would be to be able to duplex so we could do variable on both sides.”
Most quick printers start out their VDP operations with simple mailing services. One reason is that the majority of VDP jobs will have some mailing component. Also, mailing services customers are prime candidates for more sophisticated VDP applications.
“In my opinion you need to get into mailing first,” says Brian O’Day of ePrint Online in Portland, OR. “It is easy variable data. Yes, the post office has rules, but most of the variable printing you do will be mailed.”
O’Day agrees that a good RIP and the ability to handle databases, along with programs such as Fusion Pro, are essential, but “now you still need to go out and find that customer, which is why I say you need to start in mailing. Mailing customers are easy to find. After you get to do their mailing then you can talk them into variable data.”
Sometimes, however, the issue is not equipment or databases—it is imagination. Where do you look for examples of success stories, whether they are called VDP, personalized printing, or one-to-one marketing? Fortunately, there are places printers can find ideas and information, among them is Adobe’s Variable Data Publishing Resource Center. Also, as visitors to Quick Printing’s website probably have noticed, since the first of the year we have been running monthly case studies from PODi, which have real-world samples of digital, on demand printing involving VDP.
In the end, it is safe to say that at this juncture, the use of variable data printing by quick and small commercial printers, well, varies.