VDP Response: 15 Percent and Up
Printers across the country regularly toot their own horns with direct mail, but few do so as sophisticatedly as Modern Postcard of Carlsbad, Calif., near San Diego, which specializes in self mailers yet hasn’t considered itself a printer for several years. The 34-year-old firm, whose employees now number around 180, has evolved to offer mailing services, lists, marketing and design. In fact, the $50 million firm provides mailing services for about half of its annual customer print volume of some 100 million postcards, most produced within a stable of Komori Lithrone sheetfed presses and perfectors at its 75,000-sq-ft facility.
In the self-promotion realm, Modern’s mass acquisition programs also are run on this conventional equipment. About a year ago, however, it launched a digitally printed, variable-data element to its client acquisition and retention initiative: customized, trigger-based communications individually targeted to one client at a time.
The progressive marketing concept is based on customer life cycles, such as a first order or most recent order and other milestones. Each card features customized creative and messaging. “We’ve had the capability for several years, but they key has been a better understanding of our customer database,” said Marketing Manager Fred Hernandez, adding that this type of campaign is nothing like having a preset schedule of static, historically or seasonally based communications.
For example, some cards are targeted to win back a customer who reappears after, say, a three-year absence. If the intent is to push a product or a brand, then appropriate images are substituted. The most innovative scenario is when actual images are pulled from an existing customer’s previous job files. In this case, the corresponding message might relate to reprint pricing, as if to say, “Remember this cool postcard you did? Want some more?” More often than not, each message includes some kind of a customized offer or call to action, “perhaps to repurchase a product or [suggest] a natural cross-sell,” said Hernandez. For the returning customer, there’d likely be an offer for something that’s new in the 36 months since they’ve been gone.
With nearly 50,000 customers, “There’s a constant flow of communication from our company. We have hundreds of cards going out once a week,” Hernandez reported, cautioning that the company is sensitive to “over communicating.”
Hence, its 30-day window philosophy that ensures at least one month between communications. The present format for these variable-data mailings is a triple panel, with one perforated score, that folds down to a 4.25-x-6-inch card, allowing for up to three coupons. The company has used double panels and flat-sized cards as well; Fernandez said flexible software from XMPie makes it easy to switch formats. Printed on SFI-certified, 12.5-point card stock that’s milled especially for Modern Postcard, they’re produced digitally on a web-fed HP Indigo press w3250 installed nearly four years ago. The digital stock is then aqueous coated for protection, demonstrating how Modern’s proprietary coating technology “holds up well in the mail stream,” added Hernandez.
So, is VDP working? “The response has been quite through the roof, two to three times [higher than] our normal 3 to 5 percent range,” Hernandez noted. “We saw results within two weeks, and now we’re seeing close to 15 percent on average. Sometimes we’re easily into 30 percent.” Such off-the-chart response rates have helped the direct marketing/print provider to keep its head above water during the recent economic storm.
CustomXM, a central Arkansas marketing services provider and printer, does its own direct mail self promotion, too, distributing a newsletter every other month and quarterly direct mailing that promote new products. A fall 2009 mailing touted the firm’s new dimensional print capability on its Kodak NexPress. Recipients could feel the bumpy texture of a football image atop smooth blades of grass. Some 750 were sent out; more than 30 of whom have requested sample kits: a 4 percent response.
But CustomXM took the one-to-one marketing concept to yet another creative level with its highly customized board games, of which only three were produced. After conducting extensive research on the recipient companies, “We printed labels on the NexPress and applied them to blank game boards,” explained Paul Strack, president of the 44-year-old, family-owned firm. One space for an ad agency read, “Win an Addy Award, Advance 3 Spaces.” CustomXM also created box tops and game pieces.