Variable data printing, or VDP, is actually a very simple concept. Using today's digital technology printers can produce jobs where each sheet printed contains different individual elements. In fact, VDP has been hyped for several years as a new potential profit center as demand wanes for static...
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Variable data printing, or VDP, is actually a very simple concept. Using today's digital technology printers can produce jobs where each sheet printed contains different individual elements. In fact, VDP has been hyped for several years as a new potential profit center as demand wanes for static print runs and print customers look for more effective ways to communicate. The problem has been that most potential customers for VDP don't grasp the concept or the value or even the terminology.
There is a growing campaign to scrap the term VDP for personalized printing or one-to-one printing to make the technology more understandable to customers. However, even a change in terminology won't overcome the reality that this technological capability presents an entirely different set of challenges that many, if not most, printers are not prepared to meet.
From what I have gleaned from dozens of printers, consultants, and vendors, the major challenges involve selling and marketing the concept, pricing the individual campaigns, and creating and maintaining an accurate and up-to-date database.
According to Roger Buck, marketing director at The Flesh Company, "Some VDP printers and resellers may not have transitioned to a mindset for selling VDP. The shift in mindset from selling 'print' to selling 'ROI' is sometimes difficult."
"Solution selling is a learned behavior and not as straightforward as simply schlepping production," says Scott Eaganhouse of TEC Mailing Solutions in Sun Prairie, WI. "If the client doesn't understand the true value VDP offers, you'll never get them to part with their limited resources."
Judy Berlin, director of worldwide marketing at XMPie agrees. "It's true that many service providers are hesitant to adopting new business models and changing sales focus. VDP and cross-media selling is a different kind of sales and requires a different approach."
Marketing is very much a part of showing the potential benefits of VDP to clients. Those print service providers who have built profitable variable data operations know that it is essential to walk the walk and use the technology they are selling to promote the concept.
"VDP and personalization are marketing tools and most printers don't know anything about marketing," says industry consultant and Quick Printing columnist John Giles. "Printers should be using VDP to market their own services. They should have personalization in their monthly newsletters and on the post cards they send out to their customers. If a printer isn't using the tools available and don't think they are important to help increase their own sales, they will never be able to convince their customers of the value of personalization."
"For over six years we've been providing printers with marketing pieces to specifically help them promote their VDP capabilities," says Patrick Whelan of Great Reach Communications in Lawrence, MA. "Even with us doing all the heavy lifting I continue to be discouraged by the number of printers who don't utilize the materials to their full potential but lament the fact that they are having a difficult time promoting these services."
Naturally, one has to price what one wants to sell and therein lays another problem with VDP. "It's the wild, wild West again when it comes to pricing," according to Shelby Blecker of SLB Digital Graphics in Los Angeles. "We lost a job on pricing because another printer gave away the variable data work and I wasn't willing to do that."
"I know a few printers who have gotten their toes wet, then backed off after deciding that VDP was more complicated that what they wanted to get into," says Dustin Andrews of 4-State Printing in Columbus, KS. "I don't think they gave it a whole-hearted effort. The VDP that I have offered customers has been well-received, and I agree that the main problem is setting a price correctly."