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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Pricing concerns are not limited to this country. Martin Johncock of Buckland Media Group in Kent, UK, notes: "In my experience I would say that the biggest problem that VDP has is price. The work involved in compiling a data file and the creativity to use it often pushes the budgets of any mailing. Print is too often bought on a price per unit as opposed to return per unit."
The concept of return per unit is vital to the success of any VDP sale. According to Frank Perdicaro, a senior software engineer for Hewlett Packard, "VDP is interesting. The customer typically gets 10 times the yield from directed direct mail compared to random junk mail printing. It is a very attractive prospect."
"With VDP jobs, the data quality is important to success and whatever is variable and associated with each recipient must be clean, de-duped, and accurate," says XMPie's Berlin. "The best approach is to recruit an individual familiar with working with databases to manage this portion of the job, taking time to check and cleanse the data."
Ed Keenan, owner of Document Depot in Princeton, NJ, agrees on the importance of a good data base for any successful VDP project. "In order for VDP to be valuable, your database has to be highly accurate. You have to collect relevant information beyond addresses. You have to have an accurate and timely message. In order for this to work effectively, you have to have information collection and input as part of the prospecting/sales process. Then you have to maintain and update this information in an ongoing and systematic manner."
"We jumped in three years ago and it has been a learning curve but well worth the time and money investment," says Jim Iverson of Antioch Printing in Kansas City, MO. "I would agree that the list is the key. In January we launched a self promotion campaign using variable data as one of our elements. I think small to medium size businesses still are in the dark as to the benefits and just what can be done."
"The biggest challenge facing printers is simply that not all VDP jobs are equal," says Joseph Manos, executive vice president of MindFire. "Each customer need is unique and the solutions to those needs vary as well. The biggest challenge in this area is training. I see VDP cases every day where a printer has simply applied the technology versus using it to deliver a specific solution to meet the customer's objectives."
Printers' involvement with VDP ranges from the tentative beginner to the experienced pro. Tammy Barker of Thumb Printing Professionals in Palm, MI, says: "I've always wanted to offer VDP to my clients but wasn't sure how to prepare the files for printing on my equipment." Giles offers this advice: "Adobe.com has step-by-step instructions on doing VDP with InDesign. You can also search YouTube and find a wealth of videos that give you instructions on how to handle almost any VDP situation."
However, for old timers like Jeffry Twohig of LithoExcel in Albuqurque, NM, getting into VDP profitably is not as simple as it sounds. "There is a high level of investment in equipment and personnel. I have been involved in the VDP industry for more than 12 years now and am surprised at how it is reported to be so easy to set up. The companies that are in this market have been the pioneers and have worked out the kinks and helped spread the technology to other shops to investigate how this might work for them."