Wide-format workflow solutions provider Onyx offers a RIP solution called ProductionHouse that includes a layout front-end feature that includes a VDP tool. This tool allows for the creation of batches of customized print jobs, such as signs, promotional items, advertisements, and full-color labels. Variable text, images, and barcodes can be added to batch print jobs, and data fields can be imported from database files. A preview is created to verify the results onscreen before any ink or media is spent.
Print firm owners and managers, including those at wide-format shops, stopped hating electronic media a decade or so ago. It was quite the confrontational fight for a while, you may recall—an us vs. them resistance when it came to the looming threat of the Internet—until the two sides realized they could coexist peacefully, work together, and play nicely. These days, printers simply want marketers to remember their beloved medium of ink/toner on paper/plastic/foam core, etc., keeping print in the integrated/interactive mix. In addition to postcards, offer letters, and direct mail software systems, InfoTrends research confirmed that organizations are employing a growing number of media channels in their marketing efforts: email, PURLs, mobile, social media, QR codes, and near-field communications (NFC) chips, for example. (See www.myprintresource.com/10618368 for WFI’s social media focus.) There are more sophisticated services, too, such as results tracking, data mining, and analytics.
“Even with the explosion of information and new communication channels in today’s fast-paced, digital environment, it is still possible and practical to reach each of your customers, and forge and develop lasting, personal business relationships with them, through relevant, multichannel communications,” emphasized Judy Berlin, worldwide marketing manager for XMPie, a Xerox company.
Montreal print firm Pazazz touts itself as “a one-stop-shop for cross-media, integrated marketing solutions,” offering services such as mobile website development and QR (quick response) codes and promoting itself via social media, including its now-famous “Printing’s Alive” viral videos on the YouTube Internet channel. A year ago, Pazazz added a 64-inch, eight-color, roll-to-roll Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent printer to meet growing customer demand for large-format signage and banners.
Some two years removed from bankruptcy protection, CEO/founder Warren Werbitt believes it is more important than ever to market his 20-year-old firm and what it can do. “It’s important to do something on a regular basis,” he told Graphic Monthly Canada recently. “We do a cross mix of everything because you can’t do one without the other. It’s all about awareness, being top of mind and keeping our name out there.”
Some of Werbitt’s tactics are more subtle, even subliminal. A few years ago, for instance, Pazazz’s salesforce was armed with beautiful, self-produced prints and posters to hand out to customers and prospects. “We still have people calling and saying, ‘Yeah, I know you guys—you do great work. Your poster is on my wall,’” he said.
‘Spray and Pray’ No More
“There’s no doubt that reaching consumers in today’s Information Age requires new techniques—and a major shift from mass marketing to direct marketing has occurred,” XMPie’s Berlin recently told Germany’s Druckmagazin. “It used to be sufficient to advertise your business anywhere and everywhere, hoping that people would notice you and that your hard work would pay off. But actually, this ‘spray and pray’ method ... made us move away from personal interactions and is no longer effective, as people are starting to expect one-to-one communications again. Why? They are simply bombarded by information, so they tune out the messages that are not relevant to them and their specific interests. Taking into account not only what consumers want, but also providing it at the precise moment when they want it, can lead to greater brand awareness and sales.”
Granted, variable data printing (VDP) is nothing new, but it has come a long way in the past 10 years. In 2010, for example, Agfa Graphics added VDP capabilities to its high-speed, flatbed :M-Press Tiger inkjet press with the :Apogee Vibe graphic editor. Using a VDP solution from a leading software provider such as XMPie allows wide-format print service providers (PSPs) to work with familiar design tools and file formats, and utilize simple data files, to incorporate customer demographic, geographic, and psychographic information such as occupations, ages, gender, interests, hobbies, and spending habits. And now, an increasing number of PSPs are extending their VDP personalization knowledge and capabilities to other channels, such as websites, email, and mobile messaging.
At the 7th Dscoop (Digital Solutions Cooperative), the HP user group annual conference in March, MindFireInc introduced a new marketing platform for multimedia campaigns for customers. Sitting atop the Marketing Engine, the Marketing Studio is a drag-and-drop application for visually creating multi-touch, multi-channel marketing workflows. It enables print and marketing service providers to orchestrate offline and online media such as direct mail, email, and social media, along with microsites and landing pages. The Marketing Studio also can leverage event-driven triggers to automate drip-and-nurture sequences using any combination of media.
“Print service providers require the right technology to make multichannel marketing easier, more powerful, and flexible,” said Dave Rosendahl, MindFireInc co-founder. “Our clients are excited by the workflow freedom they now have to build and sell effective marketing campaigns,” he added. “Along with our educational training courses, like the FastLaunch Program and our new Sales Training & Promotion modules, print service providers are equipped with everything they need to succeed with today’s corporate marketer.”
MindFireInc’s Marketing Language (MAML) is an open-architecture solution describing the entire marketing campaign in a proprietary mark-up language, which is submitted to the Marketing Engine for execution. This approach brings added flexibility to the platform and allows seamless integration between the Marketing Engine and third-party applications. In addition, for service providers looking for an end-to-end and integrated solution, MindFireInc’s Marketing Engine provides flexible integration with print workflow management, Web-to-print, CRM (customer relationship management), and other solutions via application programming interfaces for creating, managing, and reporting campaign activity; and Extension Modules that can customize Marketing Engine behavior.
Getting What You Pay For
At drupa this month, Xerox’s XMPie business unit increases its presence in the multichannel marketing game with robust, new solutions for individualized communications management, video personalization, Web-to-print, and marketing on demand, together with the firm’s leading solutions for variable data printing (see sidebar), personalized digital media, and integrated one-to-one communications. Other software may not be as expensive, “but it’s not as capable either,” warned industry consultant Hal Hinderliter.
XMPie experts are giving live demonstrations throughout the stand on software ranging from the uDirect Print line of products for desktop variable data printing, to the PersonalEffect family of server-based solutions for personalized print, digital media, and integrated cross-media communications. Customers and partners also are on site to share their experiences and best practices. Other new developments on display include XMPie’s revolutionary ICM solution for planning, building, reviewing, and measuring multichannel marketing campaigns; its Mapping Service for personalized street and city maps; and uDirect Video for video personalization based on Adobe After Effects.
Last summer, Kodak Capture Pro Software added compatibility with Contex wide-format scanners to integrate large and small document workflows. “Channel partners selling scanners along with EDM/ECM services and solutions can now provide a common interface and common support for diverse sources of document-based information,” said Phil Magenheim, president of Contex Americas. The firm’s large-format scanners are used to reproduce large format drawings, charts, maps, or other over-sized documents directly into EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) and ECM (Electro Chemical Machining) workflows. Capture Pro Software provides users with a single interface to efficiently capture and manage images and critical index data from small- and large-format scanners within an office setting.
Projects that include both wide-format and standard sized documents can pose challenges for enterprise workflows managed by service bureaus and medium- to large-sized businesses. E-BizDocs, an electronic document management service provider based in Albany, NY, sources information from a variety of documents including larger surveyors’ records, to letter-sized building code regulation papers. The compatibility between Contex and Kodak eliminates steps in the process to improve overall user productivity. “Prior to this solution, the scanning of large-format documents was detached and separate from our workflow. The integration between Kodak and Contex makes it easy to combine documents into a single file, and route them to specific locations,” said Howard Gross, president of E-BizDocs. “Since implementing the technologies, we have vastly improved our workflow efficiency.”