Digital Original: VDP is Salable, Profitable, and Easier than You Think

Printers are always looking for the next big thing. Recent trade shows had printers buzzing about 3D printing, but no one could identify a market with the pent up demand that would warrant an investment in the technology. Managed marketing service is still a major subject among quick printers, but few printers have integrated print and Web-based services into a marketing plan that can be sold to the masses. Where do printers have opportunities for increased sales in the coming year?

New to You

Variable data continues to be an overlooked product printers have and customers could use if they knew about it. VDP, or personalization, is used for direct marketing to provide a personalized message to a specific customer. Almost every printing company with a digital printer and an external RIP has the software already installed to produce one-to-one marketing pieces that have been personalized with text and graphics. Most businesses have some sort of computerized customer management software that can export the data that can be used to make their marketing pieces more effective.

To take advantage of variable data opportunities, printers should:

1. Learn Microsoft Excel. Excel is not a database, but it is used like one. It is the most common local data storage software in use today, so printers must know how to move data between Excel spreadsheets and other software programs to be successful with VDP services.

2. Learn to use the variable data features in Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress. Both programs have basic VDP features built in or available as a plug in or xtension. There are also a number of third party software vendors who have even more powerful, feature-rich VDP applications that run even faster.

3. Create your own marketing pieces using personalization. Customers may understand what you are talking about, but you need to show them. Adding VDP to your own marketing plan lets you gain experience and provides examples to your customers.

4. Tell your customers about it. It will be rare if a customer walks in the door or calls asking about VDP services. Print shops have to get their salespeople in front of prospects to explain the benefits of one-to-one messaging. Offer small, easy-to-use VDP projects to help customers see how it improves their marketing results.

5. Sell it to the right person. Not everyone buys marketing support. Your best prospect for VDP is someone who is already doing marketing and advertising. The prospect already has a sales staff that is used to finding and following up on leads. The sales cycle is too long if you have to convince the customer that they need to advertise their services.

Look for customers who already do mailings and advertise in the newspaper and local media. They have a budget for advertising and marketing. One example of a good prospect is a company that uses the US Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail program. The service has gotten small businesses familiar with the power of direct mail, and personalization can take it a step further.


Training & Selling

The biggest investment that printing companies will have for selling VDP is time and training. A good source for learning how to use Excel and other database software programs is YouTube. Microsoft, Adobe, and InDesign use YouTube to provide free video training on how to use their software. YouTube even includes videos that explain why VDP and personalization are important in a company’s marketing plan.

Another advantage to selling VDP and personalization is that it isn’t a commodity that can be sold over the Internet. There is less pricing pressure and prospects need the printer’s expertise. It also opens other selling opportunities. The same customers purchase other marketing materials such as posters, signs and banners, printed marketing collateral, and other marketing-related printing. It is always easier to sell something to someone who is already buying from you.

Don’t wait for the next big thing. Learn how to use the variable data printing power you already have and start selling the services. You’ll find more opportunities and better margins selling VDP than business cards, envelopes, and letterhead.


John Giles is a consultant and technology director for CPrint International. He is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList”. Contact him at 954-224-1942 or You can also find John on Twitter at @JohnG247 and LinkedIn. Read his blog at Order John’s books from Crouser & Associates (