VDP Is Alive and Waiting to be Sold

Everyone knows that personalized print marketing campaigns driven by Variable Data Printing (VDP) generate better results than just static print. Ample research tells us that integrating print and digital media generates an even better ROI.

The key benefit of VDP for printers and their salespeople is the opportunity for higher margins, new customers, and additional services. There is nothing better than selling a direct mail campaign along with the data, digital, and social media services. The challenge for many printing salespeople is how to sell it. It requires a new way of thinking.

VDP has grown up and is ready for prime time. The equipment, the software and the workflow is developed and ready to use.


Why Is This So Difficult?

Why haven’t more printers and their salespeople prospered from offering data-enabled products and services? Here are a few reasons:

• Not enough salespeople have learned and are committed to selling it. Printers are in a creative market. Salespeople need to be conversant and look for campaigns that include not only print but social and digital media, as well.

• Printers are manufacturers who produce and sell established products. Investments in production and established business models make it very tough for many printers and their salespeople to make the transition to a data and marketing services selling model.

• The negative pressure from the digital and social media “machine” is intense. The blogs, digital websites, and some general media have been relentless in downplaying the value of print and its many advantages. Many of them mistakenly believe that print in general is a “relic” from a past age.

• Agencies and marketing people are not confident integrating print into their offerings. Creatives often influence how campaigns and marketing programs are structured. Many do not know how to make money offering print and are not experienced in developing print specifications for VDP.

• Buyers of communication and marketing deliverables are still organized in silos. Marketing and communications integration at the customer level has not taken place yet. Customers still are organized in separate departments. Right now, the digital and social media groups have been getting the larger share of the focus at the expense of print.

Even with all these obstacles, there are a growing number of companies and salespeople successfully selling VDP printing and extended marketing services. The capability of producing data driven VDP print is putting printers in a position to be the lead supplier for integrated marketing and communications programs. Here are six best practices we have seen from successful printers and salespeople.

1. Start slowly. Start with “easy-to-produce” services. Set a goal to generate 10 percent more revenue with VDP enabled offerings. Use this as a base and then build on it. Do not concede profits and give away free services.

2. Make it clear to other salespeople, production, and customers what VDP services you offer. Identify the exact services that you are capable of producing. Make sure outside vendors that you may need to successfully complete a VDP project are lined up. Provide your service at different levels. Turn your services into products.

3. Take the lead in educating customers. Recognize that you are in a much better position to teach, educate, and provide personalized communications. Don’t just call it VDP. Name your offerings and make it easy for customers to understand. Don’t wait for digital marketing services companies to do it.

4. Deal with the list. The key is to understand what customers are trying to accomplish and if the data exist to accomplish it. Once the data is obtained, clean it, test it, manage it, and build on it for the customer. This is an excellent way to create more value and gain more services revenue.

5. Overcome customer nervousness. There is a risk. Package your process. Let the customer know what you are doing and how you have been successful at other accounts. Review what the customer is trying to do and then break down the steps required to do it.

6. Don’t allow managers and owners to give up on the printing sales force. Some believe that traditional printing people cannot sell data-driven print and related services. This is not true. There are many doing it now. Take the time to continuously learn, and take advantage of training available from the industry.

Eventually, things will get easier for printing salespeople. The manufacturers of printing equipment and industry providers of software have been diligently researching, developing, and offering amazing capabilities. New applications built on data, new substrates, and imaging technologies will generate new opportunities not only for print but extended services. For salespeople, they must find new ways to share new insights and share the great news with customers.


Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications. He is a print industry expert, working with printing and technology organizations to improve sales and operational effectiveness. Rickard founded Intellective Solutions to provide consulting and training material and services. He can be reached at 845-753-6156; follow him on Twitter: @joerickardIS