The following blog post was contributed by Kathryn Wyckoff, Marketing Coordinator at DME, Rob Carll, Director of Sales and Marketing at DME.

Sales organizations are always looking for new and innovative ways to sell to current and potential customers. Marketing, of course, is a huge part of the selling process. But yesterday’s one-size-fit-all communication plan no longer resonates with Boomers or Generation X, Y, or Z. Savvy marketers are continually realizing the increasing ROI benefits of individualized and personalized communications. The marketplace is showing that sixty-three-year-old Fred is interested in different product benefits than forty-five-year-old Sharon, and twenty-two-year-old Chloe comes from a different world completely.  This evolution toward targeted, one-to-one messaging has the printing industry scrambling to catch up.

Think about it … we now live in a world that allows us to have it our way in almost every aspect of our lives. The courtship between a business and an individual is no different. In fact, studies show that people expect advertisements to be targeted to them or they are likely looking elsewhere. In fact, 74% of consumers get frustrated when content appears to have nothing to do with their interests (Source: Janrain & Harris Interactive). You may know this in theory or from personal preference. So how does one put targeted messaging into practice?

This is where variable-data printing comes into play. Traditional offset printers have always been able to add a personalized address label onto a static mail piece. Black laser overprint allows us to add a little more personalization. But how do you then take personalization to the next level? After all, that’s what marketers, and ultimately the buying public, are asking for. The solution is to personalize customer engagement with unique variable data.

As you know, the high-level overview of variable-data printing is that a printer uses technology to drive the printing process. Using VDP software, a printed piece can now contain variable information in the form of different content and graphics. This eliminates the need for massive runs and makes it more economical to print truly individualized pieces. Likewise, VDP software can extend into automating the workflow and billing processes, thus eliminating the cost associated with these processes. These points alone are reason enough for a printer to invest in this technology, but what is a way to position it to a fulfillment customer?

One way VDP technology can be utilized to its fullest potential is to have website visitors fill out a form for more information regarding the product or service. Within this form, the company not only finds out personal identifiers (name, address, etc.) but also requests a little more information on the visitor. The more you ask the more you stand to learn—within limits of course.

Everything we now know about a customer now becomes an important data point to consider.  Fred, 63, likes BBQ, baseball, and RV trips around the U.S.  Sharon, 45, likes Italian food, baking, exercise, decorating, and wants to travel to Italy.  Chloe, 22, likes Thai food, swimming, the beach, cats, and also wants to travel to Italy. We can then group like-minded individuals into segments. Each segment can have the message, offer, and visuals designed that will appeal to each group. 

Take an instance of a city tourism visitor’s bureau. Useful information might be: What are the viewer’s interests? When are they traveling? Are they traveling alone or with friends or family? Gathering this information starts to form a complete profile of a single visitor. Because the database is set up with “rules” depending on what information is entered, this data triggers unique content within the printed material. The variable information on the printed piece can include content or graphics as well as layout options.

In the example of the visitor bureau, let’s assume the website viewer is requesting an information packet to be sent to them. Instead of the bureau printing static brochures, letters, and other materials to stuff into the package, variable printing allows the visitor’s bureau to send each potential visitor an individualized package that speaks to their specific desires. While a standard letter thanking the visitor for their request can already be created digitally, it can also include the ability to plug in a variety of variables such as name, interest, and travel dates. Doing this creates a more meaningful touch as well as eliminates the need for storage of preprinted materials. Likewise, a brochure can exist electronically with hundreds of different elements and can be instantly and automatically configured based on the options checked in the form as well as the time of travel.

Once this information is collected it is permanently stored within the database and accessible to the bureau. The data can also be used to trigger different direct marketing campaigns including mail, emails, and pURLs to remind the recipient of great vacation options in that area.

The example of the visitor’s bureau can be applied to most businesses within a variety of industries. The reality is that variable-data printing sells itself, solely by the increased ROI. According to PODi and DMA data, the response rate of non-personalized mail pieces is 2%, and a personalized piece has a response rate of 6%—that’s a 300% increase. Knowing this and having the ability to add true value to a customer through variable print technology practices gives a printer an upper hand in the marketplace.

About DME

DME, an industry pioneer in relationship marketing, Web-to-print technology, and print fulfillment successfully builds relationships with clients through relevant communications for over thirty years. Engaging customers in a variety of industries, DME develops innovative and successful programs employing complex variable data to produce end-to-end campaigns. DME’s strategic process, from concept to design, fulfillment, and analytics is managed completely in-house at its 11-acre Daytona Beach, FL campus. For further information, please email or visit