Thursday, May 16, 2013


What is variable-data printing and how can I sell it?

Variable-data is best described as data that changes on each copy of a document. It can be as simple as consecutive numbering or as complex as the changing of names, photos, offers and addresses for every piece of a large mailing. Personalization of marketing collateral using variable data can increase its overall impact on the recipient. This is usually noted by higher response rate than more generic forms of marketing. As a rule, variable data is a powerful marketing tool because of the fact that we all love the sound and sight of our own name. If I receive mail that that is addressed to “Occupant,” it usually just goes in the recycle bin. I do not open it and I do not ponder what mysteries lie inside the envelope. On the other hand, a mail piece with my name on it increases the likelihood that I will open it. But if the piece has my name on it and a special offer geared to my interest or desires and is presented in an attractive way, I will be more motivated to take a look at the offering that is being made and to respond to it.

In the example below note that each customer of Steve's Fruit and Veggie Shack is being made a different coupon offer based on past buying preferences. 




Variable-data has many more uses than just mail. If a company has a brochure that they send to prospective customers, each brochure can be personalized for each individual by using the wonders of variable-data. The brochure can then be produced in limited quantities using digital printing. Employee handbooks can be personalized for each individual, or for multiple locations using variable-data. Short run carbonless forms can be numbered using variable-data on a digital press. Many companies use preprinted shells to add variable data as they need it. The uses of variable-data are limited only by you and your customers imagination.

What do I need to know to be able to sell variable-data printing? 

First, you need an understanding of your customer and how they market themselves. Do they have marketing collateral that they are using that could benefit from the use of variable-data? If so, you will need to gather the data necessary to turn the static materials into a dynamic variable-data marketing piece. If they mail out coupons and special offers to their customers, this would be a great way to put variable-data to work. If you receive mail that has variable data and gets your attention, sell something similar to your customer if you believe it will meet a need.

Second, you are going to need a spreadsheet of the information that is going to change from piece to piece. For example, if you are doing a mailing you will need a spreadsheet that has the information broken up as follows: A column with the person’s first name, a column with the person’s last name, a column with their street address, a column for their city, a column for their state, a column for their zip code, a column for each item that will change. Remember variable data can be verbiage, images or a combination of the two. If you are going to be using variable graphics or even static ones, you will need image files for these with a resolution of at least 300 dpi. This will insure that you end up with a quality image on the end product. On this spreadsheet the last column shows that each customer prefers a different type of fruit. The photo at the top of the page corresponds to the first three rows of customers and their preferred fruit.




Third, you are going to need a printer that both understands variable-data printing and is able to produce it cost effectively. Digital printing has opened the door to a myriad of possibilities for the use of variable-data printing. The problem is that few people understand how to use this print option effectively. The days are gone when you just needed a printer; now you need a partner who can hold your hand in the uncertain days in which print is going through. 

Fourth, never stop learning. Always be open to new ideas and possibilities. Variable printing can be a powerful tool. It takes you out of just selling print and into the realm of marketing. This gives you the power to increase you customer’s bottom line if done well. Instead of being an expense, printing can be turned into a money generating machine.

Fifth, start small and then move on to bigger and more complex product offerings. As you learn more, your confidence will grow. Explore the possibilities of variable-data printing and share them with your customers. Develop the habit of constantly being on the lookout for ideas that could benefit your customers using the magic of variable-data printing.

This is just a rudimentary introduction to variable-data printing. I hope that it gives you idea of what variable-data printing is about and the possibilities it presents for growing your business. Below are a few links to tell you more about variable-data. If you would like to discuss a project, call our customer service representatives at 800.633.1228.

For more information on variable-data printing check out these links.

Adobe presents several examples of variable-data printing here.

There is an article on variable-data printing at Wikipedia.


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