Friday, November 18, 2011

Variable Data Printing Basics

Variable Data Printing Basics

In simplest terms, Variable Data Printing (VDP) involves varying or changing the information that is put on a printed piece.   But that description greatly minimizes the full scope and sophistication of this method of personalized printing.  A print shop equipped with VDP technology can customize every piece of a single print run with a targeted message that resonates with each direct mail recipient.   This capability is light-years beyond laser-personalized letters and a simple change of name in an address box. Variable Data Printing combines design and text elements with data analytics to ensure that a promotional mailer speaks directly to a customer.  Once a customer’s personal profile (age, gender, location, purchasing habits) is determined then graphics, color, logos, and pictures can be adjusted to create compelling and unique content for a specific audience.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Planning a VDP Campaign

WHO  should use it?
Anyone who is currently marketing with direct mail should seriously consider Variable Data Printing customization rather than continuing to deliver non-personalized, static messages.

WHY use VDP?
Statistics confirm that messages targeted to an individual’s profile and preferences result in higher direct mail response rates and increased ROI.  In addition, short run printing with digital technology has made VDP possible and very affordable. 

WHERE do I begin?
Partner with a company that has the proper tools and equipment, which includes digital printing technologies, in-house design with specialized VDP software, expertise in direct mail, and expertise in data analytics.

WHAT is the best usage?
Any direct mail campaign designed to: attract new clients, raise funds, purchase a product, or sell a service. VDP can be implemented for catalogs, postcards, letters, envelopes, packages, self-mailers, booklets, business correspondence, event tickets, custom publications, and cross-media marketing campaigns.

WHEN do I start?
Start now.  Don’t wait.  The University of Nebraska Medical Center describes their ROI in this way, “The returns for variable printing vary from double the normal return at the basic level to 10-15 times the return for fully variable jobs.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tips on How to Save With Direct Mail

The Direct Mail Association (DMA) reports that 79% of households read or skim through their direct mail. In addition, response rates for direct mail have held steady over the past four years.  This information secures direct mail’s status as a highly effective mode of marketing communication for generating a very positive ROI.  This is good news for marketers.  But if you are just slapping a stamp on a mail piece, you could be missing out on substantial postal discounts that can often cover the entire costs of printing and mailing.  

Whether you prefer first class or bulk mail, USPS offers discounts on postage if you follow certain guidelines.  Essentially, the less the USPS has to physically interact with your mail, the more savings that is passed on to you.  A few simple modifications can make your direct mail piece “machinable”, which is post office terminology for being fully automated. By tweaking a few basic design characteristics, you can ensure that your direct mail campaign has benefited from optimum discounts. 

1.  Dimension and weight of the piece (postcard, self-mailer, letter, flats)
2.  Design features
o   Fold style/orientation (horizontal, vertical, bi-fold, quarter fold)
o   Location of address block and address placement
3.  Closure methods
o   Tabs (wafer seals)
·         Sizes (1, 1 ½, 2”)
·         Perforated/non-perforated
·         Quantity and placement (top, trail edge, lead edge)
o   Glued (continuous glue lines or glue spots)
4.  Quantities
o   Minimum of 500 pieces for first class (estimated 2 to 3 days for delivery)
o   Minimum of 200 pieces for bulk (standard) mail (estimated 2 to 9 days for delivery)

Mail regulations can be complicated and often seem open for interpretation. For this reason, we recommend building a relationship with your bulk mail center.  It is best to call ahead to find out the most convenient time to pay them a visit.  Bring a sample of your mail piece and solicit their advice on the best way to achieve postal discounts. They will usually provide you with a “take home” package containing templates and other pertinent information.

To achieve even further discounts, it is best to partner with a direct mail house that has capabilities in both Intelligent Barcode, and postal/courier route presorts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Evolution of a Printer

The phrase “cassette player” has joined the ranks of words that have been eliminated from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.  Apparently, a cassette player fits into the category of “obsolete technology”.  One might wonder if the term “traditional printer” will soon face a similar fate, with the changes in the publishing industry, the rise of digital books and textbooks, and the reduction of large print runs resulting from print-on-demand services.  

Many printers embraced the new technologies and transitioned to digital printing, guiding their businesses beyond just plates and ink.  Digital printing, which  links printing presses to computers and works with toner instead of offset printing plates, results in lowered production and set-up costs, faster turnaround times, and the ability to personalize documents more easily. 

To stay ahead of the curve, the next generation of digital printers are reinventing themselves once more.  They are evolving into full-service enterprises offering capabilities in Variable Data Printing (VDP); direct mail campaigns; design services; customized software solutions; shopping cart services; eBook conversions; and data cleansing/analytics. Multi-channel or cross-media marketing is another growth area that takes advantage of the new mediums such as PURLs(Personalized URLs), QR bar codes, mobile devices, and social networking.

The new age printers, of course, will continue to honor their proud tradition of printing books and other materials for their customers.  But the printer “redefined” is a proactive partner.  In this expanded role, they are instrumental in helping customers to create and disseminate print and digital content to targeted audiences through a range of communication channels.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Grogg Blogs -- Service

We here at NetPub like to think we know a lot about service and how best to offer it to our customers.  The print business has for its whole history been a very service-driven industry with all kinds of personal touches. We believe in providing full service, but as customized, web-based solutions like our CLIENTNET have been developed, technology has taken over much of the service part of the transactions-eliminating the human element. This type of self-service is not about having the customer do everything; it is about systematically choosing what products, services, and functions would best benefit from using technology-based operations.  This is why customized print solutions are best setup on the web, since the user is placing the copy on the piece or directing what parts of the database should be used for the requested document.

As we see more print solutions being suitable for web-based, self-service, we are trying to give our customers what they want when they want it, in a fashion that they feel gives them the best customer service. When technology can deliver better and more efficiently than a human, we give our customers control over their needs and individual requirements to deliver the results they want in a very efficient format. Of course, we always have the phone lines to actually talk to our customers. It is our opinion at NetPub that no business can be completely self-service; sometimes a phone call, with the human touch, is the best way to deliver the service that is required.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Multi-Channel Use

As our customers explore all the avenues they now have to communicate their messages to current and future customers, it is quite overwhelming to many.  With our knowledge footprint of digital print, file/data management, and fulfillment services, NetPublications can execute and scale multi-channel communications programs. Our agility in moving quickly to develop a custom program for each customer has earned us high marks.   

What is a multi-channel campaign?  We have never had as many “output” opportunities to use as we now have at our disposal.  While print has been around for hundreds of years, the new digital outputs add options for our clients.  Planning is the key to managing any successful multi-channel campaign.  We sit down and consult with our customers to find out what areas they are having “pain” in.  From that vantage point, we can get a good understanding of what our customers want to offer, and the best way to communicate with their customers.  We can then work together to formulate a plan based upon the data the customer has, or needs to get, in order to complete the campaign. We then outline a time line, and the type of output areas that will be used in the campaign.  Their client’s data is scrubbed so that the outputs used will not be wasted on multiple addresses.  By taking the customer data and looking at the resources within the data, we can start a print campaign along with a PURL (personalized landing page), or add QR Codes on ads or products to direct customers to specific messages.  The key to a successful campaign is planning from start to finish.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Social Media in General

     After many false starts and some generational rejections, the Internet has fast become the main source of finding content. We are now all members of the “internet generation” and collectively share responsibility for the huge amount of content origination being provided by both businesses and amateurs. This has made the job of content providers much more difficult, and is causing a battle for eyeball time.
    When using social media as a means to engage your audience and offer content that is useful, it is of utmost importance to address the following questions:

        1) Where is the content consumed?
        2) What is the best way to reach your market?
        3) What is the best way to engage your market?
        4) What is your market niche talking about?

In looking at your results, it is important to measure your social media referrals and use analytic tools to see who, where, and how the referrals reach your site. Social media is here to stay, and unless you put in place proper measurements you will be left guessing about its impact on your brand and company. You need to equip yourself and your organization with the proper measurement tools to allow you to truly understand social media.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Customer Service Charm School

In utilizing today’s business communication methods such as voice mail and email, many companies overlook the value of customer service.  Every organization approaches customer service differently, but many miss a unique opportunity: the live customer service conversation.

Responding to customer inquiries via the web or recorded voice mails may get the requested information to the customer, but there is no substitute for a real person interacting directly with a customer.

At NetPublications, we like to put our customer service representatives through “charm school.”  Here are ten points we stress to assure that our new and existing print customers receive the “white glove” treatment.
  1. Make It Personal.  Each customer should feel as if they are the most important person you are talking to on that day 
  2. Don’t Make Excuses. Don’t tell them you have had a bad day, need to return fifteen other calls, or have other pressing problems to solve. 
  3. Be Empathetic.  Try to understand how the customer feels about the problem or opportunity that they are discussing with you.  Put yourself in their situation. 
  4. Listen.  When a person is upset, they tend to turn you out; be sure that they understand what you are telling them.
  5. Ask, and Then Ask Again.  Have the customer repeat back what you said, so that both of you are on the same page at the same time.
  6. Solve It Together.  Give the customer solutions that will help them to solve the problem.  Offer them choices.
  7. Be There.  Do your job.  Get involved.   If at the end of the day you do not remember the last three problems you have solved, then you are not really involved with the customer’s needs.
  8. Always Focus On The Customer. Only when you have assessed and resolved their primary problem(s) can you recommend other services of the company as a “new sell.”
  9. Understand Your Company.  Be sure that you know your company’s services and capabilities so that you can address the customer’s issues without putting the customer on “hold”, or asking them to “hang on.”
  10. Call the Customer Back. If you must get off the phone to check something, call a customer back.  A second of hold time to a potential customer or existing client often feels more like a minute of waiting time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Technology of QR Codes

QR Codes are now being used to extend the value of the printed page, while providing more interactive and engaging information to the customer.  QR, short for quick response, allows information to be read at very high scan speeds.  The technology was invented by the Japanese company DENSO Wave, but it is available to everyone since DENSO does not exercise any rights under their patent.

The usage of QR Codes has progressed from Japan to Europe to the United States, where it is quickly becoming a valuable communication tool.  The key to the use of the QR Code is the smartphone, which can instantly scan and read the code. According to Nielsen, 17% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone.  ABI Research reveals that by 2015,119 billion dollars of purchases will be made via these mobile phones. 

Often described as a sister or offspring to the traditional linear barcode, the two-dimensional QR Code looks like a series of black-and-white squares resembling a puzzle.  The codes are machine readable through any smartphone equipped with a QR Code Reader App. The more complicated the lines of the code, the more information there is contained inside.  A QR Code can include a URL, SMS message, contact information, a phone number, or an invitation.

Using a QR Code in a printed piece allows your intended audience to instantly connect to a website without having to manually enter a long URL into a browser.  The codes can take any marketing campaign viral with the option of linking to a landing page, or a PURL (personalized URL).

QR Codes are still a novel idea for some, but they are gaining in popularity. These codes are a great way to connect your printed pieces to your web content, and a method of getting your potential customers to an exact location on your website.   Scan the QR Code below for a demonstration.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Digital Book Manufacturing Helps Solve Costly Inventory Builds

With the advent of digital manufacturing facilities in the book and manual production industry, inventories can be managed.  No longer do publishers/authors need to warehouse large quantities of books with the hope that they will sell.  Every day that a book sits on a warehouse shelf, it is costing the current owner money, storage costs, and the cost on the money that you have paid for the manufacturing of this unsold unit.  When looking at manufacturing order quantities, look at how fast a title is going to be sold. Even if it were to sell over a specific time frame, such as a year, digital manufacturing is the most cost-effective way to manage your inventory costs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Distribution Model Needs to Change for Both E-books and Physical Books

Taking a look at the book industry distribution model of the past and seeing how that model is evolving presents many options for change.  Traditionally in the book market, books were sold to distributors and the distributors sold them to book stores.  With the advent of the big-block book stores, some of those organizations went directly to the publishers to purchase books.  Then came the Internet, and a whole new selling model emerged.  Publishers in all cases were forced to give up large portions of the retail price to both distributors and book stores.  With the advent of the e-book, the possibility of this whole model could change.  Who does the marketing for a new book?  The publisher and the author do, not the distributor. Why shouldn’t the publisher just use a service to sell its downloaded books, and keep that “distribution” margin?  We see evidence of this new model in the airline industry, where airlines are now selling tickets directly off of their web sites along with other travel needs, cutting out the other “middleman” web sites.  We look forward to working through this whole book distribution model change.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blogs for the Media Distribution Industry

As we begin 2011, we feel it is important to start this blog and show how our firm is adapting to meet the continued demands of our current and future customers.  The media distribution business is changing rapidly with the emergence of new technologies and their usage. Throughout this blog we will attempt to keep you informed of these changes, how they could or will affect you and your business, and how we can help you to use and implement them.  Some of these blogs will be very specific on a particular aspect of a subject.  Others will be more of a global view of things as we see them.   I hope to put some personal slant into the blog that reflects my years of experience in the print industry.  We welcome all inputs, suggestions, and other information that we can use.  We want to continue to be a leader in the media distribution industry, no matter what output format that media will take.  This is a very evolving industry, and we want to offer our customers solutions that best fit their unique needs.