Print stages a comeback

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Print stages a comeback
Print stages a comeback
An annual fundraising piece of direct mail followed after the postcard campaign, and the Diocese saw 
impressive results. It gathered more than 600 contributions from recipients of the PURL campaign, a 14% conversion rate that brought in $125,000. 

"As the cost of paper and postage goes up, nonprofits have to be more targeted and use their data more 
efficiently to make sure they are getting a better return on investment," notes James Kopp, national director of diocesan accounts at Cathedral Corp.

Cost considerations

Miami University in Ohio found that its cost of production actually went down when it deployed a PURL campaign. The University worked with Xerox on a campaign that included a personalized direct mail postcard for honors students, which drove recipients to a personalized landing page. It sent a more general mail piece to other students. 

Variable data rate printing helped to tailor the 
direct mail pieces to the students' individual interest in major, gender and whether or not they had visited the campus. Images and text were aligned to these specific categories and each postcard included the name of the recipient. The university reported a 32% increase in student enrollment in 2010 over the prior year and 91% of those who registered were recipients of the PURL campaign. By using such a focused mailer, the university also reduced its overall mail volume for a cost savings in printing of 29%. 

With both postal rates and paper prices, expect to see more marketers taking a targeted approach to print pieces to keep their budgets in check. "It is all about making it relevant versus having high volume," Sweeney says. "The data is going to be the driver 
behind print campaigns going forward, and I think we'll see more marketers reducing volume and focusing on a more targeted approach, so that their mail 
costs go down."

Personalized print campaigns are getting easier, as well as tools like variable data printing, which allow marketers to swap out images in a print piece as easily as they do in an e-mail. Like Miami University, the Diocese of Erie also used variable data printing in its PURL campaign to personalize the postcards with the recipient's name. While the personalized postcards cost more to print than the Diocese's normal offset mailing, they also showed a higher return on investment. According to Hoag, the parish invested $10,000 in the campaign, more than its traditional $6,000 to $7,000 investment. "This is a little bit more expensive, but it drove more conversions," says Hoag. "In a 
normal mailing, we probably would have seen 2% to 3% of the people donate, and 14% is a much higher donation rate in terms of ROI."

Marketers also say the quality of digital printing is improving — an obstacle that has held off its growth in the past. "Digital quality is 98% there," says Andresen. "The trend is towards more efficiency and figuring out a multichannel approach with a much more layered cadence of communications."

A new development expected for this year is the roll out of four-color process digital printing. This process, which uses a hybrid of inline and digital printing to print four-color pieces, has the pricing and turnaround closer to that of traditional offset printing. Specialty Print Communications is currently working on a new four-color printing process with partner Western Michigan University in a beta testing mode that will be available this spring. 

"Hybrid allows printers to make very personalized mailings and swap out tons of different data variables in an amazingly quick window of time," says Dustin LeFebvre, EVP of marketing at Specialty Print Communications. While LeFebvre could not quote how much more this would cost compared to traditional offset printing, he says it "is not substantially more expensive than regular color." "It depends on the data and image library," he adds. "If we are working with a retailer and they are swapping out 1,000 different 
images, versus a grocery store that is only swapping out 10 images, the grocery store job would be less."

The cost factors also include the number of images, how much data is applied and the number of pieces.As the saturation of online marketing increases and 
innovations in printing and production make this field, once left for dead, attractive once again, it's no surprise that direct marketers are once again opting for traditional channels to drive multichannel efforts.

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