Put Communication, Speed to Work for You

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Improvements in the development, production and mailing of direct mail pieces are brought about by the intelligent blending of the basic elements that drive all technological change: communication, speed and energy.

One way to judge a printer is to measure his interest in change. Ask questions, and the answers will tell whether you are working with a leader who can work with you to develop procedures and technologies that can help you do your job better.

Possible questions include:

* Can you make my high-volume printing mail project more seamless? And how can I work with you to make that happen?

* Are there ways to pursue more personalization changes in our direct mail pieces that can enhance our ability to earn an even higher customer share of wallet?

* What can you do for me to create value for my company and deliver a better return on our marketing investment?

* I get a lot of pressure to produce direct mail pieces that are viable and competitive and have much shorter cycle times. Is there some way to reduce or eliminate the back-and-forth process of proofing work that can significantly cut time and costs?

* Are you exploring leading-edge software solutions for potential contributions to our process? As we both need accurate cross-platform communications, are you approaching software companies that might enhance our mutual creativity, speed and accuracy to be sure that their programs will perform for our current and near-term needs?

* I want to get to the point where I can stop fixing problems and concentrate on developing my next mailing. How can we do that? Can you estimate possible bottom-line savings for my business?

Using these questions, it is important to push your printer to continually make process improvements.

Change can also be accomplished through speed and energy, and each impacts the personalized direct mail industry.

A good example of speed driving improvement is provided by a common element in the printing of most personalized direct mail: water-based inkjet ink.

Every press has a maximum speed that delivers optimum print quality. As customers seek to design direct mail pieces printed on coated stock, they challenge the inkjet system's ability to accurately add personalized text to the piece's four-color-process inks during a high-speed press run.

Heating the water-based inkjet text to dry on coated stock is the answer, but it is challenging: Too little heat and the inkjet text can smear; too much heat and the four-color-process inks on the piece can melt.

The problem can be solved by applying energy in a creative way. The amount of controlled heat you provide and where and how you apply it allows the press to deliver a high-quality, high-speed, competitively priced product on coated stocks.

Today's advanced production and printing processes support the market's need for high-speed, efficient and cost-effective personalized direct mail pieces with integrated, high-value solutions.

The next step toward changing the technology of the printing industry is for marketers to interact with their printers to create, produce and mail high-impact direct marketing materials that meet their customers' needs.

Marketers and printers should push the technology and procedural envelopes to eliminate outdated, time-consuming and costly prepress creative, manufacturing and mailing procedures.

Clients have a further responsibility to communicate their requirements for speed, flexibility and cost savings.

Go ahead and put yourself on the fast track of industry change. Ask questions from your list that can get your printer thinking. Put together questions that make it clear what your needs are. Your questions might bring about changes in the way your printer will soon be working. And you might come up with a new idea.

Communicate that you want to be involved in new technology methods and procedures that will bring significant changes to planning, development, preproduction, printing and mailing. Tell your printer that you want to save money by delivering more effective personalized direct mail programs.

Your questions are not pipe dreams. You could find a breakthrough solution that brings changes in the way you work and impacts the speed, price and quality of your direct mail campaign.

Robert E. Hackett is vice president of national sales at RRD Direct, a division of R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago.

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