VDP's evolution leads to many new options

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John Peterson

President, Kopytek Inc.

The single best way for marketers to take advantage of the variable printing market is to control and mine the data. Consumer data is often a company's most valuable asset, but ensuring the integrity of the data and its correct use remains a challenge.

Quality data should be at the core of every VDP order, regardless of size. Data is the Holy Grail of variable printing: Whoever controls the data will control the entire VDP project, which includes tracking the response rate of the job and postage cost. 

Before executing a VDP campaign, the list that is purchased needs to be culled by the data manager and the marketer for specific criteria that meet the needs of the campaign, including geographic and demographic information. Often, a client has a list that also needs "refining," i.e. enlisting proper capitalization, spelling, prefixes, suffixes and punctuation. This is an important step. Poor-quality data can affect the response rate and impact the marketer's business.

Successful direct mail campaigns provide products and services on the basis of personal knowledge of customers. Consumers are increasingly demanding to be treated as individuals. Consequently, personalization becomes an important mediator of customer satisfaction and patronage.

It is also important that each consumer response is logged and analyzed by the marketer. Generally, this can be accomplished by "coding" the pieces when they are mailed and requesting that code on a call-in response, or recording the code on a mail-in response. This allows the marketer to understand what works and identify what does not work. The goal is to build a database that is large enough to become statistically significant so that the client can expect the same type of response each time a similar piece is mailed.

THE TAKEAWAY

Quality and well-maintained data are the foundation of any VDP project

Gina Testa

VP, graphic comms.and business dev., Xerox Corporation

Marketers are faced with an ever-increasing challenge to make their messages stand out. Using personalized communications with relevant text, images and graphics will increase readership, evoke action and receive a higher return on investment. And now, with the emergence of integrated cross-media communications, the worlds of print and electronic media are coming together to generate significant measurable improvement in achieving business objectives.

Testing a marketing campaign is a key factor in determining its success. We regularly work with customers to analyze a traditional static direct-marketing campaign and compare the results against one that uses personalized, one-to-one messaging based on demographic data and printed on digital printing technology.

The results are indisputable. A recent test with a state tourism office demonstrated that a relevant personalized mailing generated a 24.1% improvement in the response rate over a traditional generic piece. Additionally, the tourism office projected that the personalized mailing also generated 23.4% more revenue from state visitors than the control generic group.

Results like this can be achieved by keeping communication personal and customized with relevant data; establishing a very specific target audience; setting a goal and determining what metrics will need to be tracked for measuring the campaign's success; and using personalized URLs to collect data for future follow-up and to track the success of a campaign.

There is tremendous power in personalized one-to-one communications and integrating print, Web, and e-mail into a campaign increases that power for marketers. Messages are more effective because they are customized and relevant to that specific audience in both content and preferred avenue of communication. Digital printing gives marketers the ability to customize their message, increase its effectiveness, create greater customer loyalty and help achieve better return on investment.

THE TAKEAWAY

Integrating print, Web and e-mail in VDP campaigns boosts effectiveness

Val DiGiacinto

VP of sales, The Ace Group

With increasing competition and decreasing budgets, it has never been more important to demonstrate positive campaign results, increased ROI, and maximized customer lifetime value.

Personalized URLs (PURLs) can be an effective strategy for marketers. They allow you to have a dialogue with loyal or potential customers by personalizing the experience. As the dialogue continues and you learn more about them, the personalization can improve as well. It's really what we all have come to expect as consumers. Studies have shown that direct mail recipients prefer to respond online and will be more inclined to visit a site that contains their name rather then response@-, info@- or sales@-type addresses.

Although PURLs have been around for a while, the adoption curve has been relatively slow. Those who have moved ahead of the curve and adopted PURLs as part of their cross-media marketing campaigns often see substantial gains in response rates and conversion rates for their customers.

The personalization of the mailpiece should be much more than just the verbiage. Based on what you know about the addressee, images and even the message should change as well. The image of a man or a woman on a golf course may be directed to a senior nearing retirement. A woman or a man rock climbing may go to a younger audience.

Your design for a traditional direct mail piece can be used as the start of a PURL. Adding the addressee's name to the takeaway message and in the URL and possibly changing an image based on an appropriate demographic will produce a well constructed PURL design. You can design the landing page or leave that up to your marketing solutions provider. A mined mailing list is the last component necessary for the project.

A new marketing tool, widely used in Japan and Europe and recently introduced to the US, is QR Code. By adding a two-dimensional bar code to your DM, PURL or any advertising, consumers can scan them using their mobile phone and immediately link to a Web page or YouTube.

THE TAKEAWAY

Investigate the use of PURLs as part of your cross-media campaign

Denis Sovik

Partner, The Ready Group

The secret to the success of variable data printing is the ability to provide one-on-one communication on behalf of clients. Each direct marketing recipient receives a credible, relevant and specific offer. The offer is both visually engaging and precisely targeted to prompt an immediate response.

Our clients are automotive retailers and distributors. Communicating and subtly revealing or focusing on key details regarding a customer's or prospect's current vehicle or potential future opportunity lends credibility to them. Obvious trigger points within the marketing piece, such as customer trade-in value, current monthly payment, number of payments remaining and interest rates are highlighted. Consumers are subtly engaged by referring to specific details applicable only to them. We often employ the use of data modeling to enhance the data.

Employing basic visual cues, such as boldface type for specific variables, often works, since most recipients peruse a mail piece quickly. They read and see what they want, and these tactics get their attention. Here's an example: "TRG Honda believes your 2004 Honda Accord EX has approximately 66,000 miles and is in good condition. Denis, we believe we can save you $37.15 off your current payment of $389.24 for a brand new 2009 Accord EX."

Clearly, the relationship between the retailer and customer in the example makes it appear as though TRG Honda has done its homework and is making a strong case to earn the customer's business. TRG Honda is not just using a broad-brush approach filled with generalities, which would communicate, "We know little or nothing about you, but please spend your money here."

Don't stop there; carry the customization through to the call to action. As consumers, we are intrigued by Web sites with our names in them. A smart marketer should variably print personalized URLs (PURLs) with every direct mail campaign. Directing the customer to a PURL gives them the opportunity to correct and interact with the data online as they update their address, e-mail, or vehicle data. Even if they don't buy today, you have gathered valuable data to communicate with them again.

THE TAKEAWAY

Carry VDP customization through to the call to action in order to engage buyers

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