Printing gets personal with VIPs

At a time when doing more with less is the rule of thumb in business marketing, snail-mail direct marketing strategies are making a comeback. How? By using the technology known as VIP — variable information printing.Successful marketing is all about making your prospects and customers feel like VIPs. To do this cost-effectively, digital marketing campaigns have traditionally been the choice, offering e-mail contact management features that allow companies to custom-tailor messaging to different audiences with little to no extra effort or cost.However, with the proliferation of e-mail generated spam, junk mail and viruses, many businesses are limiting access to e-mail through firewalls and permission-based e-mail solutions. Individuals are using junk mail filters and permission-based applications as well to limit the endless stream of unsolicited special offers for anything from physically enhancing prescriptions to notification of an award for sweepstakes never subscribed to.Thanks to this ever-increasing level of e-mail marketing abuse, the pendulum is swinging back to direct mail as an effective business development and communication strategy. As marketers revisit this option, they are also learning about VIP technology and how it offers much of the message-tailoring features as e-mail marketing.With VIP technology, the image that is printed in a direct mail piece can be varied completely from one page to the next as the digital press runs. VIP technology allows for high levels of personalization within a press run, a process referred to as mass customization, or 1-to-1 marketing.Through the use of a database, text and images can be varied based on information contained in the database fields. This is frequently called a “data driven” process. For example, if a database contains demographic data, such as gender, an image that is most appropriate to that gender (a barbershop for a man or a salon package for a woman) can be printed to create a more relevant, personal message or experience for the recipient.Why is this important? Years of research and business practice show that personalization yields higher response and improved results. Whereas a typical static, non-personalized direct mail campaign might result in a 1 percent or 2 percent response rate, a well-designed, highly personalized mailing can yield response rates in excess of 20 percent.A personalized direct mail campaign also can be designed, produced and launched collectively, all online. For example, Conquest Graphics is an 85-year old commercial printing business in Richmond, Va., that expanded into Internet-based services for small businesses in 2006. Through its Web site, an individual can access design templates for most any direct mail piece, chat live for professional guidance, place an order and arrange for direct mail assembly and distribution services.As e-mail marketing abuses continue, personalized direct mail campaigns are offering many advantages, meaning that using VIP technology as a VIP marketing technique, just might offer that ROI your business is looking for when doing more with less.Deborah Osgood, co-founder and chief executive of the Knowledge Institute in Exeter, can be reached atdeborah.osgood@bdki.comor 603-658-0340.