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Why Are U.S. Marketers Sleeping on Transpromo?

January 6, 2012 By Manny Kostas
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That standalone, tip-in brochure that comes with your credit card, bank or utility statement each month—odds are pretty good you toss it into the recycle bin without a second thought. But what if the product or service advertised on that throw-away was instead dropped into a personalized message on the document you actually spend time poring over—the bill?

That technique is called transpromotional marketing, "transpromo" for short. It takes the proven high-response techniques of personalized direct marketing over to some of the most valuable real estate in the mail: transactional documents such as bills and statements.

Consumers are attached to printed, mailed bills and statements. At last year's National Postal Forum, Phoenix Marketing International released the results of its latest survey, noting that 65 percent of U.S. households said they prefer to receive printed bills and statements in the mail, even if they pay online. Businesses are well aware of the trend: according to the USPS, 95 percent of all transaction mail gets opened, and, not surprisingly, 73 percent of all bills and statements are still sent by mail.

There are a few key factors to make transpromo work effectively in your marketing.

  • Make the right use of your data: purchase histories, demographic information and any other details that would help you create a meaningful, personalized ad, coupon or message for your statement. Chances are, you are already starting to do this as part of your digital CRM marketing strategy.
  • The data does not have to be relevant to only your products and services: Transpromo statement white space is like almost any other desirable location. Depending on your data, transpromo could be a revenue-generator as an advertising space that you sell to outside companies.
  • High-quality color printing: Marketers have always had the ability to print variable, targeted messages on statements, it took the development of affordable, full-color digital printing for transpromo to gain traction. Just like in the publishing world, full-color transpromotional messaging stands out against monochrome text. Even better, with transpromo, your marketing message only has to compete against a line listing of statement transactions, as opposed to a narrative article.

A Hit Overseas
In the United States, marketers have access to larger customer lists and greater amounts of data, but that actually creates some resistance to change. Companies are hesitant to redesign their bills or statements unless they have to meet a legal requirement. In Latin America and other parts of the world where customer lists and data sets are a bit more manageable, we've seen transpromo take off.

Empresas Jordan S.A., the largest transactional printing service bureau in Latin America, creates transpromotional documents and subsidizes the printing costs for its clients by selling transpromo white space. But the statements not only drive revenue, they drive response. One Jordan client, a supermarket, adopted transpromo statement mailers as part of its shopper loyalty program, driving response rates from .4 percent up to 5.5 percent. 

Credomatic, a financial services firm serving several countries in Latin America, transitioned its statements to transpromo as a way to increase client satisfaction in a challenging economic environment. Credomatic switched to transpromo once its service bureau, Cargraphics, upgraded its printing speed and data processing capabilities. The increased efficiencies allowed Credomatic to complete its switch to transpromo without incurring additional costs for statement printing.

Why Not in the U.S.?
There are many other examples of transpromo used with great success overseas, but domestically, the story has been a bit different. American companies, and those in other large countries like the United Kingdom, naturally have bigger customer bases and proportionally larger service bureau costs for statements.

The larger scale gives many marketers the impression that the digital color printing needed for transpromo is unaffordable, but that is changing. Newer inkjet digital presses come close to electrophotography in print quality, but are significantly faster. The faster speed reduces the cost per color page, and for many companies, this shift will put transpromo within reach for the very first time.

Many firms have recently gone through the effort of redesigning their bills to meet the requirements of the CARD Act, and are waiting for more economic justification before doing another redesign to accommodate transpromo. In some cases, companies' recent redesigns include space for non-personalized promotional marketing messaging. For those firms that took the initiative to secure marketing space, the next step will involve working with their marketing teams to fully develop the messages, data analysis, trigger points and monitoring systems needed to turn that space to color transpromo.

It is a step that might rely on some important economic preconditions. After all, in corporate America, marketing staffs—the ones most accountable for transpromo implementation and success—are often the first to be cut in bad times. We may see activity in transpromo increase as the U.S. economy gains momentum and more marketing professionals are charged with creating new growth strategies.

One firm in the U.K. that is already helping its clients take advantage of transpromo is Communisis, a leading service bureau serving FTSE 100 businesses. In the words of one Communisis executive, transpromo "enables something of the immediacy of the personal online web experience in print." More important, it matches what the public increasingly expects and responds to in the digital age.

Manny Kostas is senior vice president, worldwide strategy and marketing, for HP's Imaging and Printing Group.


 
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