Making It Personal Digitial Printing Allows Marketers to Indiv
By Rachel McLaughlin
In this age of information, marketers are constantly trying to learn more about their customers. Over the last few years, countless time and energy has been spent on building databases, compiling as much information as possible about each and every customer—what he or she buys, how much he or she spends—as well as demographic and geographic data.
However, when it comes to using this information to create a more effective marketing campaign, direct marketers fall short of its full potential. While this information has been used to decide whom to mail to and when, the data can also be used to take a marketing effort a step further—by creating highly customized mailings.
In the past, attempting this type of sophisticated marketing was impossible with traditional printing methods. But with new technology, marketers can speak to the individual, says Will Mansfield, market development manager at the Agfa Division of Bayer. According to Mansfield, to truly market one-to-one, marketers need to look to technology for help—and its answer is digital printing.
Advances in Printing
Creating custom, one-to-one messages is impractical using traditional offset printing methods. Even with the most advanced prepress equipment, a printing press still requires a unique template—a plate or image carrier—of the document it is printing. Since each version of a document needs its own plate, the cost of producing multiple plates and changing them on press to produce a single print would amount to a prohibitive production cost.
However, recent advances in direct-to-press technologies eliminate the need for a traditional printing plate. Documents are created, imaged and output all by the same machine. Adding another version is as easy as telling your computer to print another file.
The downside of digital printing is the cost. The unit cost of printing digitally generally does not decrease with higher run quantities. Also, the direct-to-press machine is a large capital investment for any direct marketer looking to produce mailings in-house.
On the other hand, the cost-per-unit of digital printing can be an advantage when printing low quantities. Because digital printing eliminates film and plates, a large portion of your pre-press production charges are eliminated. In addition, a customized campaign is well worth the money when you consider the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than the cost of keeping an existing one. With these campaigns, response rates are typically much higher and offset the additional cost.
Of course, for prospecting or rolling out huge marketing campaigns, or for marketers without effective databases, it is still probably smarter to market the old fashioned, non-variable way.
CASE Study—Novartis Seeds
Novartis Seeds provides a good example of how and when to use variable printing successfully. Before its "Your Choices for 1998" campaign, the company had several goals: First, Novartis sells through dealers and wanted to get dealers to sell more of their products. Second, they wanted to decrease "haul back," a term which describes the common practice of farmers changing their minds about what they are planting and returning the seeds they had purchased. These returns can be as high as 20 percent of initial sales. Third, the company wanted to increase sales at the expense of the other brands.
Working with its agency, Relationship Marketing, Novartis decided to use customized mailings to help achieve these goals. "Farmers are extremely relationship-oriented and demand very personalized attention," says Jim Lewis, president of Relationship Marketing.
After a farmer placed an order, the next step was getting information from the dealer—what seeds the farmers ordered and what other products that farmer could use.
Using this data combined with basic information gleaned about each farmer (such as the type of farm, the location of the farm and what equipment was used), customized brochures were created using Agfa's Chromapress digital printing system.
Seven thousand brochures were sent out reminding each farmer of his purchase and offering other products that might be of interest. Each brochure contained a customized mix of 90 variable data fields, 30 different product-specific photos, 1,500 different product descriptions and customized word choices to make it truly targeted.
The letter is personalized to the farmer from his dealer affirming the order and reminding him that the seed he purchased is an excellent choice (reducing haul back). An illustration above the letter's salutation varies depending on which type of farming operation the customer runs.
In addition to the seed choice the farmer already selected, other seeds of interest to the farmer are featured (cross-selling other products). The products described are selected from 750 possible versions depending on the customer's geographic location and growing conditions.
Using the information from the dealer, the mailing was customized right down to the farm equipment the farmer used and whether he was a livestock or cash grain farmer. Thus, a livestock farmer who uses green John Deere farming equipment was sent a mailing with a picture of a green tractor on a livestock farm, and the products featured in the mailing were the types of products a livestock farmer in that part of the country would be interested in purchasing.
Dealers who participated in this program achieved a 21.7 percent increase in sales compared to 0.7 percent of those who did not. In addition, the company developed a better relationship with its dealers and the dealers developed a better relationship with the farmers. Haul back was almost eliminated.
The Bottom Line
The success of the Novartis campaign could not have been achieved without a quality database. "We used our extensive customer database and printed high-quality literature based on the specific growing conditions of each of our customers," says Marv Black of Novartis Seeds. This kind of success is possible for virtually every marketer with good data on its customers. Additionally, while variable printing is not for every campaign, it can be used effectively for certain campaigns to achieve true, one-to-one marketing.