Make it Personal. Make it Count.

viThere is a full spectrum of services that are needed to create VI (variable imaging) documents: Design and Composition, Data Processing, Data Conditioning and Quality, RIP and Print, Fulfillment and Response Tracking.
While some print providers will keep the entire process in-house as a way to drive additional revenue, most printers will opt for just one or two pieces of the process. It’s important to have a working knowledge of each step of the process.
Let’s take a look at the various steps.

Design and Composition
Design and layout are critical success factors in 1 to 1 marketing. That’s why ad agencies and graphic artists are sometimes hired to complete this stage of the process. Their skill and expertise in branding packaging and presenting marketing messages is invaluable.
The creative process for 1 to 1 marketing does have its obstacles. Unlike designing documents for offset presses, careful consideration must be given to the placement of static versus variable information. Graphic artists should have a good understanding of database and printing technology. They should also understand the Limitations of the software and hardware they’re working with in order to successfully design a 1 to 1 document.

Data Processing
Data segmentation and analysis are the most important activity in the development of a full color, variable information documents. In the world of databases, there are two categories: Customer Transaction Files (CTF) and Marketing Customer Information Files (MCIF or MCF). These two databases are very different. CTFs are data- bases created from transactional data such as purchases or invoices. They have complex data formats, non-relational structure and contain Lots of customer codes that have minimal use in marketing programs. They are used extensively by service bureaus in transactional applications, but in this case the mainframe-type data is
cleansed (see data conditioning), formatted in the production workflow and flowed into a fixed template. Due to the complexity and difficulty in setting up applications with images and graphics with this data, CTFs are seldom used for marketing communications applications.
In stark contrast to CTFs, Marketing Communications Information Files are composed of demographic, geographic and psychographic (buying preferences, predisposition) information, relational, and contain critical data for development of customer loyalty, cross-sell and competitive knock-out programs, such as timeliness and frequency (RF) purchase behavior.
The process begins with the development of a “pure” MCIF database or one that contains selected data from the CTF (i.e customer refer-ence numbers). The final MCIF has two database components. One of these is a contact database containing customers, prospect and possibly channel partner information. The other database in the MCIF is a content database. Images (high-and low-resolution), graphics, and text blocks used for the application are stored in this database. If the program is variable, than the database may be quite extensive and large in MB size. When taken together, these two databases are referred to as an Integrated Marketing Database or IMD.
Once the MCIF database is linked, meaning that specific customers or groups of customers are associated with specific variable data content, a wide variety of 1 to 1 applications can be created using this Integrated Marketing Database.
Data Conditioning and Quality
To improve the quality of data found in databases, incoming data should be separated, corrected and standardized. Corrected records then must be matched with existing records. Once the existing records have been identified, consolidation can take place and the “cleansed” data can be uploaded for permanent storage.
It’s crucial that once conditioned, the data is updated on a regular basis, otherwise it is worthless. Accurate data can lead to a high response rate, while inaccurate data con potentially work against the seller by alienating customers.
Database technology is advancing rapidly and with the right vendor, a company can get their data in shape in a relative short period of time.
There are many elements to fulfillment. In many cases it’s the final stage of the 1 to 1 workflow for the print shop – if, of course, the print shop chooses to handle the entire workflow. Like other pieces of the workflow, the fulfillment stage can be outsourced using a specialist.
Some 1 to 1 documents may be combined with stock pieces like brochures, requiring shrinkwrapping or envelope stuffing. During the fulfillment stage, bar codes and glyphs may be added to the face of the 1 to 1 documents for automated packaging and mailing purposes.

Response Tracking
Responses can be requested by return card, 800 numbers, e-mail, serial numbers captured on coupons. The response data should be captured and updated in the database. Most promotional programs consist of multiple parts. The next step cannot be achieved if the database is not updated.
Measurement is a staple of any good 1 to 1 marketing program… it’s only natural. Because the targets are so specific it’s easy to track customer response rates. In fact, measurement is a strategic element of most data quality and conditioning activity. Knowing and recording who is buying what and why is new customer data that is fed back into the system for use in the next VI campaign.
There are five categories of VI documents – distinguished by the amount of variable information contained in the document and the overall document design. Let’s take a look at the various categories most often associated with VI printing.

E-Z Personalization
The effectiveness of a personalized document is primarily based on the increase in response using customer-specific information versus a generic communications approach. For many marketing programs, this rise in response can be achieved with the inclusion of a person’s name, a company name or industry reference, signature, logo, and/or a change in one image or graphic on the page.
When the complexity of variable information on a document involves 1 to 3 elements on a page, we refer to this as “E-Z Personalization”.
Typically these documents use a simple template with fixed-size areas for insertion of variable information. Each of the variable elements is the same shape and size so they can be placed in designated area(s) in the template. Data may be Web- or marketing database-driven.
Applications in this category include personalized direct mail letters, simple mailers, custom postcards, customer-specific newsletters, targeted presentations, and various types of communications with demo-graphic references.

Versioning is more complex than E-Z Personalization in some ways and easier in others. A versioned job is one that contains specific variable information for a group of customers that is a subset of the total universe. For example, catalog printers may section thousands of prospects into groups based on intelligence gleaned from list company demographics and psychographic profiles. Although the names are known and the materials are personalized, the variable information elements are not changed for every customer, rather each group receives the same documents.
Although the variable information does not change for every record other than the name and address, these applications usually involve major changes in variable information content, including large text blocks, graphics and images, among the groups.
Versioning jobs create variable sections or pages and store them ready to print. By matching the correct template or version with the correct target criteria, a document is created focused on the target audience. It is a highly effective means to target specific audiences based on age
groups, income levels, ethnic groups, languages, and other criteria. Typical versioning jobs include catalogs, insurance policies, newsletters, auto manuals, and multilingual flyers.
1 to 1 Marketing Communications
According to a recent Rochester Institute of Technology study, over $60B in annual revenue is generated from print jobs in this category. Marketing communications is a catchall phrase for the multitudes of print communication that is distributed every day. 1 to 1 marketing communications is the term used to describe materi¬als that are personalized or customized to a specific audience.
Imagine starting with a template that includes elements associated with corporate brand identity only. The rest of the template is wide-open – ready to be filled with variable text, graphics and images. The amount and type of variable content on a page can vary greatly with these jobs. Typically, the job contains sev¬eral variable text blocks, some with name and address information, and others with customer¬ targeted messages. Additionally, the material will have one or more variable images and/or graphics selected for that customer. Although the page layout can change in highly complex 1 to 1 projects, a condition known as a floating template, in most cases the page can be thought of as a fixed template with variable content areas. The latter makes it easy to set up a project and produce 1 to 1 communications as needed, pro¬vided there are no changes in the criteria and variable content used to construct the job.
There are a myriad of communications that fall under this category and offer personalization opportunities. They can be divided into three major classes: a) Direct Marketing, including letters, postcards, reply cards, self-mailers, notices/buckslips, packets and coupons; b) Advertising/Promotion such as flyers, data sheets, ad sheets/inserts, brochures, booklets, folders and posters/signage; and c) Catalogs, including business, industrial, consumer, specialty, dealer, distributor and mail order.

Personalized Web Fulfillment (PWF)
The Web offers an increasingly effective way to interact and learn more about customers. Soliciting and capturing valuable customer intelligence and using that information to create personalized documents is becoming a key element in building high impact marketing communication programs. Using the Web to capture customer preferences or fulfill customer requests for product or service information is not only an effective way to build and maintain a sophisticated database, it is also very cost effective.
The process for Personalized Web Fulfillment documents begins with the development of an Integrated Marketing Database (IMD) of contact and content information.
Contact information could include customers, prospects or channel partner data. Content information includes variable text, graphics and images. For each contact record in the IMD, there are references to the variable content that is used to create marketing materials specific to that contact. Once the IMD is set up, 1 to 1 applications can be created from an application template, which identifies the location of static and variable information.
Typically, the PWF architecture is a fully auto-mated system in which the Web site server is determining what content a customer or prospect should receive based on their specific data inputs to the site. In these cases, the Web site sends down a database file containing either the actual data that was entered or “pointer data” that identifies the variable infor-mation content used for the 1 to 1 communications. Typical jobs for Personalized Web Fulfillment include Web-enabled channel co-op marketing programs, product cross-sell Web site fulfillment campaigns, personalized travel itineraries, custom catalogs and brochures and other highly targeted fulfillment communications generated from queries for information, details, options or accessories.

Every day millions of pages of transactional documents are printed and mailed to customers around the globe. These statements, invoices, confirmations, receipts, and notices, to name just a few, are by definition variable in that each is directed to a specific individual or household. These documents are typically mailed to customers in envelopes together with other printed materials as separate pieces. The transactional documents are immediately removed from the envelope and put aside for action, which in some cases may be based on the ability of the document to send a clear, concise mes-sage. The remaining literature is quickly glanced at and in many cases discarded. This is where the opportunity lies.
With the new capabilities of digital color engines, transactional documents that included black and white or highlight color graphs and charts can now be striking full-color graphics that grab the reader’s attention and make it easy to understand the importance of the message. For example, colorful usage graphs for utilities companies demonstrate the value of a seasonal payment program. These graphs and charts are created “on the fly” a condition known as data-driven graphics.
Additionally, revenue building marketing messages such as cross-sell services and other “promotional” offers can be integrated into the body of the transactional document using variable full-color images, graphics and text; hence, the term “promotional/transactional communications.”
The importance of this emerging category of dig¬ital color printing has not been lost on financial, insurance and automotive companies, which are presently using sophisticated segmentation to build pyramids of customer audiences based on lifetime value (LTV) metrics. Once the hierarchy is developed, highly targeted, 1 to 1 marketing programs are created for the various LTV groups. In some cases, promotional/transactional docu¬ments are developed in black and white, high¬light color and full color based on LTV. In other programs, only the full color customers receive documents with images and graphics. And in many cases, all customers are mailed full-color transactional documents with personalized text and customer-specific images. Whatever the program, it is clear that this category of printing will continue to grow and generate significant ROIs.

*Based on Xerox Profit Through Personalization



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