Getting Into the Variable Data Printing (VDP) Game

At its core, variable data printing still is a direct marketing strategy. And to do it, your clients must have data on their customers and prospects – data that can be self-generated by your client company or purchased from third-party vendors. Lists, which are available in a range of options, can be tailored to their exact needs.

Take the concept of variable data printing and marry it with the right data, and you have the makings of an elite marketing option for your clients. You most likely have seen the practice in play in marketing campaigns from places like auto dealerships, insurance agencies, sporting goods and apparel retailers and college alumni departments, among many others.

The secret to the variable data printed piece is how the information and artwork are integrated. While the name and address are from one database, the customers’ stated preferences are used so the right copy and artwork also are included. This process allows the designer to incorporate pre-written copy and pre-selected pictures about the best choices of product or service for a customer. For example, a resort might know that certain customers preferred a “FREE Dinner,” while others wanted their rooms comped.

As more data is captured on responsive clients, further enhancements to the campaign can be made. “VDP is not just address changes,” Paul Marnell, manager of the Technical Center for Inkjet Presses at Fujifilm says. “Today, it has the ability to run jobs such as pre-collated books, something that has a huge cost savings.”

Gilson Graphics in Grand Rapids, Michigan continues to find success with variable data printing jobs with the J Press 720 inkjet it purchased in 2011 – the first one installed in the United States.

“The J Press’ larger sheet size and running speed provide a competitive advantage over other digital presses on the market,” says David Gilson, president. “There is consistent quality throughout the run and we have the inevitable reprint, along with quick makereadies. Also, when we run similar jobs – same stock, same press and same see size, etc. – the makeready time is even quicker.”

The J Press has the ability to produce data in every realm – every sheet can be different at the higher level quality of an offset press. That’s the real game changer.

One of the adjustments Gilson had to make was in its team set-up. “Since variable is generally tied to mailing, you need at least one member of your staff who is up to date on all of the postal regulations,” Gilson says. “That includes sorting and purging of lists, offering the client ideas on how to save postage costs through better initial design of the mailing piece itself and the effect the weight of the stock being selected has on the weight of the individual piece. You also need gluing and tabbing equipment, preferably inline, to meet those regulations.”

Gilson also says you have to educate your sales force on the benefits VDP has to offer. Salespeople tend to sell what they are familiar with and may overlook variable work their clients are currently doing. It’s best to share ideas and samples among your sales team. You have to educate your clients with your samples, and how savings were generated through better design and stock selection.”

As the printing services market continues to reinvent itself, the world of variable data printing continues to find its place amid the changes. Is it a game worth getting into?

“It is somewhat like the chicken or egg story,” Gilson says. “You have to have the work to justify the investment, but you have to have the capability if you are even going to be offered the work. As costs continue to come down and software continues to improve, variable will become just another option to offer our clients. The key will be to make it easier for the client to do such work through offering design options, faster turn around and higher quality at a competitive price. You also will have a blending of print on demand and variable work, and print on demand quantities reduced to a quantity of one.”