Commentary & Analysis
Responding to Readers: Response Rates, MFDs, and What to Call VDP
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 20, 2006
--- Variably Speaking Responding to Readers: Response Rates, MFDs, and What to Call VDP by Heidi Tolliver-Nigro November 20, 2006 -- One of the nice things about this column, unlike many I've written over the years, is that I get a lot of feedback. So this month, I thought I'd share some of the letters I've received and my responses to them. Some columns generated more activity than others (like last month's column on the Vertis press release). Some columns, like the one that generated the first letter below, keep generating responses long after they are published. Perhaps one of these reader letters will answer a question or voice a complaint that you've had. Looking for Data on VDP Response Rates I read your article called "Selling VDP to a Skeptical Market." Great stuff and your recommendations still hold true. Nice job. Even at this point, later in time, I am still trying to "get traction" on this issue. We are an advertising agency and want to sell this concept to our clients, but it is very difficult to concrete data on the results from VDP. We have clients that want firm data and we have little to tell them. We've been to NexPress, Xerox, HP, PODi, and seemingly a 1,000 websites. Info is scarce. Any new sources on the horizon? My response: The challenge you are facing is that VDP data is not as simple as people once thought. Many clients have been trained to expect 20-30 percent response rates, and if they don't get them, they think the VDP campaign failed. And yet, as an industry, we are learning that we have to evaluate the success of each campaign on its own merits. For example, I wrote a case study about a bank whose VDP campaign generated a response rate of 3 percent. But they were thrilled because it was a 700 percent lift over what they had been getting in the past. The first questions printers must ask have to do with current and future applications. Only once you understand this fully and completely do you know what device you are looking for. And there are other issues, such as the combined effects of a response rate lift and an increase in purchases. I wrote about another campaign in which VDP lifted the response rate "only" from 11 percent to 14 percent, but because the people who responded to the VDP offer purchased much more than those responding to the static offer, the ROI for the campaign was terrific. Then there is the issue of dollars spent per response, period. If you are selling shoes, a 5 percent response rate lift might not give you much ROI. But if you are selling cars, then a mere 5 percent uptick could bring in millions of additional revenue. So if your clients are looking to evaluate the success by the response rates alone, they are barking up the wrong tree. I would encourage you to use these requests as opportunities to educate your clients on what makes VDP really tick--and establish yourself as an expert in the process. Watch Out for Multi-Function Devices! I found your article very informative. I have been involved in the print/copy industry for several years as I sold on-site outsourcing of centralized copy centers. No one could ever seem to give me great answers as far as when to run work on a press, when to use an iGen, when to use Canon or Xerox office color, and so on. It wasn't that critical to performing my sales job, but I just wanted to know! I currently work for [name of company] and we have multiple iGen3s around the country in addition to smaller Xerox machines in our smaller facilities. I cannot believe the beautiful work the smaller Xerox machines provide. They are always busy. You might contemplate another article on the installation and implementation of large fleets of networked multi-function devices. You are right--there are no such things as standalone copiers anymore. The roll-out of multi-function machines can be painful. My response: I really appreciate when readers give me feedback like this. It's so critical for the industry to understand that you don't need a big-budget digital press to output digital printing or VDP. As the market becomes more sophisticated and widespread, we see shops broadening their equipment base to include a wide variety of devices so they can better match their output equipment to volumes and applications. I recently wrote a report on how to purchase a digital press, and contrary to the way many printers currently go about it, the specs of the presses were way down on the list. The first questions printers must ask have to do with current and future applications. Only once you understand this fully and completely do you know what device you are looking for. And it may not be the device you initially thought! What to Name Your VDP The next series of letters come from just a portion of the responses I received to my column two months ago called "What to Name Your VDP." Clearly, it sparked a nerve! (I love it when that happens.) Although I read your entire article, I frankly don't have any grand suggestions. I don't see anything wrong with calling transactional stuff transactional nor VDP stuff VDP no matter how extensive and complicated it is. After all, in the traditional offset world, we called printing software documentation (remember the big, thick books for Excel?), financial prospectus, magazines, brochures, postcards, labels and business cards all "printing." So why not call digital printing "digital printing"? However, I do think that "data-driven print" is much more appropriate than "variable data printing" as a general term. As you probably are aware, it is the title of Patricia Sorce's book from RIT and I have begun to use it instead of VDP. -- Jim Olsen Imagination Ink I enjoyed your article. You raise a great point. We are a sales training company. One of the most common initial objections that sales people face in identifying prospects is, "We have already looked at variable printing." 'Variable data printing' has become a generic term like "document management." Efforts to create catch all phrases to differentiate applications have made matters worse. Terms like personalization, variable content printing, and transactional printing do not comprehend the complexity and scale of enterprise applications versus single user/home business applications. -- Joe Rickard Intellective Solutions LLC Interesting article on the definition and use of the term Variable Digital Print. As a direct marketing agency with a robust internal print production staff, we leverage both VDP and what I refer to as "traditional personalized print" or simply "laser print." In our environment, we've traditionally handled personalization by using pre-printed shells with highly variable laser printed text. What becomes very difficult for marketers without the specialized production skills is knowing when and how to use each option. The variations between VDP and traditional personalization affect design, process, workflow, data manipulation, cost drivers, format, appearance, and potentially response--all very significant factors to be to be evaluated prior to design in order to utilize the most appropriate print method. This has introduced a new level of complexity in the world of direct marketing print production. This is all the letters I have space for in this column, but I'll continue them next month. There is a particularly great series on last month's column on press releases that I want to share. In the meantime, I'll close with my favorite letter from this batch on "What to Name Your VDP," which comes from Duncan Newton of Oce: Trans-promo? Yuck! We need terminology that really works. "White space marketing" or "White space management" is what our European counterparts call it. For years, I have been pitching the notion of "white paper ink." Funny how all my exaggerations come true. -- Duncan Newton I caught up with Duncan at Graph Expo, where he also bent my ear backwards about the fact that I cover only the lower volume, four-color marketing programs that, while getting all the press, are not the major source of volume in the VDP industry. Duncan wants to see more coverage of high-volume applications that are really the financial engine driving this marketplace. Sure, glad to. If only companies will start talking about them. So any of you out there doing high-volume, AFP-driven applications who want to share your success stories -- contact me and we'll level the playing field in the press. In the meantime, anyone wanting to see a discussion of the issue can go back to my August 31, 2006, column entitled "VDP Jobs Vs. Print Personalization."