by Barbara Pellow June 23, 2003 -- WITH THE TREMENDOUS EMPHASIS BEING PLACED ON DIGITAL COLOR, people are still looking for the right market opportunity that yields profitability. Early on, vendors touted variable data as the key to this profitability. Everyone talked about "one-to-one" marketing for the next revolution in selling. The values of better response rates, improved ROI, and greater customer retention were all part of the marketing message to entice printers to buy digital color technology. The problem was that marketers did not see the ROI based on the cost of digital color printing. In addition, corporate databases were far from accurate. Developing the data to deliver a "relevant" personalized campaign is still a significant challenge ten years after digital color presses first hit the market. Customizing a direct marketing piece to incorporate variable text, an image, graphics and different "offers" based on the characteristics of the specific consumer is an elusive concept that has yet to bear significant fruit. Over the past several months, I have interviewed multiple digital color business communications providers. The profitable digital color firms have discovered what I consider to be the "killer application." The firms that are experiencing the most success are those that are selling marketing programs focused on supporting agents, franchisees, dealers, branches and remote sales personnel. They have developed advanced, accurate, without-a-hitch mailing programs that are dealerized, personalized and localized - for any number of users, anywhere they may be. They have blended the customized print applications with complete Internet integration. These profitable color service providers have developed easy-to-use templates for uploading data and information over the Internet so that users are in control of the message and timing of the delivery to their customers. The client uses an interface to select from a series of templates and to upload images, marketing copy, or personalized customer data to drive the final print applications. The printer must manage a mix of digital assets and data for the corporate location. They have completed the value chain by adding back-end services such as mailing, fulfillment and distribution operations for customized materials to augment their e-business infrastructure. Lexinet…Turning Data Into Dollars The real proof is in looking at companies that are making digital color marketing programs work. Lexinet is a perfect example of a firm that is turning data into dollars. Lexinet began operations over a decade ago, in 1991. Dan Adler and Lisa Boyer had worked together for many years creating, formulating and perfecting multiple dealer mailing programs for various companies. After years of consulting, both decided it was time they joined forces to create their own company. They are successfully providing web-based template application support for a variety of different end users--from real estate brokers to insurance agents. One of their leading clients, Coldwell Banker, wanted to offer their brokers a turnkey "just-listed" / "just-sold" program. The objective of this program is to let people in various neighborhoods know which brokers are having the most success selling properties so they can attract additional listings. The program had to be flexible enough to accommodate those agents wishing to have highly customized pieces, yet still be cost-effective with fast turnaround time. Services went way beyond printing. Lexinet provided a standard template that protected the Coldwell Banker brand identity. The template also needed to be flexible. There was a requirement for standard text options from which agents could select as well as the ability to let them craft their own copy. And the application had to be easy to use, since agents didn't necessarily have a high level of computer literacy. In some instances the agents wanted to upload their own lists for mailing. In other cases, Lexinet became the list provider. They would generate mailing lists selected in a radius around a target address. The agents could also provide specific streets for which they wished to have mailing records selected by Lexinet. The mailer was designed so agents could incorporate personal information, including their photo. If there was any problem with the lists or application, Lexinet needed to provide the highest levels of customer service. This is one of many dealer/agent applications that Lexinet provides to clients leveraging their DocuColor 6060 and DocuTech. The bottom line for Lexinet is business results. Their value added service approach has helped them thrive in a difficult year for the printing industry with revenues up 34% and print volume increases in excess of 40%. Royal Impressions…Marketing Collateral…On Demand Royal Impressions, in Midtown Manhattan, views blending the web and customized printing as the optimum mix. They developed a solution called MCOM (Marketing Collateral Order Management). Through their MCOM system, Royal Impressions addresses the need for a company with a distributed sales organization or dealer network to have "anytime, anywhere" access for creation, customization and delivery of corporate-approved marketing material via print, email and the Web. The sales organizations or dealerships / franchises don't want static, "one size fits all" marketing materials. Rather, they prefer materials that address the wants and needs of a specific customer or prospect. Remote sales reps were also wasting time preparing and assembling these "static"" marketing materials into custom packages instead of spending time with customers and prospects Based on listening to the needs of its customers, Royal Impressions developed MCOM to deliver customized proposals, presentations and other materials quickly and easily. And when new marketing materials or content are developed, every person in the sales organization, dealership or franchise network has instant access. MCOM users include major financial institutions for customized proposals and insurance companies for their 401K programs. The materials are produced using a blend of digital equipment including DocuTech, iGen3, and DocuColor 2060's. Once pieces are produced, Royal Impressions provides fulfillment and distribution support. In the midst of a difficult economic environment in Manhattan, Royal Impressions is proving that digital color blended with the right value added services makes money. Digital impressions doubled in 2002 and Royal Impressions is preparing to install a second iGen3 to handle increased print volumes. Digital Marketing…When the Economy Gets Tough, Target Marketing Wins Despite a lagging economy, Minneapolis-based Digital Marketing is growing volume. 2002 was a banner year with revenues growing in excess of 30%. Michael D. Nelson, President of Digital Marketing said, "When the economy gets tough, companies want to focus their marketing efforts for maximum return. We have designed systems and solutions to help them do this with our custom designed software solutions." Radisson Hotels & Resorts Worldwide engaged Digital Marketing to develop a web-based marketing program that would allow franchise operators to initiate their own direct marketing programs online, taking advantage of historical customer data. At the same time, the company could maintain consistent messaging and branding. Radisson has good customer intelligence from their loyalty program and reservation data. The objective was to use this intelligence to target specific customers who are most likely to stay at a given hotel, on a given night, at a given time of the year, based on past travel. The franchise operator indicates a desired marketing objective and the system queries the Radisson database for a list of customers most likely to stay at that time. Then they select a creative format from a menu of company-approved options, with a personalized message and offer. For loyalty program members, it could be double or triple incentive points. Digital Marketing produces the mailings on demand on their HP Indigo press, handling fulfillment and distribution operations. Rastar Digital Marketing…Helping Auto Dealerships Succeed Salt Lake City based Rastar Digital Marketing has targeted auto dealership marketing programs with great success. They are working with auto dealerships on both customer acquisition and retention programs. Through the science of data mining, Rastar helps dealerships identify "high-profit" customers residing in their primary market area and builds a communication program that reaches them one by one. They produce three personalized full-color pieces over an eight-week period to drive traffic into the dealership. These communication pieces introduce the dealership to the prospect and offer them current service specials along with a special incentive to those currently in the market for a new vehicle. As soon as a prospect responds or comes to the dealership they are immediately enrolled in a one-to-one marketing program. The mailings are Internet template driven, so the dealership can add unique information about their specific location including text, photos and special offers. Once the prospect is converted to a customer, Rastar works with the dealership on customer retention. The customer retention program incorporates service offerings as well as incentives for purchase of the next car at the time of lease expiration or at the time the dealer feels the customer will be in the market for a new vehicle. Rastar Digital Marketing has leveraged HP Indigo technology to produce these high quality variable data campaigns. Blending Internet services and variable data has also had a strong impact on Rastar's bottom line which saw double digit revenue growth in 2002. The Real Bottom Line…Internet Driven Marketing Programs The biggest problems facing digital color and variable data printing today don't have to do with the technology. The quality is good enough and the presses are fast enough. The software is robust enough and the costs are in line. What the profitable digital color business communications provider has done is engaged in Internet driven marketing programs with their customers. They have identified the "killer application" that incents their customer base to use digital color variable data programs again and again and again. It is simple to use templates that put marketing power in the hands of the dealership, agent, franchisee, or remote sales rep to help them grow and expand their business with a more personalized message. It is time for the printing industry to stop bemoaning the impact of a weak economy and wake up to the business opportunities-for them and their customers-enabled by the real killer application for digital color printing: Internet Driven Marketing Programs.