by Noel Ward, Executive Editor July 21, 2003 -- Jim Hackett has five messages that should resonate with all kinds of businesses. His company, SourceLink, a dynamic marketing communications firm that describes itself as "your business generation agency, uses targeted, personalized digital printing as a key part of some very successful marketing programs. Speaking at the Scitex Digital Printing Open House in Dayton, Ohio on Thursday, July 17, Hackett described five points he makes to companies, and each one of them applies to print providers: 1. Look beyond cost per thousand to cost per sale. Businesses often look at the cost of printing for a marketing program, considering it a cost of doing business. But if you look instead at how much it costs to generate a sale you have a much clearer picture of the effectiveness of a campaign. Hackett backs this up with examples you'll be seeing in coming weeks here at On Demand Journal. One SourceLink targeted direct mail program developed for AlphaGraphics increased response 55%. 2. Embrace new technology. This is hardly new, but early adopters often do gain significant advantages in a market. They learn how to apply a technology to the business processes of their companies and those of their customers, putting them ahead of the competition. To be sure, it may mean changing the way a business works, but as SourceLink found in a program for clothing retailer Eddie Bauer, a new technology strategy coordinating direct mail with variable digital printing and virtually identical email in a campaign resulted in a 60% increase in transactions and a 65% increase in average order size. 3. Look for new revenue streams. That's what SourceLink told American Airlines when asked to improve the new member kit for American's frequent flyer program. So SourceLink worked with firms such as credit cards, long distance carriers and car rental agencies to put advertising messages targeted to the characteristics of new members, using variable data digital printing. 4. Invent new partnerships. When bidding for production of the vehicle registration renewals for a state registry of motor vehicles, SourceLink avoided a bidding contest with other contenders by flatly stating they would print and distribute the materials for free. It's always hard to argue with free, so they got the contract. Then they went out and sold ad space in all the registration materials to car dealerships and big dealer groups who could make targeted offers based on the type of car an individual owned. Variable data digital printing was once used to print the registration documents and the marketing offers. 5. Be a strategic opportunity specialist. Go further outside the box to look for new ways of combining the other four points to create new products and solutions for customers or your business. Find new ways to do things better than they are being done currently. For example, credit card companies have massive databases on their customers but virtually none leverage this information to produce statements with offers in the most visible areas of the statements. Companies will pay for space on statements if they can deliver messages to people based on known preferences and purchase histories. These provide opportunities to forge new relationships, drive new revenue streams and profoundly change the way marketing messages are communicated. Do you have to develop the processes and workflows and then sell such capabilities to all involved? Sure. But look to the total value of the documents you'd be creating. Since Hackett's presentation was at the Scitex Digital Printing (SDP) Open House, there was also opportunity to get a current look at the company's next generation VersaMark inkjet technology and its new RIP from EFI. Samples of this system have been shown before and each time the quality has moved up a notch. The latest examples--whether printed on glossy or more basic coated stock--are no exception. The new system produces 15 picoliter ink droplets--about a third the size of the present model's-- resulting in a 300 x 1200 dpi resolution, all while running at its full-rated speed of 2000 impressions per minute. For print providers with the volume to support it, it should be a viable alternative for a large number of transactional documents that can benefit from transitioning to color. Digital print quality is a moving target and it's easy to pick subjective nits about quality. But objectively, if print quality is acceptable for a given application, what really matters to a customer or print provider is operating cost and price per page. This is where SDP has a demonstrated advantage for full-color, high-volume variable data printing, an advantage that should expand when the new model rolls out formally early in 2004. As my colleague Alex Hamilton from Computers and Communications Consulting noted upon seeing some print samples, "This war is no longer about print quality." For the high volume print markets--a wide spectrum of transactional printing, much of direct mail and major segments of banking, insurance and financial services--color is coming. Some will opt for highlight color and some will pull the trigger and go for full color, either toner or ink, depending on which best suits their needs. Whatever print technology is best for your applications, pay attention to Jim Hackett's five points. They should be among the guiding principles of any business, especially print providers and their customers looking for ways to produce printed marketing communications as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.