By Harvey Hirsch The Samurai sales person, however, communicates efficiently to his peers to help them win business and then to succeed himself. November 1, 2004 -- One of the most essential talents a Samurai exuded was the spirit of teamwork. This spirit was so ingrained in them that when they built their homes, it was understood that each of their houses were designed to be a temporary dwelling. If their employer was going to be attacked, the enemy would have to pass by one of their homes first and it was the Samurai’s duty to set his home on fire. This did two things. First, it alerted the other Samurai that enemy troops had entered the territory and second, it denied the enemy sanctuary and safety from which to expand the attack. Setting your home on fire was a bit drastic, but it did get the word out. And it was personal. It coincided with the Samurai code of Bushido that states “Keep death in your mind at all times and you will have a long life.” Printing sales people can relate to this in many ways. In today’s tight market, the fuse is always lit and failure abounds for many. The Samurai sales person, however, communicates efficiently to his peers to help them win business and then to succeed himself. Using your specialty Bill’s specialty was creating offset printing and therefore his thinking was based on the limitations of that weapon. Case in point. My friend Bill Miller is a printing broker and production master who is constantly seeking opportunity to offer his services and products to selected companies. Based on a carefully developed criteria, Bill markets to high-level print buyers who require very high quality printing. Bill is persistent and his avarice is always paying off as he makes opportunities by constantly staying in touch with his many contacts, one of which is a medium-sized credit union. The other day he mentioned that this client had the potential of being really big if only he could unseat the present print supplier. I asked him what were some of the products that he wanted to offer the client and he said they do a lot of newsletters and if he could just get in to do one, he was sure that he could open the door for more work. Just as each Samurai specialized in different fighting methods and strategies, Bill’s specialty was creating offset printing and therefore his thinking was based on the limitations of that weapon. When I asked him if he really wanted to unseat the present print supplier, he smiled, he had subtly sunk his hook into me and now I was working for him, trying to apply variable data and dynamic pitch development to his problem. Here was an opportunity to not only apply my sword to the problem, but to use this technology in ways not familiar to his prospect and give Bill an edge in defeating his rival. Changing the rules It was so stated in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu when he transformed the military establishment into administrators, “Now that there is peace, put those Samurai to work managing all that we have won. And let’s move to Edo, there’s a new sushi restaurant we gotta try!” This forced everybody to work together to solve the day-to-day problems (and eliminate the boredom) of the running the Shogunate bureaucracy. This was where all of the high technology of its day was situated. Here, the most important battles for control took place. Here technology had to be shared for the good of all. Instead of just executing a client’s file, he was now thinking about solving a client’s problem. Here was my opportunity to share my secrets with another Sales Samurai. Let’s analyze the newsletter that the prospect was currently buying. Nine times out of ten, it is a self mailer. This usually means it is printed in one place and shipped to a mail house for labeling or ink jet addressing. That can be changed. Next, we discussed format. This particular newsletter was a single 11x17 sheet printed in two colors and folded twice to become a self-mailer. The prospect only needed two thousand of them and they had a one week window from receiving the files to mailing. OK, nothing earth shattering there. What sort of topics were covered in this newsletter I asked? "The usual, take a loan for this, refinance that, stuff about your credit, etc," stated Bill. Mentally, I started playing out scenarios. Could we take their database and merge names to personalize each article? Could we find out what data the prospect maintained to actually place articles pertaining to each individual, like a special rates for a car loan if the person had a 5-year old car, or mortgage refinance if the home owner was paying too much on their current mortgage? Bill was taking copious notes. “Imagine,” I offered, “You present the prospect with this concept and now they have to hire you to start accumulating data on each of their clients for you to add into a personalized newsletter format that is so dynamic, no two are the same.” “Do you think your rival can offer anything remotely close,” I asked? Bill had this huge smile on his face. He now had learned a new strategy with tactics so dynamic that he would start thinking in ways he never could before. Instead of just executing a client’s file, he was now thinking about solving a client’s problem. “Now,” I said, “Imagine all of their communications to their clients being personalized and customized. Do you think they would be interested,” I said with a smile. Imagine the potential A static message sent to 10k people is like going into a single’s bar and winking at all of the women in the hopes of meeting one. There is no time to start building a relationship. The hair on the back of my neck goes up when I consider the opportunities, strictly from a marketing standpoint. Here's just one example of what I have been able to do using this amazing powerful tool, variable data imaging. I have been in direct marketing for about 20-something years. I design, write and implement creative direct mail programs for companies that do three things: 1-Generate new business 2- Keep their current customers (CRM) from even thinking about going over to their competitors, and 3- Encourage current customers to use more of what my clients sell (at even higher margins). Needless to say, when I was first introduced to VDP it was in the primitive state of just being able to merge a database in order to insert a name or a company name into a document. Now, don’t get me wrong, having created direct mail programs for virtually every SIC code over my tenure in marketing, I realized that a static message sent to 10k people is like going into a single’s bar and winking at all of the women in the hopes of meeting one. There is no time to start building a relationship. But, with good data I can now approach as few as 50 prospects and tailor my message for each one with the jargon and hot buttons of their particular industry while addressing their particular needs. What’s even more astounding, to me at least, is that when I create a unique sales cycle using VDP, I am generating responses in the 30%-80% range. What this is telling me is the future of direct mail is going to change radically once the following 3 things take place: “Creatives” must learn how to design and write for dynamic pitch communications, Companies must collect more data on each customer (do you know when your client’s birthday is?), and Printers must become more than printers. They must become problem solvers and experts at direct mail by offering their customers all forms of data, data purification, postage options, sorting and tracking, and everything else under one roof. According to everything I’ve seen, touched and read, 20% of printers disappear every year. Why? Is there a plethora of printers? Have printer’s commoditized themselves? Are the margins not there to sustain profitability? Or is it that the think they are selling printing and that they are not in the communications industry? Right now, I have a competitive advantage against all other creative marketing companies out there. This is my secret and I’m just giving you a small taste. Here’s where I think the industry is going. You can take this with a grain of salt but I prove it every day. The Samurai Looks Ahead The cost of color is dropping exponentially every year. The big half million dollar systems may be already facing obsolescence as the set up and cost of running small runs prices them high against the small footprint connected digital printing systems now available. In the not too distant future, companies that own the data will be producing their own printing in house, using networked systems and hiring creative people like me to design and test on our own systems before selling them the files. Look, putting your head in the sand or sitting on the fence does not make VDP and digital go away, but, fellow offset printers, lift up your hearts, the future is not that bleak. So far, the largest size I can print is 12" x 18". Maybe it’s time for you to offer designs that are bigger and more robust or, test your client’s messages using VDP, then take the best response rated pitch and run it offset. Oh, by the way, because lumpy mail usually increases response rates by 30-40 percent and personalized mail also increases prospect responses by up to 40 percent, I only use personalized 3-dimensional products for all of my clients. But that’s a story to be shared later on. Recently, a short run (25 unit) personalized mailing kit I worked on with three colleagues was awarded a Technical Excellence Award and a Leo Award from the Association of Graphic Communications (AGC) and a Gold Medal in Direct Mail from Creativity Magazine’s International Awards competition. You can view this dynamic piece that returned a whopping 80% response. You'll need Flash and sound to view and hear the site. Turn up your sound, click www.teamoneguerrillamarketing.com and be prepared to view what I think is going to be the future of business-to-business direct marketing. I hear from readers from time to time and I am interested in any breakthroughs that you may have experienced using VDP. If you care to share your experiences with me and our readers, contact me at the address below. Oh, the happy ending. Bill is now quoting on so many projects his head is spinning. As the Chinese Proverb goes, “Be careful what ask for, you may get it.” Sayonara.