By Carro Ford Weston "Printers need to be 80 percent intellectual property and 20 percent ink and paper." --Dana Place March 16, 2005 -- Don't call 1to1 Gulf Coast a printer. They don't see themselves that way, and you shouldn't either. That's just part of what they do. Instead, call them a remarkable example of what everyone is telling "printers" they have to become to thrive and succeed. Here's their story. In business since 1992, partners Dana Place and Brian Weiner were thriving in their Boston operation, cranking out more than 11 million pages a month. After their $4 million business was bought out, they took a couple of years off. But as much as they needed to work on their golf games, they couldn't resist the lure of opportunity, which found them almost by accident when they set up operations in Sarasota, FL. Marketers First What 1to1 Gulf Coast does is variable data-driven marketing. "Printing is just a very small part of it. Printers need to be 80 percent intellectual property and 20 percent ink and paper," says Dana. They are marketers first who excel at sharing knowledge and information effectively. "We enhance relationship marketing for our clients, and print is but one enabler." Color is becoming commodity. It's getting cheaper every day. The way a printer puts money in his pocket is by adding value. They saw the writing (or printing) on the wall early on and recognized that being just a print provider wasn't a good long-term strategy. "As the market evolved, black and white products have become a commodity," explains Dana. "Now color is becoming commodity, too. It's getting cheaper every day, so the way a printer puts money in his pocket is by added value. With variable data, we can re-inject value." 1to1 Gulf Coast brings together the total package of marketing, design, copywriting, personalization and printing. "This is where profitable digital print has gone -- into one-to-one personalization," adds Brian. And in that regard, Sarasota was the land of plenty. "We thought we would go after colleges, golf courses and real estate," explains Dana. As it turned out, the golf courses didn't have the money, and the real estate market was so hot it needed no marketing at all. "To make this work, we knew we needed a market with businesses that had good data, and nonprofits have the best. There are hundreds of nonprofits in the region, and combined with the large number of high net worth prospects and charitable activities in this area, we knew this was a prime market." A Bold Approach to Selling Imagine leading off your next sales pitch with, "Let us take over your one-to-one marketing campaign. We can make it look better and improve your results." Imagine leading off your next sales pitch with "Let us take over your one-to-one marketing campaign. We can make it look better and improve your results." That's a far cry from the way most printers approach new business, and it takes guts and faith to make the leap. Yet this is how 1to1 Gulf Coast wins business today. "Initially it was very hard to crack the market when clients were comparing a .30 quote per piece for printing to our $2 per piece total package," says Brian. Eventually the risk paid off. "Nonprofits have been a good way to set up nice base. Now we can call any of our clients and ask for references as we expand into new markets," declares Dana. Their nonprofit clients target quality donors with quality documents, which means lots of vivid color, rich graphics, bleeds and gradients for post cards, donor cards, personalized letters and other materials. 1to1 Gulf Coast uses two Océ CPS 900 digital printers for all their color work. "It's much less stressful when the printed page is not an issue. It makes it easer to sell the value side of the business," notes Brian. "We can get paid for our talent, and we don't have to give away intellectual services. This comes from being able to take technical issues off the table." Personalization Plus In a year and change, using personalization and digital printing, 1to1 Gulf Coast has helped nonprofit clients raise more than $1 million that the nonprofits would probably not have gotten otherwise. "We don't just personalize," explains Dana. "We can vary content length, 'asks', images, anything. We can customize the whole document, but most people are not ready to go to that extreme." Likewise, many printers might not be ready to take the plunge into a broader range of services, but 1to1 Gulf Coast is sunny proof that it can be done. Their decision to the dominate the personalization business in a ripe market has made their Chapter 2 in Florida as successful as their Chapter 1 in Boston. However, some of us might argue that avoiding the Northeast this winter might have been the smartest decision of all.