One of the things I like doing best at trade shows is talking one-on-one with print providers--the people who have invested in technology and are putting it to work. (In case you missed it, on Tuesday, I related how ADP is using the Kodak Versamark VX-5000.) It's much better than a phone interview and a lot easier than going to all the places in person. Today you'll read how a Xerox customer is using some of that company's business development tools, and how a small print provider is Florida is seeing success with variable data printing using an Océ digital color press.

Growing a Business

As any printer knows, business development is crucial to success with digital printing. But it goes beyond sales efforts. It is really about market development and building customer awareness of the value of digital printing technology. In my humble opinion, one of the reasons digital printing has not "taken off" as quickly as projected is because relatively few printers have the knowledge, skills or resources to grow and develop the market. The equipment vendors have been working to fill that gap. The level of support varies but all the players with color digital presses offer a range of tools their customers can draw on to help bring customers in the door.

David Murray vice president of sales and marketing at Tucker Digital Solutions filled me in on how Xerox's business development tools have helped his business. While Tucker is part of Consolidated Graphics, one of the largest printing companies in the U.S., digital printing was once as new to them as it was to any other print provider. Murray and showed me a range documents Tucker has successfully used to grow their digital operation. These came out of Xerox's Profit Accelerator, a comprehensive market development kit consisting of a variety of templates for brochures, mailers, sample prints and more. Part of the "more" is marketing plans that helps customers plan their digital printing business: identifying potential customers, communicating the value of digital printing, training sales people, educating customers--key elements of planning and building a business.

One of the most successful tools Murray found is the Open House, which brings customers and prospects to Tucker's facility for what amounts to a show-and-tell party. Profit Accelerator has templates that can easily be modified to create personalized mailers and invitations to Open House and even provides a guide to putting on the event --how to prepare the site, order food and beverages, what to show and say--all the things needed to make the event a success.

"The open house is our number one success tool for bringing in business," recounts Murray. "We ran one immediately after installing our iGen3 and also the DocuColor 8000. He said the Open House also proved to be a big morale booster for the company. "It made people feel really good about the business and where we are headed. People were putting up iGen prints on walls and in offices which made the place look great but also showed their enthusiasm for what we could do."

Tucker's sales people also took advantage of the materials and knowledge provided by the Profit Accelerator program by using some of the images and templates provided to make their sales presentations more powerful and effective. This is especially advantageous as it helps educate customers about just how much can be done--and the benefits of--using full color digital printing.

Being successful with digital printing is largely contingent on marketing, says Murray. "Show me a printer who has been successful, and I'll show you one who has marketed well. It's a bit like the old adage about teaching a man to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime. If you teach a printer to market, you'll teach him how to grow his business."

Profit in Non-Profits

Down in Venice, Florida, Dana Place and Brian Weiner have focused their company, One to One Gulfcoast, on helping nonprofit organizations raise money. "Non-profits generally have much better knowledge of their customers or members than do for-profit businesses, making them ideal candidates for highly targeted mailings," explains Place. "In addition, their constituencies are often predisposed to respond to solicitations, and we've found they respond even better if the request for help comes in a quality package that builds on the already established relationship."

While most current customers are in Florida, each type of non-profit organizations have an impressive network across the country--and they all talk to each other. As a result, calls from companies in Texas and the left coast have put Place and Weiner on airplanes as a variety of organizations--mostly in health and human services areas--want to bring One to One's expertise to bear. And it's not surprising: the firms carefully designed, thoughtfully written, well-crafted and highly targeted mailings routinely return double-digit response rates. Employing what they call a "swarming offense," each prospect is reached multiple times with different appeals consisting of post cards, donor cards, personalized letters and other materials. Every response (or lack of) is tracked with the result being needed cash flowing into the non-profit organization.

One to One Gulfcoast uses an Océ CPS 900 color printer for all its mailings, citing consistent color quality and reliability as two of the key attributes of the machine. Before opening One to One, Place and Weiner owned another (mostly non-variable data) digital printing operation that relied on equipment from two other vendors. They were disappointed at the lack of reliability and inconsistent color between the beginning and ends of a job. "We need consistency because different parts of a mailing will reach customers several times. We want all the documents to look the same. Other products we've tried would have 'developer fatigue' and output would not look precisely the same." They've found the CPS 900 delivers identical output throughout a print run and from one phase of a job to another.

"Quality of the printed output is critical in fund-raising campaigns," affirms Weiner. "Our clients want to make connections with premium donors, so the materials have to be flawless. We use lots of rich graphics, bleeds and vivid gradients."

"What we're really selling our customers is ROI," says Weiner. "But we deliver the results these organizations need. We might be more expensive than what other companies quote, but we deliver an ROI that's five to six times what they invest. And the quality of our materials are a big part of that."

There's one other part about One to One Gulfcoast that makes Place and Weiner pleased about what they do. "Non-profits are a feel-good business," says Place, so when we do a campaign that raises money for a worthy cause it's better feeling than just your average print job."


And you know what? There's still more to come. Look for my wrap-up on Tuesday, June 1.