by Heidi Tolliver-Nigro August 22, 2005 -- One of the most common questions emailed to me, based on this column, is how to get started in selling VDP. Printers understand the benefits, but communicating those benefits to their customers can be a challenge, to say the least. Interestingly, as many of readers of this column know, many of these questions come from overseas, often from India and, just recently, Turkey. Before discussing the most recent email, I want to take this opportunity to remind U.S.-based printers to really watch this trend. Just as many of our other high-tech manufacturing operations are being outsourced, often to countries in the Mediterranean Basin, VDP is starting to head that way, as well. Earlier this year, I was contacted by a large printer in India that is looking to solicit outsource work from U.S.-based printers -- and that is just a stone's throw from soliciting U.S. customers directly. This printer can handle about 80 million A4 impressions per month, and although it is printing only in monochrome at present, it has fully automated production lines, including envelope-making, and its stated aim is "to cater to European markets and cater to on-demand printing which can be outsourced from beyond India." Its primary areas of expertise are data processing, multi-lingual formatting, and image overlaying. This is a formidable competitor--and it is only in the formation stages of competing in this market. What happens when it decides to invest in full-color presses? As the VDP market matures, this is creating a double-edged sword for U.S. printers. On one hand, it is becoming easier for printers to enter the VDP market and expand their customer bases. On the other hand, it is becoming easier for foreign competitors to do this, as well. They are starting to eye the large and developing U.S. VDP marketplace, so this will be a new dynamic in the market that needs to be watched. Questions From Turkey With this backdrop in mind, here is an email I received from Turkey. It's interesting to see the status of the marketplace in other countries and how these printers' challenges mirror those here. Marketers are marketers -- those stubborn marketers and their demands for proven ROI! -- no matter where they live. Hi Heidi, I am a partner and the CEO of [a 30-year-old commercial printing and binding company based in Istanbul, Turkey]. We have invested in an HP Indigo printing press 5000 after searching the market for about six months. I believe that VDP will become very strong in the near future. At the moment, in my country mostly transactional printing is done with digital presses and very limited VDP. I try to educate my market by showing them examples of case studies and how they can implement this tool in their marketing efforts. I have talked with more than a thousand people, and painfully slowly, business is coming along. Most of the ad agencies are very used to marketing on TV (65% of all marketing is done on TV in Turkey) because it is safe for them. To push them to do something that can be measured is quite hard. I am a member of PODi and use their library for case studies, but to be honest, I need to see more cases. I will be grateful if you can point out a couple more resources where I can reach more samples and examples. Finding Those Pesky Examples Last December, I wrote a column that listed many of the resources printers can tap into when looking for case studies. Because I get this question so frequently, I will provide this list again, and add to that list any additional resources that have arisen since then. Do searches on trade magazine Web sites or association resources centers. Use key words like "variable data printing," "personalization," and "1:1," and scan the articles for any specific customer stories. Do an Internet search. I listed this as a separate item because, based on the way articles and Web pages are ranked by search engines, you may get different results. Use the search terms above or narrow the search even more by throwing in "case studies." Just for fun, when writing this column, I did a Google search on "variable data printing case studies" and came up with a page on Adobe's Web site entitled, "Variable Data Publishing Resource Center," with links to "best in class" case studies. Another place to check out is Printing News . Starting earlier this year, I began writing a monthly column called Personal Effects (no, I wasn't responsible for the name) that offers a different case study every month. Sometimes, I cover 1:1 marketing pieces like "traditional" VDP. Other times, I cover Web-based customization or high-volume, one-off Web-based customization (which looks like 1:1, database-driven VDP), so it's a well-rounded selection of material. Join print-on-demand groups and ask them to provide you with any case studies that are available. The Print-on-Demand Initiative -- PODi -- for example, maintains an extensive searchable database of hundreds of case studies. Not all of these are VDP-related, but many are. There is also the Printing Industries of America Digital Printing Council, which provides tremendous networking and educational opportunities. Ask manufacturers of digital presses like HP, IBM, Oce, NexPress, Nipson, Xeikon, and Xerox, along with third-party developers VDP design software like Exstream and Meadows Publishing for any materials they might have. If you are a customer, and they don't have any recent studies, ask them to write some. The list of manufacturers is growing rapidly, so there may be names that you hadn't thought to check. If you don't see anything on their Web sites, call them or contact them by email. Don't assume that, because case studies aren't on the Web site, they don't exist. Sometimes you have to dig. Check the OnDemandJournal.com case studies link on a regular basis. This is another rapidly growing resource that you should track. Do regular searches on the larger ODJ site, as well. See whether specific examples have been covered in columns, features, or other articles. Look on the Web sites of successful VDP printers. Sometimes these will also contain customer testimonials, ROI studies, or case studies. Look for links titled "case studies" or "our customers." Attend as many industry VDP-related events as possible. Often, seminar speakers will throw case studies into their presentations. A recent Exstream-sponsored event at On Demand yielded an excellent case study that became one of my Printing News columns. You should also plan to attend the annual PIA/GATF VDP seminar (coming this November), at which all of the major players gather and many give talks and seminars on their applications. The information provided there can be invaluable. Listen for ROI studies, techniques for presenting VDP to customers, and how these companies overcame obstacles in the sales process. What They Think (www.whattheythink.com) is now offering free Webinars, and did one on VDP earlier this summer. These Webinars are maintained in an archive and are accessible 24 hours a day from the WTT.com Web site. While the recent Webinar did not contain case studies, you should get on the WTT.com email list to watch for upcoming Webinars on the topic. Beginning in a few months, OnDemandJournal.com will also be running free webinars focused exclusively on aspects of digital printing, including VDP. The list of publicly available resources is expanding daily. It might take a little sleuthing, but the materials are there. Make use of them. Of course, don't use material verbatim if it's copyrighted, and when necessary, get permission or cite your sources. And watch the overseas outsourcing market. Most of my questions are coming from these locations, so U.S. VDP printers, know that if you aren't digging up these case studies, your foreign competitors are.