In VDP Launch, Old and New Co-exist and Complement By Carro Ford Weston February 16, 2006 -- Last month this space brought you Part I of the story Gordon Bernard Commercial, a traditional calendar printer making the transition to a new business model based on variable data printing. This month, we hear the rest of that story. In case you missed the first installment, Gordon Bernard Commercial, www.gordonbernard.com, is a new division of an Ohio calendar printer. For almost sixty years, the parent company's niche has been custom-printed short-run calendars for non-profit fundraisers. Today the company is carving a new niche as a regional leader in variable data printing. One of the most important things they learned in transitioning to VDP is that top management must totally buy into the idea. "They must attend VDP conferences and seminars along with their VDP team," declared Gary Littleton, Gordon Bernard Commercial Director of Business Development. "In our case, our owner saw the need to hire a business development person with commercial printing and VDP experience, get himself educated, engage an outside marketing expert, take advantage of ongoing training opportunities for everyone, recognize our need for a strategic alliance, and generally keep an open mind. Without this kind of involvement from management, our greatest selling challenge would be internal." One of the most important things in transitioning to VDP is that top management must totally buy into the idea. The mindset must change from just printer to something more, according to Littleton. "All of us must work toward becoming marketing experts first and foremost, not simply print service providers. We do this by participating in marketing education and trade group activities, becoming intimately acquainted with our clients' businesses, understanding what our clients hope to get from their marketing efforts, and helping them achieve their goals." Leveraging the Old, Evaluating the New Gordon Bernard Commercial leveraged existing capabilities of its calendar business --facilities, hardware, software, and people-- to support the transition to the new business. These include prepress expertise, color digital and conventional (one and two color) printing, creative talent and the in-house bindery. Priorities for new hardware and software acquisitions are driven by the overall shared need of the entire operation. Over time, the business will add black and white digital printing with in-line binding that will enhance both calendar and commercial operations. They will need shorter run, lighter duty (digital) folding, creasing and saddle bindery. Coating capabilities will probably be added, too, along with some IT talent who can help drive the VDP efforts. To more efficiently gather the necessary information needed for smart purchasing decisions, GBC divvies up the tasks. "We delegate research and evaluation in these respective areas to the appropriate people," Littleton said. Printing equipment research for example is assigned to the plant manager and department supervisors. "We attend trade shows such as Print 05 and other conferences; consult with peers; read trade publications; and keep in touch with vendors who are already working with us or have the potential to fill our needs. Management listens to any of our team who might have input regarding new purchases." Working the Web As part of the company makeover, Gordon Bernard is launching a new website for the commercial division in early 2006 and will likely move forward with web-enabled workflow. "We realize we need an automated workflow infrastructure for the entire company, as well as web-to-print capabilities," said Littleton. "I believe our management sees this as the solution to running leaner." An automated workflow and web-to-print capabilities is a way of running a leaner operation. GBC would offer standard printing industry e-commerce capabilities such as on-line quotes, ordering, FTP link and dedicated online fulfillment. "We should be able to establish dedicated, secure sites for VDP clients who want to generate their own customized on-demand documents and collateral pieces or generate direct mail pieces for marketing and follow-up. Our web services might also include personalized URLs for online responses," explained Littleton. No Longer a Stranger in a Strange Land "Prior to attending my first VDP conference in 2002, I understood the concept of VDP, some applications of VDP, capabilities of digital presses, and so on. However, the jargon, terms, acronyms, abbreviations and software brand names were all foreign to me. I was just a VDP 'baby'," he said. Eventually, there came a point where they no longer felt they were in "foreign territory". "When we began to understand the language, we began to feel at home. "Our entire team agrees that we are no longer total novices. At more recent conferences, we truly understand what everyone is talking about, and we wonder, were we really that lost at last year's' conference? We even know more than some of the other attendees," he explained. "Now when we attend VDP seminars, we no longer have that scary feeling of being in totally foreign territory. We aren't the 'new kids' anymore." When we attend VDP seminars, we no longer have that scary feeling of being in totally foreign territory. We aren't the 'new kids' anymore." Work in Progress, Making Progress "Our digital commercial workflow infrastructure is still very much a work in progress! For now, we share production personnel and facilities with the calendar operation. However, we have come a long way in the past year. The fact that we are discussing workflow infrastructure is a milestone in itself," said Littleton. Littleton and the GBC team aren't getting too cocky though. "In spite of our progress, we are still barely walking in comparison to many of our peers. However, with our marketing plan, our attitude and our new strategic alliance, we expect to become a respectable VDP marketing service provider in 2006."