By Carro Ford Weston October 9, 2006 -- Relevant messaging, direct marketing, target marketing, one-to-one marketing, variable data publishing, personalization, customization -- call it what you will. Marketers in all kinds of industries have been pursuing this approach for years, and over the course of time, they -- and their direct mail partners -- have gotten better and better at it. Steve Graziani, document industry veteran and now president of North American operations for GMC Software Technology, clued into what makes this communications strategy so attractive. "It's important because consumers want to feel like you're talking to them and not to their mail box. From the sender's side, there is so much information creating noise in the marketplace that it's important to establish a personal relationship so you can be heard. Another driver is the need to react in a dynamic marketplace. Businesses have to move quickly when there are changes or opportunities." Consumers want to feel like you're talking to them and not to their mail box. Market researchers, list managers, creatives and account execs -- they put the campaign ideas together, but without direct mail companies to turn it into an actual document, there's no campaign. Behind every clever variable data campaign, there is a clever direct mail house, and behind them, smart software and powerful hardware. Diamond Marketing Solutions (DMS) has been providing integrated direct marketing for gaming, education, retail and health industries for thirty years. They've adjusted their techniques and tools over the decades, and today DMS is a full service direct marketing factory. "We provide end-to-end direct marketing solutions, including campaign strategy, creative services, list sourcing and management, database management and maintenance, fulfillment, lettershop production and response analysis. We're a closed loop, full-service direct marketing company," says Dick Brinkman, IS vice president of direct technical operations at one of the four DMS locations. "DMS excels at extracting information from complex databases and executing high-volume, highly customized direct marketing campaigns that include return tracking and response analysis for even more effective targeting of subsequent communications," he says. BOX: Be sure to sign up for the GMC Sponsored Webinar on Thursday, October 12 from 2-3 PM EDT to hear more from Dick Brickman at Diamond Marketing Solutions. "Our record of outstanding service and fast turnaround let us meet clients' 'in home date.' This keeps our customers happy and keeps us ahead of the competition." Customers are so content that today DMS counts many of the nation's top advertising agencies, major retailers, universities, municipal governments, and pharmaceutical companies among its clients. Fast job set up and short cycle times enabled by best-of-breed software are the key to their excellence. Just as its market has grown more sophisticated in its expectations, DMS had to evolve to stay on top of its game. Job turnaround is an area where they have made significant advances. Now quick set up of complex variable data jobs gives DMS a competitive advantage. "One particular job for a gaming client used to take 20 hours to program using our previous software. Now we can set up the same job in two hours, giving us a two-day improvement in job turnaround. Not only does this save us time, it also gives the client more time to fine tune a campaign and allows DMS to make very tight deadlines." Giving marketers more breathing room to fiddle with details makes them happy campers. Before, this constant urge to change could drive both client and vendor crazy, but now software allows tinkering up to the last minute. "In our customer round tables, participants talk about how technology today lets creative minds get closer to production in terms of time to output," notes GMC's Graziani. Today's document composition and production software eliminates many of the stumbling blocks to efficient, effective direct marketing campaigns. Set up, approval cycles, revisions, and other steps that used to cause headaches are now barely a blip in the workflow. Giving marketers more breathing room to fiddle with details makes them happy campers. "Automated approvals saves hundreds of man hours," says Brinkman. "Many communication campaigns are complex with different layouts, a dozen or more unique graphics, and as many different barcodes. They always require pre-production customer sign-off, often involving 200 or more proofs for a single campaign." DMS used to manually scan individual mailer components to construct a signoff PDF for clients. "This was very time consuming. Now GMC PrintNet software automatically creates signoff PDFs in the background and routes them for customer approvals. PrintNet completely eliminated manual scanning and saved us hundreds of man-hours, enabling us to provide clients with proofs during normal business hours. Our customers love this." Being loved by one client won't keep you in business. You need lots of infatuated customers. In addition to the gaming industry, DMS has grown its business through campaigns like pharmaceutical marketing to doctors; retail and restaurant chain loyalty programs; and fundraising for educational institutions. Variable document production plus data mingling and database strengths give DMS the flexibility to accommodate a wider range of applications. Being loved by one client won't keep you in business. You need lots of infatuated customers. For an election, DMS completed a production run of two million Applications for Ballot for a large midwestern city's voter verification program. "This was a unique job with a very complex set up and an extremely tight deadline. We were working with variable data on each application, including specific placement of seven different barcodes, graphics and a scanned signature on each ballot," Brinkman explains. When voting, voters were required to sign the application in the presence of a witness to verify their own pre-printed signature prior to receiving a ballot. "The city told us we were the only company they could find that was able to do this." Variable data excellence -- you gotta love it. You can always reach Carro Ford Weston at her new email address: [email protected]