- The transition from pre-printed stock that was fed into toner devices to high-speed, full-color printing once represented a significant hurdle in the conservative printing industry.
- The groundwork for TransPromo was laid over a decade ago, but new waves of marketers are discovering that they now have the tools to analyze their customer data and use those analytics to create more meaningful interactions through their transactional communications.
- TransPromo is hot again because customer data analytics are more readily available than they were 10 or 15 years ago.
By Pat McGrew
Fifteen years ago, the industry was on the cusp of turning workhorse inkjet printheads into inkjet presses that would forever change calculations on print speed, capacity per device, and the cost of using whitepaper factory techniques in digital print environments. We were seeking reasons for in-plants and print-for-pay companies within the transactional printing industry to make a transition, converting away from pre-printed stock that was fed into toner devices for final printing. At the same time, however, the shift toward high-speed, full-color printing was a big hurdle. The printing industry, particularly the transactional printing segment, is conservative. Finding the right application that would move the needle would take some serious re-imagining. From that idea, TransPromo—bicapitalized with a T and P to emphasize the link between transactional and promotional communications—was born.
TransPromo: A History
In the beginning, the concept of TransPromo was fairly simple. If you began with white paper and then built print files using the common tools of the day (e.g., GMC PrintNet, Exstream, XICS, VIPP, Pres, or a host of other VDP-capable products), a new product would emerge that opened the door to adding targeted educational and marketing messages to transactional communications. Rather than creating a credit card statement with black text filling the page and a small color logo at the top to represent the brand, the page could incorporate color to highlight key elements. In addition, marketing messages that might previously have been inserted into the envelope as separate static forms could now be included on the statement itself. For businesses with extensive marketing campaigns in the general media, elements of those campaigns could be targeted toward the individual recipients of these monthly statements. This was all occurring while experts were predicting the likely disappearance of transaction statements from the mailbox, as waves of electronic document distribution technologies were emerging to direct essential communications toward e-mail.
Back in 2007, InfoTrends held the first TransPromo Summit, inviting TransPromo practitioners and the TransPromo-curious to New York City in the heat of summer to learn from those who were already seeing value in changing the style of their customer-facing communications. Attendees from all over the U.S. and Europe, Brazil, and even Australia brought examples and questions. TransPromo was poised to become the default for transactional communications, but an economic downturn prompted many of the largest transactional communications producers to cease new marketing campaigns and the development of the processes that enabled true TransPromo applications. Although that slowed the progress, some companies continued with development and produced excellent applications that educated and informed, even as they added marketing content. If you’ve ever received a utility bill that included a chart comparing your usage to the average for your neighborhood, you’ve been the beneficiary of TransPromo development. If you’ve seen marketing messages that seem seredipitous on your credit card statements or even mortgage reminders or investment communications, you’re also experieincing TransPromo.
Over time, though, the TransPromo talk track waned. Fewer companies were interested in attending conferences or exploring options, but the infrastructure had already been built. Inkjet presses are now commonly installed in transactional communication shops of all sizes, and we’ve seen fewer conversations about the value proposition of a white paper factory. The ability to produce unique documents for every customer is no longer a question of tehcnology, but of application design and execution.
Over the past two years, TransPromo has begun to re-emerge as a talk track. New waves of marketers are discovering that they now have the tools to analyze their customer data and use those analytics to create more meaningful interactions through their transactional communications. Finanical services companies, insurance providers, and other consumer-facing communicators are using TransPromo techniques not only in printed communications, but in their e-document communications via e-mail and mobile applications.
TransPromo is hot again because customer data analytics are more readily available than they were ten or fifteen years ago. Variable data tools have become more sophisticated, yet easier to program. The ability to add custom maps, geo-specific offers, and more targeted education has evolved and supports transactional communications as well as marketing collateral.
The Bottom Line
When TransPromo first emerged, the industry was seeking an application that would drive the sales of inkjet presses to a market that wasn’t quite sure it needed them. Now, things have changed—inkjet presses of all sizes, speeds, and configurations have changed the capacity equation in many print shops. This has opened the door to a range of new data-driven applications, and the TransPromo discussion might just be back as a result.
Leveraging more than three decades as an evangelist for technology in communication, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Pat McGrew uses her technical and marketing background to lead the industry toward optimized business process and information workflows. She has worked with companies to help them define their five-year plans, audited workflow processes, and developed sales team interventions and education programs. She educates the industry in production workflows to promote effective communication. If you have stories to share, Pat would love to hear from you! She can be reached via Twitter (@PatMcGrew), LinkedIn, or e-mail ([email protected]).