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VDP Leaders – Overcoming Obstacles

In our last blog, we talked about some of the common denominators we are hearing about in our interviews with digital leaders. These interviews are the result of follow-up phone calls after our study entitled, “Variable Data Printing: Realizing the Potential.” As we discussed in our last blog on the subject, it’s not that leaders don’t make the same mistakes, but instead leaders are quicker at finding their problems, identifying the root causes, and overcoming those issues.

The three issues we heard most often focused on:

1) sales and marketing

2) getting good data from customers

3) proving the value

One of the first problems discussed by all companies who have tried to offer variable data printing services focuses on sales and marketing issues. We often hear:

  • “Our sales people don’t understand it”
  • “Our salespeople are not motivated to sell it”
  • “We have an awareness problem–customers don’t know we do it”
  • “We struggle to articulate the benefits”

Part of the challenge with sales is motivating sales staff to sell smaller jobs for less money. If you’re using the same compensation program you’ve used for years, it may be demotivating salespeople to sell digital printing, shorter runs, variable data printing, and cross-media marketing services.

Leading companies we talked to overcame those objections by changing the compensation package to one based on the sales associated with a complete campaign or based on the value-added percentage of the jobs.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to get better data from customers. Different companies discussed various strategies to address these issues. One way companies get better data is by being relentless with customers and reinforcing the importance of getting good data, and the results of not using the data. Focusing relentlessly on how to achieve better results with better data can lead to conversations about how to build a better database. More data can be added through list acquisitions or by requesting data in exchange for good content such as white papers. Before the white paper can be downloaded, the customer is driven to a landing page using Purls (personalized URLs) or QR codes which prompts them with questions that helps fill the database.

Another important hurdle is how do you prove to the customer the value of VDP compared with simple name and addresses. Some companies talked about how they would compare the results of previous static mail campaigns with response rates and return rates from VDP jobs.

Some leaders talked about what they called “share the risk” programs. For those companies that are trying to migrate customers from static mail campaigns to VDP campaigns, they are often basing their pricing on the success of the campaign. In other words, once the campaign is over and the results are measured, if the VDP campaign is no more effective than the static campaign, the service provider will only charge the static stock rates. On the other hand, if the static campaign doubles the response, they will charge a fee commensurate with the service.

Others talked about utilizing a strategy that demonstrated the effectiveness by constantly testing different call-to-action strategies, different designs, or different levels of complexity of variable data jobs. Testing different strategies and identifying which one works best is a great way to prove the value of database marketing and variable data printing.

call to action, , motivating salespeople VDP, , overcoming customer objections, variable data printing, VDP leaders

About Howie Fenton

As an NAPL Senior Consultant, Howie works with commercial and in-plant print shops and industry manufacturers. Consulting directly with printing companies, Howie specializes in the areas of operations and digital production, with a focus on workflow, customer service, estimating and prepress performance and benchmarking, as well as budgeted hourly rates. Howie’s experience and expertise positions him to coach companies on their investment priorities such as web to print, pdf workflows, variable data printing and digital equipment. As a follow-up to that, Howie works with companies to streamline their operations and train their staff to sell the value of the digital technologies. As one of the leading in-plant printing experts, Howie performs in-plant audits and customized surveys that benchmark financial performance, analyze workflow issues, and measure productivity, customer satisfaction, and in-plant competitiveness. His evaluations help clients increase efficiency and reduce costs, and his services are used to benchmark financial and operational performance and to demonstrate or improve that performance. A frequent speaker at industry events, he has written five books and two books on digital printing and variable-data printing and is a regular contributor to several industry publications.

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