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DIGITAL digest

December 2005
Nothing 'Static' About PIA/GATF VDP Conference

PHOENIX—Somewhat akin to the early days of the California Gold Rush, there are endless growth opportunities in today's digital frontier. And the riches will go to those printers that can master variable data printing (VDP), database management and cross-media applications. There's no secret map to the gold, but shops that can provide these services—coupled with the ability to market, sell and then track the benefits of one-to-one marketing—will be the ones most likely to strike it rich.

That seems to be the general consensus of the more than 300 participants who attended the 2005 PIA/GATF Variable Data and Personalization Conference, held here last month. Organized by Jim Workman, PIA/GATF director of training programs, in conjunction with consultant Steven Schnoll, the three-day event was packed with featured presentations, printer panel discussions and peer networking opportunities, as well as ample time to visit booths hosted by the 20 or so vendor sponsors.

The topics explored ranged from building a business plan and managing a digital operation, to database issues, Web-to-print and personalization pricing models, sales incentive plans and project sales tracking. Keynote speeches were delivered by Frank Romano, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and best-selling author and sales guru Anthony Parinello. Speakers and panelists, among others, included Jim Liszewski, Williamson Printing; Dean Hanisko, Great Lakes Integrated; Robin Williamson, Rapp Collins; and John Rafner, of Nice Lines Direct Mail.

Among the key points made in the various sessions is the need—when selling digital printing—to also engage the originator and the person who controls the budget, aside from traditional print buyer and marketing department contacts. And, as Parinello reinforced, don't be afraid to sell directly to the very important top officers (VITOs) within existing and prospective client organizations.

"Eight-five percent of VITOs in America used to be salespeople, so they love salespeople and love to be sold," Parinello pointed out. He also counseled the audience to ask customers for referrals. "Every one of your existing customers knows every one of your existing prospects," he said.

Other speakers emphasized the importance of selling digital printing to specific vertical markets. Tackle specific industries and then develop custom solutions for them. As for which ones to target, presenter Don McKenzie, of the Winterberry Group, indicated that the automotive, insurance, b-to-b, lodging and pharmaceutical industries seem to be very VDP-friendly.

But don't expect quick, profitable sales when selling variable data digital, pointed out sales trainer Bill Farquharson. The selling cycle can run twice as long as selling traditional printing. And, when showing samples of jobs during sales presentations, it's much easier for customers to visualize the benefits if the examples relate directly to their respective industries.
 

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