Digital Marketing – Data into Dollars

At the time, Nelson had been doing direct marketing on the agency side of the business for about 20 years. His work had evolved to the point where he was trying to produce more targeted content, but still using conventional printing technology. This primarily involved doing black plate changes to create different versions of marketing materials. “I was somewhat frustrated at the state of the industry,” recalls Nelson, Digital Marketing’s president.

When Hoefle shared his experience with doing variable-data printing on DocuTechs, Nelson says the co-founders immediately saw the potential in applying the technology to marketing applications. From the beginning, they’ve stayed away from doing short-run production of static documents, or commodity printing work, which was the more typical application for early adopters in the printing industry.

The two then joined forces to launch Digital Marketing and pursued American Express Financial Advisors (formerly IDS), which is also based in Minneapolis, as their first major account. “We got together in the summer and by October we had the American Express newsletter account,” Hoefle says.

Digital Marketing ended up creating and producing a segmented newsletter program for the financial services company. The program was customized for the field agents and featured multiple versions of the newsletter with content tailored for different market segments (based on geographic, demographic, lifestyle and product usage information). Variable text and graphics were pulled into a standard document template using software developed by Digital Marketing programmers.

“We knew we were going to have to start in the back office,” Nelson explains. “Anyone could go out and buy a DocuTech, but the workflow and processes become very complex when you are doing sophisticated, variable-data applications. We began by developing the software to manage databases and content. That was the real challenge.”

Variable Experiences
Since Hoefle had experience doing variable work on a DocuTech and Nelson understood desktop publishing programs, they decided to develop their own solution for merging database content into documents created in standard DTP applications. Initially, they were limited to black-and-white work, producing print-ready files internally and then sending files to a local DocuTech house for printing.

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