Is the "Holy Grail" for Digital Printing Near?
Some might argue that the quest to make money with color digital printing, especially incorporating variable data, is even more arduous than the quest for the Holy Grail. But before anyone accuses me of religious blasphemy or, in more modern times, falsely assumes I'm a card-carrying member of the Monty Python fan club, let me explain.
For many of the early adopters, the road to building a successful digital printing operation turned out to be a failed leap of faith and even an experience more akin to a comedy of errors. But take heart; in our age of incorporating value-added services that can differentiate your operation from those of your competitors across town, digital printing may finally be living up to earlier expectations.
As a result of the lessons learned by those on the bleeding edge, today's savvy digital printers aren't making the same mistakes. They know, for example, that the process requires a high degree of education and hand holding so customers realize the benefits of printing short runs digitally—such as eliminating inventories, achieving better response rates through personalization and customization, as well as getting lightning-quick job turnaround times. They've also learned to drill deeper into customers' organizations to find decision makers who can visualize the total value proposition of one-to-one marketing. This can take your message beyond a traditional print buyer, someone who often chooses a printer simply based on low pricing.
Likewise, the more intimate partnership created from providing digital output can help open doors to win other jobs best suited for offset presses, as well as additional services such as fulfillment, CD-ROMs, database maintenance, Website design, etc.
Admittedly, the market potential for producing direct mail advertising incorporating variable data has not taken off the way many forecasted. Competition is fierce and direct marketers, in large part, haven't turned to commercial printers for this service. Instead, better opportunities exist for employing digitally produced, variable data output in response to someone contemplating a specific buying decision. Based on initial profile information gathered, as examples, a customized piece can provide a high school senior with specific information on a college's programs covering her areas of interest, or an automotive manufacturer can send out a piece specifically tailored to the preferences—down to the color of the vehicle—of a potential car buyer.