Digital Finishing: Different Paths to SuccessFebruary 2014 By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Digital production has come a long way since its introduction in the early 1990s, but a print job is only as good as how well it's finished. The range of finishing available, combined with increasing customer demands for differentiation, has meant that for many shops, creating the balance between offerings and profitability remains delicate.
Let's look at five digital printing establishments and how they've created the balance between meeting customer expectations and maintaining profitability.
Digital Dimensions 3
Digital Dimensions 3 (DD3), in Lyndhurst, NJ, has built its business on digital postpress by personalizing diecut mailers. It has a very specific market, and Harvey Hirsch, president and creative director of DD3, has staked his entire business model on serving it.
"To get the piece seen and read, you have to get away from the rectangle," explains Hirsch. "With the average cost of a direct mail piece pegged at $1.25 (#10 envelope with two-color letter and full-color sell sheet) in a short run of 10,000 pieces, coupled with the average response rate of 0.1 percent, a mailer's cost can be $125 per response. That's a lot of money—and that's not even a sale. It's an inquiry."
Knowing that shaped and dimensional mail gets far higher response rates than traditional (even personalized) mail, Hirsch turned to straight paper path, small-footprint digital systems to help him develop a process to make even personalized, diecut mailers profitable at ultra-short runs. The process, which is patented in eight countries, turns Fiery-driven, connected color copiers into digital presses capable of running unique diecut templates.
Moving the postpress operation to the front end drops the minimum run length (and setup) from 500 to 50 pieces. "Traditionally, to set up a diecutting press, you need at least 500 pieces," Hirsch explains. "If you diecut first, you can print as few as 10 and alter the type and photos on each one."
This capability has profound marketing implications. Hirsch can send out four different postcards in lots of 50 and (he contends) generate a 40 percent response. "One day I send a fish. The next day I send a piggy bank. The next day I send a bite card or a hotcard. The cost is about the same for each. The unique shapes get immediate attention and my clients can follow up with a phone call and generate an appointment to close a sale."