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Noel Ward

Real World Digital

By Noel Ward

About Noel

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at His website is, and he has a YouTube channel.

Guys that Get It

Finally getting back to home base after averaging maybe 2 days a week in the office for the past couple months, it's great to put fingers to the keys and pound out a blog entry. I know I'm behind and will work on catching up. There'll be more to follow on the people and companies I'll mention here and in the next installment or two, but I just wanted to give you quick takes on some guys that get it.

First up is Scott Bussert, VP of Operations at Datamart Direct in Bloomingdale, IL. Bussert's parents started the company some 35 years ago in their garage. Now it's a sizable facility replete with a full-on mailing operation, a pair of HP Indigo 7000 presses, a recently installed Xerox iGen4 (which replaces a couple of iGen3s) and a Xerox Nuvera 144 EA. Nice boxes all, but this is not about hardware. And as you know, nothing in digital printing is really about the presses—this ain't offset printing, after all.

What it is about is perspective. "A lot of companies that do printing are (after reading lots of articles in magazines and on the Web) trying to promote themselves as marketing services companies," says Bussert. "We really think of ourselves as a technology company that addresses a variety of customers' communications needs."

To Bussert and his team, technology is at the core. Sure, most things wind up being printed and mailed, but the value comes in solving a customer's problem. Take for example, the large motor club that does business in every state. It had 300 skids of pre-printed forms. 300 skids! Member kits were essentially hand-assembled packets of pages—because the content, for say the club's policy for towing, differed by state due to various regulations—all stuffed into #10 envelopes and mailed. Add in other features such as roadside repairs, bail bond cards and the like, and the pages piled up fast, along with the cost to package and mail them.

The client came to Datamart knowing about print-on-demand, but Bussert and his crew changed the game to totally personalized booklets, trimming inventory to about five skids. Not bad for a program that involves, in total, some 66,000 possible combinations of content.

Data files come in with each new or renewed membership, indicating the type of membership, the options chosen and where the member lives. Each booklet is produced as needed, personalized with all relevant and up-to-date information, and sent out shortly after the order is received. The cost savings in pre-printing and warehousing alone are substantial, and the client has continued to be thrilled for over four years.

Or consider the auto manufacturer for which Datamart produces totally customized booklets that reach a car buyer's mailbox a few weeks after they bring their new chariot home. Datamart takes a data file that lists the model and options a customer has purchased and turns it into a 5.5 x 8.5-inch booklet that not only matches the color of the car, but contains detailed text and graphics about of every option chosen and how to use it.

In this instance, a marketing firm came knocking with an idea of what it wanted to do, but with no idea of how to do it. Datamart applied the technology, primarily GMC software and HP and Xerox print engines, to make the vision a reality, while adding levels of detail beyond what it originally was asked to do.

"People have asked us when we bought our Indigos and iGens why we didn't just buy offset presses," relates Bussert. "It's this technology that's exciting and makes it fun to come to work everyday. With an offset press, you're creating one message and sending it out to a whole bunch of people. With our presses, we're creating a whole bunch of messages and sending them out to a whole bunch of people. It's the ability to create something new."

I have more from the road. Stay tuned!

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