Turning Up the Volumes
From a business standpoint, one of the big pluses of variable data printing is that the required expertise and infrastructure is very scalable. Even a daunting program becomes much more manageable if it is produced over time as a series of daily, shorter runs. This decreases the workload demands put on a Web-to-print system and digital press, helping to level the playing field for print providers.
A case in point is the solution used by MFS Investment Management to produce customized 401(k) sales proposals. The financial services company sought a more efficient and effective way to quickly fill proposal requests from the more than 100,000 financial investment advisers that offer its products. Working with Bowne Enterprise Solutions (now Bowne Marketing & Business Communications), it has converted from a completely manual fulfillment process to automated production of 30 to 50 customized packets on a daily basis.
[ The Proposition ]
MFS wanted to eliminate the manual assembly involved in producing its proposal kits and reduce turnaround time to less than one day. It also sought to improve the style and look of the materials and take advantage of the marketing possibilities afforded by personalization and customization. Reducing costs was another goal.
Proposal materials are targeted to two groups of people—investment professionals who sell 401(k) retirement plans and the personnel at corporations and public entities responsible for buying/managing such plans. The company wanted to be able to do customization and personalization targeted to both the adviser and buyer.
[ Development Process ]
Before selecting a production partner, MFS spent several months refining its list of needs and studying various options. The company’s request for a proposal elicited responses from 10 vendors. Bowne ultimately was selected because its proposal met all of the requirements and the two companies had worked together in the past.
Designing and implementing the program took eight months. During that time, staff members from both companies worked together to write the copy for the kits, craft the design and integrate the various systems that would be involved. At the same time, testing and research was done to develop the most effective presentations.
[ Producing the Job ]
Using the new system, financial advisers can customize and order materials through an online Web-to-print interface. Bowne created a workflow that extracts data from the MFS proposal request system and feeds it into the service provider’s internal Documents on Demand (DOD) job creation platform.
Bowne’s DOD system incorporates the extracted data into electronic versions of the requested proposals and produces PDF proofs for review. Each proposal can include a blend of custom content that is generated automatically and generic preprinted elements, such as the covers and tabs. Bowne handles all aspects of printing—using a Xerox iGen3 digital press driven by custom software—and shipping.
Printed materials are provided for use in face-to-face sales presentations, but advisers are also sent electronic versions for distribution or reference. In addition, they can take advantage of a Web-based proposal tracking tool that helps them keep track of proposal shipments and follow-up telephone calls.
Each proposal is unique in terms of its content and appearance. Data selection and customization rules set up in the DOD determine the choice of text and graphics (including charts and graphs) for the variable content areas. The design of graphics and charts can vary based on fund selection and other para-meters. MFS believes it is critically important for the text and supporting graphics to be tailored to the pitch an adviser is delivering to a specific client, since generic, canned information would not be as persuasive.
MFS staff and investment advisers can further customize a proposal at the PDF review stage, but before the order is placed, by uploading additional components (as PDF files) or pulling content from a repository.
[ The Results ]
The company has judged the program to be very successful both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Implementing a Web-to-print driven, customized solution has increased kit requests, boosted sales volume, cut costs and eliminated quality control problems.
Within just a few months of its rollout, the volume of requested proposals had already increased by more than 58 percent. Volume jumped 300 percent in about a year’s time. This effort contributed to MFS’s projected tripling of its sales volume to $3 billion in 2006.
Even with the increased kit production, MFS has been able to cut its costs. The program allowed it to reallocate three staff positions and reduce its printing and shipping costs for marketing collateral, resulting in an estimated total annual savings of $350,000.
The company’s financial adviser partners have told MFS that the new proposal program is the best in the market. They now are closing on 30 percent of all sales proposals that are issued. PI
This case study was derived from PODi’s annual Best Practices in Digital Print Report, the largest collection ever assembled of successful digital printing projects. Now in its sixth edition, the report has been enhanced with more in-depth coverage of select case studies. PODi is an industry initiative with hundreds of member companies including executive board members EFI, HP, IBM, Kodak, Pitney Bowes, Quark and Xerox. Membership in PODi is open to most organizations involved in digital printing. For more information on joining PODi or submitting your own case study, visit www.mypodi.org/pi1.