MBO Finishing Equipment Is Instrumental to Direct Mail Printer Fenske Media
Truth be known, Fenske Media has been honing its data analytics capabilities for more than 30 years. Sure, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and the data collection, analysis and manipulation skills are a science unto themselves. But the driving force behind variable data direct mail—delivering an (ideally) personalized message intended to elicit a response from its recipient—was as valued in the 1980s as it is today.
To that end, Dave Fenske—who along with his three brothers operates the largely direct mail specialty operation from a nearly 100,000-square-foot facility in Rapid City, South Dakota—has assembled an impressive digital finishing department that includes 30 to 40 components that can be rolled into place in a near-line finishing configuration. The firm was born as a commercial job shop back in 1957 and now counts a lion’s share of its business in the digital direct mail realm.
Fenske Media has a three-pronged approach to serving its customer base. On the data analytics side, the company enables clients to collect, distill and append customer information so that campaigns—regardless of what channel is being used to query them—carry the proper message to the right recipient.
Fenske Media’s customized print production department offers both digital (Kodak Prosper continuous-feed inkjet and cut-sheet electrophotographic NexPress) and sheetfed offset (Heidelberg Speedmaster) output.
The third prong of Fenske’s offering is cross-media services to deliver the direct mail message via electronic alternatives, which also entails response management.
Dave Fenske recalls going to Toronto about 30 years ago to check out a printer who was using a Hunkeler Multi-mailer to do pattern perfing, pattern gluing, pattern diecutting and folding of the mail piece. The printer was seeking a solution that would allow it to do coupon books for a newspaper chain while printing barcodes on every coupon, which would allow it to track the customer behavior using that coupon book.
“It required that modular approach on finishing equipment of how we could take one sheet of paper and apply multiple barcodes, up to 30, and then perforate, fold and glue it, and trim it, to make it a finished component at the end,” he says. “So, we had all of these unique operations stuffed into one piece of product. And that’s how we got involved in this origami approach—a skilled single operator doing many different functions.”
Over the years, Fenske Media has formed a tight bond with MBO America, which dates back to its use of Herzog + Heymann (H + H) specialty folding technology. That dossier has expanded to included MBO gear such as folders, gluers, transfer tables, deliveries and stackers. The roll-in/roll-out maneuverability has aided Fenske’s aforementioned modular workflow setup.
That approach continues today. “In order to be able to handle the large volume of variable data that we do and the variable finishing that goes along with it, we have to be sensitive to the origami around it all,” he says. “Modularity is key.”
In using a modular structure, mail campaigns can be developed in a two-step process of print and finishing. The MBO finishing gear helps streamline that production and enable the process to be completed using single operators.
Operating in a Data-Rich Environment
“Because each piece of paper has so much value-add going onto it—variable images, full-color content, personal messaging—you have variable components of ‘ask and offer’ based on models of predictive purchasing,” Fenske notes. “Because it’s such a data-rich environment, you really have to worry about spoilage. So you have to be really careful about how you structure manufacturing to reduce the number of steps. You have to use quality materials to reduce finishing problems, and that means having modern equipment to handle it effectively and quickly.
“Durability is a huge consideration for us, and we are very satisfied with MBO’s quality. Data means compact and time-sensitive deadlines because most variable data printing is directly tied to a specific call to action or event.”
Fenske Media is aggressive when it comes to investing in equipment that will make its finishing department hum. While the company does not release sales figures, Fenske notes that the firm continually invests in the rapidly changing capabilities of digital finishing equipment.
It is the ability to generate commerce for its clients that tells the tale of Fenske Media’s strength. “Nothing happens until something gets sold, and we’re focused on our customers’ success with the hope that we create a long and meaningful relationship,” he says.
Offering Intelligent, Engaging Products
The plan going forward is to continue to help facilitate the customer/consumer relationships through all phases of the consumer life cycle including acquisition, cross-selling and upselling with what Fenske terms, “intelligent, engaging products, be they printed or electronic.” Fenske Media also plays a significant consultation role with its clients by asking those questions they might not have considered.
“The success of any program is to ferret out the business intelligence that is generated as a net result of it,” he adds.
Fenske knows that there are many challenges staring down the mailing community. He believes the ongoing issues with the U.S. Postal Service should galvanize marketers and direct mailers alike, and feels the mailing industry truly needs to show a united front.
Another hot topic for mailers and marketers, in light of abundant “big data,” is the increasing need to protect consumer privacy. Fenske says data standards need to be updated and enforced in this regard to ensure future access to this valuable component of direct marketing.
“Sales figures can be a short-sighted measure of success,” Fenske concludes. “But long-term relationships are truly a part of a successful business model.” PI