Summit Direct Mail Blends Digital, Conventional Technologies for Multichannel Approach
Innovators don’t come to their plants in the morning saying to themselves, “Today, I’m going to innovate.” That’s not what innovation is about. It’s more a reflex than a behavior — a continuous state of mind that leads both deliberately and serendipitously to transformative results.
The printing industry’s innovators are energetic, inquisitive, and intrepid people who don’t wait for things to happen. Sometimes they strategize outcomes. At other times, facing threat or opportunity, they instinctively choose the right course of action. Either way, these relentless innovators always manage to achieve something that lifts their companies to new levels of capability, performance, and profitability.
The accounts of 12 businesses that exemplify innovation in the printing industry came together in the October issue of Printing Impressions. All of the profiles, one of which appears below, are based on interviews with the sources and on their responses to questionnaires filled out in support of their applications to be selected as Printing Impressions’ “Innovator of the Year” for 2019.
“We bug you ‘til you buy.” When John Barber describes Summit Direct Mail’s approach to multichannel direct marketing that way, he’s just being blunt for effect. Fully expressed, his company’s goal is to increase response rates for clients at the lowest cost of customer acquisition that any marketing services provider (MSP) can give them — an objective that Summit Direct Mail uses a highly sophisticated blend of digital and conventional technologies to pursue.
With its auxiliary web printing company, Texas Offset, Summit Direct Mail offers mail-based and electronic marketing services to a nationwide clientele across verticals that include the financial services, consumer lending, insurance, educational, mortgage, and automotive sectors. As an MSP that, as Barber says, “just happens to print one million pieces of mail per day,” Summit Direct Mail has embraced digital printing to maximize the productivity and cost efficiency of this key component of its business.
The company’s offset operation continues to be strong, with three variable-cylinder UV web presses that can run roll-to-roll, roll-to-fold, or roll-to-sheet. But Barber also has acquired digital web capability in the form of one Truepress Jet520HD, and two Truepress Jet520ZZ inkjet web presses from Screen. A Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 UV inkjet press provides B2 digital sheetfed printing, supplemented by two 13x19˝ HP Indigo liquid-toner machines.
Summit Direct Mail blends the output from this equipment into a continuum of marketing services that also uses personalized landing pages, SMS text, call center management, and other means to create what Barber describes as “predictable, scalable, and measurable” campaigns for clients. In these campaigns, Summit Direct Mail tracks recipients’ activity, and sends them supplemental messaging until they take the actions the customer wants them to take.
Barber maintains that in direct marketing, response rates aren’t as important to his customers as the cost of generating the responses — a factor that Summit Direct Mail always works to drive down.
He says digital printing help to keeps production costs under control by virtually eliminating makeready waste and enabling personalization at higher speeds than were achievable with offset overprinting. The company’s well-balanced mix of digital equipment also lets it weigh all-inclusive click charges against running costs based on consumption of ink — a comparison that helps the pressroom assign jobs to the devices that can produce them fastest and most economically.
Barber says that by augmenting its digital presses with high-speed cutting, folding, and inserting equipment, the company should be able to more than double its printing and mailing capacity without expanding the work force. Where he intends to add talent is on the creative and analytical sides, hiring people who can help customers “throw sharp, accurate darts” by refining the effectiveness of the campaigns that Summit Direct Mail produces for them.
That may take some education and inspiration, because as Barber acknowledges, “we can be extremely innovative, but it can be very difficult for the client to be as innovative as we are."