Digital Printing Q&A

Questions for Howard Fenton

From the user standpoint, what types of companies are ideal candidates for the use of digital printing? And how is the supply side being affected? Are new demands being placed on traditional printers and manufacturers as this new industry sub-segment develops?

I think it is naïve to say there is one kind of company that succeeds with digital printing. Instead I would categorize the successful companies as those with strong digital infrastructures meaning trained staff and well worked out procedures, and a willingness to innovate marketing and sales campaigns. Both are important. Companies poor digital infrastructures and or use untrained sales staff, traditional sales tools and traditional sales compensation packages are poor performances

Who are some of the "early adopters" of digital printing, and how have they applied it to their marketing?

Some of the big players adopted the technology but were unsuccessful. In my mind two the have done well are Banta and Quebecor World because they understand the appropriate applications and have resisted the temptation to make huge capital investments (i.e. equipment in every site). Some of the other big players don’t really understand the benefits or invested in the technology too much and could not achieve or sustain profitability.

Aggressive smart marketing is one of the keys for success for all companies but especially the moderate size companies who can’t afford to make a mistake.

Mike Chiricuzio a pioneer in digital printing after founded One Source and Sequel Digital Solutions says "The first thing a printing company has to do is create a sales and marketing plan. Some companies add it to their existing products and services while others create a new division. I’ve seen both strategies work. But when you add this product to existing products and services it is often considered a nuisance because you are selling shorter runs for less money."

The importance of marketing plan prompted Cohber Press in Rochester New York to target a new market. According to Deborah Hinson the Director of Marketing, "When we decided to offer digital printing services it became clear that we would have to differentiate ourselves. We discovered that there are a lot of people offering digital printing services in our area. Our market strategy is to identify markets and companies who benefit from full service variable print campaigns outside our area. After identifying our target market we built the infrastructure to support that effort. That means we have hired and trained a digital printing sales force, created a data processing department with programmers and we bought a company to offer mail and fulfillment services.

According to Val DiGiacinto from the Ace group, "I take our successful ad campaigns and put it into a portfolio that I use for my presentations. Shawn Cummings from Creative Digital Color uses the similar approach. Cummings says, "The portfolio makes all the difference. I may walk into a prospects office and start talking to them about different text blocks or pictures based on demographics or geography and loose them in the first 5 minutes. But when I take out the portfolio and show then how the pictures and text can be merged and customized and tell them about the response rates– then you see a light bulb go off over there heads.

For example we did a welcome campaign for a utility company to new residents. Depending on where they lived they would get a different package about available products and services. They made performed a similar campaign the year before and only received a .5% return. Using the variable data that achieved a 25% return and a 15% purchase rate. When we got to other utility companies and show them the piece and quote them the numbers that are astounded.

DiGiacinto explains further. "I get their marketing and sales people together and tell them they have been living in a sphere of technology that is 65 years old called traditional printing. You create a mass marketing piece and send it to a lot of people and get a small return. Maybe yours has been changed slightly with the Ed Macman school of marketing."

According to DiGiacinto this gets their attention and typically gets them mad (not the word he uses), because he is telling them they are out-of-date." Then I show then the samples of variable work. The way that I know I have been successful is when one person in the room asks a question that starts with, ‘So that means I could do ….’ And they start creating the work, before I leave.

In terms of the learning curve, do you think that one-to-one marketing using digital printing is ready for "prime time" or do issues remain that prevent the technology’s widespread usability?

This is a complicated question, with several different aspects but lets take it on step at a time. There are two different markets for variable printing. The first one I call the customized black and white market the second is the color variable market.

It is easier to market, sale and production the products in the customized black and white market. The two main products are all black and white pages with customized text. The other are pages that have been preprinted on a 4 color press (shells) and then run through a high speed black and white device to customized the text only.

The second market I call the color variable market. This is the more complicated market with more challenging issues of marketing, sales and production. These pages both the text blocks and pictures can vary from page to page.

The customized black and white market is a mature market and is much easier to sell into and manufacturer the product. Everyone who bys this pages knows what it is and how valuable they can be. This is a much easier sale.

In contrast the color variable market is much more difficult to sell into. Few print buyers understand the benefits of this technology.

What kind of initial investment is required to begin using digital printing for one-to-one marketing campaigns? Is there a way for companies to test the effectiveness of the technology within the context of their marketing program before making that initial investment?

At the low end of the investment spectrum you could start at the $100,000 price level with black and white devices. The mid range costs about $200,000 but would get into a production level color device (60 ppm). The high end of the spectrum costs about $500,000 and would include

What topics will the seminar you’re leading cover? Who should attend?

This seminar is targeted to three groups those who buy print, those who sell print and those that manufacture printed products. Included in the buying and selling of printed products are managers, financial officers, print brokers and direct mail marketers. As well as sales and marketing staff who buy or have to sell against on demand or digital printing. This is critically important to anyone interested in the role of customization and personalization in direct response campaigns. For those who manufacture printed products the subject include the advantages and disadvantages of the different technologies such as digital presses, direct to plate workflows, color copiers or high speed copiers.

The one day workshop is split into three sections: a presentation for a half day the other half will be split up into two panels one for users and a panel of manufacturers. The day will start with the presentation which will include

The presentation will be first and will talk about advantages such as lower inventory costs, reduced cycle times, and lower make-ready costs, the growth of pages and products, underlying technologies and equipment, Case histories of successful applications and early adopters, move to database marketing and the growing importance of personalization and customization.

The panel of users will discuss their experiences, specific applications that have worked well and those have not and how they manage and sell those products. The panel of manufacturers will discuss the technology and products of existing products and maybe even offer hints about next generations products.

Back to IN3.ORG