Marketing and IT Tie The Knot

Posted On November 14, 2011 By Advance Blog

Any company can imprint your name and address on an envelope. But have you ever noticed when a company was truly targeting you based on personal data that they had about you such as gender, shopping preferences, or location? Chances are you have received variably printed mail like this before, or perhaps you didn’t even notice. If executed properly, variable data printing (VDP) can be a pretty powerful, not to mention persuasive, tool. Fortunately, the technology isn’t limited to one application or industry. If the words spreadsheet, database or design are in your office vocabulary, it might be worth looking into how far VDP has come since the days of the archaic mail merge.

As the Marketing Manager for Advance, I make it a habit to monitor all kinds of communications that I receive. And while going through my mail is somewhat of a nuisance to me, I do look forward to seeing how the companies that I do business with personally market to me.

Everything from a packing list from my recent Amazon order, my banking and investment accounts, to now even my big-chain store coupons are personalized. While I’d like to think that they took the time to make that single communication “just for me,” the credit really goes to the software that linked a graphic artist’s design to a database full of intricate details about me—account number, name, address, gender, marriage status, affiliations, number of children, phone number, email, and the list goes on. With variable data solutions, such as Objectif Lune’s PlanetPress suite, this kind of union is a reality.

The process is something like Marketing and IT getting married. “Variable” data (information that changes) such as account number, name, address, gender, etc. is linked up with “static” data (information that remains the same) such as the shell of a designed marketing piece or form letter. Upon print, the “static” portion is repeated on every page, while the “variable” information (who the letter is addressed to, their address, account information, etc.) changes on each page all within the same print stream.

But isn’t that just a Microsoft mail merge? Yes, and no.

The variable aspect of the process is like a mail merge (ie., the address advancing to the next record). However, the difference is within the static elements such as the graphical images or design. Unlike mail merge, which is known for choking on a large, graphically intensive print job, PlanetPress processes static graphical images only once, thereby freeing up the print stream for the changing data.

Take it a step farther, and the software will even let you create “conditions” (if, then rules) on your data and elements within your print job. A simple example I recently saw of this in my mail was from my family’s health insurance provider. The mailing is a standard form letter notifying me about my ability to use urgent care facilities such as MinuteClinic, and ExpressCare.

The letter has the obvious variable information (my name and address) at the top along with two unique additions. The first was a SunTrust logo (my husband’s company who we have our insurance through) in the bottom right corner. While it is quite possible that the print job was done exclusively for SunTrust health insurance providers, the logo could very easily have been set up as a conditional element such that “if the employer of the recipient of this letter is “SunTrust”, print a SunTrust logo.”

The second was conditional information related to my home zip code. At the bottom of the letter was a perforated card that I could pop out and put in my wallet that listed the closest urgent care centers to my home.

While I’d like to think that they wrote that letter just for me, and looked up all the urgent care centers closest to our house, as well as put the SunTrust logo on the bottom, I know better than that. The developer simply put conditions on my address zip code and our employer participant data. If my zip code is 21014, print the urgent care providers that are also in 21014 where the pop out card is.

There you have it. VDP at work. Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Software such as PlanetPress has some amazing capabilities for letters, mailing, even invoices, beyond just what I have mentioned above such as print routing, email automation, and more. If you’d like to learn more about how you could implement a variable data solution like this for your organization, give us a call.