Knowing your customer is the critical part of a variable data project. If your company doesn’t have or can’t purchase data about their prospective customers, you limit your return by appealing to the wrong people. Variable data provides the opportunity to print smaller quantities to appeal to specific groups of people. Customer data can be obtained from warranty forms, surveys, or commercial mailing lists. This data will drive the personalization in your print project. Variable data may be as simple as address information for mailing, or complex enough to tailor the project with a range of product photos, blocks of text, special offers, donation history, or web addresses. Once you have the data, a variable print project can be built to appeal to many specific demographics within a single print campaign.
Variable data printing enables the customization of documents via digital print technology, as opposed to the ‘mass-production’ of a single document using offset printing. Instead of producing 10,000 copies of a single document, delivering a single message to 10,000 customers, variable data printing could print 10,000 unique documents with customized messages for each customer. The returns for variable printing vary from double the normal return at the basic level to 10-15 times the return for fully variable jobs. This naturally depends on content and the relevancy of that content, but the technique presents an effective tool for increasing ROI on marketing campaigns.
Data that Works for You
All variable data printing begins with a examination of available data, and a map that defines static elements and variable fields for the pieces to be printed. While the static elements appear exactly the same on each piece, the variable fields are filled in with text or images as dictated by a set of application and style rules and the information contained in the database. An example of a simple IF/THEN/ELSE image switch rule is:
The rule instructs the software that if the entry in the database “PHOTO” field is “Dog” then the dog image is used, in all other instances the cat image is used. This basic language is modified to fit the project as needed, such as choosing between multiple photos or adding other selection criteria. The data drives the project, information is needed in the database to build the style rules that make the variable choices.
Complete Your Campaign
Another critical aspect of variable data printing uses mailing software necessary to take advantage of reduced postage for bulk mailing. Used prior to the VDP print file creation, mailing software presorts and validates and generates bar codes for mailing addresses. Pieces can then be printed in the proper sequence for sorting by postal code. Lastly, pieces are sealed and sorted into labeled trays and are ready to be dropped at the post office.