Why Don’t Clients Repeat 1:1 Print Jobs?

By | November 20, 2008

“In a difficult economy like this marketing budgets are tight. The only projects that get funded are the ones that can prove strong ROI. That’s why you need a way to prove to clients that your solutions will deliver.”

This quote came from a November 18 press release from Caslon & Company promoting a PODi Webinar, “Promoting the Value of Your Solution.” The seminar is designed to promote Caslon & Company’s Value Calculators, a tool for determining ROI projections from 1:1 printing jobs, which I think is a terrific idea.

But the thing that struck me in reading this was the spate of discussions I’ve had recently in which it’s become clear that proving value for a 1:1 printing campaign is the all-important first step, but it’s not enough by itself. Even the most successful 1:1 applications — in which the results are measured and recorded — are often not repeated. This is something that has proven to be extremely frustrating even for the most proactive 1:1 printing / marketing solutions providers.

Recently, I’ve been posting this question in various areas of LinkedIn. Here are some of the interesting and insightful reasons that have been shared with me.

  • Clients do not follow up and verify results.

(Which leads to the question: Are printers following up to find out why clients may not be repeating? If it’s a matter of too much time and effort, are these printers letting their customers mistakenly think that repeat applications take the same time commitment as the initial deployment—and if so . . . why?

  • Despite the results, the projects just take too long and are too time-consuming. Marketers like the results but just don’t want to put that much work in again.
  • The sales cycle is so long that, once a project is completed, the original marketing team or individual at the company who spearheaded the project has moved on and the printer’s salesperson must start from scratch.

And thanks to Peter Wann, industry consultant, for bringing up this very overlooked but critical disconnect in the process:

  • Clients may track response rates, but they don’t track conversion rates. If the client isn’t tracking the conversion rate, the results may not be tracking back to the original campaign.

This insight is particularly thought-provoking and may be one of the dark underbellies of the 1:1 (personalized) printing sales process. As with all challenges facing this marketplace, the solutions won’t be simple or easy, but they start with acknowledgement of the problem, followed by frank and open discussion.

Have your insights or experience to share? Comment on this post or log into my profile on LinkedIn and click on the Answers link and share them!

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6 thoughts on “Why Don’t Clients Repeat 1:1 Print Jobs?

  1. Bob Raus

    Hi Heidi,

    I am a big fan of your e-newsletter. This is an intriguing article because for me it comes down to two things really. 1) How digitally savvy is the commercial printing industry overall today (REALLY), and 2) Why don’t companies embrace and add IT resources to product development teams?

    Anyone who thinks there is limited payback in 1:1/personalized advertising, or that it is too much work has obviously never visited a web site. Businesses understand the value of variable data and 1:1 advertising very well. When was the last time you were on a static web site where nothing was spinning, moving, video wasn’t automatically playing or advertisements weren’t popping up?

    We all talk about “digital printing”, but my experience tells me that 90%+ of the industry really looks at digital printing as digital make-ready of static (print many) files RIP’d and output to digital engines (i.e. toner or inkjet) or CTP devices for offset. This is the classic move to “short run lengths.” It has great benefits of course, but I think we can and must do better as an industry to demonstrate and convince our clients that print is a strong media and that – when done right – variable data printing is more powerful than variable data web site advertising.

    Transpromo is a great step here in that we should be tapping into the people who know, live and love variable data – the data center team! Unfortunately, the data center is a cost center and not a profit center in many (all?) companies. Cost centers are measured on cutting costs, not increasing revenues. The Holy Grail for commercial printing is the linkage of IT and Marketing. This is truly an area ripe for a new generation of C-Level executives to cast aside traditional paradigms and embrace the IT department as an integral part of the product development team.

  2. Harvey Hirsch

    Heidi, most 1:1 programs have been failing because just putting a name inbedded into the copy is not enough. You know how I feel about the common rectangle that most people use. It’s boring and does not get opened. If you don’t get the recipient’s attention in 1/2 a second, you’ve failed. We have seen it time and again, Legacy Marketing theory applied to 1:1 comunications = failure. You must speak to the receiver in words that are relevant in a piece that gets their attention instantly. Think of a personal pitch letter with information you have researched about the company, its competitors and how your service will benefit them. Now add full color 3-dimensional products and you’;ve got their attention. Don’t leave it to the client, sell them outbound telenarketing services and you call to set appointments. Now you have a trackable R.O.I. that is verified. Then you watch them go out and close. If they can’t close, bring in a sales trainer and apply them to the problem. Literally, you have to carry the client across the finish line. That’s called accountability. Now they’re ready to sign a constant weekly order for material.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    Harvey,

    Of course I agree that merely embedding names in the personalized copy isn’t enough to generate good response rates. That’s one of the important lessons (I hope) the industry has learned over the years. What I’m referring to are the campaigns that ARE successful — they do everything right, they get great response rates, and yet, they still aren’t repeated.

    When campaigns are not produced well, it’s easy to point out the flaws and say, “Clearly, this is why it wasn’t repeated — the client didn’t get results.” But when the client DOES get results and still doesn’t repeat, that’s harder to get our heads wrapped around. I think some of the ideas presented by LinkedIn members were quite insightful and printers should take them to heart.

  4. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    Thanks, Bob!

    I appreciate the comment about the newsletter (”From the Cheap Seats”). Anyone else who would like to sign up, please send me an email at info@digitalprintingreports.com. They come out irregularly — whenever something strikes me.

    You say: “My experience tells me that 90%+ of the industry really looks at digital printing as digital make-ready of static (print many) files RIP’d and output to digital engines (i.e. toner or inkjet) or CTP devices for offset. This is the classic move to short run lengths. It has great benefits of course, but I think we can and must do better as an industry to demonstrate and convince our clients that print is a strong media and that – when done right – variable data printing is more powerful than variable data web site advertising.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Even though digital press suppliers and others offer training, the challenge for 1:1 printers, I think, comes in trying to translate that knowledge into their own marketing and education tools for clients. It’s much easier to sit in a seminar and “get it” and try to then translate that understanding into tools that will help your clients “get it,” too.

    This leads to one of the ironies I’ve found in creating the Marketer’s Primer Series, which is a plug-and-play educational tool for printers. Although the primers are available in single-user versions, the primary intent of these documents is for printers to purchase licenses to distribute them both internally for internal sales / CRS training and externally to their client and prospect bases. This way, printers don’t have to create their own sales tools. All they have to do is hand them out.

    Yet, nearly all of the primers that have sold are single-user versions — not the licensed versions. Printers still seem to be too internally focused rather than externally focused.

    For more information on the primers, visit http://www.digitalprintingreports.com. Single-user versions are also available from the What They Think store. Licenses for internal/external distribution must be purchased from Digital Printing Reports.

  5. Michael Josefowicz

    With all due respect, I have to disagree with ” I think we can and must do better as an industry to demonstrate and convince our clients that print is a strong media and that – when done right – variable data printing is more powerful than variable data web site advertising.”

    Consider, does Google have to demonstrate and convince? Or WalMart? or IPhone?

    So how many Printers use all these great techniques to increase their own business. Back in the dot com days, we used to say “you have to eat your own dogfood.” If printers don’t use if for themselves, is it realistic to think you can convince someone else of it’s worth?

    Their strategy is try it. If it works. Use it again. I think we would do well as an Industry to spend a lot less time on “educating our customers” and alot more on developing fast to market products that have an easy implementation cycle and a short time to market.

    As for . Printers still seem to be too internally focused rather than externally focused.” My take is that printers are not focused on either. Mostly they are frightened and are deers in the headlights. If I were still in the game, I would be too.

  6. Diane Dragoff

    Heidi:

    For a long time, we on the client side have tried to share our vision of a 1-to-1 world with our printers. We’d prefer to have a quality printed product as the result of data and format merge. Pricing is prohibitive over a large run. IT people want to sell platforms that have printing as an afterthought. So, we’ve studied what we want to do and are looking at other approaches that may not even involve printing.

    I think that the printers’ mindset is based on the fact that most didn’t see the need to work on strategy, that came from ad agencies. They didn’t have to understand corporate communications departments, that work came from design firms. Generally, printers saw themselves as custom manufacturers not shapers of other company’s successes.

    Now, printers are trying to play catch-up and for some it may be too late. What they should have started to do in about 1990 or so was to learn about the future, learn about their clients’ work and suggest ways, maybe even ways that didn’t even include printing, that would assist in the client’s marketing effort.

    This requires a tremendous leap from the world of iron, ink and paper. Frightening because there’s no net under this leap and no way to gauge the distance of the jump.

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