It’s time to draw the line between 1:1 and TransPromo

By | May 13, 2009

Heidi Tolliver-Nigro noted in a recent posting that 1:1 print jobs are rarely repeated. Let’s think about that for a minute. First, what do we mean by 1:1?? Name and address with a customer loyalty coupon? Some real estate post card application? Those are nice, but they have little or nothing to do with the notion of TransPromo. These 1:1 jobs are one-off projects, simple promotional mailings usually composed in a PostScript of PDF creation tool and printed on cut-sheet machines – usually color. Transactional printing on the other hand is done in huge volumes using AFP/IPDS. When promotional messaging is integrated into these kinds of document you get a whole new thing. First of all you have the opportunity to dump all of the blow-ins, inserts & generic coupons. The result is something currently called TransPromo. TransPromo and 1:1 are two distinctly different kinds of print jobs for two distinctly different markets and different types of customers.

A well developed TransPromo messaging strategy is NOT a one shot deal. We have watched an aggressive, targeted, TransPromo campaign being done by one of our customers for one of their financial customers escalate beyond anything we could have anticipated. When they brought their high-speed Océ inkjet press on line they began with a modest monthly print volume of 30 million pages, but within the first 6 months they had doubled that number. The volume is now so large that an additional machine is going to have to be ordered!! Why the increase, you ask? Really?? You don’t know the answer?? Come on, guess!

Our customer and their customer are engaged in a long term project to integrate variable promotional elements in their transactional messaging. The variability is based on both the consumers’ buying habits and some very sophisticated demographic segmentation. Our customer’s customer is delighted with the results and has no intention of going back to the old way of doing things. In fact, they want to double the volume again in the next 6 months.

TransPromo involves a complete redesign of a company’s entire messaging structure. Corporations do not invest the kind of money it takes to stand up a serious TransPromo project lightly, e.g., $100K in software, $150K in professional services, $XXK in document redesign, etc… These projects are not for the faint of heart. They require a solid C-Level commitment These are marketeers that are convinced that they will generate the kinds of increased top-line revenue that these implementations have been proven to produce. Notice that I said top-line revenue not bottom line cost savings. TransPromo is a money maker. These implementations are developed by professional marketers and mathematicians who apply sophisticated strategies and arcane analytical measurement tools to guide them at every step.

Let’s touch just quickly on validation. The statistics that we all learned in undergrad Stat 301 (and quickly forgot) are woefully inadequate to conduct a proper inquiry into success metrics. TransPromo is first and foremost a data driven environment. Instincts, hunches and marketing experience are incapable of cutting through the noise, finding the actionable data, and linking the correct recipients with the relevant offers. The truly effective programs begin with clearly defined business objectives that typically come from the Marketing department, e.g., improving back-to-school sales, cross selling additional services, launching a new product, increasing the lease renewal rate, blowing out under performing inventory, etc.. [Hint: cost reduction is hardly ever a sufficient reason for TransPromo]

The final result is called Behavioral Targeting and gets much of its horsepower from integration with CRM systems to provide the necessary 360 degree view of the customer. Add the insights provided by CRM to a well conceived business objective and you have a potent revenue generating marketing program.

You will know you are ready for TransPromo when basic mathematical marketing concepts like net promoter scores, RFM, CART, CHAID, LTV and brand equity come like second nature to you. Just remember back to one of the basic tenet of Six Sigma: if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Finally, our experience at Océ has shown us that companies that engage in TransPromo on a large scale basis do not want to talk about it and they don’t want us to talk about it. Non-disclosure agreements are always part of the deal when we help a customer implement one of these programs. We beg them to allow us to do case studies, but it never happens. They think of these projects as highly proprietary in nature. They think of them as the competitive advantage that gives them the edge in winning new customers and retaining their old ones. The word “system” doesn’t even begin to describe what really goes on. These implementations are environmental by their very nature and affect practically every aspect of a company’s structure.

After months of preparation the first trial run will a test that is limited in scope – one of many – and it will be run time and again. It will be constantly analyzed, revised, and refined. The willingness to keep going back to evaluate the process over and over again is implicit in the design and implementation process. To abandon something with that kind of scope after just one outing is ludicrous.

So, when I read that Heidi says 1:1 print jobs are seldom repeated I am really not too terribly surprised. Without the underlying C-Level commitment, professional design, data modeling, and the exhaustive analytics these 1:1 print jobs are destined to be one-offs. Variable data printing continues to evolve but when we compare 1:1 and TransPromo we see two different markets, two different kinds of print jobs and, two different marketing models driving them.

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14 thoughts on “It’s time to draw the line between 1:1 and TransPromo

  1. MichaelJ

    Thank you for the very informative post. Two things stuck out for me.

    One is the point about top line revenue. It gives the lie to the ROI meme. ROI is much too complex to be attributed to one event unless the metric is trivial and one shot.

    The other is the difficulty sharing success because of the confidentiality agreements. That validates the bright future for print, but makes the most important examples unavailable for marketing.

    One way out for VARs on the ground is to go a bit on faith, study how it really has to work, and keep looking for analogous opportunities in other spaces. I keep looking at the K -12 education space in the States and the vulnerability of textbooks and think the same approach could work briliantly there. The advantage is that success in education would not be constrained by non disclosure agreements.

  2. George Alexander

    Thanks, Duncan, for the clear presentation of what mainstream transactional printing is about, and how the resulting “transpromo” is very different from most “variable data printing”. You have articulated the thoughts that many of us have been having.

    I think very few printers who are not already doing transactional printing will be able to move into “transpromo” in the sense you mean.

    On the other hand, there may be a middle ground between the “true” transpromo you have described and the one-to-one marketing projects that (I imagine) Heidi was writing about.

    Perhaps printers could offer billing services for smaller, non-financial companies that send out up to a few thousand monthly invoices, and could add marketing messages to those invoices.

    This would have many of the same issues as true transactional printing — the need for file-conversion know-how, the need for total data security, the need to account for every piece, the need for good response metrics, etc — but the volumes could be much more manageable and (perhaps) the degree of marketing sophistication could be less.

    Many printers already have sheet-fed digital machines that could handle the volume, and some have existing variable-data software with the required characteristics. If there is a “transpromo” opportunity for commercial printers, I think this is probably it.

  3. John

    I hear/read a lot these days about transpromo opportunities.

    What will the impact of increased online bill paying have on transpromo in the future?

    Will this put a damper on transpromo or is there some non-obvious opportunity there?

  4. Pat McGrew


    I am in your camp. I see Heidi’s point – but I would also point out a lot of Direct Mail I get is 1:1 on the same template month in and month out, but with new messages each month. Does that count as repeated if it is the same program executing with new triggers? I can’t decide.

    For TransPromo, clearly this is the normal case.

    In both cases you should be testing metrics and adjusting offers.

    Great article!

  5. Stephen D. Poe

    I agree with Duncan regarding transaction production print – too often, 1:1 individualization and VDP are confused to be Transpromo instead of just small components of an overall Transpromo campaign. And we, too, have a difficult time finding customers willing to talk for the same reason – when they’re successful doing it, they view how they do it as a critical differentiator in the marketplace and aren’t too keen on us sharing their case study with their competitors. There are some ways to reduce overall costs, but these too also tend to fall under the ‘don’t tell’ rubric.

    And John, Transpromo isn’t just hardcopy. Good Transpromo campaigns are seriously multi-channel. You can do very sophisticated interactive marketing on electronic transaction documents, for example. So I don’t see an increased online bill pay scenario as a negative hit on Transpromo; it just means tactical adjustments of what you do in your hardcopy versus electronic delivery channels.

  6. Kevin Klein

    Yes the true value of TransPromo is relevance of the messaging. This is what also differentiates TransPromo from personalized communications. We beleive that TransPromo is truly a value add to the mail stream when the consumers sees value in the message. The message can have value in serveral domains: customer sat, customer education and addressing customers needs via relevant offers.

  7. TransPromo

    Good Job Heidi Tolliver-Nigro. 1:1 and Transpromo are like cousins. coming out from the same press, but addressing different needs. 1:1 is a generic design personalised to you. Transpromo is a statment stuffer that is now not inserted, but printed in your statment.

  8. Wrich Printz

    Heidi is right, and so are you Duncan. The thing that burns my britches…is that 1to1 done correctly should NEVER be one shot. NEVER. (I would use extra big capitol letters if I could…).

    The idea that you are going to send out a deeply personalized, relevant marketing piece on your first try is flawed to begin with. Most people don’t have the data, know how to use the data, or have the will to use it to begin with.

    Consumers of all stripes are very wary of fake, one shot, and attempts to “be their friend”. It takes a growing, learning campaign that uses 1to1 to drive more than just lead nurturing. Further, using personalized campaigns the wrong way will drive up your negatives, with very little chance of recovery.

    My favorite example of this is a group of dentists who sent out about 2000 email, 1000 to existing customers, and 1000 to targeted “prospects” about a dental whiting program, each with very simple 1to1 content. From the first group, decent response, no push back. From the second group – 52 people sent email, or called the dental office to complain. Several of those 52 did both. Several threatened legal action, thinking their medical records had been compromised, and one person had to be referred to local authorities due to physical threats.

    Using 1to1 campaigns without a plan, is more than just a waste of money, it is a danger to your company.

  9. Lee Gallagher

    CMO Council’s research “Routes to Revenue”, stated that only 5% of marketers have heard of transpomo. I think that most marketers would view TransPromo as part of their 1 to 1 marketing strategy. Not sure if we should divide it up if we are trying to sell upstream to CMO.

  10. MichaelJ

    your point is well taken, but I’m not sure Transpromo is a word that will resonate. The promo part implies to me promotion. But the top of mind issues are information and metrics.

    “Transpromo’ obfuscates instead of clarifies.

    The best I’ve come with so far is TransInfo – Google Ad Words on Paper.

  11. Pat McGrew

    I’ve been using TransInfo, TransEd and TransPromo to describe a continuum for a couple of years now. Any transaction printer can do TransInfo, most can do TransEd. Fewer can do TransPromo or would want to. In some verticals it simply isn’t appropriate, and in others it won’t move the needle.

    TransPromo gets you 266000 hits in Google.. not bad for something that didn’t exist 5 years ago.. and is really nothing more than a buzzword applied to smoething we used to call statement-based marketing.

  12. Noel Ward

    To see what Pat means, go see the interview I did with her at Graph Expo last year and see how she explains Transpromo.

    She says the term is broadly misunderstood and misused. I agree, and in my opinion this is is largely due to the incredible amount of hype that was built up around it by firms like InfoTrends that made transpromo sound like fast, easy money with little acknowledgment of how large a commitment it required or how complex and difficult it can be. As Pat notes, there’s more to this concept than ads on bills.

  13. Bryan Yeager

    I would say that the term “Web-to-print” is also shrouded in muddy meanings as well, but it’s still a descriptor to get the conversation started on e-enabling the print business. The same can be said for the “TransPromo” term: it gets the conversation started and the ideas flowing about intelligent document re-design/re-engineering.

    You can say what you want about InfoTrends, but I believe we have acknowledged and detailed the complexity involved in executing these types of applications. We’ve done quite a bit of research and consulting around this subject for the last few years to back up the so-called “hype” of the opportunity that truly exists around the TransPromo concept, as well as how a program like that is executed. I’ve also written about some of that research, as well as concepts beyond what we traditionally think of as “TransPromo” here on The Digital Nirvana for the last year.

    As the market starts to see more real-world case studies (as Duncan notes, a very hard thing to try and get out of a company that has successfully implemented one of these programs) it becomes more educated and aware about these opportunities and will seek them out. Color printing will become cheaper, speeds will increase, and software will become more agile and interconnected. All these technological factors, in addition to the existing opportunity, will make the move to implementing TransPromo concepts even more enticing.

  14. William J. 'Bill' McCalpin

    To me, Transpromo is a way station to the real prize – true bi-directional customer communication. So long as we concentrate on the technologies and not the problem we are trying to solve, we will continue to have arguments over terminology and lack of clarity of what we are trying to achieve.

    Curiously, in the 1980s, 1:1 marketing was presented as a revenue enhancer, giving a company the possibility to cross sell and up sell from its base product and relationship with the customer. However, in the 1990s, the transaction print process came to be seen as merely a cost center, which meant that funds and management focus were steadily withdrawn from the applications that did such marketing.

    To my mind – and I have no doubt that this will be debated – Transpromo is a term that is meant to do two things: (1) acknowledge that the availability of high speed economical color may/will have a big impact on how transaction documents are produced (for example, as someone noted, inserts may largely disappear), and (2) try to “wake up” the C level executives who have largely abandoned any consideration of both centralized and decentralized print, despite their large investment in both.

    However, until we recognize that the problem that we are trying to solve is NOT selling more products or better using hardware or trying to improve some portion of the “document” process, we won’t really be satisfied with our discussions. The problem is “how do we more tightly bind our customers to our enterprise?” When we answer this question, all of the things that we see in better technology, 1:1 marketing, increased revenue, better customer satisfaction, Transpromo, etc. will all follow.

    And how do we more tightly bind our customers to us? By engaging in a true bi-directional communication with our customers – by marrying all inbound communications from customers with all outbound communications to customers. It’s as if you married AIIM to Xplor – something that should have happened years ago and sadly didn’t.

    But when companies recognize what the real problem is and how all of these questions relate to that problem’s solution, then the focus of what we do will return to the highest levels of decision makers in the enterprise – which is where we want to be.

    So, ask yourselves, what problem are you trying to solve? When you step back and look at the biggest picture, the answers will flow naturally.


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