Through the use of personalized and targeted communication efforts, marketers improve response on direct mail campaigns. Large organizations with sophisticated data handling and access to top marketing agencies pave the way for innovation in variable data publishing (VDP). However, as digital print technology moves mainstream, this form of marketing is available on a small business level. With widespread adoption, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that once considered one-to-one communications out of reach, now take advantage of the opportunity it presents.
In addition to personalized print capabilities, today’s small businesses often find the need to market over multiple channels for the best results. A cross-channel approach that includes mass media advertising, promotional printed items, digital and mobile communications, and social media integrated throughout is often more effective than static, untargeted efforts.
Recent research from analyst firm InfoTrends addresses the need for marketing automation among SMBs, which account for the majority of U.S. firms in existence today. Companies in this segment of the market include construction businesses, hair dressers, dentists, lawyers, real estate agents, and other local mom-and-pop retailers. Print service providers (PSPs) tap into this market by trying to understand their marketing needs. This provides a benefit for SMBs seeking the support of outside agencies. Sources include commercial printers, office superstores, and online printing outlets.
The InfoTrends study, Capturing the SMB Marketing Automation Opportunity, finds that only 7.4 percent of SMBs report using external services for marketing activities. These companies are largely focused on do-it-yourself activities; they want self-service tools to help meet marketing objectives. In the same study, InfoTrends reports that just over 14 percent of SMBs reportedly use a marketing automation solution, while another 25 percent are considering it.
Whether managed in house or outsourced to a print or marketing service provider (MSP), SMBs look to the power of data-driven marketing to improve sales and grow business.
The Need for VDP
SMBs have many reasons to look beyond traditional advertising approaches to get a reaction from marketing messages. Beyond simply standing out with an innovative campaign, it is important that each penny spent in communications carries meaningful value. The price per piece for data-driven communications is often more costly than traditional, static solutions. However, businesses weigh the benefits of improved response rates generated with personalization.
Creating a targeted, personalized campaign is not easy. SMBs turn to PSPs/MSPs as well as online marketing Web sites to efficiently and effectively produce these sophisticated campaigns. “We find that SMBs are starting to look to professionals to help them. Being a small business, the struggle is finding the time. That is why Web-based solutions are becoming popular,” says Steve McPhee, sales manager, Online Print Solutions (OPS).
Judy Berlin, director, worldwide marketing, XMPie, a Xerox Company, agrees. “Small businesses typically find themselves strapped for time, but in order to create a continual stream of new business, they must work on marketing their business every day. Reaching consumers requires new techniques—a major shift from mass marketing to direct marketing has occurred. “It used to be sufficient to advertise a business anywhere and to everyone, hoping that people would notice you and that your hard work would pay off,” says Berlin. However, this method is no longer effective. “People expect one-to-one communications that foster customer intimacy—the kind that fell by the wayside during the days of mass-marketing communications,” she adds.
As data management and digital print technology continue on the road to mainstream adoption, more PSPs and MSPs strive to automate production, bringing the capability to a place within reach to smaller organizations. While print is a component, it doesn’t stop there—even at an SMB level. “We see more small businesses getting into not only variable data but cross-media marketing,” notes McPhee. He says that adoption is on an incline among SMBs. Many are savvy enough to incorporate personalized URLs (pURLs) and quick response codes. “We also see more SMBs reaching out to customers or prospects through email and SMS text,” he adds.
The use of Google Maps and other Web-based technologies enable SMBs to work with PSPs to build consumer lists based on factors such as geographic or demographic selectors. SMBs purchase these lists and target individuals through print, Web, email, and SMS text.
The Big Leagues
With the help of good, clean data and marketing savvy, SMBs generate impressive response rates from targeted and personalized cross-media campaigns. However, a variety of obstacles—time, resources, and technology limitations—prove challenging. A knowledgeable partner that helps direct marketing spend to where it will have the most value is imperative to a successful campaign.
Berlin sees SMBs utilizing variable data the same way major enterprises do—for producing personalized and relevant communications that motivate recipients to respond. “While several SMBs use VDP software to do their own marketing in house, most work with creative and PSPs/MSPs to develop and implement VDP campaigns and applications,” she says. This is usually because they do not have a marketing department with the talent or bandwidth needed to create and effectively implement the types of campaigns that would work. She notes that some feel it is better for their bottom line to focus on the core business and invest in working with partners for data-driven marketing.
For PSPs/MSPs, the challenge is convincing SMB owners to incorporate VDP into their marketing plans, as it is typically more costly than static print. “The value and ROI, however, is much higher—offsetting the original cost,” says Berlin. She explains that the response rate of static direct mail campaigns continues to have a ceiling of approximately two percent. Variable, data-driven campaigns with relevant, personalized content typically deliver a significantly higher response rate.
“This is the type of value proposition our clients try to teach their SMB clients, and we’ve seen it done through workshops, open houses, and Webinars,” says Berlin.
McPhee adds that Online OPS’ clients are also known to offer tips and education to businesses looking to implement variable data or cross-media campaigns. More importantly, he says they the number of PSPs offering the service is growing. “Through print groups, trade shows, seminars, and online Webinars, the printing industry continues to gain knowledge of the power of cross-media marketing. We see the number of PSPs launching and offering VDP with cross-media marketing technologies to their clients growing at a steady pace for years to come,” he adds.
Controlling Marketing Freedom
The franchise business model presents an ideal scenario for the creation and automation of targeted and personalized cross-channel marketing.
For example, an up-and-coming cell phone provider recently utilized OPS’ cross-media solution to improve marketing at the store level. The company has over 200 locations nationwide and was experiencing steady growth. However, marketing was a challenge since each store was franchised. The corporate level did not have the resources to handle all marketing requests, but they did want control over the brand and how the franchises went to market.
With the OPS VDP & Cross Media Marketing application, the mobile marketer built a completely customized storefront that allowed each franchise access to their own portal. From here, they purchase any type of marketing material, including posters, banners, and brochures. More importantly, within the same storefront, the franchises access the VDP and cross-media dashboard to launch marketing campaigns that include print, pURLs, email, and SMS text elements. “These campaigns are ordered in a similar workflow to ordering a brochure or a poster. So the time to get a franchisee comfortable with using the storefront for print and marketing is minimized substantially,” notes McPhee.
Franchises also have access to analytics for each campaign within their storefront. The portals, separated by username and password, allow each franchisee to access their own order history, reporting, and shopping cart.
The corporate office also accesses reporting to see analytics per store. All data used for each campaign is uploaded by the franchisee. The OPS solution is then able to CASS certify, NCOA, and pre-sort each list on the fly before the campaign is added to a shopping cart and checked out.
With the capabilities presented with OPS, franchisees easily to launch marketing campaigns and track results. Franchisees are encouraged to do this through incentives and marketing budgets. On the corporate level, the company approves campaigns, maintains branding, and monitors activity with little involvement.
Join Up to Send Out
Small business owners have a lot to consider when it comes to marketing their business. If they rely on direct mail and have developed a targeted list, variable data is an ideal way to generate attention. In addition to touching loyal customers, bringing in new business is a challenge. While a range of VDP solutions are available for marketers, it is wise to partner with a print or marketing professional to get the best results without becoming too distracted from normal, day-to-day business requirements.
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May2012, Business TechEdge BTEVDP1203