Variable Printing Brings Print to Life

Variable Printing CMYK Colors

Years ago, after marketers figured out how to cheaply print addresses and names on form letters, champagne corks were flying. It was a true breakthrough to finally get this level of personalization from common desktop technology.

This was just the beginning of the revolution called variable printing, also known as variable data printing.

Variable data printing can be defined as on-demand printing where multiple text fields, graphics, and images can be changed from one document to the next during a single job without interruption or delay. This technology enables marketers to send offers to prospects and customers based on their current needs and interests. It is mass customization that was unimaginable until recently, and if done well, it can supercharge the response rates on direct mail campaigns.

Bubble Gum Print Marketing Campaign

Many studies, including those from the Direct Marketing Association, already show that direct mail is the most effective means of advertising based on response rate. But that’s just the beginning – personalizing your direct mail can double or triple your results with only a modest increase in cost.

You want proof? Here are some persuasive data:

  • 85% of consumers sort and review their mail every day
  • 90% of consumers prefer to receive sales/promotions via direct mail – 5x greater than by email
  • 40% of consumers say that they have tried a new product/business after receiving direct mail

There is just something about a letter or brochure – you can hold it in your hand and really study it. You can hand it to a friend or family member and discuss it. You can take the information it contains and do your own research. And it’s not a “blink or you’ll miss it” event. A personalized direct mail piece can hang on the refrigerator for months, broadcasting its message to all who walk by. Just last week we blogged about how direct mail still reigns as the most effective marketing channel. One reason may surprise you – consumer recall of direct mail messages was nearly twice as great as for similar ads in digital form.

Don't scare your online customers

Could it be that the sheer volume of online noise is driving people back to the simplicity and serenity of print? Many agree, and businesses are voting with their wallets.

  • 82% of businesses expect to use the same amount or more direct mail in the next year
  • 44% of businesses use direct mail in conjunction with two or more other channels

With direct mail currently averaging a 15%-17% return on investment, it’s no wonder it is enjoying a bit of a resurgence. But back to the topic at hand – how can variable printing make my material pop and turn my prospects into customers?

Wright's variable printing is good for business

Any information you have on your intended audience can be used by the variable printing software. Let’s say you have built a great visitor list from your website and other sources, and you are ready to begin a direct mail campaign. You read our blog from last week and already have decided on a slightly larger than standard-sized envelope with a watermarked design. The font on the envelope will look like actual handwriting and be slightly askew so it looks like a person actually wrote it.

Now for the variable printing magic.

If you’re a car dealer, maybe you are looking for certain cars in trade. You also need bodies in the showroom. So your offer to your database of customers and prospects might look something like this – the variable fields are in bold font:

Dear (first name),

We hope you are still enjoying your 2007 (vehicle make and model). Because your particular vehicle is currently in great demand, we have a special offer just for you. Our Used Vehicle department will pay you (dollar amount) over the KBB.com trade-in value of (dollar amount) for your (model), subject to inspection. Take our money and run, or check out this 2012 (vehicle make and model), currently on sale for just (sale price). It has all the options in your current (model), as well as (new option 1), (new option 2), and (new option 3).

(First name), please give this some thought – for an additional (2012 price minus the trade value), you can drive off in a (age of 2012 vehicle) year-old (model) that still has (months or years) remaining on its factory warranty. And the (trunk or bed) has plenty of room to hold all of (your or your family’s) (hobby equipment field – golf clubs, fishing gear, dirt bikes, etc.)

Give us a call at (special phone number) to schedule an appointment, or visit (landing page url) to find a time that works for you.

Thanks again,


Young couple purchasing a car

You can see how this letter might strike a chord with an existing customer or someone who has been in for service. The dealer is able to identify a possible need, customize an offer, and show the recipient how the newer vehicle will accommodate his/her hobbies. Using special phone numbers and landing pages, the dealer will be able to test different offers to see what works best, and calculate an ROI for the different scenarios.

Make it personal with variable printing.

You have information on your prospects and customers – why not precisely deploy it towards growing your business?


Mike Ciota

Author: Mike Ciota

Copywriter, Wright's Printing & Marketing

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