By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 4
Direct mail is a staple found in many commercial print houses. While the application itself isn’t new, digital propels it to great heights. Offering variable data and printing with a hybrid of traditional and digital technologies allows print providers committed to this space to offer customers with efficient and high-quality output. In addition, today’s direct mail pieces boast integrated marketing. Many campaigns benefit from a mixed-media approach and printers are equipped to handle this influx of data thanks to software solutions.
This four-part series profiles several print providers poised to process direct mail requests from design to print, combining Web in some instances to capture data, and fulfillment of the promised product.
Business to Business
VISOGraphic, Inc., based out of Addison, IL, is a traditional commercial printer. The business celebrates nearly 36 years in the Dahlke family, solely offering half- and full-size lithographic printing up until 2005 when it cautiously added digital to the mix by purchasing a Xerox Corporation 700 Digital Color Press. Almost immediately, the staff realized how beneficial digital could be.
Bob Dahlke Jr., principal, VISOGraphic, who joined the business in 1995, explains that digital fit so nicely into its lithographic production it decided to commit even further with the purchase of a Ricoh Americas Corp. Pro C901. It was that initial cautiousness that allowed the print provider to invest in more technology. As Dahlke admits, successful print providers must invest in new equipment to keep up, but VISOGraphic likes to stretch and know thereis enough work to put on a press before committing.
Today, the shop works with two Ricoh Pro C901 presses, in Fall 2015 it installed a Ricoh ProC9110, and in January 2015 a Ricoh Pro 8120s B&W printer. The additions have ramped up the shop to 27 percent digital.50 employees work out of a 40,000 square foot manufacturing facility offering customers everything from variable data printed pieces like direct mail and brochures to Web to print (W2P) solutions.
In 2014 it expanded its business when it purchased 3e Marketing Communications in Arlington Heights, IL. The addition brought a diverse client base to the table, adding sports teams to VISOGraphic’s mix. For 3e, who only operated with half-size lithographic presses, the acquisition provided access to full-size lithographic presses.
VISOGraphic defines itself as more business to business than business to consumer. For example it will work with a mom and pop store that requests designs and printing, or an advertising agency with complex variable printing needs but with the design already completed. Markets serviced include non-profit, education, sports, hospitality, and agencies.
Figuring Out Logistics
One of its goals when it integrated digital was to produce jobs with less touches, eliminating potential for error. With its digital presses it welcomed EFI Digital StoreFront into its workflow, designed to help “manage the deluge of small digital jobs,” according to Dahlke. This influenced W2P offerings, enabling the company to work with its customers on a number of levels.
“People want a printer that can figure out logistics, for example the cost of postage or creating a user-friendly Web portal their employees can log into and order print,” suggests Dahlke.
Part of “figuring out logistics” involves deciding when to run a job on digital, lithograph, or both.
For example, VISOGraphic has one customer in the entertainment industry who requested 1.2 million pieces made up of 95 different versions. The customer requested one 13×27-inch proof for each version. “We took the files on our Ricoh Pro 9110 and proofed them with the exact paper we planned to use in the final file and did it in two minutes. If we had done it on our normal proofer, it would have taken us all day,” admits Dahlke.
Ahybrid of lithography and digital, especially with variable mailing pieces, is common place. With over one million pieces of mail leaving VISOGraphic’s facility every month, it relies on both types of technologies to get work out the door on time.
“We combine digital when appropriate, addressing customers’ demands by making it easier for them to achieve success. The days of customers caring about what is being used to print with are very minimal, they care about cost, turnaround, and quality,” explains Dahlke.
Direct mail is a large portion of the company’s order requests. Dahlke estimates it to be about a third of the overall business. “I tell people if they want to target something, direct mail is still the best choice. Once the conversation is started, then you can use email,” he adds.
One example of a direct mail job was for a marketing company working on behalf of a manufacturing company, where multiple channels were key. The goal was to build the manufacturing company’s email database. VISOGraphic mailed around 2,000 variable letters with a call to action and a giveaway which encouraged readers to log onto a landing page that captured their contact information. This allowed them to receive the giveaway. The project resulted in a ten percent response rate.
VISOGraphic identified the need for digital and cautiously ran with it. The company’s savvy leadership choices have placed it in a lucrative position as a multi-faceted marketing provider, ready to offer customers anything from direct mail to Web-based ordering portals.
The next article in this four-part series focuses on Albany, NY-based Digital X-Press, a print and mail service provider. dps
Feb2016 DPS Magazine