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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: What Is “Transpromo” Printing?

I’ve been getting mobile phone invoices for several years now, and I’m noticing an increasing sophistication in what would now be generally termed this “Transpromo” or “Transpromotional” printing material.

What Is Transpromo?

Transpromo blends three valuable pieces of the marketing mix.

  1. It includes transactional custom printing, which includes the bills, statements, and invoices that go out monthly to existing customers.
  2. It includes promotional material that builds on the existing relationship between the service provider and the customers to “upsell” new products and services: that is, to sell more to existing clients.
  3. It incorporates client data culled from the existing sales relationship to provide information the client will find useful and relevant (i.e., not mindless fluff).

This marketing mix can be insanely productive if the marketer uses available demographics and other client data to provide pertinent content and offers. Therein lies the challenge.

How It’s Done: Ways to Print Transpromo Material

Transpromo is not new. Think back to all the inserts that accompany your telephone bill, or your gas, electricity, and water bills—or your Visa bill. Inserts placed in the envelope along with your bill qualify (somewhat) as transpromotional custom printing. These would fit in the category of static, offset commercial printing, in that thousands or hundreds of thousands of copies of the same inserts would be printed via offset lithography and then inserted with the invoices into the outgoing direct mail packages.

Another option used over the past years or decades has been the custom printing of color “shells.” In this case, an offset printer would first print the color advertising material on the press sheet and set this aside to dry. At a later date the client (let’s say a billing department of a utility) could laser print or inkjet print the client invoices on these preprinted promotional “blanks.”

A third option that is coming into play with the advent of web-fed inkjet presses is to print the variable data marketing material right on the press sheet along with the transactional billing information as the roll of printing paper streams through the roll-fed inkjet press. This process can print both sides at once, as well. In addition, a savvy marketer can leverage all the customer data that has come from an established relationship with the client to provide images and text that will be especially relevant to him/her. And roll-fed inkjet provides sufficient image quality for such transpromo work to be really spectacular.

Why It Works: The Phone Bill

To explain why this works, let me start by describing my cell phone bill.

  1. It includes the signature yellow company logo (which appears under my printer’s loupe to be sprayed ink droplets–i.e., inkjet printing).
  2. It includes half-page and full-page black and white display ads tailored to my interests.
  3. It includes all of the data and textual information relevant to my account. With a loupe, I can see the ink dots characteristic of type rendered on an inkjet printer.

Why It’s Effective

If you look up “Transpromotional” in Wikipedia, you’ll find a list of six attributes that make transpromo such an effective marketing medium:

  1. Openability: When you pick up the mail each day, you usually find a lot of promotional letters that go right into the trash. You assume they’re irrelevant, so you pitch them. But when you get a bill, you open it (according to the Wikipedia article, the open rate of transpromotional material exceeds 95 percent). To a marketer, that’s almost guaranteed client exposure to the included promotional material.
  2. Engagement: Wikipedia notes that “bills and statements receive more attention than any other form of communication including television advertisements” (from a Group 1 Software, Inc., 2004 Research Study). Again, that’s almost guaranteed client exposure to the marketing message.
  3. Cost Efficient: It’s cheaper to include advertising and other promotional information right on the bill than to print and insert separate marketing pieces into the envelope.
  4. Reporting: Invoices can track not only the client’s buying history but also the service provider’s promotional activity, and this aggregated information can help marketers target future promotional activity. There’s no guessing. Buying histories and demographic data can inform effective marketing strategies based on facts.
  5. Returns: The best customers are current customers. The data and information included in transpromotional marketing initiatives targets and upsells current, active clients, in contrast to other marketing ventures that often only approach cold leads in an attempt to initiate a business relationship.
  6. Customized Offers: Wikipedia notes that transpromotional printing allows for an automated analysis of transactional information to generate relevant marketing copy and images based on “customer demographics, business drivers, and marketing criteria.” In other words, the automated nature of this process allows for cost-effective mass customization of marketing offers.

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