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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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: Benefits of Digital On Demand Printing

I was reading NewPage’s This Is Ed #8 Digital Variables tonight, and I saw some important distinctions related to digital printing that I wanted to bring to your attention. First of all, as I’ve noted in prior blogs, print books like New Page’s This Is Ed series are free. They not only showcase paper companies’ best design work, but they also provide a wealth of information on various aspects of commercial printing. I encourage you to contact New Page or any other paper company and get on their mailing list for educational publications like this.

What Is 1:1 Marketing?

Also known also as “one-to-one marketing,” this is a promotional approach made possible by the infinite variability of digital custom printing. Because each marketing piece that leaves a digital press can be different, it behooves the direct marketer to first initiate contact with a prospective client. Then he or she can request information that would make it easier to provide whatever information would be the most useful to the client (whether product information, industry white papers, etc.). As the direct marketer gets feedback from the client, he/she can tailor future direct mail contact to the prospect’s stated interests. In short, one-to-one marketing is a two-way dialogue.

Because a digitally printed promotional piece can vary from client to client, 1:1 marketing can be an effective and economical marketing strategy. In contrast, offset custom printing provides multiple copies of the same product (known as “static” printing). Therefore, offset printing does not allow for the personalization of direct mail packages.

What Is Personalization?

Digital printing lets direct marketers vary any or all aspects of a promotional campaign. This can include adding a prospective client’s name or a particular phone number an interested client can call for more information (or even a web landing page). It can include changing any or all photographs and text in the direct mail piece.

For instance, This Is Ed #8 Digital Variables includes an example of the variable data printing (VDP) of two marketing postcards.

One version of the postcard showcases a bright red car. By its side on this page spread is the other postcard, based on the same design, with a different client’s name and a photo of the very same car painted white. (Presumably, the direct marketer doctored the image in Photoshop to test the prospective clients’ response to various automobile colors while keeping all other “creative” variables constant.)

Digital printing (which would include both electrophotography–or laser printing–and inkjet printing) would allow a marketer to do this kind of test and personalize each and every copy of the postcard press run by varying the potential client’s name. Offset printing would not.

In addition, a hybrid technology known as digital offset printing would not offer the option of personalization. This is important to remember. Presses such as the Heidelberg Quickmaster DI are considered to be digital because they image the custom printing plates directly on press (which speeds up press makereadies). However, once the plates have been imaged, the DI presses print the same brochure, poster, or any other job throughout the press run. Their output is still “static” printing.

How Does Versioning Differ From Personalization?

When I think of personalization, I envision a slightly different printed product being sent to each potential client, even if only the client’s name changes.

In contrast, I think of “versioning” as more of an audience “segmenting” procedure. The direct mail marketer changes various elements of the marketing campaign based on demographic or psychographic characteristics gleaned from the various groups, geographical areas, or other segmenting elements used.

For instance, let’s say a group of 5,000 recipients gets one version of a brochure with certain graphics, or a certain product offering, and another group in another state gets a different version. This would be more of an example of “versioning” rather than just “personalization.”

Why It Costs More But Saves You Money

On the page spread in This Is Ed #8 Digital Variables with the postcards of the red and white (otherwise identical) cars, New Page notes that personalization elicits a significantly higher response rate than static printing. Specifically, “Producers find that direct mail campaigns utilizing VDP techniques see up to 15 to 30 times the average response than conventional direct mail campaigns.”

Digital printing, on a piece by piece basis, will usually cost more than a comparable offset printing press run (unless you’re comparing a very short digital printing run to a very short offset printing run). Therefore, it is important to check the address lists and make sure you’re sending the direct mail to the current, correct address for the specific prospects you have identified.

In a case like this, you can pay more to produce fewer personalized marketing pieces than you would pay for a comparable offset printed run, but since personalized direct mail has a much higher response rate than offset, the price you will pay per response will be lower.

For example, if you send out 5,000 copies of a static printed offset piece, and you get a 3 percent response rate (or less), your cost per piece will be the total printing cost divided by the entire press run, and you will only have received a 3 percent response rate.

In contrast, let’s say you have researched your prospects very carefully and are targeting only 2,000 individuals. If your response rate is 15 to 30 times higher than that of an offset printed, static marketing piece, your total number of responses will be much higher as well. Therefore, the cost you will pay to generate each response (as defined by the NewPage booklet as “the total cost of the project [divided] by the number of sales, leads or contacts that the campaign generates”) will drop.

In short, your targeted marketing initiative will be much more efficient.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: Benefits of Digital On Demand Printing”

  1. The offset printing services are vital in conferring a brand reputatuion to the business. The printers are used for the manufacture of flyers, logos, business cards within a quick response of time. Offset Printing Services, Offset Printers In India.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I would agree. I do, however, think that digital printers (inkjet and electrophotography) are becoming increasingly important in raising brand awareness of their clients’ businesses as well.


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