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Alf's Articles

Strip Waste from Your Collaterals Spending

by Alf Nucifora

When it comes to printed marketing materials (collaterals), reducing cost is always a virtue. So too, is getting a better result from what you print. If there is one word that best epitomizes the collaterals world, it's "waste". In large organizations, with a distributed sales force that markets through wholesalers, dealers, resellers, franchisees, etc., there is the additional problem of providing customization and relevance of information to the buyer's or prospect's needs.

So long, printing press!

In this unruly age, where technology redefines our business processes by the hour, it should come as no surprise that the traditional printed sales page is heading in the same direction as the horse and buggy. What's fast appearing on the radar screen is digital printing and web-enabled virtual inventory sometimes referred to as Digital Collateral Management (DCM).These emerging technologies are allowing marketers to speak directly to customers and prospects, delivering both a corporate and local market point-of-view. This means that the brochure (which is customized for each specific customer) doesn't get printed until the sales rep is ready to hand it to that customer.

What is DCM?

In its most productive state, DCM is a web-based application that replicates the traditional collaterals development process. The creative process, the actual design of the material, remains the same. For instance, a Quark document incorporating all of the required corporate and brand elements/mandates, photography and artwork, copy, legal disclaimers, etc., is prepared. However, areas are reserved for personalization at the local level by sales reps, dealers, distributors…anybody who uses the materials as an information or sales aid. Corporate marketing strategy, built into the web-based software, determines which users are permitted what degree of personalization and content flexibility. This could apply to photos and copy, or simply dealer name and address. Since it operates off of internet-based software, there is no exponential charge for increased use, unlike traditional printing where the cost increases with the size of the print run. The up-front cost is in developing the software that drives the DCM process and makes it accessible to its users in a user-friendly fashion via web access.

The most common users of DCM today are printers, fearful of a declining market for traditional printing, who are wisely offering the service to their customers. For the marketer, DCM capability can be acquired as a service through a provider/vendor such as a printer or from suppliers of software technology such as JG Sullivan Interactive (www.jgsullivan.com), Digital Marketing (www.dmarketing.com), and Progressive Impressions International (www.whateverittakes.com). Set-up fees are charged to the marketer to get the system up and running and for initial programming development. There can also be additional fees for monthly hosting (management of the digital assets e.g., the collateral itself, and maintenance, e.g. document storage. The client then forwards the file to a printer of choice for output (Kinko's for example). More sophisticated marketers bring the technology in-house where they can print and distribute at will.

Why is it getting rave reviews?

DCM is now proven technology. It can personalize the message to the recipient and then email that message, print it on a desktop printer, or upload it for professional digital printing and finishing. It turns a generic brochure into a customized piece conveying a specific proposal; a P-O-S sign becomes a message that mirrors the needs of the local store or trading area; a wasteful 24-page full-product catalog converts into a slimmed-down mini-version with only the products that the recipient is interested in buying.

DCM has limitless opportunity and its application is limited only by one's marketing imagination. In addition to product brochures, it can be applied to the simple sales letter, trade show materials tailored to the specific show (signs and literature), manuals, proposals, and even benefits packages and other internal communications that incorporate common copy blocks or pieces that are subsequently assembled to create a unique and recipient-specific package.

Research also shows that when prospects read something that is relevant to their specific situation or need, they are much more likely to act upon the information. That's why we see such low response rates in tradional direct mail which primarily carries a generic message. In fact, personalizing the message with database or CRM intelligence generates a five-fold response rate. Add a specific offer to the customized message and the response rate goes up nearly ten-fold. Says Gordy Cain, President of PrintFx, (www.printfx.us) an Atlanta-based firm specializing in transitioning companies into the DCM space, "Personalizing a brochure and allowing it to speak to the recipient's specific interests, is like adding a handshake and a head-lock to your marketing pieces." Case in point, a dealer responding to a home-related sales inquiry, visits the homeowner, photographs the house with a digital camera and then customizes a brochure with that photography. The prospect gets a PDF proposal emailed with his/her house on the front cover (or printed out and mailed).

The financial folks love DCM. Because of "just-in-time delivery," it eliminates wasteful inventory handling costs, out-dated material spoilage, expensive press-runs of "mass appeal" marketing material, and the internal cost of administering that traditional distributed print system. Notes Cain, "statistics show that up to thirty-six percent of printed material never makes it into the customer's hands because of obsolescence, over-printing or late distribution". DCM eradicates that problem. In the world of direct mail, it also saves on postage by allowing targeted mailing, rather than inefficient mass-mailing blasts and further eliminates postage costs via email distribution. Bottom line, companies that are turning to DCM are reporting savings of up to seventy-five percent when compared to the cost associated with traditional printing, warehousing and distribution.

And, let's not forget accountability. Because DCM is primarily a web-based application, measurability is a natural bi-product of its use. Every key stroke of every user can be captured. Notes Brett Knobloch, EVP of JG Sullivan Interactive, a supplier of software technology to the DCM marketing, "Web-to-print is much more accountable. Web-based programs can tell the client what content is viewed, when and by whom, all in real time."

For the icing on the cake, there is also the issue of speed. Knobloch provides as an example, "One of our large system users with hundreds of templates available for its dealers around the world. After the tragic events of 9/11, we got a call the next day asking us to remove the industry term 'disaster recovery' from all templates ASAP. We removed it in 20 minutes, from templates across the system, for less than $100."

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