|I saw the future in a play and it wasn't on Broadway. Actually it was four short plays in the Xerox booth at the recent Direct Marketing Association event in Orlando.
The plays, complete with professional actors, dramatically delivered an insight into how one-to-one marketing can work from the customer to the printer. The impresario behind the plays was my old friend Larry Zusman, manager of VI Solutions Marketing at Xerox. Larry, together with Bob Wagner, Xerox's vice president of creative services, gave the audience a very clever and entertaining way of demonstrating one-to-one solutions.
Applause and rave reviews aside, I thought that these plays were a great educational device. One-to-one marketing is going to play a vital role in the future of print as competition from electronic media intensifies. That's because one-to-one marketing really works, in some cases delivering response rates of more than five times traditional direct mail. Yet, it's not well understood by a large number of printers. And for good reason; it's both complicated and a 180-degree departure from traditional print, where large quantities of the same piece have prevailed since Gutenberg.
Seminars Offer Benefits
So with the opportunities quite apparent for those who are willing to learn how all this can work for them, Xerox's plays and seminarsin addition to educational events by other companies like HP and Heidelbergcan be very beneficial to say the least. Add industry groups like GATF and you can see there's a wealth of valuable resources available.
I am not saying anyone can provide you with a complete plan of action. What they can do is give you valuable information to help formulate your plan. Xerox's Innovate '03, offered in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada, was such an example. No question, Xerox wants to sell product, but the seminars really did focus on education. And, most importantly, they also invited their partners to demonstrate their software solutions.
Most printers, by now, understand or should understand digital presses. So the printing part of one-to-one marketing shouldn't be a mystery. What does get complicated is the front-end software that makes it all happen, and how it all comes together. And that's what Xerox's plays and the Innovate '03 tour were all about. Software vendors like XMPie demonstrated how all this works.
For example, XMPie's software is divided into three main modules. The first is called uPlan. XMPie defines this module as the interface for the planning and specification of business and marketing logic. Basically, it's a very well-designed interface where the database person establishes all of the fields that fit the one-to-one marketing plan.
The next module, uCreate, is a plug-in that becomes active in the creative professional's favorite desktop publishing software. The designer develops the layout for the piece and can simply drag-and-drop, review and modify all dynamic or variable elements.
The final module, uProduce, is for production in a variety of formats and media including both print and Web. As of this writing, XMPie has a very good, animated illustration of all of this on their Website. Go to www.xmpie.com and click workflow in the last paragraph.
I used XMPie as an example because their software reduces the complexity of one-to-one marketing. However, they are not alone. The Innovate tour and Xerox's plays showed other solutions from equally adept partners, such as Exstream Software, Pageflex and Xerox's easy-vi solution. And, by all means, investigate other vendors like Datalogics, which also has an animated illustration of the process on its Website.
By now, two questions should come to mind. First, the software appears to be for my customer and not me. Second, not all of this is print, as e-mail will capture a sizable share. This is true. But as one-to-one marketing demonstrates its ability to deliver results it will play an ever-increasing role, and progressive printers are not going to be left standing on the sidelines. So if the first part of the education process is learning what it is and how it works, part two is how to implement and capitalize on it.
Most of the seminars and events are made even more relevant with actual case studies presented by printers who are already actively involved in providing one-to-one marketing solutions to their customers. If you want to read about actual case studies, magazines like this one are a great source. After all, what can be more valuable than hearing it right from the horse's mouth? In addition to the value of case studies from actual printers, help on implentation is directly offered by the major digital press manufacturers.
Your job is to read and keep alert for seminars delivered by companies such as Xerox, Heidelberg, HP and other industry suppliers, as well as various industry organizations. Incidentally, this very magazinebesides delivering a wealth of good articleshas been a sponsor of road shows like Innovate '03. So be sure to look for Xerox's Innovate '04 events next year.
Also be sure to check out the annual PrintMedia conference and exposition scheduled for March 15-17 at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, which brings together thousands of publishing and production professionals. These include production people and print buyers from magazine and book publishers, corporate publishing, in-plant graphics facilities, advertising agencies and design firms.
Another conference and exhibit in 2004 you might want to think about is the Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, FL, April 18-21. The third annual conference for print buyers is produced by Print Buyers Online.com.
Founded by Suzanne Morgan, it targets individual buyers that purchase more than $1 million a year in printing or companies whose print tab exceeds $10 million a year. Think of it as an opportunity to exhibit and mingle with high-powered print buyers and find out what they are thinking. Perhaps you could get them thinking about your company.
OK, so hopefully I convinced you on the value of reading industry magazines and attending pertinent seminars, conferences and trade shows. After all, when you got into this business you didn't think it was a static industry where you could turn off your brain and coast, did you?