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Bills & thrills

Transaction documents include commercial invoices, credit card bills, 401(k) summaries, loan payment notices and checking account statements. When envelopes bearing transaction documents arrive in the mail, the urgency of what's inside them all but guarantees opening, perusal and response.

Promotional documents containing sales and advertising messages arrive in the mail, too, but to a very different reception. They don't necessarily get opened and acted upon.

Marketers know that stuffing a transaction document's envelope with a free-standing, ride-hitching promotional document doesn't do much to improve the latter's chances of being read. But what if the two elements could be merged in the same printed piece, so there'd be no looking at the transaction without taking in the promotion as well? Better yet, what if the promotional part consisted of text and graphics tailored to the recipient's unique characteristics with all of the response-triggering power that digital variable-data printing can provide?

The result would be a powerfully hybridized mailer called a transpromotional or “transpromo” document — a print vehicle that can deliver the quantifiable ROI that today's marketers demand.

A conference of its own

The inaugural “TransPromo Summit” was held in New York City on August 22 and 23, 2007. Organized by the print market research firm InfoTrends (Weymouth, MA) (www.infotrends.com), the vendor-sponsored symposium dealt chiefly with the desirability of transpromo documents from the perspective of their principal end-users: marketing executives seeking new ways to reach customers by leveraging data gained in ongoing relationships with them. Technical explanations and economic details were in shorter supply because of the highly competitive nature of the new field and many participants' close-to-the-vest policy when it came to discussing results and rewards.

The audience represented a cross-section of an emerging market segment: nearly 300 attendees divided evenly among printers of transpromo documents, end-users of these documents, and vendors of hardware and software for producing them. The composition and the quality of the group led one of the speakers, Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett, to exclaim, “The [entire] transpromo industry is probably right here in this room.” In 18 sessions over two days, these pioneers heard from 28 speakers and panelists in parallel technology and marketing/business tracks. Tabletop exhibits by sponsoring vendors complemented the presentation agenda (see www.transpromosummit.com).

In her keynote, InfoTrends director Barb Pellow cited a U.S. Postal Service study that found consumers receive about nine pieces of direct mail per week, plus an average of 12 transaction documents per month. The transaction pieces are attention-getters: 95 percent of them are opened and read, and the average consumer spends from one to three minutes reading them.

Thus, said Pellow, although consumers are getting better at filtering the 3,000 advertising messages of all kinds aimed at them in any given day, they remain receptive to their transactional mail — a welcome that can carry over to any personalized promotional content these documents might contain.

Pounce on that second ounce

Pellow and several other speakers noted that a recent change in postal rates has given an economic boost to delivering transpromo material via high-volume, First Class mail. That change is a new discount on the second ounce of a two-ounce, First Class letter — a reduction that encourages the production of transpromo documents that can take advantage of the cheaper ride at the revised rate.

The InfoTrends market projection for transpromo documents predicts the production of 21.72 billion full-color digital impressions by 2010. This represents a whopping 91 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over four years. Pellow credited “a perfect storm” of opportunity encompassing consumer preferences, marketing objectives, postal regulations and technological capability.

Most speakers observed that consumers already have “opted in” to transpromo communication because of their obligation to open envelopes that contain items like credit card statements. Dennis McClure, invoice marketing manager for Ford Motor Credit Co. (FMCC), said FMCC's personalized transpromo payment notices stand out as a “must open/must read” form of communication, with customers, calling them, “The only piece of mail they are willing to open.” He also characterized transpromo documents as “monthly appointments” with customers that should be prepared as carefully as any other kind of sales call.

FMCC tries to leverage this quality time by making sure each transpromo document contains “a unique value proposition that's automotive-related.” The proposition, McClure noted, doesn't necessarily have to be a product promotion; it could just be a friendly 1:1 message aimed at leaving the customer with a good feeling about the relationship.

According to Pat McGrew, a transpromo evangelist for Eastman Kodak Co., consumers have been disillusioned by the indifferent quality and weak marketing appeal that characterize most of the business-to-consumer messages they receive in the mail. That disillusionment is part of what causes the “massive turnover” of customers most businesses experience as they send out bills that serve merely as “a demand for money.”

Rather than cramming data onto a piece of paper, McGrew suggested marketers open up the real estate of their transaction documents with a redesign that includes color and well-targeted promotional information. Beyond the layout and the printing, an effective transpromotional campaign requires data analysis, offer development, metrics, fulfillment, response analysis and offer refinement.

Coupons for one (multiplied by 8 million)

Oniya Shapira (Asseret, Israel), a direct-mail house, has just started a program to produce 8 million monthly credit card statements combining billing information with high-value, personalized promotional offers.

Ravit Spiegel, Oniya Shapira's vice president of marketing, said that the combined firepower of six HP Indigo w3250 digital web presses had raised the company's transpromo printing capabilities from imprinting simple black-and-white text over single-page offset shells to producing three-page documents with variable data in high-quality color. Within the statements, which will be sent to Israeli holders of Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and retail credit cards, one page will consist entirely of coupons printed according to the individual recipient's buying preferences and purchasing history.

Ron Ausemus, a marketing executive with American Home Mortgage (AHM), said his company is “transitioning” to transpromo via digital imprinting over offset shells with the help of printing and data management services from RR Donnelley. AHM sells space on its statements to insurance companies and other third-party partners who benefit, Ausemus said, from the affinity with AHM customers that the joint document provides. He noted that even the addition of simple graphics to a billing mailer could significantly increase the response to whatever its promotional component is offering.

Donnelley was prominent at the summit both as an exhibitor and as a transpromo advocate in the conference sessions. Lynne Andrews, variable color market manager for the company's Business Communication Services division (formerly Moore Wallace, acquired by Donnelley in 2004), took part in a discussion of print quality expectations in transpromo production. Her division uses Océ, Xerox, and proprietary systems to produce four-color duplex transpromo documents at speeds up to 67,000 8 ½ x 11-inch sph for mortgage, insurance and telecommunications customers.

Andrews observed that while fully variable four-color printing is the best way to boost readability and response in a transpromo document, it isn't always crucial — highlight color and black-and-white also can do the job, albeit at correspondingly lower rates of return.

Opportunity for interaction

First Data Corp.'s Glen Wordekemper counseled that no matter what tier the customer occupies, a monthly statement often is the only interaction a company will have with that valued individual. First Data is in the mass-interaction business as the producer, last year, of more than 2 billion transaction documents and 205 million credit cards.

The company, which has been merging marketing content with billing data since the early 1990s, currently is engaged in variable-data transpromo projects that Wordekemper declined to describe in detail. He said, however, that successful customer experiences have encouraged First Data to invest heavily in hardware and software for further success in the transpromo field.

“If you had an opportunity to visit with each of your customers every month, what would you say?” Wordekemper asked, adding that each statement can be turned into “a strategic advantage” by using new techniques for blending personalized promotional messages with transactional content in the same document. The key to effective transpromo communication, he said, is to correctly define the offer and the incentive each customer will receive. He also recommended adding barcodes to the response portion of transpromo documents to aid in response measurement and analysis.

Patrick Henry is the director of Liberty or Death Communications. Contact him via www.libordeath.com.

A printer goes transpromo

Fenske Media Corp. (Rapid City, SD) was founded as a commercial litho printer 50 years ago. Today, in controller Tom Fenske's words, the company is “a database firm that prints.” Fenske Media uses HP Indigo, Kodak Versamark, and Xeikon digital equipment to produce transpromotional documents including variable bank statements with marketing content; personalized membership cards integrated into solicitation mailings; and personalized, peel-away magnet stickers.

“Every week, we have three or four tests going on for our customers [in transpromo projects],” Fenske said.

And the PIXI goes to…

Xerox Corp. (Rochester, NY) announced the winners of its 2007 Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging (PIXI) awards. Participants could submit their work in nine categories, including promotional/transaction.

CTT-Cesa won first place with a statement project produced for Banco Cetelem. Second place honors went to a “Putnam Annual Checkup,” a booklet featuring variable information about the recipient's 401(k) plan. Communications Data Services printed the piece — which featured 200 customized fields of information — on an iGen3.

TeleMail of Spain claimed third place with “Credit/Debit Card Statements” a full-color statement with personalized information, including member addresses, credit/debit card activity, customer loyalty points and images created for Santander Consumer Finance. The statements were printed on the iGen3 press and the Xerox DocuColor 8000. For the complete list of winners, see www.xerox.com.

Vendors' views

Some of the sponsoring vendors had their say in a panel discussion on state-of-the-art transpromo technology.

Mike Salfity, vice president of Xerox's Workflow business unit, said that although transpromo production is not yet as “easy and seamless” as it could be, rising demand will lead to new solutions for increased efficiency.

Kodak's Jeffrey Hayzlett said transpromo practitioners must help their customers understand that personalized marketing with a measurable result changes the nature of the business “from a cost-per-page model to a cost-per-response model.”

According to Guy Broadhurst, vice president for product marketing in Océ's commercial printing division, the wrong question to ask in any transpromo project is, “Who owns the document?” He said marketing, production and MIS must never be at loggerheads or forget that the ultimate objective always is to promote the sender's brand.

In the view of Alon Bar-Shany, vice president and general manager of HP's Indigo division, transpromo printing is “a natural extension” of a general shift from analog to digital production — a shift that promises to generate significantly higher profits than are possible with conventional methods.

Chris Reid, global solutions manager for InfoPrint Solutions Co. (a joint venture of Ricoh and IBM), acknowledged that one reason why transpromo printing isn't growing even faster is the complexity of analyzing the data associated with it. Another is the scarcity of information about ROI, which he said has left some advocates struggling to come up with benchmarks that will convince executive management of transpromo's value.

Transpromo @ Graph Expo

All-in-one mailer options for HP presses

GPA (Chicago) unveiled several Ultra Digital preconverted products for HP Indigo presses, including a self-mailer and a No. 10 envelope. The self-mailer is produced on an 80-lb. white matte text in 12 x 18-inch sheets. Thanks to cohesive glue preapplied during GPA's manufacturing process, offline perfing, gluing and tabbing are eliminated. Once printed, the sheet is trimmed, folded and pressure sealed on a cutter or folder to create a self mailer. The preconverted No. 10 envelope offers two envelopes per sheet. Other preconverted products include integrated ID cards and coupon mailers.

See www.labelexperts.com.

Smart high-speed inserting system

Bowe Bell + Howell (Durham, NC) showcased its Turbo Premium high-speed inserting system. Turbo Premium offeres automated changeover and can process dual-input streams at cycle speeds up to 22,000 envelopes per hour. The inserter intelligently assembles and folds each document set based on the programming of the printed barcode read or database file lookup, then selectively adds enclosures such as business reply offers or marketing offers to each set, and inserts the complete group into an envelope for mailing.

See www.bowebellhowell.com.

Ricoh/IBM JV launches end-to-end AFP color

InfoPrint Solutions Co. (Boulder, CO), an IBM and Ricoh joint venture, announced InfoPrint Color Solution, reportedly the first open-standards-based, end-to-end AFP color solution for transaction and direct mail printers. Citing IBM's work with the AFP Consortium (AFPC), Chris Reid, global solutions manager said, “Now we're delivering those tools. [This platform] is fully open to enable consistent colors on different printer technologies, now and in the future.”

Key features include an AFP controller and AFPC support for the InfoPrint 5000 and 4100 series. AFPC color management in the InfoPrint server technology provides operators with built-in color expertise. An InfoPrint developer program will ensure future AFP compatibility across multiple vendors.

See www.infoprint.com.

Try a little template-ness

According to Xerox (Rochester, NY) almost any business that sends out regular statements, bills or other transactional documents can take advantage of transpromo printing. At Graph Expo, the vendor showcased predesigned and tested templates that support sales and marketing efforts. The templates can be integrated with personalized URLs. Datastreams such as LCDS, Metacode, IPDS, PostScript, PDF and others can be used to create full-color, spot-color or monochrome documents.

See www.xerox.com.

RISO's new RIP

RISO (Danvers, MA) has launched its ComColor Express RIP said to enhance productivity, output quality and range of applications for its HC5500 printer. The ComColor Express RIP is PPML compatible, making the HC5500 appropriate for high-end variable data, transactional or transpromotional printing applications.

See www.us.riso.com.

Creating envelopes and documents inline

MegaSpirea's (Norwalk, CT) Mailliner 100 provides “dynamic envelope creation” for users of high-speed, web-fed digital presses. The Mailliner 100 produces color letters, which are folded and inserted into “real” windowless envelopes with the recipient's name and address printed directly on the envelope. Envelopes are printed inline with the documents followed by dynamic envelope die-cutting, collecting, and folding of up to seven pages into a single envelope.

See www.megaspirea.com.

New growth opportunities

Pitney Bowes' (Stamford, CT) vice president of marketing, John Schloff, gave a presentation on “Closing the Transpromo Gap.” The vendor's Graph Expo display targeted transaction and service bureaus as well as direct mail, commercial printers, digital service providers and letter shops. On the commercial print side, the company can help printers retain and grow existing customers as well as acquire new ones.

The FlowMaster RS Flex inserting system processes up to 16,000 mail pieces per hour; flats up to 12,000 mail pieces per hour. Quick-change modular rotary and friction feeders handle a wide range of materials. The vendor's FMI high-capacity cut sheet feeder lets users step up to higher margin, intelligent applications. In addition to replacing older swing-arm inserters, users gain statement processing capabilities.

Pitney Bowes' APS Edge, a servo-powered inserter that can handle up to 22,000 mail pieces per hour, ran transpromo applications throughout the show.

See www.pb.com.

Nipson gets colorful

Nipson debuted the VaryPress spot color system (SCS). Users can add from one to four spot colors. A high-speed drop-on-demand inkjet head array is mounted on a specially designed web transport mechanism to deliver spot color printing of fixed or variable data anywhere on an 18.45-inch-wide print area on a web up to 20.5-inch-wide. A second array can be mounted on the unit to add an additional color. Up to two SCS units can be installed inline with the VaryPress 200 or 400, enabling the addition of up to four spot colors to a job. Both simplex (one-sided) and duplex (two-sided) printing can be accommodated.

VaryPress offers 600 × 600 dpi and speed up to 150 meters/minute (500 ft./min.). The Nipson print control system manages the imaging and document handling functions, ensuring full compatibility with AFP or IPDS color data, and proper synchronization and registration between black and spot color printing. Any available Pantone ink color can be utilized.

See www.nipson.com.

Software solutions plus PURL options

GMC Software Technology (Ontario, Canada), showcased its PrintNet software suite. PrintNet Designer targets users producing personalized communications for transactional, promotional, transpromo and on-demand applications. Capabilities include variable-data document design and layout, graphical workflow, advanced color management, content collaboration, approval and proofing, version control, and message management. Web-based PrintNet Interactive creates personalized one-to-one documents online using templates.

PrintNet Transform is used to convert, repurpose and drive more value from legacy applications and print streams without reprogramming.

Following Graph Expo, GMC announced a partnership with MindFireInc (www.mindfireinc.com) that will streamline personalized marketing and transpromotional campaigns using personalized URLs and landing pages for better conversion of prospects, and detailed response profiling and in-depth tracking of campaign results.

See www.gmc.net.

Speedy, high-res inkjet printing

Screen (USA) (Rolling Meadows) Truepress Jet520 features a printing width of 5.9 inches to 20 inches and paper width of 6.4 inches to 20.4 inches. Resolution is 720 × 720 dpi or 720 dpi × 360 dpi. Rated speed is 209.9 feet per minute, said to be the equivalent of 50,000 impressions per hour. The print speed is automatically adjusted according to how fast data is being processed.

A simplex Truepress Jet520 printing system can switch between printing full- and half-web. Combining two printing units enables the press to print on both sides of the paper.

The Truepress Jet520 was configured as a single-engine duplex running as a half-web.

Offering flexible page layouts and easy desktop publishing operation, Screen's Varystudio software streamlines transactional printing, direct mail and one-to-one marketing as well as manuals, financial reports, personalized materials for education and short-run local newspapers.

See www.screenusa.com.

Fast & flexible

Océ (Boca Raton, FL) showcased the speed and flexibility of its flagship VarioStream 9000. The VarioStream 9710 can produce black-and-white print volumes at 1,515 ipm with a duty cycle of 43 million impressions per month. It can be field-upgraded with Océ CustomTone custom toner for two or three-color printing. The Océ VarioStream 9710 system was shown printing 6 × 9-inch copies of Jane Austin's “Sense and Sensibility” as well as “Bank4Life,” a black-and-white transpromo application for the financial services industry.

The VarioStream 7650cx demo included 2/1 black and orange mileage statements with targeted messages and coupons, demonstrating streamlined printing of transpromo jobs.

The vendor also debuted Océ ColorStream10000, a continuous feed, full-color digital press. Rated at 172 images per minute (ipm) it can produce more than five million full-color, letter-size images a month.

See www.oceusa.com.

Web vision

Lasermax Roll Systems Web Vision digital quality assurance system uses high-resolution cameras to scan inline the full width of digitally printed bills, statements and documents to ensure data integrity and image quality. The vendor also showed its RS Fanfold HS system for producing vertical stacks of fanfolded statements for long printer and inserter runs.

See www.lasermaxroll.com

The big 3

While transpromo has been generating a lot of buzz, at least three potential hurdles must be addressed:

  • Lack of awareness among marketers, IT managers and senior executives.

  • Existing documents need to be redesigned to incorporate marketing offers.

  • Marketing and IT databases need to be coordinated for effective transpromo document production.

Source: Xerox Corp.

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