Don’t Lose VDP Business to an Outside Printer
Variable data printing has been around a while, but at some organizations it still hasn’t caught on. Though IPI research shows 72% of in-plants provide VDP, nearly half (47%) say customers don’t seem interested in it and prefer static printing; 28% say poor database management has hampered their efforts to provide VDP.
Increasingly, though, organizations are outsourcing the management of this data to customer relationship management (CRM) experts. These companies compile and analyze customer data, using it to attract and communicate better with customers.
In the higher-ed world, savvy Admissions directors have learned targeted recruitment materials yield better results, so they are using CRM companies to manage their data and send out digital communications, like texts, emails and pURLs, to prospective students.
As we all know, though, this isn’t enough; printed pieces are what seal the deal, so CRM companies are partnering with commercial printers and using the same data to print targeted recruitment materials. They see a lucrative market here. Unfortunately, they are swiping this print business right from in-plants.
Sometimes this happens regardless of the in-plant’s VDP proficiency, perhaps due to an unfavorable relationship with Admissions. But many times the in-plant just doesn’t have the VDP expertise to handle this complex work.
University in-plants that provide targeted recruitment materials are saving huge amounts of money — savings that can be invested in additional recruitment efforts. Missouri State University Printing and Postal Services saved its school more than $250,000 over the past three years, according to its Admissions department, by printing recruitment material in-house instead of having the school’s CRM company provide the printing.
This has not come easy, acknowledges Manager Mark McCarty. The learning curve was steep and long. Success has come because of the tight working relationship the in-plant has with Enrollment Management and Editorial and Design Services.
One of the most complex VDP pieces printed by the in-plant is a 32-page viewbook, which includes 11 pages of variable data and a total of 88 individual variables, both text and photos. “It takes a while to render that file,” McCarty reports.
Compiling and printing those books is a time-consuming effort. The in-plant receives data files from Admissions, sets up the variable data fields and merges them with the art files created by Editorial and Design Services. The shop printed 8,000 viewbooks in the first run, and 10,000 in the second.
McCarty notes that the savings the in-plant was able to provide was not just in printing costs, but also from handling the variable data, which comes at a premium when done by a CRM company. Because the in-plant proved its proficiency with VDP and saved the university so much money, it has gotten additional VDP work from the alumni association and the university foundation. The in-plant’s VDP jobs have nearly tripled in three years, going from 300,000 pieces a year in 2017 to 891,000 pieces in 2019.
Because of its involvement in these strategic enrollment management projects, which yielded an increase in Web traffic, Printing and Postal Services has been recognized by the university’s Board of Governors for its contribution to recruitment. This is a great position for any in-plant to be in — but it’s only possible if you are prepared to get involved in your university’s targeted recruitment campaigns.
McCarty advises in-plants to train their designers and prepress operators extensively in VDP, so they can handle the merging of data, images, charts and other elements. Be prepared to handle this work because it’s coming. All colleges and universities are stepping up their recruiting due to the fear of declining enrollment. Don’t get shut out of this print work by an outside CRM company that has its eye on this work.