CSG Direct Mail app US Mail Tracking at PCC

The Northern Nevada Postal Customer Council Direct Mail vendor fair took place last Friday, the 19th of November; at the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno Nevada.

This was Reno’s first direct mail vendor fair in a very long time as the new PCC board is revamping the local chapter.  The PCC used to be held in the state capital of Carson City but has since moved to Reno since it is the SCF and the main BMEU for the region.

Direct Mail Booth

CSG Direct was there (of course) to show off lots of our current technologies and direct mailing innovations. We brought samples of our variable data personalized printing, dimensional or textured printing, personalized 2d barcodes, Intelligent Mail Barcodes and of course our direct mail tracking application CSG DIRECT MAIL.

We had hoped to bring samples of our newest variable personalized digital mapping for direct mail printing but they were not ready in time, so we’ll save those for another day. We didn’t really need the variable maps though, since our direct mail application on the iPad stole the show.

We brought two iPads so we could show many as many people as possible as the crowds gathered around our booth. Michael Hemphill jokingly declared, “We come from the future” as he proudly demonstrated his newest US Mail Tracking innovations.

Direct Mail Printing: Our 5th Digital Printing Press

Direct Mail Printing: Our 5th Digital Printing Press is here, installed and running.
Here is our new Kodak 2500 VP. (Variable Printing)

Direct Mail Printing

We are a large direct mail printing company and one of Nevadas largest direct marketing companies.

It’s very interesting to have Canon, Xerox and now Kodak presses running side by side. Each digital press has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  We bought the Kodak because it can print in 5 colors and the others cannot.  Not that anyone is asking for the 5th color but we like to add unique services that other people cannot offer.

“Dimensional Printing” is the process of printing the 5th color without blending it in with the other colors. With Dimensional printing the 5th color is CLEAR. The idea is to lay down very precise spot coloring of clear to make for a raised feel.  The raised feel is the dimensional (as in 3D) feel.  It is pretty cool.

The growth of our digital printing department has been nothing short of historical.  I think we owe it all to printers that decided to get into mail (because they thought it was easy) and then lost customers due to screwing up major projects.

With so much print being direct mail oriented our customers find great comfort in have us (being in direct mail since birth) handling the print too.  In the age of print being commoditized, this makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, you really should get a print quote from us, digital is the bomb on price, efficiency and speed; and we have 5 presses. The direct line is 800-881-2150 x12 or you can get a direct mail or print quote online.

Update: We have grown to 9 Digital Presses

What Variable Data Printing Is NOT

Variable data printing can be one of the most powerful mediums of our time. However, most people who sell this to their clients are not even really doing variable printing. Eighty percent of all variable print is nothing more than mail-merge and fancy fonts. If I get another direct mail offer with my name spelled in sea shells on a beach I am just going to go insane!

“OK, Great, you have a sea shell font – wow – thanks!”. What if I’m scared of the ocean? What if I am allergic to seafood of any kind? Are you selling me something to do with a beach or shells?

[First Name] mail-merge is kindergarten at best. The tiny increase in response (if any) will rarely justify the extra expense for this kind of fluff. Plus, you have to worry so much about all the negative associations with an unusual, unrelated approach to selling your goods and services.  What’s worse, I have seen entire campaigns switch themes away from a companies core brand just to include these fonts.  If you are a medical supply company you shouldn’t sell yourself with a beach theme just because it looks cool to you.  Remember, it should be relative.

Unfortunately the real professionals of variable printing, the database teams in direct mail, have been inundated with printers that are being convinced to buy hundred thousand dollar specialty packages like seashell fonts and PURLs.  So, in many ways, this is now the industry standard. To the real database marketing professionals this is very disheartening.  However, use this to your advantage!  We’ll show you personalization that makes sense, creates additional results and is truly tied around the desires of your customers and prospects.

If you don’t really know that much about your customers we can append over 100 fields of additional consumer data about them so you know if they like dogs or cats, drive Ford or Chevy, etc. When this is done by real variable data teams in direct mail it will still cost less than all those printers because we do it every day without the baggage of all that crazy software they bought.

At CSG Direct, we have over two decades experience in real variable data: variable data printing, variable data coding, randomization, variable data email, websites, and more. Our entire site is an example of variable data, but you wouldn’t know that unless I told you. The images, alts, metas, content, embeds, etc. are all database driven variable content management.  All of these tools are built right here at CSG Direct!

CSG Direct lives and breathes variable data so you get better results with REAL personalization!

Database Marketing Versus Personalized Mail

At first glance database marketing could be seen as either a very vague expression or a very specific one.  Obviously in direct mail we are always using databases in our marketing, but that does not really identify which of the above we provide in specific mailings.

We define the difference simply based on volume and functions used due to the volume. For example, even thought it is rudimentary at best; in order for a mailpiece to be considered personalized there is at least one area where you refer to the person you are addressing by name. With database marketing we may not specifically call the person by name, but we will make sure the offer presented will likely appeal to the recipient based on mining, tiers and historical data.

So in many ways both of these can be considered “personalization”. However, when the audience gets large enough, we may have to resort to non-personalized printing in order to meet a large scale budget. This eliminates marketing directly to the person, and replaces it with marketing to a segment of people or interests. A quick example would be 20,000 pieces vs. 250,000 pieces. We can easily digital variable print (aka Variable Data Printing) anything from 500 to 35,000 pieces or more and keep costs reasonable and response rates elevated. But at 100,000 pieces it becomes much easier to reduce costs dramatically by breaking down the project into tiers and eliminating variables like “Hello, John” from the copy.

At 250,000 pieces we will have strategically separated the data into many tiers, some of which stay digital to maximize personalization and postage. The other versions are printed on a traditional press to maximize price efficiency and avoid paying the per-click charges that digital presses require. This is database marketing – the management of a campaign to optimize costs and response as well as postage cost and delivery balancing.  This is one of the specialized services we are known for, as well as the actual segmenting and variable coding of the project.  Much of this is accomplished with our proprietary programs to maximize flexibility.

You don’t get this done at a printer, this is direct mail and database marketing at its core and belongs with database marketing professionals so you get real results, real savings and a 360 degree understanding of the balance of all the above.  This is where CSG Direct has earned much of our reputation!

Problem with PURLS in Variable Data Printing

I don’t think there is a compelling enough reason to do personalized URLS. We are a variable data printing company and database marketers ourselves. We find PURLS are pushed by the digital press manufacturers as something expensive to sell that the buyer can use to generate business. It’s expensive to buy!

There tend to be a few quick uses for it and then PURLS lose their glamour. The primary use is to get data from a client. Wow, it’s got my name in it! But the fantasy wears off after the first time; especially when they find out that it’s a fact-gathering expedition or survey only.

(Which is great once, but you cannot do monthly surveys without a reason.)

There are just so few reasons to use PURLS.
We focus more on personalization for increased appeal and response. There are many (much more secure) ways to get a client to interact online without PURLS.

In short, expensive gimmick, few uses for the same customer, cool only on the first day it rolled out.

I (We) have been building variable data websites since 1995 to work with direct mail campaigns. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective and you can do it quickly with simple landing pages.

By the way, did I mention that we invented a way to track direct mail through the normally hidden mailstream? When we do a mailing you can track the production of your piece online (since 1999) and also track when it is delivered to the US Postal Service.  We also let you track each piece on its journey to its end delivery post office.

There are so many more things you can do on the cheap than to rely on PURLS.

Just my take, but then again I have been doing variable data printing and database programming for over 20 years in direct mail. Not meant as plug – just a reference of experience.

If you need a variable data printing quote just let me know. It’s one of the things we are famous for.