Marketing Firm Turns Gutenberg On His Head

April 10, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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KALAMAZOO — In his day, Johannes Gutenberg's triumph was inventing a way to print a million copies, every one the same.

Scope 1 claims to have turned Gutenberg on his head by inventing a way to print a million copies, every one personalized.

Scope 1, a Kalamazoo-based brand and a major service division of Superior Business Solutions, calls itself a one-to-one marketing firm that helps clients make personal customer contact while virtually eliminating the costly obsolescence of outdated marketing and communications material.

"We put the customer in total creative control and allow them to target each customer or segments of their customer base with each piece of marketing information," said Bill English, president of Scope 1 and Superior Business Solutions. "It also allows them to use it in any form: Some use it as direct mail and some use it as a single mailing to one customer."

The problem, English said, is that many companies are tired of throwing the dart at the bull's-eye blindfolded, so to speak. He said the solution is to drive marketing efforts towards personalized and customized communication. By using one-to-one marketing approaches,  English said, companies are far more likely to hit the bull's eye for sales.

English based that claim on a survey of print users by CAP Ventures, which indicated personalization increases response rates by as much as 36 percent and improves overall profit/revenue by as much as 32 percent.

English explained that Scope 1 functions as an integrator, and that with database information, companies can personalize and tailor each customer communication based on age, education, income, family status and previous purchases.

An example of this approach, he said, would be for an auto dealer to send information about minivans to consumers with several children, while mailing luxury car information to consumers with above-average income. With variable data printing, he said, this customization happens automatically on the same print run.

Another example concerns how admissions departments recruit students. "Some universities can target students with certain academic programs, or sports activities, or extracurricular activities, depending on what they are interested in," English stated. "Again, it's all in the demographic and survey information the institution has gathered."

He regards personalized marketing as a win-win situation for marketers and consumers. He said companies are able to offer each customer a product or service which that particular customer is most likely to want. And such a contact dramatically increases the odds of making a sale. Consumers, in turn, receive only information that is tailored to their needs, and as a result they become more loyal to the marketing company or its brand.

"We can print as few as one document specifically for a customer, and as many as a million," English noted.

He said Scope 1 also has the ability to do a little magic by making something appear more than it is.

"There are times when a customer has a four-color piece that they want individually customized. Now to do that and do each one individually would be very expensive," English said.

"The magic is that we can lay out the color on the page and print all of the pages. Then we take the individually printed black ink and overlay it onto the color. A piece that appears to have been printed solely on its own has really been completed then in a two-step process making it much more cost-effective."

English said the technique has been very popular with co-branding firms such as insurance providers and multi-brand retailers. He said agencies offering multiple brands of insurance want to place their own name on literature regarding specific insurance products, and a process such as the one-to-one marketing strategy would be ideal for that.

English added that Scope 1 is also currently dealing with a manufacturer that distributes various brands of spas and wants its name on materials regarding those brands, and to be able to direct those materials to certain customers.

He said as-needed printing reduces or eliminates warehousing and lead-time requirements. It also eliminates the major cost of printing, storing and disposing of excess printed materials. According to English, traditional printing typically generates 12 percent to 26 percent waste, a big cost that is part of the customer's bill.

He explained that print-on-demand technology, by contrast, would enable a software company to print an exact number of catalogues that list only software compatible with the targeted customers' computer operating systems. He said offerings could be further narrowed based on the customer's past purchases to categories like "educational" or "games."

English said that thanks to e-mail and high-speed delivery by Fed-Ex and UPS, print-on-demand also is coming into its own.

Through input from a database or Web-enabled input page, Scope 1 can automatically generate customized documents to be immediately delivered by e-mail, printed in black and white for fax delivery or printed in full color.

An example English cited was of Ohio Financial Services, in business for 92 years, and now putting one-to-one and print-on-demand marketing strategy into place.

Formerly, English explained, if independent agents wanted to do a mailing to prospective customers, they first had to request mailers from the company's main office. The in-house printing shop was not always prepared for the demand.

Because of that, agents often didn't receive requested materials until several weeks after placing orders. And when the materials did finally arrive, they still weren't ready for mailing. Agents still had to use local printers to customize reply cards with correct addresses and barcodes, adding even more time and cost to the process.

"The system was not working," said Jim Richardson, vice president of sales at Scope 1. "Agents were frustrated, and in some cases they had even stopped sending out the mailers because it was too much of a hassle."

To solve the problem, he said, Scope 1 designed a system that allows agents to customize materials electronically on a private Web site and print on demand. Now agents go online, choose the mailers and personalize them with their own office address and contact information. Scope 1 software automatically generates the postal barcode. The agents then specify the quantity they want and pay via credit card.

Within the week, agents receive the mailers, ready to drop off at the post office.

"The time from order to fulfillment has been cut from several weeks to three or four days," said Richardson. "As agents grow more comfortable using the new system, we plan to add additional options to increase speed and customization.

"Agents will be able to have mailings sent directly from the printer to the customer, and will be able to personalize materials for each prospect."

We continue to strive for the customer and operate ourselves on a demand and answer basis," English stated. "One size doesn't fit all."

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