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Direct mail gets stamp of approval at drupa

Tuesday, 18 March 2008
By Print21

As processing direct mail becomes increasingly high-tech and complex in terms of design, printing, converting, logistics and shipping, Manuel Mataré, drupa’s project manager, explains why a visit to the world’s largest print media trade fair is so important for direct marketing professionals.

Why is drupa 2008 so important for direct mail companies?
Manuel Mataré: Direct mail activities serve a billion-dollar industry that is more technology-driven than any other printing segment. In the past, technical innovations were developed using dialog marketing concepts. But this situation forced lettershops and mail houses to constantly offer highly innovative solutions and cutting-edge technologies.

Fortunately, drupa provides them with all the information they need to stay on top of things. As organizer of the largest and most important print media trade fair in the world, we witness every four years how Düsseldorf turns for a period of two weeks in May into a huge clearing house for everything related to make ready, printing, converting and finishing.

What does the future hold for this market segment? How can direct mail achieve above-average response rates?
Manuel Mataré: Impersonal mass mailings have long since been a thing of the past. Thanks to a variety of innovative printing media, successful direct mailings offer today highly customized and variable customer communication, with an extraordinary diversity in appearance and design. To keep up with the competition, a direct mail company should efficiently supply customers with highly complex solutions.

Which areas should direct mail managers invest in?

Manuel Mataré: It is not up to the drupa team to make investment recommendations. Our job is to help a direct mail manager get a complete picture of all existing and future technologies so that he can make the right investment decisions. However, as Messe Düsseldorf is also a major lettershop customer, we obviously consider very carefully which target groups are reached with highly personalized information and which ones are addressed in clusters. Ultimately though, direct mail should offer both variants if it wants to be viewed as a full-service partner. Digital and inkjet printing, with their diversity of options, stand apart from other technologies and should be at the top of the list when it comes to investment planning. Based on my experience, workflow and Web-to-Print solutions, such as the ones we will have on display in the Innovation Park at drupa, are greatly underestimated. They focus on production efficiency and I strongly believe this is just as important, for instance, as job management in the areas of postal pre-sorting and postage cost optimization.

In what direction is digital printing going, as one of the key direct mail technologies?
Manuel Mataré: The color trend is still going strong. You can expect all digital printing system manufacturers to introduce a wide range of innovative products at drupa. In this context, electro-photographic digital printing is competing more and more with inkjet printing, which is causing quite a stir due to the significantly higher print speeds it achieves in some instances. All the major manufacturers, including Xerox, Kodak, HP, Canon, Konica-Minolta, Agfa, Epson, Infoprint Solutions (IBM-Ricoh) and many more, will be at the trade fair to show their latest developments.

In which specific areas could direct mail grow?
Manuel Mataré: Publishers of corporate publications are increasingly turning to lettershop solutions. According to a survey carried out on the members of the Corporate Publishing Forum, service providers’ sales have risen 17 percent. This growth was primarily driven by the good old-fashioned print products. In this segment, most new print products come from B2B and staff communication. The mailing volume is certainly not as significant but it clearly indicates that the online activities of the advertising industry are not detrimental to print communication. They both complement one another.

What does the future of print-based dialog marketing hold?

Manuel Mataré: To pursue a real dialog, the various media will integrate sophisticated new features, aiming at a greater convergence of offers. For instance, a given dialog platform can develop into an interface between the individual media. Combining print products with the option of ordering by telephone enhances it and gives it a new meaning.

Can you describe the direct mail industry of the future?

Manuel Mataré: Print service providers have added an important range of services to improve the transfer of data to paper and are evolving into full system service providers. Added value is generated with the understanding, analysis and optimization of customer processes. Service companies today offer more than just simple printing. They also provide a complete range of solutions from consulting, data handling, layout, production to response management and archiving. With a good knowledge of the market and constant technological developments, the service provider is able to help his customers improve their marketing communication and increase their level of personalisation.

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