Variable Data Printing

With all the change around us in our daily lives, it’s no wonder we resist it whenever we can. Hardly a week went by last month where I didn’t read an article which indicated that people “think” Variable Data Printing is here to stay. As a 23-year veteran of this industry, my mother is very pleased to hear about her son’s career choice.

Prices at the gas pump change every day. It seems that every time I find some food I like, when I go back to the grocery store, it’s changed. Now it only comes in the super-size can or sugar-free. My toaster (which lasted me over 25 years) used to toast bread quite nicely, simply dark or light on two sides. My new one, does one side or two, on a scale of 1 through 8, can do 4 slices at once, braise and broil and the timer gently “dings” which now allows me up to 30 minutes of toast burning.

Little did I believe back in October of 1983 that I would make the change of selling web offset and setting lead type from a California job case, to understanding merge/purges, ASCII formatting and non-impact printing. But I did – and to be honest, it’s no different (or scarier) than installing a new 8-colour inkjet wide format printer or a faster folder. Remember the Ditto Machines and Gestetner?

If you look at CRM, the driving force behind most of this change for the past 23 years (get the connection?), the reports and articles on why it fails, insist it’s because the employees and managers don’t buy in. Not the customers – it’s your staff! They’re resisting change. To them it’s easier not to do it.

It took almost ten years before the salespeople went to the marketing gurus – and only then did they realize that people didn’t even understand the principles, let alone the terminology and technology. It was sold as “this is what it can do to build loyalty with your customers.” It’ll give you the information to keep your customers.

No one included the employee people factor. It’s technology run by your people. People that are already working 12 and 14 hours a day, have little time for themselves and feel unappreciated and neglected. It’s not that they’re not loyal, but when did the company do a little extra for them?

They look around and see salespeople taking customers out to lunches and giving them golf shirts. The same customers who complain to you about late orders. When was the last time a sales rep came up and said thanks, or even gave you a company pen or notepad.

Your employees are your best form of advertising. You’ll get more mileage out of an employee wearing your logo on his or her golf shirt, than a client that might wear it once and then throw it in the back of his car.

Why do you think every Fed Ex or Kinko’s employee has that corporate shirt or hat? You know they work there. Corporate apparel is still the number one advertising specialty. When you go to a trade show, count the number of companies that have booth staff all wearing corporate logos. They are recognizable. They’re a walking, talking billboard.

Last year I received a golf shirt from a supplier at a trade show. Since I was travelling and it was appropriate, I wore it at the show the next day. When I went by my booth, they were so excited, they took my picture with a couple of their reps. While I was standing with them, several customers stopped and asked how I like it. Of course, it was a positive response and their interest was immediately rewarded with samples of their own.

Our customers are changing every day. We can no longer just be their caretakers. The same with our employees. We have to motivate both of them and show that we appreciate their loyalty. Think of the companies that you deal with that go that extra mile to get your business.

Every time I go to a lunch or meeting, I carry a pocket full of premiums. Some days I give out a pen, calendar or pack of custom imprinted gum. Some days I don’t. Sometimes it goes to a new contact, sometimes to the President’s assistant. Every day is different. Every day is changed from the day before.