TransPromo Documents: Saving Cost and Time?

Realizing the touted bottom-line benefits
Author: Jim Hackett

Today, there's a buzz around the effectiveness of "TransPromo" (transactional-promotional) documents. With this new approach, organizations can leverage the four-color Variable Data Print (VDP) to create a document that combines the transactional/billing function with its counterpart - marketing. Now, the operations department generating bills for every customer - and the marketing department creating separate statement stuffers that are inserted in each billing envelope - are able to do something far more effective: Organizations can combine the operations and marketing initiatives by generating a single document that functions as "double duty" as an invoice AND a marketing piece.

Since the advertising message is placed next to the "must read" billing information, rather than on a separate insert, it's far more likely to be read and acted upon. And now, leveraging VDP technology is enabling production of these TransPromo documents to vary every element of the content and graphics according to the unique characteristics of the individual recipient - known as Individualization - eliminating the reliance on the "spray and pray" approach of sending identical billing inserts to all an organization's customers. With this production approach, no two TransPromo documents are alike - and because they're each individualized, they can be far more effective than a standalone invoice or marketing piece at enhancing your customer retention as well as your cross-sell and up-sell efforts.

However, organizations are not only looking for a higher response rate, but they are looking at the ever-present cost of producing millions of documents. Integrating the TransPromo technology into your production processes can enable dramatic cost-savings by shortened timelines and the streamlining of your operation- all of which translates into significant bottom-line benefits.

TransPromo: Saving Cost and Time?
Cost savings with the TransPromo document is seen through the combination of two functions into one - a solution that enables a "two-for-one" efficiency that substantially reduces costs. For example, organizations, who print bills, have their operations and marketing departments produce their materials separately, incurring separate paper and printing expenses. However, with leveraging TransPromo documents, printed via VDP, in which billing information and marketing messages are both printed together on the same blank sheet, organizations can save production costs on paper, press time and proofing. Furthermore, with using less paper, organizations also save on the burdensome cost of warehousing.

However, costs associated with your transactional documents do not just end when the printing process is complete, such as inventory, transportation, inserting or finishing technologies, etc. Avoiding these additional costs can be accomplished through TransPromo documents. For example, as there are no statement stuffers (also referred to here as "billing inserts") to be stored, there are no inventory costs associated with holding printed materials until they're scheduled to be used. Likewise, due to the fact that inserts are not being printed, organizations will no longer absorb the transportation costs related to shipping these documents from the printer to the mailing facility (which includes the high cost of gasoline); nor are organizations stuck with paying for inserting surcharges. Furthermore, budgeting for printing overages can be eliminated from an organization's yearly planning. And with VDP, there's no waste or spoilage to take into account, unlike traditional offset printing, so organizations will no longer need to pay extra for quantities over their specified print run. As many organizations can attest to, these costs all add up - especially when considering that these costs are multiplied every time billing statements are sent out, whether it's once a month, once a quarter or whatever time frame is typical for your line of business.

In addition to cost, organizations must also look at their time savings - or more to the point, timeline savings. With VDP, organizations have print-on-demand capabilities; therefore, when necessary, documents can be printed on-the-fly, so in certain cases, the turn-around time required from the finalization of the advertising offer to the actual printing and mailing of the piece is non-existent. Thus, once the data is in place - and the promotional component has been written and designed - the organization is ready. Compare that to the six to 12 weeks that are typically required to create and produce a standard billing insert via traditional offset printing.

Tackling Process Efficiencies
Printing TransPromo documents with VDP aids in streamlining the full breadth of your workflow - from start to finish. Or, to put it in slightly different terms, you improve process efficiencies before a project is implemented, during the actual implementation and after the TransPromo document has been mailed. Here's a closer look: Before a project ever gets off the ground, it's necessary to do some detailed planning. When operations and marketing are operating independently to produce separate billing and marketing pieces, this involves creating production schedules that are distinct from each other - and then dovetailing these schedules to ensure that all pieces are ready for insertion in the envelope at the same time. In the best of all worlds, this is supposed to work like clockwork. But it rarely does. When trying to merge two schedules, there are usually pitfalls, surprises and flat-out mistakes that hinder and complicate the process. However, such pitfalls with efficiency in combining schedules at the outset, by funneling all billing and marketing data in a coordinated, cohesive manner, can be avoided. By institutionalizing the efficiencies of unified scheduling, organizations can ensure that all future programs can be run in the most timely and efficient manner possible.

Then, of course, there are process efficiencies to consider that occur during the actual implementation - improved communications. Streamlined scheduling lays the groundwork for an effective program at the outset. But often, the make-or-break factors are the necessities of inter-departmental and intra-departmental communications while the project is ongoing. For example, when your operations and marketing departments talk to each other on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis - or when members of the database group exchange information with each other across functional lines - your organization will be able to set new standards for collaboration, cooperation and process management on an immediate and long-term basis. This process efficiency is vital because if there's any single factor that can help keep costs and time frames in line, its better communications between all stakeholders in a program.

And finally, there are the process improvements after a document has been mailed. These improvements center on data management - as in data collection, analysis and refinement. Utilizing VDP to create TransPromo documents, organizations are able to learn much more about each customer - faster, easier and, ultimately, at less cost. Due to the fact that all data elements can be put in play and by setting up variable mechanisms to capture response - directing recipients to landing pages and online surveys that have been designed to appeal to their particular demographic, for example - organizations can take their data gathering effort to a whole new level.

Basically, process efficiencies in organizations can be realized when people and departments use their ingenuity, inventiveness and experience to work together more effectively. These efficiencies in the production process can be seen in the back-end of a document's mailing cycle - when the operations and marketing departments work with database experts to distill knowledge from the collected data and create a proven, viable marketing platform for the next billing cycle. Such a partnership is called "closing the loop" - guaranteeing processes work with each successive iteration.

Cost Elimination
As previously outlined, there can be considerable savings seen when operations and marketing team up to create TransPromo documents. But one area of cost that may need further elaboration is eliminating the need for warehousing and transporting printed materials - namely, statement stuffers or printed shells. Instead of an organization's age-old practice of reserving valuable storage space - a big cost- organizations now can replace the entire physical setup with an "electronic warehouse" where everything is stored, moved and accessed digitally. With four-color VDP, companies can start with a blank piece of paper, put their digital asset library to work and generate a document in which the transactional AND promotional content is all individualized according to the recipient's unique needs and purchase history. Moreover, once organizations originally make their initial investment in the development of the TransPromo piece - and established the "electronic warehouse"- there's very little additional cost seen.

Effecting Change
The process of the TransPromo document has eliminated past must-haves in

the production process: warehousing, shipping and inserting. But the most important step may be the one that operations and marketing never sees - the inbound call to the customer service department. By using the technology of VDP to individualize the message to each individual customer, organizations are demonstrating their knowledge of the customer's needs, preferences and buying history. In many cases, the TransPromo document answers his or her questions before even being asked. Thus, this makes for a happier customer, a less harried customer service department and increased retention rates. As retaining an existing customer is a lot less expensive and time-consuming than finding a new one, organizations will finally be able to reap the ever-elusive bottom-line benefits. And that, of course, is what all organizations are chasing after.

Jim Hackett is President of Indivia, Inc., which creates and produces Individualized communications across a broad range of media, including print, mail, email, text messages and PURLS - helping clients get, keep and grow profitable customer relationships. Mr. Hackett can be reached at 978-474-4068 or JHackett@Indivia.biz.