Freedom of press

A couple of years ago, Paul Noonan decided to get personal with his customers. His Akron database management firm, International Data Management Inc. (IDMI), serves markets nationwide, ranging from commercial clients to fund-raising organizations and political groups.

But as president and CEO, Noonan wanted his company mailings to convey the image of specialization in each industry. So he elected to send strategic promotional mailings customized for each segmented market.

But when he tallied the cost of creating such pieces using traditional print methods, Noonan had to nix the idea — until Scott Zimmerman introduced him to the concept of on-demand digital printing. Zimmerman is president and CEO of ZimmerGraphics in Barberton (a division of Print-Miser Inc.), which specializes in creative design, printing, Web development and advertising.

On-demand digital printing, Noonan says, freed him from the bonds of cost-prohibitive printing.

“Now I’m able to concentrate on my individual markets by sending customized pieces to specific customers, so they don’t all scan a list of my specialties and think, ‘IDMI has so many sidelines, they must not be very focused.’ Now it appears that we’re very focused,” Noonan says. “And it’s given us more opportunities at bat because the materials get us in the door more often.”

Zimmerman says the technology empowers his clients to expand their marketing endeavors by doing things they couldn’t afford before.

“My job is to help my customers cost-effectively communicate the benefits of their products and services. They love the fact that we can sit down and come up with a specific marketing plan that supports their efforts,” Zimmerman says.

Suppose you want to send a marketing piece but you want to experiment first with several layouts and see how each printed piece will look. Using traditional printing technology, says Zimmerman, it’s too costly to do that, because setting up the press is the most expensive step in the process. Considering film costs, plate charges and press match proofs, there’s no way to justify the price to print just a few copies of each design.

In contrast, on-demand digital printing techniques facilitate the creative process. Proofs can be made quickly and inexpensively, resulting in the ability to view print proofs before settling on one design.

Digital printing is as accurate as using a four-color press. Colors can be modified for the desired effect, and accent colors — including copper or silver, which are typically quite expensive — can be added at no additional charge. And since content can be changed on the same promotional piece, segmented customer groups can be targeted with different graphics and text specific to their industries.

Speed is another benefit to on-demand digital printing, Zimmerman says. When Chicago-based Bacher Computer Solutions Inc. needed last-minute literature for a trade show, Zimmerman designed, printed and shipped 100 four-page, four-color brochures to the firm within two weeks. Bacher couldn’t have relied on a conventional printer for such a job, Zimmerman says, because considerable time would have been wasted just waiting for a large press house to schedule such a small job.

Most conventional printers won’t even accept jobs for fewer than 1,000 pieces, Zimmerman says. But on-demand digital printing allows companies to have full-color, high-quality pieces printed in orders of less than 1,000, from inserts and postcards to brochures and newsletters.

Best yet, says Noonan, you can’t beat the price. For example, Zimmerman designs four-page, four-color newsletters for IDMI target customers. First he prints a certain number of the piece with text specific for fund-raising customers. The text is then changed to direct the newsletter to political groups. Finally, the copy is modified for IDMI’s commercial clients.

For each print run of 150 newsletters, the cost to produce each is less than $4 per piece. Using conventional printing technology, that would barely cover the plate charges.

Creativity, speed and cost are but a few of the benefits of on-demand digital printing, says Fred Craig, owner of Craig Personal Jewelers Inc. in Canton’s Belden Village area.

Craig says he latched onto the digital printing trend because the nature of his business necessitates special mailings to segmented markets. Since he sells estate and custom jewelry, all of his pieces are one of a kind, which makes them more expensive to market individually using traditional printing methods.

“Say we get in some beautiful platinum earrings. With on-demand printing, we can send a customized piece with a picture of that item to customers in our database who have bought platinum jewelry in the past,” says Craig.

Since there may be only 50 people who might be interested in those earrings, says Craig, on-demand digital printing makes the promotional piece more than a cost-effective print run. Mailing customized pieces to smaller, targeted groups that are more likely to buy makes the endeavor just plain smart.

“Instead of mailing to 3,500 people, we’re mailing to the exact 50 customers who have the highest propensity for purchasing,” he says.

Craig says that before digital printing came along, he couldn’t afford to send customized mailings, nor could he justify the cost of four-color pieces.

“Now I can print 10 or 50 or however many four-color pieces I want, and on more expensive items, the marketing costs makes it affordable,” he says. “And because digital cameras are so affordable now, you don’t have to hire a professional photographer. You can shoot the item, lay it into pre-existing artwork, personalize the text and print it.”

In the past year alone, on-demand digital printing has saved Craig $11,000, he says. Zimmerman remarks that the targeted mailings have also doubled Craig’s sales.

Another benefit, says Zimmerman, is the increased morale of a sales staff, because on-demand digital printing makes it affordable for firms to provide salespeople with tangible marketing tools they need to sell specific products or services a company provides.

In addition, each promotional piece can drive customers to a company’s Web site for even more information.

Zimmerman says he uses digital printing technology to market his own business, because he frequently creates fresh designs and elaborate promotional pieces for his firm. For example, he designed and printed 50 four-color, four-page brochures targeted specifically for his industrial sales calls. For walk-in traffic, he created a different brochure and printed 50 copies. He also sends postcards and holiday cards.

To impress segmented clients, Zimmerman created a dozen different business cards for ZimmerGraphics, each with impressive theme art and corresponding slogans. Every card is an ice breaker, Zimmerman says, explaining that one bears the image of a golf ball and below Zimmerman’s name are the words, “Yes, I golf.” He slips a business card boasting a photo of his niece to clients who have children.

Another card features a spinning planet and carries the maxim, “A whole new world of creative design and printing.” After all, Zimmerman says, on-demand digital printing has freed companies to explore a whole new world of possibilities.

How to reach: ZimmerGraphics, (330) 838-8448; International Data Management Inc., (800) 248-9834; Craig Personal Jewelers Inc., (330) 492-8822