How to Personalize your Printing and Buy a New BMW

Blog Post
November 03, 2017

What if I told you I was working with a client who was throwing away a brand-new BMW every week? You'd look at me like I was crazy, right? Well, I've seen it. Ok. Not literally, but figuratively. As in cash money.

In working with their fulfillment campaign, the guilty party was continually overbuying and overprinting. I’ve seen $75,000 worth of paper put in two or three 18-wheelers, hauled off and recycled. So, like I said, it's like throwing a brand-new BMW away every week.

What's even more frustrating is that we still see this kind of waste from other clients. There's a solution, which saves money, time, reduces waste and allows for personalization and luckily, a lot of clients are coming around to it. Read on.

We know customers want personalized experiences—even in print. Let me tell you: print-on-demand OWNS print personalization. Sure, commercial (or offset) printing can offer you lower costs for larger volumes, but print-on-demand, (or digital printing) is ideal for smaller, faster runs and personalized outputs. 

What this means is that you can highly segment your audiences for personalized content while also saving time to market and reducing waste. Not bad, right?

Printing 101

Whereas digital printing can be done directly from a digital file (generally a pdf), offset printing requires the creation of new plates for each print job, which, besides being time consuming, requires a higher initial outlay of cash. Although prices vary hugely depending on word count, paper size, paper type, binding, and a bunch of other factors, the cost-per-unit drops for offset printing as the print run increases (your classic buy more, pay-less scenario!).

Though it’s typically more expensive than offset for large runs, digital printing works at a fixed cost, whether you’re printing one or 5,000 pieces, which is the sweet spot for digital. It allows for easy segmentation and personalization. You can customize for as many segments as you'd like, achieving close to a one-to-one marketing basis, thanks to its flexibility in terms of revisions and updates. Digital can also be printed quickly and, like it says, “on demand.”

Versioning for Personalization

What we really want to talk about is when it comes to print personalization is versioning for various audience segments that’s available specifically via digital printing. Digital printing involves creating a template with the base info, but once that’s done, it can be managed, tailored and consistently updated to meet any target segment. 


Kohl's personalizes names, images, offers and more with digital printing for this mail piece.

You can print different and specific pieces for your mailings. It’s segmentation to your heart’s desire.

Let me give you an example. We had a client with a direct mail program that already had seven segments. We convinced them to go digital and it opened up to 80 separate segments. This got rid of the need for a separate commercial print run while allowing us to significantly improve personalization of the mail piece—providing a distinct message in each of those 80 segments. You can even bar code each segment separately so when the customer engages with the piece, you can get feedback on how it’s performing and amend it if necessary.


This company personalizes by location with print-on-demand.

Print-on-demand also allows for easily segmenting by location—including down to the specific street, if necessary. 

An example of this: we have a growing dental company as a client. Every time they opened a new office, they relied upon an understanding of a certain demographic to target. In their case, each time, the target group was lower income families with children under 10 who lived within 15 miles of the new location. We created this specific list for them, sent out mailings and they continually saw successful results. Again, digital may increase the per price cost, but it shows a radical lift on ROI.

Indiana Jones and the Warehouse of Wasted Paper

The most important factors to consider when making printing decisions for your fulfillment center are cost and waste (obsolescence and scrap). True inventory management for a lower overall cost is the goal. Printing on demand allows you to reduce your storage space/costs while also reducing obsolescence and scrap. 

Picture this. We have a client who’s been with us for 30 years. There is a wall in the warehouse literally filled with boxes of their spec sheets, which were commercially printed. No really. Remember that scene at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark?"


Yeah. Like that.

They were just sitting there on a rack taking up space. We finally convinced them to recycle those and move to digital printing. And, no big surprise, they've been much happier since.

I’ll give you another example of the power of digital print to reduce costs: one of our tech clients had been printing up manuals for their devices to include in every box. Literally printing it in the millions at a cost of about $1 per unit. I recommended making it available online to their customers. And, if a customer wanted a copy, it could be printed and mailed out. The result was a dramatic reduction in cost. The total cost of the commercial run had been $3 million. With print on demand, it dropped to $90,000. That's a lot of BMW's!

So, when you’re buying print, it isn’t just the price paid at the printer. There’s the cost to send it out, and there’s the cost to throw out waste and overruns. Plus, there’s the cost of storage and capital never used. When I point this out to our clients, our digital print sales get a boost!

The Perfect Couple

So, do you choose a commercial offset printing outlet for reduced cost and larger volume of output? Or go digital with a pdf file ready to print on demand for small runs and personalized output? Both have their benefits and their drawbacks. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to know how to take advantage of each and how they can work together. This is how you create a successful print campaign powered by segmentation—and also buy yourself a flashy new car.