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variable data printing

How to Reduce Variable Data Printing Costs

Printing variable data and mail merges is a great way to personalize your message but variable data printing is more expensive than static printing.  There are some ways that could reduce the costs of variable data printing, especially when you are printing large volumes.  One option is to print static color shells and then print the variable information over these shells in black and white.  Depending on the quantity and design of your piece this could help save money on your variable printing.  If there are small amounts of variable data like a salutation and address block it may be more cost effective to print this variable information on an inkjet printer as opposed to a laser printer.  The quality will not be as good, but if this is a small piece of variable information it will be hard to anyone to differentiate what this was printed on an inkjet printer.  These options can help reduce variable data printing costs for direct mail pieces, but each project is different and it is best to speak with a mail house to identify the best methods to meet your budget while still delivering a high quality direct mail piece.

What is variable data printing?

Variable data printing is where each record has different information (text, images, colors, etc) printed based on variables in a database.  This allows you to print personalized information on every single mailing piece.  Variable data printing is essential for personal mailings like statements, open enrollment information, or any other confidential or personalized direct mail pieces.

Yet, variable data printing is also beneficial for direct marketing.  Personalizing your piece will get you direct mail piece noticed in the mail and will increase your ROI.  Tailoring your mailing to data you have collected or data that is available will make your piece more relevant for your end-user and will increase the probability that they will act on your offer.  The possibilities are end-less with variable data printing, as you can customize every aspect of your mailing. 

Some examples of variable data printing include:

Mortgage Mailings: Mailings can include pre-approved mortgage rates or the address or pictures of the home where the mortgage will be used for.

Car Dealership Mailings: Car dealership mailings can include photos of the model that clients have purchased previously as well as information on mileage, services, etc to either generate new car sales or book service appointments.

Statement Mailings: Statement mailing will contain detailed information on invoices outstanding and will need to be personalized for each specific customer

Open Enrollment Packages: Medical insurance mailings will include variable rates, dependent, and plans for each employee, thus each open enrollment package will need to be printed with this variable data. 

How to setup variable data printing and mail merges

We often get asked what is the best way to setup variable data printing and mail merges.  Most people like to use Microsoft Word to setup their mail merge, but this is often problematic as mail merges in Word have limitations.  We prefer using a PDF mail merge software which enables us to have greater control of the merge as well as more flexibility.

  The best way to setup a merge is to have us do it for you.  To do this you will need to create a PDF document and clearly label where merge fields need to be included.  The easiest way to do this is to insert the field name ( <<field name>> ), where the variable data field will be inserted.  It is also best to highlight this area to clearly demonstrate where each merge field will be inserted.  It is also helpful to provide a description of all the variable data you would like to include and any special instructions.  This description is helpful if you would like us to create special rules like adding variable images or changing font and text sizes dynamically if the text does not fit in the desired space.

 Once Action Mail has formatted and created the merge we will send you proofs for you to review and to make sure that the merge is working correctly and the correct variable data is pulling into the document.  Action Mail will also review the piece during our QAQC procedures to make sure everything is merging correctly and will check the longest and shortest record.

 Having Action Mail setup your merge will allow more flexibility and control of your variable data printing.  We will also be able to identify and avoid many pitfalls with setting up mail merges and ensure that the correct data is merged into your document and formatting remains as you would like it.


What is a Mail Merge?

A mail merge is the integration of data contained in a spreadsheet, into a template which could be a letter, address block of an envelope, postcard, or booklet.  A mail merge enables you to merge variable data so that each printed piece is personalized and customized based on your dataset.  This can be a very powerful tool to directly target individuals or print and mail personalized and confidential information.

  Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel are popular tools to run mail merges, but when using them there are often issues with spacing and organization of the merge and Microsoft Word mail merges also have their limitations.

At Action Mail we prefer to use PDF mail merge software which allows much more control over the merge.  Our software enables us to add variable images, change the format based on the data, include variable phrases with multiple variable data, format the artwork so that all art and text fits into one page, ensure that variable text does not truncate, and the possibilities are endless.  

Once the data has been integrated and merged the mail merge and with variable data can be printed.  Action Mail offers variable data printing in both color and black and white and the variable data can be printed on a number of substrates and media.

Mail merges are typically used for letters but we run mail merges for postcards, envelopes, flyers, and letters as well.  The use of a mail merge allows content to be personalized to the specific recipient which dramatically increases response rates.

Some examples of the mail merges including, merging statement data, personalizing letters, customizing non-profit donations requests based on previous giving data, customizing offers, personalizing the content letter based on previous purchase data.  The possibilities are endless.  If you have the data Action Mail can create a dynamic personalized letter, postcard, envelope or flyer for your next campaign.  Even if you do not have the necessary data Action Mail can help append data for you.

Personalizing your direct mail campaign will make your campaign relevant, enticing, and eye catching which will drive response and return on investment.

What is inkjet addressing?

Inkjet addressing is when addresses are printed onto a mail piece by an inkjet printer.  Inkjet printing allows for high speed printing at low prices.  Inkjet printing sprays ink directly onto a piece as opposed to laser or offset printing.  Inkjet printing is most commonly used for printing small pieces of variable data like addresses, taglines, salutations, etc.  The print quality is not as good as laser and offset printing, but inkjet printing is great for small variable data that needs to be added to a piece.  Typically mail pieces are offset printed or digitally printed and then the address is inkjet printed onto the piece.  Another advantage of inkjet printing is that finished pieces can have addresses inkjet printed directly onto them.  For instance a booklet, self-mailer, or glossy postcard can have the address inkjet printed directly onto the finished piece even after it has been folded, bound, tabbed, or coated.

Some clients even elect to print variable data like salutations or codes using inkjet printers due to low costs of printing.  Inkjet printing looks more professional than applying labels and is also more cost effective.  The drawback of inkjet printing is that printing is done in line so duplex printing will require two passes.  Additionally images and select uniform colors can be printed but the quality will not be as good as digital printing and some images may look pixelated. The most significant cost of inkjet printing is the ink so the more ink used the higher the costs, which is why inkjet printing is mostly used for small pieces of variable information like an address or tagline.  Inkjet print heads also have a limited size.  Our inkjet heads are 4 inches wide so each head can only print 4 inches wide on the selected piece.

Inkjet addressing is a great way to add personal data like addresses, taglines, promotional codes, and barcodes to any mail piece.  Inkjet addressing looks professional is cost effective and will add variable data that is essential to your mailing.