XYZ Seeds provides a good example of how and when to use variable printing successfully. Before its “Your Choices for 1998″ campaign, the company had several goals: First, XYZ sells through dealers and wanted to get dealers to sell more of their products. Second, they wanted to decrease “haul back,” a term which describes the common practice of farmers changing their minds about what they are planting and returning the seeds they had purchased. These returns can be as high as 20 percent of initial sales. Third, the company wanted to increase sales at the expense of the other brands.
Working with its agency, Interactive Marketing, XYZ decided to use customized mailings (on a side note, refer to this document to learn how to prepare customized mailings in InDesign) to help achieve these goals. “Farmers are extremely relationship-oriented and demand very personalized attention,” says Jim Beam, president of IM.
After a farmer placed an order, the next step was getting information from the dealer – what seeds the farmers ordered and what other products that farmer could use.
Using this data combined with basic information gleaned about each farmer (such as the type of farm, the location of the farm and what equipment was used), customized brochures were created using Agfa’s Chromapress digital printing system.
Seven thousand brochures were sent out reminding each farmer of his purchase and offering other products that might be of interest. Each brochure contained a customized mix of 90 variable data fields, 30 different product-specific photos, 1,500 different product descriptions and customized word choices to make it truly targeted.
The letter is personalized to the farmer from his dealer affirming the order and reminding him that the seed he purchased is an excellent choice (reducing haul back). An illustration above the letter’s salutation varies depending on which type of farming operation the customer runs.
In addition to the seed choice the farmer already selected, other seeds of interest to the farmer are featured (cross-selling other products). The products described are selected from 750 possible versions depending on the customer’s geographic location and growing conditions.
Using the information from the dealer, the mailing was customized right down to the farm equipment the farmer used and whether he was a livestock or cash grain farmer. Thus, a livestock farmer who uses green John Deere farming equipment was sent a mailing with a picture of a green tractor on a livestock farm, and the products featured in the mailing were the types of products a livestock farmer in that part of the country would be interested in purchasing.
Dealers who participated in this program achieved a 21.7 percent increase in sales compared to 0.7 percent of those who did not. In addition, the company developed a better relationship with its dealers and the dealers developed a better relationship with the farmers. Haul back was almost eliminated.
The bottom line
The success of the XYZ campaign could not have been achieved without a quality database. “We used our extensive customer database and printed high-quality literature based on the specific growing conditions of each of our customers,” says Mary Green of XYZ Seeds. This kind of success is possible for virtually every marketer with good data on its customers. Additionally, whine variable printing is not for every campaign, it can be used effectively for certain campaigns to achieve true, one-to-one marketing.