Achieving Quality and Integrity with Transpromotional Documents

 By Mike Maselli, Executive Director of Business Management, BÖWE BELL + HOWELL

 Recently, the industry has seen numerous presentations and white papers on the value of adding personalized marketing messages and advertisements to transactional mailpieces commonly referred to as transpromotional or transpromo applications. This information can be valuable for mailers who are deciding whether the return on investment for new composition tools, design skills, marketing personnel and color print will work for them.

 Transpromotional solution benefits are being marketed by vendors, but it is really the end users who are demanding change. Web applications and websites have radically elevated users' expectations, and users are growing tired of documents being so far behind the technology curve from the other information they spend hours a day consuming online.

 In this article, we will assume the value of a transpromotional document is already accepted, and we will explore how and why companies should seek to achieve integrity and quality goals as part of their transpromotional projects.

 Create a Project Team

Like every successful project, organizing a team with the right skills, background and corporate influence is a key to success. With transpromotional projects, the same formula applies, and for many mailers, the key decision makers are changing.

 Moving from a legacy black-and-white document, most likely designed to convey only account activity, to a color document with the new design and purpose of also communicating relative marketing information, requires more than just marketing and design skills. Yes, marketing departments can help transform a mailpiece from a practical, inexpensive document to a high-value, higher-cost communication piece, but they are not the team that can help minimize costs through early detection of quality issues or ensure complete document integrity. Marketing teams usually know very little about production mail tracking, just as operational teams do not necessarily understand the return on investment from a good design or marketing profile.

 Bringing together members from marketing, operations and legal departments can ensure that the right decisions are made early in the project lifecycle decisions including design standards, and the technologies and solutions used for production. When planned together with cross-team input, the end result is quicker to market, lower cost and generally more successful.

 Achieving Full Integrity Without Sacrificing Design

Integrity tracking is a concept that has been around for years but still not practiced on all documents. Historically, integrity has been achieved by reading a unique identifier that is either in a barcode or is a sequence number. If identification marks are not part of a document then most likely there has been no automated integrity tracking during assembly and/or sortation.

 Many mailers have trouble lining up IT resources and project budgets for assigning unique identifiers to all of their applications, resulting in partial control and tracking something that is not acceptable to industries controlled by regulations such as Gramm-Leach-Bliley and HIPAA. Marketing departments certainly are not in favor of using barcodes for tracking since they are not attractive, interesting or add value for a mail recipient. The best a marketer has been able to do is convince their IT groups to use the smallest, most discrete barcode available so that it won't distract the reader from messages that communicate a new product or offering.

 Monitor and Track Quality Ensuring Every Document Hits the Mark

Quality tracking also is not new to the production mail industry, but many companies cannot clearly define how these checks differ from integrity checks. Integrity tracking ensures the right information (account information, terms and conditions, required inserts and messages, etc.) are used, while quality checks ensure that everything else related to a mailpiece is correct (proper use of logos and paper stock, paper folds and envelope insertion, postage indicia, color and barcode grading, toner, etc.). Advances in vision technologies and software solutions can now provide early detection of all of these quality issues that can result in costly job re-runs and postal fines if they are not caught early in the production process.

 The use of color can dramatically improve a document's impact, but color printers can also be subject to issues such as streaking and drifting. This causes problems such as corporate colors suddenly becoming a different shade and losing their brand identity, or promotions losing their impact, and what was designed to be a high-definition advertisement is now looking analog at best.

 New solutions are now available that provide print operators with on-screen verification and sampling of documents, as well as high-speed automated tracking and monitoring that can determine when any variance from the desired result has exceeded a limit and an item is now considered unacceptable. These technologies are not printer model or vendor specific and can be used almost anywhere that you want to ensure that the product you are producing is meeting your standards. Having visibility and control of quality results can ensure that modifications are made immediately and wasted cost and time is minimized.