Tips for Preparing and Submitting Files for Variable-Data Printing

Variable-data or personalization printing is a powerful way of targeting your marketing communications. Text and/or graphics are versioned on each piece of a press run to customize your appeal to each individual receiving your printed piece. Combined with good design, personalizing your marketing message to reflect an individual’s information in your database can significantly increase response rates compared to non-variable pieces. To be effective, however, variable printing involves preparation starting from a project’s earliest stages.

In preparing your mailing, look at your available data and ask, “What can I offer that this particular customer is likely to want?” Then target your appeal appropriately. If your data includes information such as which model or color of a product a customer previously purchased, you have an idea of what may appeal to him or her in the future. If a customer always buys red cars, a brochure featuring a photo of a red car will more likely get their attention.

If your data does not include specific information, consider purchasing a list that includes demographic or psychographic information, buying patterns, or purchase of items related to your product. Begin building your own target list with precise data for your future marketing efforts. Brenneman can assist you with this type of mail list purchase or provide list enhancement services to your current data.

Six Steps for Ensuring Proper Variable-Data Printing Files

1. Send Us Job Files and Data

Please provide electronic copies of your data and the print file on which it will be printed as early in the process as possible. The sooner we receive your data and print file, the more likely we can meet your mail drop date.

2. Test Data

If the data isn’t available when you begin preparing the forms, you may send us test data with the same field names and formatting as the actual files so we can begin working on your job. When sending test data, please be sure the files are in exactly the same format as the live data will be. Variations in data formats can result in significant differences during output, delaying completion of the project by requiring additional programming time.

3. Send the Right Format

Excel and Access are our preferred databases. Fixed field ASCII, Deliminated ASCII, and dBase files are also acceptable. You can send your files to us via email or via your SFTP connection.

4. Generate a Sample

Please include a printed sample of the variable form as a data placement guide. Highlight the locations in magenta/pink on the sample form where the data will be placed and tell us which data file field name to use in each location.

5. Use Properly-Formatted Numbers

If you are furnishing data in the form of numbers, please tell us if the number is formatted as an integer (whole number) or a decimal. If the number is a decimal, also tell us how many places after the decimal point you want displayed on the printed piece. If the number is the result of a computation of several data fields, please tell us the formula used to arrive at the final results.

6. Place Barcodes

If your document uses barcodes, please tell us where to place the barcode and which barcode font should be used. If the barcode is to be read by a scanner, also provide contact information so we can send you a proof to make sure the barcode scans correctly.

Please contact your Brenneman Account Manager or Customer Service Representative (CSR) for questions about preparing and submitting your variable-data projects.