Sell VDP to decision makers

To sell variable data printing you must convince executives—not print buyers—that VDP will improve marketing results. To do that you must speak the language of business.

By Brad Lena

LET ME be blunt: The people who buy variable data printing (VDP) are not buying printing. If you try to sell them printing, you will fail. You’ll fail because you have not articulated the productivity and capability of VDP in meeting business objectives in the 21St Century marketplace.

The choice to buy variable data printing is a business decision made by individuals whose jobs entail making critical decisions for their companies. This precludes print buyers, production coordinators, traffic managers, etc. Instead, it includes directors and VPs of marketing, brand and division managers, senior VPs, and even CEOs, CFOs and presidents. If you do not speak the language of business, you will fail. You’ll fail because you demonstrated that you do not understand business issues regarding marketing ROt, cost of customer acquisition/retention, cross-/up-selling, market share and sales volume, to name a few.

I can assure you that these executives don’t stay awake at night bemoaning that the grain ran the wrong way on the last print job or that the dot gain was a little heavy. They stay up at night troubled that they are spending too much moneyon marketing with too little return, or that they have too much customer churn, or that sales are falling. The number one job when selling van- able data printing is to convince executives that the technology and tactics ofVDP are more productive in addressing these issues. Getting to these executives, however, is no easy task and half-hearted attempts will not succeed.

Your Sales Strategy

There should be two essential elements to your sales strategy. First, be prepared to sell a business solution. VDP technology, while making the business solution possible, is not important. If they indicate a real curiosity about it, by all means explain the technology, but if not, stay solution-focused.

The second element is a strategy for gaining access. This is number two because, without the preparation of the first, gaining access is irrelevant. You’ll lack sufficient credibility to this audience, which is the kiss of death for the sale. I would also counsel taking sufficient preparatory time.

While the business issues previously mentioned apply to many industry categories, how they are solved and their importance varies from vertical to vertical. A good rule of thumb in determining a specific VDP application to a particular vertical’s challenges is to look at their customers. Know who their clients are, their demographic profiles, current marketing channels and strategies. Being knowledgeable in these areas allows you to convey how VDP can enhance or improve the productivity of their marketing. It demonstrates that you understand their vertical and their business, in particular.

Also, mitigate the risk and devise tests to validate VDP that do not require substantial expenditures or place inordinate requests on their internal staff. Keep in mind that you are recommending that they market differently, which has the potential to upset a lot of apple carts, so it is important to accrue some leverage in the form of successful tests and/or small projects.

Finally, if you’re selling VDP, you are a “change agent.” Managing the process and personalities within a corporate culture is a skill that requires tact and insight.


A VDP solution doesn’t reflect the particular business issues (who, what, when and how) of the targeted vertical is compromised. In the offset market, you’re selling print manufacturing expertise. Processing detailed knowledge about your client’s business segment isn’t a requirement. Not so in the VDP world. Do not approach these opportunities unprepared; your audience will not tolerate it. Take the time to research the business, read its publications, and even attend industry conferences and trade shows, if that’s what it takes and the opportunity is substantial.

Speaking their vocabulary and being conversant about relevant issues builds credibility. (Devoting this sort of effort is a reflection of a business plan that has determined a market where VDP is a viable option and that the targeted verticals justify the investments of time and labor in preparation.)


Sell VDP to decision makers