Search This Blog

Monday, September 13, 2010

The wonder of transpromo...

I found an interesting article on the PrintCeo blog located here: PrintCeo.

It talks about transpromo applications at big print shows "...[in] hopes of attracting general commercial printers to buy the necessary software costing in the six figures and the higher speed digital print engines."

What is interesting about this is that the only ones really hoping someone spends hundreds of thousands of dollars (application software plus digital press) are the vendors.  In fact, it can be done with cheap B/W printers, a PC, and a little elbow grease.

The real problem is that there is no "printer" market for transpromo unless you have the proper economic circumstances.  What are the proper circumstances?  Basically that you already profitably print statements with room for additional marketing messages.  The role of traditional printing in this context is limited to primarily pre-printed "shells" onto which the statements are printed. 

Success in transpromo typically involves having a large room full of big, fast printers, inserters, mail handling technology, IT, and so forth.   Not your typical "printer" fare.  So why to these blogs, and for that matter the print industry in general, wax on and on about the wonders of transpromo?

Simple - those that write the articles, build the presses and write the software need jobs, and, in fact the industry doesn't need what they are selling.

I saw this first hand ten years ago when I was inadvertently sucked into a printing "industry catastrophe".  It seems a certain soon-to-be digital press vendor made some rather exciting market projections for their devices.  I don't recall any specifics but when you extrapolated out they alone were selling something like several digital presses a day by 2005 or '06.  At that time I had a small software company that fit right in with their technology in terms of variable data so it seemed natural that we would do well.

Long story short - about a year later I remember sitting in my office with a guy that worked for me and we worked out the projections year to year.  It was clear that the market they expected was simply impossible.

Even with simple, color-based VDP applications the skill sets required to operate the systems simply do not exist.  Think about it.  You need a professional graphic arts person to control the design of the piece, i.e., where does the coupon look good on the piece.  You need a professional programmer to write logic to control things (IF THEN ELSE).  You need a database specialist to extract the right data from the customer provided data.  You need a USPS expert who can tell you if the piece can go first class or standard based on the content.

Where on earth do you find such a person?  You don't - at least not in a print shop.  While there are a few (and I am one of them) most people you find trying to do this outside of certain industries are former graphic artists (artist being the key word) or former pressmen who now do "computers".

Now, let's add the "transpromo" skill set.  First - the statements probably come from somewhere else already formatted with meta data talking about ads and mailing info.  So you need someone that understands this model.  Likely the pre-formatted content is in AFP.  Next, its effectively banking data so you need to understand security, i.e., you can't just have data sets lying around on open FTP servers.

So to summarize - transpromo requires the following skill sets in the context of a "printer":
  1. Graphic arts (design).
  2. Programmer/IT infrastructure.
  3. Database.
  4. USPS
  5. AFP/PDF document handling.
  6. Real security.
You can rely on the fact that one person won't be able to do it all.  You might be able to hire two or three who can - but they are going to be expensive.  A good programmer is going to cost $80K a year. 

Next you have to consider how to get them all to work together...

No comments:

Post a Comment