Why Printers and Mailers Should Take Data Security Seriously

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You’re probably sick of hearing about it: data breaches. Privacy issues. Data cleaning. Data management. But just because you’re tired of hearing about all the ways data can and should be stored and used doesn’t mean you, as a commercial or direct marketer printer and courier service provider, can you afford to ignore it. Data is the lifeblood of any business in today’s society, and knowing how to make the most of it and how to protect it for you and your customers can mean the difference between a thriving business and one that has a hard time getting out of it.

“Business runs on data – and commercial printers are no exception,” said David Spencer, president and CEO of SpencerMetrics. “Data represents the truth – where you are and where you have been – and can be the foundation for knowing where you should go next to excel, or at least stay competitive. Commercial printers have been behind many other industries. , they increasingly realize this need and take the necessary measures.

To complicate matters further, the hodgepodge of data laws across the country – some states have enacted laws with varying degrees of severity and enforcement, and push for data laws from Congress in federal level stalled in committee as debates over what should and should not be covered, who should apply it, and whether or not federal law would supersede state law, dragged on. This means, for printers and shippers, understanding how to use and secure data can be a minefield at the best of times.

Data in motion

There are two ways to think about data in print and direct mail operations, and both are equally important. First, for anyone sending anything, data integrity is essential to ensure the success of the job. If the direct mail campaign isn’t directed to the right demographics, addresses, or names, it won’t actually generate the response rates and ROI that customers are looking for. While some brands and merchants maintain their own lists – and are therefore responsible for keeping their own data clean and up to date – many are increasingly relying on their print and mail service providers to handle this process for them.

“Our customers expect to maximize postal savings,” notes Carroll Schiley, director, Production Technology Applications, at IWCO Direct, based in Chanhassen-Minnesota. “With ever-increasing USPS rates, this makes data cleansing functions – including merging/purge and pre-sorting their data – highly valued processes in the overall workflow of a project.”

Second, there’s data security — and that applies to both the print shop’s own data and the databases it protects for customers. “We unquestionably live in a world where data management and cybersecurity – at every level and in every area of ​​every organization – are of the utmost importance,” said George Forge, vice president of client technology at Quad, based in Sussex, Wisconsin.

Unlike a classic QR code, a Flowcode (above) can lead to an automatically generated email, phone call or text message. With a simple scan of the code, consumers can then quickly connect with a business, making printed materials more
enticing because they connect the physical world to the digital.

As more and more data breaches make the news all the time, brand owners and marketers are always looking for ways to stay ahead of malicious actors in the security arena. For printers, this means keeping abreast of current technologies and best practices, and ensuring that all data handling and storage processes are kept up to date. It is no longer enough to have a password protected server and call it a day. You need to have a comprehensive data security plan in place if you want long-term success.

It’s easy to dismiss data management as a nebulous concept when you have real printed documents to create and manage. It’s easy to forget how critical data is at every stage of a print project.

This is especially true for campaigns that span multiple touchpoints and channels. “Marketing partners should view data as the backbone of brand empowerment. Consumers discover, explore, buy, and provide feedback to brands through a multitude of channels – social, search, video, TV, radio, online. store, out-of-home and print, to name a few,” Forge reports.

He continues, “Successful brands depend on real-time signals and marketing automation platforms to ensure they meet the consumer where they want to be met. Brands and their products must be represented transparently, regardless of the channel. This multidimensional, always-connected ecosystem is built around quality data management and integrations with media partners.

For the direct mail component in particular – the channel that many commercial printers will be most intimately involved with – this means keeping track of what information needs to be shared, with whom it needs to be shared, and even which pieces need to get to which customer. . Transactional printers have handled this process for many years, but this degree of customization and versioning is slowly shifting to other types of senders as well. Mass shipments of thousands of identical parts are becoming less common. And making sure everything goes to the right place is part of the service that commercial printers and shippers can provide.

“While particularly important in finance and healthcare, no printer wants a piece of mail to be lost, misdirected or sent twice,” Spencer points out. “Management and customers want to know that every piece of mail has the correct contents and address, from printing to folding or other processing until it is safely at the door.”

Make the most of your data

Above all, when it comes to managing data, it’s time to talk about automation. There are simply too many pieces of information, going into too many different projects that all need to work in perfect harmony with each other for them to be processed by one person in any operation who wants to grow over time. Spreadsheets are not your friend in this case.

“The main data processing steps can be successfully automated,” says Schiley of IWCO Direct. “This allows more time to focus on custom customer process needs and validating those results.”

“Data is both simple and complex,” according to Spencer. “Manual processing is inherently error-prone and expensive. Automation is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and good automation can lead to significant cost savings,” he adds. “While many businesses try to improve profitability by increasing sales – more revenue can cover more sins – it is much more effective to cut costs by simply eliminating waste. And wasted labor and machine time can provide much more fertile areas for cost reduction.

However, automation is not just about making it easier to move data from one system to another. It’s also about making sure the right data is available at the right time. Quad’s Forge notes, “Data for data’s sake is meaningless in marketing. We use data to create a better way for humans to experience the technology, the product, the “thing”. We manage innovation, ideas and marketing at the top of the funnel, and production, delivery, logistics and execution at the bottom.

“There is no handoff to another vendor, touchpoint or system, which wastes time, money and consumers,” Forge says. “This ‘full-line’ offering allows us to eliminate friction wherever it is in the market chain. Quality data management and integrations are at the heart of a seamless, efficient and successful experience for our customers and their end customers.

If all of that sounds overwhelming, Schiley notes that the best place to start getting serious about data management is with normalization — making sure all your data adheres to a basic structure and format. “Start with a basic home layout and build standard data processing steps and workflow on top of it to power your composition and manufacturing processes,” she advises.

Spencer breaks it down further, noting that printers need to allocate resources to manage the data and act on the results of the analysis. “Understand your priorities — what you would most like to know; discover the solutions that can address these priorities and grow with you over the long term, and don’t let cash flow hurt your bottom line. Software as a service (SaaS) can give you a very fast return on investment. »

At its best, data management is difficult and complex. But it’s also critical to the success of any marketing campaign — and that makes it exciting, Forge points out. “Assess your talent and your systems, and make sure you have a clear understanding of why and how you do what you do. Being at the service of our clients’ success is incredibly motivating to move forward, even on the most difficult days.

Data management is a key component to the success of any print job in today’s world, and this is doubly true for any job that includes a mailed component. Understanding how data flows throughout the operation, making it easy to access and analyze, and ensuring its security for both your own business and your customers are all things that make the difference between data providers. print that appear in the top half of the print. Impressions ranking 300, and those that don’t appear at all.

If you want to see your business thrive in 2022 and beyond, start by taking your data seriously.

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