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Most marketing professionals will know that the print element of direct mail is reducing in volume; however what many don't yet know is how to utilise the latest print technologies in the face of this reduction, according to Andrew Clay, sales director for SIMS, who argues that print is still an important part of the marketing mix. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Print should ideally be seen as part of a multi-channel strategy within the wider marketing mix, Clay suggests, and the key is to adopt a much smarter approach to print-based marketing - to apply technology that enables marketers to carry out local campaigns in new ways while also making savings, enhancing quality, and improving efficiency.

So what types of local marketing campaigns require smarter printing solutions? By way of example, SIMS' parent company, St Ives, has been asked to deliver the Conservative Party's print requirements in the lead-up to the General Election in 2015 - a task which will require bespoke printing. The Conservatives have a central message but they also need to highlight local themes tailored for a variety of constituents.

A wide range of print solutions is available to tackle the issues mentioned above. Hybrid mail is one way of producing and sending post cost-effectively; the client is provided with the necessary software and training and, rather than using a desktop printer in their office, the system enables the supplier to print and distribute mail centrally via an online 'print hub'. Using this method can deliver significant economies of scale and savings of up to 50% on printing and postage costs.

Another possible solution is Web2Print, which provides a way to create printed products with new or personalised content to improve local marketing campaigns. These systems provide head office and regional teams with the ability to incorporate variable messages for local marketing, while still maintaining central brand control. To ensure brand compliance, all templates are made available for approval by the central marketing team before release. The final documents are then batched together to provide the economies of scale achieved from longer print runs.

A third option is digital asset management - a simple but effective low-cost method of digital storage and management. Account managers, agencies and siloed departments are usually not properly equipped to keep all of a brand's digital assets (such as logos, pantones and other marketing collateral) in one central place. Online asset management systems provide the ability to securely and centrally hold and access all of the company's artwork, business forms, spreadsheets, presentations, video and audio assets. Accessible over the internet from any location, and password protected, the system archives both in-house and agency materials securely.

"One-to-one marketing is commonly seen as an expensive technique by marketing directors, particularly when they are working on a localised campaign with low budgets, but the increasing range of print technologies can help drive greater marketing efficiency, quality and cost savings," concluded Clay.