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Print for the 21st century

By Ga

A community of faith includes people in many stages of life. That makes it difficult for printed materials to address all the variables in a potential audience. Wouldn't it be nice if the product of one print run would appeal to everyone?

Enter the variable-print solution.

What is variable print? Variable print is also known as variable-data or variable-information printing (VDP or VIP). This printing method allows you to switch out text, paragraphs, pages, images and graphics on individual pieces in a single print run based on what you know about a specific person or household.

Mail merge – a big deal in the 1980s and 1990s – is still common. You insert codes to print a different name onto each letter or postcard. Imagine that customizing feature being available for every aspect of a printed piece.

Printing a piece in color increases retention by 78 percent and comprehension by 73 percent compared to one in black and white. Moving to the variable print practice can increase response by 36 percent (Office Technologies Mag pdf). By moving into the 21st century with variable print, you increase the recipient's involvement with the print piece and make the call to action clearer.

Imagine this scenario.

You are about to kick off a great new ministry. You want people to know about the kickoff and to make personal commitments to be involved at specific times. How do you do this?

With variable print, you start with your database of people. Before, you might only keep each person's name and address. Now using that same spreadsheet, add extra variables that further identify people (for example, by age, gender and living area).

Then design your print material. Choose the areas of the design you wish to customize according to specific variables. For the covers of the commitment folder, for example, some will have an identifying image for both parents and children. Other recipients will see images that reflect their life stage. Pages within the folder will identify each person specifically and list opportunities in ministry that seek his or her support. Now, instead of sending a one-color booklet with everything under the sun, you give church members a high-involvement "custom" folder geared just for them. Greater congregational attention and action will result.

Best of all, you can complete variable print projects with a single run using the digital printing technology available today. This makes printing digitally and with variable print incredibly affordable, especially when compared to the costs and effectiveness of older printing methods.

Can this be done in house?

This function is not yet available with your average office copy machine or printer. You would need to find a professional printer who offers variable print (remember the VDP or VIP language) and inquire about the process of creating your dream print project. Ask if they have a variable printer in house to get the lowest prices possible – and the staff's experience in developing print products.

Once you have a printer with whom you are comfortable, let them guide you through the process initially. From there, you will realize how easy it is to make a big impact with print.

Free customizable templates

Rethink Church offers free customizable postcards, door hangers and many other print pieces that you can use to get started with your variable campaign.

The printed piece is not dead, but the way we create it is changing. Print pieces in the 21st century will continue to garner solid involvement for the investment.