[Updated for 2023]

When it comes to printing, design, and data as a business, consistency and personalization are key. Imagine receiving two cards from two different companies for the holidays. The first is a card with your name on it and a very welcoming note, while the second is a generic card sent out to every person associated with this business. Which card actually made you feel special as a consumer?

This is where variable data printing (VDP) comes into play. With VDP, you can kiss generic cards goodbye and still keep the most important elements of your designs the same. Let’s take a look at what VDP is, and how to set it up to personalize your own print projects. It's really what the future of print is all about.

Related: The Future of Print


Variable data printing is “a digital printing technique that changes certain elements, such as text, graphics, images, and so on for each print. If your business uses or sends print marketing materials, variable data printing – sometimes referred to as variable imaging or variable information printing – is something you should consider.”


Although variable data printing is often thought of as a more comprehensive version of a design template, the set-up and personalization aspects are extremely different.

The key to setting up VDP is to collect the data, create the design, determine the elements, personalize the content, and give the information to the vendor to utilize in the future. Once this is done, you can enjoy the wonders of VDP.


The first thing to do when setting up VDP is collect your data and ensure that it is cleaned data. The key is to set a desired goal for your print project. For example, if your company is looking to send out thank-you notes to past clients, you will want to collect their information and potentially incorporate a piece of personal data into the mix as well, such as the service or product they bought from you.

Because super-personalized print pieces raise engagement, this tactic will encourage your clients to keep returning. This data will also come in handy for other VDP projects in the future, which means that compiling data is a great way to execute multiple VDP campaigns.

Once you have your goal set and your data combined, you will then want to create your design using this data and determine the variable elements you want to personalize on each print. 


When creating a VDP design, the goal is to focus on the static elements first, such as pictures, colors, logos, and basic information. These will form the foundation of your design and allow you to more easily incorporate your data and personalization.

To do this, think about the goal of the print piece. Are you trying to thank clients for their purchases? Do you want to welcome them to a select event? Are you simply sending a company update, or are you trying to use compiled data to target new customers in the best way possible?

Once you have your goal in mind, create the static design elements and then determine what aspects of your finished design will be variable elements. The variable elements you choose can also be determined by how personalized you want these pieces to be.

For example, a basic VDP option would be changing the address and greeting on each print. A more in-depth version of VDP would use more comprehensive data to personalize elements such as interests, purchases, or family details. After you’ve determined what parts of your design you intend to personalize, it’s all about adding the data and personalizing accordingly.

Related: How Visual Hierarchy Helps Print Tell a Story


When it comes to personalization, the numbers don’t lie; consumers love personalized content that shows the company didn’t send them something from a template. In fact, according to PODi Reports, “the average response rate for personalized marketing pieces is over 300% higher than the response rate for non-personalized mail pieces.”

The data you’ve compiled and the design you’ve created are important in determining exactly how personalized you intend to be. For example, some companies can benefit from the simple personalization of the print piece’s intro, such as adding the person’s name and a less formal greeting.

However, others may look to go even more in-depth with their pieces. This is where personalization can truly take shape and create unique print pieces that speak to customers and potential buyers. Two good examples of this are client retention print pieces and educated marketing prints.

When it comes to client retention pieces, you may choose to compile their personal business data, family information, birthdays, and a list of products they purchased in the past. With this, because VDP pieces can be edited as much or as little as you desire, you can create a print piece that uses all of the above information and recommends another product that they are sure to like considering what they have purchased in the past. PURLs, or personalized URLs, can be used to personalize your print piece to individual customers and enable you to track them online.

Similarly, when creating a personalized marketing piece, you may analyze your target audience, determine key factors about them that you can use to your benefit, such as their interests and buying habits, and use this to your advantage when personalizing your piece. You could start a marketing piece with a friendly greeting, move on to some of their hobbies, recommend products that fit their buying habits, and then end with an equally friendly and personalized call to action.

After you have compiled personalized aspects, the last step is to give this information to your vendor for them to utilize accordingly.


With every element in place, it’s now time to deliver your personalized print elements to your vendor for them to create and distribute the pieces. This can be as simple as giving them the data, design, and main approach, and can lead to countless new and returning clients. Ironmark does this seamlessly (shameless plug!).

If you currently don’t have a vendor that can create these VDP pieces, this will be the final step to complete. Once you find that vendor and have them print your project, you can finally sit back and watch your company reap the many benefits of personalized printing.


With personalization set up, watch as your customers are impressed with your print pieces. Statistics dictate that VDP is the future of print for companies looking to increase profits and retain their current clients.

In fact, according to SmarterHQ, “72% of customers will only engage with personalized messaging.” After all, who doesn’t enjoy feeling important to a company, especially when you choose to spend money on their products or services?

It’s no surprise that highly personalized print materials are so popular with businesses and consumers alike. All that’s left to do is create your own variable data print piece and see just how optimal and unique it can be.

Interested in learning more about Variable Data Printing and using it for your next marketing campaign? Contact our experts at Ironmark today!

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Written by Garner Leidy

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