EFI DirectSmile: printers in the driver’s seat for direct marketing

EFI’s DirectSmile is software that allows you to create, personalise and automate marketing across web, e-mail, mobile, social and print media. It doesn’t require any programming skills and it integrates with existing CRM systems. DirectSmile is squarely aimed at non-printing direct marketing for printers who want to stay in business, as well as to advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments.

EFI DirectSmile is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. The company invented image personalisation in 2001. It was acquired by EFI and today makes media personalisation and automation software that streamlines sophisticated marketing and production tasks for corporations, agencies and printing companies. Successful customers include Cestrian, Nutshell Creative, Entwistle Group and others.

DirectSmile’s technologies extend EFI’s offerings and give customers expanded, fully integrated capabilities with data-driven digital print, web, e-mail, social media and mobile marketing workflows. The technology appeals to a large number of cross-media marketers. Typical uses for DirectSmile are event marketing, web-to-print and true cross-media advertising without having to first integrate a number of disparate systems.

EFI is well positioned to deliver cross-media publishing capabilities to printers. It has its own MIS environment and a mature web-to-print solution. Printers who want to expand their activities into the digital realm can start with a web-to-print solution, which is well within their comfort zone. By adding DirectSmile, which works from printed to digital and vice versa, they can leave that comfort zone at their own pace, grow their business and avoid becoming obsolete as digital further increases in importance versus print.

Advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments will love the integration with existing digital marketing efforts. With DirectSmile it doesn’t matter what your output medium ultimately is: it can be print, mobile, tablet, computer, but also channels like websites, digital books and social media (inbound marketing). Integration with back-end systems allows variable data marketing no matter the medium, with minimal effort. That allows marketers to start a campaign digitally and let it ‘fan out’ across all the media and devices today’s customers typically use.


One of the simplest applications of DirectSmile is the management of events. This is also one of the applications that printers can relate to easily. A usage scenario might for example be to print a QR-code referring to a subscription form for a luxury event in a magazine or brochure. The QR-code gets printed and the printer can follow up the results of his customer’s campaign online, using the database that collects the subscription data from the web form.

When the subscription period has passed, the printer can now send out the actual printed invitations to the people who have subscribed. When a few days or weeks have passed, a reminder e-mail can be sent to make sure everybody knows when the event takes place, etc, etc.

You could even make it more exciting — depending on your audience — and rewarding. For example, the subscription form could be the first step in collecting as many addresses as possible. Instead of just following up with a printed invitation, a printer or an advertising agency instead could create an online game using DirectSmile which serves as a digital compass to an actual, physical game that subscribers play using printed instruction cards and maps. At the end of the game, the people who got everything right win the customer’s top product.

In fact, the game itself could even be the product. The bottom line at the end of the campaign is that the printer’s — or agency’s — customer or the marketing department has a large e-mail address database of sales leads. He will also know which web content scores the best (cookies, statistics), where his potential customers like to hang out (a game in the physical world can show you this if you build in locality options that are based on preferences of the participant), etc.

The benefits

It’s easy to see the benefits for printers, who these days works in an industry of which everybody else keeps claiming “print is dead”: not only can they expand their business, they can also create a lasting relationship with their customers as they manage the data as well as the input and output. This “customer bonding” is crucial for their survival and to generate recurring business. From a printer’s point of view, it’s a bit like when they were the ‘keepers’ of the printing plates…

Printers will also love the ability to create personalised images with a few clicks of the mouse and be able to print cards but also display personalised imagery online from their customers’ database — Variable Data Printing becoming Variable Data Output, no matter the medium, channel, and even format.
DirectSmile also works the other way around, which will probably and in first instance appeal more to advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments.

You could for example start with a website where you offer a Whitepaper or a Video. You will then not only be able to automatically respond to the customers request, you can track all activities of individual leads on this website as well as how often they’re performing specific actions and create their individual scores.

Based on that score, you can decide which follow up action is necessary. DirectSmile can then be set to automatically schedule and send out follow up messages via email or SMS, or whatever other communications channel you prefer.

For the communications industry, therefore, DirectSmile is probably a lot like heaven. The possibilities are endless, the market and applications are virtually limitless. Using DirectSmile you can also create Facebook apps and finally turn Facebook into your private sales leads generator.