Author Archives: Guest Contributor

News on the 2012 USPS Barcode and Mobile Promotion


The 2011 Mobile Barcode Promotion was so successful because it utilized emerging technologies and the prevalence of smartphones to integrate direct mail with modern devices. Customers and businesses alike benefited from the ease of use and the postal savings affiliated with this promotion.

The following information describes the proposed 2012 incarnation of the promotion:

The 2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion provides mailers with an upfront postage discount on qualifying Standard Mail® and First-Class Mail® letters, flats, and cards that contain a mobile barcode or similar print technology that can be read or scanned by a mobile device.  The technology must lead the recipient to either:

1. A webpage that allows the recipient to purchase a product or service on a mobile device.
2. A personalized URL, which leads to a web page that is unique to an individual recipient.

Program Parameters

Registration Begins: May 1, 2012

Program Period: July 1 through August 31, 2012

Discount Amount: 2% of eligible postage. The mobile barcode discount is calculated in PostalOne!® and applied to the mailing statement at the time of mailing. Normal postage prices as listed in the published price schedule apply to the mailing, and the discount is applied to those prices.

Eligible Mail Classes: Standard Mail® letters and flats, Nonprofit Standard Mail letters and flats, First-Class Mail® presort and automation letters, cards and flats

Registration Requirements

Program Registration: Participants and/or mail service providers must register on the Business Customer Gateway.  Mailers agree to participate in a survey about the promotion. Registration opens May 1, 2012 and will continue throughout the promotion period.

Mailing Submission Requirements

Documentation/Postage Statement:  Mailings must be submitted electronically via mail.dat, mail.xml or Postal Wizard.

Participating mailers will be required to affirmatively claim this promotion on electronic postage statement submissions.  All mailpieces in a mailing statement must be eligible for the promotion. Note, the discount must be claimed at the time of mailing and cannot be rebated at a later date.

Mailing Date:  Mail must be tendered for acceptance during the promotion period, July 1, 2012, through August 31, 2012.  Qualified PVDS mailings that are verified and paid for by August 31, 2012, will be accepted at destination entry postal facilities through September 15, 2012.

IMB Requirements:  Automation mailpieces must contain an Intelligent Mail barcode.

Postage Payment Method: Postage must be paid using a Permit Imprint, or Precancelled Stamp permit.  Some Meter Permit mailings may qualify.  OMAS and “Official Government Mail” mailings are not eligible for the promotion.

Mailpiece/Mailing Content Requirements

The two-dimensional barcode or similar print technology which takes a consumer to a mobile optimized site that either enables mobile commerce or is personalized for the recipient. All qualifying mail must contain a mobile barcode or equivalent technology that can read or scanned by a mobile device (this includes two-dimensional barcodes, tags, and watermarks).  The mailpiece must also contain text near the barcode or image providing guidance to the consumer to scan the barcode or image. Additional requirements are listed below.

Mobile Commerce

If the barcode is used to facilitate mobile commerce:

  • The destination web page(s) must contain information relevant to content of the mailpiece, and some or all of the service(s) and/or product(s) advertised in the mailpiece must be available for purchase on a mobile device.
  • The destination web pages must reside on a web site platform that contains (or is deeply integrated with) a checkout functionality so that consumers can complete the purchase of the good or service referenced in the mailpiece through a complete mobile optimized experience.
  • Websites used for e-bill payment of prior purchases, or regularly scheduled payments (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.) for goods and services are not eligible.

Mobile Personalization

If the barcode leads to a personalized website:

  • For each mailpiece recipient, the web address is unique to the recipient, as is the content of the web page.
  • Unique web page content is based on relevant customer data such as prior behavior, life stage, segmentation, and demographics.

Requirements at the time of mail acceptance and post- mailing

At Mail Acceptance:  The mailer must provide a hard copy, unaddressed sample of the mailpiece showing the placement of the mobile barcode to the acceptance clerk. If a mailing contains mobile barcode mail from multiple mailers, a hard copy sample of each mailer’s mailpiece must be presented. If mobile personalization is used, at least two samples must be submitted in order to demonstrate that the web addresses are unique to each recipient.

Post Mailing Requirements:  All mailers who receive the discount must retain an electronic or hard copy sample of the mailpiece until October 31, 2012, and if requested by the Postal Service must forward such sample to the promotion program office.

This post was provided by Rich Cicha who writes for the SourceLink blog. It provides excellent information for the direct mail industry from a company who specializes in “connecting data, design & delivery.” 

Looking for a More Lucrative Revenue Stream?


A recent InfoTrends study entitled The Evolution of the Cross-Media and Marketing Services Provider reveals 58% of the 280 print service providers surveyed are offering cross-media services. There’s no doubt that the cross-media market is dynamic, growth-oriented, and a major contributor to the future of the printing industry.

The marketing executive is the key decision-maker in cross-media services. These marketers are facing a number of challenges in the transition to cross-channel marketing, from strategy to design and deployment to tracking and measurement. The sheer scope of the cross-channel marketing model, and the new innovations that continue to appear, make it difficult for marketers to keep up.

The opportunity is that marketers are reaching out to their traditional print service provider and agency partners for assistance. During an October 2010 study entitled Capturing the Cross-Media Direct Marketing Opportunity, InfoTrends surveyed more than 500 marketers to find out answers to questions such as: What selection criteria are essential to the marketer? How does that service provider move to the top of the list so they can participate in the more lucrative marketing value chain and the incremental digital print revenue associated with cross-media services?

You can download the full white paper for free here. (Click in the bottom, left corner). Find out the answers to what Marketers are looking for and how YOU can participate in the lucrative cross-media revenue stream!

How does today’s Corporate Marketing Team support their growing distribution force?


Distributed execution through technology…

With today’s digital and production technology providing endless opportunities for variability and personalization, keeping brand consistency and even regulatory compliance has become a unique challenge.  This is particularly true when your product or service is offered by way of captive or non-captive agents, franchises, dealers and re-sellers. 

These “representatives” want and need corporate marketing support in their efforts to grow their revenue.  Corporate Marketing wants to help reps and needs to contribute to sales growth.

A solution to this growing concern just might be to commission a “Marketing Services Portal” (MSP).  An MSP provides an on-line, self-served, centralized location that reps can access to gain or perform advanced marketing functions in a controlled environment.  Benefits to this marketing platform include:

  • Performing multi-channel direct marketing campaigns.  Reps can choose channels, customize a communication based on pre-approved choices and select qualified leads.
  • Customized collateral material.  Reps may upload headshots, logos, or maps to be included on co-branded brochures.
  • Educational content.  Reps can now have access to unlimited videos, presentations, sell sheets, etc.. 

At the same time, corporate Marketing departments now have the ability to:

  • Design effective multi-channel marketing campaigns.  Design templates to ensure control over regulatory statements, brand images and text while also providing modeled, targeted data selection criteria.
  • Design effective co-branded advertising material.  Build a template using your existing collateral material, but allow rep customization for co-branding or other variability.
  • Organize and push information.  When designed correctly, the portal is an internal marketing avenue as much as it is a self serve tool for the reps.  The platform offers a centralized home to communicate to your reps regularly.
  • Be more productive while managing costs.  Instead of spending time re-inventing the wheel for each rep, focus your time on producing creative solutions and programs that can be rolled out en-mass.

Portals sound great, so how do I go about building one?

It is critical to choose the right partner to build your Marketing Services Portal.  Almost all DM Agencies will offer this type of portal or something similar, but not all agencies have the complete service offerings (design, data, delivery) to produce and support the portal  in-house.

While supporting all aspects of the portal in-house is not a pre-requisite to success, choosing a provider who does will cut down on complexity, build time, and eliminate unnecessary risks with partner integration.

In the current business environment, doing less with more is proving to be more important than ever before.  Selecting and implementing the right tools, making best use of the limited resources available, and staying ahead of the competitive curve will define our successes.

To learn more about marketing services portals, please visit Sourcelink. You can also check out Sourcelink’s blog.

What will the future of direct mail look like?


We all understand that the digital age plays an important role in marketing communications, but a unique transformation is taking place where the miniaturization of consumer-level technology is driving new types of channels of communications. So I was considering how direct mail will look in the future. The conventional method of messaging with personalization will continue, but will it change the experience for the end user?

The Smartphone is now taking on more uses then being just a phone, and it has caused the technology to become more miniaturized. Individual features are becoming more of a commodity than ever before. Do you remember when it was a big deal to have power windows or a CD player in your car? Technology is driving new innovative channels for direct messaging or even dynamic messaging.

My experience in digital electronics drove me to investigate what science is around the corner that will change Marketing Services. What would it be like if you could distribute your message using video inside a direct Mail piece? Sounds like a cell phone stripped down to play a video message for a limited time with some interactivity. This concept is not new but the packaging and the price is critical for the success.

Still not convinced…

Click here.

I attended a presentation with top talent from MIT, and upcoming advancements in products will include a sensor that will communicate conditions and receive updates. For example, your medical prescription will electronically notify you that you missed a day of taking your medicine. This will not be some large box with an antenna on top of it, but a normal-sized medicine package that you will buy from your drug store.

Going back to the direct mail piece – After some additional investigation I decided to check into product pricing of a media-playing direct mail piece. You can obtain this technology for as little as $15. Now all you need is a small power source and you have the ability to play video for a short period of time. Add in some personalization and you now have a marketing channel.

If products have sensors embedded in them to transmit and receive information, the media messaging can change dynamically depending on the user’s habits or surroundings. Would this be considered intelligent Direct mail? We are just getting started on what is next and working with partners that are creative is going to be more important than ever.

This post was provided by SourceLink. To learn more about strategic solutions and incorporating digital print services, please visit their website.

If you are looking for more resources and ideas for direct mail, visit

Is Digital Print Part of Your Solution?


I only ask because in today’s marketing strategy digital print is only one piece of the magic formula and it’s effectiveness is dependent upon many other factors. It really starts upstream with market research and understanding the audience in order to drive the desired results. Next we need to figure out how to connect the dots. For example, once we gather the data and creative pieces, how do we get them working for us?

We are often faced with the opportunity to show our clients how digital color can impact the mail campaign. For me, it’s never just about putting color on paper, it’s much more personal. Sure, we can convert projects from conventional printing to digital color by combining market cells and targeting smaller segments, which are often considered too expensive to run on their own, but there’s much more to it.

For example, it’s about working with our clients and helping them take a name and address file with a vehicle identification number, break the VIN down to isolate the year, make, model and color, and then use that information to pull in a picture of the vehicle owned by the mail recipient. The next step is to reengineer the package and allow that vehicle picture to show through the window of the outside envelope so the recipient has that immediate personal connection to the mail piece. It’s also about building a program with business rules and logic that requires minimal maintenance, yet having more flexibility than ever imagined. You end up incorporating new ways of thinking and the latest technology to create a personalized experience, meet quick turn times, minimize inventory control and enabling our clients to track their mail.

Sure, just adding color has proven to increase response rate, but when you plan and design variable color to be part of a solution it takes your mail campaign to a whole new level.

This post was provided by SourceLink. To learn more about strategic solutions and incorporating digital print services, please visit their website .

When Implementing Your Next Email Campaign, Think Direct Mail


This post was generously provided by Sourcelink.

We’re all familiar with the phrase “cutting through the clutter,” particularly as it applies to direct mail marketing. But that same mind-set works with your email marketing campaigns, as well. Think about it, how many promotional emails do you get in a day and how many of those really capture your attention? And more to the point, how many do you actually respond to? So, the next time you plan to communicate with your customers via email, pay strict attention to the principals you use for your direct mail campaigns.

Subject Line: Does the subject line accurately describe your intended message? Does it make a value proposition? Think of it like the teaser copy on your carrier envelope. Chances are, if you don’t capture your audience’s attention with the subject line, your open rate is going to be disappointing.

“From” address: Similar to direct mail, email open rates go up when customers know the sender. Make sure your company’s name is conspicuously displayed (

Visual Layout: Is the content (copy and graphics) of your email attention grabbing? Is it easy for the recipient to peruse and get the essence of your message? Does your offer stand out and is there a clear call to action? Again, consistent with your approach to direct mail, your email should follow the same principals for effectiveness – attention, interest, desire, action (AIDA)!

Similar to direct mail, use segmentation to vary the copy and graphics in your emails to keep the message relevant and timely based on the needs of your target audience. And keep on testing. In fact, an offer test conducted through email can save you time and money in learning which offer to include in your direct mail communications. Finally, remember email communications are intended to entice a two-way dialogue. Make sure you provide an avenue for response – direct customers to a landing page or website and use links for sharing through social media channels, whenever appropriate.

Lastly, keep in mind that email and direct mail still complement one another. One feeds off the other and results are almost always better when both are employed. SourceLink recently conducted a direct marketing program for a B2B client using both mail and email to drive small business customers to a microsite to capture business intelligence. In a head-to-head test, it was interesting to learn that when using mail with an email follow-up, response was 22% higher than simply using email with an email follow-up. Food for thought – please let me know your thoughts and experiences. Thanks.

This blog was provided by Sourcelink. Check out their blog here for more posts like this!

Why should we care so much about data security?


As I regularly share with employees there are two main ways I think about this question. First is being a good corporate citizen and recognize that we have a responsibility to secure the data we are entrusted with to protect the privacy of individuals. According to ITRC more than 35 million data records were compromised in corporate and government data breaches in 2008. Considering that number is 3 years old I’m sure it’s growing so our focus needs to be “do no harm.” Each of us wants those that have our personal data to protect it and we need to give others that same respect. The second consideration is core in building a strong, healthy business in today’s information based world. It’s a matter of “Trust”. We work hard every day to continue to earn our customers’ trust and in this, as well as many industries, our ability to keep our customers’ data secure is one of those “make it or break it” triggers. So it can’t be an annoyance, overhead, or an afterthought…it must be part of the business as much as quality control, hitting mail dates, or even invoicing.

So what’s the point of this blog…it’s important that we all keep the ‘why’ in mind as it’s the ‘why’ that ensures all the procedures, hardware, and people come together to achieve the goal of protecting data.

Special thanks to Sourcelink for this post. Check out their blog here.

Segmentation Strategies


There are numerous requests these days involving segmentation. With the onslaught of digital print and other media, companies are starting to take personalized communication seriously. One of the most common questions I am asked is what to segment on. Some companies just want to take a basic demographic approach related to consumers. Others are focused on transactional behavior of customers. A third approach has been to incorporate spatial data into segmentation. We use our GeoGrids for this since they are approximately ten times smaller than census block groups. Still block groups, carrier routes, zip codes and other approaches are often used in segmentation today. This approach tends to allow for the highest capture rate and still gives some relevance to characteristics of consumers. Other approaches include social media preferences; web clicks etc. depending upon what is available. One word of caution on segmentation is not to segment on a variable just because it has a strong correlation. I review this concept constantly with my staff to ensure that the segments make sense and have a valid meaning to the overall business.

So how do you choose which type of segmentation you will use? My typical answer is to segment on each of these as a pure stand-alone process. This approach will give you different angles for consideration and ultimately you have the ability to create a very complex matrix by layering the segments. Then you will have accumulated a variety of information. You can see what the person looks like, how they spend their money on purchases and what their tendencies are. The key to this approach is to not create too many segments for any given layer. Otherwise, you will be so granular that there will be little statistical significance in what you wind up with allowing you to only combine two layers of segmentation at a time. Creating a three dimensional view of customers will give you the strongest perspective of how to communicate, what to offer and whether or not a specific price point will be of interest to the individual. You have to gain a strong understanding of your customers before you can effectively create your business plans.

Once you have a strong grasp of customer segments by combining layers, you can also combine these with statistical models, marketing analytics, variable digital printing or multi-channel marketing communications. The technology is here. Now is the time to make the best use of it!!

This post was provided by Sourcelink’s blog, Insight + Design.

For more tips to fuel your business, look for free downloadable white papers here.

Océ Press Go! Webinars… Are They Worth It?


If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ve likely noticed the advertisement on the top right inviting you to “Watch an Océ Press Go! Webinar”… at least the marketing department at Océ is hoping you’ve noticed it. But what exactly are these webinars and are they worth your time? I asked myself that very question and this is what I concluded…

Let’s examine the facts.

According to, the Océ Press Go! Business Development Program is not only created specifically for printers, but it was also created by printers. Upon doing more research, I learned that Press Go! originated from intense focus groups comprised of various print-shop owners. One point for Press Go!

I started to poke around the site to see what it had to offer. To my delight, the site was easy to navigate and I found the schedule for upcoming webinars and links to past webinars in about eight seconds. I’m not the most patient of peoples, so being able to find these items quickly and easily is a huge plus for me. Two points for Press Go!

Finally, I watched a webinar. I watched “The Social Scene for Digital Printers,” as social media is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Paul England, a member of the Océ business development team, and Bob Boucher, of Cole Creative, a marketing a creative services agency led the webinar. It began with a brief introduction to what social media is, including an interesting myth vs. fact discussion. Bob then highlighted how other well-know digital print providers have integrated social media into their marketing plans. Thirty-eight minutes later, I concluded the webinar with some info I already knew, but even more tips and ideas that I am eager to integrate into my own social media initiatives.

Three things I liked most about these webinars are that (1) they are led by an industry expert outside of Océ – this adds a level of credibility as each consecutive webinar is hosted by a different expert. (2) Paul ends each webinar with a Q&A session, so if you get to the end and have a question, you can ask it! And finally, (3) each webinar is archived, so if you miss one, you can always catch up. I’m adding another 3 points to my tally.

At the end of my investigation into the Press Go! Webinars, I’ve concluded that with a whopping 5 points (on my arbitrary scale!) the webinars are a worthwhile source of information. So take advantage of these webinars airing on the first Tuesday of every month.

Wide Format Means Big Opportunity…Selling it Right


The wide format printing business is unquestionably a great business opportunity for commercial printers, quick printers, and graphic arts firms. You can still get an excellent profit margin if you produce good work, develop your customer account base, and deliver the goods reliably. Because the wide format digital printing market is also highly fragmented, there is no “one way” to sell wide format print that suits all types of wide format printing organizations.

 Strategies for Success

InfoTrends recently interviewed a geographically dispersed group of wide format printing organizations to find out what methods have been the most successful for them. Here are some important elements to keep in mind when developing strategies to sell your wide format services:

Know your product: Obtain as much written information as you possibly can on your printers, ink, and media; make sure your sales and marketing materials detail the features and benefits of the systems and supplies you use. Try to show prospects data that helps them recognize the benefits they will achieve as a result of implementing more visual advertising to drive additional demand.

Know your market: Targeting a particular segment of the industry is a good idea because it makes it easier to address a particular set of customers with solutions that fit their business. It is also important to understand the directions within these key customer segments.

Know your customers: InfoTrends’ research with print service providers indicated that 49% of customers were primarily interested in outstanding quality, 24% were primarily price-driven, and another 12% were most interested in fast service. Customers often do not have the time to develop new ideas for themselves or to manage advertising related projects; this presents an opportunity for printers to extend their design and creative services and take on a greater role in the management of advertising projects.

Know your competition: Knowledge of the local competitive market can help you figure out where there are gaps in capabilities and determine opportunities for differentiation. Understanding the local market can also aid print service providers in developing pricing strategies and outsourcing relationships. InfoTrends’ recommendation to major national print service provider organizations such as the office superstores or printing networks would be to hire sales people from the ranks of the wide format print service providers to drive this more profitable line of business.

 Sometimes the best way to build your reputation is good public relations. A number of service providers are finding that an effective way to market wide format printing services is to donate some wide format print services to non-profit or community organizations. Many of the people that work for these organizations own or operate local businesses that could become clients.

A good pricing strategy is critical. It is very important for wide format print service providers to price their services effectively. By knowing your market, customers, and competitors, you should have a good idea of where your pricing should fall. Companies in the wide format printing business typically price jobs on a cost per square foot or cost per piece basis. In many cases, print buyers may require this approach to pricing because it allows them to try to compare competitive print bids on an even basis. Nevertheless, as often as possible, InfoTrends recommends that print service providers develop more of a cost-per-piece approach that factors in some of the additional services like finishing or grommeting, which are add-on costs that frustrate print buyers by driving up project costs. In addition, we are seeing signage become part of interactive marketing campaigns. QR codes and variable data are part of the wide format product mix today. It opens tremendous value add opportunity for the signage provider.

 The Bottom Line

Wide format digital printing will provide new revenue streams for those who adopt this technology. While there will be challenges along the way, wide format digital is a large and profitable market. Those that partner effectively build the right marketing and sales plans and apply their creativity and expertise will reap the rewards.