Author Archives: Guest Contributor

Direct Marketing: T-Rex or Flinstone’s Vitamin?


By Julie Sullivan, VP Marketing W.A. Wilde

With social media being, well, everywhere, it was no surprise that it made its presence at the June NEDMA Awards in four new categories:

  1. Best SEO Campaign
  2. Best Twitter Page
  3. Best Blog
  4. Best Other Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

What was surprising was the amount of entries in these categories – or lack thereof. Where competition was fierce in more traditional categories, there were only a sprinkling of entries in these new media categories. This is where I pause and ask the question, “Can someone please remind me, and all marketers, the true definition of direct marketing?”

From what I was taught and continue to practice, Direct Marketing really has two main principles:

  1. Engage in a one-to-one dialogue with your target audience
  2. Require your target audience to take some sort of action–call, click, move, you name it.

If you accept this definition, why is direct marketing synonymous with direct mail in so many marketers’ eyes? In the last five years or so, there has been no bigger trend than delivering relevant, personalized communications to build trust and credibility with your audience. For most companies that aren’t spending marketing dollars on broadband awareness campaigns, one-size-fits-all communications are passé–almost irresponsible in today’s marketing communications mix.

As a result, DR TV and radio, email, and yes even social media is about creating relevant, one-to-one dialogue with your target audience and motivating them to act in some way, shape, or form. If this is the case, why hasn’t direct marketing led the charge instead of being relegated to a category on the bar graph titled “direct mail” that decreases in size and budget year over year?

My plea to direct marketers is to strip the stigma of the red-headed stepchild that only creates unwanted credit card solicitations and rethink what it means to be a true direct marketer in this day and age.

How has your agency or company expanded the definition and importance of direct marketing for your business? Or is it thought of more as the dinosaur that used to have the stature of a T-Rex, but has shrunk to the size of a Flintstone vitamin?

Reporting Changes Continue for the Financial Industry


The CARD Act is spawning new changes as Elizabeth Gooding predicted in a post earlier this year on the topic. Regulation is one of the main drivers of programming work at any company producing customer communications. In addition to the credit card industry, there are changes afoot across lending, brokerage, mutual funds, annuities and retirement.

What process changes and technology investments is your company making in order to respond quickly to ongoing regulatory changes?

A Transformation Success Story


Last week the Columbia Daily Tribune (Missouri) published an article  about Kelly Press Inc., a 78 year old commercial printing company that recognized that their print business was changing. Kelly Press responded by both investing in updated printing equipment (Kodak Nexpress 2100) and by diversifying well beyond print. It is a great tale that clearly illustrates the message that analysts from InfoTrends and NAPL have been shouting from the rooftops – the need for printers to transform themselves into “Marketing Services Providers.”

Lost in the dialogue about Marketing Services Providers (MSPs) is the transition from general commercial print to specialization, from ad hoc jobs to programs. While Kelly Press is a transformation success story, I wouldn’t call them an MSP- rather they became a specialized publisher, developed focused services for specific verticals (radio stations, college sports, etc.) and even purchased the rights to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for a period of time. Their diversification of services and focus on specific verticals has helped to drive print … and more specifically digital print.

I particularly like the final quote in the story. “For a while we’ve recognized that print is dying,” said Colin See. “So to just try to sell more printed stuff wasn’t a good long-term solution. But to try to incorporate print into what the world is becoming makes sense.”

So, when we hear terms like MSP or business communications service providers – let’s keep in mind that often the challenge is simply to move to strategically packaged services as Kelly Press did. In most of these cases, print is a core service and actually enhances the total offering.

This type of transformation story is playing out in many segments of the printing industry. For example, there is a heated discussion about the role of transaction documents incorporating marketing messages and whether this is a threat to direct mailers. The underlying discussion has focused on who has the capabilities to manage data and provide complex services to help address new applications. Managing data is often cited as the key to becoming a Marketing Services Provider. My question to the Digital Nirvana community is this:

Is “Marketing Services Provider” the right term for what today’s printers should aspire to be?

Snapshot of “Marketing Outlook 2010”


Barb Pellow posted an interesting article (free access) on WhatTheyThink last week that provides insight into marketing trends related to metrics and measurement. She highlights several case examples of companies that are integrating print into campaigns that include additional, digital channels. This multi-channel convergence is an important topic for our industry and this article helps to put the issues into perspective.

In addition, Barb points us to the Marketing Outlook 2010 from the CMO Council. I reviewed the executive summary (available for FREE) and found a few very useful insights. I then decided to purchase the full report.

Much of the report confirms Barb’s assertion about the importance of metrics and measurement. It also points to some key trends that impact agencies. Finally, the report supports the position that print service providers are, or should be, transforming into marketing services providers. Key points include:

  1. Agencies are struggling to evolve as marketing and traditional media go digital in all areas of campaign execution and audience activation;
  2. There is a power shift from master agency control of accounts to control by a more digitally empowered client wielding new partner and provider connections and resources;
  3. The agency model is also threatened by new service providers such as IT integrators, consultants, and offshore business process outsourcing firms providing marketing data integration, customer analytics, predictive modeling, and performance measurement.

The study indicates that senior marketers expect to recruit more data analytics, strategic planning, interactive design, online advertising, and digital marketing competencies in house as well. There are changes coming in the way that companies conduct and measure multi-channel campaigns. You may find the full study worth the investment of $200 – I certainly did.

I Can’t Contain Myself … A Consumer’s Experience


Navigating print services through the uncharted territory of integrated communications is the topic du jour for our industry. The goal is to keep print relevant as part of the marketing mix, while delivering higher levels of ROI. It is a print centric view that is evolving to “marketing centric” and dare we say transforming to “customer centric.” This is where The Container Store ( got it right with this consumer.

 My wife and I have been customers of The Container Store for at least 15 years and have always been impressed with their innovative products and outstanding customer service. If you need organization products, they are the place to shop.

 One of their product lines is “Elfa”, a premium modular shelving system for closets, pantries, office work spaces, etc… We have used Elfa for several of our closets and have found the system to be easy to configure and simple to install. The Container Store frequently keeps in touch with us and sends us a variety of small catalogs and sale announcements throughout the year. Remember, we shop there frequently and consider these mailings to be informative and not junk mail.

 Recently, they sent us a mailer that was targeted to their “best customers” and included two 25% off discount cards to purchase Elfa (one for us, and one to refer a friend). My wife usually keeps these discount type coupons in the car – just in case! I can’t tell you whether it was this mailing, previous mailings, or our general great customer experience that got us in the door, but what sold us was our experience once we started shopping for our next closet system.

 Why don’t people buy a product such as a modular closet system? Not enough information? Too expensive? Don’t know how to configure it? Don’t know how to install it? There are many objections that can lead to risk aversion and impact sales of complex customizable solutions.  So what did they do so well that I decided to blog about my experience? First, the sales person was exceedingly friendly (a common trait for their employees), and did an outstanding job and gathering our requirements (even when we weren’t sure what they were). They have a custom built computer aided design and ordering system that allows the employee to quickly design the closet to any custom configuration. This includes a variety of shelf sizes, types, and accessories. You can view the configuration from different angles while also taking into account items such as vacuum cleaners and other types of objects that you might have to configure around.

 Next, they submit the order to the production environment. They cut the shelving units to the size(s) you need for your custom configuration, and collect all of the parts you need to install it yourself (you can opt in for a separate installation service). Did I mention “while you are waiting”? Every part is labeled to match a custom build document that shows you exactly how to install the configuration. Yes, let me repeat this. Every part is labeled (variable data printing) to match a custom build document (variable data printing) that shows you exactly how to install your configuration.

 Furthermore, the company also sent us an email summarizing the order and providing us a link to a micro site that offers a variety of documents and videos demonstrating how to install their product. Have they thought of everything!

 How did they get my business?

 1)     Outstanding customer service

2)     A focus on lifetime value of customer

3)     Generous and useful incentives

4)     Periodic reminders of their new products and offers

5)     Well planned objection handling

6)     Ability to deliver a custom solution, quickly, accurately, and with clear and concise instructions

7)     Every customer skill set was considered

8)     … and must I mention again “outstanding customer service”

 Did I mention that all of the parts are returnable, even the ones that are custom cut to your closet?

 The Container Store certainly uses print aggressively as part of their marketing arsenal. They should be applauded for their print strategy. But this isn’t what took me from impulse to purchase. It was the whole package, integrated communications, their sales process and tools, the strength of their brand, and our consistent experience over the last 15 years. Print certainly played an important role, but it was a supporting role.

 We need to remember this point and consider how we re-position print services when making the transformation to marketing services and integrated communications. You can’t engage a marketer with a print-centric posture and claim that VDP can deliver great results and expect the marketer to sign up as a client. In the case above, VDP was covert and subtle. It gently nudged us along into a sales cycle.

 A savvy marketing service provider will help the marketer with a package of integrated solutions that should include print based direct mail (catalogs, letters, gift cards, coupons), email marketing, traditional and mobile websites, micro-sites, social media, and let’s not forget sign and display graphics. They will offer solutions not only focused on customer acquisition, but customer satisfaction and lifetime customer relationship.

 This is a comprehensive solution set that may be too complex for many print providers to fulfill. However, this doesn’t mean that you are out of the game if you can’t deliver all parts of the solution. Understanding the value of print as part of integrated communications will help you secure a seat at the table. But, asking for ad-hoc print jobs and talking about VDP and digital printing will most likely not keep you around for lunch. This is where we tell you that it is critical to be a partner to your customers and truly understand how you can support their goals and objectives.  

 It really is all about the customer, right?

Gilbane Group Survey on Book Publishing


The Gilbane Group web-based survey of book publishing professionals has just gone live.

This “Blueprint” survey is one of the research mechanisms for our upcoming study A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Processes to Re-Invent Publishing. The study will be published in June 2010, and all participants in this survey will have full access to the full-length study posted on The Gilbane Group website and through the websites of the sponsors of the report. (Océ is a sponsor of the study)

This survey, which will take most participants between 10-to-15 minutes to complete, seeks to gain a clearer picture of ebook and related digital publishing efforts underway among the full spectrum of book publishers. Furthermore, the analyst team at The Gilbane Group (a division of OutSell, Inc.) seeks to identify a number of “pain points” or barriers encountered by book publishers when it comes to developing or expanding digital publishing programs, including areas such as royalties, digital format choices, and distribution problems.

Broadly speaking, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Systems to Re-Invent Publishing is a professional education effort, and its utility will rely, in large part, on the active and open participation of the book professionals on the front lines of the digital transformation of books.

Please note: This survey is for high- and mid-level book publishing professionals. If this does not describe you, please do not take this survey.

Thank you for your participation!

Richard Lowe, EDSF’s New Chairman, Speaks Out


By Brenda Kai, Executive Director, EDSF

EDSF, the international non-profit organization dedicated to the document management and graphic communications industries, could not be effective without the outstanding leadership of its Board of Directors—all volunteers who support EDSF in its mission. EDSF grants scholarships to students in support of their academic careers, provides research grants to colleges and universities, builds awareness about industry careers, and recognizes innovative educators and educational programs.

To bring more insight into EDSF’s efforts, Franchise Services President and COO, Richard Lowe, the new EDSF chairman, shares his thoughts on EDSF happenings as they relate to helping students.

As an industry leader, Lowe joined the Franchise Services in 1989, and today the company’s print management group operates the brands of Sir Speedy, PIP, Signal Graphics and MultiCopy—all well-known and highly successful brands in the quick printing industry.

DN: Congratulations on your new position as Chairman of the Board of EDSF. How long has Franchise Services been involved with EDSF?

RL:We are proud to say that Franchise Services has been a supporter since EDSF was founded in 1996. Their primary focus has been, and continues to be making positive changes in the lives of students, and we share that dedication. I personally joined the Board in 2008 and served on the Development Committee prior to becoming Chairman.

DN: What benefits does EDSF provide to the industry?

RL:It’s hard to imagine a more challenging business environment than we have experienced this past year. Despite all the turmoil, there remains within the increasingly complex world of document management, graphic communications and printing a critical need to attract and foster the development of the next generation of business professionals.

However, also during this same time, financial assistance programs for students have been drastically reduced while the costs of an education have continued to rise. EDSF programs help fill these needs by providing  scholarships to students attending two-year and four-year college/university and postgraduate programs worldwide. To date 306 scholarships have been awarded in ten countries.

DN: What is the biggest challenge EDSF is facing?

RL:Fundraising remains a critical issue and it is no surprise that the Wall Street Journal reported that contributions to non-profit organizations focusing on education were down 24 percent in 2009 due to the economy. To overcome this shortfall requires a different approach to fundraising and a willingness to investigate new initiatives. This year, we developed several campaigns and programs designed to attract a higher number of individual contributions in addition to our corporate sponsorships.

One of my personal favorite’s, is the Adopt-a-Scholar program designed for donors interested in a more personal approach to providing educational support. Participation in this program provides each donor with a thank you letter from the student receiving support along with their photo and a short profile.  Other new programs also include:

  • eBay Giving Works
  • Continuing education partnership with AIIM Certificate Program

In addition, there are many different ways to establish or contribute to an existing scholarship award.

Information about all donation opportunities is available on the Web site at:

DN: What other thoughts would you like to share with our readers?

RL: I would like to thank everyone who supported EDSF’s “The Future is Bright” campaign in December, and ask for your continued support.

With the recent disaster in Haiti, we’ve seen the difference the “Power of Many” can make. Everything we give today, no matter the size, has more meaning, more power, more importance and for our students, more hope.  Every dollar donated has a greater impact than it did just a year ago. We ask for your help in working to make a difference for a student pursuing their dream of continued education.

In closing, I want to share a quote from one scholarship recipient from 2009:

“Knowing the industry is behind me and willing to support me financially means so much. This generous scholarship encourages me in preparing for a bright future and allows me to put a stronger focus on my education rather than how to pay for it.

– Jason Landrum

An Introduction to JDF


Editor’s Note.  Andrew Leung a 4th year Graphic Communication student at Ryerson University recently wrote this essay on JDF. The use of JDF-enabled system are becoming widely adopted within the industry. This essay provides a concise review of the technology.

By Andrew Leung

To those who use it, JDF is considered one of the most innovative technologies in the printing industry. It allows workflow to become much more automated and help streamline some of the more cumbersome and repetitive tasks that often can cost printers a substantial amount of money; it was built to help eliminate waste. It costs nothing for printers to use the specifications for JDF, but the systems that incorporates its ability is where the cost lies. JDF is still relatively new, and while there are those in the printing and graphics art industry that have adopted its potential and capabilities, others are still skeptical about it, in the long run, JDF is here to stay.

Continue reading

The “Next You”


By Brenda Kai, Executive Director, EDSF

We know that everyone is very busy this time of the year and has more than a few things to do. However, we would like you to take just a minute to think about a very important search. . .the search for the “next you.”

Think about that for a few seconds. You are successful, creative and influential, but where will the “next you” come from? That person who will lead the industry you love and work hard to keep the stock price in your 401K up; where are they? At EDSF, we know that the answer lies in young minds, all over the world, that are just beginning their journey to the place you now occupy. They are the ones that will ultimately be your legacy – the “next you.”

But many of them need help to realize their ambitions.

Over the last several weeks, during EDSF’s “The Future Is Bright” Awareness Campaign, you’ve been introduced to several EDSF Board members, met the volunteers that support the scholarship program and The EDSF Report, heard about the new Adopt -A-Scholar and Holiday giving programs, and met many of the wonderful students that received support.

We hope that in becoming more familiar with EDSF that you will want to become involved in making a bright future for these students needing financial assistance. Please remember that EDSF is not a membership-based organization, but relies on generous contributions from corporations and individuals to fund the scholarship programs.

The truth is, it really is all about “you.” The current “you” that provides your generous support to EDSF and the “next you” that needs all of us to help them reach their dream. Every gift, whatever the size, is valuable. Please visit to make a tax deductible donation online.

EDSF “The Future is Bright” Q&A: Andy & Julie Plata


Andy and Julie Plata are well-known pioneers in the document and high volume transaction output (HVTO) industry. Over the past quarter-century, the Plata’s have contributed greatly to its continuing evolution. Andy was the third president (now called chairman) of Xplor International, where he traveled extensively to help establish chapters in Canada, Europe and Australia. Julie was the developer of the Laser Training Institute and a consultant to Kodak during the development of its initial high-volume products. Both Andy and Julie have served as advisors to many of the major HVTO companies; and the couple’s business achievements have been lauded in the business and technology press.

Today, the Platas, owners and publishers of OutputLinks and Graphic Communications World, talk about their involvement with EDSF, the international non-profit organization dedicated to the document management and graphic communications industries. Visit EDSF at

How long have you been involved with EDSF?

Eight years. We attended the Foundation’s Inaugural dinner and started funding scholarships in 2002.

How many scholarships have you funded to date, and what type of scholarships are they?

The first scholarship we established was an endowment to fund in perpetuity the John Lopiano Endowed Scholarship. To date, we have funded approximately 30+ annual scholarships including an annual $5,000 scholarship honoring the 50+ OutputLinks Women of Distinction. Other scholarships honor Lifetime Achievements, Stewardship and Sustainability contributions by industry leaders. By partnering with EDSF to manage our scholarships, we do what we enjoy, fund the scholarships, while EDSF manages the day to day work and selection process to make it all work smoothly.

With the difficult economy and contributions to non-profits in a significant decline, your support for scholarships has increased. Can you share your philosophy on this?

Yes, these are challenging times and a recent report in the WSJ indicates a dramatic decline in charitable giving with one of the hardest hit being education. We see stewardship as an opportunity to be of service and, when times are tough, the need for stewardship is greater than ever. We have have steadily increased our donations and will continue to do so despite the economy. It may mean we have to work harder to find the available funds, but if those of us in business are being hammered by the economy, just imagine what those who are trying to complete an education must be going through. Hence, we simply feel that financial support for education is more important than ever before.

Have you met any of the scholarship students?

Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the scholarship recipients and they are wonderful people. Their great and enthusiastic aspirations inspire us. Funding an EDSF Scholarship is a super opportunity to play a small role in helping them achieve their dreams. They are so appreciative of the financial support they received from our industry. They are the spark our industry needs to prosper. Every young person needs to know that others believe in them.

What message would you like to share about EDSF?

We all know the need is out there. We all know we need to keep new blood coming into our industry. We all know it is an exciting time in our industry and a great place to start a career. So, let’s all do what we all know – allocate the finds to fill the pipeline of s new generation of output professionals. EDSF makes it easy.

EDSF has several new programs: Adopt-a-Scholar and the Holiday Giving program that provide new ways to contribute at whatever level is comfortable for you or your company. All the donations are tax deductible and can go directly to supporting much needed scholarship funding. To learn more, visit

EDSF Scholar of the Day
Carolina Modenessy, New York University –
John Lopiano Scholarship 2008
EDSF Board of Directors Scholarship 2007

“The scholarship that EDSF has awarded me is such a wonderful help for my academic and future professional careers. I am very excited about fulfilling my career goals as a graphic designer/manager and, with help from organizations like EDSF, I can continue to reach for my dreams. Thank you!”