Author Archives: Heidi Tolliver-Walker

About Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

Cleaning Authority Does QR Codes Well


I am seeing more and more direct mail campaigns with QR Codes done well. Cleaning Authority provides yet another example of how you can use QR Codes to help your customers boost their direct mail results.

IMG_8629Cleaning Authority is a national housecleaning service, and the other day, I received a simple self-folding mailer with a QR Code on the front. Right away, I was informed that I could win a free housecleaning by scanning the code. The CTA was clear. I understood the value of taking the extra step of scanning the code, and for those who didn’t know how to use a QR Code, there was a URL.

Once I scanned the code, I went to a well done mobile site. It contained customer testimonials, social media share buttons, and more clear CTAs. The share buttons were a nice touch, allowing The Cleaning Authority to spread its message. With a free cleaning in the mix, there was value for respondents in making the share.

IMG_8628In case respondents didn’t win, and now that they had been exposed to multiple testimonials an easy-to-use site, The Cleaning Authority invited people to call for an in-home visit and free housecleaning estimate.

Simple, clean, and quick. This was a well-crafted campaign that accomplished its marketing goal, and its use of QR Code moved that goal along.

This is something you can do. It’s something your clients can do. For the right campaigns, it’s something you should.

Why You Need to Know Your Forest Stats


Earlier this week, I stopped into my local Verizon Wireless store to pay my bill and save a stamp. After making my payment, the salesperson went to print my receipt, and while he was away from the desk, I received one by text. When he got back, I joked about the double receipt and said that, while Verizon’s text negatively impacted the environment by pulling power off the grid, hopefully he’d counteracted that negative impact by printing one out. He looked confused.

I told him that, by using paper, he was helping to preserve America’s forests. This Millennial leaned forward and wanted to know more.

We talked about how 60% of America’s forests and commercially owned, and if the landowners can’t make money by selling forest products, those forests risk being sold off for other uses, such as real estate development and agriculture. His eyes widened.

We talked about how landowners can optimize their forests for various recreational uses by attracting different types of wildlife depending on how the forest is managed. Create more open spaces with low underbrush and you’ll attract more deer, for example. Using the right practices, you can even draw in different species of birds. That translates into the ability to manage your forest for specific types of desired recreational income, such as hiking, birdwatching, ATV riding, or hunting.

“I had no idea!” he exclaimed.

We talked about how two-thirds of the energy used to produce paper comes from renewable resources and how printers are among the heaviest users of renewable energy credits.

He thoroughly surprised by all of this, and it was abundantly clear that I was telling him things he didn’t know and wanted to hear. At the end of the conversation, which took no more than a few minutes, he had a completely different take on the value of paper.

These conversations matter. There is still a tremendous misunderstanding about forest and paper industry and its impact on the environment. Most people still believe that print kills trees, and according to a recent Two Sides study, 55% of respondents believe that U.S. forests have decreased in area. This rises to 62% of 18 to 24 year olds. More than 70% of respondents think that less than half of waste paper is recycled. (In reality, it’s 67%.)

Especially among young people, it is critical that print and paper’s environmental story is told. These are our rising generation of marketers and business owners who are making decisions about how to spend their marketing dollars. Studies consistently show that, among Millennials, the environment is a top concern and they are more likely to stay loyal to brands that have a strong environmental story to tell.

Printers need to be prepared to have these conversations when and where they come up. Visit sites like Two Sides NA. Know the data. Be ready to combat misperceptions and tell the story of paper. It’s critical with clients, but it’s critical in these impromptu conversations, too. Who knows whether the guy I talked to today is a lifer at the Verizon store or whether he’s a graduate student who will end up running the marketing department of a major brand company one day. Or what he might share with a friend in a casual conversation, and what influence that comment might have.

If I can start that conversation, so can you.

Does AR Need to Replace QR Code Use? Not Always


I have run across another great implementation of QR Codes, and while AR is advancing in leaps and bounds, I’m not sure there is a reason for it to replace QR Codes for every application. This is a good example of why.

QR Code 1The QR Code was on a catalog, inviting shoppers to scan to shop. When I scanned the code, I was immediately taken to a page that invited me to sign up for email alerts for discounts and sales. Nicely done. Once I made a decision on that, I could move on to the mobile shopping site.

This implementation was simple. It worked. It didn’t need to be complicated, and it wasn’t. Unless the catalog is going to have AR components, I don’t see any reason for AR to replace it. Plus, this QR Code implementation is free.

QR Code 2Catalogs arrive at home, so why would someone scan a QR Code as opposed to going to their computer? Two reasons.

First, human beings are inherently lazy.  We do everything else on our phones. Why would I want to walk all the way across the room to my laptop and type in the URL when I could just open my QR Code reader and scan the code without going anywhere?

Second, I’ve come to prefer mobile shopping in many cases. I like the simple interface without all the options. I like the way the information is laid out. It simplifies things, and when it’s a retailer I don’t know well and I’m not looking for something specific, this works for me.

Plus, once I scan that code, the pathway remains in my phone to refer back to later. All I have to do is go into the history inside the reader and I can re-access any of the information from codes I’ve scanned. I’ve done it. I may not want something right then and there, but later on I realize there was something I want to refer back to, and it’s right at my fingertips. It’s not a reason to scan a code at the outset, but it’s a nice bonus once I’ve done it.

I get the move to AR, and there is a critical role for AR going forward that the printing industry needs to understand. It will replace QR Codes for many applications, but it’s not necessary to replace all of them. Not all marketing applications need AR. Sometimes marketers just need a really good bridge from print to mobile, and QR Codes provide that.

It’s important for our industry to remember that AR isn’t just a better version of QR Codes. It’s a fundamentally different technology and provides a different experience. QR Codes are simply a bridge from print to mobile. That’s it. They are like clicking a hyperlink in an email, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Tale of two AR campaigns


Last time, I touched on how, in this industry, we are essentially chasing augmented reality (AR) from behind. What we see on product packaging and the retail shelves is what was being produced months ago. By the time it shows up for us to see, it’s already out of date.

MJ Anderson, CMO of Trekk, which is on the leading edge of augmented and virtual reality, recently sent me links to two AR campaigns. One is largely what’s wrong with AR and one is everything that is right.

The “what’s wrong” with AR is the gimmicky use of augmented/virtual reality that, like the early days of QR Codes, often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. It’s the mediocre “what did I bother” experience that, unless they are truly bored, makes people feel that scanning isn’t really worth the effort.

The experience is from deadmau5 and Absolut Vodka. Here is the assessment of the writer of RoadOVR:

Playing the experience on my Oculus Rift, I got the very clear sense that nothing I did in the app really mattered—from driving on the freeway to dodging sound equipment carts in a night club hallway—it all seemed like a trick to make you think you’re playing a game when in reality you’re just being guided by the hand through a hollow advertisement.

Sounds like just the kind of experience that will kill AR/VR before it gets started. Now compare it to where Anderson sees the real future of this technology in real solutions to real business problems.

In the other example, Fast Company described how architects are using AR/VR to create virtual spaces that solve real-world problems. In this use, architects are using virtual spaces to share their designs with team members, clients, and construction partners. Especially in large spaces, like the one being designed by IA Engineers for LinkedIn described in the video, AR/VR lets the architect share the virtual design with those who will be using the space. This allows users to experience a 360-degree, immersive view and provide feedback before the construction is complete. Changes can be made, if necessary, before it’s too expensive or impractical to do so. Another example given in the Fast Company video was developers looking to rent office space. While the building is still in process, virtual tours can be sent to prospective renters with the goal of renting as much of the space as possible before the building is even complete.

In uses like this one, AR/VR becomes a business tool like any other. It’s not fancy. It’s not promoted by rappers and movie studios. But it’s the kind of mundane problem-solving tool that rapidly becomes indispensible. As it does, it simultaneously increases users’ comfort level with this technology that will translate into other uses, including marketing.

What are some of the most commercially viable uses of AR/VR that you are seeing?

Chasing AR from behind


The other day, I had a conversation with MJ Anderson, CMO of Trekk, one of the companies on the forefront of mobile technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) with a focus on how they drive the world of print. A lot happened in that conversation, but there is one point I’d like to bring out here.

When we look at the AR applications in the marketplace, it’s kind of like looking at the stars. What we see is the result of something that happened long ago, and what we are seeing is an image of yesterday. The AR we see on the retail shelves, for example, was created by agencies and production houses six months ago. In the world of mobile, that’s an eternity.

When I talk to MJ about the projects Trekk is working on, it’s far different than many of the gimmicky applications we see being produced by marketers right now. These are real solutions to real business problems. They just don’t make it into the trade press because they create competitive advantage and, like the early days of 1:1 printing, their clients often don’t want to talk about them.

This creates a challenge for printers, MSPs, and marketers trying to figure out where to take their clients and customers. What we read about new technology is often visionary and may or may not come to pass. But in the world of mobile, when we read about what has already been done, what’s possible is already beyond that.

What to do? Keep up with the commentary, the case studies, and the articles in business magazines. Then pair that with real conversations with the real people on the forefront of creating these applications. Let them tell you want they are doing now and what will show up on the shelves tomorrow.

In the next day or two, I’ll write about some of the applications MJ sees as representative of the current state of AR that printers, marketers, and MSPs need to be aware of.  Stay tuned.

Consumers: We’re Tired of Being Pressured to Go Digital Only


Is it just me? Or are you tired to being pushed into digital-only communications from the companies you work with? If so, a new study shows that we’re not alone.

According to the study, commissioned by Two Sides and conducted by Toluna Inc., 79% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information as “more permanent record,” and 77% would be “unhappy” if they were asked to pay a premium for paper bills and statements. Seventy-nine percent indicated that it’s easier to read on paper compared to a screen. They want to be given a choice.

Consumers are also suspicious of why companies are trying to get them to go digital. Businesses such as banks, utilities, and credit card companies say going digital helps the environment, but most of us know this isn’t true. They are doing it to save money. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of respondents to the Two Sides survey (85%) say that cost-saving is the main reason why companies use environmental claims such as, “Go Paperless – Go Green” or “Go Paperless – Save trees,” and 57% of respondents reported that they question the validity of those claims.

This lays the groundwork for education on the benefit paper to the environment, and in fact, the message seems to be resonating. There has been a more concerted effort in this industry to spread the word, and it’s working.

Overwhelmingly (88% of) respondents to the survey agreed that when forests are responsibly managed, it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing. Ninety-one percent agreed that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when responsibly produced and used.  This is up from 19% in a similar survey Two Sides conducted in 2013.

So let’s keep talking about it! If you’ve been among the evangelists for the environmental benefits of paper, you’re doing a great job. If you aren’t yet doing so, maybe it’s time to start.

Click here for the Two Sides press release, which is chock full of great stats to share with your customers in your newsletters and blog posts.


Re-Targeting as Part of the Multichannel Mix


Retargeting has been around for awhile, but I’m starting to hear about it more and more. Increasingly, it has become an important part of the multichannel marketing mix (including those that include print) and important for MSPs to understand.

As an MSP, your goal is to generate campaigns that get results. Particularly on the front end, that means print. But then what? You create a personalized or segmented marketing campaign that drives flocks of people to the client’s website. However, statistics show that only 2% of online shoppers convert when visiting a website for the first time. Your job is to help your client capture more of the other 98%. If you don’t, they may see the print mailing as a flop.

In other words, helping them capture more of that 98% benefits the client, but it also benefits you.

How do you get at those people?

  • You can continue to mail to them and hope they convert next time.
  • You can nudge them with email.
  • Or you can do retargeting.

Retargeting is the practice of tracking the online behavior of people who visit a website and then targeting them later with relevant ads online. Sometimes retargeting is most effective when it happens immediately. Other times, it is more effective when it happens sometime later. (Enter: testing.)

Say you have a customer who has a high-end, niche pet supply store. Someone comes to the website and clicks on information on organic dog treats but doesn’t make a purchase. When they log into their Facebook page later that day, they might be see an ad for organic dog treats, paired with a strong call to action and an online coupon. Suddenly, the awareness campaign that began with direct mail ends in an online sale—and it’s one that might or might not have occurred without the additional nudge provided by retargeting.

Retargeting simply takes a little bit of Javascript code on the customer’s website and is available through numerous online suppliers of retargeting services. If you want to incorporate retargeting, it’s easy to find.

While MSPs may balk at incorporating online advertising as part of their service mix, it’s not much different than the resistance to mobile several years ago. Today, mobile is an expected part of the mix. As most MSPs acknowledge, even if you aren’t offering the service in-house, it’s at least part of the discussion.

Today, retargeting deserves the same attention.

Join the Debate: What Would You Do in This Situation?


What would you do in this scenario? A client moves all of its printing to China and you lose all of your work from the company. Several years later, a young “sourcing analyst” contacts you and asks for a quote on an item you haven’t printed for them since 2013. You provide a fair price, which is only $23 more than you priced it three years ago, and he responds that if you can come in under that, you’ll get the job. Other than having steam come out your ears, what would you do?

This is a real-life scenario posted by one print shop owner on an industry discussion board. It sparked a firestorm of responses ranging from “just take the job” to “tell him to go jump in a lake.” Here are a choice few of the responses. What would you do? Let’s hear what you think!

Response initially written by the author of the question as a joke (and not sent):

“Listen, Junior, you’re being paid by your company to get value from your vendors, not the cheapest price. If your firm really wants you to spend your time sourcing a new vendor in order to save $23.74, quit now. If you’re simply doing this because this is the way you think the world works, go to work in the public sector.”

Suggested responses from the board:

“I’m through getting squeezed. I tell people that I add too much value to take a pay cut when they might consider giving me a raise if they examined closely what I actually do for them.”

“If you think there is potentially more business there, bend over backwards. Otherwise, politely decline.”

“The scenario described indicates that it wouldn’t end there. I remember a meeting with a client who surprised me by introducing me to a competitor. He told us that one of us was going to wind up with the order by the end of the meeting and let the haggling begin. I stood up and congratulated my competitor for having won the order. This young ‘sourcing analyst’ is not interested in a meaningful relationship.”

“Take the order and be grateful that he called. Be sure the payment is coming from the USA, by credit card or in advance. You have no relationship with this buyer and you do not know if his culture accepts flea market haggling. This all assumes that you have enough profit in the job to comply with his demands. Don’t take this [too] seriously. Joke with him, disarm him, and have fun with it.”

“Say, ‘Okay, here’s what I am willing to do. I will meet your request with the understanding you give me all the business our company can do for you. We will provide a fair estimate. Better yet, we will provide new ideas. You let us have other opportunities on things we were not doing prior. If so, you got a deal. I will need that in writing. I will even take you out to lunch at Subway.'”

“He has actually spent more than the $23 communicating with you in the first place. A smart sourcing analyst would simply place the order and work with you on the larger projects where he can add value and provide you, the supplier, with greater opportunities.”

“I would recommend taking the order, especially being an exact repeat with minimal work required. Give him the price he wants (I assume you are still making some decent margin?). Work to build the relationship—it can be done. Being an out of the USA customer, I would want confirmation of payment as well.”

“If it were me, I would charge him an extra 50%. I like to call it a ‘desertion fee’ (although I don’t actually tell the customer [that]; I’m very nice about it and simply advise him the pricing has increased due to one reason or the other). . . Who among us has not had a customer desert us, and then come back? I am serious when I say that my position is they were ingrates when they left, no matter what reason they give. My customers cannot find a better advocate than I am (that may sound like arrogance, but I say it’s the truth). So, if that’s the case, I am not letting them back in without a penalty. I have done this numerous times, and to some of my biggest clients. They deserved it, and took their punishment.”

“I happen to love your response, and it honestly, I would just soften it up a bit and send it! Your point about taking the time to find a vendor that your company has never used before for this is dead on. They will spend more then the $23.00 in artwork fees to set [it] up! Oh… and when I say soften it up a bit, just remove the word ‘Junior.’”

“I agree it is well said. Just take the emotion/Junior out of it.”

It was interesting to see some people saying to send the original response, but softened a bit, while others said no, no! Don’t hit the send button! This reflects just how differently different people in management roles see situations like this.

So . . . what would YOU do?

Want More Business? Create a New Market!


Need more business? Help your client create a new market. That’s what The Standard Group (Reading and Lancaster, PA) did in partnering with Fig magazine.

Fig Lancaster is part city directory, part high-end magazine, and part local community. The publication uses high-end photography and design to promote businesses in the Lancaster, PA, area. It was started by a traditional agency, formerly Moxie House but now called Fig Industries, and has been so successful that it has been turned it into a full-scale business model.

The goal of Fig Lancaster is to build up the Lancaster area as a center for design, food, and culture. The local publication, supported by social media marketing and events, contains high-quality editorial content promoting the businesses, culture, and history of Lancaster. It is supported by outstanding design and photography and largely paid for  by advertising.

It is 8 ½ x 8, usually perfect bound, and printed on uncoated stock.

The FigThe business model has been so successful that Fig magazine has now been expanded to West Chester, Kennett Square, and Bethlehem PA, as well as Columbia, SC.

“This is a traditional agency who created their own publication and they are selling ads and building a community around it,” says Thanh Nguyen, CMO of The Standard Group. “It’s a business model they created for themselves.”

Fig Lancaster magazine, which is printed by The Standard Group, recently won a Benny. “In this digital environment, it’s the reinvention of a traditional print business model which we are most proud of,” says Nguyen. “They are promoting Lancaster as the place to be. If you’re a business within the city, you have to be part of Fig magazine.”

The Standard Group is also working with another client on a fresh, quarterly niche publication as part of its business model—and it’s another tremendous success.

It’s just another great example of not waiting for business to come to you. If you want more business, go out and create a new demand, then fill it!

Do You Know What’s Happening in the C-Suite?


As printers increasingly transition into marketing services providers, it’s critical to understand what is happening in the C-Suite, or the senior executives within a company. Specifically for our industry, we are interested in the marketing and business development executives. To this end, IBM’s “Redefining Markets: Insights from the C-Suite Study,” provides a mother load.

The growth in the number of studies of marketing strategy and perspective is interesting. It used to be that we tracked technology adoption. Then we tracked channels, which determined the technologies to use. Now, we are tracking behavior, which determines the selection, timing, and integration of channels.

It just makes sense, and it’s about time that we got here. Understanding customer motivation and behavior is the foundation on which everything else is built.

One of the reasons that this understanding has become so important is that traditional dividing lines between, well, everything are disappearing. The “Redefining Markets” report calls it “barrier breach.” Here are the percentage of CMOs who see the following barriers being breached:

  • Industry convergence (67%)
  • Redistribution of customer purchasing power (49%)
  • The “anywhere” workplace (48%)

What this means is that your customers cannot package their industry mailings into neat market verticals anymore. Nor can they assume they will reach their target audience by saturating an office building. The most relevant target may not even be on site. This is driving more personalization, more mobile marketing, and more psychographic targeting.

The good news is that they need YOU more than ever before, and capitalizing on this means investing in more brainpower on site and in strategic relationships to help them get there. It also means investing in the right vendor partnerships to support the directions that you are taking your customers.

So invest in the right technologies, the right software, but also the right relationships. Brainpower is as important these days as press power.

To download “Redefining Markets,” click here.