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.”

Things to Watch for When Evaluating Digital Press Contracts (Part 1)


Looking to invest in a new digital press? Wondering what to watch out for when evaluating the contracts of potential vendors? Here is a checklist from printers who have made this investment based on their personal experiences. This is not to suggest that these “hidden” issues are rampant among digital press vendors. Only that they can pop up here and there.

These comments were taken from an online discussion group. To protect the members’ privacy, their names have been removed from the quotes.

1. Color clicks vs. full-color clicks.

Some devices are capable of “clicking” the meter for every printed, which can make your full-color costs higher than expected.

“If this is part of an MPS contract where you are given an inclusive volume of prints, then your excess costs will be enormous as the items you thought to be one click will actually be four. Always ensure that your service or MPS contract states the color charges as full-color only.”

2. Terms like “duty cycle” and “rated volume.”

These often mean that the press is intended to run for the rated period of time.

“Penalties . . .  often lie on the other side of violating such terms.”

3. Inclusive volumes that are A4 only.

“Some current service contracts show a “minimum bill” that includes a number of full-color images. I have seen several cases where the customer believes that the inclusive volume is A3/SRA3 only to be invoiced for the additional cost because it was actually accounting for A4 prints. Always ensure in writing that your service provider states whether inclusive volumes are A4 or A3/SRA3.”

4. Annual increases in click cost.

“Having run a digital press for many years, they never really spell out or explain how they increase your click cost each year along with the Fiery RIP cost. Over a five-year period, this can virtually double your cost per print.”

Another member noted, however, that he has not seen increases in click costs for his machines unless they were getting near end of life. In fact, he has actually seen some reductions based on increases in volumes and advances in technology.

5. Volume plans that don’t match your actual volumes.

“These can be [a waste of money] also, because if you don’t hit the agreed upon volume, you get nothing credited back but have paid for it upfront.

Check out my post next week for the rest of the list.

Direct Marketing Snapshot by Market Vertical


What’s happening in the world of direct mail and email in the key market sectors? According to the Direct Marketing Snapshot (August 2016) from Mintel Comperemedia, things are looking very stable. But clearly, some market verticals are faring better than others.

Between May 2015 – August 2016, direct mail volumes (acquisition and customer mail, excluding statements) showed significant variation by market sector. Year over year, the highest increases by volume were in banking (+43%), credit cards (+28%), and retail (+23%). There were also solid gains in travel (+19%), telco (+18%), and investing (+22%).

Who’s using what mail type? Biggest users of self-mailers are retail, auto, and banking. Biggest users of letters + envelopes are cards, insurance, M&L, and telco.

Biggest users of catalogs? No surprise—retail, auto, and banking.

Want to know the top spenders?

  • Auto—Nissan
  • Banking—Chase
  • Credit Cards — Chase
  • Insurance—Geico
  • Investment—Fisher Investments
  • M&L—SoFi
  • Telco—Dish
  • Tobacco—US Smokeless Tobacco
  • Travel/Leisure—NCL Corp Ltd.
  • Retail—Dell

How about email? The top market vertical sending email in August was insurance (21% of all emails sent), followed by auto (20%). While sending the highest overall percentage of emails, insurance had the third highest read rate (17%). Its read rate was bested by financial services with a 27% read rate, followed by telco, with 19%.

For more info on the report, click here.

It takes more than data to be personal


This morning, I was scanning my email and saw one of those “personalized” subject lines that drives me crazy: “A seat has been reserved for Heidi Tolliver-Walker.” Come on, nobody actually speaks that way. We all know that a robot wrote that. Even though they used my name, it didn’t feel personal. It felt condescending. Did they think I wouldn’t notice?

Whether it’s a postcard, sales letter, or email subject line, personalization takes more than data. It takes more than customer personas and profiles and algorithms. It has to sound human.

I recall a conversation I had with Kate Dunn years ago. We talked about this humanness as being one of the hidden challenges of variable data. The example she gave is buying a mailing list of alumni from a specific university and the degrees they hold. You can’t just dump that into a marketing piece, she said, or you’ll end up with “Hey, John! Since getting your BHist at The Pennsylvania University, you’re experiencing great success!” Someone has to go through that list and translate that into natural language. “Hey, John! Since getting your Bachelor’s in history from Penn State . . . ”

That was several years ago, but nothing has changed. Except that data-driven marketing has become so common that it’s easier than ever to spot the robot writers.

In order for personalization in marketing to feel personal, it has to feel like a real person wrote it. It has to speak to the recipient in natural language about their issues and problems in a relatable way. That’s not just for direct mail and postcards. It goes for the subject lines of emails, too.

How are you making sure that your data-driven marketing sounds personal?

This QR Code Mistake Could Have Been Easily Avoided


Many of the arguments against using QR Codes to drive consumers from print to mobile have nothing to do with the QR Codes themselves. They have to do with the unnecessary mistakes on the part of those employing them. These mistakes are easily avoided, so whether you are adding QR Codes to direct mail, marketing collateral, in-store signage, or any other location, take a lesson from the Pennsylvania Wildlife Management Unit.

hunting-codeThis was a great idea. This poster was placed at the base of the Mt. Nittany hiking trail, which is visited by thousands of hikers every year. This area is also open to hunting during limited times of the year. Placing this sign at this strategic location was a great idea.

The challenge is that the poster was placed there last hunting season. This shouldn’t necessarily be a problem—the code simply points to a page on a website, and if that page is updated, the code will take the person to the updated page—but in this case, when the 2015-2016 hunting season ended, the page was taken down instead of being updated. Consequently, this code takes you nowhere except to a blank page with an “x” in the corner.

The challenge for marketers at large is that such preventable errors affect everyone using QR Codes, not just the PA Wildlife Management Unit. For every code that goes nowhere, it incrementally undermines the confidence of everyone who scans QR Codes at large. If you’re an avid scanner, as I am, you might not be put off by the error. But if you’re a casual scanner, it could create a barrier to future use.

The moral of the story is that whenever possible, use QR Codes to point people to web pages that will be updated, not pages that have a limited shelf life. In doing so, you both benefit your marketing and everyone else’s.

Home Depot Water Test Uses QR Codes Well


After checking out of Home Depot, I walked into a QR Code — almost literally. The big white sign with giant red letters read, “Free Water Test for Home Owners. Watch this video.”

water-testI scanned the QR Code, which led me directly to a short informative video that told me what the water test was, demonstrated how simple it was to do, and provided a short call to action.

The whole presentation was smart.

  • I couldn’t miss the sign.
  • The CTA used the word “video,” which is probably the most powerful channel in marketing right now.
  • The QR Code led directly to the video, which was simple, inexpensive to produce, and well done.
  • The video demonstrated visually how easy the process was.
  • It was short enough to view walking between the sign and my car, giving me time to turn around and grab a test before I drove away (if I hadn’t already).

This campaign wasn’t complicated, and it worked. The only thing I would have added was short explanatory text telling the non-QR Code initiated to scan with a QR Code reader to access the video.

Videos like this cost little to produce, and the QR Code + video combination is something MSPs should become adept at producing and marketing to their customers. They require only good studio lighting, a good script, and a decent video camera. Adding the QR Code is free.

Studies show that people process information visually much faster and retain the information better than they do in text, and the ability to add video not only improves your customers’ engagement with their audience but gives them yet another reason to produce more printed collateral.

With such a low barrier to entry, shouldn’t this be in your bag of tools?

Critical multichannel, print, and other stats you need to know


Looking for some stats on multichannel marketing, the value of print, and mobile marketing to throw into presentations, pepper your client conversations, or include in your print marketing or e-newsletters? Here are some interesting data I’ve run across recently that you might find useful.


  • Omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. (Google)
  • 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels. (DM News)
  • Brands can increase their ROI by 19% just by going from one channel to two, and up to 35% when using 5 different channels. (Statista)

Despite these numbers, Direct Marketing News reports that 55% of companies have yet to put a cross-channel strategy in place.


  • 79% of consumers indicated that they preferred reading on paper vs. reading on screen. (Two Sides)
  • 90% of students prefer hard copy for schoolwork; this rises to 92% for longer texts (Educause)
  • Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital information, making it easier to process and understand. (Canada Post / True Impact)
  • Print results in higher brand recall. When asked to cite the brand of an ad they had just seen, in a study conducted by Canada Post / True Impact, recall was 70% higher among participants who were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) than to a digital ad (44%).
  • Readers are less distracted in print. Only 1% are likely to multitask when reading print, compared to 90% who multitask while reading digital channels. (Words On Screen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World)

Direct mail

  • Nearly one-third of marketers’ media spending (29%) remains on direct mail. (Winterberry Group)
  • Target Marketing’s 2016 Media Usage Survey reports similar results — 28.5% of media budgets being spend on direct mail. 25% of respondents see their spend on direct mail increasing.
  • 58% of marketers are using direct mail for customer acquisition and 55% are using it for customer retention. (Target Marketing)
  • 47% of marketers say they will increase or maintain their direct mail spend in 2016; 14% plan to increase it and 33% plan to maintain it. (Statista)

Video marketing

  • 65% of executives visit a marketers’ website after having watched a video. (Forbes)
  • Using video on web pages increases conversion by 80%. (Unbounce)
  • 60% of marketers plan to increase or maintain their video marketing spend in 2016. (Statista)
  • 32% of marketers plan to increase it. (Statista)
  • Spending on online and mobile video is up 85% in the past two years. (IAB)

Social media

  • 53% of US consumers who follow brands on social media are more loyal to those brands. (Comperemedia)
  • 78% of people say that companies’ social media posts influence their buying decisions. (Comperemedia)

Put all of these stats together and what do you get? We live in a multichannel world, and one that includes both digital and hard copy channels. MSPs need to be prepared to talk to their clients about how these channels need to work together, and how digital doesn’t supplant hard copy and why.  Data are powerful, and they tell an objective story that is hard to argue. Know your data, and be prepared to put it in front of your customers and prospects.

3 Ways to Use Pokémon GO to Get More Print


Looking to give your customers more reason to print? Try Pokémon Go.

That might sound like a strange combination, but I just read an interesting article on that offered a number of suggestions for incorporating Pokémon Go into a successful meeting strategy. A number of those suggestions just happen to involve print.

pokemonNot only could you create new opportunities for your clients to print with you, but you might even be able to ucapture more share of the customer print by getting into their event and trade show marketing side of the business if you aren’t already.

The goal of Pokémon GO is to locate and capture more than 100 types of fictional creatures that appear in your smartphone layered over the real world. Grab them, store them, and use them to battle others playing the game. The game includes designated landmarks called “Pokéstops” where players can gather items to help them catch more Pokémon. It also includes “gyms” where players wage battle.

People are crazy for Pokémon, and Pokémon fanatics are always looking for new opportunities to play and new people to play with (and against). You can help your clients create those opportunities while marketing their business and drawing more foot traffic to their store, restaurant, or venue locations at the same time.

Here’s how:

Idea #1: Create PokéStop maps. Whether created for a specific event, such as meeting or convention, or for a local shop or restaurant who wants to draw in out-of-town visitors, printing and promoting maps for PokéStops is a simple way to create value . . . and more print for you. Successful Meetings gave the example of the Cincinnati Zoom and Botanical Garden, which created a complete map of the grounds showing the 26 PokéStops, two gyms, and all of the Pokémon located in the venue so people could be easily find and capture them.

Idea #2: Get promoting! Once the maps are printed, it’s time to promote them. Create a direct mail campaign. For storefront locations, print window clings, sidewalk signs, and in-store signage promoting the map and letting people know it’s available.  “Get your PokéStop map here!”

Idea #3: Organize and promote Pokémon hunts. With so many people crazy for Pokémon, encourage clients to create and promote their own Pokémon hunts. It’s a great way to draw people into the store, restaurant, or local venue to meet, connect, and go searching for Pokémon together. For you, it means direct mail, in-store signage, and other printed products to market the event.

The digital world offers tremendous opportunities to grow your print business. Like Pokémon, you just have to go out and find them.


A Peek at Kohl’s Multichannel Marketing Strategy


According to InfoTrends, marketers’ top two goals when it comes to their marketing communications are customer experience and customer loyalty (43% and 35% of marketers citing these as top marketing goals, respectively). Retailers are accomplishing this with smart, integrated, and personalized multichannel strategies that we can all learn from.

One of these multichannel marketers is Kohl’s. Comperemedia recently did an analysis of Kohl’s cross-channel strategy and outlined its efforts in three key areas: direct mail, email, and social media.

Here’s what they found:

KohlsDirect mail

Kohl’s is actively using direct mail in the following ways:

  • Adding QR Codes to send direct mail recipients to
  • Promoting “buy online, pick up in store” to drive foot traffic.
  • Allowing people to scan the direct mail piece to download the Kohl’s app.
  • Mailing personalized birthday cards to Kohl’s shoppers and giving them a “special gift.”

Mobile-optimized email

Kohl’s updated its confirmation emails by optimizing them for mobile in the following ways:

  • Adding reminders to bring in their receipt.
  • Adding images of in-store signage to help csutomers locate the pick-up location.
  • Adding a CTA button on the order summary to allow customers to access directions via GPS

Social media

Kohl’s created microsites for all of its products discussed in its social media posts. Posts are linked to the microsites so that followers can click to go right to product information. For example, followers on Pinterest can “shop the look” by clicking a link to the Kohl’s site.

What is notable about this strategy is how integrated it is. Each channel is not “doing its own thing.” It is integrated with and supporting the others. This isn’t a direct mail + email + social media strategy. It’s a customer experience strategy that uses multiple channels toward a common goal.

This is exactly what InfoTrends is talking about when it talks about focusing on customer experience. It’s not just the experience with the direct mail piece, the online shopping experience, or being in-store. It’s the seamless and integrated experience that customers get when interacting with the brand regardless of channel they are using, and all of the channels are working together to drive the others.

Don’t let this scare you off. These things aren’t rocket science. The steps Kohl’s is taking are within the scope of capability of most savvy MSPs — and they will work for a wide range of clients, not just large retailers. Is Kohl’s strategy a model you can use with your customer base?

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.