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.”

We Know Multichannel Works . . . Now What?


We all know multichannel marketing works. The question is no longer the value of that approach. It’s the challenges of selecting the right channels, integrating those channels, and the costs associated with doing it well. How much additional benefit do they get from adding channels in light of the amount of time, effort, and expertise required to do it? It’s the classic cost/benefit analysis.

One of the first steps is detangling from the concept of omnichannel marketing. The marketing world abounds in white papers on omnichannel, or writers might call it 360-degree marketing or precision marketing. But these white papers spend more time talking about an ideal marketing world that is accessible only by the likes of big retailers and telecoms. Discussions focus on benefits, not implementation, and by the end of the white paper, you realize you haven’t really read anything of substance. The realities of the IT, software, and database integration requirements call for expertise, capital investments, and human resources (translated “time”) that the average company doesn’t have.

Omnichannel marketing is a reality—and it’s powerful. But true omnichannel marketing is still the realm of the haves and have nots. If you’re, Bloomingdale’s, or Starbucks, this is the world you live in. If you’re a small or mid-sized business, you’re on the outside looking in.

This doesn’t mean that highly effective multichannel marketing is inaccessible. But for MSPs to get over the fear factor and be successful, multichannel has to be separated from omnichannel. True multichannel marketing is just that: integrated marketing campaigns that use more than one channel. Print followed up by email is multichannel. QR Codes on packaging or retail displays that send people to mobile video is multichannel. Direct mail that encourages people to log into a personalized URL or sign up for a Facebook contest is multichannel.

These are simple campaigns that are easily accessible by any sized marketer . . . or printer, for that matter.

For printers, the challenge is that digital marketing companies do this well . . . on the digital side. But digital companies don’t always understand or relate well to print. Print companies do print well, but the exploding world of digital marketing is out of their realm of expertise. So, for the most part, print and digital marketing still live in separate worlds. It is changing, but slowly.

As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Digital marketers emphasize what they know, and so do printers. You can provide a full breadth of marketing channels in an integrated marketing solution, but you can’t make marketers (or their MSPs) use them. For maximum impact, both sides of the marketing fence need to be willing to reach across the aisle.

Are you reaching?

This post adapted from “Multichannel Marketing in the Printing Industry: 2015.”

Add Value to QR Coded Projects: Just Scan ‘Em!


Do you know that one of the most common ways a QR Code fails (if not the most common) is something you can prevent in 1-2 seconds? If your clients will be adding QR Codes to their direct mail, packaging, or other projects, just scan the code before it goes to press. Make sure that the code actually resolves to the page the client intends it to.

One of the most common errors with QR Code projects is that the code is created, added to the project, and then the URL is misdirected or changed sometime later and the QR Code never gets updated. Consequently, when people scan the code, they get an error message. Bad marketing!

This morning, I was all set to write a post about a great use of a QR Code included on the box of a home waxing kit. The code was right on the side of the box and encouraged shoppers to watch videos on how to use the product. This has great potential. Not everyone has used kits like this. They might be nervous about the process or how it might feel. Enabling them to watch videos before purchasing is a great way to ease concerns and get the product inside the cart.

But when I scanned the code, this is what I got.

Sally Hansen Fail Page










Oops. Whether the code was wrong to begin with or whether the URL got changed later there is no way to know. But if it got changed later, the marketer could have used a redirect.

You can’t do anything about changes to the URL that occur later, but if this is the project’s first time out, you can certain help your clients avoid major fails by simply scanning the code in the concept or proofing stages. That’s the kind of extra “above and beyond” that makes an MSP valuable.

So scan away — and save the day.

MINI Cooper: Covert Data Gathering


I recently read a case study on a smart multichannel campaign by BMW utilizing personalized URLs. It’s an older campaign, but a good one, and there is an interesting lesson about the use of survey questions that we can all draw from.

It’s true that consumers are becoming more and more comfortable giving out personal data if they feel they are getting something in exchange. At the same time, there is data gathering ennui, too. If you are a consumer, everybody wants a piece of you. Giving out information gets old.

That’s why I liked the way that BMW gathered key information on its target audience. The campaign was designed to encourage MINI Cooper owners to re-up their leases when it came time for renewal. BMW launched a game called MINI-O-Poly, an online take-off of the classic game that allowed the company to gather information while letting people earn prizes.

Just before their two-year lease renewal, owners of BMW MINIs received an email invitation to play MINI-O-Poly. To play, they logged into a personalized URL where the first step was to choose their MINI Avatar — a MINI Cooper, MINI Convertible, or MINI Countryman. In doing so, the target audience told BMW which MINI they would be most likely to repurchase.

To play, consumers would continue to answer questions, enabling them to “roll the dice” to move around the board and win.

This is a smart, innovative way to use personalized URLs. It gives the audience genuine value for their time and it gives the marketer valuable information for targeting. But it does it in a creative way that doesn’t make consumers feel that they are being dissected either.

Want More Print Jobs? Add Mobile


Mobile is all around us, but too few printers are integrating mobile into their clients’ multichannel marketing campaigns. As the marketing environment continues to fragment, not offering the ability to integrate mobile is like sending your competition a hand-addressed invitation to woo your clients. Offering mobile integration in a multichannel world is a must.

Here is some eye-opening data from Target Marketing‘s “2015 Media Usage Survey” that every MSP should be aware of:

  • 42% of marketers are planning to increase their budgets on mobile marketing in 2015
  • 43% of marketers are using mobile for client acquisition, up from 28% last year
  • 33% are using mobile for customer retention, up from 20% last year
  • 39% of marketers are actively using SMS marketing
  • 20% are increasing their spending on SMS marketing

For a long time, printers ignored the world of email marketing until the tight integration of print and email was too compelling to ignore or they were losing clients to other shops able to offer this multichannel capability. We are now in a similar situation when it comes to mobile.

Printers should not be afraid of launching into mobile marketing. Mobile does not compete with print. It’s a different channel used for different purposes.  Morever, how are your clients going to build their mobile database to use for those campaigns? Most likely, it’s going to be print. Think in-store displays, direct mail, packaging, bags and cups, window clings.

Want print work? Add mobile!

Encouraging Clients to Add Mobile Icons to Direct Mail Design?


Today, I was reading an article on top trends in direct mail design, and they included the usual suspects (more color, more personalization), but trend one caught my eye. It was the use of icons in print design. You know, the icons we are used to seeing in email and mobile.

Mobile AppsThis is something I’m seeing more and more. It caught my eye, in fact, because I recently saw it in a powerful case study from a college wanting to encourage more applications from high school seniors. The direct mail piece used mobile icons and sent respondents to a personalized URL site designed to look like a mobile phone screen where the CTA buttons looked like the icons for mobile apps.

When reaching out to a target audience, speak their language, right? Studies continue to show that direct mail remains a powerful tool for reaching 18-24-year olds. In part, this due to oversaturation of digital media, but it is also because even this demographic continues to prefer print for content that requires concentration, deep comprehension, and information retention.

This may be counter-intuitive in a wired generation, but when it comes to critical content, you can’t fight physiology. The brain responds to print differently than it does to electronic media. Combine this with the type of graphics that this age bracket are used to interacting with nearly constantly at other times, and you have a truly powerful combination.

If you have clients looking to reach into the 18-24-year-old bracket, consider encouraging them to integrate familiar mobile and online icons into the layout.

Multichannel Lessons from Stanley Steemer


This morning, I read a great article on how Stanley Steemer cleaned up its messy email and direct mail marketing and achieved:

  • 33% increase in response rate (bookings) through its direct mail efforts,
  • 200% increase in response rates from its first DM acquisition campaign, and
  • 20% month-over-month increase in online bookings resulting from email.

Here are the steps it took:

1. Created a more strategic email campaign that includes 3 emails per month, both cross-marketing and providing non-sales tips and tricks for keeping a house tidy.

2. Freshened the design of the emails and improved the content.

3. Added segmentation beyond consumers and business/franchise segments to include customer behavior (opens and clicks), purchases, and responses to offers.  For example, if a customer uses its carpet cleaning services, it might send an email for hardwood floor cleaning.

4. Brought its direct mail under the same marketing umbrella to provide better coordination.

5. Increased direct mail frequency to 9 pieces per year on a set schedule.

6. Added segmentation to include 10-20 demographic segments (such as customers who buy expensive furniture).

7. Because most appointments are booked over the phone, CSRs take customer email addresses and send appointment confirmations and reminders.

8. Added a trigger program for incomplete or canceled online orders.

This is a great checklist for your own clientele, and it’s a recipe any MSP should be able to follow. After all, sometimes the simplest changes produce the most profound results.

Be the Hero: DeDupe!


This week, my husband and I received solicitations from Geico. We received the identical solicitation — personalized with “Stewart! Stewart! Stewart!” and “Heidi! Heidi! Heidi” — to the identical address on the same day.

GeicoWhy Geico doesn’t de-dupe its mailing list, I’m not sure. Perhaps it can afford to mail solicitations to both husband and wife at the same address, but most companies can’t— and there is no reason to. Any third party can do it. The print provider can do it. The client can do it. Even Excel 2007 has a de-duping feature. (Click a cell, click on the data tab, then select “remove duplicates.”) In this case, de-duping based on the address column would have been sufficient.

Why would you want to encourage clients to print less? Isn’t the longer run more beneficial to you? Not when you are printing duplicates. With marketing budgets under extreme pressure and print struggling for justification in this era of digital marketing, the last thing you want is unnecessarily inflated print costs to put a negative spotlight on print.

Then there is the issue of response rates. If you mail 100,000 pieces and 10,000 of them are duplicates to the same household, you’ve just depressed the response rate artificially.  Let’s say this was a personalized mailing and the client got 5,000 responses. That’s a response rate of 5%. But if 10,000 of those were duplicates, the household response rate was actually 5.5%.

As a print provider, it’s in your best interest to optimize the value of print. That includes both cost management and boosting effectiveness. The last thing you want is bloated print costs and artificially depressed response rates that print look more expensive and less effective than it really is.

So be the hero — de-dupe!


Can You Find the Seven Show Stoppers on This Mailer?


One of the webinars that sticks with me, even a year or more later, is one on direct mail success stories from direct mail guru Gary Hennerberg. In it, he talked about show stoppers, or creative elements on the mailer that get people to stop and look. Even if it’s just for a fraction of a second, each show stopper buys time for them to absorb the message.

Hennerberg says he likes to put no less than seven show stoppers on every envelope. The more show stoppers, the more time he buys for his clients.

In today’s mail, I got a mailer that looked very much like the ones Hennerberg discussed in the webinar. I wonder if this one is his handiwork. So I counted them. One, two, three, four, five, six . . . seven.

Here is a picture of the mailer. Can you find all seven show stoppers? In looking for them, do you get any new ideas that you can bring to your own direct mail clients?

IMG_2180-2How many show stoppers do you see?

Responses to’s Investment in 3D Manufacturing


Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about Amazon’s investment in 3D printing and the patent it filed for mobile manufacturing so it can print orders on demand close to the delivery location. The question was how it would affect the printing industry . . . if at all. I didn’t manage to get people to chime in here, but when I shared the post on LinkedIn, I did.

What continues to interest me is how this industry appears to be focusing almost exclusively on the 3D manufacture of parts, even though 3D printing offers a wide variety of other avenues for business growth.

Here is a sampling of the responses I got from one of the discussion boards. Do you agree?

“Heidi, your comment is spot-on from my perspective: ‘This continues to move printers into the position of being idea generators and developers of more complex solutions, not pure output providers.’ As long as printers are content to simply execute the products of other peoples imaginations, they will be highly vulnerable to mass and scale.” — Paul Gardner, director of innovation, Hudson Printing

“Don’t you see this going down the road of photo books? It will get hot and heavy and then it will slowly fizzle. A bobblehead isn’t that useful. The real market for this stuff is to reduce warehousing and that is at least 10 years and this patent will be long expired. I see [the real volume] going to the machine shops, and printers might not be in the mix. The real exciting parts require more finishing than can be done at a print provider — i.e. metal printers.” — Kevin Waldvogel, account executive, Big Systems

“Unless they’re building a printer that can print in aluminum, brass, and bronze, I’m a little reticent to embrace 3D printing for anything but art projects, prototyping, and mold making. What good is a plastic pulley unless you’re using it as a master to make cast metal ones? On the other hand, if you were an auto parts store and you had a 3d printer that made metal parts plus a computer full of design files for classic car parts, you’d make so much money you’d have to 3D print a scale to count it all.” — Jim Mowreader, pagination technician, Hagadone Printing Company

“There are more than 100 different materials that can be 3D printed. And that’s before you count chocolate, coffee, and human skin. Aluminum, brass, and bronze are among them, as are ceramic and sandstone (” — Paul Gardner, Hudson Printing

“I think Amazon made a very wise choice. 3D printing has been around for quite some time, but now it’s on the rise in the industry. I am incessantly amazed by the components it produces. The pharma industry alone can gain so much by the 3D process. I would love to work on a 3D project from inception to completion. Kudos to Amazon!” — Cheryl Ann, cross-functional media, automation, and printing professional

“I think this is a major step forward. Just as authors make deals with Amazon to print books, now parts designers will upload designs and Amazon can fulfill them. Carbon fiber 3D printing with considerable strength is upon us. The ability to have a catalog of parts that are 3D printed on demand is a major advancement.” — Douglas Cogan, vice president, VDP technology at PTI Marketing Technologies

“The mobile facility bit sounds like work that is all ready happening. Patenting the process could be a way for Amazon to squeeze out competitors. The author mentions sending off an STL file to be output. As I understand it, STL carries no color information, it is only the shape. That would take this out of the realm of bobble heads. Looking at the Shapeways link that Paul posted, many of the materials are cast from a piece that is 3D printed. They’re using a lost-wax process. Their tolerances, +/- 1%, won’t compete with regular machining tolerances, yet.” — Rich Apollo, field services manager, Rods and Cones

“Amazon at present is the world’s largest reseller of consumer 3D printers and has been at this for several years. However, for production, what they are doing isn’t exactly new. Redeye, a Stratasys company has been building on demand for 10 years plus. Other providers are selling on demand builds all over the world. Amazon of course, will have free shipping and the search optimization.” — Craig Greenwood, channel sales manager, Neuralog

“There are many different fields within the commercial print sector. From commercial, web, laminating, finishing, binding, the list goes on and on .As a commercial printer with digital and wide format, I can’t see where 3D would fit in or add to our fire power. So the answer is, it will not affect your run-of-the-mill commercial printer at all. Nor will it affect any of the above mentioned sectors within the print industry.” — Dave Biddiscombe, production manager, Printmates

“I could see some specialized firms utilizing Amazon’s service or offer the service in-house. One that comes to mind is a firm in my area that specializes in reprographic services of architectural/engineering drawings. They also build architectural 3D prototypes by printing onto foam core (I believe), cut, and piece the prototype together like a puzzle. A 3D printing service like Amazon’s might compliment their existing services. However, in terms of ‘traditional’ printing, I agree with Dave.” — William Grant, Revved up print project manager, supercharging the production and management of print products

“Absolutely. I’ve thought for a long time that the role of commercial printers — in their role as MSPs — is as idea generators, helping their clients find ways to incorporate 3D printing into their overall marketing and other projects, but that the actual design and production would likely be outsourced (especially the design portion). Printers outsource many other services that are still part of their core offerings. Why not 3D?” — Heidi Tolliver-Walker

“I have just been in contact with one of our clients (a family butcher) and asked him if he would like a 3D aluminium pork chop to put on his counter to try and raise sales as he hasn’t been selling much of late. I gave him a ball park figure. Unfortunately, I can’t print his reply.” — Dave Biddiscombe, Printmates

“Understood (and thanks for not printing the reply)!” — Heidi Tolliver-Walker

4 Great Direct Mail Designs to Spark Your Creativity


Direct MailI love print, but frankly, most direct mail is uninspiring. That’s why I was excited to see four really interesting direct mail pieces land in my mailbox this week.

The first was mailed in a white paper bag closed with clear tabs to hold it closed. Inside, the letter said, “We’ll bet you don’t get a paper bag in the mail every day! Here’s something else you don’t see every day . . .” followed by the pitch.

The second was a thank-you card from Shutterfly. Not notable in itself, but what made it interesting is that the inside of the card was hand-written by the CSR who had handled my order.

Dear Heidi,

I wanted to drop you a note and let you know, I enjoyed assisting your order. I hope you enjoy your 8×8 photo book.

Best wishes,

Michelle B.

This was not handwriting font. It was real handwriting (and messy indeed).

The third looked like an airmail letter with Arabic lettering across the top and a postmark in French. It was from an international ministry benefiting the disadvantaged in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

The fourth used a handwriting font, and it was addressed to a name I haven’t used in years, but it used a real stamp and personal address label that were not perfectly parallel with the top of the envelope.  I knew it wasn’t a personal letter because of the font and the barcode at the bottom, but the address label and the real stamp were enough to make me pause and entertain my curiosity just for another half second.

Maybe these ideas won’t benefit any of your clients with direct mail campaigns coming up in the queue, but maybe they will.

Happy ideating!