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.”

5 Tidal Shifts Signally AR as Today’s Reality?


I have gotten used to writing that AR is on the cusp of adoption, that it’s still too cost-prohibitive and complex to see widespread adoption as yet, but is that changing? Has it already?

I seen more and more AR on consumer products and signage, and I’ve run across applications designed to simplify the process of creating simple AR for novices. Packaged solutions for AR — imagine! Then today I interviewed MJ Anderson of Trekk, and it solidified this trend I was already seeing.

I remember Trekk from the early days of VDP/1:1 printing, and the company has evolved significantly since then. Today it is heavily involved in inbound marketing (it is a HubSpot reseller), and it has made a huge investment in augmented reality.

Although Trekk has already been behind a lot of AR projects you may have seen in this industry, Anderson noted 5 tidal shifts that signal that AR is set to explode:

1. Apple purchased Metaio. Metaio offered a complete end-to-end solution, the largest functional platform for creating deploying and managing AR experiences. In June 2015, without explanation, it closed its doors. Since then, it has been revealed that Metaio was purchased by Apple. Speculation runs high: AR standard on every iPhone?

2. Android announced product releases and platforms that are VR-focused (the more immersive experience) rather than AR-focused. Its Gear VR is getting a lot of play in the discussion about tethered vs. non-tethered VR.

3. Other major announcements have rocked the marketplace, including Facebook’s purchase Oculus Rift, a VR headset, and Microsoft’s intention to develop Hollow Lens, a wearable technology that is a generational leap forward from Google Glass. Nearly a dozen other companies (including Konica Minolta, Sony, Samsung) are doing things with wearables, as well, both for industrial and consumer applications.

4. Google strengthened the functionality of Google Cardboard, its app platform that allows users to create VR experiences on their mobile phonse or tablets executed using simple — very simple — cardboard foldable viewfinders and puts VR experiences in the hands of the average consumer for under $12.00. It also rolled out a learning environment, Expedition, based on Cardboard, that enables teachers to distributed shared VR experiences to their students in the classroom.

5. Massive growth in visual search, including Project Tango, which is getting real-world play by major companies such as Walgreen’s.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years now,” says Anderson. “We’ve seen all the technology come down the pipe and the cycle it goes through. It starts with a good idea, then you have the early adopters. Next, standardization takes place and tools are built. Then it moves into mass acceptance and then eventually it obsolesces and dies. This time around, there has been an enormous activity and flood in the marketplace. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft—there are some very, very large players making large investments in developing products and standards for this technology.”

What does this mean for print? It means even more added value to a channel that already offers a unique value proposition. With costs coming down, development becoming democratized, and more widespread consumer acceptance, the road is opening for “early” adopters in our marketplace. (I use quotes since the technology itself is beyond the early adopter stage.)

If you’ve been curious about AR, it’s time to seriously check it out.

“Every Channel Wants to Win the Attribution Battle”


The other day, I wrote a post on 4 critical trends in print + email. I had written a similar article in Print Solutions recently, and this morning, I received a response to the article that I thought was extremely interesting. The response is written by Mike Bann of Bann Business Solutions, a print distributor located in St. Paul, MN. His perspective is forward of the current state of print + multichannel marketing in our industry and reflects where it may be going.

Here is what he wrote:

I read with interest your article on print and email. While I agree in principle with most everything you wrote, I believe that there are more layers to the onion.

A continuing beef I have with the various marketing channels is their unending need to claim victory. In your article, you cited how Target Marketing reported how email ROI for customer acquisition was higher than direct mail. While just last week Direct Marketing News unequivocally claimed direct mail was the flavor of the day.

Every channel wants to win the attribution battle, but if you really peel back the layers it is seldom just the one channel that leads to a sale. Focus needs to go away from opens and click-throughs to sales, as at the end of the day that is all that really matters. Not to mention how BOTS can skew things like CTR.

To me, the secret sauce is the right combination of channels. Today’s reality is that it’s the journey, not the end point. In other words, it might be the email that led to the direct mail that led to a phone call or a landing page. The individual buy might occur via a channel that was not even deployed during a particular campaign. I recently learned a new term called “assisted conversion.” To me, understanding the journey is the key. Rich data is now allowing this to be better tracked.

Also there is actually a new channel that you left out of your discussion that pairs perfectly with either direct mail or email. It is charged out at a CPM just like print and is a no-brainer for distributors to start marketing. We are calling it Digital Direct Mail (DDM). This channel is much like direct mail in that it leverages the same physical mailing addresses and all the segmentation it provides, but it then posts online ads to those same households via their IP. Thus they can get impressions whenever they might browse the web.

There are no current “Can Spam” type laws to contend with, allowing full use of the list. Ads are generally targeted pre and post mail drop dates. Because the software generally nets 50% of the IP addresses from any B2C list, it created a perfect A/B test pool to measure conversions (not just click-throughs).

DDM is actually part of the Programmatic Marketing family. At its core, it is not that complicated and is definitely hot right now. I have opened more doors and gained more new significant accounts with it then with any other product or service ever!

— Mike Bann, Bann Business Solutions

What do you think? Is the industry ready for this level of sophistication? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

4 Trends in Print + Email Marketing


As we continue to focus on multichannel marketing, one of the most critical trends we need to focus on is the shifts in print + email. Here are 4 trends taken from “State of Multichannel Marketing in the Printing Industry” that MSPs need to be aware of.

1. Optimization of email for mobile

Mobile optimization is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. According to data from the “U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013” from Movable Ink, a full 65% of email is now being accessed via mobile devices in the U.S. Of this 65%, mobile phones take the lion’s share of the volume. In another study (, 80% of people were found to delete emails if they did not look good on their mobile device.

Most consumers are not yet making purchases directly from their smartphones, although an increasing number do. Many click through their mobile emails, but then follow up on a tablet or desktop/laptop device. Mobile purchases are still in their infancy, but growing.

2. Matching email to the appropriate stage of the customer lifecycle

“Have they converted and become customers? Are they active, repeat customers? Are they loyal customers and brand evangelists? Have they stopped interacting with the brand? Each stage requires a different approach and content.” (Adobe Campaign: Next Frontier Email Guide 2014)

3. Use for triggered marketing

We see this more and more — email as a trigger based on some other customer behavior. Whether it is a customer joining a loyalty program, downloading a white paper, or receiving a direct mailer, triggered messages can be extremely powerful. In its “Next Frontier Email Guide,” Adobe notes that Northern Europe fashion retailer Lindex used triggered messaging to increase open rates from 18% to 35%.

Triggering can also be used to drive offline communications, including direct mail. For example, store purchases may trigger customer surveys that are used to gather data and score customers according to affinity and loyalty to the brand. These scores are then used to group customers for more precise online and offline targeting. Data from email preference centers, where customers can choose not just email frequency but also subjects of interest, can be mined for future targeting offline, as well.

4. Email for online marketing

Most of what we hear about email marketing relates to email-specific campaigns or online initiatives such as follow-ups to shopping cart abandonment. These are critical “multichannel” campaigns, but they are really digital campaigns. Despite the fact that they include multiple channels, these channels less commonly include print.

Of course, there are many other trends in email marketing, including true responsive design and real-time inboxes (where content updates while the email is sitting in the customer’s inbox — real-time maps, for example, or availability updates for concert tickets), but this level of sophistication is well beyond what we are seeing in the printing industry.

What other critical trends do you see?

(For more information on “State of Multichannel Marketing in the Printing Industry, click here.)

Getting Lifts with More Precise Email timing


As email becomes a default marketing channel for so many clients, how do you max out the opportunities this offers? Timing!

One of the trends we are seeing in print + email market is the adoption of mail tracking to improve the timing and coordination of channels. With growing adoption of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb), we are seeing the timing of pre- and post-direct mail emails becoming more strategic and refined. Using the IMb, marketers (or their print providers) are able to time their follow-ups to within a specific timeframe of when the direct mail hits.

Using A/B tests, GrayHair Software, for example, demonstrated just how effective tweaking the timing can be. A direct marketing firm had been sending out Standard-Class direct mail with a follow-up email sent by a third-party provider. The follow-up was just sent after a few days and was not timed with the actual delivery of the direct mail piece. The campaign was getting results, but the marketer wondered how much more could be achieved.

GrayHairSource: GrayHair Software

GrayHair set up tests to determine the impact of coordinating the deployment of the pre- and post-email campaigns with the actual delivery of the direct mail pieces. Two statistically valid groups were formed to receive the offer. Both groups received identical offers across two distinct products, Product 1 and Product 2. Here were the results:

  • Group A was contacted using the direct marketer’s strategy. Members of the list received a pre-email containing advance notification of the direct mail offer. Once the direct mail piece was delivered, follow-up emails were sent at the discretion of the email deployment provider without regard to whether the mail piece had delivered.
  • Group B was contacted by GrayHair. Members of this group received the same pre-email containing advance notification of the upcoming direct mail offer. This strategy differed in that the Group B direct mail pieces were tracked through the GrayHair mail-tracking services to determine the day of delivery for each piece. When the direct mail piece was received, the recipient received the email offer the next day to reinforce the direct mail offer while it was still fresh in recipients’ minds.

The combined response rate (pre-email, direct mail piece and post-email) for Group A (original strategy) was 2.79%, while the combined responses for Group B (new strategy based on timing) was 2.92%—a 4.7% lift. Imagine the impact on revenue for high-volume campaigns!

This test supports what most of us instinctively know, but it’s great when the numbers are available to support it. Once again, we see the documented value of the combination of print + email rather than a single channel alone.

Non-Smartphone Users Not Wanted


When it comes to the battle of print vs. e-media, some companies just need to go through the cycle. Over the years, there have been many examples of companies (retailers, in particular) that have eliminated their catalogs or other print marketing materials to go exclusively digital. However, when sales take the inevitable dip, their print shows back up again, usually in a modified, more targeted form. Is JoAnn Fabrics the next to go through the rotation?

My mother is currently beside herself that her favorite store no longer sends out printed circulars. Apparently, if you want coupons, you either need a smartphone (which she doesn’t have) or must sign up to receive the coupons by email. But JoAnn’s must really be discouraging print because, in order to sign up for the emails in the store, you need to fill out this form in pale green that is very hard to read.

jo-ann1I teased her that if you’re not a smartphone owner, JoAnn’s doesn’t care about you, to which she replied that it’s the older generation — where there is a lower penetration of smartphones — that tends to buy the most fabric. So if you’re going to cut out part of your audience, you don’t want to cut out the demographic that tends to buy the most from you. I knew I liked my mother.

I also find the use of the pale green interesting because just earlier today I was watching a webinar on color strategy. The presenter, Jack Bredenfoerder, pointed out that the physiology of the observer is one of the factors to be taken into account. For example, the higher incidence of color blindness among men can be a factor in designing packaging for men’s products, and as in this case, there is a challenge for older eyes in reading pale colors. My mother kayaks ocean waters when she’s not in front of the sewing machine, and even she couldn’t read it. For this portion of its active, creative, fabric-buying audience, JoAnn’s is making it doubly difficult to access its promotions.

All around, this move by JoAnn’s raises a lot of questions about print vs. e-media, channel optimization, and designing for target demographics.

What are your thoughts?


Can You Speak Designer?


Today’s printers have learned to speak the language of marketers — ROI, A/B testing, channel optimization. But what about design?

As workflow and multichannel marketing become increasingly automated, what separates one MSP from another? Is it the ability to manage databases better than another? Provide better metrics? Offer deeper postal discounts through co-mingling? Technology powers marketing campaigns and broadens creative opportunities, but ultimately, its benefits that can be replicated.

That’s why marketing strategy and creative guidance are so critical to differentiation. These are human elements that cannot be replicated by technology.

I was recently reading PaperSpecs’ free email newsletter, and it was so full of cutting-edge ideas that I thought, “Wow! If printers are on this list, I’ll bet they really have an edge.” Then I wondered how many printers really were on the list. Probably not as many as there should be.

The most recent edition describes an award-winning book project printed on uncoated stock with ragged edges, gorgeous artwork, Smythe sewn binding hidden on the outside a piece of folded artwork, and a belly band made from discarded press sheets. Fascinating, with really unusual elements that could be brought in to high-end fundraising, annual reports, and premium marketing collateral. But they aren’t ideas most printers are are likely to come up with on their own.

Regular sections include Paper Inspirations, new product announcements from paper mills, and “Coolest Design of the Week,” as well as free webinars. Recently, PaperSpecs featured projects that “raise the Titanic, conjure up a Christmas scene in a box, and revisit 2012 with a calendar that REALLY loves Ukrainian football.” Intrigued? I’m sure your clients would be, too.

Webinars also tap into current hot topics, such as gold digital ink, white digital ink, and most recently, Coke’s creation of 2 million different designs on bottles of Diet Coke. So when your clients ask, “How did they do that?” you have the answer.

This isn’t to promote this specific newsletter, but to point out the value of broadening your horizons beyond print and workflow if you haven’t already. Technology isn’t going to differentiate your business forever. So really invest in the areas that will.

Why You Need to Add Mobile Video


How much emphasis are you placing on mobile video in your clients’ multichannel marketing campaigns? People have short attention spans, and they love to be entertained. Adding video increases engagement and, in the online world, increases the chances that the content will be shared. That multiplies your clients’ reach.

Did you know . . .

  • Facebook posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts? (Source: SEOmoz)
  • Viewers spend 100% more time on pages with videos on them? (Source: Marketing Sherpa)
  • Viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video? (Source: Internet Retailer)

It’s no wonder that marketers are increasingly turning to mobile video. In fact, a just-released study from Cicso, 80% of global Internet use is expected to be video by 2019, a jump from last year’s estimate of 67%. In the United States, this increases to 85%. According to the IAB, 50% of mobile users in the United States are watching more video on mobile devices than they were a year ago.

If you aren’t helping your clients integrate video into their multichannel strategies, it’s time to start. Here are some tips for making it a success:

1. Just do it. These don’t have to be high-end productions. A creative video shot with a good digital camera will do just fine. In the B2B world, I’ve seen some highly engaging videos of a company employee sitting at a table and demonstrating a really creative product or idea.

2. Make it campaign-specific. Don’t send people to a corporate video or canned product demonstration. Create a video for the specific campaign and the target audience you are trying to reach.

3. Keep it short. Even though today’s phones are capable of handling longer videos, attention spans are still short. Grab attention out of the gate, be creative, and get to the point.

How are you integrating mobile into your clients’ campaigns? Give an example of something creative that worked really well.


Test Me, See What Grabs Me


I get a lot of nonprofit solicitations, and it’s not often that one really grabs me. This one did. It was from the March of Dimes, and what grabbed me was how different it was from the others.

Usually, I get dimes and address labels. Sometimes I get dimes and a notepad. Sometimes I just get stickers or notepads with no dimes. Yesterday, I got two inserts — one with a newborn in NICU with tubes attached all over his sweet face. The second was the same boy at the age of nine, with a visual impairment issue in one eye but otherwise smiling and healthy. The text informed me that the procedure that saved his life was one The March of Dimes had funded.

I give to the organization once a year, so most of the time, the mailings do not produce a donation. This one did.

What struck me, too, was the number of different tactics the organization has tried on me over the years. When I looked back, the realization was not that the nonprofit had been experimenting on me all along (because of course it had), but the level of effort it had gone to do so. It tried different tactics at different times, seeing what I responded to. When I wasn’t responding, it tried something else until it found the trigger that worked.

The March of Dimes has been persistent, and its persistence paid off. It wasn’t in your face. In fact, the testing was so subtle as almost to be unnoticed, and in the end, it worked.

It makes me wonder, how persistent do you encourage your clients to be? Is testing a once and done event? Something they do once a year? Or is it part of an ongoing strategy of continual improvement? If the former, perhaps it’s time to turn it into a strategic effort.


Another Successful Direct Mail Campaign . . . and Why It’s Successful


If you ask what one of the stand-out trends in direct mail is, I wouldn’t say targeting, personalization, or segmentation (although they are increasingly commonplace, if not the default standard). The trend that is really stands out for me is over-sized mailings and dimensional mail.

Direct mail is getting more sophisticated—at all levels—and as marketers and their MSPs more from spray and pray to strategic efforts, those mailings are becoming more effective. As their mailings become more effective, marketers seem to be willing to invest more heavily in them.

XpressEvenlopesYes, oversized mailings help marketers stand out and get attention in a world seemingly dominated by electronic media, but if those mailings weren’t effective, they wouldn’t do it. You don’t invest more heavily in a dying channel. You invest more heavily in one that is dynamic and effective.

That’s why I love case studies like this one. It’s posted on U.S. Data Corporation’s website, and it’s for It walks through what, from a design standpoint, makes this creative effort so successful. Even if this weren’t an oversized mailing, these design elements would make this a successful mailing.

  • Oversized envelope that makes it look like an official piece of mail
  • Use of colors — and the right colors (bold, but warm and inviting)
  • Large, high-contrast fonts
  • Effective use of urgency and mention of “time-sensitive” material to motivate to action (primarily on the back of the envelope — click here to see the whole piece)

Are you encouraging your clients to use oversized mailings? What have been the results?

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.”