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.”

“State of Marketing” Report Drives Home Need for Multichannel


Everywhere you look, growth in digital marketing channels is increasing. Print is holding steady (in fact, according to Target Marketing‘s Media Usage Survey 2016, 25% of marketers are increasing their use of print), but the world in which print lives is increasingly multichannel. You may not need to offer email, social, mobile, and web marketing in-house, but you need to be aligned with third parties who do.

The “2016 State of Marketing” report from Salesforce Marketing Cloud reinforces this need. The research, based on a survey of more than 4,000 leading marketers worldwide, shows strong growth in mobile and social media, in particular.

  • The report notes that, between 2015 and 2016, every form of mobile marketing covered in the report has shown growth, including 98% growth in mobile app usage and 111% growth in SMS usage.
  • It used to be that marketers could not prove ROI from social media, but  that is changing.  Three-quarters (75%) of marketers now say that their social media efforts are showing ROI.
  • Email continues to morph and change, as well — what Salesforce calls “top performing teams” are 4.2x more likely than underperformers to leverage predictive intelligence or data science to personalize emails.
  • Two-thirds of marketers are advertising on social media, and this rises among top performers. A whopping 83% are targeting ads based on customer data.

This is a very different world than the “one two punch” of direct mail and email in which we are most comfortable discussing multichannel. Multichannel is becoming truly multichannel. Not just two channels playing of one another with a QR Code or personalized URL thrown in for good measure, but true integrated multichannel efforts that span four, five, even six channels, all working together under a common marketing umbrella.

As if this weren’t complicated enough, the “customer journey” is taking the driver’s seat in how these multichannel efforts are deployed. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of marketers in the Salesforce survey say that the customer journey is part of their marketing strategies, and among high-performing companies compared to 23% of moderate performers and 7% of underperformers. Sixty-one percent are actively mapping those customer journeys.

Multichannel marketing isn’t just about coordinating channels anymore to accomplish a specific, “single point in time” goal. It’s about understanding the specific phases of the customer journey and all of the micro-goals along the way and knowing which channels are best used to communicate and accomplish them as the marketer moves the customer through the sales funnel over time.

Perhaps the next major investment you make shouldn’t be a piece of equipment. It should be some more marketing brainpower.


Know Your Timing!


There are lots of reasons to get involved with your clients’ campaign in the planning stages rather than waiting for them to hand off a print-ready PDF at the end of the process, and here’s one of them. Left to their own devices, their timing can be terrible.

When the client is having a weekend sale, short notice can be a good thing. Consumers’ attention spans are short. You want them to receive the direct mail piece advertising the 25% off storewide Saturday sale, tape it to the refrigerator on Thursday or Friday, and run out and fill their carts wthe next day. Otherwise,  if the sale is too far in the future, it can get forgotten. Likewise, if the client is having a flash sale and promoting it via mobile, same-day notice can be a powerful motivator.

But as with everything else, your client needs to take into consideration their audience, end application, and vertical market.

IMG_7189Here’s a promotion my husband received this week. It is advertising a seminar on the care of wood flooring (such as in the gymnasiums of schools) to facilities directors.

But check out the date. The seminar is being held April 13. This arrived on my husband’s desk a few days ago—less than two weeks in advance of the event. As a facilities director for a large private high school, he needs several weeks advance notice for a lunch meeting, let alone a half-day seminar. Something like this would need to arrive months in advance to even be considered.

Not to mention the seasonal timing. Schools enter their busiest season at the end of spring into summer. The weather is warm, and all of those outside projects that have been on hold through the winter months are being resurrected. However bad as the timing of this mailing was, it was made that much worse by the time of year in which it arrived.

Here are the takeaways for the MSP:

  • Whenever possible, get involved in your clients’ projects during the development stages.
  • Ensure that the client has an accurate understanding of the needs of its target market.
  • Consider timing of the mail drop as being just as critical as the creative, the list, the personalization, and the offer.

If this client has a dismal response to its seminar, let’s just hope it doesn’t blame the printer!

Insights from Print-Newbie Designers


Recently, I ran across an online article on how designers can avoid newbie mistakes when designing for print. With fewer design schools offering a good print education these days, I was intrigued. Not by the article itself necessarily, but by the comments (all 61 of them!) and how many designers admitted to making these fundamental mistakes.

Here were some of the challenges in designing for print that designers fessed up to making.

Specing too much ink coverage. Noted one, “I’ve had web clients in the past ask me to put together magazine adds, and come across issues like the amount of ink required being too thick. Any advice on how to set up photographs for print?”

Using Photoshop black on all jobs rather than a blend when necessary. One designer admitted, “I had no idea that Photoshop black was so bad. I use it all the time!”

Not designing at full scale. Noted one prepress expert involved in the conversation: “Design a print item with the canvas set accordingly. Don’t expect to be able to just simply enlarge you entire design when done to fit any dimension.”

Not proofreading. Many designers mess around with (or even write) headlines, subheads, and captions. Then they send the page out without proofing it, leaving embarrassing typos and other errors in the final (and unfortunately, often printed) layout.

Not understanding the conversion from RGB to CMYK. One designer complains, “The biggest issue I have is color. Something will look great on my screen in CMYK, then I print it out and the colors are duller than expected. I struggle getting an accurate representation on my screen as to how it’s really going to look and often end up disappointed.”

In the end, the readers of this post seemed grateful for the quick and dirty explanations.  Here are some more comments:

  • “It sadly happens that I’ve broken more than half of the rules when creating my print designs.”
  • “Great post. Wish I had this 6 months ago when I made the jump from web to print!”
  • “I have encountered a lot of these in the past. Now learning the best steps to take when going from digital to print.”
  • “I so need this. Some of this was a refresher, and some I’m definitely guilty of, even now with 8 years experience!”

The takeaway for you? Don’t assume that the designers you are working with understand the fundamentals of print, even if they’ve been in the business for a long time. Use this as a springboard for establishing yourself as the expert and invaluable resource. Add print design tips to your e-newsletter or blog. Offer an in-house seminar or webinar for virtual learning.

Whatever you do, get the information out there, because you never know what job it might save.

Media Usage Survey: Print Stays Strong


Every year, Target Marketing surveys its readership to find out what media they are using and where they are spending their marketing dollars. Here is a look at five takeaways specifically as they affect multichannel and print.

1. Digital media continues to grow.

As we would expect, digital media show the highest levels of growth when it comes to future investment. The fastest growing areas are online advertising (54% of readers planning to increase investment), email and social media advertising (49% planning to increase investment, respectively), and social media engagement (55%).

2. Direct mail continues to hold its own.

In a world dominated by digital, direct mail continues to hold its own. In fact, it does more than that. It continues to grow, with 25% of respondents saying they plan to increase spending on this channel this year. In addition, 11% plan to increase spending on insert packages and the DR (magazine, newspaper) space.

3. When it comes to how readers slice up their budgets, print maintains a huge chunk of the pie. 

The top spending goes to online advertising, with 37.1% of the budget. But print (including direct mail, magazines, newspapers, circulars) comes in not too far behind, with 28.5%.

4.  Personalization is on the rise.

Whether in digital or in print, 44% of respondents say they are planning to increase their use of personalized content as part of their strategies to increase ROI. Twenty-seven percent (11% increasing, 16% staying the same) are focusing specifically on variable-data printing.

5. Use of direct mail for acquisition and retention marketing is up.

In 2015, 54% of marketers responding to the Target Marketing survey were using direct mail for customer acquisition. This is up to 58% in 2016.  For retention, this rose from 51% to 55%.

It’s important to remember that print is a mature channel, so it makes sense that the largest increases in spending are coming from digital channels. The fact that there is any growth in print — let alone significant growth in some categories — is noteworthy.

Print is still a good business to be in.


5 Marketing Ideas Using 3D Printing


3D printing has been compared to the light bulb, the steam engine, and cars and airplanes. It’s not just a new way to manufacture things. It changes the way we do things. It’s changes the way we manufacture, the way we design. It changes the nature of logistics. But what about marketing?

When we read about 3D printing, the focus is largely on the manufacturing process and how products can be made faster and, in some cases, less expensively. It is on changing the cost and speed of manufacturing by eliminating traditional distance, warehousing, and manufacturing inefficiencies. In this industry, however, we care more about the use of 3D printing for brand building and creative marketing uses. This is something we read much less about.

It’s time to start changing that. So I decided to do a Google search on “3d printing for marketing” and see what I could find.  I came across five very interesting applications that, for this post, I adapted for potential use by printers and MSPs. Perhaps some of these will spark the next great idea for you.

  1. Offer 3D blueprints for popular items to make at home.  This can be functional (“Lose your breadmaker paddle? Don’t sweat it — or miss a single delicious loaf. Take this blueprint to your local 3D printing location and have one made before you can say ‘What’s for dinner?'”). Or it can be fun (“Come in for a test drive of our new [insert car make and model here] and take home the blueprints for a 3D printable model of your new car!”).
  2. Use it as part of a client’s rewards program. Instead of offering “buy 12 get one free” or rewards points towards product, try offering something really cool and different, such as a free 3D model of themselves, their home, or their family members. This approach was used by Coca-Cola in Israel and British supermarket chain ASDA.
  3. Enable clients to create personalized versions of their customers’ favorite products. This is a strategy currently being offered by eBay through eBay Exact.
  4. Run a 3D printing design competition to promote your brand.  Promote it through print, email, and social media. Let the popularity of 3D printing bring greater visibility to your brand.
  5. Instead of selling products to customers, let them co-develop products with you. One example is Disney, which allows its customers to develop their own mechanical toys.

These ideas can be easily adapted into a wide variety of market verticals and customer business models. Will you be the one taking these ideas to them? Or will you wait for someone else to do it?

It’s Time for Spring Cleaning . . . Data, That Is!


It’s time for spring cleaning, and that includes your data. I was reminded of this today when gathering the contents of my mailbox. In it were two letters, identical except for the personalization. On the first, my name “Heidi” was sprinkled everywhere. On the second — an otherwise identical mailer — was coated with my husband’s ex-wife’s name.

It’s not the first time we’ve received mail to my husband’s ex-wife, and it’s usually from the same company. Not only is it unnerving for obvious reasons, but also because she  has never lived at this location. Nor have the two of them been married for a very long time.

This week, I also received mail with my former married name, which I haven’t used in more than five years. That company needs to do some spring cleaning, too.

But it’s not just outdated names that can wreck a direct mail campaign (particularly a personalized one). It can also be duplicates.  I could just easily have received two mailers for “Heidi” and “Heidi L.” To a database, these are two separate records, even though they point to the same person.

My father-in-law, Lt. Col. John Walker (Ret.) USMC continues to receive fundraising letters to Mr. Usmc, John Ret, and a host of others.

Some of the companies messing up my family’s identities and composition are huge, sending millions of direct mail pieces every month. If they send a few pieces to ex-spouses, use outdated names, or confuse branches of the military with last names, I guess it doesn’t matter much to them. The cost of updating and cleaning up those databases doesn’t outweight the savings they achieve by using them the way they are. But when your client has a much smaller mailing list, each record matters that much more.

In the springtime, we “spring” our clocks forward an hour. In the fall, we set them back. Safety experts encourage us to use those events as reminders to change our smoke alarm batteries. Spring forward, change your batteries. Fall back, change your batteries. Maybe we should do the same with data. Change the clocks? It’s also time to clean, update, and de-dupe.


How Fast Can You Get AR Up and Running?


Scan me for AR to pop up!

Digital Printing Reports Web Page

Last week, I promised to do a test AR campaign using the free, basic version Layar. You know, just to see how quick and easy it really is.

Like anything, dashboard has a learning curve. If you can publish a blog post, you can create a Layar campaign very quickly. I simply took a screen shot of the landing page of my website (above), took a video on my iPhone, and exported the video using QuickTime. I uploaded the files using Layar Creator.  The software did the rest.

(To see the results, download and launch the Layar app, point the phone at the image above [image only—don’t include any other parts of the screen], and tap the screen to activate.)

Understanding how to enable people to view the Layar creation was trickier. It turns out, you just use your original images the way you would use any image. They have simply been mapped by Layar, and it is in the scanning process with the phone that they are analyzed and the user taken to the experience.

However, this was not in the instructions. As a first-time user, once I hit “save” on the campaign, there were no instructions on what to do next. Under the “promote” button, it gave me a link to a preview of the Layar page, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. It took me 24 hours of back and forth email with the Layar support team to understand that I simply use my own images as I normally would.

These are not AR issues. They are software and customer education issues. Layar has some work to do on that front, but creating the actual interactive element itself was completely fast and automated.

Layar Creator has tons of other functionality. I just wanted to see how long it would take and how easy the experience was with the most basic form.

Regardless of my personal learning curve, it was fascinating to see the AR portion being automated, and it works. In some respects, it’s easier than free QR Codes because the back end is interactive and mobile-optimized by default. For the most basic of campaigns (interactive buttons, play a video, take people to a website), it’s done for you. Like any proprietary application, however, you’ll pay for it, of course.

At their most basic level, QR Codes are free. At their most basic level, Layar and similar solutions are not. But I must say, Layar certainly made the AR portion of it easy.

Are We Ready for AR for the Masses?


This morning, I got to see a child experience AR in action. We had received one of those “everybody’s favorite” Easter gifts catalog, and in the center was a section on children’s outdoor toys. One of them had an invitation to scan to “watch the toy come to life” via AR.

My daughter and I launched the Layar app, scanned the page, and after a moment, a video popped up showing happy children surfing on this outdoor toy that looks like giant Pringle. Her eyes lit up. “Cool!” she said. After the video played, the viewer had the option to get more product info or view the entire product line on the manufacturer’s (not the cataloger’s) site.

Layar and SocksWhat was interesting to me was how natural it was. (Granted, I already had Layar on my phone, so there was no learning curve.) We were perusing the catalog, took out the phone, and watched the video. The AR app took us there directly — no interim browser — and it was a seamless experience. While we may think of AR as requiring complicated animation and programming, in this case, it was a simple 15-second video. Not out of reach of small businesses, especially with streamlined AR apps like Layar.

According to Layar, adding AR to a campaign is as easy as uploading your “page” (or an image of your direct mailer, postcard, or print ad), and adding content (such as a video you’ve taken on your iPhone) through the app, then testing and publishing. The power is in the templates and the programming behind the curtain. Much like creating an email newsletter using Marketo or

The “wow” isn’t in the complexity of the experience. It’s in the accessibility of the production.

As software developers make AR easier and less expensive to deploy, it will increasingly fall into the toolbox of smaller marketers. I’m not saying that QR Codes will go away—both will have their place—but for the last few years, AR has been considered out of reach of all but the largest marketers. Increasingly, that’s no longer the case. With today’s streamlined solutions, I am starting to be able to visualize AR even on short-run targeted campaigns.

It’s time for MSPs to start experimenting with AR technology. Many software developers (including The Blippar Group [which produces Layar]) offer free trials. In fact, I’m going to check it out myself.

Tune in next week for the results of my free trial.


What Happens When the Seasoned Print Buyers Retire?


I recently watched a webinar on the changing role of print buyers that featured Elizabeth Howitt, manager of production services for John Hancock Financial Services, and Jeff Dickerson, procurement specialist for State Farm Insurance. Lots interesting things transpired during the event, but there was one takeaway, in particular, that I want to talk about here.

Both Howitt and Dickerson talked about the dramatic change, not just in the role of print buyers, but their numbers. At both State Farm and John Hancock, the presenters said, the print buying departments have shrunk by half. Some of this is due to improved workflows, online template-based ordering (which doesn’t require proofing), and the reduced need for press checks. But it’s also due to the fact that internal staff are tasked with actively finding ways to reduce the volume of print. This is the case both for existing documents and incoming ones.

“Every time something new is launched, there is the discussion of does this need to be in print?” said Howitt. “How do we design this so that it doesn’t have to be ink on paper?” Howitt talked about having to actively engage with IT personnel to explain why certain documents still need to be on paper.

In this environment, seasoned print buyers have a critical role. They understand the value of print and when print is not replaceable. Howitt, for example, came up through the ranks on the print side, including a stint as a GM. Dickerson came up through prepress at major print companies and worked for a paper company before taking on his role on the client side 17 years ago.

But what happens when highly print educated buyers like Howitt and Dickerson retire? Who is going to advocate with IT on behalf of print then? Research from Margie Dana and John Zarwan has found that most print buyers are in the Boomer category (45+ years old) or older. As they move on, who will replace them? Will those people understand the value of the print channel the way the current buyers do? “We don’t know where we’re going to find the people with experience in production and print management to take over those roles,” said Dickerson.

Print education is critical for the printing industry—not just going forward, but now. I continue to be struck by how often I still hear from printers who attend local Chamber of Commerce or marketing association meetings and say they are typically the only printers there. As an industry, we need to invest more in protecting the next generation of marketers and print buyers rather than just focusing on the immediate need to acquire and retain existing customers. We need to think more long-term.

For a long time, many assumed this was the role of the industry associations, but the role of the association has changed. Today, the education of small businesses, marketers, and corporate print buyers is on the shoulders of the printers themselves. If you don’t do it, who will?

Forget what other people are doing. What are you doing about it?

What percentage of marketers use cross-channel?


I am regularly asked if I have run across any data on the percentage of marketers using cross-channel marketing, and the Direct Marketing Association has provided us with some insight. In its 2015 DMA Response Rate Report, it found that . . .

  • 83% of marketers utilize email marketing programs
  • 65% utilize email + one other channel
  • 44% utilize three channels (email + direct mail + social)

This data was provided in a presentation for the American Marketing Association Akron/Canton chapter “Integrating Direct Mail and Email” by Gary Seitz, EVP and co-owner of CTrac, an MSP in Strongsville, OH. CTrac specializes in interactive marketing, database management and related support services.

According to Seitz, response rates increase by up to 35% when direct and email are delivered in a cohesive campaign.

Among the benefits of direct mail according to Seitz?

  • Drives a wide variety of prospects to the web
  • Great strategy for building email lists
  • Re-engages those who no longer open emails or abandon shopping carts

Email marketing is:

  • Less expensive and less time consuming
  • Simplifies and boosts responses

In terms of the power of even a simple direct mail + email multichannel program, Seitz gave the example of one of CTrac’s own clients. The company was promoting its seminars and events. It started with a direct mail “save the date” invitation. The first email was sent three to seven days after the mailing. The second email was sent two weeks later. The company got a 41% open rate. Then it sent a final reminder by direct mail. That final reminder resulted in a 50% increase in reservations. The ROI on the final mailing was over 300%.

Multichannel marketing doesn’t have to be a Herculean task. Just the “one-two punch” of direct mail and email can be tremendously effective. In fact, Seitz concludes, “No single channel is as successful as the proper combination of direct mail and email.”