Author Archives: Howard Fenton

About Howard Fenton

During his 20+ year industry career, Howie Fenton has advised commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research. With both commercial and in-plant printers, he focuses on benchmarking financial and operational effectiveness and determining the cost of internal manufacturing vs. that of outsourcing. He identifies and repairs inefficient estimating, customer service, and production processes, as well as bottlenecks and quality control issues. Howie Fenton audits 30 companies a year, has a client list of over 500 companies and is reputed to have never analyzed a workflow or production strategy he could not improve. He works with both commercial printers and in-plant reprographics departments, offering workflow, make vs. buy in-plant audits, and strategic analysis. In workflow audits the focus is on increasing productivity by identifying and overcoming bottlenecks and reducing costs with technology or best-in-class procedures. Howie Fenton is considered an expert in college and university in-plants. Using NAPL proprietary research tools, Howie reviews the competitiveness of commercial and in-plant company products, services, and staff; studies and quantifies the changes in customer needs; and helps companies add new products and digital services that will increase sales and profitability. His expertise as author of two books on digital and variable data printing has led him to serve as a judge for the PODi (Print On Demand Initiative) and Xerox Pixi awards, and to work on the PIA Digital Printing Council and HP Digital Printing Advisory Council. In addition to his experience managing a quick printing company and the prepress department of a commercial printer, Howie has written five books and 300+ articles, edited an industry magazine, taught at Rochester Institute of Technology School of Printing, and spoken at every major industry conference.

A New Philosophy of Blogging

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The amount of articles offering advice about blogging is overwhelming because blogging or content marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase your search engine optimization (SEO) status. The theories of what is important in blogging swing back and forth like a pendulum. Lately the trends are focusing on the creation of a content marketing strategy, the need to be a great storyteller, the frequency of posting, and the length of your blog posts. If you’re like me, when you see all these articles you try to consolidate them into a philosophy that makes sense. Here is my current philosophy of blogging.

Content Marketing Strategy

While many people talk about the importance of content marketing strategy, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend weeks of work and write a lengthy document that will gather dust on a shelf. Instead, consider simply talking to everyone who is contributing blogs, identify different goals and objectives from the group, try to reach a consensus of opinion, and, most importantly, create a schedule for blogging.

Storytelling

One of the trends I’ve seen lately are articles that focus on how to be a great storyteller. Personally I’m not sure how effective it is to train people to be great storytellers because while some people are naturally great storytellers, many people are not. But you don’t have to be a great storyteller to understand the basics. The basics focus on why this is important to the reader. For certain kinds of blogs you can actually create a template of questions. For example, when we write case histories our approach is to ask the following. What was the problem? How do we approach that problem? What were the findings? What was the recommendation? What were the results? With this tool, case histories write themselves.

How Often

Some people claim you should write a blog every day and others only suggest two a month. One camp that says you should sit down every day or once a week and create a routine where you write blogs. When I first started blogging in September 2007, I was writing three blogs a week for Graphic Arts Magazine and my strategy was to schedule four hours a week on Friday to write.

The problem is that if you write often, you will simply run out of subjects to talk about or new things to say. My personal recommendation is to blog somewhere around 3 – 10 times a month and focus more on quality than quantity. If you could write only one blog a month, but it resulted in 3,000 unique page views, it would be more worthwhile than 10 blogs a month with only 300 page views.

How Long?

Books and courses on blogging talk about a word length of 250 to 500 words. My personal belief is that a blog should be approximately 3-5 paragraphs. For me, 3-5 paragraphs often exceeds 500 words, as does this blog. But if you look at one of the best bloggers in the world, Seth Godin, his three paragraphs are often just three sentences.

Social Media Tipping Point

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For years, industry experts have proclaimed that the time will come when social media marketing is as effective as traditional marketing. Some are suggesting that the release of a very successful new album using only social media may provide a blueprint of future marketing successes and act as a tipping point.

Late last year, Beyoncé released her latest album, Drunk in Love, not with a flood of radio and TV spots, but instead using social media. It was a complete surprise and an overwhelming success. According to Apple, Beyoncé’s surprise album was the fastest-selling album in iTunes history, reaching No. 1 in the sales rankings in 104 countries. The album sold 828,777 copies in first three days, including 617,213 in the United States.

Admittedly few advertising campaigns will generate the interest of a music superstar like Beyoncé, but the question becomes is this a tipping point and if it is how can you take advantage of this tipping point. Clearly, the first step is to understand who uses social media.

Here is a short primer on the demographics of users from businessto2community.com:

  • 72% of all Internet users are active social media visitors
  • 89% are between the ages of 18 and 29
  • 72% are between 30 and 49
  • 60% are between the ages of 50 and 60
  • 43% are 65 or older
  • 71% access social media from mobile devices

The second step is understanding the benefits of using specific sites for specific services. This information is from Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report:

  • Facebook users tend to “like” brands to learn about products and services (56%), keep up with brand-related activities (52%), and for promos (48%); some 32% interact with brands to provide feedback.
  • Twitter users follow brands mostly to keep up with brand activities (57%) and learn about products and services (47%); some 27% do so to provide feedback.
  • YouTube users engage with brands mostly to learn about products and services (61%), keep up with brand-related activities (41%), and provide feedback (23%).
  • Pinterest users follow brands primarily to learn about products and services (56%), keep up with brand activities (35%), and for sweepstakes/promos (28%).
  • Instagram users follow brands to keep up with brand-related activities (41%), learn more about products and services (39%), and make purchases (27%).

What do you think? Is the success of one music superstar a tipping point or simply another channel that can be used for successful marketing?