Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

Clients Okay with Sloppy Databases? A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

We all know that it’s a good idea for marketers to clean, update, and de-dupe their mailing lists on a regular basis, and as their print provider, this is something you should be encouraging them to do.

Yesterday, we received a piece of mail that reinforces the importance of this practice. It was addressed to one of the former homeowners “or current resident.” Okay, fairly common practice, except that the homeowner had passed away 20 years ago. We’d purchased the home from his widow.

On the positive side, we aren’t related to the former homeowners and have no emotional reaction to his name on the direct mail piece. But what if his wife had still been living there? Can you imagine what her reaction would have been? Or other family members if they still resided there?

Not a good way to promote your brand.

If your clients are resistant to a full data cleanse, perhaps at least they could be convinced to run it against a list of the deceased.

7 Steps to Selling Your Business

Monday, November 24th, 2014

1. Determine a Realistic Price Range — If you price your business too high, you’ll scare away buyers. If you price it too low, you’ll risk selling at a bargain basement discount. Your goal is to figure out a range that’s realistic. Get a valuation done as that can be used to help market your company.

2. Understand the Tax Consequences — Taxes can take a huge bite out of the money you receive for your business. You’ll need help from a CPA or other tax expert.

3. Prepare for a Sale — The getting-ready process, of course, includes sprucing up your business premises — everything should be attractive and orderly. But more important is getting your numbers in good shape. Consider recasting your tax-return numbers for prospective buyers. This involves, for example, adding back to your profits discretionary expenses.

4. Seek Potential Buyers — Finding buyers may not be easy. Usually you’ll need to reach out to a big pool of potential buyers. The more interest you get, the better offer you will get. You may want to engage a consultant or broker to reach more buyers.

5. Negotiate The Deal — Once you attract an interested buyer, you need to work out the terms of the sale. The key issues are whether you want the whole business or some of the assets? How will you be paid? What are the terms of payment? Will you continue with the business as an employee or independent contractor? Will you have to sign a non-compete? If the deal is an installment sale or earn-out, how will the buyer guarantee or collateralize the payments? Of course, you need to have professionals help advise you through this process.

6. Sign a Sales Agreement — Once you’ve worked out the key terms with the buyer, you need to put the deal in writing. The deal should be written by a professional and reviewed by a business lawyer to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

7. Plan for the Closing — The closing is the meeting at which you transfer the business to the buyer. To reduce the chance of last-minute hassles, make a checklist of all the papers you’ll be bringing and all that the buyer is expected to bring.

 

It’s More Than Just Price: How To Position Your Service Value

Friday, November 21st, 2014

At the end of the day, price is the elephant in the room. On the business front, it traditionally carries the most weight in any Leadership Team’s decision-making process. We know the budget-savvy CEO will ask herself: why pay extra for a service when it’s offered half price elsewhere? This tends to be the case in many business transactions.

However, other points of value have increasingly entered the conversation: turnaround reliability, industry specific knowledge, creative innovation, etc. If a service provider is able to effectively communicate their multiple points of value, chances are that budget-savvy CEO will pay a little more for the higher quality service. The webinar “Transforming Price into Value for Your Service,” hosted by InfoTrends’ Barb Pellow and sponsored by Canon Solutions America, breaks down how service providers create meaningful conversations in order to achieve long term partnerships with clients. John Smilanich, National Sales Director at First Edge Solutions, expands on Pellow’s overview with concrete examples on how his company has solidified their position as a partner versus vendor. The webinar covers topics including: what buyers want, price versus value delivered, the evolving definition of ‘value’, and how to communicate that value.

Specifically, I found the section on the differences between ‘vendors’ and ‘partners’ to be quite helpful in understanding how to position one’s business goals to a client. As outlined, vendors promote or exchange goods and services for money; however, partners go a step further to participate in a relationship in which each member has equal status regarding a project. Vendors have customers; partners have clients. Vendors provide data, but partners take their provided data and interpret it, analyze it, and make recommendations. Vendors take orders and make sales, where as partners work to build mutually beneficial relationships and to determine why their clients want what they ask for.

Once the service provider has determined what role they want to play, i.e. vendor or partner, it is important to present additional components of value to the service already requested. Helping the client understand these additions in real dollar value can only strengthen the service provider’s position against a competitor’s. As Barb highlights: “Value is now associated with setting up the business model. You now help set up project data bases, manage campaigns, and help execute or market the campaign.” To accomplish this, John suggests to “make it as individual as possible.” By defining your buyers and by defining your niche, you create a knowledge base that down the road surpasses the weighted value of ‘price’.

Not only were Barb and John’s tips helpful in breaking down the price barrier, but their examples, case study references, and self-assessment questions offer tremendous insight on how to increase value proposition. If you’re looking to broaden your communication skills and positioning insight, this is a must see!

Transforming Price into Value for Your Services from Canon Solutions America on Vimeo.

If Consumers Aren’t Scanning Codes, Maybe They’re in the Wrong Venue

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

According to ExactTarget, more than one-third (34%) of smartphone owners report scanning a coupon or QR Code with a mobile device while shopping in a store. Forty-three percent have scanned a coupon or QR Code in the past six months. Of those who did, 90% found them to be useful.[1]

So why do we hear so much complaining that QR Codes aren’t being used? Is it because they are being used in the wrong venues?

Retail LocationsEven as QR Code use becomes more common, it is location-dependent. JiWire Insights has found that 80% of consumers use their mobile phones to enhance their experience while shopping, but where they do so varies considerably.[2]

  • 31% use them in retail shops
  • 21% use them in restaurants
  • 19% use them in service locations
  • 15% use them in financial venues

Even within each venue, there is variance. Overwhelmingly, use is found in clothing retail (28%), convenience stores (18%) and specialty stores (12%), followed by electronics (9%). After that, it drops precipitously.

If consumers are shopping in auto, discount, big box, DIY, grocery, sporting goods, home furnishings, or beauty, the phone is used much less.

So when it comes to encouraging the use of QR Codes, consider the market vertical. If your clients are in some of the lower mobile-use verticals, they should make sure the scanning value is clear and perhaps provide some kind of incentive.

 

“Tuck-In” as Relates to M&A

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Presently there are two major methods in which a merger or acquisition occurs in the graphics industry. It is either strategic or a tuck-in. Today I will address the tuck-in method.

A tuck-in occurs when a Buyer is seeking to merge with or acquire a company whose earnings are weak or non-existing. The Buyer is seeking to purchase the Seller’s customer list and sales revenues, along with other intangible assets and “tuck in” the Seller’s production into their own facility. Typically the value of the transaction would have the Buyer offering the Seller a percentage of their trailing 12 month sales revenues. The amount offered might be in the range of 20% to 30% of sales depending on the quality of the customers; large concentrations of sales with a few customers; the gross margin the Buying company believes they will receive utilizing their equipment at the Selling company’s prices; and the likelihood that the Buyer will be able to retain the business. This amount will be paid over a 3 to 5 year period on the retained business year by year, with a cap equal to 20% to 30% of the original trailing 12 months’ sales. An upfront amount will be negotiated and paid at closing.

The acquiring company may or may not retain the Seller’s sales personnel, customer service representatives, or other key inside personnel.

The Seller will retain all of the equipment not needed by the Buyer, working capital, and long-term debt. The Seller will then proceed to have an orderly liquidation of their business. In most cases, the Buyer works with the Seller to make this as painless as possible for both the Seller and the customers.

 

Could You Have Saved This QR Code Fail?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

If a marketing project using QR Codes fails, it’s not the fault of the QR Code. Just like the failed QR Code I scanned yesterday. By scanning this code yourself — just as a doublecheck — before the job printed, could you have saved this opportunity?

Interstate QR Code2It was on a marketing piece that came home with our daughter’s school pictures. It said, “Check Out Your Picture!” with the picture of our daughter and a QR Code to scan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I scanned it.

In their defense, the QR Code was personalized to my daughter, so I was taken right to an order form for her pictures. But it was a non-mobile page that looked like the order form I’d used to order the school pictures in the first place.

Why would I scan a QR Code from my daughter’s school picture packet to be taken to a page to order school pictures?

Upon further examination, the marketing piece was aimed at encouraging friends and family to order their own school pictures, but this wasn’t abundantly clear from the marketing piece. It was also designed to cross-sell me, the parent, on other gifts with my daughter’s picture on it, but since the landing page looked like a school packet order form, I wouldn’t have known that.

What should have happened?

1. I should have been sent to a mobile page. Instead, when I first got to the page, I was greeted with the text,

Today yo

Would you like to

because, of course, the page wasn’t designed for a mobile phone.

2. The landing page should have offered me a choice — re-order prints or purchase related gifts.

This would have made it abundantly clear what the value was to me, the child’s mother, who had already ordered school pictures.

This company went a little extra distance by personalizing the QR Codes in the first place. If you’re going to do that, then take the extra step of sending parents to a mobile-optimized page making the value clear to them.

If this use of QR Codes fails, it’s not the fault of the QR Code.

So here’s the question. If you had been printing these marketing pieces, would you have scanned the QR Code off the proof — just to see what happens on the back end? Could you have saved this fail, saved the day, and been a hero in your customer’s eyes by taking the simple extra step?

Inkjet Update featuring Canon Solutions America at Graph Expo 2014

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

For those of you who missed last month’s Graph Expo, you might want to check out this clip to catch up on the latest offerings from Canon Solutions America. The 5-minute overview features Michael Poulin, Director of Product Marketing at Canon Solutions America, and Mark Michelson editor of Printing Impressions Magazine. The two discuss the latest and greatest in inkjet, as well as touch on the last couple of announcements the company has made on new technologies.

Where the numbers stand now, Canon Solutions America makes up 44% of the worldwide inkjet market share. Poulin notes that the first three quarters of 2014 had a very strong close in the US and in Europe. This pattern, he predicts, will continue through the end of the fiscal year. Strengthening their case on leadership, Canon Solutions America reached 69 billion pages in global page volume according to last year’s numbers. The predicted number for 2015 has yet to be released, but Poulin is confident that his company will stay on top of the boards.

Poulin also notes that inkjet technology took the spotlight at last month’s Graph Expo, with customers and partners at the center of the company’s advancements. “Customers are the ones pushing the envelope of various applications,” credits Poulin. With new substrate combinations, Poulin predicts an expansion into the graphic arts market.

Along with showcasing the inkjet presses themselves, Canon Solutions America also featured advancements made with their paper partners. This article in particular offers further detail, highlighting how paper mills are now in the driver’s seat to advance production and to empower customers to get the best quality output from their presses. This “paper consortium” allows customers to have access to hundreds of stocks from over 30 paper mills in order to produce top quality end results.

Not only did Canon Solutions America celebrate their paper mill partnerships, but the company also hosted customer appreciation events. This article highlights details of the events themselves, but it’s safe to say that the printing community was brought together to enjoy shared successes and to build momentum for the future.

Making Inbound and Content Marketing Work for You

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Do inbound and content marketing mean the death of the salesman? There’s no doubt that the landscape of sales has changed dramatically over the last few years, with traditional tactics such as cold calling or door to door sales waning in popularity thanks to inbound marketing and the rise of content marketing. This is good news for customers, who can find what they want when they want it instead of fielding unwanted calls. It’s good news for businesses too, making it easier to focus on the customers who are most likely to buy. But where does that leave your business sales force? Is there a place for the salesman of old in the new landscape of inbound and content marketing and encouraging the customers to come to you? The answer is a resounding yes, if you employ some flexibility and make the best of both worlds.

Selling Has a New Face

Make no mistake about it, an important part of content and inbound marketing is driving sales, but in a more connected and less pushy way. Good inbound marketing acknowledges that increasingly more people are looking online for what they want and that your job is to have useful, engaging content ready for them when they reach you. Good quality content and well planned inbound marketing don’t replace sales – they help to drive them. By giving your visitors the information they want, you are encouraging them to do business with you. That’s where inbound marketing and traditional sales meet.

A Warm Welcome and Useful Follow Up

Inbound marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, part of your marketing plan should be to foster good connections with your customers by giving them a strong sense of your brand’s personality and the people behind your online presence. A welcoming presence that makes your customer feel valued is a key part of any marketing, inbound or outbound. As well as in your content itself, consider how you can generate that feeling when following up on leads generated by your inbound marketing efforts. Engaging with customers who have shown strong interest in your content means utilizing your sales force to talk directly to people who are already interested in what you have to sell. By looking at the content that piqued their interest, your sales force can start a conversation that hones in on a customer’s immediate problems, concerns and needs.

Invite Your Customers and Be Ready When They Arrive

Instead of seeing your marketing and selling departments as separate, it’s time to realize that the two can offer each other valuable insight. Your marketing department understands your customers and can craft the content that will invite them to your digital doorstep. Your sales department understands how to qualify leads and how to talk to your customers to hone in on their needs, figure out how you can help, and close the sale. By working together, your marketing and sales people can formulate a cohesive strategy for catching the attention of customers who are looking for just what you are selling, and communicating clearly with them when they arrive. You’ll still be selling, but in a much more focused and responsive way that is better for you and your customers.

McDonald’s Takes QR Codes Beyond “Marketing”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

QR Codes aren’t just for sending people to a web page to sell stuff. That’s how most companies use them, but marketers who truly understand the value of these codes don’t pigeon-hole them this way. McDonald’s is one of them. I saw three QR Codes in use on the same day.

  • Drink cup
  • “To go” bag
  • Drive-through window

McD QR CodeI forgot to scan the QR Code on the bag. But the one on the cup took me to a location that matters a lot to me — the nutrition information (calories and fat). Since I don’t carry my laptop with me in the car, let alone have it open and connected to wireless at the drivethrough window, having the QR Code connect me to a mobi-site with that information was really helpful. Now it’s bookmarked on my phone.

Think having the calories readily at my disposal will help encourage me to buy at McDonald’s rather than its competitors? Absolutely.

The QR Code in the drivethrough window promised me a free hamburger for filling out a customer satisfaction survey by scanning the code. Did I take the survey? Yes. Would I have done it if I had to hang onto the receipt long enough to get home and find time to log in on my laptop? Probably not.

Getting customers to engage with the brand through a customer survey helps to deepen customer loyalty. Being given a free sandwich helps to deepen customer loyalty too, both by reinforcing the consumer’s taste for the food and by making them feel valued. McDonald’s cares enough to give me something for filling out the survey. Not a chance to win something (which 99.9% of people never will), but an actual sandwich.

These are just smart ways to use QR Codes that fit perfectly into the lifestyles and habits of McDonalds’ consumers. What can you help your customers learn from them?

11 Reasons Why Selling Owners Won’t Sell

Monday, November 10th, 2014

The Selling Owner (workimus maximus sellimus minumus) is a breed in and of itself. Generally appearing at dawn and disappearing late at night, this is an active beast and one that wears many hats: Customer Service, Accounting, Delivery, Press/Bindery Stand In, and often, Janitor.

The one hat that gathers dust is that of Sales.

Very often, the Selling Owner lets that one sit undisturbed until it is absolutely, positively necessary. It certainly wasn’t in the job description way back when. Clients would come in, hand over a job, and chat it up in a Mayberry RFD kind of way. Good times. Today, sadly, it’s sell or die for the Selling Owner and yet too many sit frozen staring at the quiet phone, wondering when Opie is going to come in and order some copies of Aunt Bea’s new book: Things I Found in My Hairdo One Day.

Why won’t the Selling Owner sell? There are probably more reasons than these, but here are the top 11 that I hear in my conversations, both verbal and electronic:

  • Don’t want to
  • Don’t see the need
  • No time (perception and reality)
  • Don’t know who to call on
  • Don’t know what to say
  • Too many distractions—everyone and everything else comes first
  • Lack of commitment
  • No accountability
  • Procrastination (“I’ll do it first thing” becomes “I’ll do it before lunch” becomes “I’ll do it before I leave” becomes “I’ll do it first thing” and the cycle repeats)
  • “I’m not a sales guy” or “I’m not the type”

But, I must say, the number one reason why Selling Owners won’t sell is Fear.

Calling on the Unknown Customer is terrifying and it keeps them frozen. Necessity being the mother on Intervention, their shrinking profits might be the one thing that gets them out there, but hopefully they won’t wait that long.

Picture yourself as a child standing on the edge of a pool. You look at the water and think, “I’ll bet it’s cold.” You stand there for a while trying to talk yourself in to jumping before your Accountant or Spouse comes along and pushes you. Either way, once you finally do leave the safety of the edge, you find it’s not as bad as you thought. The water actually feels good and you remember how much fun you had the last time you were surrounded by water. You move your arms and legs and not only stay afloat, but actually do some laps, correctly asking yourself “I was afraid of this?

Are you on the edge? Is Fear holding you back? Well, I have a suggestion: Take the plunge and come on in. The water’s fine!

What Does the iPhone 6 Mean for Printers?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

As a print service provider, your services help your customers build their business and their client base. To stay competitive, it’s vital that you stay ahead of the game, keeping abreast of changing technology that can change the way you do business and the services you offer your customers. That’s why you need to know about the new iPhone 6 and its NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, brand new for this iPhone model. NFC technology offers your print customers even more opportunities to make use of mobile devices to build stronger and more profitable relationships with their customers, while adding extra value to your print and marketing services.

So, what exactly is NFC, and why do NFC and the iPhone 6 matter to your print business? Click here to find out out in my latest post on WhatTheyThink!

Personalized URLs Grow Up

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

I just released my update to “State of Personalized URLs,” my nutshell observations and analysis of the usage and best practices of personalized URLs. What do I see has changed in the past year?

  • Deep integration with multichannel campaigns that include email, direct mail, and social media (particularly Facebook).
  • Integration with broader campaigns. We still see mailings with a focus on using personalized URLs to send people to mini-sites to fill out surveys, but this is shrinking as an overall percentage of the whole. We are seeing personalized URLs being integrated into broader, more comprehensive campaigns in which the personalized mini-site may be just a small component of the overall strategy.
  • Software vendors differentiating, not software functionality, but on their training and business development support. Each solution still has its own personality and features, but overall, the solutions are converging. As they do, differentiation comes in each vendor’s approach to support.
  • Stronger focus on the use of this software for lead scoring. Yes, lead gen and direct sales are important, but we’re seeing a lot more focus on targeting, segmentation, and lead scoring.
  • Focus on consistency in personalization across channels. Personalized URL software has great functionality for surveys and data appends, but its value is just as great for maintaining personalization across channels, even if a survey isn’t part of the mix. The relevance that was begun in the personalized email or direct mail piece is carried over to the web experience, as well.

Personalized URLs are growing up.

What changes do YOU see in the adoption and use of this technology? Please share your thoughts.

(For more info on the report, click here. )

You Might Be Sick of QR Codes, But Are Your Customers?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Several times this week, I have heard people comment that QR Codes are so yesterday. They are old, outdated technology and nobody wants to hear about them anymore.

That’s funny, because I’ve seen QR Codes on several new places in the last few weeks.

  • Back of one of our Christmas catalogs.
  • My USPS receipt.
  • Poster in the school lobby encouraging people to fill out a customer service survey.

For a technology that is so yesterday, it’s interesting how I’m seeing it more and more places. This suggests that, while QR Codes may be old news to printers these days, more and more schools, businesses, and brands —  your customers — are just starting to use them.

Sure, we don’t need to talk about what QR Codes are or how to make them or insert them into print or email documents. But we certainly need to be talking about how they are used and what the most effective implementations are. That’s part of being good marketing partners, right?

(Click here for more info on a brandable white paper you can use to share QR Code best practices with your customers.)

5 Common Landing Page Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Ideally, your landing pages have the ability to act as one of your strongest marketing and sales tools for your business. The best part about them is that once they are created, they begin the sales process for you. By creating a simple landing page,  you have generated more contacts and potentially more sales leads for your company.

However, throwing together a mediocre landing page with critical mistakes and hoping it will do all the sales work for your company is unrealistic. So, how can you be sure your landing pages are the best they can be?

Start by asking yourself if you’re making any of the following mistakes:

  1. Weak Appearance
  2. Lack of a Value Proposition
  3. Long Forms

Learn more about these mistakes and others, and discover what you can do to easily fix them by downloading, Fixing Your 5 Common Landing Page Mistakes.

Please take a moment to read and share this article at http://ilink.me/5Mistakes. Have you run into any other problems when creating landing pages for your organization? Let us know in the comments below, and we can work together to come up with a solution!

Combating “Unsubscribes” with Direct Mail

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

I just read a fantastic case study from Data Services Inc. that reinforces the value of direct mail in a world going increasingly electronic. Direct mail goes (and succeeds) in places email cannot. That includes the world of unsubscribes.

Belgium-based Outlet-Avenue, an online overstock retailer targeting younger, fashion-conscious consumers, was finding that it was losing previously loyal members of its exclusive email club. Was it ennui? Over-full email boxes? Traditional short loyalty span among this group? Regardless, 45% of its email list had gone dormant.

The challenge with reactivating unsubscribes is legal. Once unsubscribed, the marketer cannot email them again. However, Outlet-Avenue had mailing addresses for these former subscribers. It sent an inexpensive postcard personalized to the unsubscriber with a welcome message, “We miss you!” and offering a discount on their next purchase.

The company attributed an increase in online orders of 4% to the postcard and calculated an ROI of 2.4 to 1.

In addition, after-campaign research found the following:

  • 62% recall rate
  • 59% read rate
  • 84% message retention rate
  • 64% of recipients had or intended to resubscribe to the program

The message for marketers: “In some cases, those ‘chronic non-responders’ are the result of the medium of communication and not due to a lack of affinity to your products/services.”

Well done, DSI!