Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

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 They are old, outdated technology and nobody wants to hear about them anymore.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!

 

 

Find Your Champion

Monday, October 27th, 2014

You know, it really only takes one. Look through the different departments within your business; it may be a customer service rep or a lead operator in the plant. It could be that seasoned sales rep that has found a new gear and is full of optimism, ideas and client success. If you still haven’t located one, keep looking because this is important.

Finding these folks is tough because we’re not usually looking for them, right? We are usually too focused on the exception – the bad egg. This focus dulls our senses and the shining apples in our businesses get overlooked. Time to change lenses!

After spending all week traveling to three different companies, I met some great examples of company champions. Two senior sales reps among a group of eight at a commercial offset, digital, large format and label shop who are so motivated to continue to build their business (and they are doing it) that it’s contagious to the other reps. They are leading by example and it was refreshing to hear them speak about their clients, prospects and newly targeted markets. At another company, two recently minted managers at a digital and direct mail shop spoke about growth, capacity (in a good way), creating solid employee teams and harnessing technology to enhance the client experience and production efficiencies. Cool stuff.

The moral of the story is that there are opportunities out in the marketplace and within the four walls of your facility. You’ve got to work hard at identifying and nurturing both. It can be a challenge but seek out and find someone doing something great. Who knows, you might get good at it. It’ll make a huge impact on that employee and the word will get out to everyone else that doing cool things in your company is a good thing!

The Performance Challenge: How Would You Score?

Friday, October 24th, 2014

As digital production equipment begins to equalize to a certain extent, I am increasingly seeing vendors differentiating based on tools and business development support to help them get the most out of their investments. One of the most recent tools I’ve seen as part of this trend is The Performance Challenge from Canon Solutions America.

The challenge is designed for inplants looking to benchmark their operations or provide objective validation for capital investments. It was developed after the success of Canon’s Productivity Challenge for the enterprise community. Both are backed by InfoTrends research.

The Performance Challenge is available online, is free, and can be taken in a basic, 20-question version or a more detailed 50-question version called The Ultimate Challenge. The tool sends participants a report with benchmarking scores based on their answers. It also kicks back little snippets of industry information dynamically generated based on respondents’ answers. In other words, this is what the best practice is, why you should pay attention, and how to use this information to engage in strategic planning for your operation.

Once the challenge is taken, participants can access InfoTrends white papers that give user more detailed dive into the respective categories.

There are five areas of performance benchmarked:

  • management strategy
  • products and services
  • management awareness
  • workflow automation
  • benchmarking competition

Uses for the tool range from increasing the inplant’s the level of confidence before making a major strategic change or investment, to providing objective, third-party backing when they are going to corporate for funding, to helping to place them in a position of strength against FM intrusion.

If you’re an inplant, it’s worth checking out. It’s free, so why not?

 

 

The Right Data and the Right Time

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Fall is here and the holiday season is upon us. For many businesses, this season correlates to the most profitable quarter of the fiscal year. Every year holiday spending numbers continue to grow as buyers become more and more informed on what businesses offer. It’s no coincidence that consumer spending has increased; the proliferation of marketing media—both print and digital—has become more prevalent in the customer experience than ever before. This enhanced customer experience directly equates to an increase ‘buy-in’, producing larger financial returns.

The Canon Solutions America PressGo! webinar, The Right Data at the Right Time, unpacks how this trend has surfaced and offers advice on how to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. InfoTrends’ Lisa Cross discusses the importance of data collection and analysis in the advancement of an enhanced customer experience. Cross defines the customer experience today, explains the value of the right data, and offers tips on how to harness the right data to drive results.

One key take-away Cross highlights early in the webinar surrounds the concept of “me-marketing”. With stark competition vying for consumers’ attention, me-marketing plays an intricate role in appealing to an individual customer’s wants, needs and values. “If you want to get someone’s attention, make it about them,” says Cross. Personalized and targeted messaging creates a stronger line of communication, which in turn fosters a stronger relationship with the individual consumer.

So what kind of data drives me-marketing? Data that quantifies and qualifies consumers’ likes, interests, purchasing behaviors, lifestyle, and so on. Data can be structured, i.e. numbers that fit into a spreadsheet nicely, or unstructured, i.e. text and multimedia data that require extra steps for organization and analysis. It is not difficult to collect these types of data. Rather, the challenge lies in identifying which data have meaning and in deciding how to effectively apply this information to improve returns and advance consumer engagement. According to a recent study, 66% of marketers believe data-driven marketing promotes positive value to companies today. By collecting customer and sales data, marketers are able to consolidate, profile, rate and analyze the information in order to create the most appropriate marketing campaign for their target audience. There are a number of technologies available to achieve data collection and analysis: analytics, infrastructure, open-source, to name a few.

Keeping true to the trends, the print industry as well has entered the data-driven marketing space. Printers are in the mix of providing data services in management and analytics. Not only does the printer provide the means—or channel—of a communications piece, but also the printer is able to actively participate in running the marketing campaign. Clients now partner with print providers for data list acquisition, programming, campaign dashboard creation and response tracking & management. These services are vital towards achieving a client’s marketing goals, and thus, larger returns.

As the trend continues to emerge, it will be interesting to follow how print providers respond to the call for data services. If you want to learn more about data-driven marketing and the challenges in executing personalized campaigns, be sure to check out the full webinar here!

 

Best Self-Promotion Ever

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

I have spent a lot of time recently poring over a printer’s self-promotion campaign. It’s a calendar, but not like any calendar you might have seen. Called “Twenty13: Details Matter” from McArdle Solutions, it has multiple layers of meaning and purpose.

The first layer of purpose is showing off what it’s digital presses can do. Each month shows a different combination of printing technique and substrate, and some of the effects are truly stunning.

But before you think McArdle is using this piece to get clients running to open their checkbooks, it is sometimes doing the opposite. It uses the imagery to open realistic discussions about cost. These techniques take time, multiple revolutions of the cylinder (up to 45 revolutions in some cases), and open the process to variance. Clients need to understand the true impact of these effects on cost, turnaround, and the final result.

After these discussions, sometimes clients will go ahead with these techniques. Other times, they do not. But whether they go forward or go another direction, their trust in McArdle is deepened.

As McArdle is opening these discussions, with their tenous balance, the calendar has another element of brilliance. True facts from history, such as Puxatawny Phil going social after 133 years or a whale being blown sky high because the engineers used 20 cases of dynamite instead of 20 sticks, are paired with the corresponding images to illustrate the value of a supplier to attends to the smallest detail.

True excellence is found in the details, and whether it’s in selecting the right ink and substrate combination to create a special effect or having the guts to discuss details of cost even if it means losing an upsell, it’s what makes a great supplier great.

This was a tremendous campaign, and it has sold a lot of clients on McArdle’s excellence. It’s a wonderful model that many others in this industry would do well to emulate.

Know what you’re talking about: Read.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

If you are old enough to remember that line (in fact, the only line) in a public service television spot that ran some years ago, you are in good company.

The spot featured a group of young men in a diner discussing something, and although there is no audible dialog (just background music) it is clear that the discussion/debate is quickly becoming heated and may very well come to blows. Just then, another young man walks in, calmly joins in the discussion and very quickly, all involved cool down and listen to what must be words of great wisdom. Frowns turn to smiles and nodding of heads, even handshakes. The camera pans in to reveal a paperback novel in our hero’s back pocket, followed by the narrator’s voice intoning, “Know what you’re talking about: Read!

I remember when my son was in fourth grade and I went to parent-teacher night. I met with his teacher who said how glad he was to meet me, how well Alex was doing in class, and how interesting and advanced he was. Nice for any parent to hear, for sure. He told me that Alex was far ahead of the rest of the class on a variety of topical subjects, domestic and world events, contemporary issues, history, etc. He then said something I will never forget: “Alex reads a lot, doesn’t he?”

I answered that yes, he does, and he has done so for as long as he could read. In fact, we are a family of readers. His response: “I thought so. He knows a lot about a lot of subjects, and you can only get that from reading”.

As I continue to work with an increasing number of successful executives, I’ve noticed something. They read. Business journals, business books, industry updates (such as NAPL’s State of the Industry Report, white papers, and case studies), what I call “wisdom literature” (everything from William James to The Screwtape Letters), biographies, historical works, and, yes, even a novel or two.

We have conducted any number of senior level executive searches for our member/clients here at NAPL. One question I always ask a candidate is simple, direct, and very revealing: “What are you reading right now?” Try it. The answer may surprise you, and it will provide great insights into the learning system of the person across from you.

So whether your medium of choice is online, on a device, or on good old paper, casebound or paperback (mass market or trade), make the time to read. Be selective if you must, but consider investing at least a little more time in this worthy pursuit.

Know what you’re talking about: Read!

Forbes’ ’50 Most Influential CMOs On Social Media’ Shows C-Suite Still Not Embracing Social

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Are you using social media effectively?

If not, you may be missing out on an important channel for reaching your customers…but you’re definitely not alone. Many in the C-Suite still haven’t embraced social media in any meaningful way.

Last month, Forbes published its ’50 Most Influential CMOs On Social Media’ list, and the results were telling. Only nine of the CMOs on the list came from Fortune 500 companies, and only ten were from software firms. This is a troubling statistic for us here at interlinkONE and Grow Socially, since we stress the importance of social when helping our clients develop their marketing strategies.

(Maybe that’s why our own John Foley, Jr. came in at #15 on the Forbes’ list — beating out big brands like Target, Visa, and social-savvy website Mashable. Congratulations, John!)

The C-Suite may be missing out on a major opportunity to reach and engage with customers and potential customers by not embracing social media. Their resistance is understandable: ROI of a social campaign can be hard to measure if you haven’t set concrete goals. And social media’s impact is often described in terms of likes or mentions — intangible results that don’t always appeal to the C-level’s concern for the bottom line.

If there’s one thing the Forbes’ report can teach us, it’s that CEOs and CMOs need more education on social media’s real business benefits before jumping in with both feet.

To that end, here are just a few things social media can do for your business:

  1. It can give you a leg up on the competition by letting you listen to buzz about your company and competitors. Social networks are rich sources of market insights if you listen carefully.
  2. It increases your brand recognition and reach. By adding your expert voice to the conversation, you have more chances to reach customers who otherwise may not have heard of you.
  3. A well-run social media campaign can significantly increase your inbound website traffic. Without social, the only people finding your site are those who already know about your company or happen to search for the keywords you rank for. Every social media post gives more people a chance to discover your brand and find their way back to your website.
  4. Social media is a very cost effective marketing channel. With just a few hours of work each week, you can increase awareness of your company and products, without spending a huge chunk of your advertising budget.

Forbes did a good job of summing up why social networking is so important for CMOs of companies both big and small: “Social media has become a part of our world…Social media is how we interact with friends, family, co-workers, brands, and media.”

That’s why John and the whole interlinkONE and Grow Socially team encourage our clients to get active on social media — and why we’re active on it, as well. As John says of the Forbes’ list, “…One of the mottos we live by is to eat your own dog food…or in other words, practice what you preach. This list is a great way to show we truly believe in the power of social media as a way to gain exposure and increase sales.”

Creating an effective social media strategy and solid metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but the business benefits of a social campaign are well worth the effort.

 

Follow John on twitter: @johnfoleyjr

Plastic Print Pavilion Re-Raises Questions about Business Models for 3D Print

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

In case you didn’t notice, a lot of traditional press vendors were touting their new 3D press offerings or soon-to-be offerings at the Plastic Print Pavilion at Graph Expo. So it seems like a good time to revisit the business models currently in use in the commercial printing industry.

These aren’t simply ideas presented by press vendors trying to get you to buy one of these devices. These are the actual business models used by printers having made the investment in one of these printers. I compiled these models while writing “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry,” which as far as I know, is the only report of its type looking at this technology exclusively from a commercial printing perspective.

Here are the current business models I see being used for 3D printing in the commercial printing industry:

  • Research and development (get your feet wet and learn the technology and what it can do). This is the most common model at this point.
  • Reframing the perception of your company in the eyes of customers. This is the second most common model.
  • Providing products to the consumer and hobbyist market. In other words, going into head-to-head competition with existing 3D print providers.
  • Targeting the traditional 3D printing marketplace (prototypes and models). Also going head-to-head with existing 3D print providers, perhaps trying to increase “share of wallet” from existing 2D print customers who might be outsourcing 3D printing to another provider.
  • Creating internal cost efficiencies within your own company (one printer used its 3D printer to print replacements parts for its platesetter and saved $10,000).
  • Being an output-only provider (assuming a printable 3D file). For those who have purchased 3D printers and are justifying the investment based on other factors (such as producing parts in-house or market R&D), there is no reason not to promote your ability to provide output if the customer provides a printable file.
  • White labeling
  • Incentives and promotional items used to drive responses to direct mail campaigns.

To me, the latter is the most interesting because the value of 3D printing isn’t in selling the 3D printed product itself. It’s using these products to drive sales of what printers really want to be doing anyway — more print.

In fact, I’ve pointed out in previous Digital Nirvana posts that in order to use 3D printing this way, you don’t even have to be producing the 3D output. You could be outsourcing it. In other words, using 3D-printed dolls personalized to the recipient as a box-opener/incentive for a dimensional mail campaign to C-level executives. You outsource the production of the dolls, then print the dimensional mail, handle the mailing, and do the follow-up email campaign, as well. It’s not the 3D printing you want. It’s just a tool (whether produced by you or someone else) to get the rest of the multichannel marketing work.

How have you seen printers using 3D printing? Any business models I’ve missed?

More info on “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry“.)

It’s Academic – Scholarly Journals are Big Business

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Digital content platforms attracted financial and strategic buyers last month, as increasingly sophisticated online systems drive information to centralized providers that automate the design, hosting and distribution of content. That content may or may not be printed, and often times will be printed only on-demand as the final consumer sees fit for their needs.

Academic journals caught the interest of private equity investor Accel-KKR, which acquired a majority interest in HighWire Press. HighWire, formerly a venture of Stanford University, has been spun off and launched into the competitive world of PE-backed companies. HighWire provides an open electronic platform for universities and other publishers of scholarly journals to develop and host their academic journals. Long noted for high page counts and short runs, academic journals were a natural and early adopter of online publishing. Notably, there is no actual printing press at HighWire Press and the content managed on its platform is delivered in digital form.

Across the country at another august institution, Princeton University, the ripple effect is being felt, with the announcement last month that the California Princeton Fulfillment Services, publisher and distributor of about 340 books for Princeton University, will be winding down and closing by this time next year. As the investment in digital publishing platforms continues to improve the management and delivery of online content, Princeton University Press has decided to outsource the hosting and fulfillment of publications to Perseus Distribution Services. Perseus boasts its own digital distribution services, linked to short run and print-on-demand partners, as well as over a million square feet for warehousing pre-printed books. The partner in the Princeton operation, The University of California Press, will be moving its digital journal content over to HighWire.

Two trends evident from recent transactions appear unrelated at first, but may in fact be connected, as larger companies invest in sophisticated customer-facing software platforms, and draw business away from the small mom-and-pop shops. Staples, the national chain of office supply retailers, acquired PNI Digital Media, a provider of digital print software that provides easy online ordering of consumer and corporate printed products. This follows on the heels of other recent transactions in the web-to-print space, such as Vistaprint’s acquisition of Pixartprinting last month. Over the past couple months, we have noticed an increase in the number of small local commercial printing and copying centers that filed for liquidation under Chapter 7; we found six that filed in May. This is in addition to an unknown number of small printing company owners that just gave, up, closed the door and walked away without the expense of actually filing bankruptcy. I expect that we’ll see more closures of independent small print/copy shops, driven in part by the increasing ease with which customers can go online and purchase their printing.

The buyer of the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette, acquired last August in the spin-off from The New York Times, sold off the Telegram & Gazette which serves the mid region of Massachusetts. The buyer was Halifax Media, backed by PE firms Stephens Capital Partners and Redding Investments. In a twist of fate, the sale to Halifax brings former corporate cousins back under the same management, since Halifax had previously purchased and still owns the former New York Times Regional Media Group which consists of newspapers primarily located in the southeast US.

In another newspaper industry transaction, the Baltimore Sun Media Group announced that it is acquiring The Annapolis Capital and other local papers in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun Media Group is likely to find itself as the target in the near future, as it is owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times and has announced that it plans to divest its portfolio of newspapers.

Wide format printers were targets in several deals in May, including the acquisition of wide format franchisor Speedpro Imaging in a deal backed by private equity investor Fairfield-Maxwell. The Garvey Group which as we reported in July 2013 acquired the western wide format division of Schawk, continued its growth by acquisition strategy with the purchase of retail display and wide format specialist Troyk Printing located in Franklin, Michigan. Industry behemoth RR Donnelley acquired the relatively tiny True Colors, a wide format shop in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

Friday, October 10th, 2014

I do a lot of writing for printers’ blogs, white papers, and, increasingly, their websites. There is a trend that I’m noticing that I think is very telling.

When it comes to blogs, I am starting to hear printers ask the question, “Why are we doing this? Who are we writing for? Are they reading what we’re posting?” A number of companies I work with are updating their websites as well, and I’m starting to hear them ask the same questions. “Do I really want to put out an online capabilities brochure like I’ve had for years? Or do I want something different? Who are we writing for? Is our website going to attract the kinds of buyers I really want?”

There are lots of clean, informative printers’ websites out there now. They talk about marketing services, they talk about variable data and database management, they talk about the benefits of sheetfed and inkjet printing. But they all sound pretty much the same. If I were to pull the copy off a dozen printers’ sites, even the best ones, I would be hard pressed to tell one print shop from another.

I have been going through an interesting exercise with one of my clients lately. They are updating their website and they contacted me about writing copy. But I had a suggestion first. Before I start writing, why don’t I interview key people within the company about who they sell to, how they sell, and what makes them different? When prospects contact them, what department are they calling from and at what level? Once I know these things, I can write copy that speaks directly to the kind of buyer they are looking for.

The more interviews I do, the more I am discovering that this company does, in fact, have a very distinct personality. They also have a sweet spot that’s not the same as other printers. It’s been a fun exercise, not just for me, but for the company, as well. They knew they had a company personality, but they hadn’t attempted to define it before. Now that understanding is driving the content on the site.

How about you? When someone comes to your website, what are they going to see?A company that is as unique as the people who comprise it? Or a company that looks pretty much like every other great company out there?

 

 

Best Practices for Getting User Buy-In for Web-to-Print

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

I have been surprised lately by how much traction my posts on Web-to-print have been getting lately. It tells me that I’m on to something. Currently, I’m working on an article for Printing Impressions on getting user buy-in once the system is installed. In other words, printers only make money with Web-to-print if their clients’ employees are actually using the portals you develop, so how do you ensure that happens?

You can’t guarantee anything, of course. But here are 5 of the best practices I’ve been talking about in no particular order. What would you add to this list?

1. Charge for development, template-building, and execution. If something is free, there is little perceived value.

2. Place the link to the portal in a place where employees regularly go to conduct business. Also known as, “If they can’t find it, they can’t use it.”

3. Proactively work with the customer on its launch plan. If the customer doesn’t have a plan to get its employees to buy into and use the system, then help them create one. Webinars, seminars, help desks, employee newsletters. What would you recommend?

4. Understand how people will actually use the system. For example, if they are salespeople out in the field, ordering on iPads, the site cannot use Flash. If it relies on Flash, then — newsflash — it won’t get used.

5. Keep the feedback line open and respond to user requests. If the templates are being designed by corporate and employees, distributors, or other authorized users hate them, guess what? They won’t use them. (Assuming they’ve been given a choice.) Solicit and respond to user feedback and give the users on the ground what they need, want, and will use.

There are lots of more, but it’s a great platform for discussion. What do you think of this list? What best practices would you add to it? What has worked for you in the past?

 

A New Philosophy of Blogging

Monday, October 6th, 2014

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.

Web-to-Print: Selling from a User’s Point of View

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

It seems that I’m seeing user stories about Web-to-print everywhere recently. I’ve written here about best practices, the most important of which, I have argued, is getting the user buy-in.

At Graph Expo, I attended a press conference by CHILI Publisher, and one of the elements of the conference really struck me. It was the promotional video at the opening of the press conference. The video didn’t talk about the features or benefits of the solution. It showed real business owners, real distributors, real consumers using it.

The video showed a brand owner, a retailer, a product distributor, and father and his daughter all creating a variety of elements that promote different aspects of the brand. Whether logging in on a laptop while sitting behind the retail counter or sitting on a couch with an iPad, the diverse range of users logged into a portal and customized documents, sliding and resizing elements like you’d do on a touch-screen mobile device.

The brand owner created a custom catalog. The retailer created custom product labels. The distributor created signage. A father and daughter created and received branded merchandise delivered to their homes.

There were banners, displays, and mailing labels for boxes — a wide variety of products created by multiple individuals within the marketing and distribution chain, each serving a different role, all creating products with the appropriate branding.

In just a few minutes, the video showed — not told – the benefits of an online document creator and editing solution.

This focus on “how this benefits me” is what has been sorely lacking in the Web-to-print discussion for a long time. We, the industry, understand how this solution ties everything together, saves customers money, and facilitates branding (especially in a decentralized marketing environment), but how well is that being communicated to customers?

I have blogged about the Webinar produced by What They Think and how both large brand marketers (The Toro Company and LifeLock) only recently invested in W2P after having the broader content marketing, document management, and time/cost savings demonstrated to them, not by a printer, but by a software vendor.

This is another example of a software vendor doing a great job of illustrating the benefits of these solutions. It’s an example that I think many printers could benefit from.

More on my perspective on Web-to-print.