Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

1:1 Printing Isn’t a Fix-All

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Last week, I posted my nutshell summary of the state of 1:1 printing. My summary has solicited some reactions around the industry — some of them quite strong.

One printer represents many others when he writes,

Your summary of the past year may be valid in the digital info world in general, but absolutely off the mark regards the printing industry, 1:1, or any other voguish way you wish to call it. My experience, and those of all the printers I know, is that URL, VDP, and all this stuff about surveys and “long-term commitments,” is just so much fluff and smoke-and-mirrors. In the real, shrinking world of offset and digital print, what still counts are the traditional values of good design and cheap pricing. Case studies, white papers, etc., are all interesting to read, but far from the reality of what we do.

Reading through the lines, we hear that because they, XYZ Printing, can’t sell 1:1 printing, because their business is struggling and 1:1 printing has not proven to be the life raft to save them, it must be nothing but hype.

I hear lots of reasons my assessment of 1:1 printing is incorrect. Printers are losing business to in-house print shops. Their quick response and aggressive delivery no longer win clients. Their clients are returning to lowest cost bidder situations and they are losing business.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but what, exactly, does this have to do with the state of 1:1 printing?

Case studies tell us what printers and their clients are actually producing. By watching the types of campaigns that are actually being printed and mailed, we can watch this marketing approach evolve. By reading the market surveys and research studies on where marketers are spending their money, where they are placing their priorities, and how they are addressing their challenges (and what challenges they are addressing), we can watch the evolution of data-driven marketing, including print.

The state of 1:1 printing is exactly that — the state of 1:1 printing — not the state of the commercial printing industry in adopting 1:1 printing. “The state of” includes the types of campaigns produced, the level of complexity at which they are being produced, and the best practices being used by those who produce them. If an individual printer cannot print and sell 1:1 printing, even if they and every printer they know cannot sell 1:1 printing, this is not a reflection on “the state of” for those can and who can and do produce these campaigns on a regular basis.

1:1 printing isn’t the fix-all for the challenges facing the commercial printing industry. It’s just a solid, well-established marketing channel for those whose business models are set up to do so.


FOLD of the WEEK: Angel Iron Cross Invitation with Layered Die Cuts

Friday, August 1st, 2014

This week we offer a creative spin on a Fold of the Week favorite – the Iron Cross Fold. Produced by Trabon and designed by VML Advertising for The Children’s Place Angels’ Gala, this dramatic invitation features a detailed angel-wing-shaped die cut on every panel. The layered panels create not only a lovely reveal, but also a space in the center to hold the invitation and response materials. Shimmery pearlized foil and attention to every design and production detail makes for a fabulous presentation.

The Things from Inner Space

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Nebula- and Hugo-winning science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer is perhaps best known by non-sci-fi fans as the author of FlashForward, a pretty good novel that was made into a pretty bad TV series back in 2009 (premise: everyone on Earth blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds and has a vision of the future). A few years after that, Sawyer wrote the excellent (in my opinion) “WWW” trilogy, in which the Internet evolves consciousness and becomes a living entity.

I was reminded of that in a weird way a few weeks ago when I was having a conversation with someone about “the Internet of Things (IoT),” a phrase I first started hearing a couple of years ago. (I did initially confuse it with the “Internet of The Thing,” which I assumed was a fan site dedicated to the 1951 sci-fi classic, if not the 1982 or 2011 remakes which were cases of diminishing returns.)

Be that as it may, “the Internet of things” has nothing to do with giant malevolent plant creatures from space or James Arness (who played the actual Thing), or any of that, but instead refers to the idea of having all the physical objects in our lives connected to the Internet. This can refer to any number of things—smart medicine cabinets that use WiFi to automatically keep our prescriptions up to date, a smart refrigerator that lets us know when our milk has gone sour, Internet-controlled appliances and environments, and so forth. Much of this exists already. You can buy a slow cooker whose temperature can be adjusted using a smartphone app. You can buy an electronic fork that calculates how fast you’re eating and warns you to slow down. (I’d give it less than two minutes before thwinging it in the ceiling.) Friends of mine in the UK have a pet door that is unlocked by an RFID chip implanted in their cat. DVRs and other household appliances can be controlled remotely. Then there is wearable tech, which is a whole other kettle of fish. And it’s probably only a matter of time before there is an Internet-enabled fish kettle. (I wouldn’t put the fish in the slow-cooker; fish is too delicate for slow cooking.)

And all that is just the beginning. Gartner estimates that there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the “Internet of Things” by 2020.

Now, depending on your point of view, this all sounds really convenient or utterly horrifying. And certainly no “digital nirvana”! Regardless, it’s probably inevitable. And who knows, maybe the Internet will develop a consciousness at the end of all this, becoming an all-seeing, all-knowing entity. Which would be even more terrifying.

What does this mean for all of us here in our own corner of the Internet? Well, the printing industry has never done an especially good job of keeping up with technology and how it has transforms our culture. Dr. Joe and I write about this at length in our forthcoming book This Point Forward: The New Start the Marketplace Demands, which will debut at Graph Expo in September. I remember when e-books first hit the public consciousness in the late 1990s. Everyone pooh-poohed the idea; “who wants to read on a screen?” Well, go to any public location today and all anyone is doing is reading from screens, often to the exclusion of everything else, like conversing with people or paying attention to traffic. The Internet of Things will continue to change our relationship with technology, with media, and with mobile phones, as smartphones will be our “nodes” for accessing all the interconnected  “things.”

On the plus side, we’re going to need sensors for all this stuff. Lots and lots of sensors. Sensors produced in high volume and at low cost. Printed electronics—the sequel to what RFID was touted as a decade ago—may be the way the printing industry gets a piece of the IoT action. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), it will require a whole different approach to the printing business than simply buying a new piece of equipment, but it could be—and has been—a viable option for those interested in pursuing it. But as we talk about in the book, you’re probably going to have to take a completely different approach to the printing business as we lurch toward 2020.

Kind of makes you feel like James Arness in The Thing, doesn’t it?

Hearing the Voice of Our Best Customers

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

In his blog “How to Protect Market Share,”, Kevin Burns writes the following: “A recent survey of senior executives showed 80% believed that their organizations offered a superior customer experience. When surveyed, only 8% of their customers actually agreed.”

Maybe those executives are in industries that are growing rapidly, have work to spare, and only limited competition, so they can get away with being so out of touch. We aren’t. Every one of us is in a pitched battle for market share. We don’t win by assuming we know what clients think of us or what they value most. We win by verifying—by hearing clearly and regularly the voice of our best clients.

We recently asked the heads of some of our industry’s most successful companies how they hear the voice of their best clients. Here’s some of what they told us:

• Meet frequently on an owner-to-owner/executive-to-executive basis—“meeting and meeting, listening and listening,” is how one owner puts it—to hear the client’s voice directly and unfiltered by anyone—including sales reps.

• Team selling, subject matter expert selling, and consultative selling to keep the sales process focused on what’s most important to the client, not the sales rep.

• Hang out physically where clients hang out. Attend their trade shows and industry events, read their business and trade press, joint their associations, etc.

  •  Hang out physically where clients hang out. Attend their trade shows and industry events, read their business and trade press, joint their associations, etc.

• Hang out virtually where clients hang out. Know where in the social media world clients hang out—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a forum or list serve—and hang out there, too.

• Use the NAPL eKG Competitive Edge Profile™ ( to measure how they rate compared to the competition in the areas most important to their customers, to identify competitive strengths and weaknesses, and to aggressively build on the former and correct the latter.

Leaders agree that there is no single best approach to hearing the voice of the client. To the contrary, different clients will be responsive to different approaches. The one thing they agree we can’t do: Sit back and assume we have it all figured out.

What are you doing to hear the voice of your best clients?

State of 1:1 Printing 2014

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

If I had to summarize the state of 1:1 printing for 2014, what would it be?

This morning, I released the 2014 update to my state of 1:1 printing report. As I sit back and think about what really sticks out to me based on the case studies, the interviews, and the data I have reviewed between this year and last, here’s what jumps out:

1. Multichannel. The number of channels being used in any given campaign is growing. 1:1 is slowly becoming less siloed. When you look at the PODi case studies, for example, what you see are case studies with four, five, and even six channels. Marketers aren’t relying on personalized mailers and follow-up emails to do the trick anymore—and the results show it.

2. Data paralysis. There is so much data these days about big data, real-time personalization, and omni-channel marketing that it’s obscuring the fact that real, effective personalization can be done even with a small amount of data if it’s the right data. I’m seeing more and more case studies with personalized mapping, for example, but there isn’t enough focus on what can be done with what’s already available — just focus on what could be done with what nobody really has. First things first. Get good what using what you’ve got. Then worry about adding to it.

3. Smart segmentation. Instead of relying personalization in names, images, and other document elements, we are seeing more smart segmentation, such as focusing on re-engaging lapsed customers and ZIP-code targeting.

What do we need to see more of? Better use of simple data for creating relevance, better use of personalized URL survey questions, and more commitment to long-term engagement programs rather than one-off sales efforts. Maybe we’ll get there in 2015.

For more information on the report, including enterprise / training license options, click here.

The Inkjet Evaluation: A Comprehensive Overview from InfoTrends

Monday, July 28th, 2014

To no surprise, most players within the print production industry are turning heads towards the acquisition or utilization of digital inkjet technology. Until recently, print enterprises relied mainly on offset technology; however, the print pattern continues to shift towards high speed inkjet systems that produce high volumes in transaction, direct mail, and books. Why the shift? It’s not because inkjet is cheaper than offset, but because this technology can do something that offset just cannot do.

Last month’s webinar, “Evaluating Inkjet for the Enterprise: Improving Efficiency, Turnaround, and Investment”, gives a comprehensive overview of what inkjet technology brings to the table and how to begin the implementation process. Barb Pellow, Matt Swain, and Jim Hamilton of InfoTrends explain its application in the enterprise and offer critical considerations in making the move towards inkjet. As Barb highlights, there has been substantial growth in the inkjet market for both in-house print and offsite vendors. In 2012, production inkjet made up 31% of the marketplace. This percentage is predicted to grow to 58% by 2017, which correlates to about 12 billion more digitally produced printed pieces.

Current cultural, economic, technological and even governmental trends have fostered this growth, or even, “perfect storm in print and mail”. The conditions call for a mix of print and digital content in order to keep audiences engaged. Inkjet offers the optimal platform for both print industries and their customers to strengthen their operational and production processes. Grounded in market research, these 6 reasons sum up the advantages to leveraging color inkjet solutions:

  1. Effectiveness of direct mail in overall communications mix
  2. The impact and value of color
  3. The need for complex personalized messaging
  4. The ability to drive cross-media engagement
  5. Postal savings
  6. Bottom-line ROI

For a deeper explanation and the statistics that accompany each reason, be sure to check out the complete webinar here.

You may be wondering where cost fits into this list of “advantages.” A thorough explanation of cost considerations is provided in the later half of the webinar. Hamilton stresses: “If you are just looking to compare on cost, that is not the whole story…it’s more about the business transformation.” Thinking bigger picture is the ultimate goal, but also be sure to break down acquisition price, consumables (inks, maintenance), and running costs (paper included) specific to your job. A helpful cost prediction chart and timeline is provided to assist you in this process.

Without fail, Infotrends offers yet another informational and clear-cut approach to strengthening your business with inkjet solutions. Be sure to take advantage of all the research, data, and predictions they offer!

Spelling DOES Matter! University of Texas Misspells Its Own Name on Player Bios

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

I have recently been reminded of the printer I ran across who has a full-time proofreader on staff who reads every document it prints. As a political mailing specialist, you can imagine how much egg it has kept off its clients’ faces over the years.

I’m not saying that everyone should hire a proofreader, but once again, we are reminded that proofreading is a valuable service.

The University of Texas learned this painful lesson two days ago when it misspelled its own name on its printed player biographies. Instead of, it printed

TexsaSportsThe university’s arch rival, the University of Oklahoma, wasted no time capitalizing on the error, purchasing the domain name for the misspelled name and having a little fun.

Should the folks in the print room have caught the error? Not necessarily, but it would have saved the University of Texas a lot of embarrassment if they had. It’s all over the social media now, and you can imagine how much fun the sportscasters are having.

Thanks, sports page!

TexsaSports 4


Survey: 23% of Retailers See 11% Cumulative Lift Using Personalization

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

If you want to know how your customers and prospects expect to be marketed to (what they set as their norms), look at retailing. To this end, the study “Personalization Comes of Age: 2014 Retailing and Consumer Insights” from the e-tailing group, is very enlightening.

According to the study, the top seven things on marketers’ “to do” lists are as follows:

  1. Mobile (including tablet)
  2. Marketing
  3. Personalization
  4.  Omni-channel
  5. Platform
  6. Conversion Optimization
  7. Analytics, Reporting, Big Data

So personalization comes in behind mobile and marketing. This isn’t any surprise since most of us expect (or even rely) on personalized product recommendations when we shop online. What may be a surprise is that retailers have actually quantified the reasons why.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of retailers responding to the survey see a 11% cumulative lift using personalization. This is up from only 19% of retailers giving this answer one year ago.  More retailers are also seeing greater value in longer-term lifecycle personalization, up from 15% one year ago.

These are encouraging numbers. While there will be differences in retail that do not exist in print (such as focus on online activities such as shopping cart abandonment and real-time personalization online), people are still people. Done right, personalization isn’t going to be effective online and not in print. People’s internal wiring doesn’t work that way.

Personalization still has to be done right, but the increase in the percentage of retailers who see benefits from personalization, including long-term lifecycle personalization, suggests that as they get better at it, the benefits increase, too. Jumps in the numbers from 2013 -to 2014 mean that retailers are getting better at it — and your clients can too.

If retailers are improving their personalization efforts and reaping the benefits, your customers can do the same.


How to Utilize NFC for Print Marketing

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Near field communication, or more commonly referred to as NFC, is a current and fast-growing technology that can be extremely beneficial for marketing and in particular, print campaigns.

Are you looking for new ways to make your print materials more engaging? NFC poses a great opportunity for you.

Watch the video below to learn all about NFC – what it is, examples, and how you can use it to bring your print campaigns to life.

Have you tried out NFC yet or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy?”

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Canon Solutions America will host an “Ask the Experts Roundtable” entitled “What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy” on Oct 27th at 12:30 PM at the Direct Marketing Association Conference being held in San Diego, CA. The roundtable Group Leaders will be Elizabeth Gooding, President, Gooding Communications Group, and Sheri Jammallo, Corporate Enterprise Segment Marketing Manager, Canon Solutions America.  Both Elizabeth and Sheri will lead the group through a discussion you won’t want to miss.  In this session you will learn:

What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy?   When marketers compare the MROI of the various direct marketing channels they use the conversation tends to follow the lines of “digital versus traditional” or “online and offline” but rarely is it a true “omni-channel” discussion. One of the most overlooked channels is statement marketing, which is a critical anchor point in customer retention and cross-selling initiatives. With recent advances in full-color inkjet printing, statement marketing is poised to become one of the most cost efficient and effective tools in the marketer’s palette – particularly when used in conjunction with an overall multi-channel customer experience strategy. Come to this session to learn how statement marketing can drive value on its own, add value to other channels, and the key factors to consider when developing statement marketing initiatives.

For more information on this session, go to:

Elizabeth Gooding helps clients in highly regulated industries to optimize the designs, processes and production technology used for multi-channel communications. She conducts research on trends, technology and opportunities related to the marketing services value-chain while sharing her experience through industry white papers, blogs and speaking engagements. She is a recognized thought-leader in the optimization of transaction communications and hosts the Transpromo Professionals Network on LinkedIn and other business communications related groups. Having worked extensively with a wide spectrum of clients from print manufacturers and print service providers to in-plant printers and corporate print buyers she has a unique perspective on the application of technology to specific vertical industries and business development strategies that drive results.

Survey: Data Collection on the Rise

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Don’t let your customers fool you — they may have more data than you think. According to polling conducted by Digiday and Neustar in June 2014, 76% of U.S. digital media and marketing professionals are collecting data on current and potential customers and 77% have increased their data collection over the past year.

The number one reason? To get a better understanding of their customers, with 57% giving this answer.  Marketers indicated that they are expanding the volume and type of data they are collecting — demographic, psychographic, location, and social.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.31.34 PMThis is good news for 1:1 print providers, since data availability has been one of the Achilles heels of this process. But the challenges of data silos and data integration remain. In fact, according to the research, half of respondents say they are still unable to link data to create individual customer profiles.

Still, on the whole, this is good news. The more customers focus on data collection, integration, and profiling, the more natural the pathway to discussions about how you can help. So these data represent ongoing challenges, but they present opportunities, too.


More Out-of-the-Box Thinking with Print

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I continue to ruminate about a comment made by a designer during an interview several months ago. He talked about a certain promotional piece being particularly effective because the channel itself — print, and the way that particular piece unfolded — actually became part of the message. As each complex fold was lifted, it revealed a new element of the product being marketed and reflected the message regarding the value and continual surprises the product offered.

Now when I see unusual and interesting uses of print, I think back to that interview. I’ve posted a few here, and this morning, I’d like to post another: pop-up paper cups.  This campaign was from Nescafe, but I can think of endless other ways, as well.

cup_125In this application, paper cups (branded or printed with promotional information, of course) can be folded and either glued into (or onto) a promotional piece or publication, handed out, or mailed. When they are opened, they pop up in their full dimensional shape, giving recipients a fun paper cup from which to drink coffee and view the marketing information at the same time.

How else could this be used? I think about the “channel as part of the message” approach.

  • New store openings (particularly those offering coffee, pastries, and full-out breakfast).
  • Bed & breakfasts, hotels, motels
  • Co-branded with multiple local businesses sent to new movers within a specific ZIP Code

The possibilities are endless. With the right workflow, the cups could even be personalized. (Part of a welcome packet for new employees, perhaps?) The point is to think about using print to provide some kind of value beyond just a flat piece of paper trying to sell people stuff — a value that other channels simply cannot provide.



Are You Printing Fewer Spot Colors Lately?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

As I have poked around the industry, gathering comments and insights regarding print quality from print buyers and designers based on the What They Think / Unisource “Digital Print Survey,” I received an interesting comment in a LinkedIn print buyer’s group.

The issue of spot colors in digital print isn’t as important as it used to be, he said, because fewer designers are specing spot colors, whether for digital or offset, based on cost.

Here is the comment, posted in the Print Buyers & Procurement Group, by a managing director of a design and print management firm:

To be honest Heidi, I have had very minimal use for printing spot colours on digital presses. . . Designers seem to shy away from spot colours these days, but I guess this is largely due to cost rather than design quality. It is a shame there are not more designers specifying really bright oranges, greens and deep blues which can look so good but are out of the 4-colour process colour gamut. It is about upselling the design and print I suppose and convincing a client the value of something different from the norm but again it comes back to getting over the price barrier.

Does this match your experience? Are you seeing fewer spot colors these days? If so, do you agree with this designer / buyer’s assessment of the situation?

3D Adoption and the National Retail Print Shops

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

3D printing is a topic I’ve written a lot about lately, and the commercial printing industry is still trying to figure out how it fits — or if it fits — into the mix. I’ve written a number of posts on 3D printing over the past several months, so I won’t repeat my comments here (I will post links to previous posts below). Instead, I want to offer this simple food for thought.

  • Staples in The Netherlands is currently offering its own 3D printing service, Easy 3D, similar to the Shapeways model. We must believe something similar is in the works here in the United States.
  • The UPS Store already has six beta sites for 3D printing. The Kearny Mesa store has done extremely well with this technology, even garnering a feature write-up in Forbes.
  • Other big box retailers with printing services are scrutinizing the technology, as well. Active research is being done not just into 3D printing, but into the kinds of marketing applications I’ve talked about here on Digital Nirvana and have been encouraging the printing industry to consider for about a year now.

There has been a lot of water cooler talk about why 3D printing is not a good model for commercial printers — that its product manufacturing, prototyping, and consumer tschotkes are too far flung from the commercial printing model — but I continue to suggest that this is the wrong way to think about 3D printing.

3D printing must be seen in light of its opportunities to drive marketing campaigns. This means incentives and response drivers for the kinds of jobs commercial printers are already doing. Printers don’t even have to do the 3D printing themselves. These models work even if you outsource the production to someone else.

I don’t believe 3D printing is something this industry can afford to ignore. If you don’t start thinking about it now, the inevitable entry of the national retailers into this market will drive printers to play catch-up in the future. I am seeing more and more signs of serious interest from the national chains, so this is something printers need to take seriously.

Catch-up is never a good place to be!

Links to previous Digital Nirvana posts on 3D printing:

3D Printing: Thoughts from Around the Industry

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 1

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 2

Using 3D Printing to Drive Digital Print Marketing

Business Models for 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry


5 Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team to Learn New Skills

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Having to learn a new way of doing things can be stressful. If your sales team is stuck in a rut of outdated selling techniques, try these tips to encourage them to update their skills.

  1. Make the Benefits Clear
  2. Involve the Team in Choosing Training Methods
  3. Set Clear Goals

To see these tips further explained, as well as additional tips to help your team, download, 5 Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team to Learn New Skills.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at Do you have any other tips for keeping your sales team motivated? I’d love to hear in the comments below!