Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

Digital Print Can’t Carry Customer-Centricity All by Itself

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

A new survey from The CMO Council, “Mastering Adaptive Customer Engagements,” offers interesting insight into the issue of customer-centricity, or how well focused a company is around its customers.

Customer-centricity is interesting because it’s more than just a 360-degree view of the customer, a term we associate with big data. It’s different from personalized interaction and relevance, which we associate with marketing. It’s a concept that draws together the customer’s experience with all areas of the brand, not just those that have to do with data and marketing. It’s the focus on the customer at all levels, from the products it develops to the way its call center handles customer interaction.

What makes a company “customer-centric”? According to the survey:

  • 66% of marketers say quick response times to customer requests or complaints are core to demonstrating customer centricity.
  • 47% say products that reflect a customer’s own needs and wants are central to demonstrating an organization’s customer focus (the assumption being that this includes personalization in marketing, too).
  • 36% say “always on” access to products, account details, profile information and customer support.

Some of these functions are related to marketing, but many of them are not. These aspects are owned by customer service, product development, R&D teams, and operations, IT, customer service and marketing.

Thus, we might say a truly customer-centric organization is also an integrated organization, where all of the internal “clients” (or departments) are willing to talk to one another, coordinate, share information, and work together to create a positive customer-centered experience.

No matter how personalized, how targeted, and how relevant the communications, marketing can’t carry the customer-centric burden all by itself. Truly customer-centric marketing needs to be coordinated with other stakeholders throughout the company. So if the client conversation turns to customer-centricity, it’s important to ask the question, “What other areas of the company are being represented at the table?”

Growing By Diversifying Into Signage

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

There is no question that our quick print or small commercial printing businesses are changing. The way we manufacture is changing as the shift from offset to digital continues possibly at an increasing rate. Client buying patterns, the products they buy and the services that they rely on us has also changed dramatically.
Everyone is looking to see where the new sales opportunities lie. When I owned my printing business, we grew substantially by adding new services and products – some of these services or products were ones we subcontracted out and then decided to bring in house. Examples were typesetting, mailing, signs and process color printing. Others were brand new services like faxing (keep in mind that I started in this business in 1978), color copying and wide format printing.
The best area to grow your print shop today is in signage. Many if not most printers have already added wide format printing in house. They use it for proofing, printing posters and banners. Wide format has added some revenue but the real opportunity is being able to produce and sell the full gamut of sign products and services.
The sign industry is experiencing double digit growth. Why is this happening? Primarily due to the low cost methods available today to produce a large variety of custom signage that has allowed businesses and organizations to display their brand on almost everything.
The sign industry today is reminiscent of what the quick printing industry was like in the 1980’s. Sign shops are now everywhere in visible locations. Some printers have added signage but still a very small percentage. Signage is one graphic related service that will continue to grow as most clients do not have the ability to produce their own signage and due to the size and weight of most signs they need to buy these products from a local source.

Want Web-to-Print business? Attend a MARKETING conference

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Available on the What They Think Webinar archive is a Webinar titled “Web-to-Print Is So Yesterday.” It’s fascinating, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

The speakers are from The Toro Company and LifeLock, and both talk about their reasons for investing in their own W2P solution, how they came to make the purchase decision they did, and the value of the solution for their companies now. Some of it may be familiar. Some of it may not be.

Part of what’s interesting is where these companies are finding the real, bottom-line benefits, and they are not always where the printing industry tends to focus. The other part of what’s interesting is that, despite the high-profile nature of these companies, they were largely unaware of the capabilities of W2P until they went to a marketing conference and saw presentations by the software vendor.

Both indicated that, while they were convinced by the vendor’s presentation, if they’d heard about it from their printer in the same way it was presented to them at the marketing conference, they would have jumped on it from them. Since they didn’t, they installed it in-house.

Here are the takeaways:

  • There are still opportunities in W2P.
  • Marketers are looking for content management, not print management.
  • They heard about W2P from printers, but it was so print-focused as to be irrelevant.
  • When they heard about the full capabilities of W2P focused on their actual needs, they jumped on it. “Why didn’t we know about this before?”
  • Only 50% of their volume flowing through these systems is print.  But since the installation of the system, their print volumes have increased.

If you haven’t watched this Webinar, it’s worth your time. And if you aren’t going to marketing conferences, interacting directly with the people who need your services, why on earth not?

 

Should an M&A Outreach be Done by the Client or by Outside Professionals?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Very often a client has identified 7 to 10 potential companies that they wish to reach out to for prospective acquisitions. Usually they are competitors or companies that a vendor has identified as possibly being up for sale. I tell my clients that they are much better off having an independent third party do the Outreach Program for them. Competitors are very uneasy about sharing information and usually do not want their competition to know that they might consider a sale. The independent can ascertain whether a company would consider an acquisition without identifying the client. A Non-Disclosure Agreement can be put in place that very often mitigates the prospects concerns. After this has been accomplished, the third party has usually developed a relationship with the candidate, who then is more likely to open up.

In addition, I strongly recommend that the client not limit the Outreach Program to just the 7 or 10 they have identified. They should work with the independent to develop a profile and then have the independent review their data base to determine who else might fit the client’s needs. The odds for success are much greater as you increase the number of potential candidates.

How to Execute a Strong Integrated Marketing Campaign

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Executing a strong integrated marketing campaign for any business or brand is essential when trying to grow an entity or expand its overall reach. Knowing how to properly craft marketing campaigns to reach specific a specific audience is a way to successfully advertise your business, brand, or message to any set demographic you have in mind. Utilizing a few tips prior to launching your next marketing campaign is a way to ensure you are maximizing reach and exposure for your brand.

Create an Image and Voice for Your Brand

Creating an image and voice for your brand is essential to properly convey any message you want to share with potential customers or clients. Choose a logo, color scheme, and mission statement that is most fitting for the business you are trying to promote. Use magazines, online communities, and other well-known brands to spark inspiration to modernize any business or brand you are building.

Select Ideal Marketing Channels

Selecting ideal marketing channels for a demographic you want to reach is also imperative. You can advertise locally with newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, or maybe you prefer alternative online advertising channels. Online marketing ranges from PPC (pay per click) campaigns to third-party advertising services, direct advertising, and social media.

Keywords and the Importance of SEO

Implementing specific keywords into the content and headers of your website and blog is necessary to improve search engine rankings and results within search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Select keywords that are most relevant and trending in your market to boost page ranking with each new update or marketing campaign you launch.

Cross-Promotion Using Multiple Advertising Platforms

Using multiple advertising platforms is one of the most effective methods of growing a brand, regardless of whether you are promoting a local shop or an international online eCommerce store. Using social media, local advertising, third-party ad systems online, and affiliate marketing is not only a way to share more about your brand, but it is also a way to make a name for yourself in your designated industry and field.

Having an understanding of how to use various advertising channels to run a successful marketing campaign is a way to reach any audience or demographic, regardless of the industry you are working in or representing. With the ability to successfully promote a brand, image, message, or product, it is much easier to maintain a professional image and positive reputation in your line of business.

High-End Digital Print: What Does It Take to Get It?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

What does it take to produce consistently high-quality pieces on a digital press? Not just solid commercial-quality work, but output that consistently meets the most demanding client expectations? Lately, I’ve been doing a series of interviews with high-end digital printers asking this very question. Here is what I’m hearing. Please chime in with your own thoughts.

1. Understand how your clients define quality, then purchase equipment that is capable of meeting those expectations. For example, for one printer, “quality” was evaluated by the ability of the press to print on uncoated and textured sheets. This need, expressed by a high percentage of his unique customer base, was one of the primary drivers in his purchase decision.

2. Hire dedicated press operators that “own” the equipment the way a press operator takes ownership of his press. Hire people who understand the equipment, how it works, the range of adjustments that can be made, and how to work within the available parameters to optimize print quality.

3. To the greatest extent possible, let the press operator do his or her own press maintenance. Give them the tools, the flexibility, and the authority to keep the press in top condition. Let them do maintenance at the moment they realize it needs it.

4.  Set expectations upfront. Work with your clients upfront to show them what output looks like on different equipment, different substrates, and using different techniques. Show samples and even run rough proofs so they understand upfront what the job is going to look like.

5. Get sign-off on hard copy proofs before running the job. Hard copy proofs might seem old-fashioned these days, but every one of the printers I talked to used them routinely. This way, clients know what they’re getting before you run the full production length job — then they sign off on it. No surprises!

What do you think of this list? What would you add to it?

The “Print is Dead” Objection

Monday, September 15th, 2014

If you Google the question, “What percentage of email is SPAM?” the answers range from a minimum of 88% to a high water mark of 94%. That is incredible when you think about it.

I don’t have a grasp on the number of emails that I receive, but I know that when I come in to the office in the morning, there are typically 30 emails waiting for me and only 4 or 5 avoid my filter.

A few hours later, before lunch, I head to my mail box. Increasingly, it’s spectacularly unencumbered by mail. Gone are the solicitations and colored postcards. Only an occasional paper bill and a check, the local weekly newspaper, and a handwritten letter from my mom and dad remain.

While I was gone, eleven more emails came in, only one of which is personal. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. And now I am ready for work. Annoyed, but ready for work.

It’s funny to think about what has happened. Our clients have decided to stop mailing. A common objection is now, “Print is dead. We are putting everything on the web.” In theory, that works. I mean, if you don’t print and you don’t mail, you’ll save a bundle.

But….

How are people going to find out about your website? Through Facebook? Seriously? Are customers delusional enough to think that their company is so fascinating that customers are waiting on their every Tweet?

Oh, I see. They are planning to use broadcast email. Perfect! Constant Contact is a wonderful company. I use it myself, in fact. But the definition of SPAM is unrequested email communication and those companies have, at best, an 88% chance that the customer is going to see the email.

Meanwhile, across town, the mailbox is empty. What little that does arrives is unique and different and gets scrutinized and reviewed. Hmmmmmm…..

In the rush to save money and cut costs, companies are instead cutting ties and lifelines with prospects and customers. Print is an integral part of any social media campaign. Mailings drive traffic to websites. Variable data connects the specifics gathered in the “Contact Us” process and delivers information that is relevant.

Print is dead? Not to those who seek to differentiate. Not to those who want to find an underutilized and spacious medium, one that is uncluttered and familiar. Before all of the lemmings jump off of the cliff, let’s remind our customers where print fits. Just don’t put the message in an email.

Friday Fun — Would You ‘Just Print It”?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Every now and then, you get a piece of direct mail that makes you go, “Did they really do that?”

Here is a piece my husband received in the mail yesterday. It’s an invitation to attend a seminar on infrared technology. But from the inappropriate use of silly, cartoon characters to promote a serious topic to high-level professionals to what my husband and his staff could only wonder were subliminal messages, it certainly seemed more like a train wreck.

So here is the question. How much of a marketing partner are you . . . really? If this came into your prepress department, would you have said something? Or would you have just closed your eyes and printed it?

Cowboy

Feeling Like An Underdog? It Might Be A Good Thing!

Friday, September 12th, 2014

It’s easy to understand why so many feel like underdogs in our industry. Challenges seem to exist wherever we look. We often feel like David getting ready to take on Goliath. Well, take heart because Malcolm Gladwell is providing us “underdogs” with reasons to think differently in his most recent book, David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

The book predictably begins with a detailed review of the famous confrontation between the over-powering Philistine warrior and the diminutive Israelite shepherd who possessed a unique talent. I have to admit that up to the point of reading Gladwell’s book I always thought the story of David and Goliath was a parable. So for me it was a bit of a revelation to find out that the story is rooted in historical fact. Apparently, in the days of the Old Testament it was not unusual for warring parties involved in a stalemate to select a soldier from each side to settle the battle with individual combat. In this case the Philistine’s chose a giant of a man (6’9”) clad in full body armor with weapons designed for close combat to be their representative. I’m quite sure the captain of the Philistine army was pleased with his choice and confident in the outcome. I’m also sure that the Israelites were stunned when they got a view of Goliath moving to the location where things would be settled. Only one Israelite volunteered and he wasn’t even a soldier. Seeing this apparent mismatch how would you have wagered on the outcome?

As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”. We all know the surprising outcome, but do we fully understand how David was able to “smite” the mighty Goliath without breaking much of a sweat? In fact, the fight was indeed a mismatch but all the advantages were owned by David. The selection of Goliath was based on the preconceived notion that the combat would be close order. Why not choose a giant of a man with incredible strength clad in full armor with weapons ideal for hand-to-hand combat? However, David had a different strategy in mind. As a shepherd David had developed a unique skill as a “slinger”; that is, the ability to ward off predators with the use of sling that could propel a stone with tremendous velocity and incredible accuracy –from long range. David skillfully substituted speed, stealth and the ability to accurately launch a “long range missile” to turn the tide in his favor. The lumbering giant never had a chance.

The point of all this? Gladwell points out that often apparent sources of strength are also sources of weakness. In my previous life I managed a “midsized” magazine printing company. We often competed with the largest magazine production companies in the industry and we won more of those competitive battles than we lost. Why? How? We certainly couldn’t match up with all of the “big boys” capabilities illustrated in their promotional brochures. However, just like Goliath their size was also their weakness. They tended to be slow to react; often overconfident, even arrogant; overly bureaucratic; and overly formal. We didn’t possess all of their impressive fire power but we were very responsive, quick to respond emphasizing lots of personalized service, grateful for every piece of business we won.

Gladwell says that, “…being an underdog can change people (and organizations and industries) in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” So, underdogs take heart. We may be better positioned for combat than we thought.

Food for thought…

Looking for Fun “Love Print” videos to share with clients?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I love it when I run across fun examples, videos, and promotional items that show the unique value of print. Here’s another one that has been circulating lately, and it’s a particularly great one.

[Heidi's note: Somehow, I got the wrong link below, so if you had trouble viewing this campaign earlier today, try again. The problem has been fixed.]

IKEA has come out with what it a marketing channel that is simple and intuitive and comes with lots of great benefits. This channel comes  pre-installed with thousands of furnishing ideas, requires no cables, and has infinite battery life. Better yet, it has a huge interface — larger than your tablet — at a whopping 7.5″ x 8″. Plus, it can expand to 15″. Images are crystal clear, and there is no lag. Pages load instantly!

Check it out — and perhaps share the fun with your customers and prospects on your website, Facebook page, or next email touch.

Use it on a print piece, too. Create QR Code that points to the video and kill two birds with one stone. Let your customers and prospects experience the value of print-to-mobile integration and reinforce the value of print at the same time. Oh, yes . . . and get it laugh while they’re at it.

(Click here.)

IKEA

3D Education in High Schools = Printers Should Take Notice

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Last night, I was struck by a conversation between my 10-year-old daughter and her best friend. It was about “Tech Ed,” or technology education, in her middle school. The area her friend (who is 11 years old) is most excited about? Learning to create and print 3D objects on her school’s Makerbot.

Both of the high schools in the area have 3D printers, but the fact that this technology has moved down to the middle school level is something new. My daughter’s friend has only been in school a week and a half and she’s already learning to create her own 3D designs.

The point for printers? 3D technology isn’t something you can ignore. It’s penetrating down to our children, which means this will be a technology they grow up with and are as comfortable with as cellphones, iPods, and tablets. While it might be challenging to get your customers thinking about how to integrate 3D  into their marketing applications now, it won’t be long before it’s as natural as thinking about email, mobile, and text.

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that printers go out and buy 3D printers to compete with Thingiverse and Shapeways. I’m suggesting that they get to the know the technology and begin to think of ways to use it to drive marketing campaigns the same way they’d use anything else, even if they choose to outsource the production.

3D printing is not the norm now, but it will be.

Got Mail? How to Boost Your Mailing Revenue

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

As a mailing house, you provide at time-saving service for your clients that makes their business run that much more smoothly. But, no business should rest on its laurels, so it’s always a good idea to turn your thoughts to what you can do to make your business that much more successful and see some great results in terms of increasing profits.

The key to kicking your revenue into high gear is to take a two-pronged approach: streamline your service to provide the best service you can in the most efficient way, and look at what you offer your clients to see how you could help them and increase your profits at the same time. Follow these steps to increase your profits as 2014 is wrapping up and you prepare for the new year.

  • Streamline Your Service
  • Expand What You Offer
  • Let Your Customers Know Why They Should Choose You

To see these steps further explained and learn how you can increase your sales, download, Got Mail? How to Boost Your Mailing Revenue.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/GotMail. Do you have any other tips for boosting your mailing revenue? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Places You Should Never Put QR Codes

Friday, August 29th, 2014

“I love the idea of QR Codes, except their implementation is terrible.”

This is the assessment of Scott Stratten, super-geek, keynote speaker, and author whose hilariously funny discussions of technology and marketing were brought to my attention by Chuck Gehman, who posted a link to one of his videos in the comments section (thanks, Chuck!).

(If you didn’t watch the video on how not to use QR Codes, watch it here.)

It’s true. QR Codes are great tools for marketers, but they can use them in really dumb ways. Here are 9 illustrations given by Stratten on how marketers should not use QR Codes:

  • In airplane magazines where cellphone service is not allowed
  • On billboards on the side of the freeway (‘Motion plus distance does not equal good scanning!”)
  • Taking people to a video that says, “Not playable on a mobile device.”
  • On banners pulled by airplanes on the beach. (“Come back here! I want to scan your nonfunctioning code!”)
  • In emails. (“The email comes here [front of phone]. The camera . . . is here [back of the phone].”)
  • Placing them on websites where, when scanned, they take the viewer back to the website.
  • On posters placed behind permanently installed steel bars at the mall.
  • On mall doors that open when you stand in front of them to scan them.
  • On pet tags. (“If you see a lost pet, you are supposed to stop what you are doing, grab it by the neck, and hold it down until you can focus your phone. Have you ever tried to hold down a CAT???”)

Concludes Stratten: “All I’m asking is for you to think before you do. It sounds like a drug prevention message, but it’s applicable to QR Codes.”

That is an interesting concept that would go a long way toward resolving the “Nobody uses QR Codes” issue we hear discussed so much. Use them badly and people will stop using them. The problem isn’t QR Codes. It’s the lack of thought behind them.

Let’s think before we do!

Revamp Your Sales Model

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Your business ebbs and flows. Good months followed by an ‘OK’ or a not so good month. How do these results compare to your plan, what’s working and where is either the plan or the execution falling short. We could be talking about a few of your reps or the entire business.

Too often the plan has not been thought out as well as you’d like it to be and the story is that the outside environment-the clients, the competitors, the ‘markets’ aren’t playing nice or playing fair. Well, that’s the norm for today. Nothing is fair and logic is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to revamp the sales model. We see company’s overcoming these obstacles by doing a few things differently.

  • They have gotten closer to their clients and have a better understanding of their updated buying processes. This has enabled them to modify their sales model and increase their sales effectiveness.
  • They have achieved buy-in from their sales department, their senior management team and all client-facing staff to the plan, the company’s plan.
  • They have targeted growth opportunities in vertical markets that they can repeat their sales process to effectively communicate, build trust, present real-world business solutions and earn business from these new clients.
  • They’ve incorporated a suite of metrics to measure and report their successes in achieving the sales goals their going after.
  • Accountability. No plan is perfect, right? When they see elements of their plan not generating the results they need they are not hesitant to tweak the plan and make adjustments (sooner rather than later).

While no plan will cover all the moving parts of an industry that is transforming, without one it becomes increasingly difficult to adapt both the sales effort and the business to opportunities in the marketplace.

Thoughts on QR Codes Designers Need to Hear

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

I recently posted a response to a discussion that is raging in one of the LinkedIn graphic designer discussion groups about QR Codes. I might more accurately describe it as a bash session. There were a handful of posts in support of QR Codes, but most of those were mine.

Designers were railing against QR Codes because they are deemed to be ugly, they disrupt the beauty of their designs, and there are newer, more innovative technologies available.

One of the designers was particularly certain about his position on QR Codes because he had recently graduated from design school. Here is his comment, followed by mine. Please chime in with your own thoughts.

Designer: As someone who just recently graduated from college with a degree in the media field, I can confirm that QR Codes are dead. It is sort of like still having an aol.com email address — just shows that you aren’t keep up with the current trends in technology. We kind of snicker at those people still trying to use them.

Me: Good marketing isn’t about design only. It’s about creating marketing pieces, whether online or print, that achieve the marketing goal. Part of achieving a goal is generating response, and when it comes to generating response, smart, results-oriented marketers use multiple response mechanisms because they know that not everyone wants to respond the same way. One of the ways certain people respond (not all, but certain ones) is QR Code.

I can vouch for the fact that there are plenty of marketing communications that I would not have responded to if it hadn’t been for the QR Code.

I would love to know what percent of people actually use 800 numbers anymore. Yet no one questions their value. People love to kick around QR Codes, but I see them everywhere, I see their use becoming more focused on end user functionality.

Are there more sophisticated technologies out there? NFC, for example? Of course, but they require a lot more capital investment than QR Codes. They are more expensive to produce. They require more third-party coordination, supplier vetting, experimentation, design, and testing. The sales cycle is longer, and so on. No every marketer can afford that. MOST marketers cannot afford that. Consequently, technologies like NFC, AR, etc., while offering definitely value for certain applications, are accessible only by a limited number of marketers.

By contrast, QR Codes are free to produce and add to print pieces, and with the number of websites automatically optimizing pages for mobile, the barrier to entry is low. QR Codes are a reasonable, practical option for the broad base of marketers.

As a designer, your goal should be to produce the most results for your clients, not restrict their options because you, personally, don’t care for them.

Designers can scorn QR Codes all they want, but here are a few facts to remember:

  • It’s not about what YOU like, it’s about what achieves the end result for the marketer.
  • Your CLIENTS don’t care whether there is an “ugly box” on the marketing collateral, direct mail piece, or packaging. They want results, and those marketers pay your salary.
  • Digital snobbery doesn’t produce results. Smart marketing focused on the ultimate user of the product does.

When QR Codes stop producing results, I’ll ditch them. But from the case studies I read, from the marketing surveys I am up to my eyeballs in, and from my own experience, QR Codes serve a practical, functional purpose. For the right audience, they draw more eyeballs than the marketer would otherwise get without them, and marketers are getting better at using them every day.

This is spoken by someone who has watched this industry for 20 years. Things don’t become so snobbish and black-and-white when you’ve been around for awhile.

By the way, I’ve had an AOL address for 20+ years. I keep it because I like the interface and because everyone in the industry has my email address, even from 20 years ago. I’m practical that way. It works for me, and for someone who cares about results, that’s what matters.

The same should go for designers and QR Codes. When people snicker at them, it suggests to me that they 1) don’t really understand when and how to use them; or 2) are more focused on their own preferences than on the true, grassroots functionality for their clients and the people who would be using them.