Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

Making Inbound and Content Marketing Work for You

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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

Selling Has a New Face

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

A Warm Welcome and Useful Follow Up

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

Invite Your Customers and Be Ready When They Arrive

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

McDonald’s Takes QR Codes Beyond “Marketing”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Reasons Why Selling Owners Won’t Sell

Monday, November 10th, 2014

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

The one hat that gathers dust is that of Sales.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does the iPhone 6 Mean for Printers?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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

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

Personalized URLs Grow Up

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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

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

Personalized URLs are growing up.

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

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

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

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Common Landing Page Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Please take a moment to read and share this article at 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“.)