Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

It’s Not About Feeds and Speeds Anymore: It’s What’s Behind the Press

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

After three days at Graph Expo, attending press conferences, seminars, and lunch and learns for the show daily, I am heading home, but a mechanical issue on the plane has left us sitting on the tarmac for an undetermined amount of time. As I sit, I am playing with the question, if I were to pick one point out of those three days to say that was most interesting to me, what would it be?

I think it is this — the theme of many of presentations and panel discussions was to move away from feeds and speeds, to focus not the technology but on the human element. What does all this technology actually do for people?

In the “Deciphering Digital” seminar, designed to help printers ask the right questions before purchasing a digital press, Ed Wong, director of production product management for Ricoh, gave voice to this theme when he told the audience, “Don’t get lost in the weeds of specs. Service and support separate suppliers. Your partner should offer ways to help drive additional print volume. Hopefully, they are coming in on a regular basis, saying, ‘Have you thought about this type of print? Or, “Have you thought about these applications?’”

Konica Minolta’s Erik Holdo, vice president of KM’s production print line of business, BIS, agreed. “We all put marks on paper really well. I can point to great service departments at every one of my competitors’ domains. We’re all telling you we have great service, the best product, and the best image. It’s about applications. It’s what you surround that equipment with.”

Holdo then told a story about a study he conducted with a car dealership in 1996, back when he owned a service bureau. “We printed the piece in full-color, highlight color, and black-and-white, all with full variable images. We received a response rate of 28% on the black-and-white, 4% with the highlight color, and 28% on the full color. That’s when I learned that it’s not really how you are printing that piece. It’s how effective you are communication.”

From that perspective, I guess not all that much has changed in 18 years.

The Future of Print

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Everyone has an opinion about it. But we’re most interested in what the people closest to the action—owners and managers of companies that print—have to say. So last month we launched the Future of Print Survey. Early results are in. Among the key numbers:

• 53.9% expect the total demand for print (all products, all processes) to stay around current levels over the next three years. In comparison, 26.9% expect demand to decrease, 15.4% expect demand to increase, and 3.8% aren’t sure what to expect.

• 73.9% expect print’s share of their company revenue to decrease between now and 2017, 8.7% expect print’s share to increase, and 17.4% expect it to stay around current levels. Among all companies surveyed, print is expected to decline, on average, from 73.9% to 64.6% of revenue.

• 57.7% believe direct mail has the most growth potential of any printed product, followed by promotion (other than direct mail), wraps and banners, and packaging, each cited by 38.5%.

Many we’ve surveyed emphasize that the future of print will ultimately be determined by its ability to deliver value. The comparisons they draw between what print was and what it is show that ability is hardly static:

• Generic direct mail compared with highly personalized direct mail carrying “QR codes or pURLS that allow you immediate feedback on the success/failure of the piece.”

• Mass-market catalogs compared with “on-demand, evergreen catalogs with variable-data processing tailored to individual needs and delivered very quickly.”

• Traditional business cards compared with cards with “QR codes on the back to scan contact information directly into the phone without error.”

Of course the innovation will continue, with print incorporating new ways to create value over the next three years, just as it has over the past three years. But understanding only the technology side of the innovation, the “bells and whistles,” isn’t going to be enough. The opportunity for every company in our industry is to understand how our clients and prospects can benefit from the innovation—how it can help them get noticed, whether in the mail box or the retail aisle, attract and retain business, better understand their target markets, increase revenue, decrease costs and waste, etc.—and then to communicate those benefits to them, never assuming they just get it.

Web-to-Print: Just One Best Practice Worth Talking About

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

What are the best practices in Web-to-print? I’ve spent the last month researching, reading case studies, listening to Webinars, and doing a lot of mulling, I have finalized my list. In “State of Web-to-Print: 2015,” I have 11 of them. But I’ve decided that only one of them really matters.

Have a strategic plan to get user buy-in.

You can have the greatest Web-to-print solution in the world, with the best features and highest level of functionality, but if it’s not being marketed, if it’s impossible to find of the company’s intranet, if there is no incentive for using it, it’s going to languish.

A recent report on Web-to-print utilization by NAPL bares the stark reality: 58% of W2P implementers reported a client utilization rate of 5% or less and 92.8% reported a rate of 20% or less. The average rate was just 11.3%, or a little better than one in nine clients.

W2P guru Jennifer Matt has talked a lot about this issue, making the point that PSPs and their clients need to see W2P as a sales and marketing solution, not an IT solution. Implementation needs to be driven from the top, as a fundamental culture change, and there need to be incentives for making it happen.

It’s true. As human beings, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. When faced with change, we’d prefer to do what we’ve always done than to learn something new. It’s just easier that way.

So my best practice for Web-to-print? Before you build it, make sure you know how you are going to get people on the buyer side to use it. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Just as the data.

(Looking to market Web-to-print? Check out my brandable white paper you can use to educate customers and prospects on the benefits and best practices.)

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.


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?


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.)


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 Do you have any other tips for boosting your mailing revenue? I’d love to hear in the comments below!