Archive for the ‘Digital Printing’ Category

It’s Academic – Scholarly Journals are Big Business

Monday, October 13th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rate and Pace Will Win the Race

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

By now, the failed experiment of Ron Johnson as CEO of major retailer JC Penney has been well chronicled.  Until the April 7 issue of Fortune magazine, however, much of the detail about what happened had not been made quite so public.  What was revealed in the article, titled, “How to Fail in Business While Really, Really Trying,” was not simply corporate hubris or even CEO ego run amuck.  Rather, it demonstrated quite simply how difficult business transformation can really be (even for really smart people).

So here we have Ron Johnson, former head of Apple’s retail division, widely hailed as a genius for making his vision for Apple retail stores a reality.  If you have ever visited an Apple store (and you probably have), you know that they continue to be busy, buzzing, bustling (and very profitable) places.  Innovative in design, layout, lighting, and staffing, there is nothing traditional, stodgy, or boring about an Apple retail store.  The same could not be said for JC Penney.  In fact, the big retailer had plateaued and was going nowhere fast.  Who better to transform this traditional, boring, also-ran into a lively, exciting, youthful destination?

Clearly, Johnson had his own ideas and his own ways of doing things.  And he did what many in his position do when beginning a new challenge: he surrounded himself with his own people.  The holdover JC Penney team members were made to feel as though they were outsiders, especially when they challenged some of Johnson’s ideas.  No more coupons or sales?  JC Penney customers had come to rely on them and scheduled their visits to the store to align with the timing of these special offers.  The offers stopped coming―and so did the customers.

There are certainly enough Penney holdovers who lamented the fact that rather than selling “cool technology to ‘20 somethings’,” Penney was selling “dresses and flannel sheets to women in their 50s!” Clearly the same retailing prowess that fueled Apple’s growth could not work at JC Penney.  Looking back, that argument seems to make sense now.  But here’s the insight.

The fact is that no one knows whether Ron Johnson had it right or not, and that is the real tragedy of the JC Penney story.  What was clearly wrong was not the idea of radical transformation and change (Penney needed both), but the rate and pace of that change.  That’s what makes transformation so challenging and so daunting.  We need to hold on to what we have now, while simultaneously creating something new and better.

For executives and owners in the printing, mailing, graphic communications business who themselves are seeking to transform their businesses, the JC Penney story (as far away as that seems from our industry) can and should provide a stark and valuable lesson.  Business transformation requires parallel paths; keeping what (and who) we have in the near term while creating something new and different for the long term.  It isn’t that we are wrong to transform and change our business; it is the rate and pace of that change that will go a long way in determining our success.

It’s More Than Just Price: Webinar Review On How To Position Your Service Value

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

At the end of the day, price is the elephant in the room. On the business front, it traditionally carries the most weight in any Leadership Team’s decision-making process. We know the budget-savvy CEO will ask herself: why pay extra for a service when it’s offered half price elsewhere? This tends to be the case in many business transactions.

However, other points of value have increasingly entered the conversation: turnaround reliability, industry specific knowledge, creative innovation, etc. If a service provider is able to effectively communicate their multiple points of value, chances are that budget-savvy CEO will pay a little more for the higher quality service. The webinar “Transforming Price into Value for Your Service,” hosted by InfoTrends’ Barb Pellow and sponsored by Canon Solutions America, breaks down how service providers create meaningful conversations in order to achieve long term partnerships with clients. John Smilanich, National Sales Director at First Edge Solutions, expands on Pellow’s overview with concrete examples on how his company has solidified their position as a partner versus vendor. The webinar covers topics including: what buyers want, price versus value delivered, the evolving definition of ‘value’, and how to communicate that value.

Specifically, I found the section on the differences between ‘vendors’ and ‘partners’ to be quite helpful in understanding how to position one’s business goals to a client. As outlined, vendors promote or exchange goods and services for money; however, partners go a step further to participate in a relationship in which each member has equal status regarding a project. Vendors have customers; partners have clients. Vendors provide data, but partners take their provided data and interpret it, analyze it, and make recommendations. Vendors take orders and make sales, where as partners work to build mutually beneficial relationships and to determine why their clients want what they ask for.

Once the service provider has determined what role they want to play, i.e. vendor or partner, it is important to present additional components of value to the service already requested. Helping the client understand these additions in real dollar value can only strengthen the service provider’s position against a competitor’s. As Barb highlights: “Value is now associated with setting up the business model. You now help set up project data bases, manage campaigns, and help execute or market the campaign.” To accomplish this, John suggests to “make it as individual as possible.” By defining your buyers and by defining your niche, you create a knowledge base that down the road surpasses the weighted value of ‘price’.

Not only were Barb and John’s tips helpful in breaking down the price barrier, but their examples, case study references, and self-assessment questions offer tremendous insight on how to increase value proposition. If you’re looking to broaden your communication skills and positioning insight, this is a must see!

 

Transforming Price into Value for Your Services from Canon Solutions America on Vimeo.

Which Is at Fault? Lack of Education? Or Lack of Willingness?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Why aren’t we seeing more 1:1 printing in the marketplace? Why isn’t “everyone doing it”? Is it because there is a lack of marketer education? Or is it a lack of willingness to do what it takes to make 1:1 printing work (i.e. willingness to continue to do things “the way we’ve always done” because it’s easier than investing in databases, profiling, and the like)?

Along these lines, here is a comment I received by email this morning. Do you agree with this assessment? Or do you see other reasons for why we aren’t seeing widespread adoption of 1:1 top to bottom?

there is a crying need to get the concept of MODERN variable data work to the printing public.  We continually find people exhibiting the mindset of 15 or 20 years ago.  The thought that every single page printed might be decidedly different is beyond comprehension to many.  Think of an advertising mail piece for say, insurance.  Each piece printed would be sensitive to gender, age, profession, city and state (re such things as disclaimers), family status and type(s) of insurance for which information may have been requested.  I could go on and on –  old age = larger font size for example, colors chosen by age, gender and nationality (think of color of flags).

From this person’s perspective, it remains a lack of education about the possibilities. What’s your perspective?

More Cool Stuff to Do with Print

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Here’s another great use of print to do something digital technologies cannot do.

The product is called SwivelCard (view TechCrunch video), and while it’s not available commercially yet, it’s been  promoted by TechCrunch and is currently using crowdsourcing to improve back-end software to be more user-friendly.

SwivelCardThe card uses a combination of patented, digitally printed metallic ink onto a business card to create a paper-based USB. Add some strategic scoring and key portions of the business card can be folded to insert into a USB port and used as a USB card.

Each card can be individually programmed so each user is taken to a different webpage. Or they can be programmed all the same. Either way, the user will  be taken to a webpage of the marketer’s choosing, and like the back end of the QR Code experience, that page can be changed at any time, even after the card has been given out.

Detailed analytics on usage can be accessed so marketers know who is using their cards and where. While I haven’t used one of these cards, it appears to be something like Google Analytics.

This is another neat use of print that cannot be duplicated by electronic media. Business is often personal. You meet for lunch. You shake a hand. You attend a demonstration. There is something powerful about the personal connection of a business card that cannot be duplicated with, “I’ll send you a text this afternoon.” These cards provide the personal connection with the online / mobile interface and usage analytics.

I just love the continued innovation in the uses of print. Keep ‘em coming!

It’s About TIME

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The newest old company, Time Inc., was very busy in June. The venerable publisher of magazines, including household names such as Time, Fortune, People, and Sports Illustrated, was spun off from Time Warner, separating the aging print-centric parent from its progeny’s profitable entertainment and programming businesses. As its retirement gift, the new Time Inc. has been saddled with $1.3 billion of debt, as well as responsibility for a group of underperforming British magazines. With more than 90 titles in print, Time Inc. is challenged by the continuing and steady decline in magazine circulation which in turn has driven revenue down for 22 of the last 24 quarters.

Prompted by Time Inc.’s decision to cut off shipment of its magazines, magazine wholesaler Source Interlink Distribution filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, announcing that the company will cease operations. Time Inc. apparently had good reason to withhold further shipments, reporting that it will be unable to collect $26 million due from Source Interlink. As Time Inc. switches to another distributor, it will likely lose sales and possibly readership loyalty as its newsstand slots sit empty for up to 12 weeks.

Time Inc. wasted no time in diversifying away from the legacy print business, announcing on June 2nd that it was acquiring Cozi. The Seattle-based company is a purely digital company that offers a mobile app and website that families use to coordinate shopping, schedules and to-do lists. No print involved.

Time Inc. wrapped up the month by divesting its Latin-American subsidiary, magazine publisher Grupo Expansión. Headquartered in Mexico City, with 16 titles in print, the company was purchased by Southern Cross Group, a private equity firm with investments throughout Central and South America.

In my recent article in NAPL’s new publication, Bottom Line, “M&A: Still a Buyer’s Market?” I postulated that the market for commercial printing companies is improving and smart buyers with well-defined strategies are returning to the market, and that we may be at an inflection point between a buyer’s and seller’s market. Recent transactions suggest that acquirers of companies in the commercial printing segment may be less reliant on the “tuck-in” growth strategy, in which a healthy commercial printer picks up the sales of a distressed printer on a pure earnout basis, leaving the seller to close down operations and sell off the excess equipment.

In a transaction that appears more strategic than predatory, two commercial printing/mailing companies in the Seattle area with combined revenues in excess of $50 million, DCG West and CCS Printing, announced that they are joining forces, moving into a new 140,000 square-foot facility, and re-branding the new entity as DCG ONE. In another separate transaction in the Pacific Northwest region, Wright Business Graphics, based in Portland, Oregon acquired Sunset Press in Kent, Washington. Both companies sell only to the trade, and the combined operations reportedly will have $55 million in revenues.

Despite recent positive signs in the commercial printing segment, the “tuck-in” is not completely dead, and commercial printing companies continue to seek out opportunities to absorb the sales of smaller companies. Cedar Graphics in Hiawatha, Iowa tucked-in the sales of local competitor The Brandt Company which itself ceased operations. In a deal put together by my firm, the NAPL Business Advisory Group, J.S. McCarthy of Augusta, Maine, purchased the customer base and certain assets of Printech, a commercial printer located in Stamford, Connecticut.

Block Communications shuttered two downtown newspaper print operations. The company’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will be printed at a newly leased 245,000 square-foot facility outfitted with new printing equipment. Block’s Ohio paper, The Blade of Toledo, will be outsourced to a yet-to-be-announced more efficient plant that is within distance to meet the daily schedule, consistent with the trend occurring throughout the newspaper industry. Phoenix Media Communications in Boston announced the closure of newspaper and circular printer Mass Web Printing in Auburn, Massachusetts. The Seventh-day Adventist church is closing its Hagerstown, Maryland printing company, transferring the printing to its west coast printing operation in Nampa, Idaho.

The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is back on our deal log, now exiting its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a 363 asset sale to distressed debt fund Sandton Capital Partners. In addition to the paper and radio stations, the purchase included the Print Innovators division which prints the newspaper, circulars and commercial printing products.

You can find The Target Report at http://targetreport.blogspot.com with the complete deal logs and links to sources.

Car Dealership Almost Gets 1:1 Printing Right: Part 2

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

A few days ago, I posted about my local car dealership and how, while they must be commended for regularly using their knowledge of my relationship with the dealership, along with their knowledge of the make and model of my SUV, they keep falling short of what they could be doing. I want to add several more observations to that post.Equinox

1. The dealership knows my name, the make, and model of the SUV. They used it in the body of the letter. Yet in the upper righthand corner in red, all-cap text — probably the most valuable real estate in the piece — it simply said, “We want to buy your Buick GMC Cadillac.”

That wording, placed in the most visible location in the letter, has no relevance to me whatsoever. I don’t think of my vehicle as a “Buick GMC Cadillac.” It’s a shame because they’ve already personalized the make and model of my vehicle in the body of the letter. Why didn’t they do it here?

2. In addition to the personalization in the body of the letter, the mailing does contain one additional element of personalization: It’s on the bottom left (very, very bottom) on the fourth panel of the 8 ½ x 17 letter. “Heidi, we are interested in buying your 2005 Chevrolet Equinox!” It’s completely out of sight. In black like the rest of the letter. Sentence case. Completely overlookable.

3. We recently moved, and they have my updated address, but they are using my old name from a previous marriage. Ouch!

Oh, and the “promotion ends 8/30/2014” is in incredibly small type — one size up from the disclaimer text at the bottom of the letter.

While printers are not necessarily responsible for the content of the marketing message, these are very simple, basic elements that anyone can check. Before the file is run, take a look at the layout. Look at the variable fields. Scan the copy. Look at the most important static and variable elements. Look at the call to action. Are there very obvious tweaks that the customer can make to improve the effectiveness of the piece?

This is the type of value that great marketing partners provide . . . even if they are not asked to do so.

 

Car Dealership Almost Gets 1:1 Right

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

One of the only places from which I get personalized direct mail is the auto dealership that occasionally services our SUV. I received another personalized piece this past week, and while I think they continue to do a better-than-static job of things, I continue to see omissions that could make the difference between us buying something and not.

In this most recent mailing, the dealership offered to buy our SUV. I assume they know that around this age of vehicle (nine years old), auto owners start looking to get out of something with higher mileage and into something new. We are, in fact, starting to actively look.

We want to acquire several 2005 Chevrolet Equinoxes this year to meet increasing market demand. There is value in your vehicle! Let’s discuss this.

It’s a good start. They know my name, the make, model, and year of my vehicle, and offered to buy it at around the right time. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went.

Here’s where they missed the big opportunity and where you, as a service provider, can be looking to add value.

You don’t generally sell a vehicle without purchasing something else. The dealership missed the opportunity to layer on readily available demographic data that could have made a huge difference. By knowing my husband’s age and mine, and by knowing that we still have several children under the age of 18 in the home, they would have learned that we fit squarely into a key demographic group of consumers who are likely looking to trade the smaller compact SUV for something larger and more utilitarian. Knowing this, the dealership might have suggested that we trade in our vehicle for [make, model] of larger, specific, currently available SUVs and minivans they have on the lot right now.

The opportunity whoever handles the print work for this dealership is twofold:

  • creation of basic customer personas (young, unmarrieds; older marrieds without children; young marrieds with children; older marrieds with children; empty-nesters; retirees); and
  • data appends could help determine which persona our family (and other customers for whom they have a service history) fits into.

Gathering this information is not expensive. It just takes the time, commitment, and marketing savvy to do it. Are you helping your customers move into more relevant personalization?

Social Media Tipping Point

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

For years, industry experts have proclaimed that the time will come when social media marketing is as effective as traditional marketing. Some are suggesting that the release of a very successful new album using only social media may provide a blueprint of future marketing successes and act as a tipping point.

Late last year, Beyoncé released her latest album, Drunk in Love, not with a flood of radio and TV spots, but instead using social media. It was a complete surprise and an overwhelming success. According to Apple, Beyoncé’s surprise album was the fastest-selling album in iTunes history, reaching No. 1 in the sales rankings in 104 countries. The album sold 828,777 copies in first three days, including 617,213 in the United States.

Admittedly few advertising campaigns will generate the interest of a music superstar like Beyoncé, but the question becomes is this a tipping point and if it is how can you take advantage of this tipping point. Clearly, the first step is to understand who uses social media.

Here is a short primer on the demographics of users from businessto2community.com:

  • 72% of all Internet users are active social media visitors
  • 89% are between the ages of 18 and 29
  • 72% are between 30 and 49
  • 60% are between the ages of 50 and 60
  • 43% are 65 or older
  • 71% access social media from mobile devices

The second step is understanding the benefits of using specific sites for specific services. This information is from Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report:

  • Facebook users tend to “like” brands to learn about products and services (56%), keep up with brand-related activities (52%), and for promos (48%); some 32% interact with brands to provide feedback.
  • Twitter users follow brands mostly to keep up with brand activities (57%) and learn about products and services (47%); some 27% do so to provide feedback.
  • YouTube users engage with brands mostly to learn about products and services (61%), keep up with brand-related activities (41%), and provide feedback (23%).
  • Pinterest users follow brands primarily to learn about products and services (56%), keep up with brand activities (35%), and for sweepstakes/promos (28%).
  • Instagram users follow brands to keep up with brand-related activities (41%), learn more about products and services (39%), and make purchases (27%).

What do you think? Is the success of one music superstar a tipping point or simply another channel that can be used for successful marketing?