Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

Getting Ready for the Business Development Race

Monday, December 15th, 2014

A difficult economy means that your customers are taking longer to decide if they want to spend money with your printing company. This “wait and see” game may go on for months, perhaps years. In the meantime, your business has its own objectives to meet, and bills to pay. Reducing expenses can only take an organization so far to profitability.

Realize that you are engaged in the race of business development. Take the time now to consider these thoughts for taking your printing company to a higher level of success in every aspect of your sales and marketing efforts.

First ask and answer the question “what business am I really in?” Am I a quick printer? Digital printer?  Commercial printer? Graphics company? Communications company? It sounds so simple, but is it really? Over the course of the last few years, entire markets have appeared and grown, others disappeared. Your customer base has likely changed, if not in size, perhaps in scope. Take time to think about the past, your present and the future. What needs do you address? What problems do you solve for your customers?

Secondly rethink your competitive advantage related to your core business. Do you have a competitive advantage? Are there breakthrough opportunities on the horizon? Do you have the resources to successfully communicate your unique selling position? What is it that you do better than anyone else?

Related to the second thought, determine exactly who your best customer is. Is this a customer of the past, present or future? Whom do you want to be doing business with? What is it about this type of customer that makes them desirable? Write down those characteristics because this exercise will define your ideal customer, the one that will move you towards your business goals.

Very few individuals in business have ever taken the time to write a business plan, a document that allows them to think through their entire business, the competitive external environment and in the end, requires them to develop a course of action that will move them forward. Develop a One Page Business Plan that can be used as a communication tool to everyone in the company.
Lastly analyze your source of past business and determine what tools were employed to gain those customers. In short, the rule states “determine what marketing works best for you then do it better each day.” Time is money, and money is tight, so stick with what works.

Top 10 Best Practices for QR Codes

Friday, December 12th, 2014

I have recently updated my brandable white paper “Best Practices for QR and Other 2D Barcodes.” From watching implementation of these codes (the good, the bad, and the ugly) over the years, this is my Top 10 list. Do you agree with it? What might you add or delete?

1. Create marketing campaigns, not QR Code campaigns.

QR Codes are a response mechanism, not an end unto themselves.

2. Have a strategy.

Slapping a QR Code on something is not a strategy. Using a QR Code on a product display to show the product in use, provide a coupon, or link to customer video testimonials? That’s a strategy.

3. Make it serve a purpose.

Know why the code is being used. Don’t just add a QR Code to “go mobile.” Know the purpose it’s intended to serve and then make it happen.

4. Make the QR Code worth decoding.

What’s the value for the person scanning? We all know the value for the client. But what about the target audience? What’s in it for them?

5. Optimize for mobile devices.

Don’t assume that because 69% of U.S. consumers own smartphones that content doesn’t have to be mobile-optimized. It does.

6. Optimize for mobile lifestyles.

For example, if you’re going to send people to a survey, don’t ask them to input lots of information by hand. That’s hard to do on a mobile phone.

7. Follow best practices for (technical) implementation.

Certain steps will make QR Codes more scannable than others. Know what they are and use them.

8. Test, test, test.

Just like any other campaign, test the links, test on different phones, test on different browsers. What’s the end user experience?

9. Include multiple paths for response.

 QR Codes are great tools, but not everyone will want to use a QR Code. Provide other ways to respond to the CTA, as well.

10. Include brief instructions for using the code.

Some day, this won’t be necessary. For right now (with the exception of select audiences), it is.

Do you agree with this list? What might you change? Please chime in!

For more information on the white paper, which includes greatly expanded discussions on this Top 10 list, you can find it here.

 

4 Essential Tips to Guarantee Sales

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Today’s business world is more competitive than ever, and many organizations are finding it difficult to keep producing sales.

So, what can you do to change this and boost sales for 2015?

You need to update your sales team’s skills to deliver what your audience wants and needs. To succeed in growing your business for the new year, make sure your sales reps brush up on:

  1. Conversations and relationship building
  2. Social media
  3. Collaboration vs. selling
  4. Adaptability

These 4 essential skills are the key to turning around your sales for 2015. To learn how to effectively use these skills to close sales, please download your copy of 4 Essential Sales Skills, free for The Digital Nirvana readers.

5 Ways Your Print Business Can Make More Money in 2015

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

There is a strong market out there for printers right now, so it’s the perfect time for you to make the most of the services you’re offering.

The answer to the nagging question about what print and mail providers need to do to grow their business lies within two simple words: provide solutions. That’s right! In order to grow your print and mail businesses in the age of digital marketing, you must first focus on the services that you already offer customers.

You already have the resources. Now is the time to focus on change and growth.

By following these 5 simple steps, you’ll discover how your business can make more money using the resources you already have available, and be on your way to a profitable 2015.

Please take a moment to read and share this article at http://ilink.me/Grow2015. Do you have any other tips or suggestions to help boost business growth for 2015? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

To Moon! Variable-Data Printing Flies Into New Directions

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Recently, I was working on a project for one of our clients, and in a marked-up Word document that came back to me was a comment that read, in part, “which came first, digital print or one-to-one marketing?” That got me thinking—which is always dangerous—and then some poking around—which is even more dangerous.

Today’s notion of “one-to-one communication,” aka “variable-data printing,” has something of an unlikely origin and, like just about any technology, is the result of a fortuitous confluence of other related and unrelated technologies. Curiously enough, it begins with an attempt at pre-Internet “blogging” of a sort, which turned into one of American publishing’s biggest success stories. And that Word doc’s “chicken and egg”-esque analogy is also apt: this story begins down on the farm.

DeWitt Wallace was born in St. Paul, Minn., and in 1912, after college, he got a job for a magazine publisher that specialized in farming literature. A few years later, World War I intruded and Wallace enlisted in the army. While in combat, he was wounded, and recovering in a French hospital, he passed the time reading magazines. Realizing that many rural Americans—of which there were many back in the 1910s—didn’t have access to a newsstand, he thought he would compile a “digest” of various magazine articles that caught his eye and promote it via direct mail. You can probably see where this is going…

When he returned Stateside, he went through the magazines at the Minneapolis Public Library and put together a diverse collection of articles, condensed and often rewritten. He was the blogger of his age, in some ways. His project was officially launched in 1922, and the resulting Reader’s Digest became one of the most popular periodicals in the world.

For our purposes, Reader’s Digest also holds the distinction of being what is believed to be the first use of in-letter personalization—the use of a person’s name in a computer-generated letter. (Political mailers—especially those on the conservative side of the aisle—would finesse Reader’s Digest’s early experiment and perfect database marketing.) What do you need to produce a computer-generated letter? Well, obviously you need a computer.

The history of computing is a long and winding road indeed, but the Reader’s Digest condensed version of this story would lead us very quickly to the 1960s and the advent of the IBM 360, which was announced in 1964 and started shipping a year later. It was the first commercially popular and upgradable mainframe computer (this was more than a decade before desktop computers). Essentially, it was affordable by businesses large and small rather than massive academic or government research labs or the largest of corporations. It was the IBM 360 that gave a jolt to direct mailers, because of another invention that appeared around the same time.

The advent of “merge/purge” software is often credited to Alan Drey, a Chicago-based mailing list professional. In the early 1960s, he helped develop the seminal System DupliMatch, software for cleaning up mailing lists. Other types of data analytics software started appearing at this time, as well.

So, by the end of the 1960s, you had the hardware that was powerful enough to process really big mailing lists and could be afforded by a large number of businesses, you had software for managing mailing lists, and you had many proofs-of-concept (Reader’s Digest and political mailers). One other element would be needed to take one-to-one marketing to the next level.

Robert Moon may not be a household name, but if you are in any way involved in direct mail—or a fan of Beverly Hills 90210—it should be. Moon was born in 1917 went to work for the post office as a mail carrier and then a postal clerk, soon passing the exam to become a postal inspector. In the 1940s, he had an epiphany and felt that

the existing rail-based system would no longer be adequate for huge new volumes of mail. He believed the future was in airplanes.

To that end, he became an amateur pilot, true, but he also proposed, in 1944, to the postal powers that be an idea he had for streamlining delivery of the mail. For a variety of reasons—Moon’s widow felt it was political—the idea languished until 1963, when it was finally adopted: the ZIP code. Short for “Zone Improvement Plan,” it revolutionized mail delivery in general, and direct mail in particular. It also revolutionized the ability to segment recipients.

By the way, Moon—living up to his name or perhaps the space-race euphoria of the 1960s—apparently also left behind a ZIP code scheme for interplanetary mail. (I kid you not!) So have no fear: if we colonize Mars, Harry & David will still be able to find us.

Anyway, by the 1970s, direct mail had exploded, and we all began to be inundated with mail that was seemingly written by a human being just for us. In a previous post, I used as an example of the kinds of things we used to receive:

Dear Mr. Ramono,

We very much want to put you, Mr. Ramono, in a new car. Mr. Ramono, have you ever seen yourself behind the wheel of a luxurious yet sporty new vehicle. Have you ever envisioned your own vehicle, Mr. Ramono, being the envy of your neighborhood? Surely the entire Ramono family would derive nothing but benefits from this…

By the end of the 1970s, all the pieces were in place for what eventually became known as “variable-data printing” (VDP). Digital printing itself emerged circa 1994 and the earliest VDP programs—the “killer apps” for digital printing—appeared not long after that. Variable-data printing wasn’t so much a revolution as an evolution of all that had gone before—it was more about digital front ends having the horsepower to process more and more unwieldy databases, as well as variable images. The key to keeping VDP-based campaigns effective is to make them unique and eye-catching; novelty (and relevance, of course) is the most important aspect of one-to-one marketing. After all, no one is especially impressed by seeing their name in the body of a letter anymore.

Any VDP expert will be first to tell you that, despite whatever technological bells and whistles you care to add—and as printed electronics become more prevalent, who knows, we may be printing actual bells and whistles on direct mail—the most important element of a VDP campaign is the content and the message—or the offer—itself. That is the one thing that has not changed since the advent of personalized direct mail all those years ago.

Clients Okay with Sloppy Databases? A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

We all know that it’s a good idea for marketers to clean, update, and de-dupe their mailing lists on a regular basis, and as their print provider, this is something you should be encouraging them to do.

Yesterday, we received a piece of mail that reinforces the importance of this practice. It was addressed to one of the former homeowners “or current resident.” Okay, fairly common practice, except that the homeowner had passed away 20 years ago. We’d purchased the home from his widow.

On the positive side, we aren’t related to the former homeowners and have no emotional reaction to his name on the direct mail piece. But what if his wife had still been living there? Can you imagine what her reaction would have been? Or other family members if they still resided there?

Not a good way to promote your brand.

If your clients are resistant to a full data cleanse, perhaps at least they could be convinced to run it against a list of the deceased.

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

Friday, November 21st, 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.

If Consumers Aren’t Scanning Codes, Maybe They’re in the Wrong Venue

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

According to ExactTarget, more than one-third (34%) of smartphone owners report scanning a coupon or QR Code with a mobile device while shopping in a store. Forty-three percent have scanned a coupon or QR Code in the past six months. Of those who did, 90% found them to be useful.[1]

So why do we hear so much complaining that QR Codes aren’t being used? Is it because they are being used in the wrong venues?

Retail LocationsEven as QR Code use becomes more common, it is location-dependent. JiWire Insights has found that 80% of consumers use their mobile phones to enhance their experience while shopping, but where they do so varies considerably.[2]

  • 31% use them in retail shops
  • 21% use them in restaurants
  • 19% use them in service locations
  • 15% use them in financial venues

Even within each venue, there is variance. Overwhelmingly, use is found in clothing retail (28%), convenience stores (18%) and specialty stores (12%), followed by electronics (9%). After that, it drops precipitously.

If consumers are shopping in auto, discount, big box, DIY, grocery, sporting goods, home furnishings, or beauty, the phone is used much less.

So when it comes to encouraging the use of QR Codes, consider the market vertical. If your clients are in some of the lower mobile-use verticals, they should make sure the scanning value is clear and perhaps provide some kind of incentive.

 

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.

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 http://ilink.me/5Mistakes. 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!

 

 

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!