Archive for the ‘Direct Mail’ Category

Got Mail? How to Boost Your Mailing Revenue

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Places You Should Never Put QR Codes

Friday, August 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s think before we do!

Thoughts on QR Codes Designers Need to Hear

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Just Call Me Poi . . . or Not

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

It’s happened again. A title has been converted into a name in data oblivion and sent as part of a personalized mailing.

This example is taken from a business mailing to my home addressed to “Poi LLC.” The assumption is that “Poi” stands for Person of Interest, converted into sentence case the same way my father-in-law’s suffix USMC has been converted to his last name: Mr. Usmc.

What’s odd is that this is a residential neighborhood, so you would assume that since the mailer is addressed to a business, the marketer knows that unlike my neighbors, I’m registered as a business. But if they know that, they should also know my business’s name isn’t Poi.

What’s unfortunate is that, like one of the last butchered direct mail campaigns I have received, it is coming from a company that ought to know better: American Express. It’s marketing gold cards. The last butchered mailings I’ve written about have come from Geico and Weis Markets, a large regional grocery store chain (that one was addressed to my husband’s ex-wife, who has never lived at that address . . . or even in the state).

We read the survey results, but when we look in our mailboxes, we see it in person. The state of data is often dreadful. Marketers ought to know better, and I suppose they do. But data cleanliness seems to be a luxury they don’t want to bother to afford. They’d rather trust in volume. Let the embarrassments slip as long as they do better than break even.

When your customers seem content to let volume override data errors, what do YOU do? How do you try to break through the malaise and get them to take their data management seriously? I’d like to hear your ideas.

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?

USPS Promotes Emerging Mobile Technology

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The United States Postal Service is running an Emerging Technology promotion for business mailers who incorporate Near Field Communication or Augmented Reality into their direct mail (Standard Mail letters and flats. Nonprofit Standard Mail letters and flats). The promotion is part of a USPS effort to promote the “best practices for integrating direct mail with mobile technology, and offers promotions and incentives to help you continuously invest in the future of your business.” The promotion provides an discount of 2% on postage and runs between until September 31st.

Barb Pellow shared some hard numbers and real world examples of these technologies in Game-Changers for the Printing Industry: Mobile on WhatTheyThink.

John Foley says NFC is “extremely beneficial for marketing and in particular, print campaigns” and recently published a video here on Digital Nirvana on how to utilize NFC for print marketing.

 

1:1 Printing Isn’t a Fix-All

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Last week, I posted my nutshell summary of the state of 1:1 printing. My summary has solicited some reactions around the industry — some of them quite strong.

One printer represents many others when he writes,

Your summary of the past year may be valid in the digital info world in general, but absolutely off the mark regards the printing industry, 1:1, or any other voguish way you wish to call it. My experience, and those of all the printers I know, is that URL, VDP, and all this stuff about surveys and “long-term commitments,” is just so much fluff and smoke-and-mirrors. In the real, shrinking world of offset and digital print, what still counts are the traditional values of good design and cheap pricing. Case studies, white papers, etc., are all interesting to read, but far from the reality of what we do.

Reading through the lines, we hear that because they, XYZ Printing, can’t sell 1:1 printing, because their business is struggling and 1:1 printing has not proven to be the life raft to save them, it must be nothing but hype.

I hear lots of reasons my assessment of 1:1 printing is incorrect. Printers are losing business to in-house print shops. Their quick response and aggressive delivery no longer win clients. Their clients are returning to lowest cost bidder situations and they are losing business.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but what, exactly, does this have to do with the state of 1:1 printing?

Case studies tell us what printers and their clients are actually producing. By watching the types of campaigns that are actually being printed and mailed, we can watch this marketing approach evolve. By reading the market surveys and research studies on where marketers are spending their money, where they are placing their priorities, and how they are addressing their challenges (and what challenges they are addressing), we can watch the evolution of data-driven marketing, including print.

The state of 1:1 printing is exactly that — the state of 1:1 printing — not the state of the commercial printing industry in adopting 1:1 printing. “The state of” includes the types of campaigns produced, the level of complexity at which they are being produced, and the best practices being used by those who produce them. If an individual printer cannot print and sell 1:1 printing, even if they and every printer they know cannot sell 1:1 printing, this is not a reflection on “the state of” for those can and who can and do produce these campaigns on a regular basis.

1:1 printing isn’t the fix-all for the challenges facing the commercial printing industry. It’s just a solid, well-established marketing channel for those whose business models are set up to do so.

 

FOLD of the WEEK: Angel Iron Cross Invitation with Layered Die Cuts

Friday, August 1st, 2014

This week we offer a creative spin on a Fold of the Week favorite – the Iron Cross Fold. Produced by Trabon and designed by VML Advertising for The Children’s Place Angels’ Gala, this dramatic invitation features a detailed angel-wing-shaped die cut on every panel. The layered panels create not only a lovely reveal, but also a space in the center to hold the invitation and response materials. Shimmery pearlized foil and attention to every design and production detail makes for a fabulous presentation.

Survey: 23% of Retailers See 11% Cumulative Lift Using Personalization

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

If you want to know how your customers and prospects expect to be marketed to (what they set as their norms), look at retailing. To this end, the study “Personalization Comes of Age: 2014 Retailing and Consumer Insights” from the e-tailing group, is very enlightening.

According to the study, the top seven things on marketers’ “to do” lists are as follows:

  1. Mobile (including tablet)
  2. Marketing
  3. Personalization
  4.  Omni-channel
  5. Platform
  6. Conversion Optimization
  7. Analytics, Reporting, Big Data

So personalization comes in behind mobile and marketing. This isn’t any surprise since most of us expect (or even rely) on personalized product recommendations when we shop online. What may be a surprise is that retailers have actually quantified the reasons why.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of retailers responding to the survey see a 11% cumulative lift using personalization. This is up from only 19% of retailers giving this answer one year ago.  More retailers are also seeing greater value in longer-term lifecycle personalization, up from 15% one year ago.

These are encouraging numbers. While there will be differences in retail that do not exist in print (such as focus on online activities such as shopping cart abandonment and real-time personalization online), people are still people. Done right, personalization isn’t going to be effective online and not in print. People’s internal wiring doesn’t work that way.

Personalization still has to be done right, but the increase in the percentage of retailers who see benefits from personalization, including long-term lifecycle personalization, suggests that as they get better at it, the benefits increase, too. Jumps in the numbers from 2013 -to 2014 mean that retailers are getting better at it — and your clients can too.

If retailers are improving their personalization efforts and reaping the benefits, your customers can do the same.

 

Survey: Data Collection on the Rise

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Don’t let your customers fool you — they may have more data than you think. According to polling conducted by Digiday and Neustar in June 2014, 76% of U.S. digital media and marketing professionals are collecting data on current and potential customers and 77% have increased their data collection over the past year.

The number one reason? To get a better understanding of their customers, with 57% giving this answer.  Marketers indicated that they are expanding the volume and type of data they are collecting — demographic, psychographic, location, and social.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.31.34 PMThis is good news for 1:1 print providers, since data availability has been one of the Achilles heels of this process. But the challenges of data silos and data integration remain. In fact, according to the research, half of respondents say they are still unable to link data to create individual customer profiles.

Still, on the whole, this is good news. The more customers focus on data collection, integration, and profiling, the more natural the pathway to discussions about how you can help. So these data represent ongoing challenges, but they present opportunities, too.

 

3D Adoption and the National Retail Print Shops

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

3D printing is a topic I’ve written a lot about lately, and the commercial printing industry is still trying to figure out how it fits — or if it fits — into the mix. I’ve written a number of posts on 3D printing over the past several months, so I won’t repeat my comments here (I will post links to previous posts below). Instead, I want to offer this simple food for thought.

  • Staples in The Netherlands is currently offering its own 3D printing service, Easy 3D, similar to the Shapeways model. We must believe something similar is in the works here in the United States.
  • The UPS Store already has six beta sites for 3D printing. The Kearny Mesa store has done extremely well with this technology, even garnering a feature write-up in Forbes.
  • Other big box retailers with printing services are scrutinizing the technology, as well. Active research is being done not just into 3D printing, but into the kinds of marketing applications I’ve talked about here on Digital Nirvana and have been encouraging the printing industry to consider for about a year now.

There has been a lot of water cooler talk about why 3D printing is not a good model for commercial printers — that its product manufacturing, prototyping, and consumer tschotkes are too far flung from the commercial printing model — but I continue to suggest that this is the wrong way to think about 3D printing.

3D printing must be seen in light of its opportunities to drive marketing campaigns. This means incentives and response drivers for the kinds of jobs commercial printers are already doing. Printers don’t even have to do the 3D printing themselves. These models work even if you outsource the production to someone else.

I don’t believe 3D printing is something this industry can afford to ignore. If you don’t start thinking about it now, the inevitable entry of the national retailers into this market will drive printers to play catch-up in the future. I am seeing more and more signs of serious interest from the national chains, so this is something printers need to take seriously.

Catch-up is never a good place to be!

Links to previous Digital Nirvana posts on 3D printing:

3D Printing: Thoughts from Around the Industry

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 1

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 2

Using 3D Printing to Drive Digital Print Marketing

Business Models for 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry

 

How Do You Handle Gut-Driven Marketers?

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

According to a new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), senior managers and executives are most likely to say their marketing decisions are driven by data, but when it comes right down to it, they are more likely to trust their own intuition.

When asked to characterize their individual decision-making style, 42% of respondents say they are data-driven (“I collect and analyze data as much as possible before making a decision”), more than cited any other option. However, 73% also say that, when it comes to decision-making, they trust their own intuition.

Kind of like overriding your Garmin when you think you know the better way to go.

Furthermore, if their gut contradicts the data, only 10% of respondents said they’d follow the data. More than half (57%) said they’d re-analyze the data instead (until they could make it agree with their intuition perhaps?)

One of the benefits of data-driven campaigns is, well, the data. Finding trends, developing customer profiles, and understanding customer preferences and behavior are foundational to the value of personalization in print and multi-channel marketing. These results suggest challenges for MSPs relying on data to prove value or help their clients increase the value of their campaigns.

What would you do if you ran into a key decision-maker unwilling to trust the company’s own data? What would you do?

To download a PDF of the survey, click here.

Saying “Sorry” Feels Better in Print

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Speaking of the benefits and value of print (see Tuesday’s post), this morning I bear a tale of two apologies.

Several weeks ago, Shutterfly mistakenly sent a promotion to thousands of customers congratulating them on new parenthood and encouraging them to preserve their memories with a photo book. Unfortunately, many of the recipients were not new parents. I was one of the recipients of that apology.

Shutterfly has since corrected its email mistake with a follow up apology. “We mistakenly sent an email that was intended only for new parents who recently made baby-related purchases at Shutterfly,” reads the email. “We’re truly sorry if you received this email in error. We realize this is a very sensitive issue and we did not mean to upset you in any way.”

It happens. Ho, hum.

This week, my father also received an apology. This time, it was for messing up his name. This apology, however, came by mail. It was printed on an oversized glossy postcard.

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The subject line of his email was, “Doing things right.” In it, my father wrote:

The message came on a glossy, full-color, heavy-weight card, 8 1/2 by  5 1/2 inches, not just a little postcard. Pretty nice gesture. It  cost a little send it, I’m sure.

It costs more to send direct mail than email, but it sure sends a different impression. Direct mail costs more, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons its impact is greater, too. It is a much more credible way to say “I’m sorry” than an email that costs little or nothing to send.