Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

Building Your Web-to-Print Relationships

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Having a web-to-print storefront can be extremely beneficial for businesses. Through setting one up, a printer can save time and resources when it comes to the process of taking orders. However, while an online storefront may accomplish the goal of reducing the printer’s workload, could it end up meaning less business in the end?

Is the online-only bride too narrow?

As more and more of our interactions with businesses, friends, and other associates move online, service providers must still seek to develop relationships with customers that simply order online. Not only will this help us open up the communication lines when it comes to customer service, but it may also lead to conversations that generate additional business opportunities.

How can you make sure each customer who orders from you online feels just as appreciate and acknowledged as the rest? Download our article, Web-to-Print and Relationships, to learn 5 ways to build greater relationships with online-only customers.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/OnlineOnly. Do you find your company running across this issue with online storefronts? What solutions have you found? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Direct Mail: The Power of Consistency

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Last Friday, I posted about a conversation I had with Mark Pageau, vp sales at Darwill, about how direct mail results can be sabotaged by post-mail factors unrelated to the mailing itself and, consequently, the importance of helping marketers think through the entire sales funnel when results are not what they expect.

Another issue that has been raised around the topic is consistency.  Too often, companies evaluate the power of direct mail based on a single campaign when, in fact, customers often need repeated exposure before they will buy. If a single campaign doesn’t produce results, it may not because “direct mail doesn’t work.” It may be that the product or service is one that customers don’t purchased based on a single contact.

Mark Zazeela, a shipping and mailing consultant based in New York City, has noted:

Many [marketers] don’t seem to understand the power of creating brand awareness. Brand awareness does not happen with one mailing. Brand awareness is created through a well planned and executed campaign.

Think of some of the most ubiquitous consumer brands. They are constantly creating new advertising. They understand that one television commercial or one magazine ad will not build a market following. They repeat, repeat, and repeat again.

Mail one time and wonder why it didn’t get you what you expected? There are so many reasons why people don’t respond to the first offer. They forgot. They misplaced the mailer. The timing was not right. They didn’t give it their full attention. Lots more reasons.

When thinking about direct mail, think of a campaign, not just a mailing. Think of it as an investment, not just an expense.

Laura Stamps of Kittyfeather Press, adds:

I usually give a prospect an entire year of regular mailings before I move that name to a less frequent list. I’ve been using direct mail for 27 years, and it doesn’t take long to realize what you’re saying is very true. So many times I’ll receive an envelope stuffed with 6 months worth of flyers and a check. That’s the beauty of direct mail. If a prospect is too busy to respond immediately she/he will often save your mailing and respond later, even 6 months or a year later. Direct mail is definitely “sticky,” but only if you’re patient and consistent.

So if your clients are kicking back against direct mail results, maybe the answer isn’t to mail less — it’s to mail more!

Are Your Clients Reading Your Blog?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

When it comes to prospecting for new digital print business, talk is about inbound marketing. That means drawing people in (largely online) rather than pushing information out. That translates to social media, SEO, and blogging. But what should you be blogging about? Is just having a blog “out there” enough? Do you need to have the right content? If so, what is it? Is anyone reading it? Or do you just have your blog up for SEO purposes?

I’ve been asked these questions by a number of clients recently, so I decided to do some poking around. I posted questions on some LinkedIn groups for designers. I did some interviews. The more I poked around, the more interesting it became.

Here’s what I’m hearing from designers.

1. If your blog is largely self-promotional, they aren’t reading it.

2. If you want designers to read your blog, post content of interest to designers — lots of images, unique typography, innovative use of color or design techniques.

3. If your blog is up for SEO, then it’s probably being read by production managers or print buyers looking for sources, not by designers. If so, add links to your posts leading to the related areas of your site that show your expertise or capabilities in those areas.

4. Make sure your website tells what you do. Many printers have become so marketing-focused that prospects going to their websites might have trouble determining exactly what their services really are. Don’t be afraid to talk about print. That’s how these folks came by your company to begin with — they were searching for a printer.

5. Humanize it. Mix in real stories from real people in your company. They want to hear “a funny thing happened on the way to the press” or “here’s how not to screw up this kind of file.” Give them information they can’t get anywhere else and that actually helps them in doing business with you.

I’ve talked about most of these issues before, but it’s been very interesting hearing the design community weigh in on this, as well. After all, their opinion counts a lot more than mine!

“My Direct Mail Isn’t Working”

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I’m sure you’ve heard this as an excuse not to print direct mail, right? I had a fascinating discussion with Mark Pageau, vp sales at Darwill, yesterday about this very topic. You know how he responds? He asks a question: “What’s happening in the rest of your sales funnel?”

Mark has discovered that, very often, when people complain that their direct mail isn’t effective, they have other challenges in their pipeline that have nothing to do with direct mail. The direct mail may be great. It may be well written. There may be a compelling incentive. Based on the direct mail pieces, people may be going to the website or making a phone call. It’s what happens afterwards that’s the problem.

Maybe the prospect hits the website and can’t find what he or she is looking for. Maybe the website is hard to navigate or the purchase buttons aren’t working right. Or maybe the person picks up the phone, but the salespeople aren’t friendly. (That happened to one of Mark’s clients — after he encouraged them to start recording inbound sales calls, they discovered that their salespeople had attitude problems!)

It was a great reminder that print, email, marketing collateral, and every other form of marketing communication is just one piece in the larger puzzle. If your clients are balking at spending money on direct mail, before trying to convert them to email or other channel just to keep their business, poke around a little. Find out if it’s direct mail really isn’t working for them or whether there is something else afoot.

Utilizing Multi-Channel Marketing, the Right Way

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

What is Multi-Channel?

Multi-channel marketing is the use of many different channels, such as direct mail, print, digital, and social media platforms, to spread one consistent, comprehensive, and effective marketing campaign. As a marketing or print service provider, it is important to promote the solutions that enhance the life of your brand as well as your printing services throughout a variety of channels.

If your business is still around in 2014, chances are you have realized that multi-channel marketing is not the secret formula to success, but rather a necessary component to the continual transformation of your print-centric business. In fact, you’re probably reading this and thinking, well… duh! So the real question now has become, what is the secret to successfully establishing a printer’s role as a marketing service provider (MSP) in this rapidly changing industry?

The Success in the Solutions

When thinking about marketing your business and the services you provide, remember that with Internet at every professional’s fingertips, finding a service they need is as easy as the click of a mouse or touch of a finger. That’s why your marketing message needs to reach prospects on a variety of channels while promoting what your services can do for each individual prospect. Knowing your target audience means knowing what they need, even if they do not. Make your marketing customer-centric. Try to stay away from promoting what your service is, and focus on what it does for your customers. Keep in mind that in order to sell solutions in a multi-channel market, developing a plan and strategy is paramount.

Planning for Multi-Channel

So we’ve established the need for marketing your solutions as well as your customers’ solutions on multiple channels. The roadblock now is managing the time and effort that this kind of inbound approach requires. A lot of MSPs that I work with or consult for are not struggling to wrap their heads around what must be done, but rather how to possibly accomplish such layered campaigns, without running their marketing into the ground.

The most important component, and I cannot stress this enough, is developing a multi-channel strategy that incorporates both marketing and sales. Have your teams work together to establish the bottom line of your multi-channel efforts, define:

  • Who you want to reach; the target audience you want to stay in front of.
  • What you want to say; what makes your company the best choice? Why are you different from your competitors?
  • When will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Where will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Why are the tactics you have chosen the best path for success?
  • How can you establish an execution strategy to market not only your brand and solutions, but also your customers’?

Once you have answered these questions, map out your marketing campaigns with visual charts and calendars. Keep in mind that multi-channel marketing is not a sprint, but rather a carefully executed relay race between sales and marketing, which requires orchestrated and practiced handoffs, that when done right will drive your prospects down the funnel.

Fortunately for MSPs struggling to handle the volume of multi-channel marketing and communications, several technological advances in customer communications management have emerged.

Objects in the Mirror

If you drive a car, even if you don’t, chances are you know the classic warning, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” These words, which we see daily, are a prevalent theme in the problems that printers and MSPs are presently facing. The classic predicament of knowing that something was coming, but not realizing it would approach so quickly, has left many businesses stuck in the dust of the industry leaders racing by.

My advice to you is to dedicate your time to developing a plan that will accomplish maintaining the standard of multi-channel marketing, which has pushed your top competitors to the head of the pack. Once you’ve mapped out your goals, tactics and execution strategy, stay tuned to my blog for insight and advice on the tools and best practices your business can implement to achieve positive recognition and grow your business in this multi-channel era.

To learn more about multi-channel marketing strategies, see my previous post, The Dos and Don’ts of Multi-Channel Marketing!

Are Your Customers Targeting Consumers Aged 65+? Check Their Channel Mix!

Friday, April 18th, 2014

According to just-released data from Pew Research Center, 41% of all adults 65+ still have no Internet access at home. This changes for more educated, affluent adults, but particularly for those who are older, less affluent, and who have physical or health conditions, print is still a critical part of the mix.

However, this is not a homogenous group. Within this demographic, the differences are striking. Among younger, affluent, and more educated 65+ consumers, the percentage going online and having broadband access at home is higher than the U.S. adult population overall. But among those with lower household incomes, particularly those with physical or health conditions, the percentages are much lower.

Digital enablement also varies significantly between younger and older adults in this group. As reported by MediaPost:

  • Among U.S. adults overall, 86% go online and 70% have broadband at home.
  • Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home. For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39% go online and 25% have broadband at home.
  • 87% of seniors with a college degree go online, and 76% are broadband adopters. Among seniors who have not attended college, 40% go online and just 27% have broadband at home.
  • 68% of Americans in their early 70s go online, and 55% have broadband at home. By contrast, Internet adoption falls to 47% and broadband adoption falls to 34% among 75-79 year olds. [1]

If you have clients selling products into the 65+ demographic, this article is a must read for channel mix. It impacts the channel mix in terms of print vs. email, and if they are doing email, the type of email sent (text only vs. HTML for non-broadband users).

These results also mean that if your clients aren’t tracking their customers by household income, education, and more detailed age brackets, you need to be working with them to get this done.  The difference between great response and dismal response hangs in the balance.

Avoid These 10 Marketing Traps

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Is marketing your friend or your foe? From printed collateral to social media, each of your marketing materials are your representatives, telling your brand’s story and making first impressions on your behalf. If you want to get loyalty, raise your profile, and make the sale, it’s vital that your marketing is the best it can be. Here are 10 marketing mistakes you need to avoid.

  1. Fuzzy messages
  2. Self-importance
  3. Lack of a plan
  4. Missing calls to action

To see these mistakes further explained, actionable solutions for each one, and the other 6 common marketing mistakes, download our article, Avoid These 10 Marketing Traps.

There are many marketing mistakes out there – these are 10 common ones that I thought would be beneficial for you to learn more about. Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/10Traps. What other common marketing mistakes do you see often? I’d love to get a good list started below!

Great Infographic to Share with Clients

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Looking to convince clients that they need to make a greater investment in updating their databases? Here is a great infographic that makes the point in a powerful (but sometimes funny) way. The infographic relates to business data (such as changing address or phone numbers) more than it does consumers, but the point is made regardless.

For example,

  • In the 30 minutes you spent checking your mail, 127 companies changed phone numbers.
  • In the 25 minutes you spent commuting to work, 40 businesses changed locations.
  • In the 15 minutes you spent eating breakfast, 27 business changed names.

It also claims that bad data costs businesses $600 billion annually and up to 20% of revenue. It’s a great attention grabber . . . and a great excuse for your customers to let you help them update their marketing databases!

The infographic was created by Infogroup Targeting Solutions and shared by Marketing Profs.

Day Worth of Data

3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: Think Dimensional Mail

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I’m stunned. I just looked back at my post on using 3D printing to drive digital printing and there are 68 shares on LinkedIn. I don’t think any post I have written — ever — has gotten that many LinkedIn shares. This tells me I’m on to something.

Part of the reason, I think, is that all of the discussions I’ve seen around 3D printing have to do with bringing existing products, services, and business models into our industry. That means discussion about whether printers should try to replicate what’s already being done, and done well, by companies that are far more entrenched and expert at it than printers are. Of course the answer to that is, “No!”

What nobody is talking about is how printers can apply the technology in a complementary way to drive more sales the products and services they already offer. That’s why I think that post resonated so much. As I discuss in the report “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: 2014,” I believe 3D printing will provide significant opportunities for this industry, but most important applications will be the ones nobody has come up with yet (although I’ve proposed a few).

We are hearing many printers express concern that 3D-printed products are simply too expensive to be used in marketing campaigns, but I don’t think 3D printed products should try to compete with traditional response incentives or ad specialties. I believe 3D-printed products should be used for creating customized or personalized products (branded items), one-off products (personalized, highly unique incentives like action figures of company executives), or for ultra-short-run campaigns with a highly targeted audience.

In this, 3D printing would compete with dimensional mail. When going after corporate executives, marketers understand the value of sending a personalized box, complete with personalized marketing collateral, personalized sales letters, and personalized incentives ranging from radio-controlled cars to personalized baseballs. Now imagine a 12” action figure that looks just like the CEO of the target company staring out at the recipient (or his gatekeeper) from underneath a plastic window as part of a mailing box. I can imagine an open rate in that campaign of 100%.

So when thinking about 3D printing, forget replicating what’s already being done. Think how the technology can be applied in complementary ways to drive the business PSPs are already doing!

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 2

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By: Irving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In my post last week, I reviewed a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands”. Let’s consider how this article translates into the Printing Industry…

How can a company making printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Become comfortable with your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses – and be able to talk to your potential clients about them.  If a competitor’s equipment can generate 20-30% more copies per minute than yours, and costs the same, the client may argue that their equipment is more productive and you will lose the sale.  But if the client has post-printer finishing need that cannot be done in-line at the equipment’s rated speed the productivity premium may be eliminated.  In fact, using a “faster” print machine may create a total production time slower than your solution.
  • Understand your client’s entire workflow – See the example above.  Understanding what your client’s workflow is, from creation of a print product, through printing, finishing and even delivery, will allow you to build a solution that specifically meets your customer’s needs.  If your client is in no rush to create the booklets to send to its clients, there is no need to provide the fastest piece of print equipment.  If they need documents as quickly as possible, then identify where, in the current process (pre-print, print, finishing) there are the most problems and develop new solutions that meet the client time needs.
  • Have a solid implementation plan, and a fail-safe – Have a solid plan for equipment delivery, connection to print servers and networks, installation and testing.  If the solution is not working to the client’s expectations and requirements, have a fail-safe in place to ensure that the client’s bottom line is not negatively impacted due to your equipment or solutions issues.
  • Have training and mentoring solutions in place – We’ve all been in situations where we buy a piece of equipment or a product and then have to learn how to use it.  Using the Internet has made things a little easier, but, as an organization, do you want your customers to learn how to use your equipment by seeing what someone else does on the Internet?  Identify your client’s most important needs and requirements of the equipment and solutions you are providing and ensure they know how to use your equipment or solution to meet those needs.  Develop focus groups with other users so that they can share issues between themselves (with input from your organization) to develop new solutions they can all use.

The new world of sales is changing in this information-rich environment.  Be sure to use all of the tools your organization provides to provide your potential customers with all of the information they will need to buy your products, services and solutions.  Providing as much information as possible to your customers gives them the power they need to make decisions that meet or exceed their requirements at the most cost-effective price.

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

QR Code Fail at Sweet Frog? Or Was It Just Me?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I’ve written a lot on the subject of QR Code fails, along with best practices for designing and implementing these codes, so I thought I was on to another example when I scanned the QR Code on the loyalty card at Sweet Frog the other day.

I took out my phone (okay, who am I kidding? It was already in my hand), scanned the code, and nothing happened. I scanned again, making sure it was the proper distance for the camera to focus, and again nothing. Must be the low light, I reasoned. I moved the card underneath the overhead light and tried again. Still nothing.

I tried several different times at different angles, and in the end, I input my email address into the low-tech, most unmobile fingerpad device. As I walked to the table in defeat, I wondered if I would have done better to scan the QR Code on the wall poster instead. Was the code on the loyalty card too busy perhaps? Printed too small?

I realized this morning, no, it would not have done me any good because the problem was not the code. The problem was that I had not launched the scanning software on my phone first. I had simply pointed the camera at the code and expected it to scan.

I can laugh now (and I’m sure you’re laughing at me now, too), and I’ve just embarrassed myself publicly . . . but to make a point.

It would be great if mobile phone cameras activated automatically to scan barcodes without launching software first, and I’m sure that some day, they will. But QR Codes won’t live or die by people who don’t have the software or forget to use it. They will live or die by the value of what consumers receive on the back end. If the code doesn’t work or people don’t know how to use it, your clients should make sure they have another way to access the content.

Over time, non-QR-Code-scanning consumers will figure it out. Once technology has reached critical mass (as it has with QR Codes), people always do.

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 1

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

ByIrving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In February 2014, a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands” identified the reasons that consumers are starting to abandon their prior reliance on brand loyalty in purchasing products.  The use of online information to shop and compare items, and to listen to other purchasers on the pluses and minuses of products is now the way most customers buy products.

For established brands, this makes selling products at a premium price an increasingly difficult thing.  If you are selling a product that is superior to other producer’s products, then you may charge a premium price.  But performance numbers are quickly matched by other producers, and often there is a number of products that are so similar that it is difficult to identify them sitting side-by-side outside of their brand names.  Past performance is no longer a selling point for many consumers; what the product is and how it performs NOW is what is critical to the purchaser.  There are two situations where this isn’t true – when the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product or where the brand confers status (think Louis Vuitton).

For the consumer, the information age means they are making better buying choices (hopefully), and competition has improved quality and lowered prices. It also means that upstart companies find it easier to compete with established producers.  If you make a product that works well at a competitive price, you will quickly become the next Asus, Roku, Hyundai or Kia.  We have gone from stable consumer markets to tumultuous ones, but if you can make a great product, the world will beat a path to your door (or store website).

Let’s look at the sales situation that is a bit outside of this “new” sales paradigm – where the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product.  In the past, Coca Cola was a brand synonymous with this type of product.  Wherever you went around the world, if you purchased a Coca Cola, it would taste exactly the same and it would not make the consumer sick (because the water was pasteurized in the bottling process).  World travelers really built the Coca Cola brand, and as world economies improved citizens of the world had enough ready cash to buy one bottle of Coke.  Coca Cola has such a foothold in the US and other countries that they have increased market share in consumable beverages using their bottling companies if not their Coca Cola syrup to provide regional and local beverage favorites in every country they have a bottling plant.

So how can a company making copiers and printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others? Check back next week for a couple of solutions!

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

Keeping Twitter Interesting

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Customers, prospects, and experts in the print industry are having a business-boosting conversation. Do you want to join in? Of course you do, and that’s why you need to be on Twitter. But with millions of tweets being sent daily, how do you make sure yours stand out? Follow these top four tips to create compelling content in 140 characters or less.

  1. Develop a Strong Brand Presence. Your Twitter account is a representation of you and your business, so make sure it’s a good one. Customize your background by incorporating your logo and using your brand colors. Choose your profile picture carefully. If you use your logo, make sure it looks good at a small size. Or, if you’re representing a smaller business, you could opt for a clear full-face picture to make your account more personal.
  2. Keep Content Interesting and Varied. Twitter is a conversation, so be a good conversationalist. Instead of constant self-promotion, offer useful and interesting content – share some news, participate in trending topics, join in on popular hashtags, link to a free resource such as an eBook, add a video or picture. Focus on tweets that your customers will enjoy seeing – this will not only keep them interested, but give them a good reason to retweet your content, too. Compose your tweets carefully. Believe it or not, it is possible to waffle in 140 characters, so be sure to keep your tweets to the point.
  3. Encourage Engagement. At the risk of being obvious, if you want your followers to engage with you, encourage them to engage with you. Reach out to your followers by replying to or retweeting their posts. And don’t forget your call to action – whether that is “retweet this,” “let us know,” “drop us a line,” or any other way of encouraging your audience to take the action you want them to take. Use hashtags to start specific conversations. You could also try using Twitter to run a contest. You could use something simple such as “retweet to enter a prize draw,” but why not craft something that actively encourages engagement, such as asking entrants to answer a question, hunt for an answer on your site, or create something and tweet it to you. It will not only encourage interaction with your current audience, but it will also increase your overall exposure through sharing and engagement.
  4. Be Mindful of Twitter Etiquette. Just like in any conversation, good manners are a must when using Twitter. When you write a tweet, use good spelling and grammar. If someone mentions you in a particularly positive manner, consider using Twitter’s favorite function to acknowledge it. And never spam your followers with constant self-promotion or repetitive tweets. Treat Twitter like you would any other customer facing communication – reply to questions and comments, resolve conflicts, and rise above drama and negativity. If you would like some additional tips on how to handle complaints and negativity on your social channels, check out my article, Taming the Beast of Social Media Complaints.

Twitter is a rich and varied platform which fosters conversation. Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it, and you’ll be a sparkling conversation starter.

More Data Follies: Who’s Minding the Store?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

My penchant for publishing direct mail and data bloopers continues to win me great stories to share here on Digital Nirvana. This one came in this morning and left me scratching my head. My question for readers is this: Do you have processes in place to catch these mistakes before they get mailed? Or are you content to play clean-up later?

Last fall an environmental organization sent us an annual renewal notice which we responded to with a check to extend our membership for another year.

Five months later, we got another “renewal” notice to which we responded to with another check, not remembering that we had already renewed our annual membership. For this double renewal, we received a complimentary, inexpensive hat.

Four weeks later, we received an offer for us to become members for the first time, this time offering multiple more valuable premiums, including several shopping bags, a calendar, and a children’s gift (we’re retired).

Needless to say, I was not happy. I contacted the organization, and they quickly responded, apologized, and are sending yet more complimentary items.

We’re not interested in free gifts. My complaint to the organization was that, first, they were not acknowledging that we had already responded to their renewal request—twice. Also, that we were being penalized for our prompt response to the first notice by not receiving the multiple and higher valued items as our “free gifts,” which makes me feel like we’re being played. (Did we have to send another contribution to receive these annual renewal gifts? Are we being leveraged to send even more  money, even though we’d already renewed twice?)

It’s frustrating on both counts. It alienates the donor and makes it very clear that a favorable response has not been recognized—as in, “We didn’t notice you, so we’re sending you another renewal notice . . . in case you didn’t notice either,”  or “We don’t care that you responded, we’d  just like to get as much out of you as we can,” or, “Our tracking system is so inefficient we can’t distinguish between those who do and those who do not respond to our overtures.”

If this were not an organization that we would support anyway (and it were it not a non-profit but a direct business relationship), the likelihood of their getting a favorable response the next time the mailer came is pretty much zero!

This reader’s tongue-in-cheek writing style is so funny that you might be tempted to think this is an April Fool’s joke, but it is not. Rather, it has has shades of my father-in-law, Lt. Col. John Walker, U.S.M.C. (Ret.), who is regularly receiving solicitations to John Usmc and Col. Ret.

You would never let this happen to your clients, right?

Using 3D Printing to Drive Digital Print Marketing

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

For the last several months, I have been poking around, interviewing printers who have purchased 3D printers, reading 3D printing case studies, surveying 3D industry data, and trying to answer the question, “Is 3D printing relevant to the commercial printing industry?” The answer is yes, but not in the way I think many people believe.

One of the biggest opportunities for commercial printers, I believe, will come in using the production capabilities of these printers to drive the need for multi-channel marketing. Let me give one scenario.

Your client is a pediatric orthodontist who wants to increase his patient base, but there are several competing pediatric orthodontists in his geographic area. So you come up with an ingenious marketing plan that none of his competitors are using. You promote the dentist with a unique incentive for using his services — a 12″ action doll that looks just like the child. Then you purchase a list of households with a specific income level, with children under 18 years of age, within a specific geographic radius, and send out a postcard featuring a young girl with braces, with beaming smile, holding a 12″ action doll that looks just like her — braces and all.

Is this an expensive incentive? Yes, it is. But it’s only provided with the purchase of braces or other orthodonics. It can be printed in-house at the print shop or outsourced to a provider like ThatsMyFace.com. This model could be applied to nearly every market vertical. What incentive could be printed to encourage test drives of luxury vehicles? Or product demonstrations of high-dollar items. Say . . . a new digital printing press?

The value of 3D printing isn’t necessarily going to be in producing 3D-printed items for their own sake. It’s going to be for the larger marketing opportunities that these 3D-printed items create.

For more on 3D printing in the commercial printing industry, you can check out my article “Early 3D Adopters” in Printing Impressions or my report “The Status of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry.”