Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

Best Self-Promotion Ever

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

I have spent a lot of time recently poring over a printer’s self-promotion campaign. It’s a calendar, but not like any calendar you might have seen. Called “Twenty13: Details Matter” from McArdle Solutions, it has multiple layers of meaning and purpose.

The first layer of purpose is showing off what it’s digital presses can do. Each month shows a different combination of printing technique and substrate, and some of the effects are truly stunning.

But before you think McArdle is using this piece to get clients running to open their checkbooks, it is sometimes doing the opposite. It uses the imagery to open realistic discussions about cost. These techniques take time, multiple revolutions of the cylinder (up to 45 revolutions in some cases), and open the process to variance. Clients need to understand the true impact of these effects on cost, turnaround, and the final result.

After these discussions, sometimes clients will go ahead with these techniques. Other times, they do not. But whether they go forward or go another direction, their trust in McArdle is deepened.

As McArdle is opening these discussions, with their tenous balance, the calendar has another element of brilliance. True facts from history, such as Puxatawny Phil going social after 133 years or a whale being blown sky high because the engineers used 20 cases of dynamite instead of 20 sticks, are paired with the corresponding images to illustrate the value of a supplier to attends to the smallest detail.

True excellence is found in the details, and whether it’s in selecting the right ink and substrate combination to create a special effect or having the guts to discuss details of cost even if it means losing an upsell, it’s what makes a great supplier great.

This was a tremendous campaign, and it has sold a lot of clients on McArdle’s excellence. It’s a wonderful model that many others in this industry would do well to emulate.

Web-to-Print: Selling from a User’s Point of View

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

It seems that I’m seeing user stories about Web-to-print everywhere recently. I’ve written here about best practices, the most important of which, I have argued, is getting the user buy-in.

At Graph Expo, I attended a press conference by CHILI Publisher, and one of the elements of the conference really struck me. It was the promotional video at the opening of the press conference. The video didn’t talk about the features or benefits of the solution. It showed real business owners, real distributors, real consumers using it.

The video showed a brand owner, a retailer, a product distributor, and father and his daughter all creating a variety of elements that promote different aspects of the brand. Whether logging in on a laptop while sitting behind the retail counter or sitting on a couch with an iPad, the diverse range of users logged into a portal and customized documents, sliding and resizing elements like you’d do on a touch-screen mobile device.

The brand owner created a custom catalog. The retailer created custom product labels. The distributor created signage. A father and daughter created and received branded merchandise delivered to their homes.

There were banners, displays, and mailing labels for boxes — a wide variety of products created by multiple individuals within the marketing and distribution chain, each serving a different role, all creating products with the appropriate branding.

In just a few minutes, the video showed — not told – the benefits of an online document creator and editing solution.

This focus on “how this benefits me” is what has been sorely lacking in the Web-to-print discussion for a long time. We, the industry, understand how this solution ties everything together, saves customers money, and facilitates branding (especially in a decentralized marketing environment), but how well is that being communicated to customers?

I have blogged about the Webinar produced by What They Think and how both large brand marketers (The Toro Company and LifeLock) only recently invested in W2P after having the broader content marketing, document management, and time/cost savings demonstrated to them, not by a printer, but by a software vendor.

This is another example of a software vendor doing a great job of illustrating the benefits of these solutions. It’s an example that I think many printers could benefit from.

More on my perspective on Web-to-print.

Stop Marketing and Start Selling.

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

When it comes to marketing your business, always keep in mind one simple fact: your customers want you to make their lives better. Whether in business or outside of it, your customers are looking to you to improve their life in some way. Does your marketing clearly let them know how you can do just that? Or are you merely telling them facts about how great your product is and hoping something will stick?

If you want to streamline your marketing for greater effect and greater returns, it’s time to stop marketing and start selling. In other words, cut out over-inflated marketing that talks up a storm about your company and product, and focus on selling the value you can bring your customers.

In order to increase your profits as 2014 is wrapping up and you prepare for the new year, download, Stop Marketing and Start Selling, FREE for The Digital Nirvana readers.

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

The Future of Print

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Print Can’t Carry Customer-Centricity All by Itself

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

A new survey from The CMO Council, “Mastering Adaptive Customer Engagements,” offers interesting insight into the issue of customer-centricity, or how well focused a company is around its customers.

Customer-centricity is interesting because it’s more than just a 360-degree view of the customer, a term we associate with big data. It’s different from personalized interaction and relevance, which we associate with marketing. It’s a concept that draws together the customer’s experience with all areas of the brand, not just those that have to do with data and marketing. It’s the focus on the customer at all levels, from the products it develops to the way its call center handles customer interaction.

What makes a company “customer-centric”? According to the survey:

  • 66% of marketers say quick response times to customer requests or complaints are core to demonstrating customer centricity.
  • 47% say products that reflect a customer’s own needs and wants are central to demonstrating an organization’s customer focus (the assumption being that this includes personalization in marketing, too).
  • 36% say “always on” access to products, account details, profile information and customer support.

Some of these functions are related to marketing, but many of them are not. These aspects are owned by customer service, product development, R&D teams, and operations, IT, customer service and marketing.

Thus, we might say a truly customer-centric organization is also an integrated organization, where all of the internal “clients” (or departments) are willing to talk to one another, coordinate, share information, and work together to create a positive customer-centered experience.

No matter how personalized, how targeted, and how relevant the communications, marketing can’t carry the customer-centric burden all by itself. Truly customer-centric marketing needs to be coordinated with other stakeholders throughout the company. So if the client conversation turns to customer-centricity, it’s important to ask the question, “What other areas of the company are being represented at the table?”

Want Web-to-Print business? Attend a MARKETING conference

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Available on the What They Think Webinar archive is a Webinar titled “Web-to-Print Is So Yesterday.” It’s fascinating, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

The speakers are from The Toro Company and LifeLock, and both talk about their reasons for investing in their own W2P solution, how they came to make the purchase decision they did, and the value of the solution for their companies now. Some of it may be familiar. Some of it may not be.

Part of what’s interesting is where these companies are finding the real, bottom-line benefits, and they are not always where the printing industry tends to focus. The other part of what’s interesting is that, despite the high-profile nature of these companies, they were largely unaware of the capabilities of W2P until they went to a marketing conference and saw presentations by the software vendor.

Both indicated that, while they were convinced by the vendor’s presentation, if they’d heard about it from their printer in the same way it was presented to them at the marketing conference, they would have jumped on it from them. Since they didn’t, they installed it in-house.

Here are the takeaways:

  • There are still opportunities in W2P.
  • Marketers are looking for content management, not print management.
  • They heard about W2P from printers, but it was so print-focused as to be irrelevant.
  • When they heard about the full capabilities of W2P focused on their actual needs, they jumped on it. “Why didn’t we know about this before?”
  • Only 50% of their volume flowing through these systems is print.  But since the installation of the system, their print volumes have increased.

If you haven’t watched this Webinar, it’s worth your time. And if you aren’t going to marketing conferences, interacting directly with the people who need your services, why on earth not?

 

How to Execute a Strong Integrated Marketing Campaign

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Executing a strong integrated marketing campaign for any business or brand is essential when trying to grow an entity or expand its overall reach. Knowing how to properly craft marketing campaigns to reach specific a specific audience is a way to successfully advertise your business, brand, or message to any set demographic you have in mind. Utilizing a few tips prior to launching your next marketing campaign is a way to ensure you are maximizing reach and exposure for your brand.

Create an Image and Voice for Your Brand

Creating an image and voice for your brand is essential to properly convey any message you want to share with potential customers or clients. Choose a logo, color scheme, and mission statement that is most fitting for the business you are trying to promote. Use magazines, online communities, and other well-known brands to spark inspiration to modernize any business or brand you are building.

Select Ideal Marketing Channels

Selecting ideal marketing channels for a demographic you want to reach is also imperative. You can advertise locally with newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, or maybe you prefer alternative online advertising channels. Online marketing ranges from PPC (pay per click) campaigns to third-party advertising services, direct advertising, and social media.

Keywords and the Importance of SEO

Implementing specific keywords into the content and headers of your website and blog is necessary to improve search engine rankings and results within search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Select keywords that are most relevant and trending in your market to boost page ranking with each new update or marketing campaign you launch.

Cross-Promotion Using Multiple Advertising Platforms

Using multiple advertising platforms is one of the most effective methods of growing a brand, regardless of whether you are promoting a local shop or an international online eCommerce store. Using social media, local advertising, third-party ad systems online, and affiliate marketing is not only a way to share more about your brand, but it is also a way to make a name for yourself in your designated industry and field.

Having an understanding of how to use various advertising channels to run a successful marketing campaign is a way to reach any audience or demographic, regardless of the industry you are working in or representing. With the ability to successfully promote a brand, image, message, or product, it is much easier to maintain a professional image and positive reputation in your line of business.

3D Education in High Schools = Printers Should Take Notice

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Last night, I was struck by a conversation between my 10-year-old daughter and her best friend. It was about “Tech Ed,” or technology education, in her middle school. The area her friend (who is 11 years old) is most excited about? Learning to create and print 3D objects on her school’s Makerbot.

Both of the high schools in the area have 3D printers, but the fact that this technology has moved down to the middle school level is something new. My daughter’s friend has only been in school a week and a half and she’s already learning to create her own 3D designs.

The point for printers? 3D technology isn’t something you can ignore. It’s penetrating down to our children, which means this will be a technology they grow up with and are as comfortable with as cellphones, iPods, and tablets. While it might be challenging to get your customers thinking about how to integrate 3D  into their marketing applications now, it won’t be long before it’s as natural as thinking about email, mobile, and text.

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that printers go out and buy 3D printers to compete with Thingiverse and Shapeways. I’m suggesting that they get to the know the technology and begin to think of ways to use it to drive marketing campaigns the same way they’d use anything else, even if they choose to outsource the production.

3D printing is not the norm now, but it will be.

Got Mail? How to Boost Your Mailing Revenue

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at 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!

Revamp Your Sales Model

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Your business ebbs and flows. Good months followed by an ‘OK’ or a not so good month. How do these results compare to your plan, what’s working and where is either the plan or the execution falling short. We could be talking about a few of your reps or the entire business.

Too often the plan has not been thought out as well as you’d like it to be and the story is that the outside environment-the clients, the competitors, the ‘markets’ aren’t playing nice or playing fair. Well, that’s the norm for today. Nothing is fair and logic is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to revamp the sales model. We see company’s overcoming these obstacles by doing a few things differently.

  • They have gotten closer to their clients and have a better understanding of their updated buying processes. This has enabled them to modify their sales model and increase their sales effectiveness.
  • They have achieved buy-in from their sales department, their senior management team and all client-facing staff to the plan, the company’s plan.
  • They have targeted growth opportunities in vertical markets that they can repeat their sales process to effectively communicate, build trust, present real-world business solutions and earn business from these new clients.
  • They’ve incorporated a suite of metrics to measure and report their successes in achieving the sales goals their going after.
  • Accountability. No plan is perfect, right? When they see elements of their plan not generating the results they need they are not hesitant to tweak the plan and make adjustments (sooner rather than later).

While no plan will cover all the moving parts of an industry that is transforming, without one it becomes increasingly difficult to adapt both the sales effort and the business to opportunities in the marketplace.

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.

Great QR Code Use for the Haters

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

I have been participating in a LinkedIn discussion for designers in which the QR Code haters are out in force. The consensus was that QR Codes are dead because they are ugly, there are more innovative technologies out there, and designers don’t like them.

If you ask me, that’s the wrong way to look at it. This isn’t about what’s innovative, what’s aesthetically pleasing, or what designers like. It’s about what accomplishes the goal set by the client. If QR Codes are the response mechanism (or one of the response mechanisms) that accomplish that goal, then great.

Designers should be thinking more about matching goals to channels than what looks pretty and stimulates their personal interest.

SeaWorldScanbuy has an interest use case that I think exemplifies QR Codes at their best. The use case comes from SeaWorld, which wanted to drive traffic to its mobile app, where it could communicate park details and share special features.

Using the tagline “Put the Park in Your Pocket,” SeaWorld added QR Codes to signs throughout the park to drive visitors to the app. In addition to providing general information about the park, the app included features of real value to the user, such as a car-finder, wait time information for popular shows, and GPS navigation throughout the venue. SeaWorld also generated 20,000 app downloads in just six weeks.

That doesn’t sound like QR Codes are dead to me. It sounds like a great match of campaign goals to marketing channel.

Rate and Pace Will Win the Race

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?