Archive for the ‘Case Studies’ Category

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.

PODi reviews PRISMAprepare

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

PODi recently independently reviewed the Canon Océ PRISMAprepare workflow suite and authored case studies and product briefings on these workflow solutions. The overview from PODi:

“Canon’s Oce PRISMAprepare simplifies and streamlines document make-ready processes to efficiently compile, correct, personalize and program print applications. This includes various layout and tab programming, spine printing, color splitting and releasing to production presses. While it can be integrated with other software packages, PRISMAprepare can also be used as a completely self-contained stand-alone make-ready solution.”

PODi completed their analysis by posting a series of podcasts reviewing PRISMAprepare capabilities including:
• Document Editing
• Page and Image Editing
• Personalization
• Make-ready Automation

For more information – visit PODi’s site here.

Are You Selling 1:1 Printing for Its Efficiency?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

When we think about data-driven printing, we think about elevated response and conversion rates, we should not forget to promote its benefits for cost savings, as well. These savings can come in hard costs such as the ability to reduce postal costs through co-mingling and in soft costs such as labor reduction, reductions in calls to call centers, and improving cash flow.

I ran across the great case study from XMPie recently that talks about these “hidden” cost savers.

Time Magazine Europe wanted to increase subscriptions, and it also wanted to improve the customer experience when subscribing to the magazine. So it partnered with Latcham Direct (UK) to drive respondents to personalized URLs where they could sign up themselves.

Thirty percent of people responding to this campaigned used the personalized URLs.

When people responded using this channel, not only did this improve their customer experience over the impersonal, disconnected process of sending back forms by direct mail, but it helped Time’s bottom line in three ways:

  1. It reduced the costs for the manual input of subscriptions coming in from direct mail cards.
  2. Conversion rate for personalized URL responders was 75%, reducing the cost of follow-ups.
  3. Cash flow is improved since the subscriptions are processed more quickly and readers get into the system earlier.

To date, this campaign has reached more than 1.6 million people. Because the response rate via personalized URL was so high (30% of people responding), the cost savings reaped by the company were significant.

How could your clients use a similar model to reduce costs?

Personalized URLs were created in XMPie PersonalEffect and metrics were tracked by UProduce Marketing Console.

Printing in Spook Country

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Spook Country,” the 2007 novel by William Gibson, introduced the concept of “locative art” to the reading public. Gibson’s character Hollis Henry is constantly searching for works of art with her smartphone; art that Gibson describes as akin to techno graffiti.  His descriptions of art tied to a particular GPS location and viewable with a smart phone or VR glasses include a virtual image of  F. Scott Fitzgerald dying at the very spot in Hollywood where he had a fatal heart attack, and Archie – a 90 foot giant squid (Architeuthis for those in the know.) In the book, Archie was designed as a display for a Tokyo department store with “an endless rush of digital imagery along Archie’s distal surface.”

The Museum of Vancouver took a page from Gibson’s book this month by launching their augmented reality museum app “The Visible City.” Truly a work of locative art, Visible City enables a walking tour augmented by your smart device in which the tourist sees the streets of Vancouver as they were in their “neon era.” The application overlays pictures and interviews with local personalities to create an immersive experience.

VisibleCity - Webheaderimage

However, augmented reality today is as much about commerce as it is about art. Like the Tokyo department store in Gibson’s novel, retail is the main early adopter. Major brands realize that the opportunity for consumers to interact with products in retail locations can drive sales. There are many examples of AR used for product marketing including LEGO toys, Heinz Ketchup, Budweiser and Audi. While the first three involve interactions at the point of sale, Audi used Metaio to develop an AR enhanced brochure and a virtual users guide (it’s in German – but it’s so clear it doesn’t matter.) There are also numerous examples of catalogs enhanced with augmented reality apps to deliver 3D product views as the reader directs their smart device at a specific item.

While the early adopters were in retail, other brands are getting on board, most recently PNC bank with their Finder AR-based bank locator app. It’s really not anything that couldn’t be accomplished with a Google search or asking “Siri, where’s the nearest PNC Bank?” Nonetheless, it demonstrates the conservative banking industry’s interest in embracing the new cool thing.

Finder by PNC landing page image

Direct Marketing is a natural fit for augmented reality; just ask Omni Hotels and Resorts. Omni-live, their AR app was released in June and is part of a multi-media campaign tailored to meeting and events planners. It includes print, social media, online video and web advertising in concert with augmented reality. In addition to making the campaign more interesting and interactive, AR also makes the campaign more measurable. As soon as the consumer launches the app, the marketer knows that the campaign is being read and how much time the consumer is interacting with the contents. With a really well done virtually reality application, consumers will return again and again.

There is also potential for AR with transaction printing from mundane explanations to incredibly creative advertising. With AR, a financial institution or wireless/internet/cable provider could virtually welcome new customers on board walking them through their statement or invoice and offering detailed instructions (like the Audi user manual above.)

There are plenty of agencies and AR developers out there ready to partner with you to bring new services to your clients. All it takes is a creative vision of how your current print products can deliver more value. Adding a virtual layer between the reality of print and a virtual world revealed through smart apps is the next step in business communications – are you ready to take that step?

For a nice primer on Augmented Reality (written well before AR was on the tip of people’s tongues) visit Common Craft’s Youtube presentation (sorry, there is advertising on the site.)

Elizabeth Gooding Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

Do Personalized Recommendations Really Work? (Case Study)

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Do personalized recommendations really work? If so, just how much? Most of the data comes from the world of online retailing where it’s easier to track than print, but there are certainly applications to print we can learn from. Yesterday, I ran across an actual A/B split test that provided the kind of detail you don’t normally see.

The test [PDF download] came from Nova Pontocom, the second largest Latin American online retailer. It ran an experiment for one month involving three portals, nearly 600,000 different users, and 50 million page views and resulted in 1 million online orders generating revenues of $230 million.

[NOTE: I am getting feedback that the PDF download link is not working, but when I paste it into my browser, it works fine. URL is]

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest scale controlled experiment aiming to assess the business value impact of personalized recommendations published so far,” write the authors of the report.

Users were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received personalized recommendations and a control group that did not. The personalized recommendations were generated by seven different collaborative filtering techniques based on product views, purchases, and shopping cart composition.

At the end of the month-long test, researchers found (with 95% of statistical significance) that the personalized recommendations resulted in an overall increase in revenues in the order of 8-20%.

Although online shopping and print marketing are different animals, the concept of providing a relevant offer based on the recipient’s own behavior has universal application. For those who’ve wondered just how much personalization can affect the bottom line when all other factors remain the same, this is some pretty strong data.

High Speed Inkjet: Can You Build a Reliable Business Case?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Since the advent of high speed color inkjet presses that approach the quality of offset, printers and data centers have begun struggling with the decision of integrating this new technology into their operation.

The decision to move print volume to high speed inkjet is complex and one that does not always have a clear ROI.  Since inkjet brings new and different ways of thinking about everything, you have to implement the system and related changes into your existing operation.

In small-to-midsize printers, this decision will impact nearly every facet of the organization’s processes, including the markets you pursue, how you estimate and price your product, production flow, quality, materials and warehousing, and personnel skills. In many cases, precise navigation these decisions can determine the very survival of the establishment.

But before you get to any of that, first you have to decide if the move to color or monochrome inkjet printing is right for you.  In some cases, modification of your current printing environment is all that is necessary to keep you competitive.  For instance, if you print offset now and have only long runs and little or no variable printing, switching to inkjet most likely will not provided any benefits.  Your efforts should probably be focused on tuning your current production processes.

If you have some of the factors that often make going to inkjet a decent return on investment, that is, you have short runs, need to print variable data, or are overprinting on preprinted material, actually calculating that ROI can be elusive.  Every business case that I have built has been has been completely unique.  Little of any previous analysis was usable. This is mostly because every shop I worked with has accounted for their usage and cost so differently, and each have their own business processes.  Because of that, a single model to capture all of the possible permutations would be so complex that it would lose its value as a template.

And each shop has a different starting point:  Some are all digital already, leveraging the best of the toner technologies, some are all offset, some print variable information on preprinted shells, some carry finished product and some don’t, and some need to meet incredibly tight SLAs.  Some are sheetfed and some are web shops.

Yes, there are common components that remain the same. This includes all the things you may normally think about:  Skilled prepress, press, and finishing labor; Press maintenance and cost of downtime; Plates chemicals and other consumables costs; Toner and click charges; Paper waste and energy costs.  You need to look at ink, paper cost differences, throughput and uptimes, waste, time to produce, cost of shells, and inventory obsolescence. I like to look at some things that you may not consider, like the efficiency gained by consolidating your longer runs to an offset press (if you use offset) and being able to capture business you could not reach in your current state. And if your customers are somewhat flexible, you can add to the business case by demonstrating the efficiencies that minor changes in format or color might give them a marketing advantage or you a cost advantage.

Although you probably have a great handle on your current costs, capturing which of those costs could be eliminated by inkjet, and most importantly, understanding what your new costs REALLY will be, is even more of a challenge. Often, the use of an outside expert could be a very valuable investment. They can help you understand exactly what your new costs will be as you transition to inkjet, model your production with real world data that will give you uptimes for both the printing and finishing environments, help you select and value the new kind of operator labor, and more.

Working the List: Case Study in Target Marketing Magazine

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

RedTieLogoI have just finished reading a very interesting case study in the December 2012 issue of Target Marketing magazine.

It’s for Red Tie Insurance Services, which revealed how it works all the angles to squeeze every drop out its rented lists. Although the company relies on cold calling as its initial point of contact, its approach would work for print and mail, as well.

Here is the nutshell:

1. Once or twice a month, Red Tie purchases a homeowners list based on ZIP Code radius.

2. It imports the list into its CRM system to glean all the phone numbers, address, and names associated with those homeowners.

3. It cold calls all homeowners on the list. For those it cannot contact by phone, it contacts by email if available.

4. Using its CRM system, Red Tie finds Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts for the leads it cannot contact by phone or email and invites them to connect through the company’s Facebook page.

Red Tie has a 22% conversion rate among prospects with whom it speaks, and outside lists comprise 65% of its marketing mix. I have a call in to the owner, Reginald Hawkins, to find out what percentage of those email contacts and social media invitations convert to actual phone calls. As soon as I hear back, I’ll update this post.

[Update: Hawkins indicates that his email contacts generate about a 3% conversion-to-phone call rate. Social media is marginal, but it’s just an important “catch all.” You never know what leads it will generate.]

For clients who serve business and professional services providers who target homeowners, renters, new movers, and similar audiences, a  similar approach could be used with print, as well. Instead of cold calling, use personalized print as the first contact.  If possible, prime the pump with personalized email or use email to follow up (“Did you receive our postcard?”). Connect with nonrespondents using social media. It’s a simple repeatable approach that has paid off for this marketer.

As a side note, if you go to Red Tie’s Facebook page, it’s interesting that they have a huge QR Code in the upper righthand corner that says, “Scan Me!” The code takes you to a mobile version of its site. We might say, “Why would someone scan a QR Code to go to the mobile site when they are sitting at a computer right then and there?” The answer is, I don’t know, but what I know is that people do it — all the time.

Selling Canadian Souvenirs to the Japanese . . . in Japan

Friday, October 26th, 2012

I ran across a case study the other day that I just love. It was posted in a LinkedIn discussion group by Peter Britton of The Write Answers (Vancouver, Canada). It went something like this:

The client sold Canadian souvenirs to Japanese people (in Japan.)  It had 110,000 customers. Average order was $150.

Britton was at the airport and saw a busload of Japanese tourists heading home and each had what he called “at least two boxes of smoked salmon” (considered to be a delicacy there).  Seeing an opportunity for the client, Britton had its IT guy pull the top 1,000 customers (those who bought the most often and spent most money).

Britton created a mailer that included 8 oz. of smoked salmon, a “thanks for being a loyal customer letter,” and an offer for some Canadian art (priced at $1,500 to $2,500). Cost was $20 per package.

The client  mailed to all 1,000 people in groups of 200—best to worst.  Response rates ranged from 25% (best 200) to 12% (last 200). Total average orders was $2,000.

When summarizing the reason for the success of this campaign, the original poster cited them as follows:

  • Being selective/targeted in your audience
  • Using local knowledge to identify a relevant promotional gift suited to the client’s particular market
  • Executing a very considered campaign in manageable chunks so when the inquiries come back in, the client can continue to make the customer feel valued with an instant response as opposed to drowning in a swamp of inquiries and leaving turn these warm leads to turn cold.
  • Making the businesses top customers feel valued with a desirable gift and exclusive offer only available to them.

But Britton himself was more succinct. He said, “What made it successful was we mailed it. Too many people are afraid to ‘just do it’ and think a $20 per piece package is too expensive.  At the end of the day [to quote Wayne Gretzgy], you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

B&W Press: Driving Web Traffic With Print

Friday, August 31st, 2012

B&W Press has apparently been paying attention to the data that says print doesn’t have to cower in the shadow of online media. In fact, the printer is taking a proactive position that, in order to drive traffic to their websites, marketers need print.

I saw the ad when I opened this months’ issue of Target Marketing magazine. Right there on the inside cover was a full-page ad that said, “Remind customers to visit your website. The Mini ‘Slim” Catalog will drive website response.”

I love it!

The ad shows pictures of one of these products being used to promote a client’s online presence. At the bottom, it has a QR Code that takes readers directly to the company’s product page online. From the landing page (unfortunately, not mobile optimized), readers can view a YouTube video of a sales associate showing and describing the catalog, download a catalog template, or request additional product information.

I also liked the bulleted “G7 Master Printer” in green just above its GURL.

I would liked to have seen something in the video that talked about how catalogs drive website traffic as promised in the headline. Instead, it talked about the BRE included in the product catalog for immediate ordering. So the promise and the video didn’t match up there.

But I do commend B&W for taking on the conventional wisdom that online steals from print head one and by promoting print as a way to build online traffic. There is a lot of data out there showing print as a key component of multi-channel marketing campaigns and campaigns with print consistently showing higher ROI. Next time, B&W, maybe include some of that in the ad and the video, too!

Newmark Print: Digital and Eco-Friendly

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Newmark Print is one of the premier full-service commercial printers in the Denver area, providing turnkey corporate printing, mail, distribution, and digital media services. Its services include one- through four-color sheet-fed printing; specialty substrate printing; one- through four-color digital offset and variable data printing; and sophisticated prepress, bindery, kitting, direct mail, and fulfilment. Founder and President Aquiles LaGrave stated, “In 2006, I moved an old banged-up press into a garage in Denver. My dream at the time stretched no further than putting in a full day’s labor, and was borne out of my love for the printed word and ink pressing onto paper. Today, Newmark Print is a solutions-driven digital offset imaging and mailing services company in the Rocky Mountains region. Running two shifts daily, our employees oversee an operation that has over 250 years of shared experience. We run work on our five digital presses, fulfilling tens of thousands of orders and mailing tens of millions of pieces yearly as far afield as Asia, or as close to home as your own mailbox.”

CEO Jim Albany noted, “We have always been a digital shop. We service a myriad of industries and handle extensive direct mail campaigns, newsletters, and label work. In addition, about 25% of our business comes from being a trade printer. We work with other providers to supplement their digital capabilities. We leverage the Océ VarioPrint® 4000 for our black & white work. It has been a real workhorse for us. We also have a Canon imagePRESS C7000VP from Océ for digital color work.”

The environment is very important to Newmark. LaGrave explained, “The commercial lithographic printing on traditional offset presses is an incredibly wasteful and dirty process, regardless of the types of ink you use. Whether it be during set-up, clean-up, or imaging, traditional offset presses waste incredible amounts of paper, chemical solvents, and energy before the first deliverable sheet is even printed. This means that traditional offset outputs ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’ (the stuff responsible for global warming) at rates exponentially higher than that of new offset technologies. This was a driver for our focus on using digital technologies.”

CEO Jim Albany reported, “Instead of a traditional offset press, Newmark chose to invest in print engines that are a quantum leap ahead of older technologies in terms of quality and direct environmental impact. Our state-of-the-art digital printing technology offers offset quality while increasing energy efficiency, dramatically cutting down on waste, and eliminating the chemical baths associated with traditional offset.”

Beyond that, most if not all of Newmark’s paper stock comes from non-bleached, post-consumer recycled paper and/or from renewable resources produced on farms as close to its warehouse as possible. The company refuses to use paper from any company that does not comply with the highest standards of clean air and water or aim to create a truly sustainable product.

Albany concluded by saying, “In the end, engaging in sustainable business practices are not about buzzwords, marketing, or image. It’s about creating a world where we work to first limit, then eliminate the negative ways in which we impact it and reduce the strains we place upon out natural resources. This is why we do it, and why we invite you to engage in a conversation with us about the steps we are taking to help that future become a reality.”

For more articles like this, visit to sign up for the monthly newsletter!

HMSA: A Healthy Approach to Customer Communications

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a reliable name in Hawaiian health care. Established in 1938, it is the largest and most experienced provider of health care coverage in the state. Over half of Hawaii’s population has chosen HMSA for their coverage.

HMSA’s mission is to provide quality, affordable health plans, employee benefit services, and work site wellness programs. HMSA also offers a variety of programs, services, and support to help improve the health and well-being of its members and community.

In the complex and dynamic world of health care, nothing is more important than high-quality, effective communications about subscriber benefits. Assumpta Rapoza, Director of Enterprise Risk Management for HMSA, clearly understands the importance of ensuring clear communications about benefits for subscribers. Rapoza stated, “Quality communications are essential for
customer satisfaction as well as the retention of a loyal customer base.”

Clear Messaging to Drive Loyalty
With health care on everyone’s agenda, HSMA wanted to effectively communicate the true value of the individual’s health insurance policy. The company decided to create an annual cost savings report that raised the subscriber’s awareness of the actual costs for medical procedures and
medications, the amount covered by HSMA, and the resulting financial benefit.

According to Rapoza, “If the subscriber went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, he or she typically didn’t know the actual costs and the HMSA benefit. We wanted an agile solution where we could customize communications based on the specific member profile. We were seeking tools that would enable us to create personalized messaging for each subscriber in the form of an annual summary report.”

Rapoza continued, “We needed to push out the messaging. We knew that we wanted to mail out customized statements. While electronic delivery is a more costefficient way to deliver information, we are cognizant that a high percentage of our membership still prefers paper.”

The Solution
HMSA leveraged Océ’s Technology & Software Support (TSS) Solution Development Manager and Systems Consultant resources, its existing investment in Océ digital print technology, upgrades to its Océ PRISMAproduction® workflow software, as well as the GMC PrintNet Variable Data Composition software to design a solution for its annual benefits summary statement. This combination enabled HMSA to design, compose, produce, present, manage, and automate printed documents with individualized targeted messaging that was HIPPAcompliant. The system design also needed to accommodate production in print and electronic formats, created by PrintNet. Rapoza noted, “The end-result was a customerfriendly communication that clearly articulated the value that HMSA was delivering to its membership.”

To read more articles like this, visit and download the September Newsletter.

Make Yourself Known At The Next Big Event

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

In the social media marketing world, there are plenty of tradeshows and events that you can be a part of to help further your company and network with prospective partners. You can benefit your company if you attend these events. But there are some ways you can really maximize your presence at the next big event, especially if you take the right promotional steps by utilizing social media.

On your corporate Twitter account, create a special hashtag for the event. Use it a couple times a day in the weeks leading up to the event, to generate some buzz about your presence there. Hashtags categorize tweets and make it easier for users to find similar subjects among tweets. Make sure the event also has its own Facebook event page. Post on the page, tweet to the event’s account and retweet relevant tweets.

Think beyond Facebook and Twitter as well. Make sure your colleagues and peers blog about the event and have an e-mail blast focused on it, or maybe even a webinar. The more diverse the methods of distribution, the larger the audience you will reach.

Be sure to ask questions that can spark a conversation. Social media lends itself incredibly well to conversational interaction. Ask questions that will garner some responses, and field questions from followers as well. This is a great way to gauge interest in the event and for companies to have interaction with users that they can retweet and survey. And make sure to keep a countdown to the big day! No need to overwhelm anybody, keep your social media efforts business as usual with just that daily reminder of the event added to it.

So you have done your preparation leading up to the event. The day is here! Now what?

Take pictures! Lots and lots of pictures. Borderline on taking too many. Pictures can be put on all of your social media networks. Make your followers feel like they are right at the event with you. And archive everything; it all becomes great blog content down the road. Also, video is very effective in making your audience feel like they are right with you. Beef up your YouTube channel with some great video content and also use it to spice up a blog in a post-event recap.

When you are in your event, make it very clear where you are at all times. Explain what booth you are viewing, the room you’re in, and always use hashtags. Make yourself noticeable! Use the hashtags that others are creating for the event and interact with them on Twitter. Start conversations and compel people to come to your booth. And when you do meet someone, make them remember you. Exchange social media in a way you would exchange a business card. This is important because exchanging social media accounts can lead to immediate interaction. A business card can very easily slip through the cracks and a contact can be lost.

When it’s all over, make sure you write detailed blogs and use all of the great content you generated to make all of your efforts at the event translate into a great online presence.


Making Print Consistent with Online Experience? Priceless!

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Andrew Gerry, SVP Operations, Intersections Inc.By Andy Gerry

I work at a company that is heavily focused on the online user experience for consumer and corporate identity risk management services – and I’m also a print guy. You might think that print wouldn’t be that important of a competency for us, but you would be wrong. Intersections Inc.  is recognized as the preferred partner of major financial institutions providing custom identity management solutions. Clients leverage Intersections’ identity management solutions, offered under their own privately branded labels.

Private labeling. Branding. Corporate Identity– –just a few reasons print is important.

Supporting our customers’ unique brands online is relatively straight forward; doing the same in print is more complex and expensive.  While many of our customers are serviced online for monitoring, alerts and extensive drill-down reports, the majority of our customers still prefer printed fulfillment kits.   

Each customer who successfully enrolls in one of our credit and identity risk management services, either through one of our corporate partners or directly with Intersections, is sent a printed guide for using the services. It is a welcome kit, a user guide, and almost always contains their personal credit data and scores.  This welcome kit sets the tone for the quality of the service that they have enrolled in.

In the past, Intersections created these guides by matching offset printed covers with dynamically produced booklet content. The covers were on heavy, die-cut stock in full color and the booklets were dynamically generated using Group1’s DOC1 and printed in black and white on an IBM 4100 with near-line booklet maker.  While the content was informative and the covers were produced using our clients’ brand colors, the inside didn’t offer a customer experience that was comparable to what Intersections delivers online. For those customers who preferred print to online, there was a tangible lack of color and brand palate inside the guide.

We are always trying to deliver greater flexibility and value to our direct clients – the financial institutions who private label our products – as well as the end consumers of those products. By early 2009 we were convinced that going to a dynamic, full-color environment was the way to remain the leader in our industry. After an exhaustive evaluation of technologies on the market, considering both toner and inkjet solutions from a variety of manufacturers, in 2009 we selected the Océ JetStream 1000 system for printing and GMC PrintNet to compose the documents.

The redesign, reengineering and redeployment of our guides and other documents on the new platform has been tremendously successful. Not only can we support dynamic branding with ease, but we can use color dynamically to highlight key information for consumers and draw their attention to personalized information, much the same way that we do online.  This is not to gloss over the complexity and the hard work it took to architect a high integrity solution that supports multiple partners in a true white paper environment.  It took longer than originally scoped and we learned many lessons on the way.

The good news is that originally we knew we needed two engines for redundancy and failover, but were unsure if enough of our clients would be willing to adopt color to warrant the two engines.  The best case has happened and by the end of the year the majority of our materials will now be printed in full on demand color in our new environment.  Along the way we’ve eliminated the risk of managing preprinted inventories, eliminated the matching process and are able to deliver a superior product to clients and our end customers in a very cost-effective way. Making the printed experience consistent with the online experience – priceless!

Since the conversion to full color, Intersections’ financial services product was rated “Best in Class” by Javelin Strategy & Research (September 2010) and we were ranked among the 500 Top Technology Innovators Across America (2010 InformationWeek 500, September 2010). I’d like to think that us print guys (and gals) had something to do with that!

Andy Gerry is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Intersections Inc. in Chantilly VA.

Case Study: Using QR Codes as Sales & Marketing Tools

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Grow Socially wanted to use a QR Code for Graph Expo 2010 in order to accomplish the following goals: attract people to the booth and be able to engage with people who may have not been spoken to by one of the sales representatives. The first step was to create a large poster that advertised a Flip Camera Giveaway contest.

The first priority was to have the QR Code be large enough for people to scan it from a distance.  The QR Code that was put on the poster is 12” by 12”.  Below is an offer for one of the sales representatives to explain to attendees about what a QR Code is.  The QR Code and offer acts as a buzz-creating method for a product that Grow Socially’s sister company, interlinkONE, provides.  Below the “What’s this? Ask Us!” comment are simple instructions of how to enter for the Flip Camera Giveaway.  Below that is Grow Socially’s logo.

Once the QR Code is scanned by the spectator’s phone, the phone will then open up to a customized landing page.  The layout of the landing page is a short survey, followed by a space for the person to enter their E-mail address.  The survey is:

Once the person completes the survey and hits “Submit”, they are entered in the contest, and Grow Socially is given great information about them.  For instance, the E-mail addresses of the attendees are now an opportunity for Grow Socially to nurture the relationship with them.  The first way Grow Socially nurtured these new contacts was by sending them an automated E-mail thanking them for stopping by their Graph Expo booth.  Other opportunities of nurturing would be to add that E-mail address to Grow Socially’s monthly eNewsletter, so the attendees could learn more about what Grow Socially does.

The survey questions in the landing page were a great sales opportunity.  The first question gives Grow Socially information about what the prospect is most interested in.  This will help sales focus on what to prepare for when contacting the prospect.  Knowing what the public is most interested about will also help Grow Socially know which of their services to strengthen.  The second question is a great tool for a sales team.  Depending on how the participant answered the question, Grow Socially sales representatives would be able to take note of when an appropriate follow-up with the attendee would be.  For the third question, if attendees wanted to become more educated on QR Codes, Grow Socially would be able to automatically send them one of their White Papers via E-mail.  These White Papers would give the attendee more information about QR Codes as an example.  Of course, a survey always needs the fourth question, which allows the participant to have particular questions and comments be addressed.

Once all of the data is filled out, the attendee’s contact information is automatically saved to Grow Socially’s sales database as well.

In conclusion, Grow Socially displayed a poster at their Graph Expo booth that seemed to just be a contest advertisement, but it actually acted as a sales tool for prospecting at the booth.  This poster promoted an interlinkONE product, captured prospects for Grow Socially’s sales database without the presence of a sales representative, and gave great information to the company about what aspects of Grow Socially interested their audience the most.

Direct Mail Savings are in the Finishing

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Trish WitkowskiEven though the USPS is struggling, and digital and social media are all the rage, direct mail is seeing renewed interest and technological advancement—for good reason. Printed material in the mailbox, done right, is still the preferred and most effective way to reach a customer. The key to whether or not the opportunity is a wasted one comes down to format and technique. I’ll give you an example:

Recently, I was involved in a collaboration with Sappi Fine Paper. I provided content for their highly acclaimed educational publication series The Standard Volume 4: Scoring & Folding (you can obtain a free copy of the publication by clicking here).

To launch the project, we did a seven-city speaking tour, which included myself and world-famous designer Kit Hinrichs, who was responsible for the design of the piece. Sappi sent out a save the date email blast in each city, which received some response. They followed it up with an exotic “Twist Fold” direct mailpiece in a brightly colored envelope, and the RSVPs skyrocketed the day that piece hit mailboxes. Hundreds showed up at each venue for the events. Print can be powerful.

For this instance, the concept was on target, the design was great, the fold was interesting, and the envelope was attention-grabbing. This was a special piece mailed to a targeted audience and they got the response they were looking for. So, is the moral of the story that you have to spend a lot of money, use a funky fold and an envelope that screams to get good results these days? Of course not. The lesson here is that email alone won’t cut it. Print alone may not cut it, either, but good design and smart decisions along the way can save money, while getting you the response that justifies the expenditure.

Here are a few tips:

  • If you want to use an interesting folding style, go for it—but do your research first. Some folds that are generally hand-folded can in many cases be finished by machine if the quantity is high enough. There are specialty binderies that can do this kind of work. On the flip side, if your quantity is low, the expense of hand folding isn’t a very big deal.
  •  The Sappi piece finished to a square format, which we all know is more expensive from a mailing perspective, but there are many, many interesting folding configurations that can finish to rectangular formats that fit within USPS aspect ratio. Why spend an extra $.20 per piece if you don’t have to? This tip seems like common sense, but I have samples in my folding collection that miss aspect ratio by 1/8 inch. What a careless and costly mistake.
  •  Make sure your list is clean. It sounds obvious, but if your mailing list isn’t current or targeted, then you’re wasting money. The goal should be to spend an appropriate amount of money on a quality piece that is sent to a clean list of targeted customers.  
  • For self-mailing pieces, watch fold placement. If the folds are vertical, the lead edge (the edge to the right of the mailing address) must be closed. Other edges must be closed or tabbed. If the fold is on the horizontal, the fold should be below the mailing address. Also, mailing address should always be parallel to the longest dimension. Defy these rules and you can kiss your ROI goodbye to the tune of an additional $.20 per piece non-machinable surcharge.
  • Utilize as much automation as possible. Ask your printer how you can maximize the efficiency of your direct mail projects. Many have invested in inline finishing equipment that can score, perf, slit, glue and fold inline. Any time you can automate the process, you can save money. And automation doesn’t necessarily mean limited creativity, either. There are some very sophisticated computerized folding machines that can blow through gate folds, stepped accordions, and lots of other interesting configurations. If you’re printing digitally, various forms of customization can be very effective and efficient with some advanced planning. 
  • Don’t forget about the envelope. A great printed piece can be overlooked in a boring envelope. Consider full color printing, personalization, custom windows or pulls—do something to get attention and motivate the recipient. 
  • Spend money to make money. If you’re going to put in the effort and expense to produce and mail a piece, shouldn’t it represent your best efforts? Maybe you saved money with a cheap sheet, a tri-fold format, and a #10 envelope, but if nobody noticed, didn’t you ultimately lose a lot more than you saved? 
  • Lastly, don’t get caught up in gimmicks. It can be tempting to go in the other direction and pull out all the stops, but there must be balance. A really cool folding style with a confusing message will just end up in somebody’s “cool idea file” or maybe even their “circular file.” A successful direct mailer involves many components and those components must work together to send the right message and provoke a call to action. For best results, resist the urge to get sidetracked solely on “wow-factor” and focus on the objectives and the quality presentation of your content.