Author Archives: Harvey Hirsch

About Harvey Hirsch

Harvey Hirsch operated his Internationally recognized award winning marketing firm for 36 years, opening a VDP division in 2003. In 2004, Printing News awarded one of his appointment setting programs their coveted LEO Award for technical excellence. Xerox bestowed a First Place PIXI on his hyper-personalized origami reef mailer in 2006 and the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association judged his use of VDP and 3 dimensional mail - Best In Show. Harvey’s marketing programs using variable data have generated double-digit responses in every SIC he applies it to, and he has Keynoted many Marketing Communications, Printing and VDP events Nationally and Internationally, eventually becoming President of the NJ Chapter of In-House Printing Craftsmen. Just Google: marketing expert Harvey Hirsch for more on his technological achievements in marketing using VDP. He currently consults on-line and mentors marketing professionals all over the world. Harvey is currently the reigning VDP Wizard on Earth. Connect with him on LinkedIn for his postings and video blogs and join him as he dines at exotic restaurants all over the world on his video blog.  His Art of Marketing blog talks about how to strategize your marketing for best results.

So You Want To Be A 21st Century Marketing Services Provider? Then Act like one!


When I read how the 4Q Total annualized inflation adjusted dollar profits dropped 60% in the printing world I was not shocked. I have been aware of the steady decline in relevance print has relegated itself to in the marketing world.

I remember a time when I would go to printers and ask them for samples to show to clients. Paper stocks, foil stamping, embossing, die cutting, varnish, gloss coating, spiral binding. I go back to hot type. OK, I gave away my age but, when did print become irrelevant?

I operated my marketing shop for over 38 years and print was what brought in the business for all of my clients and quite a few awards for me.

When I discovered the power of on-demand digital printing in 1997, I promptly put a small footprint digital copier in my firm. Big drum, but you could personalize each print. We used it to proof our pre-print projects.

It was during our launch of the Sharp AR-C color printing systems that I got to play around with the value of a straight paper path and a Fiery controller. I also started on a path to understanding how VDP operates in the communications world.

Sure, you personalize letters and envelopes, but having seen what my competition was entering during these awards shows gave me great insight into understanding a new philosophy for strategizing my marketing using personalization. When I looked around I realized that nobody was using digital VDP designed especially for short run marketing. By the way, marketing agencies have commoditized themselves, just like printers.

Insight to manufacturers: If you want to build demand for your systems, sell the value to marketing agencies then to local print providers. These people need training the most. Their strategies are still rooted in 60’s mass communications tactics; get the message out to as many people as possible for a cheap as possible and run an average response.

Maybe in the 60’s it was a 2% average response. When I entered the industry I just wanted to make the best mailing pieces in any SIC my clients dwelled in. Now that I had VDP at my fingertips, what could I accomplish?

Turned out, a lot.

Here’s what I would like you to understand; Print communications is not dead, just the way you’ve been selling it!  VDP needs to be used in short, targeted, hyper-personalized, emotionally positive messages that build trust and make your reader smile. Yes, that’s my secret.

Here’s your take away!

For any message to be absorbed, an emotional charge must pass through the amygdala to the frontal cortex, and I choose VDP coupled with humor to ensure my pitch gets through.

Printers need to use VDP in their marketing to other businesses, and become the local authority in helping those businesses use VDP to market themselves. That is how you grow an industry! Demonstrate the efficacy of a marketing product as compared to all other competitive media. Then become a local authority and dominate your territory!

Stop Selling Rectangles


Companies are constantly besieged by marketing and especially printing services providers offering to create programs that can generate new customers for their company. Yet, when asked to present any programs that work in lead development for their company, many fail to return for the close.

The opportunity to acquire new clients in this highly competitive, constantly changing new business landscape requires a newer game plan when it comes to multi-channel 1:1 lead generators.

It takes more than just technology to generate and convert leads today!

As a marketing services provider with over 30 years’ experience, I’ve worked in virtually all segments of industry and I depend on my printers to keep me up to date on technology so I can push the envelope for my clients. Client’s today demand accountability for every dollar and generating and converting sales leads is costing them more than ever! If you can offer them something that works, they will take a shot.

Creating an effective multi-media solution that works consistently to lower lead acquisition and conversion is essentially what every business is looking for today and if you can deliver that, you will own your marketing area.

One of the best ways that print providers can tap into this lucrative channel is by rethinking their product mix.

For print to maintain its viability as one of the key essentials in a multi-channel program it must evolve from its current form to a more dynamic experience. If, in nano-seconds, the receiver of your message isn’t emotionally involved in your message, you have failed. And one of the major reasons this happens is because of the rectangle!

I blame the rectangle because it became the base from which we all make our living.

Here’s why! We all have to mail something to someone and therefore the USPS usually dictates what that would be. That’s primarily why there are postcards, envelopes, boxes and bags. So we can stuff them with material we would like to receiver to act on.

Sadly, 99.9% of all direct mail fails to achieve reaction. Is that because there are essentially 4 types of direct mail, all rectangles? I believe so. Aside from now being able to version a mailing program with variable data, essentially we are limited to rectangles. And that impedes our ability to “think out of the rectangle!”

The USPS, while a truly wonderful experiment, will continue to be impacted greatly by digital communications technologies like e-mail and steaming media. Like the music and publishing industries, printers must take the initiative in providing multi-channel strategies if they want to survive. One successful tactic is to provide products that differentiate your services from every other competitor.

When I set out to develop the next generation of direct mail products, I wanted something so dynamic that results could be predictable and still affordable. The product also had to be flexible enough to be used in multi-channel or a stand-alone programs. What I discovered will change the way you think about print communications forever.

Because one picture is worth a thousand words, I will share with you some samples of a technology that I hope will open a gateway for your future.

First off, you must understand how we, as humans assimilate data. As you are screening your daily mail, for instance, the primitive part of your brain is at work separating the non-interesting things from the interesting ones. This is done autonomically. Anything that escapes this triage gets to the frontal cortex where it must fight for constant interest in order for the brain to maintain interest. If, in a nano-second you don’t make this cut, you have failed. This is primarily why there is such a low response rate for marketing messages today.

Personalization adds a small amount of familiarity to the message which pushes it to the frontal cortex because we all like to see our name. But, because of the overuse of this feature, most people quickly discard the message because it lacks uniqueness. This is the biggest problem today. Most messages come embedded in a rectangle and that impacts negatively the uniqueness factor.

In order to avoid this mediocrity, savvy creative marketing providers are employing die-cutting to shape their message holders. By altering the shape of the mailer, you can give it the ability to stand out of all of the messages a person receives on a daily basis. In fact, if you can tailor your pitch around the shape, the inter-textualization of shape and copy will push the message into the frontal cortex of the receiver and keep embed it there for assimilation. See video

By adding personalization and if possible, versioning the pitch to include gender specific or industry specific key words, you have created a triple-threat print product that will penetrate natural reader resistance so powerfully, the person receiving it will likely never forget it.

Photo A – The Fish Shaped Postcard

Above is a fish-shaped postcard that I have used many times to amortize the die. My best results have occurred when employing it in a drip campaign where I send out several different colored, personalized fish.

Drip campaign using fish shaped postcards.

Imagine receiving a different colored fish with a different personalized message every day for a week. Imagine the fun you can have with the copy.

Photo B – The Postcard with bites taken out of it

Caption B – Here is another popular shaped postcard. To promote a Jewish Comedian, I scanned in a matzoh and placed it in the background of the card. When mailed, it actually looks like a matzoh with big bites taken out.

Photo C – the Hot Postcard

Caption C – The shape and holes are die-cut out of the paper and singed color with flames are added to accentuate the shape. Ideal for Hot Press releases, sales, and as part of a shaped mailing program.

Photo D – Piggy Bank Postcard

Caption D – This piggy bank shape allows for anything related to banks or savings giving writers a wide range of copy opportunities to build off of the shape.

Multi-channel Tactics for Your Next B2B Campaign


Whether you’ve been testing multi-channel marketing or are onto your 50th project, you always want to generate the highest responses you can get. If you’re considering including outbound tele-marketing to confirm data accuracy prior to mailing a printed control, then sampling the data also gives you an opportunity to collect additional data both on the company and the prospect. All new data captured during this phase should be considered as part of the creative criteria when developing segmented mail drops and other contact points.

Another tactic is to parse your data for gender specific mailing drops. This requires manipulating the data for universal count breakdown to determine value of prospects by gender. The creative development portion should include variations of the print (and all derivatives) to include theme, color, illustrations and if possible, physical shape.

Here’s why.
Everybody responds to images that are familiar and it’s easier to imbed your message when the prospect likes what they see and have opened up paths to their frontal cortexes to you. I know, that really sounds insidious, but essentially, if your message does not get there, then you’re not getting the R.O.I. you deserve.
Continue reading

4 Proven Ways to Improve your Marketing ROI


Learn how to wield data
The days of static messages being mass mailed to untested lists are rapidly coming to a close. The mass communications theories of the 60’s are being replaced with the personalization technology of the 21st Century. Savvy marketers are enjoying the benefits of parsing data to version messages and illustrative materials for these segmented prospects. This clever tactic insures that the right person now gets the best pitch with the right offers, in a specific time whether in print or on-line. It requires that data is collected, cleaned, massaged and deployed.
Continue reading

Print’s Dirty Little Secret


Every week it seems that we’re bombarded with the doom and gloom of the printing industry. Yesterday’s merges and buyouts are today’s plant closings and restructuring. Not a day goes by were I’m not assaulted by the news that ad pages are down and newspapers and magazine’s are closing.

The masters of this industry, Kodak, Xerox, International Papers and the huge printing concerns throughout the northern hemisphere (RRD and Quad) are imploding. Sales for their products have plummeted and the paper they hold is crushing them.

Oh, blame the internet for making it easier to do get your news, email a client and generally do business more cost-effectively. After all, the internet created a VistaPrint and all the little knock offs. Blame the recent oil speculators for raising the price of ink and transportation a few sheckles. Hell, blame the clients for not throwing their money into another poor response marketing program.
Continue reading