Author Archives: Heidi Tolliver-Walker

About Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

Loctite’s Smart Use of QR Code to Mobile Video


I’m a Gorilla Glue girl. For all my household and furniture restoration projects, I’ve always used it. But this time, I wanted to glue metal to wood. Was it really the best — still — after all these years? I started turning over super glue packaging to see if I could find. What I found was a QR Code, so I scanned it.

locktite-videoI was taken to a mobile video. The very first image I saw, before even loading the video, was a picture of a man holding a blue bowling ball up in the air by an orange piece of rubber tubing. Best intro to a video ever, and there was no way I wasn’t going to watch it.

The video was short, but perfect for the intended use. A simple 30-second demonstration of the capabilities of the glue, both its strength and its weather-resistance. It wasn’t fancy. A guy standing behind a table, giving a demostration, in front of a decent video camera and good lighting, and it worked.

The data on mobile video shows its astronomical growth and power as a selling and conversion tool. The reasons are simple. It’s entertaining, but video also allows people to absorb a lot of information in a short period of time. There is a reason people say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is worth ten thousand words.

Here are some stats on the power of video from HubSpot:

  • Video in an email increases click-through rate from 200%-300%.
  • Video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%.
  • After watching a video, consumers are 64% more like to purchase a product online.
  • 50% of executives look for more product information after seeing a product/service in a video.
  • 65% of executives visit the marketer’s website and 39% call a vendor after viewing a video.

Although these stats relate to online video, it applies to video on packaging, too.  If your customers are going to add QR Codes to packaging, this is a great model to follow.

Is It Time to Teach Customers About Offset?


I read a blog post the other day that made me feel really old.  It was from an MSP seeking to educate its customers and prospects about . . . offset.

As a former editor-in-chief of Printing News “back in the day” (the early 1990s), this was kind of shocking to the senses.

The first issue of Printing News I produced had a cover shot of two Indigo presses being hoisted to an upper story of a building in Manhattan. (This was back when the reliability of these presses was such that you had to buy them in pairs in case one of them went down.)

Since then, we covered the improvement in reliability. (Great news! You can buy digital presses one at a time now!) We covered the quality. (Dang! Customers can still tell the difference even without a loupe!) We covered the production cost — $.25 per printed sheet would surely never let these presses go mainstream, would it? We covered the resistance of designers to the process despite its benefits. (Personalized print? What’s that?)

There was tons of data to be had. Percent of designers who had used digital printing. Percent of printers offering digital printing. Percent of printers doing personalization beyond name and address. Any data point was headline news.  What percentage of the offset market digital printing would ultimately cannibalize was a perennial question that nobody got tired of asking.

I wrote a lot of articles about how to educate your customers the ins and outs of digital production. Why the higher cost was justified with better ROI. When and where the difference in quality from offset mattered and when it didn’t. Where designers had to be careful (vignettes, dark solid colors) or things would get messy. Everyone needed lots and lots of education.

To read a blog post written from the perspective that digital, not offset, is now the default printing process and that customers needed to learn more about offset was like watching the last episode of a long-running series.  The mystery is solved. Now that we know the answer, we almost forget the original question.

For some people, that “old” feeling was the first time a child asked what a vinyl record was. For me, it was this blog post. I guess I’ve been around for longer than I thought.

Time to teach the new dogs old tricks.

Thankful for Innovation — Two Great Examples of Interactive Print


This week, I came across two innovative examples of interactive technologies used in print. Both were in magazines, but the concept can certainly be applied to high-value print products like annual reports, promotional kits, and catalogs, too.

The first example comes from “Allure” magazine, which worked with its creative partner, BlueSoHo, Quad/Graphics’ integrated marketing agency, to incorporate augmented reality (AR) throughout. The experiences can only be unlocked using the Allure Unbound AR app, which enables magazine readers to go to a behind-the scenes view of a fashion show, snap selfies with supermodel Gigi, and shop + share the looks featured in the magazine.

This was more than just an AR implementation. It was a mobile app implementation. By creating an app, this captures the audience, enables the publication to track behavior, and ultimately create a deeper reader engagement than would be possible simply with a non-branded AR app.

allure-magazineGreat news for marketers, who benefit tremendously from the capabilities of mobile apps, is that consumers love them, too. According to Nielsen, mobile apps now account for 89% of mobile media time. Garnter now forecasts that, by the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least 5x faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.

empire-coverThe other example is a video screen embedded into the front cover of a special edition “Empire” magazine. The cover of the special edition, printed in only 5,000 copies, uses headlines, “Wanted” poster images, and throwback fonts to create the feel of a 1920s newspaper, all promoting elements of the new movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” In the center of the cover is an embedded video screen that, when the button is pressed, plays a full-length trailer of the movie. The magazine also includes a port that enables the view to recharge the screen so it can be viewed again and again.

While these examples are great fun, they aren’t unique. (For example, Chevy recently embedded video screens in its print ads in Esquire and Popular Mechanics.) That’s where the best news lies — interactive print is going mainstream, and these are just some of the more recent examples.

Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving to the wonderful Digital Nirvana community.

Insights into Enterprises’ Demand Gen Efforts (Study)


For the past three years, Annuitas has released its Enterprise B2B Demand Generation Study, which seeks to document the strategies, objectives, and goals of marketers working in enterprise organizations with revenues of $250 million and above. Here are some key takeaways for printers and MSPs serving (or looking to serve) this marketplace:

  • Marketers continue to struggle with the effectiveness of their demand generation efforts. Only 17% report that they are “very effective” in reaching their primary goals. Seventy percent report moderate effectiveness.
  • Annuitas did, however, see a 9% increase in the number of enterprises that state that they are being more successful with their demand generation. In part, this is because they are taking a more holistic look at their buyers.
  • This year, Annuitas saw an 11% increase in companies that use buyer personas a standard part of their demand generation program. “This continuing upward trend (22% increase since 2014) shows that organizations are becoming more buyer-centric in their approach to demand generation,” notes the report.
  • One of the reasons that enterprises are struggling is the lack of commitment to building and documenting a content marketing strategy. Annuitas’ benchmark study found that only two-thirds currently have a formal plan in place, although this is an increase of 15% from last year.
  • More than half of enterprise organizations are conducting 15 campaigns per year. This indicates that their demand generation departments are taking a tactical (one and done) approach rather than a strategic “always on” approach that is more effective. “Buyers want to have an ongoing conversation throughout the sales process,” Annuitas notes. “An ‘always on’ approach . . . that is optimized over time will yield better results.”
  • Indeed, the lack of documented strategy, combined with the majority of enterprise marketers (55%) increasing their spend on content marketing, may lead to poor results from their content marketing investments.

The top goals of enterprises’ demand gen campaigns?

  • Quality of leads         92%
  • Customer Cross-sell/upsell 62%
  • Volume of leads         61%
  • Brand awareness      48%
  • Customer retention  33%

Click here to download a copy of the study.

2016 Enterprise B2B Demand Generation Study


Things to Watch for When Evaluating Digital Press Contracts (Part 2)


Last week, I posted the first half of a checklist of things that, based on their experiences, print shops have noted to watch for when evaluating contracts for a new digital press. This is not to suggest that these “hidden” issues are rampant among digital press vendors. Only that they can pop up here and there. This list comes from the personal experiences of these printers, some of whom are outside the United States. This list was taken from an online discussion group, and this week, I’ll post the rest of the list. As last time, names have been removed from the quotes to protect the writer’s privacy.

6. FTR cost.

“If you own your machine and want to sell it [at some point], you have to find a buyer within your service area; otherwise there will be a hefty FTR cost.”

7. Service contacts and actual service standards.

“Digital presses can have all the bells and whistles, but if you do not get the service that these machines need, they become irrelevant. Investigate the service standards in your area.”

8. Contract rollovers.

Watch to see whether your contract rolls overs before the end of your lease or service contract.

“Some vendors will lock you into a full year of additional costs if you haven’t [contacted them in writing]. If you decide to go to another supplier, you may be hit with one year of costs. Always put [your termination of contract in writing] at least 90 days before the contract actually ends.’’

One printer noted that, in his area, some vendors write into their contracts that they reserve the right to charge up to 40% of their expected service income if the printer decides to seek an alternative supplier before the end of the service contract.

“If your current provider is presenting you with such a clause, ask for it to be removed, unless you are happy to pay charges for service you didn’t have, on volumes you didn’t produce to a supplier you are trying to leave.”

These are the experiences of these printers, and their experience may not be yours. Nor do these experiences reflect the contracts of every vendor.

What do you think? Do you have any words of wisdom to add?

Things to Watch for When Evaluating Digital Press Contracts (Part 1)


Looking to invest in a new digital press? Wondering what to watch out for when evaluating the contracts of potential vendors? Here is a checklist from printers who have made this investment based on their personal experiences. This is not to suggest that these “hidden” issues are rampant among digital press vendors. Only that they can pop up here and there.

These comments were taken from an online discussion group. To protect the members’ privacy, their names have been removed from the quotes.

1. Color clicks vs. full-color clicks.

Some devices are capable of “clicking” the meter for every printed, which can make your full-color costs higher than expected.

“If this is part of an MPS contract where you are given an inclusive volume of prints, then your excess costs will be enormous as the items you thought to be one click will actually be four. Always ensure that your service or MPS contract states the color charges as full-color only.”

2. Terms like “duty cycle” and “rated volume.”

These often mean that the press is intended to run for the rated period of time.

“Penalties . . .  often lie on the other side of violating such terms.”

3. Inclusive volumes that are A4 only.

“Some current service contracts show a “minimum bill” that includes a number of full-color images. I have seen several cases where the customer believes that the inclusive volume is A3/SRA3 only to be invoiced for the additional cost because it was actually accounting for A4 prints. Always ensure in writing that your service provider states whether inclusive volumes are A4 or A3/SRA3.”

4. Annual increases in click cost.

“Having run a digital press for many years, they never really spell out or explain how they increase your click cost each year along with the Fiery RIP cost. Over a five-year period, this can virtually double your cost per print.”

Another member noted, however, that he has not seen increases in click costs for his machines unless they were getting near end of life. In fact, he has actually seen some reductions based on increases in volumes and advances in technology.

5. Volume plans that don’t match your actual volumes.

“These can be [a waste of money] also, because if you don’t hit the agreed upon volume, you get nothing credited back but have paid for it upfront.

Check out my post next week for the rest of the list.

Direct Marketing Snapshot by Market Vertical


What’s happening in the world of direct mail and email in the key market sectors? According to the Direct Marketing Snapshot (August 2016) from Mintel Comperemedia, things are looking very stable. But clearly, some market verticals are faring better than others.

Between May 2015 – August 2016, direct mail volumes (acquisition and customer mail, excluding statements) showed significant variation by market sector. Year over year, the highest increases by volume were in banking (+43%), credit cards (+28%), and retail (+23%). There were also solid gains in travel (+19%), telco (+18%), and investing (+22%).

Who’s using what mail type? Biggest users of self-mailers are retail, auto, and banking. Biggest users of letters + envelopes are cards, insurance, M&L, and telco.

Biggest users of catalogs? No surprise—retail, auto, and banking.

Want to know the top spenders?

  • Auto—Nissan
  • Banking—Chase
  • Credit Cards — Chase
  • Insurance—Geico
  • Investment—Fisher Investments
  • M&L—SoFi
  • Telco—Dish
  • Tobacco—US Smokeless Tobacco
  • Travel/Leisure—NCL Corp Ltd.
  • Retail—Dell

How about email? The top market vertical sending email in August was insurance (21% of all emails sent), followed by auto (20%). While sending the highest overall percentage of emails, insurance had the third highest read rate (17%). Its read rate was bested by financial services with a 27% read rate, followed by telco, with 19%.

For more info on the report, click here.

It takes more than data to be personal


This morning, I was scanning my email and saw one of those “personalized” subject lines that drives me crazy: “A seat has been reserved for Heidi Tolliver-Walker.” Come on, nobody actually speaks that way. We all know that a robot wrote that. Even though they used my name, it didn’t feel personal. It felt condescending. Did they think I wouldn’t notice?

Whether it’s a postcard, sales letter, or email subject line, personalization takes more than data. It takes more than customer personas and profiles and algorithms. It has to sound human.

I recall a conversation I had with Kate Dunn years ago. We talked about this humanness as being one of the hidden challenges of variable data. The example she gave is buying a mailing list of alumni from a specific university and the degrees they hold. You can’t just dump that into a marketing piece, she said, or you’ll end up with “Hey, John! Since getting your BHist at The Pennsylvania University, you’re experiencing great success!” Someone has to go through that list and translate that into natural language. “Hey, John! Since getting your Bachelor’s in history from Penn State . . . ”

That was several years ago, but nothing has changed. Except that data-driven marketing has become so common that it’s easier than ever to spot the robot writers.

In order for personalization in marketing to feel personal, it has to feel like a real person wrote it. It has to speak to the recipient in natural language about their issues and problems in a relatable way. That’s not just for direct mail and postcards. It goes for the subject lines of emails, too.

How are you making sure that your data-driven marketing sounds personal?

This QR Code Mistake Could Have Been Easily Avoided


Many of the arguments against using QR Codes to drive consumers from print to mobile have nothing to do with the QR Codes themselves. They have to do with the unnecessary mistakes on the part of those employing them. These mistakes are easily avoided, so whether you are adding QR Codes to direct mail, marketing collateral, in-store signage, or any other location, take a lesson from the Pennsylvania Wildlife Management Unit.

hunting-codeThis was a great idea. This poster was placed at the base of the Mt. Nittany hiking trail, which is visited by thousands of hikers every year. This area is also open to hunting during limited times of the year. Placing this sign at this strategic location was a great idea.

The challenge is that the poster was placed there last hunting season. This shouldn’t necessarily be a problem—the code simply points to a page on a website, and if that page is updated, the code will take the person to the updated page—but in this case, when the 2015-2016 hunting season ended, the page was taken down instead of being updated. Consequently, this code takes you nowhere except to a blank page with an “x” in the corner.

The challenge for marketers at large is that such preventable errors affect everyone using QR Codes, not just the PA Wildlife Management Unit. For every code that goes nowhere, it incrementally undermines the confidence of everyone who scans QR Codes at large. If you’re an avid scanner, as I am, you might not be put off by the error. But if you’re a casual scanner, it could create a barrier to future use.

The moral of the story is that whenever possible, use QR Codes to point people to web pages that will be updated, not pages that have a limited shelf life. In doing so, you both benefit your marketing and everyone else’s.

Home Depot Water Test Uses QR Codes Well


After checking out of Home Depot, I walked into a QR Code — almost literally. The big white sign with giant red letters read, “Free Water Test for Home Owners. Watch this video.”

water-testI scanned the QR Code, which led me directly to a short informative video that told me what the water test was, demonstrated how simple it was to do, and provided a short call to action.

The whole presentation was smart.

  • I couldn’t miss the sign.
  • The CTA used the word “video,” which is probably the most powerful channel in marketing right now.
  • The QR Code led directly to the video, which was simple, inexpensive to produce, and well done.
  • The video demonstrated visually how easy the process was.
  • It was short enough to view walking between the sign and my car, giving me time to turn around and grab a test before I drove away (if I hadn’t already).

This campaign wasn’t complicated, and it worked. The only thing I would have added was short explanatory text telling the non-QR Code initiated to scan with a QR Code reader to access the video.

Videos like this cost little to produce, and the QR Code + video combination is something MSPs should become adept at producing and marketing to their customers. They require only good studio lighting, a good script, and a decent video camera. Adding the QR Code is free.

Studies show that people process information visually much faster and retain the information better than they do in text, and the ability to add video not only improves your customers’ engagement with their audience but gives them yet another reason to produce more printed collateral.

With such a low barrier to entry, shouldn’t this be in your bag of tools?