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.”

Join the Debate: What Would You Do in This Situation?


What would you do in this scenario? A client moves all of its printing to China and you lose all of your work from the company. Several years later, a young “sourcing analyst” contacts you and asks for a quote on an item you haven’t printed for them since 2013. You provide a fair price, which is only $23 more than you priced it three years ago, and he responds that if you can come in under that, you’ll get the job. Other than having steam come out your ears, what would you do?

This is a real-life scenario posted by one print shop owner on an industry discussion board. It sparked a firestorm of responses ranging from “just take the job” to “tell him to go jump in a lake.” Here are a choice few of the responses. What would you do? Let’s hear what you think!

Response initially written by the author of the question as a joke (and not sent):

“Listen, Junior, you’re being paid by your company to get value from your vendors, not the cheapest price. If your firm really wants you to spend your time sourcing a new vendor in order to save $23.74, quit now. If you’re simply doing this because this is the way you think the world works, go to work in the public sector.”

Suggested responses from the board:

“I’m through getting squeezed. I tell people that I add too much value to take a pay cut when they might consider giving me a raise if they examined closely what I actually do for them.”

“If you think there is potentially more business there, bend over backwards. Otherwise, politely decline.”

“The scenario described indicates that it wouldn’t end there. I remember a meeting with a client who surprised me by introducing me to a competitor. He told us that one of us was going to wind up with the order by the end of the meeting and let the haggling begin. I stood up and congratulated my competitor for having won the order. This young ‘sourcing analyst’ is not interested in a meaningful relationship.”

“Take the order and be grateful that he called. Be sure the payment is coming from the USA, by credit card or in advance. You have no relationship with this buyer and you do not know if his culture accepts flea market haggling. This all assumes that you have enough profit in the job to comply with his demands. Don’t take this [too] seriously. Joke with him, disarm him, and have fun with it.”

“Say, ‘Okay, here’s what I am willing to do. I will meet your request with the understanding you give me all the business our company can do for you. We will provide a fair estimate. Better yet, we will provide new ideas. You let us have other opportunities on things we were not doing prior. If so, you got a deal. I will need that in writing. I will even take you out to lunch at Subway.'”

“He has actually spent more than the $23 communicating with you in the first place. A smart sourcing analyst would simply place the order and work with you on the larger projects where he can add value and provide you, the supplier, with greater opportunities.”

“I would recommend taking the order, especially being an exact repeat with minimal work required. Give him the price he wants (I assume you are still making some decent margin?). Work to build the relationship—it can be done. Being an out of the USA customer, I would want confirmation of payment as well.”

“If it were me, I would charge him an extra 50%. I like to call it a ‘desertion fee’ (although I don’t actually tell the customer [that]; I’m very nice about it and simply advise him the pricing has increased due to one reason or the other). . . Who among us has not had a customer desert us, and then come back? I am serious when I say that my position is they were ingrates when they left, no matter what reason they give. My customers cannot find a better advocate than I am (that may sound like arrogance, but I say it’s the truth). So, if that’s the case, I am not letting them back in without a penalty. I have done this numerous times, and to some of my biggest clients. They deserved it, and took their punishment.”

“I happen to love your response, and it honestly, I would just soften it up a bit and send it! Your point about taking the time to find a vendor that your company has never used before for this is dead on. They will spend more then the $23.00 in artwork fees to set [it] up! Oh… and when I say soften it up a bit, just remove the word ‘Junior.’”

“I agree it is well said. Just take the emotion/Junior out of it.”

It was interesting to see some people saying to send the original response, but softened a bit, while others said no, no! Don’t hit the send button! This reflects just how differently different people in management roles see situations like this.

So . . . what would YOU do?

Want More Business? Create a New Market!


Need more business? Help your client create a new market. That’s what The Standard Group (Reading and Lancaster, PA) did in partnering with Fig magazine.

Fig Lancaster is part city directory, part high-end magazine, and part local community. The publication uses high-end photography and design to promote businesses in the Lancaster, PA, area. It was started by a traditional agency, formerly Moxie House but now called Fig Industries, and has been so successful that it has been turned it into a full-scale business model.

The goal of Fig Lancaster is to build up the Lancaster area as a center for design, food, and culture. The local publication, supported by social media marketing and events, contains high-quality editorial content promoting the businesses, culture, and history of Lancaster. It is supported by outstanding design and photography and largely paid for  by advertising.

It is 8 ½ x 8, usually perfect bound, and printed on uncoated stock.

The FigThe business model has been so successful that Fig magazine has now been expanded to West Chester, Kennett Square, and Bethlehem PA, as well as Columbia, SC.

“This is a traditional agency who created their own publication and they are selling ads and building a community around it,” says Thanh Nguyen, CMO of The Standard Group. “It’s a business model they created for themselves.”

Fig Lancaster magazine, which is printed by The Standard Group, recently won a Benny. “In this digital environment, it’s the reinvention of a traditional print business model which we are most proud of,” says Nguyen. “They are promoting Lancaster as the place to be. If you’re a business within the city, you have to be part of Fig magazine.”

The Standard Group is also working with another client on a fresh, quarterly niche publication as part of its business model—and it’s another tremendous success.

It’s just another great example of not waiting for business to come to you. If you want more business, go out and create a new demand, then fill it!

Do You Know What’s Happening in the C-Suite?


As printers increasingly transition into marketing services providers, it’s critical to understand what is happening in the C-Suite, or the senior executives within a company. Specifically for our industry, we are interested in the marketing and business development executives. To this end, IBM’s “Redefining Markets: Insights from the C-Suite Study,” provides a mother load.

The growth in the number of studies of marketing strategy and perspective is interesting. It used to be that we tracked technology adoption. Then we tracked channels, which determined the technologies to use. Now, we are tracking behavior, which determines the selection, timing, and integration of channels.

It just makes sense, and it’s about time that we got here. Understanding customer motivation and behavior is the foundation on which everything else is built.

One of the reasons that this understanding has become so important is that traditional dividing lines between, well, everything are disappearing. The “Redefining Markets” report calls it “barrier breach.” Here are the percentage of CMOs who see the following barriers being breached:

  • Industry convergence (67%)
  • Redistribution of customer purchasing power (49%)
  • The “anywhere” workplace (48%)

What this means is that your customers cannot package their industry mailings into neat market verticals anymore. Nor can they assume they will reach their target audience by saturating an office building. The most relevant target may not even be on site. This is driving more personalization, more mobile marketing, and more psychographic targeting.

The good news is that they need YOU more than ever before, and capitalizing on this means investing in more brainpower on site and in strategic relationships to help them get there. It also means investing in the right vendor partnerships to support the directions that you are taking your customers.

So invest in the right technologies, the right software, but also the right relationships. Brainpower is as important these days as press power.

To download “Redefining Markets,” click here.


Stasis in Direct Mail Formats . . . An Opportunity?


Mintel Comperemedia, which aggregates and analyzes direct mail data from around the industry, recently did an assessment of direct mail over a three-year period.  It looked at estimated mail volume, use of digital response mechanisms, and spend across nine sectors.

The report, titled “Trends in Direct Mail and Digital Integration,” has one overarching theme—stasis. Considering the rapid change in the marketing environment, I find this curious. I also wonder if this is an untapped opportunity for MSPs.

“From Q4 2012 to present, there have been few noticeable changes in direct mail volumes, spend, or mail type used across sectors,” the report notes. “Most sectors have experienced steady growth or have remained stagnant.” The exceptions are mortgage and loans, which has shown the most growth, and the insurance and credit card sectors, where there has been a steady fluctuation.

Direct Mail FormatsThe next few charts are, frankly, not very interesting. “Direct Mail Volumes by Sector” looks like a set of nine fairly parallel lines (one for each sector). “Direct Mail Spend” looks about the same.

But what surprised me was that this trend persisted even among direct mail type. In “Direct Mail Used Across Sectors” (above), each sector showed its own breakdown of self-mailer, postcard, letter + envelope, catalog, and other, but within each sector, that mix hasn’t changed much either.

The question is why? Three years is a long time in the marketing world. Technology is changing. Consumer expectations are changing. How consumers interact with each marketing channel is changing. I’m all for direct mail spending and volumes remaining steady, but why isn’t the direct mail type mix changing? There are two possibilities.

  1. Consumers really aren’t changing and this mix continues to be the right mix.
  2. Marketers aren’t testing their direct mail mix and are assuming that the mix they have used in the past is still the right mix today, even if it’s not.

As an MSP, this presents a tremendous opportunity to ask questions. What is your direct mail mix right now? When was the last time you did some testing to find out which formats were working best for you? If it’s been awhile, what might be gained by doing some testing to optimize that mix for the current marketing environment?

Use this chart as a springboard. It’s an excuse for a phone call and an excuse to start asking questions—and offering solutions.

Wait! Before You Launch That Print Newsletter . . .


As more and more printers invest in content marketing, I’d like to stop for a moment and ask, “What are you trying to accomplish?” Before you launch that fall marketing campaign (which should be in the works now), it’s important to know who you are, who your target audience is, and what you are trying to communicate. These things seem so simple, and yet, they often get lost.

As we kick off the summer, things will slow down. This is a great time to re-evaluate your strategies for the upcoming year.

Based on the conversations I’m having lately, this is something that is starting to rumble around in printers’ minds. An increasing number of printers seem to be investing in, or thinking about investing in, new or revived print newsletters in the fall. This can be done in-house. It can be licensed from a third party. Or you can ask someone like me to manage the process for you. Whichever you choose, it’s critical to put serious thought into what those newsletters are intended to accomplish, who they are targeting, and what kind of content you want to produce.

Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • How many pages should the newsletter be? Six pages? Eight pages? Or do I need to go a full 16 pages to get maximum effect? I’ve talked to companies doing all three, and the page count is different depending on their intended target audience.
  • What is the focus going to be? Do I want to really focus on growing my print business, with articles on direct mail, packaging, and marketing collateral? Or do I want to appear more channel-neutral, focusing on general marketing content instead? Should I be doing a mix of both?
  • If it’s marketing-focused rather than print-focused, how do I differentiate my content from what readers can get elsewhere? What’s the value of having it in my print newsletter rather than their inbox? How do I plan to differentiate?
  • Do I need to provide content that focuses on my company’s perspective and capabilities? Or is curating the best general marketing content, regardless of channel, the right way to go?
  • Will I create one version of the newsletter or will I create different versions for different market verticals I want to pursue? If I want to segment, what percent of the content (if any) will be common across all versions?
  • Where will the content come from? Developing articles unique to your company is always going to be a great option, but paying for custom-written articles is more costly than using third-party content. It can also be challenging to keep everyone on track responsible for helping to provide or help develop the content (company owner, director of marketing, CMO, salespeople). There are options for curating third-party content, but even if you’re curating, someone still needs to manage the process.
  • What is the right mix of images, text, and graphics? Increasingly, I am being asked to provide articles that are less text heavy and that have the content arranged in bullet points and numbered lists. I’m also being asked for more data to be used in graphics and infographics style pages.
  • Are you going to use some of your pages for promotional content, such as monthly offers and specials? Or will you keep the content strictly educational?
  • Will you use the opportunity to show (not tell) about new technologies such as augmented reality by incorporating that content into the piece? If so, how much time do you want to invest in that portion of the newsletter?
  • Will there be other channels supporting the newsletter effort, such as email, social media, and mobile? If so, which channels will you use and how will you integrate them?
  • What will be the delivery frequency?
  • How much content do I already have in-house? Do I have case studies? In-house data? Blog articles that can be repurposed?  Are there third-party sources I can pull from? Or does everything need to be created from scratch?

A few years ago, I saw a lot of printers make significant investments in content marketing, but without a lot of thought as to how those programs would be sustained. Over time, I watched those programs get shelved. But now, with content marketing becoming such a critical component of the overall mix, I’m seeing those programs getting pulled off the shelf again.

I’m glad to see printers re-investing in content marketing programs, but if those programs aren’t critically evaluated before being re-launched, they promise to suffer from the same fate as they did before. So think carefully through the issues first. Make sure the content reflects the image you want, that it is properly geared to the target audience you want to recruit, and that it’s fully supported within your organization so that it is sustainable over time.


How This Direct Mailer Almost Got It Right


Yesterday, my husband teased me that I’d gotten a direct mailer from the Baltimore County Department of Aging. Not him — just me. Okay, the years are creeping by, but I’m not close to retirement age yet.  Plus, we don’t even live in Baltimore County. When we officially get “old,” we’ll be creeping our walkers up to the Harford County office.

This morning, however, my husband showed me the real reason behind keeping the mail piece.  It was to show off yet another bone-headed attempt at marketing. The front of the mail piece was completely forgettable — the kind of piece that goes into the recycling without a thought. One of millions of bulk mail pieces delivered that day.

IMG_7675But wait! The back was printed in bright green and blue with a big 10k graphic. There was advertising for a 5k run/walk a 1 mile walk, both fundraisers, and other information on how this event would benefit BCDA programs for seniors.

We are trail racers, and we do a lot of fundraising events, so now everything made sense. This likely went to anyone in Baltimore or Harford counties who had registered for one or more of the many trail races run in this area of Maryland every year.

But all of the information relevant to me was on the back of the mailer where, thanks to extremely poor design, it almost didn’t get seen. Had there not been some precipitating event that caused my husband to turn this piece over (it fell on the floor? He accidentally flipped it over when reaching for something else?), it would have.

IMG_7674The Department of Aging almost got it right. We were the right audience, but the extremely poor design of the mailer itself almost caused the good list selection to be for naught. Marketing had the foresight to get the right list, but it did not think critically enough about the design of the piece itself.

If you had been the print and mail house, what would you have done? At the last minute, suggesting that they completely redesign the piece probably would have gone nowhere. But what about suggesting that they add bright blue teaser copy on the front? There was certainly plenty of space.Something like, “Fundraiser 5k and 1-mile fun run!” would have sufficient.

This also would have been a great opportunity to split the mailing — half with the original design and half with the teaser copy — to see which version produced the best results.

This is yet another reason to encourage your customers to let you get involved in the campaign planning upfront. Even if they aren’t willing to do that — yet — perhaps you could encourage them to add you to their mailing lists so you can see the final mailed pieces. Something like this could be taken back to the client for a sit down meeting on what went wrong and a consultation on how you could have helped.

What was the last direct mail fail that came across your desk? Share a story!

Ouch! Insights from your customers at the local level


Borrell is working on its annual SMB Marketing Survey again, and early results are in. They are fascinating, and since SMBs make up a high percentage of Digital Nirvana readers’ customer bases, I wanted to share some of them with you.

The survey was launched in April and wraps up June 30, so these are early results. Currently, Borrell has 207 markets participating, with a goal of 10,000 responses.

Here’s what’s trending:

Cut, cut, cut! Overall, early results show that 20% of advertisers say they plan to cut local advertising this year. Forty-one percent plan to make cuts in Yellow Pages ads. Plans to cut TV spending can be as low as 19% in some markets and as high as 42% in others.

Gimme Facebook! In the first few weeks of the survey Borrell says, 59% of respondents said they were buying Facebook ads. As of today, that is up to 63%. This is twice what it was one year ago. Not only this, but one in three respondents says they are completely satisfied with the results (watch the video).

Know what you are talking about.  If you’re going to sell something (such as multichannel marketing and mobile marketing services), know the material. Know the customers’ business, too. Too many companies try to cut corners by giving the same stump speech to everyone. As Borrell’s survey shows, they notice.

Here is a sampling of some of the comments coming from respondents. For more, click here.

  • “Know you stuff! Please do not sell digital/mobile products that you do not know inside and out.”
  • “Learn about (my) business before reaching out to me.”
  • “Do your research BEFORE you call us! I don’t have time to explain the dental industry or our small town to you.”

The industry is changing rapidly, but you can’t fake knowledge. As printers are surrounded and propelled forward by change, it’s tempting to cut corners, but SMBs know the difference between knowing it and faking it.

If you aren’t already, it’s time to start making the same investment in brain power as press power.

For more on the survey, click here.

Kahanec: Inkjet Changes Everything


As we near drupa 2016, I had an opportunity to interview Cheryl Kahanec, Earth Color’s EVP Digital, about what she was looking forward to most. Her answer was unequivocal: high-speed inkjet. Why? Not just because drupa offers the opportunity to see so much technology in action, but because it provides an opportunity to take a holistic view of the workflow surrounding high-speed inkjet, which Kahanec says will change everything.

Sure, inkjet presses bring the much anticipated speed, but Kahanec says that with those volumes come changes in the roles and responsibilities between the agency, the data team, the printer, and creative team. Drupa gives printers the opportunity to learn more about exactly how it will change the entire workflow and what everyone’s new roles will be.

Here is an excerpt from that interview revolving around how those roles will change and why.

Heidi TW: What are some of the fundamental changes you see occurring with high-speed inkjet?

Kahanec: When personalizing using toner-based devices, most of us are used to dealing with tens of thousands of personalized pieces. With high-speed inkjet, we are looking at pieces in the millions. Whether it’s a brand new file or components of the file, every image is a brand new image. Printing five million unique pages is totally different than imaging five million of single page. At drupa, we will get to explore just how that will affect the workflow and everyone alone the process.

Heidi TW: Can you explain?

Kahanec: If you create a workflow diagram of a generic direct mail piece, it’s a uniform cycle. You still come up with a strategy, lay out the message, including any versions, determine who your target audience(s) will be, and send it out for production and mailing. With a dynamic program, however, you are now looking at multiple, dozens, or even hundreds of base messages, each layered with personalization that speaks to that person individually. You may want the people who have already purchased from us to get message one, but perhaps women respond differently than men, so you want to talk to men and women separately. Messaging may be age-based too. You may want to refine the targeting with different messages for each age group, as well as gender. If there are other relevant variables, you can continue to refine the message even further.

Heidi TW: How does this change relationship between the printer and client?

Kahanec: With this level of targeting, we are asking whole new sets of questions. If you want to talk to women differently than men, do you have a gender indicator in your data? If not, how could we do that? Do we need to ask a data company to genderize the list? How many images do we have? Do we pull from the database? Is it based on gender? What have the targeted recipients previously purchased? Are those images coming from a different database? Is that database somewhere else within the company? How are you going to track recipients’ response or nonresponse? Now we’re not just managing the data for mailing. We’re managing data coming out of the campaign to help refine future programs. This puts the relationship with the client at the beginning of the conversation rather than at the end. We need to be part of the strategic group that is designing the process from the beginning.

Heidi TW: What else changes?

Kahanec: Proofing! Let’s say you have 732 images. The creative team is used to seeing all of the images used in a campaign. But with this many images in use, they might be able to see them on screen (if they have that kind of time), but they aren’t going to see every page or layout. Instead, teams will get a data layout, which shows that the logic that changes the image works. They will see the business logic rules. They will see that each person got what they were supposed to get in that page. This is what will be proofed, not hard copies of each individual layout. That will that happen electronically. When does your team see the physical proof? When you open the mailbox. Your live proof will be in the mail.

High-speed inkjet opens a world of new possibilities, and it requires a completely different process that affects everyone along the chain. We’re doing to learn about more details at drupa. Not just the workflow and the production process, but the integration and how to tie all of these things together. We are going to learn more about how we, as the printer, fit into that process and what everyone’s new roles and responsibilities will be.

What changes do you see occurring with high-speed inkjet? How do you anticipate it impacting the printer’s relationship with the client?


Must Have Data for Multichannel Marketing


If you are doing multichannel marketing and haven’t seen Neilsen’s new report “Comparable Metrics: Q4 2015,” just released yesterday, then you need to download a copy.

The report includes a wide variety of digital media, including TV, radio, TV connected devices, and PCs. But what strikes me most in this report is the data on mobile. We tend to talk about mobile marketing as a single channel, as if all mobile marketing is the same. But this data shows a very different story.

  • Blacks and Hispanics watch mobile phone video nearly twice as much as the overall population (.30 hours and .33 hours, respectively, compared to .18 for the population overall).
  • Adults 18+ spent nearly nearly twice as much time overall on their phones as they did on tablets, but when it comes to watching mobile video, adults were watching twice as much video (82 minutes per week) on their tablets compared to their phones (44 minutes per week).
  • For social networking, smartphones came out on top. Adults 18+ were twice as likely to be doing social networking on their phones as on their tablets (238 minutes per week compared to 133 minutes per week).
  • Among adults 18-34, overall tablet use goes down, but time spent watching video goes up to 103 minutes per week.
  • Adults 50+ are the most likely to be using tablets every day. Those in the 50+ age bracket use smartphones 5.6 days per week, and they use tablets 5.2 days per week — the highest of any age bracket.

The interesting nuggets continue, and the point is that the mobile market is diverse. It is diverse in who is using which mobile devices, how they are using them, and how much time they spend doing it. This has significant consequences on how you develop the mobile portions of your multichannel campaigns and whether you develop unique content for different devices.

Mobile is getting more complicated. Is your expertise keeping pace?

QR Codes: Do This, Not That!


When do I see QR Codes more and more these days? On plants, flowers, and seeds. It’s a perfect use for QR Codes, and if you’re printing packaging or collateral for suppliers of gardening products and they are not currently using QR Codes, perhaps it’s something you should suggest.

HOWEVER, these QR Codes have to go somewhere useful. Otherwise, your clients should not bother to add them at all.

Seeds 1This weekend, we pulled out the spring seeds and had a garden planting day. My husband had brought home a mixed pepper variety, along with some herbs I’ve never planted before. I immediately had questions. When should these seeds go in the ground? Are they direct sow or do they need to be started indoors? If they are started indoors, how soon before outdoor planting? I was pleased to see that all of the packets had QR Codes on them. Information to the rescue!

On planting pot #1, the QR Code was not useful to me at all. The code took me to the grower’s website where I could search and find all of their related products. That’s not a bad use of QR Codes, but that’s not what I was looking for. Maybe if I had been in shopping mode, but not in planting mode. On the seed packet, however, the QR Code immediately took me to a mobile page on growing peppers. Perfect! I got the information I needed, and next time I buy seeds, guess which brand I will buy?

Seeds 3There is nothing magical about QR Codes and how to use them well.

  • Place them where they will be easily seen.
  • Anticipate what information the person scanning the product will be looking for.
  • Create a mobile page with that information on it, so when the person scans the code, they get what they are looking for.

Would someone scan a QR Code to find out what other products are for sale by the same company? Yes, and it’s not a terrible content to put on the back end. But taking into consideration the product and the customer base, and the most likely times when the QR Code would be used, the grower should have had product information and growing information. Because they didn’t, and because another manufacturer did, they lost a long-term customer to a competitor who knows how to use QR Codes better than they did.

Are you going to let your clients make the same mistake?