When Is Too Early to Start Holiday Marketing?

Ever wondered why that beautifully printed holiday direct mail piece or creatively designed email blast didn’t work as well as you’d hoped? Was it the messaging? The list? The headline or subject line? Maybe it wasn’t any of these, or you’re just starting too late.

According to ShopKick, consumers are shopping for the holiday season earlier than ever. Nearly one-quarter (22%) say they plan to shop earlier this year than last, with 25% expecting to do most of their shopping before Thanksgiving. Ten percent plan to do their shopping before Halloween.

But this is nothing new. The trend toward increasingly early holiday shopping has been around for a while. In 2020, for example, 59% of holiday shoppers had started making holiday purchases in early November, a 21% increase from one decade ago. Now that trend continues.

With more and more holiday sales coming earlier in the year, you need to get your holiday mailings out earlier, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting your deals and discounts early, but you should start investing in brand building, introducing new products, and beginning to plant ideas in your shoppers’ heads. For example, if you sell children’s toys, start positioning your new game as the must-have toy of the year in October. This way, when Christmas shopping comes, you’re already in shoppers’ minds, long before the frenzied shopping starts.

If you’re used to getting your marketing cranked up later in the year, you might want to start a whole month earlier than usual. Come up with a variety of messaging for each stage of the shopping season, from early brand-building to frantic final days. Build your messaging over time to build anticipation, then excitement, and finally a sense of urgency, so shoppers are afraid to miss out.

Need help? Talk to us about setting a realistic marketing schedule for your holiday promotions. You might need to give yourself more time than you think.

5 Tips to Save Money and Still Get Great Results

What is your best strategy for managing your marketing budget in times of economic uncertainty? Is it to put your mailings on hold until things get better, or is it to get creative and take advantage of existing opportunities?

Our experience is that, even when the economy tightens, businesses get creative with their marketing and still get great results. Here are some easy ways to save money and grow your business simultaneously.

1. Use lighter-weight paper. Paper supplies are fluctuating these days, but if you can find a comparable stock that is lighter in weight, you’ll not only pay less, but you’ll save money on postage, too.

2. Take advantage of USPS postal discounts. Every year, the USPS comes out with an Emerging and Advanced Technology promotion. By incorporating technologies such as QR Codes and augmented reality (AR), the USPS allows you to send mailings for a fraction of the cost of traditional mailings.

3. Use house paper. If you want a specific stock — and only that stock — for a particular campaign, we’ll do everything we can to find it for you. But if a good, all-purpose stock will do, most printers (like us) keep a house stock handy that will be a highly economical choice.

4. Send Every Door Direct Mail. The USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program lets mailers target their mailings by ZIP Code. You mail to addresses only, but you can select ZIP codes by various demographics, such as average household income, percentage of homeowners recipients, and so on. This gives you a targeted mailing at a fraction of the cost of other mailings.

5. Narrow your focus. Instead of mailing to your entire list, try mailing smaller, more targeted runs. Pick a segment that you want to focus on, then develop messaging and offers just for that group. You will mail less but get better results by making that messaging more relevant each time.

Even when times are tough, you can save money and still get great marketing results. Contact us to learn more about each of these options.

Want Healthy Forests? Use More Paper

Would it surprise you to learn that by using forest products (including paper), you are helping to increase the number of trees around us? Improve overall forest health? It’s not something we talk about as much as we should, but the use of paper and paper-based products has a positiveimpact on the environment. Here are three facts about paper and forests that many people don’t know:

1. Using paper-based products preserves our forestland.

More than half (58%) of the forests in the United States are privately owned. Forest products provide landowners with a revenue stream. If they didn’t, those forests would be at risk of being sold for other revenue-producing uses, such as agriculture or development. By using paper, you are protecting forests for future use.

The net forest area in the United States grew by 18 million hectares between 1990 – 2020.

2. Sustainable forestry makes forests healthier.

Many landowners (and nearly all U.S.-based paper mills) practice “sustainable forest management.” This isn’t just letting the trees grow for a while before cutting them down. This is the strategic management of the forest to maintain maximum health. Trees are carefully inspected and harvested on a cycle that promotes healthy forest growth, for example. Different species of trees are cut on a rotating basis, and trees at risk for a disease are culled. Riparian areas (waterways) are protected.

By using paper, you are not only promoting the expansion of our nation’s forests, but you are also encouraging them to be healthier.

3. Paper promotes the protection and support of wildlife.

When forests are sustainably managed, they can be controlled in ways that support different types of wildlife. For example, a forest groomed to promote lush undergrowth will attract more deer and small game. A forest groomed to have more open areas will encourage the growth of certain grasses and bushes that draw different species of birds.

By using paper, you are helping to expand the biodiversity critical to the health of forests and the planet as a whole.

When marketing with print and paper, you are doing more than providing a beautiful product that your customers trust. You are investing in the future of our planet.

3 Tips for Successful Cross-Selling

Who are your best customers? They are the ones you already have. Your existing customers know and value their relationship with your company, so one of the best uses of your marketing budget is to cross-sell products to them. Cross-selling, or selling a different product or service to the same customer, can be highly profitable because it deepens the customer relationship and gives you a host of additional products to upsell the customer over time.

Here are some tips for the best results.

1. Know what they already own (and don’t).

There’s nothing more annoying than shopping online for a new rug, purchasing a rug, and then having ads for rugs continue to pop up in your email and social media feeds for weeks after you’ve already bought one. The same principle holds for direct mail and email marketing. Don’t try to sell your customers products they already have or ancillary products for those they do not. If you track sales history, tap into that. If you don’t, let us help you use data-gathering techniques to learn who your customers are and what products are most relevant to them.

2. Get your timing right.

Knowing your customers also means knowing when they are most likely to make specific purchases. For example, one study in the airline industry found that nearly two-thirds of customers were most likely to purchase ancillary products, such as travel insurance or tour guides, at the time they booked a trip rather than sometime afterward (such as during the check-in process or their stay). This information can be beneficial to travel agents, who can then put the most effort into marketing their ancillary services when travelers are most likely to buy. Know the timing of purchases in your product categories and consider that when crafting your campaigns.

3. Be consistent across channels.

Not every customer likes to make purchases the same way. One might respond to direct mail. Another might react to email or social media commerce. Regardless of channel, ensure that your cross-sell communications are consistent across all of them. You don’t want one cross-sell to appear in their email inbox and another in their mailbox. In terms of the visual imagery, color palettes, and marketing verbiage, maintain a consistent brand image no matter which channel they use. 

Cross-selling is essential for marketers to maximize their marketing budgets and reap the best ROI. Why not let us help you design your next cross-selling campaign?

What’s New in Adobe Creative Cloud 2022?

Want to know what’s new and cool in Adobe Creative Cloud 2022? Who better to ask than a Certified Adobe Design Master and Instructor? Writing in Yes! I’m a Designer; Martin Perhiniak, once voted one of the top 10 Adobe instructors globally, shares his favorite features of Adobe’s latest update.

Photoshop 2022

  • Two new neural filters: Photoshop can take your landscapes and change their color or season with the Landscape Mixer Neural Filter. Take a morning summer desertscape and turn it into a nighttime winter scene. With the Harmonization Neural Filter, you can sync the color values between layers, making it easier to create realistic composites.
  • Object finder feature: Using AI, Photoshop can recognize the most important objects in your images, even on different layers, allowing you to make selections more quickly.
  • Collaborative workspaces: Place all your content across supported Creative Cloud apps in one space, allowing for collaboration with others, whether inside your company or an outside firm.

Illustrator 2022

  • Real-time drawing and editing option: It is easier than ever to use the new 3D and materials panel.
  • Auto-font activation: Adobe Illustrator activates fonts used in the document automatically. What a time saver!
  • Support for HEIF and WebP image files: Now import these files directly into Illustrator.

InDesign 2022

For InDesign, Perhiniak listed a single feature: Capture. Designers can extract fonts, color themes, and shapes from images and save them in your documents using this feature. Captured fonts can be saved and used as character or paragraph styles.

iPad Updates

  • Updates to Photoshop for iPad include camera RAW editing, smart objects, and dodge and burn tools.
  • Updates to Illustrator for iPad include “transform as shape,” blend tool, and image trace with the ability to vectorize.

Haven’t yet updated to Adobe Creative Cloud 2022? What are you waiting for? Infinite creativity awaits!

The Post-COVID Print Bump

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced something many of us already knew—how much we love direct mail. As the world locked down and people spent more time at home, we felt how much we looked forward to what came in the mailbox in a fresh, more personal way. We already loved print. The pandemic just made us appreciate it more.

Now, marketing experts are talking about the benefits of keeping print in the mix. We just can’t do without it. Here are four of those reasons. If you could add another to this list, what would it be? We know you have one!

1. Print is personal. Sure, email is a quick and easy way to communicate, but when something comes in the mail, it just feels different. It feels more personal and expresses value to the person receiving it.

2. Print is credible. Digital marketing in all forms is relatively inexpensive, and recipients know it. There is something about putting a brochure, a physical coupon, or a direct mail piece into their hands. It carries weight. They take it more seriously.

3. All generations love print. We might expect print to be appreciated primarily by older generations who grew up without digital marketing, but the opposite is true. Studies consistently show that Generation Z and Millennials, who grew up in the world of digital media, are highly attracted to print. We might also point to the resurrection of print catalogs, especially during holiday seasons, after retailers saw lagging sales with digital-only marketing.

4. Print keeps your focus. Readers get easily distracted using digital media, losing focus on the message. Whether it’s college students doing their studies, a casual reader at home on the couch, or a recipient reading a piece of targeted direct mail, neuroscience studies reinforce what we instinctively already knew—print holds the attention and promotes recall more than digital media.

Digital media have their place in a well-crafted multichannel marketing campaign, but they don’t replace print. Want results? Keep print in the mix!

The Psychology Behind Personalization

Personalization is everywhere. From grocery store receipts to Amazon recommendations to direct mail pieces that arrive in the mailbox, companies are personalizing their communications to address their customers’ individual needs and habits. But is it vital? If you’ve got a great product, isn’t that enough?

To answer this question, let’s look at the psychology behind personalization.

Personalized communications make your customers feel that you care about them. For example, talking to someone by name takes more time and effort (“Hi, Jane! We have a special offer just for you!”). Not every marketing communication does that, especially in print. The extra effort gets noticed.

Second, if you take the time to gather the recipient’s needs and wants, that gets noticed, too. Irrelevant marketing communications make someone feel like a number. On the other hand, when you communicate information that reflects their interests and needs, what you are saying is, “You are unique.” This makes people feel noticed and valued.

When customers feel noticed and valued, they are more likely to respond. That’s why personalized campaigns get better results. One study, for example, found the following lift for personalized over static mailing campaigns:

  • Lead generation: 6.9%
  • Direct orders: 6.2%
  • Traffic generation: 14.7%

Once you acquire a customer based on personalized communication, if you treat them right, they are more likely to remain a customer over time. This has a significant impact on your profitability, too. Did you know that, on average, a repeat customer is worth 10x more over the life of a business relationship than their initial purchase?

Relationships are worth investing in, and business relationships are no exception. You have to take different steps to personalize your documents than you do for static campaigns, but don’t be intimidated. It doesn’t need to be complicated. We are here to help. Talk to us about going from static marketing communications to making it personal.

Personalized Print: 5 Things to Watch

By personalizing your direct mail pieces, you can increase response rates and cart sizes, too. But if you’re new to personalization, the design process can seem intimidating. Here is a short “to do” list of common oversights to watch for.

1. Use the correct data, not more data. The more data you have on your customers, the better. However, more important is being smart about using the information you have. For example, a new mover’s list can be invaluable, especially for small businesses. People moving into the area will need everything from new doctors to new favorite restaurants. Likewise, if someone is graduating from college, they will likely be looking at buying a car, furnishing an apartment, and upgrading their wardrobes. You don’t need lots of data. You just need the correct data.

2. Go long (and short). When designing layouts for your personalized pieces, remember to consider the longest and shortest fields in your database. When personalizing by name, for example, your layout must accommodate “Bob Smith” as well as “Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausen.” Use rules-based design to enable flexibility.

3. Always have a default. No matter how well you prepare your database, you will always have missing information. You’ll have a first but not last name. You’ll know most people’s alma maters, but not all of them. When one of your records is missing an element, you don’t want to end up with “Dear First Name Here” Set your defaults (such as “Dear Valued Customer”) to appear when a piece of data is missing.

4. Tidy up! Keep your database clean and updated. Regularly run postal address updates, remove duplicates, and clean up inconsistencies (for example, some fields may use “Market St.” while others use “Market Street”). Continually invest in the accuracy of your data.

5. Don’t forget the imagery. If you are swapping out images based on demographic or other data, those images must be prepared, as well. Make sure variable images are correctly labeled and sized to fit into the layout. For example, if your design calls for vertical imagery, make sure a horizontal image doesn’t sneak in there.

Preparing variable data jobs doesn’t have to be a mystery. A little planning can smooth the process and give you predictable results. You can do it—we can help!

Direct Mail and Social Media: Better Together

Are you planning a multichannel marketing campaign? Automatically assuming you will be pairing direct mail with email? How about pairing direct mail with social media instead? Haven’t thought about it? Maybe you should. What makes direct mail and social media so complementary?

Higher levels of customer engagement, regardless of channel, lead to strong customer loyalty and higher sales—and customers love social media. Print’s tangibility leaves a deeper footprint in consumers’ brains and results in more (and more accurate) recall. So why not pair direct mail and social media together?

While you might not think of direct mail and social media as complementary, data show that they are. High percentages of social media users use direct mail coupons, hold on to direct mail pieces for future use, and visit a store after receiving a mail piece. When brand advocates receive direct mail, they are also 50% more likely to create or share content online.

How can you capitalize on this?

1. Set up social media sites appropriate to your target audience (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and encourage followers to engage with you. When possible, add links to enable direct sales.

2. Focus on deep, relevant content. Tell stories, invite customers to post their own user-generated content, and encourage them to share your posts with friends and family.

3. Find the most active social media participants and gather their email addresses and postal addresses for future cross-channel marketing.

4. Use social media to announce when upcoming mail offers are on their way. Build anticipation and excitement around your promotions and deals.

5. Cross-pollinate your content between social media and direct mail. For example, use quotes from online reviews or social media posts in your direct mailers to give credibility (“social proof”).

Direct mail and social media can be a powerful combination when used right. Need help? Give us a call!

5 Tips for Expanding Your Mailing Reach

Are you looking to build or expand your mailing list? If so, you have more options than just buying a targeted list or purchasing data to add to the list you already have. Here are five ways to build a great direct mail list that you might not have thought of.

1. Look at trade shows.

Trade shows attract a particular target audience, and they generally attract the decision-makers in the company. Attendee lists from trade shows in your market vertical can net you very high-value prospects.

2. Use the media.

Like trade shows, specialty magazines (including trade magazines) have well-defined target audiences, and some will sell their subscriber lists to marketers.

3. Tap your content marketing.

Take advantage of your content marketing efforts. If you offer an e-newsletter, ask for recipients’ street addresses at sign-up. If website visitors can download white papers or case studies, ask them to fill out an online registration form and include their street address as an option.

4. Use Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM).

Every Door Direct Mail from the United Postal Service is an inexpensive way to target households within a specific demographic radius. Although EDDM lists do not include names, you now have qualified leads and names once people respond to your communication.

5. Purchase a cloned list.

Do you already have a productive direct mail list? Just want more customers like the ones you already have? Cloned lists allow you to do just that. Create a profile of your best customers, then purchase an index that reflects that profile.

These are all smart, cost-effective ways to build your direct mail list that can yield great results. Need help implementing one or more of these ideas? We can help!