Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

Why Building Trust Is a “Must Have” Marketing Goal

Direct mail and email are for selling things, right? But what about building trust? While many marketers may not think about it, trust should be one of your top marketing goals. To understand why let’s look at the example of Morningstar.

Morningstar is a financial services company that serves both seasoned and new investors. If you do an online search for “investment,” you’ll get a veritable “who’s who” of financial services firms. How does Morningstar stand out? By using unique content. Morningstar knows that investing is scary to many people.  When you’re new to investing, a list of products, services, and fees isn’t beneficial. It can deepen fear about making a mistake. So the company decided to build its reputation based on trust instead.

Through various channels, Morningstar invests in content such as charts and graphs, articles about saving and investing, “how-to” blog posts, and videos from industry experts. Instead of merely telling potential investors what a mutual fund is, for example, it advises them on the best ones to research. Everything about what the company does is designed to build confidence and give investors a peek behind the curtain. This builds trust, and in a world as foreign and intimidating as investing is to many people, trust is everything.

How does trust factor into your product or service categories? Whether through direct mail, email, or on your website, what type of content would develop trust with your customers? What are their fears and concerns? What kind of content would answer their questions and set their fears to rest?

Trust helps to build the type of relationships that are less price-sensitive, more resilient from the lure of competitors, and weather uncertain times. Using drip-marketing campaigns via direct mail and email to feed your customers content that educates and guides is a huge part of building that trust.

How can we help?

Note: Background on Morningstar drawn from “‘Content Is Our Business’: What Morningstar’s Homepage Can Teach Financial Marketers” (

What Do Your Design’s Colors Say About You?

Did you know that 62% to 90% of our opinions about products, brands, and even our clothing, are based on color? This means that when your target audience first sets eyes on a piece of direct mail or marketing collateral, the very first impression likely isn’t created by the headline, call to action, or the offer. It’s the colors you use.

Despite the amount of time psychologists spend studying the impact of color on our moods, shopping behavior, and response to environmental stimuli, there is limited consensus on what different colors mean to different people. However, certain conventions still hold true.

For example, here in the United States:

  • Blue = Trust / Security
  • Red = Danger / Love
  • Orange = Cheap
  • Black = Quality / Luxury
  • Green = Wealth / Environmental Friendliness

But these are conventions. Not every consumer will respond to color the same way, and colors can be perceived differently in various vertical markets.

Color will also be perceived differently in different cultures. For example, in India, red can represent power, purity, and fertility. In South Africa, it is associated with violence and mourning. In the United States, yellow is associated with youth and fun. In France, it signifies jealously, betrayal, and weakness.

How can you be sure that the colors you use are sending the right messages?

1. Identify the underlying message you want to portray. Is it financial security? Adventure and freedom? Enhancement of self-image?

2. Know your target market. Understand not only the demographic make-up of your audience, but the cultural and ethnic one, as well. Then identify how color is perceived in those markets.

3. Get feedback. Especially if you’re doing a major roll-out, such as a new logo or new template for direct mail or marketing collateral, conduct focus groups. Ask about perception of all elements of the campaign, including the colors you use.

If you are unsure about how certain colors may be perceived or which may be most effective for different customer groups, test them. Pay attention to the sub-trends that may only show up in sub-demographics, such as ethnicity, gender, and geographic location. Color is a powerful tool in attracting and engaging audiences, but one size may not fit all.

Want Better Comprehension? Format It!

Are you getting ready to send your next direct marketing campaign? Whether you are preparing to send a postcard or an email, three simple formatting techniques can make your content easier to read, comprehend, and remember. Even if you’re not a writing whiz, these techniques are easy to implement, too. Every marketer can do it.

  1. Use white space. Whether you have a lot of space or a little, it’s tempting to fill up that space with as much text and as many images as possible. Don’t! Crowded areas are hard to read. Give your content some breathing room. Less crowded designs are more pleasing to the eye and get the point across more quickly.

  2. Organize using bullets. Bullet points are one of the most effective ways to communicate information, and people love them. Why? They accomplish a variety of goals:
  • They are easy to read.
  • They summarize points quickly.
  • They require minimal effort for comprehension.
  • They allow you to emphasize key points.
  • They attract attention.
  1. Add graphics. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and for a good reason. The human brain processes information more quickly when it is presented in visual form. Visual communication is also more likely to be remembered. It’s called “the picture superiority effect.”

What does this mean for you? Where you can represent concepts with charts or graphics, do! There is a reason that infographics are such a powerful —and popular— tool in marketing today.

Isn’t it nice that such simple changes can get you significant results? Sometimes, yes, it’s just that easy.

When It Comes to Profits, It’s Time to Sort Your Customers

Let’s face it. When it comes to profitability, some customers are worth more than others. That’s why, before deploying any marketing plan, you need to know who your most profitable customers are.

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), or how much a customer is worth over time, is a critical part of the equation. One customer may spend $250 with you initially, but then never order again. Another customer may order only $150 the first time, but then become a loyal (and far more profitable) customer who orders thousands of dollars’ worth of products over time.

This is why in order to understand the true profitability of your customers, you need to look at campaigns from a broader perspective. If you were to look at the ROI of the above campaign in the short term, you would think the first customer netted the highest ROI. But it was the second who was the most profitable.

How do you determine CLV? First, you need to decide which measure (or measures) you are going to use.

  • Do you want to determine CLV based on revenue generated?
  • Do you want to use profitability?
  • Do you want to include hard dollar values only?
  • How about the frequency of purchases? Is having consistent, predictable revenue streams more critical than larger, less consistent ones?
  • How important are other factors, such as social media influence, to your calculations?

You also want to consider your customer acquisition cost (CAC). If you use static direct mail combined with generic email, you may spend less but net fewer customers. Or you can run a short-run, highly targeted campaign that costs more overall, but acquires more customers and has a lower CAC that results in a higher CLV.

Customer Lifetime Value is an important calculation, but its value to your marketing strategy depends on the accuracy of the numbers you put in. Talk to us about creating accurate CLVs for your customers.

3 Key Shopping Trends You Need to Know for Your Marketing

In today’s changing and uncertain market, businesses want to be in tune with the most essential shopping trends. Here are three “must follow” trends that you need to know. These trends are not new. However, when things are in flux, it’s all the more important to focus on the basics.

1. Think mobile, mobile, mobile. Mobile has become a large part of the marketing equation, whether you actively promote your business via mobile or not. Sales via mobile devices have seen average year-on-year increases of 33.8% since 2016. But what many businesses don’t realize is that mobile is as important in-store as it is online. Whether before they visit the store or while they are in the aisle, shoppers are using their mobile devices to research shampoo as much as they are flat-screen TVs.

Need to create a better mobile experience?

  • Optimize your mobile site. According to Google, 53% of visitors will abandon a site within three seconds if it doesn’t load right away.
  • Use QR Codes or augmented reality (AR) to enable shoppers to interact with direct mail, packaging, or in-store displays.
  • Use mobile to provide shoppers with access to genuinely helpful content such as reviews or mobile coupons.

2. Incorporate User Generated Content (UGC). UGC is defined as content users create themselves. Examples include customer-posted reviews, photos, and videos. When retailers integrate visual UGC, BazaarVoice’s Shopper Experience Index reports the following results:

  • 111% conversion lift among shoppers overall.
  • 180% lift in revenue per visitor among lifelong shoppers.
  • Increase in basket sizes.

Even something as simple as reprinting reviews can be powerful. For example, “Great Food and Great Prices!” sounds good, but “Voted Best Family-Owned Restaurant by Your Neighbors!” sounds even better.

3. Personalize shopper offers, communications, and experiences. The trend toward personalization continues, and it’s more important than ever. Nearly all (91%) consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations relevant to them (Accenture) and more than half (57%) are willing to share personalized experiences in exchange for customized offers (Salesforce). So give it to them! But this personalization must feel authentic and accurate. Shoppers say that inaccurate or irrelevant personalization drives them to shop elsewhere.

If you aren’t already implementing mobile, UGC, or personalization strategies, let us help you create them. Ready to get started?

The Magic Behind the Color Curtain

Suppose you want great color, your selection of a printing partner matters. Whether you are looking for color that is soft and subtle or that pops off the page, it doesn’t happen by accident. Behind that color is a highly technical process, and the ability to manage that process is a differentiator from one printer to another.

Here are some of the factors in great color that many clients never see.

File set-up: Different types of images (GIF, PNG, JPG, TIFF) handle color differently, so it’s important to get them right. There are also multiple types of PDFs, such as PDF/X1-1 and PDF/4, each with different capabilities related to color.

Printing specification: Printers use a wide variety of industry-standard specifications, each of which has an impact on color, as well. These specs include (but are not limited to):

SNAP: Designed for newsprint-grade media.

SWOP:Designed for standard commercial offset printing. SWOP has multiple sub-categories to reflect the stock on which the job is printed.

GRACOL: Developed for high-quality reproduction. It, too, has multiple sub-categories that reflect the type of stock.

ISO: An earlier standard still in use today. It, too, is broken down into sub-categories, including ISO coated, ISO uncoated, and ISO newspaper.

Outside America, you have FOGRA 39 (coated stock), FOGRA 48 (newsprint), FOGRA 50 (gloss laminated), and in Australia, 3DAP (3 paper types). In Japan, you have Japan Color (4 paper types).

All of these standards give you different looks. It is the job of the printer to match the targets to each one.

Evaluation: How does the printer know that its presses hit the spec you are after? We print a color bar on the output, then measure the patches with a spectrophotometer. This includes gray balance, density, L*a*b* value, and more.

Lighting: How color is seen by the eye is influenced by the type of light under which it’s viewed. The appearance of color is impacted by factors such as:

  • Type of lamps used.
  • Color of the light (incandescent, fluorescent, LEDs).
  • Impact of metamerism (color looks different under different light conditions).
  • Any optical brighteners in the ink or substrate can react under fluorescent light and create a color shift.

All of this is goes to say why you should not trust your color to just anyone. The methods, standards, and press practices we use is the “secret sauce” that makes our production unique to us. It is a process that you can trust!

3 Things You Didn’t Know Fonts Could Do

What is the value of a font? These stylistic tools do more than communicate words on a page. Some are fancy, others are plain. Some are playful, and others are spooky. But all of them do more than create words. Like mood lighting, fonts set the tone for your communications in ways that you might not expect. Let’s look at three things you might not realize that fonts do. 

1. Communicate brand. 

You may not think about fonts communicating your brand, but they play this role more than you think. Just look at The New York Times. You can pick out the Times on the newsstand from two blocks away. Why? The font is distinctive. You aren’t going to mistake The Times for another publication. Select fonts that you feel represent your brand and consistently use them across all marketing materials, whether print or digital. 

2. Set the mood. 

What’s the mood of your communication? Edgy? Thoughtful? Urgent? While selecting the right images, graphics, and colors are critical to communicating mood, selecting the right fonts is important, too. Want to create a piece that is lighthearted and playful? Try Architect’s Daughter or Chalkboard. Want a romantic feel? Try a cursive script or handwriting font. Fonts can help elicit a variety of emotions, so experiment!

3. Instant credibility. 

Fonts can tap into positive associations to project a sense of trustworthiness and credibility. Helvetica, for example, is used on government documents. Courier is used on vintage books. Using these classic fonts can communicate authenticity. Even if you are using less traditional fonts, once people begin to associate your documents with a specific type style, this visual consistency will authenticate your materials, as well. 

While fonts can reinforce branding, set mood, and establish credibility, they are ultimately intended to be read. So balance creativity with readability. 

Want to learn more about fonts? Let our designers guide you!

Online Bounce? Lure Them Back with Direct Mail Retargeting

When someone says “retargeting,” many people tend to think of digital ads used to entice a customer or prospect back to a marketer’s website after they visited without making a purchase. But did you know that retargeting can be done with direct mail, too?

Say a 30-something trail runner lands on the webpage of a retailer selling outdoor gear. She is looking for a new pair of shoes for a race coming up in a few months. She looks at several pairs, but before she can make a purchase, she gets pulled away to help her kids with homework. She never gets back to her search.

Now imagine she goes to the mailbox a few days later—and lo and behold! A postcard featuring the pairs of shoes she spent the most time looking at, along with a coupon for 10% off. Imagine the effect!

When we think about retargeting channels, we tend to think of banner ads and pop-up ads in social media newsfeeds. However, today’s consumers have come to expect that type of retargeting and often tune out all but the most enticing offers. With the explosion in ad blocking software, some may not see retargeted ads at all. That is where direct mail becomes so powerful. Direct mail can get through where digital advertising cannot.

Website-to-direct-mail retargeting does require some level of opt-in, such as a shopper having previously given the retailer permission to contact them (e.g, they are an existing customer) or by filling out enough of an online form to provide the necessary information.

Does retargeting work? One commonly cited statistic is that, when marketers use this approach, 26% of online shoppers who did not complete the checkout process come back and make a purchase. Retargeting takes a few extra steps, but with numbers like that, it is worth the effort. Especially for high-value products like insurance, financial services, and real estate.

Want help creating a direct mail retargeting campaign? Let’s talk about whether it makes sense for you.

Why Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Is Hot in B2B

It’s the classic approach: Bring enough people into the sales funnel, and you’ll sell a lot of products. In the B2B environment, however, marketers are increasingly moving to a different approach, account-based marketing (ABM). Account-based marketing refers to targeting an account (a company) rather than an individual. Let’s look at how it works. 

1. Pick the right accounts. Account selection is the foundation of any ABM program. If you select companies outside your market or have little chance of winning, you’ll have low-percentage results. That’s why successful ABM starts with getting the right accounts into your funnel to begin with. How do you do that? Analyze your customer base, competitors, employees, revenues, and geography. Find your highest and lowest performing accounts, then score prospective accounts based on what you learn. 

2. Identify the right people within those accounts. Get to the right people within your target accounts. Yes, we said, “people.” Most B2B accounts have more than one decision-maker, and you often have to find all of those decision-makers and bring them over the finish line as a team. 

3. Keep dripping information. B2B sales often require a continuous educational effort that occurs over time. Use a steady stream of communications to bring awareness to your products or services, communicate their value, and answer questions. It takes time, but if you do it right, this can open doors to a phone call or in-person meeting. 

4. Use all of your tools. Use all of your marketing tools—direct mail, email, events, webinars, social media, and all forms of advertising—to keep those leads warm (and getting warmer) until your audience is ready to buy. 

5. Give ‘em swag. Although promotional items often get the proverbial eye roll, they work. First, 3D objects grab attention. Second, when you give people something for free, buyers tend to feel an obligation to respond. It’s called “reciprocity.” You may find that you’ve been hitting an account for months with no response, then you send a promotional item, and the next time, they pick up the phone. Try it! 

Need help developing an ABM strategy? Give us a call!