Monday, November 14, 2016

Marketing Success Using Direct Mail

Traditional direct mail, email, and social media work best together. All have a place in the marketer’s tool kit. They do not cancel the need for the others, and they work symbiotically like when a postcard is sent offering a premium if the recipient provides an e-mail address or likes a social media site.

Some Prefer Mail

While we acknowledge the importance of email and web-based communication to reach customers and prospects – computers and smartphones alone cannot reach everyone in a business’s target market.

Direct mail is one of the more profitable ways to touch existing and potential clients. It’s a good choice for some audiences, such as older people. This demographic uses online sources, but prefers and responds better to print and mail communication. Young professionals 18 to 34 have one of the best response rates to direct mail campaigns. Part of the reason is that college students and young professionals have been inundated with spam, making their taste for online communication more discriminating.

Direct mail is also a good choice for businesses whose target audience is local. Sustaining membership campaigns, fundraisers, and invitations to events by community-based non-profits are good examples where outreach by traditional direct mail to donors is likely to outperform an email or web-based campaign.

Success in 3 Steps

To conduct a successful direct mail marketing campaign, you’ll need: a mailing list, a mail piece and something to communicate that is of interest to your target audience. We’re making it sound simple, because it really is.

Notice that we said a successful direct mail marketing campaign. If you measure success as the response rate, then greater success comes from a series of mailings rather than a one-time mailing.

 The ideal number of mailings in a campaign is either 3 or 7, mailed close enough together to build recognition in the mind of the recipient. Studies show that the cumulative response spikes after 3 mailings, then reaches a point of diminishing return until the 7th mailing, when response spikes again. Based on this fact, the response rate will be greater if you mail three times to a smaller list rather than one time to a larger list. Said another way, if your budget allows for mailing 3000 pieces, you’ll get a better response by mailing three times to 1000 rather than one time to 3000.

Step 1: The Mail List

The best response rate comes from mailing to those who are already familiar with your business. This can be your customers (active and inactive), prospects who have contacted you, and referrals from customers or friends.

A list you put together yourself consisting of customers, prospects, and referrals is known as a house list. A house list can be compiled from customer purchase transactions, donor records, membership rosters, and similar sources. In general, a house list produces a higher response rate than a purchased list because so many of the individuals on the list already know who you are.

If you want to expand your house list by adding a purchased list, a good technique is to submit the house list for data append. Data append adds demographic information such as household income, gender of the head of household, home value, presence of children for residences, and annual sales volume, number of employees, and SIC code for businesses. Data append creates a profile of those on your house list, and then the profile can be used to select prospective customers whose profile is a match.

Using this technique, you’ll have a targeted mailing list of customers with whom you have an established business relationship and prospects whose demographic characteristics match those of your customers. If the list consists of businesses, you can further refine the list by searching the internet for the business’s website and gathering additional information to help you personalize your message.

As you prepare your mail list, keep this fact in mind: the mail list accounts for 60% of the response rate in any direct mail marketing campaign.

Step 2: The Mail Piece

Whether you are sending a postcard, a self-mailer, or something inserted in an envelope, the mail piece needs to be well-designed so it catches the eye and the interest of the recipient. Seven seconds is the amount of time a recipient looks at a direct mail marketing piece before deciding what to do with it – read it now, set it aside to read later, or discard.

We recommend that you send a full color mail piece. Using full color allows you to emphasize a point and guide the reader’s eye around the mail piece. Another possibility is to use a stark black-and-white design. If you want to try this technique, please consult with us on the best paper to use. Black and white can be dramatic, but it can also look cheap depending on the design, printing process, and paper used.

The appearance of the mail piece accounts for 20% of the response rate.

Step 3: The Words and The Offer

For businesses seeking to sell a product or service, a traditional direct mail marketing piece always includes an offer and a call to action. The offer is worded to motivate the recipient to take action; the call to action tells the recipient what to do and may give a time frame for acting (known as creating a sense of urgency).

Not all direct mail marketing campaigns are launched for the purpose of generating sales leads. Other reasons for sending something through the mail include increasing name recognition or brand awareness, providing information, and making announcements.

Here are some additional wording elements that all direct mail pieces should include:

  • The benefits to the recipient. Persuasive text for a direct mail marketing piece tells the recipient what he/she ultimately wants to know – what’s in it for me. Translate your product and service features to benefits. Overcome problems or fear with a solution. Appeal to emotion. Just remember to clearly state why the recipient should continue to read the mail piece or take the action you recommend.
     
  • Your company name, logo, and contact information. Your company name and logo are important for establishing name recognition and brand awareness. However, they normally are not placed in a dominant position on the mail piece. Save the prominent location for a reader benefit statement. Be sure that the contact information is easy to find.
     
  • Return address. Adding a return address implies that your business or organization is established and is committed to transparency in its communications. A return address will help you to keep your mailing list current.
The offer and the wording on the mail piece accounts for 20% of the response rate.

Final Step

We believe that the most important step for success in direct mail marketing is consistency. By using a consistent style in both design and copywriting and mailing regularly, you’ll increase awareness in the target audience and leverage the effect of your efforts. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a direct mail campaign, we would be glad to discuss that with you. Please contact Brigid at 215-923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com. And let’s get started!

Q&A: I am fairly proficient at Excel. Can I use it for my mail list?

Yes – provided you understand that even though Excel displays the information in rows and columns, it is not creating the tables of a relational database and so has limitations when it comes to finding and sorting data (compared to a database program like MS Access).

There are two things to be aware of if you use Excel for a mailing list. The first is that it is possible to change the sort order of a single column while leaving all the other columns in their existing order, leading to a mismatch of the address elements in each row. The second is that when you “hide” rows or columns to change how the mail list displays on screen, you are not eliminating the hidden data. It is still there, and so will be included in the file you provide to us for mailing.

What Is Seen First?

When designing a postcard, it is important to consider what the recipient will see first. Mail arrives in a bundle, arranged from smallest to largest piece, and with all the address panels facing forward. Therefore, what the recipient will see first is the side of the mail piece that contains the mail panel. We mention this because most people assume the side without the mail panel is the most important side of the postcard.

There is no requirement that the mail panel take up the entire right hand half of the mail piece. Provided the individual address lines are of standard length, you’ll only need enough room for the outbound address and the USPS-required bar code. By reducing the size of the mail panel, you’ll have space for additional information, a sales message or an attention-getting graphic.

Happy Thanksgiving!


To spend time with family and friends, we will be closed
Thursday, November 24 and Friday, November 25.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finishing in Style: What Happens After Printing?

There is one department in our company that you don’t often hear about… our bindery. This is where we take printed sheets to finish the job. There are often many small operations that need to be completed before the job is ready to be delivered. Even though they are small, together they combine to insure the final product has a professional appearance.
 
The bindery in our company is where we create the final product from flat printed sheets; products like a folded brochure, a booklet or pad, a spiral bound manual, or a ticket with perforations to make a tear-off stub. The bindery is where we trim business cards to final size and trim the edges of booklets to make them even. It’s where we apply the glue that makes individual sheets of carbonless paper into a set. We also package the order and do the final quality control check. So even though we rarely mention the bindery when talking to you about a project, it is a very important part of the process.


Bindery Equipment

Almost all bindery functions can be performed in one of three ways: by hand (meaning the work is done manually without the aid of machines); with machines after printing is complete (also called offline); and with machines in conjunction with printing (also called inline). Most inline bindery functions are performed by digital printers. Some can collate, fold, staple, and make booklets all at once, in a row, so the product comes out completely finished. When the machines are operating at top speed, it is fascinating to watch – the machine operator loads sheets of paper at one end of the machine, and unloads completed products at the delivery end.

Our standalone bindery equipment offers more than just greater speed. It produces a superior completed product when compared to finishing by hand, such as you might perform in your office. Taken a single sheet at a time, paper is fairly easy to manipulate manually. But create a stack of paper, and the conditions change dramatically.

For example, although it is easy to cut a single sheet of paper with scissors, a stack of paper needs to be cut by a blade. Our precision cutter not only has a blade, it also has a clamp to hold the stack in place while the cut is made. And the knife does not drop straight down; instead, it drops at an angle like a guillotine, smoothly slicing its way through the stack of paper in one sweeping motion.

Our folder is another example of producing a superior product. The folds are made when the sheet of paper is forced against a plate where it buckles, then through rollers to flatten the fold. This process creates the tight fold characteristic of a mechanical fold and is nearly impossible to duplicate by hand. In addition, the feed mechanism on the folder sends each sheet into the machine in precisely the same way, without skew and at evenly spaced intervals. The result is a consistently perfect fold no matter how fast the machine is running.

Allowing for Bindery

You will get the best results for your project if you understand that some bindery functions require an adjustment to the layout of the document file. The three most common are allowances for trimming, folding, and document binding.

  • Trimming: If your document contains an image, line or solid color that extends all the way to the edge of the sheet, this is called a bleed. The layout will need to be adjusted because printers and presses can’t print to the edge of a sheet. What looks like printing to the edge is really a printed image that has been extended past the edge of the sheet, then trimmed to the final size. The standard allowance for a bleed is 1/8 inch beyond the finished size. Take a look at the example above.
     
  • Booklet-making: Booklets consisting of more than three flat sheets can present a problem known as shingling or page creep. To illustrate page creep, fold ten sheets of paper in half. Gather book. Examine the booklet’s outer right hand edge. Notice that the pages are uneven (shingled). This is the result of page creep. To eliminate the unevenness, the final step in making a booklet is to trim the face (the outer right hand edge). If there has not been an adjustment for page creep, it is possible that text, page numbers, or other images might be trimmed away during face trimming. Making exact adjustments for page creep requires complicated mathematical computations. We use professional software for the computation and layout adjustment to eliminate the possibility of cutting something critical off.
     
  • Folding: When preparing a document like a tri-fold brochure, remember that the size of panels that fold to the inside must be slightly smaller to produce a completely flat and even fold. Reduce the width of the panel that folds in by at least 1/8 inch. Remember that the position of the inside panel changes from the front to the back. In the example above, the inner panel moves from the left to the right depending on whether you are working on the outside or inside of the finished brochure.
     
Shift the margin to make sure all information is clearly visible.
No margin shift means important information could be obscured.
  • Drilling/Punching: To put holes in paper for binding or inserting into a 3-ring binder, we may use a spindle drill (similar to a wood drill) or a punch. When you are setting the margins for an item that will be drilled or punched, you must allow extra space from the edge of the sheet to where the image begins to accommodate the holes. We recommend a half inch clear space for an 8.5 x 11 sheet.  
     
    Shift the margin to the right for one-sided pages. For two-sided pages, shift right for odd-numbered and left for even-numbered pages. When you don’t shift the margin, a hole could be punched through important information. Take a look at this example where the margin was not shifted.  
  •  

DIY or Ask Us for Help

The instructions we’ve given to adjust for trimming, folding, and mechanical binding are standards in the printing industry, so they are worth learning. However,  if the software program you are using doesn’t have the tools to make the adjustments easily, then we suggest you let us do it for you. Please call or email us today for an appointment.

Q&A: I was in your office the day my brochure was on press. Why do I have to wait two more days for the job to be complete?

One of the important rules of bindery is not to handle wet press sheets. After your brochure was printed, we put it on a drying rack to allow the ink to dry thoroughly. The next day we were able to cut down the press sheets, fold, and trim without the risk of smearing or cracking. Then your brochures were packaged and considered ready for delivery. Our policy is to have jobs completely finished, packaged, and ready for delivery to you on the agreed-upon due date.

Folding with the Grain

A fold will be smoother and more resilient when the grain of the paper is parallel to the fold. Paper grain is the direction of the wood fibers in the sheet. Paper folds smoothly with the grain and roughens or cracks against the grain. Paper is also stiffer in the grain direction.
 
As a rule, we print on the sheet so that folds will be with the grain. When this is not possible, we score or crease the paper fibers to stretch them evenly before folding. Scoring is necessary for all heavy weight papers like cardstock, for some text weight papers like glossy, and when an area of heavy ink coverage crosses through a fold.

Stack of booklets folded against the grain produces a rough broken edge.


Start Right, Finish Right

It’s a common mistake to gloss over the finishing touches, but how your document looks and feels is a matter of great importance. The finishing touches on your project will speak volumes about the overall quality and importance of your document, and may very well be the difference between your efforts ending as a customer sale or in the trash. Many times, purchasing decisions are made solely on appearance. To cinch a customer purchase, the document needs to convey a feeling of reliability and trust.

Before you settle for the cheapest printing solution, consider the finishing touches. They say a lot about the overall quality of the document. Adding a product-appropriate finish to a high-quality paper can create an additional element of professionalism, the feel of quality, and a sense of overall value. The easiest way to take the design and print from amateur to professional is to look the part.

We can help you differentiate your company’s product or service to ensure a great impression. Call today to get started.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seven Identity Items Every Business Needs

In the past, all sales and marketing materials were printed. Later, the Internet added new ways to reach customers and prospects. Over time, Internet-based marketing replaced some printed materials, enhanced others, and also provided new marketing tools.

No matter what kind of business you have, there remain some basic printed items that all businesses need:

  • The corporate identity package consists of business cards, letterhead and envelopes, note cards and envelopes and mailing labels.
  • Sales material consists of a company brochure, note pads, and a direct mail piece, such as a postcard or newsletter.
     

The Corporate Identity Package

A corporate identity package is an efficient way to establish brand identity and to provide basic contact information to customers and prospects. An identity system has several specific parts: the overall layout, the fonts, the color palette, and the paper. All work together to create the brand identity. Considering the importance of making a positive and lasting impression on customers and prospects, it is best to have the entire system – business cards, letterhead and envelopes, note cards and envelopes and mailing labels – professionally designed and printed.

When you hand a business card to someone, you are establishing a personal connection, which the recipient will recall later. You’re also putting a face to a name – the corporate brand now has a live person attached to it. Even better, handing out business cards doesn’t require anything from the recipient except the willingness to accept the card.

A business card is actually a very economical form of advertising. If you give out five business cards every day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday, a purchase of 500 cards will last for almost four months. And it costs the same to print a professionally designed business card that makes an outstanding impression, as it does to print an ordinary business card that looks like everyone else’s card.

Here is the essential information to include on your business card:

  • Business identification. This includes the business name and logo. Include business contact information such as address, phone number, and website.
  • Individual contact information.
 
This includes the individual’s name and title, direct phone numbers (land line and mobile), email address, and alternate physical address if the individual does not work at the business location.

By convention, phone numbers are listed in the order of the individual’s preference (i.e., if you prefer to be contacted by cell phone, list that number first).

  • Optional information. If the card is not too crowded, or if it is a fold-over card, additional information such as business tag line, the individual’s photograph, and a list of products and services can also be included.
 
The design of the other three elements of the corporate identity package should match the business card. The purpose of letterheads and envelopes is to visually express the company’s identity and make a good first impression. As with business cards, this is best achieved with professional design and printing. As desktop color inkjet printers have improved, it is tempting to forego printing a supply of letterhead and envelopes, and instead print as needed. While this may seem easier, it is likely more expensive.

Whenever you need to send something in either a large envelope or a package, you’ll need a mailing label. This is another opportunity to reinforce your professional branding. Make sure the design matches the other elements of your corporate identity system because the mailing label is often the first thing a recipient sees and thus their first impression of your company.

Note cards are many times preferable to using letterhead for writing short letters and thank you notes. They are more personal, especially if handwritten. Even Jimmy Fallon is a big fan of the handwritten note. By matching your other stationery items, it gives your personal note a professional appearance.

Sales and Marketing Materials

The success of any business depends heavily on its sales and marketing effort. A company’s sales staff needs to have collateral material to augment and reinforce prospecting and face-to-face sales activities. The basic elements are a company brochure, a direct mail piece, and note pads.

  • The company brochure introduces the company, and its product or service. It provides the distinctive features and benefits that distinguish your company from the competition. It often provides background information about the company and includes contact information. Common elements include the year the company was founded, list of locations, names, photographs, and brief biographies of founders and key personnel, contact information, mission statement, and a brief corporate history.
     
  • The direct mail marketing piece could be a postcard, a newsletter, or a mailer with a response device. Its purpose is to introduce something – the company to prospects, or your products and services to both customers and prospects. It also serves as a reminder to customers which keeps the company top of mind. Direct mail marketing pieces should always include a call to action and create a sense of urgency.
     
  • Note pads are a give-away item that reinforces the company brand and makes your contact info easy to find. Branded notepads are terrific give aways for trade shows or leave behinds after a sales call.
     
Visually, sales and marketing materials need to be consistent with the corporate identity. This means more than just using the company name and logo. Typography, copy writing style, and color palette should reinforce the corporate identity by conveying the same “look and feel”.

Just like the business stationery package, sales and marketing materials need to be professionally designed and printed. This is especially true when the material is in the form of a folded brochure. To ensure that the brochure lies flat after folding, the width of the individual panels must be adjusted slightly. In addition, folding by machine produces a tighter fold with sharp creases.

Professional Expertise

Part of our professional expertise lies in our design department. Phil Gross trained at Drexel University and has over 7 years of experience. Brigid Kaye trained at The University of Texas and has over 30 years of experience. To schedule an appointment to talk about your corporate identity or sales collateral material, call Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Effective Promotion

Brochures remain one of the most effective ways to market your products and services. Brochures are used by businesses of all sizes and are a perfect way to let new customers know what you do and remind existing customers of all that you have to offer.

A popular brochure format is the 8.5 x 11 trifold.

  • Panel 1 is the front cover. It’s the first thing a reader sees, so the copy and images must be compelling enough to get the reader to open it. Sometimes this panel is used as a teaser and may not include the company name or logo.
     
  • Panel 2 answers the reader’s question “What’s in it for me” – in other words, what are the products or services, how will they solve a problem, improve life, make things better, or otherwise create a recognized benefit.
     
  • Having established the benefits in Panel 2, Panels 3 and 4 can be used to describe the features and specifications. It may also contain ordering information.
     
  • Panel 5 presents evidence about the product or service, like a testimonial from a satisfied customer or performance statistics.
     
  • Panel 6 is the back cover. It can be used to create a sense of urgency (such as limited time offer), to present the call to action (such as redeem this coupon), and describe the next step (such as call now). It is also possible to incorporate a mailing panel into Panel 6.