Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Schedule

Happy Holidays from Creative Characters!


To give our valued staff a well deserved rest
and time to spend with their family and friends,
we will be closed
Friday, December 21st through
Tuesday, January 1st.


We will re-open promptly at 8:30 am
on Wednesday, January 2nd.

Please check your documents, forms and stationery to see if you will need anything while we are away. As always, we are eager to help, so please give us a call now at (215) 923-2679 if you need anything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Psychology of Color


This post is about color. Usually we talk about color theory – the science of color – or how color can differ based on visual perception, light source and color output device.

In this post, we’re presenting something new: the psychology of color. Marketers have long used color to influence customer behavior and choice, and color is a very important concept in branding (think of Coca Cola red or IBM blue). And while you may think color has the greatest importance for consumer products, it is also critical for a business or organization’s visual image in printed marketing material, their website and web-based communications.

If your marketing materials were developed years ago, it may be time for a color tune-up to create consistency, uniformity and to take into consideration the psychology of color. And if the existing colors of your logo and marketing material were selected based solely on someone’s personal preference, a tune-up may be critical. For a free color focused evaluation, just give me a call at (215) 923-2679.

Can you provide some guidelines for selecting the color scheme for my website?

Because color is the first thing a visitor to your website will notice, it is important to choose the color scheme wisely. Select the wrong colors and your website may be so difficult to read that the viewer leaves quickly, or the viewer may subconsciously form an impression of your company, product or service that isn’t favorable.

The first choice is a background color, followed by two other dominant colors for the site. Here are four color schemes to help you organize your choices:
  • Monochromatic. Uses varying shades of a single color.
  • Complementary. Uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Side-by-side complementary colors make each color appear brighter. Some complementary colors (like red and green) may appear to vibrate when side-by-side.
  • Analogous. Uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, sharing the same undertones. Analogous colors harmonize when placed next to each other.
  • Triadic. Uses three colors on separate ends of the color wheel. Determine triadic colors by selecting a color, then drawing an equilateral triangle with the selected color as the base point.
Two other tips for web design: a high contrast between elements (like the background and the text) guides the reader’s attention and is more easily readable; and the brighter the colors, the more mental energy will be required of the viewer.
In the Fabric Land example above, there is little contrast between the yellow letters and red background of the box in the center. The bright yellow homepage background with red elements is too vibrant, causing eye strain. On the other end of the spectrum, the mobile website for Aim Academy has high contrast between background colors and text. It’s easy to read and viewers are likely to stay on the site longer to explore.



Influencing Buyer Behavior With Color

Our world is rich with color – in nature, in our homes and offices, in our clothing, in the visual images on our computer screens and personal communication devices, and in the printed materials we read. Not so long ago using full color in business printing added expense and time to production.

Not anymore. Digital printing devices have dramatically changed the economics of full color printing, leading to expanded use of color in branding, advertising and printed products. This change means that business owners and marketing executives need to understand the psychology of color and how it can be used to influence buyer behavior.

Colorful Facts

Color results from energy waves grouped together in a color spectrum. In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton observed the visible spectrum – violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. A rainbow is a familiar representation of the visible spectrum.

Color has three dimensions – hue, value and chroma. Hue is warmer and cooler. Value is lighter and darker. Chroma is clearer and grayer.

Colorants are the materials used to produce color – inks, toners, pigments, dyes or phosphors.

Color influences moods, feelings and behavior

Just as graphic design enhances the power of ideas being communicated to an audience, the color choices used in a design also work on the audience to invoke a response or influence behavior. For an example, look at the difference between these two logos:


NOTE: This makeover appears in the new book “Logos Redesigned:
How 200 Companies Successfully Changed Their Image” by David E. Carter.

The psychology of color is the study of emotional response to color and has become an important consideration in advertising and product design. In fact, color is so important in branding that in 1985 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colors can sometimes be a trademark-eligible designation of origin (think Coca-Cola or IBM).

Color psychology

How an individual reacts to color is influenced by culture, ethnicity, gender and age as well as the specific shade of the color. Kate Smith, CMG, CfYH, a recognized color expert and the founder and contributing editor of www.sensationalcolor.com, explains the general responses to color for people in the Western Hemisphere in her article, A Glimpse into the Meaning, Symbolism and Psychology of Color. According to Kate, the responses are based on research, historical significance of color and word association studies.

Invoking human emotion to sell a product or service is not new. Just be sure you consider the psychology of color and its likely effect on the audience. Kate’s analysis can be found below.
  • Red has more personal associations than any other color. Recognized as a stimulant, red is inherently exciting and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy perceived. Red draws attention, and a keen use of red as an accent can immediately focus attention on a particular element.
  • Orange, a close relative of red, sparks more controversy than any other hue. There is usually strong positive or negative association to orange and true orange generally elicits a stronger “love it” or “hate it” response than other colors. Fun and flamboyant orange radiates warmth and energy.
  • Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts.
  • Green occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye than most colors, and is second only to blue as a favorite color. Green is the pervasive color in the natural world, making it an ideal backdrop in interior design because we are so used to seeing it everywhere.
  • Blue is the overwhelming “favorite color.” Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable, and committed. The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. As the collective color of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming; however, not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic – an engaging color that expresses exhilaration. Some shades of blue may come across as cold or uncaring.
  • Purple embodies the balance of red’s stimulation and blue’s calm. This dichotomy can cause unrest or uneasiness unless the undertone is clearly defined, at which point the purple takes on the characteristics of its undertone. With a sense of mystic and royal qualities, purple is a color often well-liked by very creative or eccentric types and is the favorite color of adolescent girls.
  • Pink can be youthful, fun, and exciting, and some have the same high energy as red; they are sensual and passionate without being too aggressive. Toning down the passion of red with the purity of white results in the softer pinks that are associated with romance and the blush of a young woman’s cheeks. It’s not surprising that when giving or receiving flowers, pink blossoms are a favorite. Pink is the color of happiness and is sometimes seen as lighthearted. For women who are often overworked and overburdened, an attraction to pink may speak of a desire for the more carefree days of childhood.
  • Brown says stability, reliability, and approachability. It is the color of our earth and is associated with all things natural or organic.
  • Gray is the color of intellect, knowledge, and wisdom. It is perceived as long-lasting, classic, and often as sleek or refined. It is a color that is dignified, conservative, and carries authority. Gray is controlled and inconspicuous and is considered a color of compromise, perhaps because it sits between the extremes of black and white. Gray is a perfect neutral, which is why designers often use it as a background color.
  • Black is authoritative and powerful; because black can evoke strong emotions, too much can be overwhelming. Black represents a lack of color, the primordial void, emptiness. It is a classic color for clothing, possibly because it makes the wearer appear thinner and more sophisticated.
  • White projects purity, cleanliness, and neutrality. Doctors don white coats, brides traditionally wear white gowns, and a white picket fence surrounds a safe and happy home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Information of Interest

Have you heard of content marketing? It is a broad concept that focuses on maintaining existing customer relationships and attracting prospects by providing high quality information of interest. Content marketing recognizes the shift from business control to the customer controlling the marketing message.

This shift from businesses pushing information out is rapidly being replaced by consumers surfing the web in search of unbiased information about products and services they are interested in buying. The popularity of online review sites like Yelp as well as the extensive user-generated reviews available at Amazon attest to the magnitude of the change.

In this blog, we’ll give you some tips for generating the kind of quality writing that is the foundation of content marketing. And remember – we are always ready to assist if you feel overwhelmed by the task.

Creative Characters Receives Women’s Business Enterprise National Certification

Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions, a business specializing in marketing solutions for small to medium size businesses, received national re-certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Development Center of Philadelphia, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

WBENC’s national standard of certification implemented by the Women’s Business Development Center of Philadelphia is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. In this case, Creative Characters is 100% women owned, operated and controlled.

By including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier/vendor diversity programs.

To learn more about Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions, please visit www.creativecharacters.com.

About Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions

Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions primary purpose is to create success for our clients. We develop creative, innovative, results-based marketing solutions for business challenges. We help communicate our clients’ message through websites, social media, landing pages, print, email marketing, direct mail, and more. Call (215) 923-2679 to put our strategic marketing expertise, award-winning graphic design and copywriting, and flawless execution to work for your company.

About WBENC

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the nation’s largest third party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the more than 700 US companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC’s certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs.

I have always been bad at grammar. How can I improve?

You are wise to recognize that bad grammar can distract the reader from the information you are providing. Here are some homonyms – pairs of words with the same pronunciation but different meanings – that will help you avoid some common grammatical errors.
  • who’s (a contraction of who is), whose (the possessive form of who and which)
  • you’re (a contraction of you are), your (the possessive form of you)
  • there (in that place), their (the possessive form of they), they’re (a contraction of they are)
  • it’s (a contraction of it is), its (the possessive form of it is or it has)
  • affect (to have an influence on), effect (a result). Affect is generally used as a verb (to affect) while effect is generally used as a noun (the effect).

For more help with spelling, grammar and punctuation, consult these online sources:
http://www.m-w.com (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
http://thesaurus.reference.com (Roget’s Thesaurus)
http://onelook.com (dictionary service)
http://www.grammarly.com (grammar checker)

Finding Your Voice


Most writing, and especially informal writing such as blogging, benefits from the use of active voice. Voice is the grammatical term for describing whether the action of a sentence is performed by the subject (active voice) or the object of the sentence (passive voice). For example:

  • Active voice: Sally used a credit card to pay for her purchases.
  • Passive voice: A credit card was used by Sally for her purchases.

It is easy to recognize passive voice because the verb phrase will always include a form of to be (such as am, is, was, were, are, or been) or the prepositional phase by the following the verb. In contrast, active voice allows for simpler sentence construction and therefore better reader comprehension.

To change from passive to active voice, locate who or what is performing the action expressed by the verb. Make that the subject of the sentence, and change the verb accordingly.

  • Passive voice: The information presented was commented on by six people.
  • Change to active voice: Six people commented on the information presented.

Engage Your Clients with Content Marketing

Today’s customers are rapidly developing a new set of habits that govern their interaction with businesses. In the past, the interaction was described by the push system – the business pushed its products and services at customers and prospects while using focus groups, trend analysis and other techniques to forecast demand. In a push system, the business is largely in control of the customer interaction.

With the rise of e-commerce, a shift is occurring to a pull system: customers and prospects pull the products and services they want from businesses. By changing who controls the interaction (the customer instead of the business), customers are becoming increasingly resistant to interruption marketing (such as television ads, telemarketing, spam, and web pop-up and banner ads) and are seeking useful, relevant information to help them make buying decisions. Social networking sites as well as “comment” and “review” features of e-commerce sites are new ways for customers to seek and receive information.

The emphasis on useful and relevant information also means that customers and prospects are becoming increasingly sensitive to bias and deceit, demanding transparency from businesses. Rather than relying on advertising alone, customers are reading reviews and comments of those who have a personal experience with the product, service or the business itself – often without knowing much about the reviewer. (This is called the social proof method – determining what is correct by finding out what others think is correct.)

All this leads to the need for today’s businesses to adopt a new marketing technique called content marketing. Content marketing consists of focusing on creating and distributing information that a specific target audience will find relevant and engaging. Rather than emphasizing the features and benefits of a product or service, content marketing is communicating without direct selling. It is providing information that educates your customers and prospects so they can make better buying decisions. It is giving control to customers rather than businesses.

Best practices of content marketing

Successful content marketing is built on a foundation of well-written copy that covers topics of interest to the target audience and follows the rules of grammar and copyright law. The best content will be useful to the target audience, unique in some way from what others are writing on the topic, use a writing style that the target audience is comfortable with, is fresh and appealing, and advances a conversation.

  • Useful content. Remember that the goal of content marketing is to build trust and confidence among a target audience by attracting and keeping their interest. Do you know what those interests are? Can you define them in the context of the products and services your business or organization provides? If not, then the first task is to study the individuals you are trying to reach. Conduct surveys, ask for feedback, and try sample topics until you can define their needs and desires.
  • Unique content. To ensure that readers continue their interest, a successful content marketer must do more than compile relevant information from other sources. You will need to add something – facts and figures, personal anecdotes, a new perspective – that will intrigue your readers.

  • Writing style. Your writing style is how you write rather than what you write. Depending on your topics and audience, you may use any of these styles: narrative (describes a personal experience based on a real event), expository (conveys information or explains something difficult to understand), or persuasive (tries to convince the reader to accept a point of view or take an action). Within each of these styles, you can use grammar and sentence structure to strike a conversational (written like you talk), formal (follows all the rules of grammar and syntax) or entertaining (humorous or fun) tone.
  • Fresh and appealing content. The best way to keep content fresh and appealing is to write what you know. Find topics in areas where you have some expertise. Not only will it be easier to write, but you will find it easier to offer unique insights or perspectives.
  • Advance a conversation. Good content advances the reader’s knowledge of a topic. Avoid rambling, repeating yourself, and adding words, phrases or sentences that add nothing to the content.
  • Use good grammar. Misspellings, run-on or incomplete sentences, misuse of words and other grammar violations will cause your audience to pay more attention to the mistakes than to the content. Proofread vigorously and edit ruthlessly.
  • Honor copyright law. If you are using information from other sources, give appropriate credit and use quotation marks to indicate when you are using another writer’s words.

Deliver content the way your audience wants to receive it

Content marketing is often associated with web-based communication – blogging, e-letters, or posting on Facebook, for example. But remember that content marketing is based on the preferences of the target audience, so it may be that a traditional printed newsletter is the best way to create a following for your content. And even if you decide to deliver content exclusively via the web, you can use a printed post card to invite members of the target audience to subscribe or join your online community.

Let us help you perfect your content

If you are having trouble finding a writing style or the time to create content, let us help. We may have someone on our staff who can assist, or we can provide a recommendation for a copywriter, editor, photographer or other professional to augment your efforts. One of our services is to help our customers develop and execute an effective marketing plan, so let us go to work for you. Call Brigid at (215)923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com if you have questions or would like to arrange a convenient time to talk.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Direct Mail Enhances Social Media Marketing

Use of social media sites has exploded in the last seven years. In February 2005, the Pew Research Center conducted the first of six surveys as part of the Internet & American Life Project. In 2005, only 2% of adults who use the Internet were using a social media site. That number increased to 65% in 2011.

Who are these users? According to a Morgan Stanley report issued in December 2009, 67% of 18-34 year olds use a social networking site – and so do 67% of 45-54 year old and 55% of those aged 55+. In 2007, social networking represented about 1 out of every 12 minutes spent online, while today it accounts for 1 out of every 6 minutes spent online.

Along with this growth, social media sites have evolved from purely personal to commercial use – a way for people to connect to a business and its fans. Businesses find they can use social media sites for marketing purposes, such as engaging in a dialogue with customers, building brand awareness, making offers or providing premiums, coupons or samples, and alerting customers to upcoming promotions or product launches (sneak previews).

Direct mail is still relevant

Does the popularity of social networking sites mean that businesses and organizations should drop direct mail as a marketing tool? Research says no. For its 2012 Channel Preference Survey, ExactTarget (interactive marketing provider) surveyed consumers to ask how acceptable it is for companies to send unsolicited marketing messages through email, direct mail, text messaging, and Facebook.

Direct mail was the only channel where an unsolicited message is not viewed as inappropriate. ExactTarget also found that 65% purchased a product or service after receiving direct mail while only 20% made a purchase after receiving a message via Facebook and only 16% made a purchase prompted by a text message.

An Internet Advertising Bureau commissioned study in April 2012  showed that 75% of consumers discover new products from off-line sources like word-of-mouth, direct mail, catalogs and television. After the initial purchase, a slight margin of consumers preferred catalogs and direct mail from companies to keep them informed.

The basis of social media is fostering a sense of community where fans can build relationships and share with others. This is very different from traditional marketing which emphasizes products and services. At a social media site, too much emphasis on selling rather than providing something of value risks alienating fans and provoking negative posts.

Social media sites require a consistent effort to demonstrate to customers that there is something valuable to be gained by connecting to your business on a personal level. How much effort? Studies suggest it takes at least 2 hours per week per social media site to see significant marketing results.

Combine direct mail and social media marketing

If you can only afford to use one marketing channel, we believe it should be direct mail. Here’s why:
  • The marketing message gets to the customer or prospect. You are reaching out, not waiting for someone to find you.
  • You control the message. At a social media site, anyone can say anything, even if it isn’t true.
  • You are competing with fewer messages. These days there is relatively little competition for your customer’s or prospect’s attention in a mail box.
  • Mail is a physical media. The brain responds differently to physical and digital media. According to a 2009 study by Millward Brown research company, physical media like a direct mail piece leaves a “deeper footprint” in the brain, involves more emotional processing, and produces more brain responses connected with internal feelings.
Here are a few tips for making social media and direct mail work together.
  • Create a Facebook page for your company and update it regularly with products or services, or an event. Mail a post card with a QR code linked to your Facebook page.
  • Create a forum on Facebook and encourage participation via direct mail.
  • Monitor Twitter conversations on your product or services. Use the topics in a direct mail piece.
  • Post videos on YouTube demonstrating your product or providing an explanation or instruction. Recently, Little Baby’s Ice Cream created several unusual videos that were posted to YouTube. The videos got a lot of attention and landed them on the cover of the Philadelphia Weekly.
  • Make your direct mail piece interactive by adding a QR code. The code can lead to a mobile website, a YouTube video or a brief survey that offers a reward for completion.
  • Include social media icons such as Facebook or Twitter logos on your direct mail piece. This gives your target audience more options for learning about your company, especially if they are interested in customer reviews.
  • Post links to a general, non-personalized landing page containing something desirable (information, an offer) on social media sites. Measure how respondents are getting to the landing page to determine the most valuable source.
  • Make it easy for visitors to share with others. People like to share information. Provide a “like” button for Facebook, a “mention” button for Twitter, and request a “check-in” on Foursquare.

We’re direct mail experts

Call on us to help you integrate social media marketing with direct mail or simply call us to help you integrate social media marketing into your business.  We have been providing direct mail services to our customers since 1995, and we are good at what we do. We’ve been providing social media set up, marketing and management for the last 7 years, and it’s proven to be successful for our customers. For more information or to get started, call Brigid at (215) 923-2679.

Winning Combination

If you own a business that draws its customers from the neighborhood, you can combine direct mail and social media and get people sharing with each other. Here’s how:
  • Be sure your Facebook page has good customer reviews for new visitors to read.
  • Make an offer that you know has appeal – perhaps a “buy one/get one” offer, a discount with purchase, or a free gift.
  • Develop a mail piece (postcard, flyer, brochure) that describes the offer.
  • On the mail piece, direct recipients to your Facebook page and instruct them to write a specific phrase on the page (such as “Got a gift for reading my mail”) to be eligible for the offer.
  • On your Facebook page, refer to the direct mail piece (“Our neighbors are getting free gifts just for opening their mail”).
This will start people talking. Regular visitors to your Facebook page will ask how they can get in on the offer (which is asking to be added to your mailing list), and direct mail recipients will be exposed to the good customer reviews on your Facebook page.

What’s the latest on how people are using QR codes?

According to information published in May 2012 by Scanbuy in it’s Mobile Barcode Trend Report, the number of unique QR code users increased by nearly 200%, to over 5 million, when compared to Q1 2011, and by 1 million when compared to Q4 2011. Also in Q1 2012, 13 million scans were processed – a 157% increase from the year before.

Other findings from the report:
  • The most popular QR code marketing campaigns are connecting to video, app downloads and product details.
  • QR codes from quick-service restaurants were among the top five industries for the first time. The restaurants used QR codes to offer customer promotions, deals, and other offers.
  • iPhone OS and Android OS account for 93% of the total QR barcode traffic, split about evenly.
  • More men use QR codes than women (68% vs. 32%), though the female audience is up 8% compared to Q1 2011.
  • Users aged 25-34 account for 35% of total users, followed by ages 35-44 (20%); 18-24 (16%); 45-54 (12%); 55+ (9%); and under age 18 (8%).

Communication Overload?

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the ways to stay in touch with your customers and prospects? Do you feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get your work done, learn what you need to know about blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all the other social media, formulate a marketing plan that incorporates them all, prioritize, write content, take photos, create videos, meld them all into a brand identity, develop analytics and... well, you get the idea.

Don’t panic; help is on the way. As we’ve been exploring new marketing methods in issues of CreativeBrief, one thing has become clear: no matter what else you do, an ongoing direct mail marketing effort enhances the result.

If appropriate, direct mail can be the basis for outreach to customers and prospects, enhanced by blogging and various social media activities. It is a building block of customer communication. Let us help you formulate a direct mail marketing strategy that will serve as a solid base for additional possibilities. Direct mail really works!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creating an Effective Printed Brochure

Consider the elegant simplicity of a printed brochure – it’s a concise, attractive and versatile compilation of information about a company, product, service, event or location. It can be handed out during a face-to-face sales call or distributed as direct mail; made available in a literature rack or on a table at a trade show; sent in response to an inquiry or left behind at a meeting. It can be economically printed in both small and large quantities. As a sales tool, a brochure is appropriate for almost any selling situation.

Planning a brochure

A brochure is made up of three elements: the copy, the design, and the physical specifications. All three are equally important for creating an effective brochure.

Copy


The copy is the brochure’s message – the words that are used to persuade and inform. Since the most effective copy is written with a specific audience in mind, the first planning step is to define the target audience. Both the content and writing style will be different depending on whether the brochure is intended for technical staff such as engineers or mechanics, for executives such as CEOs and marketing managers, or consumers/end users.

The writing style and content may also be different depending on when in the sales cycle the brochure will be used – as a direct mail piece to generate leads; as sales collateral and a leave-behind during sales calls; or in response to inquiries from leads generated by a website, trade show or exhibit.

The copy itself tells the story of the company, product or service in an unfolding narrative with a beginning, middle and end. It includes all the important selling points (like features, benefits and specifications), the unique selling proposition, and answers to frequently-asked questions. And it is told from the target audience’s point of view.

The tone of the copy can be formal or conversational but the writing must be clear with a minimum of industry jargon. When appropriate, write as if you are speaking directly to just one member of the target audience as this tends to personalize the writing and promote response.

Include a call to action – a specific instruction on what to do next and the information needed to complete the action – as part of the copy. Though commonly placed at the end of the text, a call to action can be put anywhere in the brochure and can appear more than one time. Near the call to action include full contact information – address, phone, fax, URL, social media locators, and QR code.

Before copy is finalized, make sure it is consistent with other sales and marketing materials and proof read for factual errors, typos, punctuation, grammar and syntax.

Design

Design is what gives your brochure its visual appeal. Design elements include typography, color palette, photographs and images, white space, underlying organizational structure and the arrangement of elements on the page.

The front cover of the brochure is the most important design element. It is the first thing that the target audience will see and it determines whether the prospect will continue reading. The cover needs an eye-catching photograph, headline, or combination, not the company logo and contact information. Save that for the back panel.

Be aware that the reader will look first at photographs and images, then headlines, charts and graphs, captions and finally the body copy. Use pull quotes, shaded boxes, and drop capitals for emphasis and to guide the reader’s comprehension. Make features into a bulleted list. The reader should be able to pick up the majority of the content by scanning the photographs and skimming the headlines and captions.

How a brochure is folded affects the order in which readers will see the information unfold, so compartmentalize the presentation. Be sure each panel stands alone but also is connected visually to the rest of the brochure.

Physical specifications

For the most economical price, design the brochure so it can be printed on standard size paper – 8.5 x 11 or 11x17 inches – and use a standard fold:

  • Trifold: commonly used for brochures, a trifold uses two parallel folds to create six panels. Seen from the side, it forms a letter C. Also known as a letter fold or C fold.
  • Z fold: two parallel folds that go in opposite directions creating six panels. Seen from the side, it forms a Z shape. Also known as an accordian fold.
  • Bifold: a single fold creating four panels. Also known as a half fold.
  • Double parallel fold: made by folding a page in half, then folding each folded page in half again, in the same direction.
  • Barrel fold: two or more parallel folds that fold in on each from either left or right. Seen from above, the folds spiral inward. Also known as a roll fold or spiral fold.

A popular stock for brochures is 100# text. It is thicker than paper used in copiers; thicker than letterhead, but thinner than a business card. It takes a fold well and will stand up to repeated handling. If the brochure is being printed in full color, we recommend using a coated or glossy stock; it will enhance the color.

The printed brochure: a versatile sales and marketing tool

Always keeps enough printed brochures on hand so they are available for prospects who visit your business, for sales people making calls, and for responding to requests for more information. If you would like an estimate for printing, please call Marya or Loyd at (215) 923-2679. We also offer copywriting and design services as well as analysis of your existing marketing collateral.

Short Code Shortcuts

If you often type or copy and paste the same block of text (such as your signature or several paragraphs of a standard response) you may be interested in a text expander – a program that automatically pastes a string of words or paragraphs when you type a short code. A text expander can handle something as simple as a phone number or as complex as multiple paragraphs of HTML code.

For example, if you use different email signatures, you can assign a shorthand code like “xsig”, “ysig” and “zsig” to each of three different signature blocks. Then when you type “xsig”, the text expander will paste in the entire signature block associated with that code.

A text expander can be useful for many things, such as a photo, a logo, boilerplate paragraphs, special characters, or words with accent marks.

The Last Step

An important step in creating an effective, professional brochure is proof reading the final layout. Here’s a simple test to determine your proofreading skills.

Count the number of “F”s in the following sentence. Count them only once, and do not go back and count them again:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.

Did you count six “F”s? Most people easily find three (finished, files, scientific). If you spotted four (of), you’re an above average proofreader. If you found five or six (two more of), you are an excellent proofreader.

There is no catch. We miss the “F” in the word “of” because the brain tends to see it as a “V” instead of an “F”.

Loyd Padgett Joins the Team

Please help us welcome our new team member, Loyd Padgett! Loyd has significant experience in printing and electronic media, both online and offline. Loyd is originally from the city of Roanoke, in the Blue Ridge Valley of Virginia.

His love for print goes back to high school where he was editor of the school newspaper. At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, Loyd studied Sculpture and Graphic Design.

Loyd gained substantial hands-on graphic arts experience working for a respected printer with a 40 year history in the local community. It was there that he developed and honed his skills. Loyd has experience with digital and offset printing, high speed laser printing, and large format printing. He has worked in every department of a print shop. Plus, he has significant skills in graphic design, programming and variable data as well. Loyd has run offset presses, hydraulic cutters, binding machines and folding machines of every kind. Loyd “fell in love with printing and has been in the graphic arts industry ever since.”

In his free time, Loyd is a sound artist. He manages an experimental music label, and is always working on getting his own material released on other labels around the world. He also enjoys designing audio circuitry and has been working with the sound design program Pure Data to build interactive patches for live performances. Loyd lives in West Philadelphia with his girlfriend.

Please join us in welcoming Loyd Padgett to the Creative Characters Team!

A Powerful Point of Contact

Today, with email, websites and social media, it is tempting to declare that printed marketing materials irrelevant. We agree that it is important for your customers and prospects to have easy access to your marketing material in digital format. But we also strongly believe that a PDF file can be a poor substitute for the quality of a printed brochure.

As an example, think of what it would be like for you to attend a trade show or visit a new car showroom, leaving only with a PDF file sent to your phone or computer. In many situations, a brochure is still a powerful one-on-one point of contact between the salesman and the prospect. And by including a QR code, the printed brochure is now connected to the digitally-delivered message.

We routinely produce professional quality brochures, in full color, and in whatever quantity you need. Let us help you increase sales with an eye-catching printed brochure. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Consider the End from the Beginning

Are you familiar with the term bindery? That’s the department in our company where we create the final product from flat press sheets – products like a folded brochure, a booklet, a pad, a numbered invoice, pages with holes ready for a ring binder, 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. It’s where we 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 operations

If you have ever cut, folded, stapled or punched holes in sheets you’ve printed, then you are familiar with bindery operations. We perform these operations using stand alone equipment for sheets printed on our offset presses, and with add-on modules to our digital printing equipment to collate multi-page documents, staple sets, and even make booklets. Having these inline capabilities adds a level of efficiency that can mean a faster turnaround time for your project.

Considering bindery operations when creating documents

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 a bleed – an image or line or solid color that extends all the way to the edge of the sheet – the layout will need adjusting. This is because printers do not print an image to the edge of the sheet. What looks like printing to the edge is really a printed image that has been extended past the final size, then trimmed to the final size. The standard allowance for a bleed is 1/8 inch (0.125) beyond the finished size. So if the final size of your printed piece is 8.5 x 11, then set the document size at 8.75 x 11.25, set trim marks at 8.5 x 11, and extend the image that will bleed 0.125 inches past the trim lines.

When preparing a file, such as a business card, where more than one can fit on a press sheet, include trim marks that show us what you intend for the final size. The process of positioning images to print on the press sheet is called imposition; we determine the imposition plan based on production considerations.

Folding

When preparing a document like a trifold brochure, remember the size of panels that fold in must be slightly smaller to produce a completely flat and even fold. The adjustment is particularly critical when the image from one panel abuts the image from an adjacent panel. Here’s an example of the mathematical computation for panel size:

8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded in thirds to produce a brochure measuring 8.5 x 3.67 after folding.

  • 11 divided by 3 = 3.667 (the width of a panel if all panels were equal)
  • To determine the width of the inner panel, subtract 0.125 (1/8th inch) from 3.667 = 3.542 (new width if inner panel)
  • To determine the width of the outer panels, divide 0.125 by 2 = 0.063. Add this amount to 3.667 = 3.73 (new width if outer panels)
  • Result: the panel that folds in (the inner panel) has a width = 3.542; the two outer panels have a width of 3.73
Remember that the position of the inside panel changes from the front to the reverse. In this example, 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. To see this easily for yourself, fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in thirds, make a mark on both sides of the inner panel, then unfold.

Drilling/Punching

To put holes in paper, 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 bound, you must allow extra space from the edge of the sheet to where the image begins to accommodate the drill or punch pattern. A half inch clear space is recommended for an 8.5 x 11 sheet, so 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.

Bookletmaking

Booklets consisting of more than two or three flat press sheets before being made into the booklet can present a problem known as shingling or page creep (see photo at right). Notice that the pages are uneven or shingled. This is the result of page creep. To eliminate the unevenness, the final step in making a booklet is to trim the face (i.e. the outer right hand edge). If there has not been an adjustment for page creep, it is possible that text, page numbers, or images could be trimmed away during the face trim.

Making exact adjustments for page creep requires complicated mathematical computations. A less accurate though simpler method is to make a dummy booklet: fold the exact number of press sheets that will make up the booklet, gather them into a booklet and stitch (staple) in the center fold. Trim the face, then disassemble the booklet. Measure the width of the inner-most sheet (the one that will have the center spread) and set page margins accordingly.

Do it yourself or ask us for help

The instructions we’ve given to adjust for trimming, folding and 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. Give us a Word file with text, tell us where you would like photos or graphics placed, and let us do the final layout. The cost is small compared to what you’ll save yourself in time and frustration.

For more information or a cost estimate, contact Loyd or Marya at (215) 923-2679.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Idea Corner

The cover of your document – the first thing the reader sees – is a very important part of the finished product. To safeguard the cover from scuffing and wear, consider these means of protection:
  • Coating. Coatings are applied after printing as a protective layer. Some commonly-used coatings are varnish, aqueous and UV coating. Coatings can be applied to one or both sides of the cover.
  • Overlay. Use a clear plastic sheet over the top of the cover. The sheet will normally only be necessary over the front cover where the most protection is needed.
  • Die cutting: instead of printing on the cover, cut a window through which text on the title page will be visible. This technique also increases the range of stocks you can consider for the cover since it won’t have to feed through a copier, digital printer or press.

Against 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 on 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 so that folding will be with the grain. When this is not possible, we score or crease the paper fibers to break them evenly before folding. Scoring or creasing is usually necessary for all cover weight papers, for some text weight papers, and when an area of heavy ink coverage through a fold.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Top Ten Reasons We Should Be Your Printer

Printers differ in capabilities and specialties, so you have to know how to match what you need with what a printer can do. For instance, we print different stationery for several printers in the area that print signs, newspapers and magazines. The reason is that they are not capable, with their own equipment, of printing stationery. Below, we present  the top ten reasons why you can confidently pick us as your printer.

#10: We know how to print.

Let’s start with the basics: we have a mix of equipment for printing and finishing, we maintain the equipment in good working order, we provide formal training for our workers, and we enforce production standards for quality and output. We have 24 years of real world experience in addition to our collegiate achievements and degrees. Add all these factors together and it means we can set and meet the daily production schedule.

Why does that matter? Because we can’t finish the whole job on time and correctly unless we complete every interim manufacturing step on time and correctly. And we can’t get the interim steps completed if we have unexpected equipment breakdowns, untrained workers, or don’t have the proper supplies available when needed. It’s the job of our production manager (and co-owner), Marya Kaye, to develop the daily production schedule and monitor throughout the day to be sure it is met.

#9: We tell you how much your job will cost.

Another basic: we provide a proposal as soon as the job specifications are firm. We want to know before we begin production that the price fits within your budget and meets your expectations. If not, we can provide options to hit your price point or budgeted amount.

Our proposals provide details and are written in plain English so that you know exactly what the price is based on. If we’ve misunderstood your instructions, then we can correct the proposal immediately and reach an accurate price. Because of this, we stand behind our proposals – the final invoice will always match the proposal.

#8: We invoice promptly.

We don’t consider the job to be complete until the invoice is written, so jobs are normally invoiced on the day production is completed. To avoid invoices getting lost, we deliver them with the job or mail them to whomever you designate – the person who placed the order or the accounts payable department, for example. The invoice will also include your purchase order number or other
internal reference you provide. And it will always match the quotation.

#7: We commit to a due date and deliver on time.

Because of our production control systems,  we can provide a firm commitment for completing the job. We’ll also provide you with interim due dates for things you may be providing to us such as photographs, a mailing list, or a postage deposit. We’ll also remind you as your deadline for turning things in approaches.

#6: We let you know what’s going on.

We confirm receipt of your inputs so you don’t have to follow up to be sure we have them. If you have submitted a file, we open it, analyze it, and report back any problems we’ve encountered. When a job has many manufacturing steps, we provide a periodic status report so you know how the work
is progressing.

If we encounter an unexpected problem during production, we let you know right away so together we can develop a solution. We do this anytime the due date, cost or quality of the job will be impacted by the problem.

We also let you know about all the things we do – about websites, mailing, signs, mobile marketing, SEO, etc. We won’t assume you know all that we do – instead, we’ll keep you informed via our newsletter and other means.

#5: We tell the truth.

We need you to trust us, and the only way we know to build trust is by always telling the truth. We don’t beat around the bush. For example, if there is a serious design flaw in the brochure file you gave us, we will tell you and provide some suggestions. We won’t mislead you, hide things from you or make substitutions without your knowledge and permission.

#4: We find out what works for you.

The more we know about your business, your industry and your customers, the better we can evaluate whether the printed piece will serve the purpose you intend. If we understand your company’s purchasing and accounts payable systems, we will comply with those requirements and present invoices that can be processed smoothly and routinely. We will ask about hours of delivery, how to present packing and delivery slips, and where to place goods on the loading dock.

#3: We are interested in new media.

We understand the changing role of print in business communications. We know our customers and prospects are using and experimenting with social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, with mobile communications to smart phones, and with web-based communications like webinars and blogging.

We’re constantly testing new media, looking for better solutions, and developing a strategy for combining technologies with print. We understand that our job has always been to help our customers communicate with their customers and prospects so something can be sold or donated or supported. We’re actively working with customers on email marketing, QR codes, desktop and mobile websites, and social media marketing.

#2: We defend print with facts.

Despite our rock solid commitment to new media, we know for certain that print still has an important role to play. For those who would abandon print communications based on concerns for the environment – cutting down trees, the impact of paper manufacturing on the environment, printing’s overall carbon footprint – we offer facts, research and statistics to counter these claims. We can provide objective information about the effectiveness of print, its sustainability, and its overall ROI.

#1: You deserve the best printer.

And we’re it! While other printers may try to persuade you with their equipment or low prices, we’ve offered ten very different reasons as evidence that we’re the best value. It comes down to this: we deliver on time, keep you informed, and make it easy for you to do business with us.

So take the next step – contact Brigid to arrange for a shop tour or an appointment. Email her at brigid@creativecharacters.com or call (215) 923-2679. We’re standing by.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Q&A: Tell me more about Creative Characters

Our humble beginning – the first day of
business on 10th street in 1995.
We’ve been providing web and print solutions to businesses and organizations in the Delaware Valley since 1995. Based on our experience, we are pretty good at predicting which businesses, organizations and individuals will be a good fit with us. We develop a strong working relationship with customers who have:
  • a regular, recurring need for the kind of services we provide
  • a budget adequate for the job specifications
  • the authority to place an order
  • the ability to work with our manufacturing standards
  • adequate time to schedule production
  • a willingness to partner with us
  • good communication skills
  • a desire to work with a dependable, innovative solutions oriented company
For more information about our history and our staff, visit our website at www.creativecharacters.com.

Friday, June 1, 2012

We’re Different

Printing companies are just like any other business – we need to attract new customers to stay in business. And that means we have to interest our prospects in the special features that set us apart from our competition – in sales terminology, our unique selling proposition or USP for short.

So what are the favorite USPs of printers? For some it’s price; for others it’s an equipment list; and for still others it’s a claim of superior customer service. But for Creative Characters it is something different. We’ve organized our shop to make it easy for you to do business with us.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But like many things that appear simple, it takes a lot of training and practice to carry out. We are proud to enumerate the specific reasons why we should be your printer of choice. Reduced to its essence, we deliver your project on time, at the agreed-upon price, and error-free. If you’re not getting that from your current printer, maybe it’s time to give us a try.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Promotion on a Dime

Do you have products or services to promote? Do you have information you’d like to share with your customers? Would you like to distribute the information without the expense of a direct mail marketing campaign? Then try a statement stuffer.

Statement stuffers are a terrific sales tool often used by national retailers, utility companies, banks and credit card companies. Because of their small dimension, they can be inexpensive to produce and usually do not add to the postage cost. In many businesses or organizations, purchasing decisions are made by the same people who pay the bills.

Statement stuffers are also versatile. They can be displayed at a front counter, added to promotional kits, or included with finished orders. We can help you design an all-purpose statement stuffer in one or many versions. Just give us a call at (215) 923-2679.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Communicating Across the Generation Gap

There are now six generations interacting with businesses and organizations as purchasers. They are customers, clients, donors, investors, and subscribers. Each generation was shaped by what was going on in the world during their childhood and teenage years. Those events influenced their thinking, the values they hold, their expectations for behavior, and the way they like to communicate. And this has implications for your marketing message and approach.


The Generations

According to leadership coach Bea Fields, co-author of Millennial Leaders: Success Stories from Today’s  Most Brilliant Generation Y Leaders, here is an overview of each generation:


GI Generation – born 1901-1924

  • Significant world events: Roaring 20’s, rotary dial telephone becomes commonplace, invention of vitamins
  • Characteristics: achievers, believers, inventors
  • Values: simplicity, uniformity, cooperation, leadership, saving the world
  • Communication preferences:face-to-face, rotary dial telephone, handwritten letters
  • Communication obstacles:email, fax, cell phones,texting, social networking

Traditionalists – born 1925-1945

  • Significant world events: Great Depression, World Wars I and II,  Korean War, G.I. bill
  • Characteristics: waste not want not, loyal, patriotic, faith in institutions, hierarchical thinking
  • Values: logic, loyalty, discipline, tradition, family, leaving a legacy
  • Communication preferences: face-to-face, formal typed or handwritten letters
  • Communication obstacles: email, fax, cell phones (use for emergencies only), texting, social networking

Baby Boomers –  born 1946-1964

  • Significant world events: Vietnam War, move to suburbia, color television, street drugs, civil rights protest and movement, Woodstock, touch telephone
  • Characteristics: hard working, keeping up with The Joneses, idealistic, questioning authority, climbing the corporate ladder, highly competitive, the first “me” generation
  • Values: hard work (70-hour work weeks), getting ahead, being noticed, becoming famous, money, freedom, being “me”
  • Communication preferences: telephone, face-to-face, fax, email (lots of it), group/team meetings, cell phones (for talking, not texting), neighborhood street parties
  • Communication obstacles: social networking, blogging, texting, technophobia

Generation X – born 1965-1978

  • Significant world events: dot.com boom and bust, Sesame Street, AIDS epidemic, latch key kids, MTV, first cellular phone, Apple and Microsoft as tech giants
  • Characteristics: “reality bites”, skeptical of higher institutions, cynical about marriage and life, fiercely independent, questioning everything, tech savvy, globally concerned
  • Values: independence, freedom, friends, mobility, security
  • Communication preferences: to choose the communication method and frequency, email, cell phone, texting, blogging, instant message, online forums
  • Communication barriers: face-to-face communication, formal letter writing, team discussion (prefer one-on-one), difficulty communicating up or down a generation; some barriers with social networking

Generation Y – born 1979-1997

  • Significant world events: September 11, high speed Internet access, overnight delivery, the Information Age, You Tube, birth of self-esteem movement, cell phone mania, Facebook, Myspace and other online social networks
  • Characteristics: open and accepting of diverse backgrounds, very concerned about social and global issues, worldly, knowledge workers, team players, multi-taskers, “me”, impatient, need for speed and thrills
  • Values: live first/work second, speed, information equals knowledge, friends, fun, saving the world, creativity, simplicity, balance
  • Communication preferences: texting, online social networks, email (only for work and school), instant message
  • Communication obstacles: face-to-face, telephone, professional or even casual letter writing

Generation Z – born after 1997

  • This is the rising generation. Not yet adults, Gen Z has not yet been profiled. Generation Z has never known life without the Internet, computers and mobile phones and because of this, they are used to instant access and satisfaction.  They are being given cell phones at an early age, making their primary means of communication texting and social media.
  • Since generations repeat themselves after 80 years or four generations, some demographers believe this generation will look like the G.I. Generation. Generation Z will be shaped by the current recession which will likely make them frugal, socially conscious and valuing integrity.

Using generational preferences for marketing

Today’s communications technology enables marketers to pick from a number of tools to reach customers, including telemarketing, direct mail, opt-in email, and messages to mobile devices. By understanding the communication preferences of generations, you can select the method your target audience is most likely to prefer, as well as tailor content to each generation.

But be aware that each generation blends into the next, meaning that preferences exist on a sliding rather than absolute scale. What this means is that the best strategy is to be proficient at all forms of communication.

  • Don’t neglect personal and business correspondence. The GI Generation, Traditionalists and early Baby Boomers value letters, both handwritten and typed.
  • Don’t abandon the telephone. The GI Generation, Traditionalists, Baby Booms and Gen X still use the telephone. Just remember to call Gen Xers on their cell phones.
  • Become comfortable with face-to-face communication. Only Gen X and Gen Y are truly uncomfortable with face-to-face conversations.
  • Become comfortable with technology. Email, blogging, text messaging, instant message, Facebook and Twitter are here to stay.
  • Learn how to speak in public. There will be times when a public speech is necessary. Think about your “elevator speech”, a 30-second description of who you are and what you do. And if you are very comfortable with new communication technology, remember that most of your target audience may not be.

How we can help

If you are struggling with all this new information, know that you are not alone. Since our job is to help our customers communicate with their customers, we’ve been studying generational differences for a while now. We haven’t abandoned print because it is still valued by the GI Generation, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers. But we’ve added additional services such as website creation and administration (both desktop and mobile), and social media for marketing. Even more importantly, we know how to modify a marketing message so it will have appeal across generations. If you would like more information about putting our expertise to work for your business or organization, contact Brigid at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com. It will be our pleasure to help you learn from our experience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Next Big Generation

Generation Y, sometimes called The Millennials, currently is the youngest generation to emerge as customers and workers. Born between 1979 and 1997, they are now in their late teens to early 30’s and are predicted to be the next big generation. They were raised in a consumer economy using the tenets of the self-esteem movement where everyone won and everyone got a medal. They are predicted to share many characteristics with the G.I. Generation.

In 2010, the Pew Research Center developed a 14-question quiz to predict how closely a person’s values, attitudes and behaviors resemble the typical Millennial. A score of 51 or higher means the chances are better than 50-50 that there
is a match.

If you would like to take the quiz, it is available online at http://pewresearch.org/millennials/quiz/.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tips and Tricks: Generational Preferences


Generational communication preferences are important in the workplace as well as in marketing. There are currently four generations in the workplace: Traditionalists (15% of work force); Baby Boomers (50%); Gen X (30%) and Gen Y (5%). Traditionalists are hard workers whose lack of technical knowledge is more than offset by their work ethic and personal values. They tend not to offer opinions unless asked and prefer a face-to-face conversation.

Of all the generations, Baby Boomers are the most accepting of change. Though they have mastered technology, they prefer phone calls and email. Boomers read body language well and like written backup plans. They are workaholics and expect co-workers to be, too.

Gen Xers love technology and new gadgets. Communication is short and pointed, often using email. Gen Xers like feedback from supervisors and offer it in return, and may become offended if not kept informed. For a Gen Xer, part of each day includes communicating with family and friends.

Gen Y loves technology even more than Gen X and will play with everything. Email and texting is short and quick, and they may use mobile phone apps to communicate. They expect work to be fun and flexible. Laughter is essential to this group – stern talking is not well accepted. Gen Y also expects everyone to be on the same level.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Direct Mail Marketing: Dead or Alive?

What’s your opinion of direct mail marketing versus email and social media as a marketing tool?

Do you see email, Facebook and Twitter as today’s relevant marketing strategies, replacing direct mail marketing? Are you convinced that customers and prospects view marketing mail as junk mail? Did you try direct mail marketing once, with disappointing results?

If so, you may be surprised to learn that volumes of research support the fact that direct mail marketing remains an effective marketing tool and it is enhanced, not replaced, by email and social media. It’s not that direct mail is dead – it’s that single-channel communication is dead. 

Using marketing strategies cooperatively

Not everyone responds to communications in the same way. Today, any marketer using only one method to reach customers and prospects is risking effectiveness. Rather than use one method in isolation, several methods should be combined to multiply their effect:

Scenario 1: Use a direct mail post card with a printed QR code to direct the target audience to your website. At the website, provide an incentive to gather email addresses. Invite visitors to engage with your social sites.

Scenario 2: Use the opt-in email list to direct a customer to your website to request a direct mail pack. Send a follow-up email message to be sure that the pack was received.

Scenario 3: Use a direct mail piece to remind donors or members of the need to renew. Use email to remind non-responders of the approaching deadline to join or give. Send a written communication to responders (thank you) and non-responders (second follow-up mailing).

As Charles Gaudet, marketing expert and founder of PredictableProfits.com,
reminds us, “One would think that if digital communication was so good then the online giants of the world, namely Google and Microsoft, would rely solely on email and other digital media, but they don’t. In fact, they spend millions of dollars each year reaching out to customers and prospects using direct mail. Why? Because it works.” 

Direct mail: the logical first step

John Jantsch, creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System, says “Marketing is getting people who have a specific need or problem to know, like, and trust you.” For most businesses and organizations, direct mail is the logical first step to accomplish these objectives.

Sending direct mail – particularly a series of mailings – allows prospects to become familiar with your company’s name, logo, location, product line and services. Even if there’s no immediate need for what you’re offering, you build name recognition and allow the prospect to get to know your business. Further, you increase the likelihood that the prospect will visit your website or click through to it in search results.
 

Is direct mail junk mail?

Although unsolicited advertising or promotional material is called junk mail by some, it is welcomed by others. According to the Direct Marketing Association 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, 79% of households either read or skim advertising mail sent to their home.

This finding is consistent with a study conducted by ICR for Pitney Bowes. That survey found that despite the widespread use and popularity of digital media overall, 73% of consumers prefer mail for receiving new product announcements, compared to 18% who prefer email. The survey also found that 31% of consumers are less likely to discard unopened mail (including new product announcements, coupons, brochures and catalogs) than they are to delete spam (53%). 

Unsolicited mail versus unsolicited email

To compare unsolicited mail to unsolicited email, the ICR study asked consumers what specific advantages they saw in unsolicited mail. The results are interesting:
  • 45% found mail less intrusive than email.
  • 40% found mail more convenient (save and consider at leisure).
  • 30% of respondents found mail to be less high pressure (let them consider their decision).
  • 23% of respondents found mail to be more descriptive (easier to picture the offer).
  • 12% of respondents found mail to be more persuasive.

 

Other differences include:

  • Email can be designated by the recipient as spam and blocked from the inbox. Direct mail, on the other hand, does get into the mail box. And because it is tangible, some part of the mail piece will be seen even if it is discarded.
  • Mail that arrives regularly may be more welcome than email. Prospects unsubscribe from email at a faster rate than they request to be removed from a mailing list.
  • If someone moves and turns in change-of-address orders to the USPS, that information is made available to mailers. There are no similar update services for email addresses.
According to the United States Postal Service, the average household receives about 16 pieces of advertising-related mail per week, while the average consumer received 15-16 marketing emails per day. In 2009, Forrester Research predicted that email marketing messages would reach an average of 25 per day by 2014. This means that there is significant competition for consumer attention with email and relatively little for direct mail. 

Direct mail is a campaign, not a single event

Effective direct mail marketing is a campaign rather than a one-time mailing – mail pieces are sent out on a regular, recurring cycle. If your budget allows for a 3,000-piece mailing, it is better to mail three times to a list of 1,000 rather than one time to a list of 3,000. The costs will be nearly the same, but the response rate will be greater. Each subsequent mailing reinforces your message and increases the likelihood that a recipient will have a current need for your product or service. 

Count on us for help

For 17 years, we have been helping our customers effectively communicate with their customers and prospects. We have the knowledge and experience to help you design a direct mail campaign with impact. We will design and print the mail piece, process your mailing list for data quality and hygiene, and provide mailing services that qualify for discounted postage rates. We can also help you take advantage of promotions being offered by the USPS. To learn more about our direct mail marketing services and how they help you increase sales, contact Brigid at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Q&A: Should I Use a QR Code on My Direct Mail Marketing Piece?

Yes! Adding a Quick Response (QR) code to any printed piece makes it interactive for mobile phone users. A QR code is a two-dimensional graphical representation of information; after scanning the QR code, the information is displayed on the mobile phone screen.

Early uses of QR codes were to display a website or telephone number. Now they are used to display a coupon at checkout, send an email or text message, go to a personalized web page, or launch a video.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Knock Out Results

Have traditional marketing methods like direct mail, print and broadcast media been made irrelevant by email marketing and social media? Is there still a place for these tried-and-true methods?

We believe marketing is most effective when you use multiple communication methods together, instead of just one. This is especially true for small businesses and non-profit organizations that have modest marketing budgets and staff that can devote only a small part of their time to marketing.

Direct mail marketing has not disappeared for one very good reason – it works! This has been confirmed by multiple research studies that affirm its advantages and make head-to-head comparisons to email marketing. But email marketing also has its place. Together, direct mail and email are the 1-2 punch that produces knockout results.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How do people process marketing messages?

To answer that question, a study used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to understand differences in how online and offline media communicate a message. The research was conducted by Millward Brown in conjunction with the University of Bangor in Wales, UK.

Ten males and ten females were shown images presented on screen (to simulate the online experience of email) and then on printed cards (to simulate direct mail). To summarize the findings:

"The printed material facilitated greater emotional processing–seen as more brain activity in the areas associated with visual and spatial information–suggesting it is more real to the subject. Greater emotional involvement leads to more positive brand associations, along with easier brand recall. This more tangible experience is also more readily internalized by the viewer, which means the ads should have a more personal effect that in turn positively influences motivation to take action, like buying a product or making a donation".

In contrast, the response to online materials demonstrated a difficulty to focus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ethical Standards

Sometimes, as responsible business people, we have to do what is necessary, rather than what is easy. This month’s topic is a perfect example. As we search the web looking for a specific bit of information, we may inadvertently find something that would be especially useful for marketing or prospecting. It is so simple to use Control C and V to copy and paste the information into a file. As I said, that’s the easy part. The not-so-easy part? Requesting permission for its use from the author.

We’ve long advocated collecting ideas in a swipe file to be used later for brainstorming. But that’s different than presenting the work of others as if it is your own (plagiarizing) or engaging in copyright infringement.

If you find the work of others to be exactly what you need, contact the author and request permission for use. Not only is it a good business practice, it is a great compliment and ultimately, the right thing to do.

Friday, April 20, 2012

4 Myths of Infringement


Myth 1: A work must have the copyright notice for copyright protection to be in force. This has not been true since April 1, 1989. We use the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It requires that copyright must be automatic and prohibits formal registration.

Myth 2: Anything posted on the World Wide Web is in the public domain. While works published before 1923 are in the public domain, much of what is available on the web is more recent and will not be in the public domain for decades. To be in the public domain, the words “This work is dedicated to the public domain” must be present.

Myth 3: There’s no copyright infringement if I’m not selling the copyrighted material. If you use copyrighted material for any reason, you are guilty of infringement, whether or not you profit from the use. The author has the exclusive right to control what is done with the work.

Myth 4: If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it isn’t copyright infringement.
It isn’t up to the user to decide whether the owner has been hurt by the copyright infringement. Even if you can’t imagine how the owner might be hurt, it isn’t your right to decide.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Photographs, Drawings and other Graphic Art

Images – photographs, clip art, drawings, graphics – are usually copyright-protected. Determining the copyright owner for photographs is sometimes difficult. In general, the photographer is considered the owner even if the work was for hire (such as photographs of a wedding or other event). And the copyright endures even if the photographer is no longer living – rights can be transferred by a will as personal property. The photographer must specifically transfer the copyright, in writing and signed, to another person.

Stock photography and clip art sold in books, on CDs or downloadable from websites is royalty-free (or may be in the public domain) most of the time. Usually, it is not copyright-free. Some images are rights managed requiring royalties to be paid for usage. Exercise care when using these images. By reading the agreement or license that accompanies the image or is available on the website, you’ll understand what your rights are for reproduction of the image and whether there are limitations on use. The most common limitation is for incorporating the image into something you intend to offer for sale, such as photos identified for editorial use only.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tradition Plus Innovation

Strategy versus tactics. The “Big Picture” rather than the details. Or more succinctly, the forest, not the trees. That’s what I keep in mind as I work on developing an effective way to market my business.

A strategy describes how to achieve an objective – in my case, how to sell something to somebody. My marketing strategy considers what customers to target (and which not), what products and services to offer (and which not), and how to do this with maximum efficiency. While I may change the tactics I use to implement my strategy (dropping word-of-mouth and Yellow Pages advertising in favor of a mobile website and Facebook page, for example), the strategy itself doesn’t change.

In this issue of CreativeBrief we present the idea that there are some basic tactics to an effective marketing strategy – tactics that may not be dazzling but are effective in implementing the strategy. In fact, you’re reading one of them right now! Let us show you how to successfully combine tradition with innovation for your marketing strategy.