Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

To spend time with friends & family,
we will be closed Thursday, November 28th

and Friday, November 29th.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Twice As Effective

Creating a direct mail marketing campaign that includes e-mail outreach is becoming increasingly popular. Adding a QR code to a mail piece makes it interactive and takes the recipient to a web page for more information, to enter a contest, take a survey, or retrieve a coupon. Some QR codes make a phone number pop up on a mobile phone; by clicking, the recipient connects with the sender– effectively completing an inbound telemarketing response.

The shoe company DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) learned something interesting about its clients’ use of QR codes: men like to use them but women often ignore them. DSW found that their male clients don’t like clipping coupons from a mailer and putting it in their wallet, but they will click a QR code for a coupon that downloads to their mobile phone. Women, who are more inclined to clip and save a coupon, were less likely to use a QR code based coupon.

Neighbor Mail

To help businesses with direct mail marketing, the USPS has created a special direct mail program that reaches every home in a neighborhood without needing an address. Simply select one or more postal service delivery routes and your mail piece is delivered to every active address in the route.

This type of mailing is a saturation mailing using the simplified address format. A mailing with these characteristics is very efficient for the USPS to process because it bypasses postage cancellation, address correction, and mail sorting steps and goes straight to the individual letter carrier.

Mailings can be very economical compared to traditional direct mail:

  • No mail list is required. This saves the cost of acquiring a mail list, the cost of addressing the mail piece, and the cost of maintaining the mail list.
  • Small mailings can be quickly produced. Most carrier routes are 400-600 addresses. By eliminating the time to gather a mail list and address the mail piece, and by using digital equipment for printing the mail piece, a small mailing can be in the hands of prospective clients in just a few days.
  • No postage permit is required. Regular presorted mailings require a permit to mail at discounted postage rates. For this special program, the USPS waives this requirement.
  • The mailing panel can be very small. Because the mail piece does not go through normal mail processing, there are few requirements for the location and size of the mail panel (the area containing the return address, indicia and outbound address). Note, however, that there are requirements for the wording of the indicia and the simplified address.
  • The postage rate is the lowest available.
For businesses that regularly mail newsletters or postcards to their clients using standard addressed direct mail, this is a great way to prospect for new clients who are neighbors of existing clients. With all these possibilities, it’s a great marketing tool for many businesses. For more information and to discuss how neighbor mail might benefit your business, contact us at info@creativecharacters.com or (215) 923-2679.

Direct Mail: Your Extra Salesperson

Here is an easy way to add an extra salesperson to your marketing staff: develop an ongoing direct mail marketing campaign. While the goal of advertising is to create brand awareness and a connection to potential buyers, direct mail marketing aims to motivate a prospect to take action and complete a transaction. A carefully planned and executed direct mail campaign can do just that.

Today more companies are turning to direct mail. According to research by IBISWorld published in October, Direct Mail Advertising in the U.S., direct mail is expected to grow 1.4% annually in the next five years. Part of this is due to incentives provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS), such as direct mail that includes QR codes and a special program called Neighbor Mail.

In its Channel Preference Study, Epsilon Targeting found that direct mail is the top choice of consumers for receiving brand communications, even among 18-34 year olds. Other interesting findings include:

  • 26% of consumers said direct mail is more trustworthy than email.
  • 50% of consumers said they pay more attention to postal mail than email.
  •  30% of consumers said they’re receiving more mail that interests them compared to a year ago.
  •  50% said more information is sent to them in the mail, indicating marketers are improving targeting efforts.
  •  The perception that reading email is faster declined among email account holders to 45% in 2011, suggesting clogged inboxes are draining time.

Elements of a direct mail marketing campaign

The basic elements of a direct mail marketing campaign are simple: a mail list, a mail piece, and a schedule. Each element influences the response rate and effectiveness of the campaign.

The Mail List

Of all the elements, the most influential is the mail list. On average, the mail list accounts for 60% of the overall response rate. Design a beautiful mail piece and include an irresistible offer but mail to the wrong audience and the response rate will be disappointing.

Today target audiences expect a direct mail piece to be relevant to their needs or interests. Personalization – such as including information about the prospect on the mail piece, tailoring the presentation of information, or including a targeted message – are ways to demonstrate relevancy. Highly targeted personalization requires additional information (such as buying patterns and demographic profiling) that turns a mailing list into a database.

Any mail list – whether containing only name and address or enriched with transaction and demographic data – must be 100% accurate to be effective.

This means spelling names correctly, keeping addresses current, and ensuring that demographics like age and gender are accurate. We can help you by giving you address corrections we receive from the USPS prior to mailing, but you will have to take the time to update your mailing list.

Mail piece: format, content and design

There is much debate about the best format for a direct mail piece. In the Statistical Fact Book, the read rates for postcards, catalogs, flyers, letters and large envelope letters ranged from 42% for postcards to 34% for letters. Choose a format that is most appropriate for your message. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Post card/self-mailer. Good for a message that doesn’t require a lot of explanation. Use to make announcements (such as moving), build traffic (to a website or a physical location) or complete a transaction (place an order).
  • Catalog. Use when selling lots of products or when photographs are needed to make the purchase decision.
  • Flyer. Good for a general message or announcement, especially when the target audience is prospects rather than clients.
  • Direct mail package. A large envelope with multiple inserts – letter, brochure, order form, response device, etc. Used more for clients or hot leads than for general prospecting.
  • Letter. Use when you want to give a personal feeling to the mailing. Because two-page letters elicit a higher response than a single page, either write a longer letter or include something else – a brochure, an article or a product sheet – to serve as the second page.
  • Dimensional. Contains a gift. Used when the target audience is executive level and the gift is substantial. May also be lumpy mail when the gift is less substantial (like a magnet or notepad).
The content of the mail piece must always include an offer and a call to action. A good offer is relevant to the target audience, promotes only one thing, is time-sensitive (to create a sense of urgency) and is easy to understand. If the purpose of the direct mail campaign is to secure an order, the offer can be product-related (such as buy-one-get-one-free, free trial, premium with purchase, or free sample). If you are trying to secure leads, then the offer should provide a motivating incentive (white paper, free consultation, research results).

When the target audience is consumers, include a coupon. Across all age groups, 70% of buyers respond to a message that includes a coupon.

You may be surprised to learn that the design of a mail piece accounts for only 20% of the response rate. What this means is that unless your target audience requires it, you can keep the design simple. The rule of thumb is that the recipient will invest from 3 to 7 seconds to decide whether to open and read, keep to read later or pass on to someone else, or discard. Use this time to your best advantage by following these tips:

  • Use a large, short headline as teaser copy on the front of the envelope or post card.
  • Stress benefits, not features in the body copy.
  • Make the call to action simple and easy to find.
  • Include contact information prominently but not dominantly.
  • Keep your logo and name visible but not competing with the key elements of the mail piece (headline, offer, call to action).


Direct mail is most effective when mailed repeatedly and regularly. For planning purposes, figure a typical response rate of 1-2% (though this number can change based on many factors). The response rate is cumulative, based on a minimum of three mailings. If your budget allows you to mail 6,000 pieces, the response rate will be higher if you mail 3 times to 2000 rather than 1 time to 6000.

Space the mailings between 4 and 6 weeks apart and coordinate the dates with a supporting e-mail and/or telemarketing campaign. Using more than one marketing channel will improve response rates.

Direct mail is effective

Direct mail is a proven and viable method to communicate with clients and prospects. For help planning and executing a direct mail marketing campaign that gets results, contact Brigid, Marya or Jason at (215) 923-2679 or info@creativecharacters.com. We’ll guide you through the process to bring you success.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What I Learned When Jen Groover Spoke

I had the privilege of going to StartUp Grind Philadelphia last night to hear top media mogul and business expert, Jen Groover, who has been tagged by Success Magazine as the “One Woman Brand”. In case you haven't heard of her, click here for her bio to get an idea of who she is and what she’s about.

Her talk was everything that was promised. It was inspirational, motivational and empowering. One of the key messages she got across last night was that to be successful, you have to know who you, what you’re about, where you want to go and most importantly, know your own value proposition. She wasn’t referring to knowing the value proposition of your business. She meant know your own personal value proposition. She said success can’t happen without this as a solid foundation and I agree.

Jen Groover is a big proponent of consistent, ongoing self-improvement. She said that every entrepreneur needs to be doing some kind of personal growth as an ongoing process. Personal growth is an ongoing process that is imperative to success. It doesn’t matter as much what it is, just that it resonates with the person doing it. It could be Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Darren Hardey, reading self-help books, yoga, working out with a personal trainer, or voice coaching for instance.

Some key takeaways for me were:

  • Become more mindful. Think successful thoughts.
  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Envision your success. See yourself in the success you desire. Say why not me.
  • You can’t be successful without knowing you are worth being successful. You have to know your worth and believe you deserve success to be successful.
  • Your thoughts drive your reality. If you think you will do it, you will. If you think you’re going to make a million dollars this year, you will…maybe not immediately, but the point is you have to think and believe that you will (not can, but will) in order for it to happen at all. Think positive thoughts.
  • All entrepreneurs should do media training. Sound good, look good, and deliver your value proposition successfully to give yourself an edge over the competition. She suggested Jennifer Frederick from Fox News as a resource for this training.
  • Know your own story. Storytelling is a primary way to engage prospects and partners.
  • When you’re pitching a product to a potential investment partner, for instance, help them see the possibilities and success. Paint a picture for them so they will visualize your product solving a problem or filling a need. You won’t win trying to force your ideas or shove your pitch down their throat.
Her website is www.JenGroover.com. She has a Facebook page called The Best You Challenge: Unleash Your Inner Power where she takes you on a total transformation challenge for mind, body and spirit. Every day Jen will challenge, inspire, empower and guide you to reach your goals and live to your fullest potential. I joined The Best You Challenge and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

USPS Raises Postal Rates For 2014

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced proposed price changes, including an increase in the price
Trays of Annual Appeal letters ready to go to USPS
Trays of Annual Appeal letters ready to go out.
of a First-Class Mail single-piece letter from 46 cents to 49 cents. The proposed changes, which would go into effect January 26, 2014, are intended to generate $2 billion in incremental annual revenue for the Postal Service.

Due to the price increase, we are suggesting mailing projects scheduled for January be moved up to December 2013 or early January 2014 if possible. You could save money by mailing early.

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 26, 2014 include:
  • Letters (1 oz.)—3-cent increase to 49 cents
  • Letters additional ounces—1-cent increase to 21 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.)—$1.15
  • Postcards—1-cent increase to 34 cents

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Website Is Not A Brochure: Why You Need Both

Which one is easier to hand a client or
prospect at a trade show? On a sales call?
When it comes to providing information about your company and its products and services, a good website offers a lot of advantages. It allows prospects to find you, regardless of their geographic proximity. Searching for information is fast and easy. The prospect has complete control, spending as much or as little time as desired on the site.

But all the information gathering can be done anonymously. That means you don’t know the extent of the prospect’s interest – whether an early-stage looker (slight interest, may not have intention to buy), information seeker (gathering information from more than one source), qualified buyer (has the interest, authority and budget to make a decision), or someone actually ready to purchase. You can’t answer questions, counter misinterpretations, or offer additional information. In short, you have no control over the sales process.

An effective brochure, on the other hand, returns control to you. It also requires you to think through exactly how to tell a compelling story about your company and its products and services – the basis of any marketing effort, regardless of the strategy used to carry it out.

Why You Need a Brochure

Because it is so common to see people using their mobile phones or desktop computers to gather information, we may forget that people also seek information on paper. Think of the times you’ve printed something you saw online to save for later – an article, a clever saying, a reminder, a coupon. The same is true for direct mail or for brochures on a store counter. If the direct mail piece or the brochure catches your interest, you are likely to put it aside to look at later.

Brochures are an important part of the sales process. They may be sent ahead of a face-to-face visit as a way for the prospect to begin researching your company, product or service. They may also be left behind as a reminder of the visit. The brochure can help during the sales call itself. If the prospect asks for information that is in the brochure, you can refer to it either for a more extended discussion, or to reassure the prospect and move on to another question or area of inquiry.

Going over a brochure with your prospect is seamless and doesn’t require any extra room or equipment. While you are directing the prospect to the section of the brochure that answers his question, you can add information on-the-fly that addresses knowledge you have gained during the sales call.

One purpose of a sales call is to build trust and confidence between you and the prospect. Some sales coaches teach that a sales person should not give up on a prospect until he or she has reached seven “touches” with the prospect. (A touch is a contact with the prospect, such as a telephone call, email, direct mail piece or sales call.) A brochure provides a way to touch in the form of a followup once the sales call is completed.

If your company does trade shows, a brochure is indispensable. Besides providing a focus for discussion, it can give the prospect something to do while waiting to speak to someone in the booth, and serves as a reminder of the conversation when the prospect is reviewing the trade show literature. Finally, a timid or busy prospect can take a brochure for reference without having to interact with anyone.

Other ways a brochure can help the sales process:

  • Provides a way for your prospect to accurately convey information to others within the organization.

  • Exposes your clients to other products and services you offer that they might not be aware of.

  • Educates the prospect while simultaneously demonstrating the company’s expertise on a specific topic, product or service.

Characteristics of an effective brochure

An effective brochure engages both sides of the brain: the right side which responds to color, images, creativity – the “big picture”, and the left side which responds to language, logic, numbers and reasoning – the details. Interestingly, the fastest way to create an effective brochure is to begin with the details and end with the big picture.

A useful way to gather details is to use the five W’s of journalism: who, what, where, when, why. In journalism, the answers to the five W’s provides the information needed to report the event or news story. By answering the five W’s about your company, product or service, you’ll develop a complete description that can become the brochure copy.

Here is an example of how to use the five W’s:

  • Who defines the audience that will be reading the brochure. If the audience is too diverse, consider developing more than one brochure, each aimed at a specific group.

  • What addresses the format of the brochure – how much space will be required, how to display the information, and the proportion of text to graphics.

  • Where the brochure will be used. Some possibilities include part of a direct-selling sales cycle, distributed at a trade show, as a direct mail piece, as a product insert, as an introductory leave-behind, or as a rack card.

  • When the brochure will be used: as part of a product rollout, as support for a direct mail marketing campaign, during industry events, trade shows, conventions, or during holidays.

  • Why describes the purpose of the brochure – to introduce or build awareness of a company, product or service, to be a handout during a sales presentation, to be a reminder after a sales call, or to send ahead prior to a meeting.

It is possible that in the process of answering these questions, you will discover that you need several brochures – one aimed at a specific audience, one highlighting a specific product or service,  and one that provides company background and history. If this is the case, it will be important that they all are tied together with consistent graphic design.

How to organize a brochure

Since most brochures are intended to be informative, the secret to an effective brochure is learning how to organize the key selling points in a logical order – often the same order you would use if you were selling face-to-face. First, qualify the prospect by helping him determine whether reading the brochure is worth his time. Next, present features translated into benefits, followed by more detailed specifications if needed. Finally, provide the information the prospect needs to take the next step – to request more information, ask for a face-to-face meeting, or make a purchase. You may also want to print a QR code that will lead the prospect to your website where he can browse for more information.

Unless you are preparing a brochure about the company itself, make any discussion of the company’s history or corporate philosophy brief and place it at the end of the brochure. In the early stages of the selling cycle, company information is of minor interest to prospects.

We are experts

Since 1995, we have been helping our clients organize the material for their brochures, as well as designing and printing. If your company doesn’t yet have a brochure, or if an existing brochure needs to be refreshed, contact us for an appointment. We can be reached at (215) 923-2679 or info@creativecharacters.com.

Antiquated Info

To avoid having your brochure go out of date because some information – prices, schedule of events, person to contact, or similar – changes frequently, consider using an insert to present this information. A standard insert would be just slightly smaller than an individual brochure panel, so the insert will be completely enclosed by the brochure. But there are other possibilities:

  • Extra long. An insert that is longer than a single brochure panel and designed so that eye-catching or teaser copy is visible as a headline.

  • Extra wide. Same concept as the extra long, though this insert is wider than the folded brochure.

  • Affixed with fugitive glue.  Fugitive glue is adhesive that is used to affix credit cards, membership cards or other items to a base carrier. Fugitive glue is available as dots on a waxed carrier and are easy to remove one-by-one to affix an insert into a brochure. Could be used to affix a business card, a discount coupon, or a response device.

  • Bookmark. A bookmark that contains the variable information is a useful add-on to a brochure.

Q&A: Selecting Images

“Do you have any suggestions for selecting images to appear in my brochure?“

Every brochure benefits from having visual images in addition to text. These images may be photographs, illustrations, drawings, or even charts and graphs. The purpose of the images is to attract the reader’s attention and enhance his or her understanding of the text. For this reason, be sure that any image you include is easy for the reader to identify and relevant to what is being discussed. Don’t let the image compete with the text or raise issues that are not covered in the text.

When selecting photographs, be sure they will reproduce well. A good rule of thumb is to only include photographs with a resolution of 300 dpi in the size the photograph will appear in the brochure. A photograph whose resolution is lower than 300 dpi runs the risk of pixelation (also known as the “jaggies”).

Write a Better Brochure

Though the copy for a brochure can be produced by a professional writer, many companies prefer to write the text themselves, then provide it along with photos and illustrations to a professional to design. If you are comfortable writing copy, we offer some tips to help you produce a better brochure.

  • Tip 1: Don’t overwrite. The average reader spends more time looking at photos, captions, headlines and visuals than reading text. You can work with this tendency by making the text easy to skim. Use bullets, lists, headlines, subheads, and short paragraphs so the reader can absorb the information at a glance.

  • Tip 2: When describing a product or service, focus on benefits, not features. Features are attributes of the product or service (comes in four colors; is made of stainless steel). Benefits answer the client’s question What’s in it for me (will match any d├ęcor; can be used outdoors without rusting). Clients buy based on benefits, so clearly define what they are.

  • Tip 3: Be clear about your unique selling proposition. The unique selling proposition shows how your company, product or service is different than your competition or the other choices the prospect is considering. Your company may have developed its unique selling proposition as a marketing strategy. Or you may need to uncover it by asking your best clients why they buy from you.

  • Tip 4: Use simple language. Because most brochures are skimmed, keep the language simple, concise and devoid of industry jargon (unless you are writing for a technical audience). The language must be understood to resonate with the reader.

  • Tip 5: Make a mockup. Before you begin writing your brochure, fold a piece of paper into the brochure shape, then make notes of what you intend to cover on each panel. Refold the brochure and read your notes, checking to be sure that the order of presentation supports the logical development of your points.

Efficient Business Contact

With all the emphasis on the importance of a website for businesses, we sometimes forget that printed materials are still a valuable tool for sales and marketing. Screens have their place, but nothing beats the ease, simplicity and efficiency of handing someone a brochure.

A brochure can be a corporate capabilities statement or a product or service description. It can be used as an introduction or leave-behind associated with a person-to-person meeting, a direct mail marketing piece, or a point-of-purchase advertisement.

An effective brochure takes time. Besides writing copy and selecting photographs, care must be taken in design and printing. This makes the brochure one part of your corporate identity that is best sourced to professionals like us. We have samples of work we’ve done for other clients and we’ll guide you through the entire creation and production process. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Can I help? Give me a call at (215) 923-2679 or email me at brigid@creativecharacters.com to get started today!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10 Basic Marketing Rules

Rules for Marketing Communication

I can't take credit for writing this list of basic marketing rules. It was compiled by Denny Hatch (twitter.com/dennyhatch) for Target Marketing Magazine in an article titled Only Fools Ignore Rules. The rules are ironclad, time tested, common sense rules that any good marketer should have learned in college or on the job. They are the basics of marketing communication. I wholeheartedly agree with Denny's list and with his assessment of the direct mail piece he received from The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA which he references in the article.
  1.     "Always make it easy to order." —Elsworth Howell
  2.     Always ask for an order.
  3.     Always make an offer.
  4.     "The right offer should be so attractive, only a lunatic would say no." —Claude Hopkins
  5.     "If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer." —Axel Andersson
  6.     "The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline." David Ogilvy
  7.     "On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your advertising dollar." David Ogilvy
  8.     "Your best lede is usually to be found somewhere on the second page of your first draft." —Pat Friesen
  9.     "Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs." —Andrew J. Byrne
  10.     "Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them." —Claude Hopkins
In the article, Denny summed it up by saying, "The rules above are ironclad. They go back to pre-vaudeville and are relevant to all media—web, print, TV, off-the page, point-of-purchase, radio and digital." To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Q&A: Direct Mail or Email?

"Which one is most effective to inform clients about my new product?"

This is a tough question to answer. Let’s start with some statistics about email. According to Pingdom, a website and performance monitoring company in Sweden, in 2012 total worldwide email traffic per day reached 144.8 billion. Almost 69% of all these messages were spam, though filters caught most of it. Of the 3.3 billion email accounts worldwide, 75% were registered to consumers and 25% to businesses.

Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California, Irvine, says one of the main problems with email is that there isn’t an “off” switch, meaning you don’t need to be on it to receive messages. Email piles up, waiting for your attention. What this adds up to is a glut of email messages in the inbox, and the likelihood that the recipient will delete the email without opening it. In fact, according to HubSpot, email open rates in 2012 were only 25.6%.

Contrast this with a tangible direct mail piece. According to the most recently published results of a USPS study, 85% of direct mail is at least skimmed over before being discarded or saved. This direct mail study has been conducted annually by USPS since 1987.

Moreover, direct mail marketing read and response rates have been on the rise for the past ten years. One of the main reasons a person doesn’t read a direct mail piece is because of the volume received in a day. Because the amount of direct mail has decreased over the last decade, the average number of people reading their mail has increased. The USPS study also indicates that about 35% of people say they will respond to a direct mail piece at some point.

Mission Statement

A company’s mission statement succinctly tells why the company exists and what its values are. Within the business, a mission statement provides a framework for making decisions. Outside the company, the mission statement quickly orients prospects, clients and vendors to the company culture.

Most mission statements come from the answers to a series of questions such as what business are we in and why and what do we want to provide for ourselves, our clients and the larger community. Some mission statements are brief while others are as long as several paragraphs. Regardless of form, the wording of the mission statement needs to be clear and truthful.

In small companies, the mission statement may be crafted by the owner, or it may be a collaborative effort that includes people both inside and outside the business. It is useful to have someone not involved with the creation process read the mission statement for grammar, syntax and appropriateness of the language.

When the mission statement has been adopted, display it in the public area of the company’s location, put it on the website, and include it on printed material. Then review it periodically to keep it current.

Anatomy of a Brochure

Elsewhere in CreativeBrief we described both a company fact sheet and a product or service brochure as one of the six printed items that all companies need. When necessary, these can be combined into a single brochure. Use it as a handout after a sales presentation, mail it to a prospect ahead of a sales call, and keep it ready as a leave-behind when visiting clients.

A popular brochure format is formed by trifolding an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, creating six panels.

  • Panel 1 is the front cover. It is the first thing the reader sees, so the copy and images must be compelling enough to get the reader to open the brochure. 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, how will using the product or service solve a problem, improve life, make things fun or otherwise create a recognized benefit.

  • Having established the benefits in Panel 2, Panel 3 can be used to describe the features and specifications.

  • Panel 4 can continue the features and specifications from Panel 3, and may also provide ordering or contact information.

  • Panel 5 presents evidence about the product or service. It could be a testimonial from a satisfied client or performance statistics.

  • Panel 6 is the back cover. Use it to create a sense of urgency (such as limited time offer), to present the call to action (such as redeem this coupon for a discount) and to describe the next step (such as call now). It is also possible to incorporate a mailing panel into Panel 6.

6 Items Every Business Needs

Every business, regardless of size, has a few fundamental needs: accurate financial statements to provide management information, an organization chart so employees know their duties and responsibilities, and sales and marketing material to support the sales effort. Each is an important contributor to the overall success of the business.

In the past, all sales and marketing materials were printed. Later, the Internet added new ways to reach clients and prospects and later still, provided a way to interact with them. Over time, Internet-based marketing replaced some printed materials, enhanced others, and provided new marketing tools.

Despite the popularity and success of these new marketing techniques, there remain some basic printed items that all businesses need:

  • The corporate identity package consisting of business cards, letterheads, envelopes.
  • Sales material consisting of a company fact sheet, a product brochure and a direct mail piece.

The corporate identity package

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

When you hand a business card to someone, you’re establishing a personal connection that 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 as an ordinary one.

The essential information to include on any business card is:

  • Business identification. This includes the business name and logo. If you want the primary connection of the client or prospect to be with the company, then make this the most prominent feature and include business contact information like address, telephone number and website.
  • Individual contact information. This includes the individual’s name and title, direct phone numbers (office and mobile), and email address. By convention, phone numbers are listed in the order of preference for contact (i.e., if you prefer to be contacted by cell phone, list it first). By making the individual’s contact information the most prominent on the card, you’ll be making the primary connection with the individual, rather than the company.
  • Optional information. If the card is not too crowded, or it is a foldover card, additional information such as business tag line, mission statement, photograph or other graphic element and list of products and services can be included.

The other two elements of the corporate identity package are letterheads and envelopes, whose design matches the business card. The purpose of a letterhead and envelope is to visually express the company’s identity and to make a good first impression. As with business cards, this is best achieved with professional design and printing. As desktop color printers have improved, it is tempting to forego printing a supply of letterheads and envelopes and instead to print as needed. While this strategy may seem easier than keeping an inventory of printed materials, it is likely more expensive.

Sales and marketing materials

The success of a 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 fact sheet, product or service brochure, and a direct mail piece.

  • The company fact sheet provides background information about the company that establishes credibility. Common elements are the date the company was founded, a listing of locations, names, photographs and brief biographies of founders and key personnel, company contact information; the mission statement, and a brief corporate history. The fact sheet could be brochure style or a flat sheet.
  • The direct mail marketing piece can take several forms: a post card, a self-mailer, or a traditional letter with response device. If designed properly, a newsletter can also be a direct mail marketing piece. Its purpose is to introduce something – the company to prospects, or products and services to both clients and prospects. It also serves as a reminder to clients of the relationship between the client and the company. A direct mail marketing piece should always include a call to action and create a sense of urgency.
  • The product or service brochure introduces the company’s product or service and provides the distinctive features and benefits that distinguish it from the competition. It also includes company contact information.

Visually, all 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 even color palette should reinforce the corporate identity, conveying the same “look and feel”.

Even more than with the business stationery package, the 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 lays 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.

See us for design, copy writing and printing

Part of our professional expertise lies in our design and prepress department. Brigid Kaye trained at The University of Texas and has over 25 years of experience in marketing and graphic design. Sean Miller trained at Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts and has over 12 years of experience in graphic design. To schedule an appointment to talk about your corporate identity or sales collateral, call Brigid Kaye at (215) 923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com for an appointment.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Web Safe Fonts

Using web-safe fonts for your website and your email marketing is very important. It ensures readability for visitors regardless of the platform; whether they are viewing it from a PC, a Mac, iPad or Android mobile phone, it displays the same for all devices across all platforms. You may be wondering what happens if you don't use a web-safe font. If you don't use a web-safe font, the font will substitute another font in it's place causing reflow problems which will look sloppy and haphazard. It's important to make wise font choices when you are designing to ensure compatibility.

Most users don't have a vast font collection like our graphics computer with 1,585 fonts immediately accessible at any given moment. And we don't expect the typical computer to have that many fonts. It's a best practice to stick with the basic set of fonts that come standard on almost every computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone.

Although we could never guarantee exact replication for any font, relying on the standard list is the best possible solution. The list of fonts below are generally considered web-safe and usually display correctly on most devices.
  • Andale Mono
    Using web safe fonts is best for email marketing, websites and landing pages.
    Using web safe fonts is best for email marketing, websites and
    landing pages.
  • Arial
  • Arial Black
  • Book Antiqua
  • Courier/Courier New
  • Comic Sans
  • Geneva
  • Georgia
  • Impact
  • Lucida Sans Unicode/Lucida Grande
  • Monaco
  • Verdana
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Webdings/Wingdings

Monday, March 11, 2013

Paper: Color it Green

Do you believe that using paper results in forest destruction and overburdened landfills? Do you believe that papermaking is energy-intensive and creates pollution? Do you think that electronic communication is always better for the environment than using paper?

If you have been using assumptions like these as part of the decision making process on whether to use print in your business or organization, we’ve got some important information for you. Not only is paper not an environmental threat, it actually helps keep forests healthy and productive.

Paper is a renewable resource

According to the Forest Stewardship Council, the United States is the largest market for paper products in the world. The United States produces about 90 million tons of paper annually and consumes about 100 million tons. Material to make paper comes from three primary sources, each accounting for about one-third of the raw material supply: recycled paper, wood chips and scraps from sawmills, and trees and other plants. The trees used for paper come from forests grown specifically for that purpose.

One-third of the United States – 750 million acres – is forestland. Of that, 56% is privately owned; 39% by family forest owners and 17% by commercial growers. The remaining 44% is owned by the federal government (33%), state governments (9%) and county and municipal governments (2%).

The paper industry supports forests that are managed and continually replanted. Landowners plant about 600 million trees each year, surpassing the amount harvested. As a result, the amount of forestland in the United States today is about the same as it was 100 years ago.

Besides supporting the paper industry, forests provide wildlife habitats, capture rainwater, protect against erosion, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and sequester carbon. Just 400 trees can capture 140,000 gallons of rainwater annually. Approximately one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon and puts out four tons of oxygen, or enough to meet the annual needs of about 18 people.

In its publication Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper Products, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute pointed out that wood and paper-based goods are an environmentally sound choice.

Papermaking and the environment

Besides cellulose fibers (which may come from trees, recycled papers or plants), paper making requires water and energy. In the United States, nearly 60% of the energy used to make paper comes from carbon-neutral biofuels such as wood waste and wood pulping fibers and is produced on-site at paper mills. In the United States, the pulp and paper industry is the largest producer and consumer of renewable energy.

The cellulose fibers that are the raw material of paper are mixed with water to create a slurry that runs onto a continuously-moving mesh screen above a trough. As the wet fibers catch on the screen, the water falls into the trough and is captured, to be used again to create slurry. The wet fibers on the screen, which are beginning to form the paper, go through a series of dryers before being wound into rolls.

In each step of the paper making process, from tree chipping to drying, scraps of wood and paper – called mill broke – are collected and recycled back into the manufacturing process. Some rolls of paper are converted into paper products like envelopes. Any waste from converting is collected and sent back to the paper mill and used as a direct substitute for wood pulp with no additional processing required.

Digital media and the environment

The substitution of digital media for printed materials initially was seen as a better choice for the environment. But as new research emerges, there is growing recognition of the environmental concerns associated with electronics – among them, energy use and toxic e-waste from obsolete or upgraded electronic devices.

Environmental benefits of recycled paper

In the early 1970s, the EPA conducted a study on the benefits of recycled paper. The study concluded that using one ton of 100% recycled paper saves 7000 gallons of water, 4100 kwh of energy (which is enough to power the average home for six months), keeps 60 pounds of pollution out of the air, and saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.

When recycled papers first came on the market in the 1980s, there was a marked difference in availability, appearance and performance between them non-recycled paper. Our customers complained that recycled paper jammed in their copiers and printers and had visible flaws.

All that has changed. Recycled paper now performs well on press and in copiers, laser and inkjet printers. Almost all paper mills make recycled papers, in grades ranging from high quality bonds and writing papers to commodity sheets.

Interest in recycling paper has grown steadily. The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that in 1995, nearly 12 million tons of printing and writing paper were recovered out of nearly 29 million tons consumed – a recovery rate of 41%. By 2010, over 63% of paper consumed in the United States was recycled. Paper product recycling has become a major business, providing both economic and environmental value.

We use paper responsibly

For our part, we use paper responsibly. Like you, we conserve and recycle paper used in our business operations. In our production operation, we do even more:

  • We use standards for makeready and setups. Each printing job requires makeready – sheets of paper used to register the image and come up to color. Jobs with post-press steps like folding and cutting require setups. We have standards for the number of sheets needed for makeready and setups so we don’t waste paper.
  • We keep an inventory of house sheets. We select our house sheets with two things in mind – how well they perform, and their suitability for the kinds of projects our customers regularly order. This helps keep us from accumulating a lot of surplus paper.
  • We donate our surplus paper. If we have leftover special order paper from a job, we wrap it, store it, and donate it to schools who use it in classroom projects.

Don’t be afraid to use paper

We end with a quotation from Dr. Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace and currently the chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies, Inc., and the author of Trees are the Answer:

Forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials . . . To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends signals to the marketplace to grow more trees.

Make Paper With Your Kids!

If you would like to try your hand at papermaking, here is a recipe you can use at home.


  • Fine mesh wire screen (9”x12”)
  • Blotting paper (available at craft stores)
  • Basin or tray (10 qt)
  • Laundry starch
  • 30 sheets of facial tissue
  • Eggbeater or blender
  • Rolling pin
  • Electric iron
  • Scissors


  1. Tear facial tissue into the basin. In a separate bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of starch with 2 cups of water. Add to tissue along with 10 quarts of water. Mix thoroughly with eggbeater or in the blender.
  2. Dip the wire screen into the tray or basin and allow water to drain through the bottom of the screen.
  3. Dry the screen and wet pulp between two pieces of blotting paper. (The pulp sheet will stick to them so that the wire can be separated from the pulp sheet.)
  4. Press out excess water with the rolling pin.
  5. With the sheet still between the blotters, iron the paper on a low setting until it is dry.
  6. Trim the edges with scissors.

Basis Weight and Thickness

One confusing aspect of paper is its basis weight – the weight of a ream of paper (500 sheets) in the parent size. The parent size for bond paper is 17”x22”; for text, offset and coated papers 25”x38”; and for cover paper, 20”x26”. Each paper grade has a range of basis weights: 16#-24# for bond, 50#-70# for offset, 50#-100# for coated book, 60#-100# for text, and 60#-100# for cover. (Pounds is often indicated by using the # sign.)

Counterintuitively, the basis weight does not indicate the thickness of the paper. The thickness of paper is called the caliper, and it is measured in thousands of an inch and referred to in points. (This is different than the point size of fonts, which measures the height of characters.) One-thousandth of an inch equals one point, so ten-point paper has a thickness of 0.10 inch. Because the caliper of paper is not related to basis weight, a smaller-sized, thick sheet may have the same basis weight as a thinner paper in a larger parent size.

How Did Paper Making Get Started?

The word paper is from the Latin word papyrus, the Nile Delta plant from which Egyptians made their writing material. Known as a wetland sedge, papyrus-based writing material was abundant but fragile and susceptible to damage. It gradually gave way to parchment, a writing material made from animal hides.

What we know today as paper – writing material made of pulp, rags, and plant fibers – was invented by the Chinese almost 2,000 years ago. The plant material they used was bark, primarily from the paper mulberry tree.

For thousands of years after its invention, paper was made by hand and relied heavily on rags as the main fiber ingredient. It wasn’t until the 19 century that steam-driven papermaking machines were developed and wood became the main source of fiber.

Paper Keeps Forests Healthy and Productive

Over the years, we have noticed a trend that we applaud: our customers are requesting recycled papers as part of a heightened sense of how their buying decisions affect the environment. We have a personal understanding and appreciation for paper that makes us happy to see this turn of events.

At the same time, we are dismayed by the conventional wisdom that paper use must be curtailed to protect the environment – particularly when this notion causes our customers to forego the benefits of using printed materials for sales, marketing or other purposes. Evidence shows that paper – the product of trees grown specifically for papermaking – is a beneficial, renewable resource.

Please understand, we’re not advocating you waste paper. But we do feel strongly that printed material, including direct mail, still has an important and valuable role in helping businesses and organizations reach their target audience. After reading this post, we are sure you’ll agree.

EDDM: Direct Mail Made Easy

If we told you there is an easy way to send direct mail pieces without having to buy a mailing list, would you be interested? If we added that the postage cost for the mailing could be under 15 cents, would we have your attention?

Let us introduce the United States Postal Service (USPS) program Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). Originally launched in March 2011, it has been steadily growing in popularity as a direct mail tool.

What is EDDM?

It is a mailing sent to every residential unit (house, apartment, condominium or mobile home) and business in a specific geographic area.

  • The geographic area is one or more USPS letter carrier routes or one or more entire zip codes – basically a specific neighborhood, zip code or city. Letter carrier routes vary in size from under 100 to over 1,000 addresses.

  • Because the mail piece goes to every single residence and business, the USPS does not require that each piece have its own address. Rather, it only has to have “Postal Customer”.

In mailing parlance, an EDDM mailing is a saturation mailing using the simplified address format. A mailing with these characteristics is very efficient for the USPS to process because it bypasses postage cancellation, address correction, and mail sorting steps and goes straight to the individual letter carrier. In recognition, the USPS assigns a very low postage rate to these mailings – as low as 14.5 cents per piece as of December 2012.

What’s in it for me?

There are several benefits to an EDDM mailing, especially for business owners with a very limited marketing budget and very little time to spend on marketing.

  • No mailing list is required. This saves the cost of acquiring a list, the cost of addressing, and the cost of maintaining the list.

  • Small mailings can be quickly produced. Most city carrier routes are 400-600 addresses. By eliminating the time to gather a mailing list and address the mail piece, and by using digital equipment for printing the mail piece, a small mailing can be in the hands of prospective customers in just a few days.

  • No postage permit is required. Regular presorted mailings require use of a permit in order to send mail at discounted postage rates. For EDDM, the USPS waives this requirement.

  • The mailing panel can be very small. Because the mail piece does not go through normal mail processing, there are few requirements for the location and size of the mail panel (the area containing the return address, indicia and outbound address). Note, however, that there are requirements for the wording of the indicia and the simplified address.

  • The mailing can be directed to residential addresses only. Even though a carrier route or zip code may have a mix of residences and businesses, it is possible to exclude the businesses from the mailing and send mail only to residential addresses. It is not possible to do the reverse and mail to businesses only.

One limitation of EDDM is that it cannot be used for business-only mailings. It is simpler to consider EDDM for residential or a mix of residences and businesses.

Size of an EDDM mail piece

The USPS has established a classification system for mail based on physical characteristics – height, length, thickness, weight, shape and flexibility. Simply stated, mail pieces are classified as letters, flats or parcels.

  • Letter mail has a maximum dimension of 6.125 high x 11.5 wide. Some familiar sizes for letter mail are a #10 envelope and postcards measuring 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9.

  • Flat mail is a mail piece that exceeds the maximum dimension for letter mail in either the height or width. The maximum dimension for flat mail is 12 x 15 inches. A 9 x 12 or 10 x 13 envelope are examples of flat mail.

  • Parcels exceed the height, width, thickness, weight or flexibility limits for letter and flat mail.

EDDM mail pieces must meet the physical characteristics of flat mail. This means that some mail pieces commonly used for direct mail marketing – such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 5 ½ x 8 ½ or 6 x 9 postcards, trifold brochures or #10 envelopes – don’t qualify for the EDDM program. (They could, however, qualify for reduced postage rates using a presort discount.)

What size can be used for an EDDM mail piece?

  • The length of the mail piece must be greater than its height.
  • Its overall measurement cannot be more than 15 inches long and 12 inches high. 
  • The mail piece must be either greater than 10½ inches in length or more than 6¼ inches in height.
This means a mail piece measuring 8½ x 11 qualifies for EDDM, as does 6½ x 9.

Uses for EDDM

The USPS designed EDDM to appeal to smaller businesses that haven’t used direct mail marketing in the past because of the cost. By eliminating the need for a mailing list, simplifying preparation, and offering a very low postage rate (14.5 cents per piece), EDDM is an affordable marketing tool, especially for local businesses offering a product or service that people use regularly and whose customers and prospects come from an area adjacent to the business.

Here are the kinds of businesses most likely to benefit from EDDM:

  • Restaurants and Fast Food
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Hair Salons, Spas and Barber Shops
  • Real Estate Firms
  • Gyms
  • Retail and Service Businesses
  • Drug Stores and Pharmacies
  • Clothing Stores and Boutiques
  • Banks
  • Jewelers
The target audience could be in a residential neighborhood where the convenient location of the business is a selling point, or in a mixed residential and business area for businesses offering services that people might use before and after work or during lunch.

EDDM can also be used for community service or other legal notices when the object of the mailing is to reach a residence or business rather than a specific individual. For new businesses, EDDM is a great way to notify neighbors of the business’s products and services or to extend an invitation to a grand opening. In some instances, EDDM may also be appropriate for political mailings.

Design and printing of EDDM mail pieces

If you would like to try an EDDM mailing, you can use us for design and printing of the mail piece. This provides several advantages over doing the work yourself. We will guide you through a series of questions to help formulate the sales message, with emphasis on the fundamentals of direct mail marketing – an answer to the question What’s in it for me? from the perspective of the mail piece recipient, a call to action, a sense of urgency, and an eye-catching design with the proper balance between text, graphics and white space. If you want to try EDDM, but you’d rather not learn how to do all that, we can handle the mailings for you.

For businesses that regularly mail newsletters or postcards to their customers using standard addressed direct mail, EDDM may be a way to prospect for new customers who are the neighbors of existing customers. With all these possibilities, EDDM is a great marketing tool for many businesses. For more information and to discuss how EDDM benefits your business, call Brigid or Marya at (215) 923-2679 or email info@creativecharacters.com.

Increase Sales on the Cheap

Want an inexpensive way to increase sales by expanding into a new market located in a well-defined geographic area? I urge you to take a look at Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), a new program from the United States Postal Service. EDDM is an outreach program aimed at helping businesses with small marketing budgets use direct mail as an effective way to promote their products and services.

The USPS launched EDDM in March 2011 after making changes to postal regulations to allow the use of the simplified address format in city mail delivery routes. To help make EDDM a success, the USPS heavily promoted the program using self-mailers, in-person presentations, and online seminars.

And it worked. According to Paul Vogel, USPS president and chief marketing/sales officer, as of January 2012 EDDM mail was approaching the one billion mark and had generated $270 million in revenue in 2011. If you aren’t familiar with what EDDM can do for your business, give me a call at (215) 923-2679 and I’ll bring you up to speed.

Using EDDM Regionally and Nationally

Because of the requirement that an EDDM mailing be entered at the destination post office or a bulk mail unit that serves the destination post office, it is most convenient for local mailings. However, if you need to mail regionally or even nationally, you may still be able to use EDDM by using the USPS service Priority Mail Open-and-Distribute (PMOD).

This service allows you to use Priority Mail to transport prepared EDDM mail to the destination post office. It is easy to use. After preparing the EDDM mailing for bulk mail acceptance, the mailing is put into a USPS-approved container, marked with a special barcoded label, and entered at a bulk mail entry unit. The charge for Priority Mail postage (which is in addition to the EDDM postage) is based on the weight of the mailing (excluding the tare weight of the container) using the standard Priority Mail distance-based pricing.