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.