Thursday, December 11, 2014

Building Social Relationships

Recent research from Forrester finds that posts from top brands on Facebook and Twitter reach just 2% of their followers. Of the 2% that see the post or tweet, a mere 0.07 percent of followers will actually interact with those posts.  The low reach and engagement has gotten even worse since Facebook made the announcement that it was drastically cutting the organic reach of a post in an effort to encourage boosted (paid) posts. With so few people seeing and engaging with posts, it is hard to truly have a social relationship with your customers.

While having and updating a Facebook page and Twitter account is still an important component in an overall marketing strategy, it shouldn’t be the center of your marketing strategy. So what should you be doing to help build a social relationship with your customers? Try the tips below:

  • Email marketing – The average open rate for an email campaign is between 17 and 30 percent based on your industry and relationship with the customer. If you have to decide between gathering an email address and gaining a fan on Facebook or Twitter, get an email address. The chances of them viewing and engaging with an email is much higher than the view and engagement stats on any social media platform.
     
  • Blogging - Blogging allows you to create a branded community full of information, anecdotes, case studies and will help showcase your corporate personality/culture. Not only will an active, relevant blog drive traffic to your website, but it will also create a space for your evangelical fans to share with others what they like about your company. Encourage interaction with each post by posing questions and encouraging users to make comments. BONUS: Blogging helps your website SEO tremendously by adding fresh, relevant content on a regular basis.
     
  • Bring your Social Updates to your Site – Just because your latest Facebook post wasn’t seen on Facebook, doesn’t mean it can’t be seen on your website, blog or email updates. Add a “weekly” update section to your website where you round up all your social posts into one page. This could showcase your latest Instagram image, your tweets, facebook posts, YouTube videos and blog posts all on one page. If the users won’t see the posts in their original form, they can at least review them on your site.
     
These tips are all fairly low tech ways of increasing your social interactions with current and potential customers. What are you doing to increase your social relationships with your customers?

10 Tips for Trade Show Success

The very words “Trade Show” make some small business owners shudder. Attending a trade show or business expo can take a lot of time and money. Quite frequently, those are two things a small business owner just doesn’t have a lot of. With some careful planning, however, a trade show can not only be fun but profitable as well.

Here are 10 tips we’ve picked up from attending trade shows, not only as vendors but participants as well. They may be basic but the best tips usually are.

  1. Set clear goals of what you want to achieve at the show. Do you expect to sell products, launch a new product or promotion, or possibly meet suppliers? You can set more than one goal but be clear and focused on what your participation will involve. In our business we don’t expect to take orders on the spot. What we do look for is hot leads. At each trade show we attempt to identify 3 – 5 hot leads. We do this by gathering business cards from participants. When someone hands me their card, I do a quick assessment of the card itself. I look for complete contact data, type and quality of paper and color quality. Then, I ask them two simple questions: How happy are you with the performance, response time and quality of your current printer? How happy are you with your website? Based on their response, I quickly note on the back of their card how “hot” they are. If they expressed some sort of displeasure or dissatisfaction with their current provider, I mark them as “hot” and follow up with them right after the show is over.
     
  2. Find out everything you can about your space in advance. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up only to find that your booth is too big or too small to fit the space. Finding out the location of your booth in advance prevents you from lugging around boxes and products in search of the right spot. Finding out everything that is included (table, table cloth, electricity, etc.) in advance is a big time and headache saver.
     
  3. Have everything you need, like extension cords, tape, push pins, etc. with you when you arrive to set up your booth. It prevents last minute searching for items needed to set up your booth which, if you’re in a strange town can quickly turn into a nightmare. We have a trade show box that stays with our booth that contains a hammer, thumb tacks, pens, rubber bands, notepads, band aids, extension cords, replacement light bulbs, tape, breath mints and much more in it. It has been used at every trade show we’ve been to and it always comes in handy.
     
  4. Make sure your display is appropriate for the group you are targeting. Who is your target market with your trade show display? What kind of questions will they have about your products and services? With a trade show, it is entirely possible that you will be mid-conversation with an attendee when another attendee comes to peruse your booth. Make sure your booth offers promotional signage (if you are giving something away), answers your most frequently asked questions and provides an attendee with something to do or look at while you are otherwise engaged.
     
  5. Advertise in advance of the show. Let the public know that you are participating in a particular trade show. Invite your clients, customers, suppliers and be sure and give them your booth number. Advertise your attendance to the trade show on your website as well.
     
  6. Stand out! Don’t just be another booth and vendor at the show – find something different and unique and use that to draw visitors to your booth. Arrange your booth strategically so that everything can be seen quickly by visitors. Put larger items in the rear and shorter items up front. A table runner on top of the table cloth is an effective way of making your table stand out. Be creative with your booth, include pictures if possible and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.
     
  7. Should you give something away? Most people who attend trade shows are expecting some giveaways and food is always popular. Make sure you package your food in a way that allows you to have your company information on it. Gift Certificates for some of your services are another great Trade Show giveaway – there’s nothing better than getting a deal on your services. And when they redeem their certificate, they will learn how great your services are and come back for more. Offer a drawing for a prize that complements your business and appeals to everyone. Have visitors and guests sign a guestbook, fill out a form or drop their business card in a bowl. You can then use this information later to follow up. We gave away a Wii last year at a trade show and we were one of the most popular booths at the event! We collected over 300 business cards and have closed 7 deals from that show alone.
     
  8. Arrive early enough to the trade show and make sure everything is set up correctly and that everything works. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes – you’re going to be on your feet!
     
  9. During the show, never turn your back to the crowd and don’t sit down unless you’re having a conversation with a guest and you both are sitting. Stand in front of your booth, if possible, saying “Hi” to those that turn and look toward your or your booth. Have your elevator speech ready. More importantly, be ready to listen to what your guests have to say, you may learn a lot about them and be able to fill a need that they have.
     
  10. A portfolio or display of your work should be on hand for visitors to see. A digital photo frame or PowerPoint® presentation on a laptop is an excellent way of showing your work. Your visitors will find this visually appealing and it will draw their attention. Offering a brochure with your best work for them to take with them will serve as a reminder once the show is over.
     
These 10 basic steps to Trade Show exhibiting will make your booth stand out, draw visitors in, and save you time, money and stress. What is the coolest trade show booth you have ever seen? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!


To give our valued staff a well-deserved rest
and time to spend with their family and friends,
WE WILL BE CLOSED
Tuesday, December 23rd through Friday, January 2nd
We will re-open promptly at 8:30 am on Monday, January 5th.

We appreciate your business!
Please know that you still have time to place an order
and we'll get it out before we close for the Holidays.

Best Wishes for a Joyous Holiday Season
from your friends at Creative Characters
Brigid, Marya, Jason and Phil.
 

Keep in Touch: 6 Ways to Stay Top of Mind with Clients and Prospects

Marketing experts agree: the basis for developing new business, whether from an existing customer or the first job from a prospect, is to communicate with them. Experts also agree that the more different kinds of communication tools a business or organization uses, the more efficient the outreach and the more likely it is to successfully reach the person targeted. Relying on only one or two methods to make contact is risky. To help improve your chances of successful communication, we offer six ways to contact customers and prospects.

#1: Direct mail is alive and working well

The fact is: direct mail works. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail, and the response rate for direct mail continues to be higher than for email. Some reasons are:

  • There is less competition for reader attention in the mailbox than the inbox. Fewer mail pieces overall are being delivered to homes and businesses, making direct mail more visible. Conversely, the volume of email continues its rise.
     
  • Email can be blocked, labeled as spam, or deleted without opening. If the email message is never delivered or read, it is useless. In contrast, direct mail can be designed so it doesn’t require opening (postcards), thereby automatically exposing the reader to the message.
     
  • Email has replaced direct mail as a source of annoyance. A 2006 survey conducted by the University of Georgia found that most people regarded email as more intrusive and irritating than direct mail.

#2: Phone calls because people still like to talk

Phone calls – not telemarketing, but a person-to-person call – is still an effective way to reach someone. On the telephone, voice tone adds another dimension to the words, conveying more than the words alone. In fact, voice tone and spoken words together account for 42% of effective communication. Certain communications, particularly those that are sensitive or confidential, are best handled with a phone call.

#3: Social media to bring them to you

Social media can be a leading traffic generator to your website. Without social media, a business’s inbound traffic is limited to customers who are already familiar with it or prospects that used the right key words in a search engine. By adding social media profiles and sharing content from your website – blog posts, videos, etc. – you give the audience a reason to click through to your site and engage.

Social media can be used as a customer service platform and a forum to interact with customers. It is a powerful tool for customers to promote a brand they like.

Facebook provides a place for customers and prospects to interact with the business and is often the first social media profile a business develops. Keep it regularly active by making important announcements and answering questions. Twitter is for quick, frequent updates about your business and is a place to engage with individual customers by answering questions and providing product support. YouTube is a useful way to provide instructional videos and explanations, and from it a business can easily post the video to Facebook or Twitter.

#4: Printed newsletters have intrinsic value

Because it is more expensive and difficult to produce than an email letter, a printed newsletter has a greater intrinsic value. It also arrives with all graphics and photographs in place and without distortion or font substitution by browsers. Digital printing has brought the price of printing a full color newsletter within budget for most businesses.

A printed newsletter is very versatile. Mail it to customers, use it as a leave-behind on sales calls, place it in your reception area and distribute it at trade shows. A printed newsletter will get multiple views from your customers during its shelf life of 30-90 days, and may even be archived by customers.

#5: Live events take you to where they are

If done wisely, participating in a live event like a trade show or vendor fair can be a way to generate leads and promote brand awareness. Look for smaller shows that are vertical, or are aimed at a specific industry that represents your target audience. A trade show allows a business to reach more prospects in less time than individual sales calls.

Another benefit of trades show is providing the opportunity to visit with and nurture client relationships. It may be difficult to get face-to-face time with a busy customer in the office, at a trade show there are fewer demands on the customer’s time.

There is also a residual benefit from trade show participation. According to data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 87% of attendees pass along information they obtained at the show, and 64% will tell at least six other people about it.

#6: Email to establish you as an expert

Sending an email newsletter regularly can establish your business as an expert in its field. Unlike a printed newsletter, an email newsletter should be short (i.e., a few hundred words), provide relevant content that shares insights on a single topic and be accompanied by a visual. Use an email delivery service with an opt-out feature (like Constant Contact or MailChimp) to be sure you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

Content written for an email newsletter can be used in other ways. Upload individual articles to the blog on your website. Post links to articles or to a PDF download of your newsletter on social media. Collect issues on the same topic and publish as an e-book to be downloaded from your website.

Communication is a multiple channel activity

Communicating regularly with customers and prospects through multiple channels establishes the basis for an ongoing relationship. Informative, relevant content is the key to attracting and keeping readers. We can help you format content into a printed newsletter, a direct mail campaign, a targeted email newsletter, blog posts and social media posts. For more information on our communication services, contact Brigid at 215-923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Improving Response Rate

Direct mail marketing is a powerful tool for generating leads and selling products and services. Here are some ideas for improving response rate.

  • Target an audience. Select a subset of your mailing list that have like characteristics, then craft a message likely to appeal specifically to them.
     
  • Provide a compelling offer. If you have an offer that provides clear savings, incorporate it into the message. Create a sense of urgency by adding a deadline for responding or limiting the offer to a certain number of buyers.
     
  • Use a well-designed mail piece. The mail piece should be professionally designed using proven principles to attract attention and lead the reader through the sales message. This will make your company look better to prospects that are just being introduced to you and reinforce your professionalism with clients who already know your company.
     
  • Interact with other marketing channels. Use a direct mail postcard to drive traffic to your website. Use social media to alert customers and prospects to be expecting something in the mail.

Email Marketing

Email is not digital direct mail. While it does share some core principles with direct mail, it also has other characteristics that are unique.

  • In email marketing, the customer is in control. The customer gets to decide what to accept in the inbox. In order for an email message to avoid being classified as spam, it must be sent with permission (opt-in), not mislead the recipient and be easy to opt-out.
     
  • Email delivery is complicated. As a service to customers, ISPs (Internet service providers) use algorithms to determine the likelihood that a message is spam and block delivery to the inbox. If a customer or prospect changes his email address, the sender will never know.
     
  • Campaign performance is measured differently. The email industry has not yet standardized performance metrics. Measurements range from counting “opens” to opt-in form completion rates. Response rate, the important metric for direct mail, has little or no relevance for email marketing.
     
  • Email appearance can be altered. Web browsers may display email content with substituted fonts or missing graphics. Preview panes may block all but a tiny portion of the email. Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo! may display ads next to your email.

An Easy Read

Successful marketing departments and sales teams understand the importance of communicating with customers and prospects. For customers, periodic communication provides a chance for the business to express appreciation, introduce new products or services, and grow the relationship with the customer. For prospects, communication builds name recognition and brand awareness, and helps turn a cold call into a warm one.

Today’s businesses have a wealth of communication tools at their disposal, increasing the likelihood that at least one will be of interest to a customer or prospect. Not all communication methods work for everyone, so having a lot of options gives the business more opportunities. If you need help making sense of all the communication options available for businesses today, we’re just a phone call or email away.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bring Customers Back Again

We have focused a lot of our blogs and email messages on bringing in new customers and increasing sales this holiday season. From creating new marketing materials and product packages to social media contests and email newsletters, we’ve explored marketing ideas that will help you reach more people. After the holiday rush, it may be tempting to take your foot off the marketing gas pedal, however, now is the time to accelerate even more and turn your new customers into evangelical customers for life.

Try incorporating one (or all) of these ideas into your after-holiday marketing plan to see if you can turn those gift shoppers into repeat customers.

  1. Send a Survey – This assumes that you are collecting customer contact information at the point of sale. If you aren’t, start there. Asking your customers opinion about their experience with your services or products is a great place to build a relationship. It also gives you a reason to contact them and even provide them with a discount on their next purchase if they complete the survey.  As a consumer, I always enjoy seeing the results of a survey. I like to know if my experience with a business was unique or if it was the norm. Sharing the results of the survey gives you another reason to reach out to your customer again.
     
  2. Run a Contest – Have customers post pictures on your Facebook page showing how they are using your product or service. The one with the most likes wins! Social media, like Facebook and Instagram, make running a contest a very social event. Encourage participants to share the post with their friends to get more votes. The more eyes on your page the better!
     
  3. Reminders – Doctors and dentists send appointment reminders and auto mechanics post stickers on our windshield with service dates. The same technique works in any business that offers regular or seasonal service. In one case, a hair salon that started sending self-addressed reminder postcards boosted business by decreasing the average time between haircuts from six weeks to four. From maintenance to replacement parts, reminders can ensure your customer comes back to you.
     
  4. Rewards Programs – My favorite local coffee shop gives me a free drink each time I purchase 12. I will gladly drive a little further to one of their locations to make sure I am earning points towards my free drink. A local sock company has a similar program. After 10 purchases, you get 20% off your next order. What could you create that would encourage your customers to be more brand loyal?
     
  5. Invest in Leave Behinds - Calendars, refrigerator magnets, pens and mouse pads branded with your corporate identity are another tried-and-true method of reminding customers you exist. It's hard for a customer to ignore something that's staring him in the face. Include the leave behinds in products that you ship or bring them with you when you’re networking.
The after holiday market is a great time to continue the conversation with new customers to let them know about your other products and services and to make sure they’re happy with their purchase.  The company that communicates consistently will win more customers than the company that doesn’t. How are you reaching out and starting conversations with your customers this month? Let us know in the comment section below.

How Google Evaluates Quality Content

Each year, Google changes its search algorithm hundreds of times. While most of these changes are relatively minor, occasionally a major change is rolled out (like Google Panda and Google Penguin) and it greatly affects the search results.

With the release of Google Panda, the goal was to lower the ranking of “thin” websites with poor user experiences. “Thin” sites are those with low quality content that contain an abundance of advertising.

Below is a list of questions Google published with the original Panda release on how to evaluate quality content. Keep these questions handy when creating page content and news articles for your site.

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
     
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallower in nature?
     
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
     
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
     
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
     
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
     
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
     
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
     
  •  How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
     
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
     
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don't get as much attention or care?
     
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
     
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
     
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
     
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
     
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
     
  • Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
     
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
     
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
     
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
     
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
     
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
     
Depending on how you answered these questions, it may be time for you to either rewrite existing content or start adding new content to your site. It has been said time and time again that content is king, and that is truer today than it ever has been. Posting unique, meaningful and relevant content to your site can be the difference between a page 1 and page 100 ranking.

Do you want to up-to-date your website to be compliant with Google requirements? Do you want to increase your Google ranking? We can help! Give Brigid a call at 215-923-2679 or email her at brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
So that we may spend time with Family and Friends
over the Thanksgiving Holiday

We Will Be Closed
Thursday, November 27 and Friday, November 28

 


Don’t let your printing needs
come to a CRASHING HALT – Order Now!

 

We will be closed Tuesday, December 23 through Friday, January 2. We are grateful for your business and ask that you please place your orders as soon as possible so we can meet your needs before we close for the year. 

We will reopen Monday, January 5, 2015 and look forward to working with you in the New Year.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Typography

Typography is the design of letters and characters and the process of arranging type. It is integral to communication and a central component of any graphic design project. Good typography reinforces the meaning of the text. It puts the reader at ease and allows the reader to devote less energy to the mechanics of reading. Good typography entices the reader to pay more attention to the message.

Typeface or font?

The terms typeface and font are used interchangeably today. However, in the days of metal type, there was a distinction. Font meant an alphabet (i.e., the upper and lower case letters, numerals, punctuation marks and symbols) in a single size, weight and style, while typeface meant a family of fonts in various sizes, weights and styles. Fundamental characteristics include:

  • Size is the height of the alphabet and is measured in points (print) or ems (web).
     
  • Weight, such as medium, bold, light or black, is the thickness of the alphabet relative to its height.
     
  • Style is the slant of the letters. Upright letters are known as roman; slanted is called italics or oblique.

Typography as design: type classification

Type classification is a system for grouping fonts by shared visual characteristics (stroke variation, serifs and bracketing, x-height and stress). Typography for print uses these main classifications: Roman, Blackletter and Gaelic. The Roman classification – which predominates today – is further divided into serif, sans serif, script and ornamental.

  • Serif typefaces have finishing strokes and stems on individual characters. Serif typefaces you may be familiar with include Times, Garamond, Palatino.
     
  • Sans serif typefaces lack finishing strokes and are relatively modern. Helvetica, Univers, Futura, and Gill Sans are all sans serif typefaces.
     
  • Script typefaces mimic calligraphy or hand lettering and are either formal or casual. A formal script example is Old English. Casual script examples are Brush Script and Mistral.
     
  • Ornamental typefaces (also known as display or novelty type) have limited use as headlines or for decorative purposes.

Web typography uses a slightly different classification system: serif, sans serif, monospaced, cursive, fantasy and script.

Typography as arranging type: design choices 

Arranging type means selecting a font, point size, line length and spacing for each line and for the page as a whole that conveys the meaning of the words.

Fonts
The choice of fonts is dictated by the page’s purpose, the amount of text, the intended audience, and characteristics of the font itself. Because there is more body copy than anything else, it has the biggest influence on the overall appearance of the page.

  • For a printed page with a lot of text, use a serif font for the body copy as most books, newspapers and magazines do. On a web page, use either a serif or sans serif font.
     
  • Limit the total number of fonts to three or less. For a single-page or short document, use only one or two fonts. Use only one script or ornamental font, regardless of the number of pages, and use it sparingly.
  • Except for acronyms and abbreviations, avoid using all capital letters for text. In printed documents, using all caps slows down reading speed; on the web, all caps is synonymous with shouting.
     
  • Never use all caps in a script font – the letters won’t connect as they would in handwriting or calligraphy and the words will be very difficult to read.

For contrast, pair a serif font for body copy with a sans serif for headlines. For variety, vary the size and weight of the type rather than changing fonts. For emphasis, use bold or italic type, but don’t overuse either. Too much emphasis de-emphasizes everything.

Point size
Point size is the size of the letters. For print, use 10-12 point type for body copy; on the web, use 15-25 pixels. Be prepared to make adjustments as some identical point sizes may appear larger or smaller depending on the font.

Headings help organize the page by defining sections of body copy and defining a hierarchy. Headings can be set in a larger point size than body copy, with a different weight, or set off with space above and below.

Line length
Line length is the horizontal width of the text block. For best results, set the line length to average 45-90 characters per line or to about 2 ½ times the alphabet length of the font you are using. To determine alphabet length, type the alphabet twice, then a third time up to the letter m; measure. The width in picas is usually the best line length for that font.

Spacing
Spacing – between letters, words, lines, columns and on the margins of the page – creates negative space, the space that surrounds an object. Negative space defines the boundaries of positive space and helps balance the page.

  • Leading (rhymes with heading) is the vertical distance between lines, measured baseline to baseline. It should be 120–145% of the point size, though it can be adjusted to bring lines closer together or spread them farther apart. In CSS, leading is called line-height.
     
  • Adjusting the space between two letters is called kerning and is used to remove gaps around letters whose forms angle outward or frame an open space (W,Y,V,T,L).  Kerning can be controlled by creating a table of kerning pairs that specifies spaces between different letter combinations.
     
  • Tracking, letterspacing or character spacing refers to adjusting space between all the letters in a word. It is used to make lines of type more even, to remove hyphenation or widows and orphans from paragraphs or to increase the space between the letters of a word set in all caps.
     
  • White space is the part of a page that is empty of text, photos or graphic elements. If a page looks crowded, it probably needs more white space. Many readers associate white space with an upscale or sophisticated look. Page margins, line length and column width all affect white space.

Alignment
Alignment refers to how the text is displayed on the page. The choices are left, right, centered or justified and should remain consistent throughout the document.

  • Left alignment (also called left justified, flush left or rag right) begins each line at the left margin. This produces a straight margin on the left and a ragged edge margin on the right. This is the most commonly used alignment.
     
  • Right alignment (also called right justified or flush right) aligns the beginning of each line of text along the right margin, producing a straight right margin and ragged edge margin on the left. Right alignment is used sparingly as it is difficult to read in large blocks of text.
     
  • Centered alignment has equal amounts of space on the right and left margin of each line, making ragged edge margins on both sides. Centered alignment is often used for document titles and headings.
     
  • Justified alignment combines left and right aligned text, resulting in a straight margin on both sides. This is accomplished by adjusting the space between words and characters so the text fills the entire line. It is popular in newspapers and magazines and increasingly, on the web.

Typography is about the details

Whether in print or on the web, the goal of good typography is always the same: to convey the meaning of the text and thereby to enhance the reader’s comprehension and learning. In typography, small changes can make a world of difference. For more information about how good typography can improve your website, marketing materials and printed documents, contact us today!

Readability

Legibility – how well the reader can see the letters – is an important function of type. Studies show that serif type increases reader comprehension over sans serif type because the serifs guide the reader’s eyes to the next letter. Here are two other ideas for keeping type legible.

Widows (a single word at the end of a paragraph) and orphans (a single word at the top of a column) look unattractive on a printed page. Leave at least three words at the end of any paragraph or the first line of any column. To eliminate widows and orphans, change word tracking or letter spacing, change the hyphenation zone (the point in the line of type that words must cross in order to break), or use ragged right margins.

Hyphenation should be adjusted so that no more than three words breaks in a row occur at the end of a line anywhere on the page. Adjust the hyphenation zone (making it larger to decrease the number of hyphenated words or smaller to increase the number) to eliminate excessive word breaks.

An Easy Read

Before professional graphic design software, typography was one of the invisible tasks of printing and publishing. The professional typographer was a skilled worker with knowledge of and appreciation for the beauty, as well as the utility of type. In this month's posts, we discuss some of the basic concepts of good typography. Good typography is incredibly relevant today online and in print.

Some techniques, like kerning letter pairs, are easier in professional page layout programs. Others, like adjusting line spacing or leading, have automatic defaults that sometimes should be overridden because they aren’t necessarily best practices. We hope you’ll enjoy this behind-the-curtain peek at what makes some things so much easier to read than others. If you need help improving the readability of your website or marketing materials, please give me a call.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Creating the Perfect Ad

We’ve all been there… the newspaper ad deadline is in an hour and we still don’t have ours created yet. So we default to either running the same old, tired ad we’ve been running forever or just putting our logo out there and hoping someone will want to call us based on that. Even worse, we default to age old platitudes that are meaningless to our clients and prospects. Next time you are up against an ad deadline, consider the tips below to make sure your ad is seen and acted upon.

First, take a look at some of your old ads. Do any of them fall victim to the “yeah, me too” test? This is easy to check. Grab the latest ad that you have created (this could be for print or digital), scratch out your company name and logo and put in your competitors name. Is the ad still relevant and true? If so, it’s time to change up your message with some content that will actually hit your client’s hot buttons and make you stand out from the crowd. In the example Google Adwords ads to the right, you’ll see that neither one of these ads are saying anything unique. We could easily swap one headline for the other and the ad would still ring true.

The ads pictured here are for competing offices, however, you could easily switch the names and contact information and the ads would barely change.

If any of your ads pass this test, it is time to start from scratch and create some ads that will get noticed. This isn’t as hard as it seems. Each ad that you create should have 4 basic elements to it: interrupt, engage, educate and offer.

  • Interrupt – The interrupt is your headline. Your headline does not need to sell, it just needs to grab the attention of the reader. A headline should invoke emotion, make a promise, tickle curiosity or shock the reader. A headline can be a question, a statement of fact, a short anecdote or even a single word. As long as it disrupts the reader from what he/she is currently doing, it has done its job. 
     
  • Engage – Immediately following your headline, should be an engaging sub-headline. The job of your sub-headline is to further engage the reader. You’ve made a bold claim with your headline, now reel them in with a supporting and engaging sub-headline.
     
  • Educate – The body copy of your ad should be used to educate the reader. You don’t need to give away all your information here, just give them enough to make them want to learn more. This is where we see a lot of advertisements go wrong. It is easy to default to the platitudes that you see in the attorney’s ads above. In business since 1952, high quality, great customer service, experts, etc., however, those items don’t mean much to your prospective clients if you don’t quantify them. Rather than using “experts” define what you mean by expert. Does that mean you’re a specialist in biotechnical litigation because you have a dual degree from Harvard? Does it mean you have tried over 10,000 personal injury cases? Quantify what you mean and educate the customer to get them motivated to take the next step.
     
  • Offer – Every ad should contain a call to action or an offer. The offer should be relevant to the rest of the marketing piece and should give the reader an easy way to connect with you to receive the information. An offer is not “buy now.” “Buy Now” only works and engages the people who are ready to buy, which is a small percentage of the number of people who will actually see your ad.  An offer that further educates the client, like a whitepaper or other digital download, is a great way to capture the contact information of the prospect which you can then use for marketing purposes in the future.
     
Creating the perfect ad isn’t impossible. Using the tips above, you’ll create an ad that gets read and brings results. Have you seen a memorable advertisement that got your attention? Did it follow the criteria above? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Using Print to Further Your Marketing Efforts

There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way small business owners market their business. Digital marketing, like e-newsletters, search engine optimization, social media and search engine marketing, can be a powerful form of advertising.  Even more powerful, however, is digital marketing with a collaborative print marketing effort.

We dedicated 3 of our weekly marketing messages this month to showing you how to make the most of your marketing dollars using both print and digital marketing. In case you missed that series of emails, we have combined them below for a quick tutorial on how to use print to increase your digital footprint.

  • Tip #1: Postcards rule. One of the most powerful marketing strategies today is to promote your website via direct-mail postcards. Postcards serve many purposes. Whether you want to invite people to an upcoming webinar/class or showcase a few of your bestselling products, using a postcard to direct traffic to your website is a great idea. Motivate response with an exclusive offer or personalized URL which will allow you to track your response rate, conversion rate, and ultimate return on investment.
     
  • Tip #2: Use signage to increase newsletter subscriptions. Whether you run a restaurant, a school, a retail shop or a business to business service based company, chances are good you’ll have a client visit you at your office at some point.  Use in store or in office promotional posters, table tents, hang tags, window clings or other signage to encourage customers to visit your website and sign up for your email newsletter. Include a QR code that links to a mobile optimized page on your site with a short subscription form for a great customer experience. Entice customers to subscribe with an instant money saving coupon that can be emailed directly to them and shown to staff as proof of subscription.
     
  • Tip #3: Use print to connect you socially.  The digital world is cluttered. Every 60 seconds, 700,000 Google searches are performed, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and 168 million emails are sent. Making sure that your fan base sees your posts can be a challenge unless you find other ways to promote your social media accounts. Help people find your social media accounts by including your most used and valuable account on your business cards. If you print a newsletter or brochure, include some of your positive yelp or Facebook reviews and encourage readers to view your full profile online.
     
Finding the right marketing mix is less about your business and more about your customers. Thinking about who they are, how they purchase and what influences them will help you determine how to reach customers with a mix of print and digital advertising.

Have you seen a cool marketing campaign played out online and in print? Let us know about it in the comments below.

When Your Marketing Materials Talk, Does Anybody Listen?

Businesses today have an immense arsenal of marketing materials, ranging from printed material (business cards, brochures, newsletters and direct mail) to digital formats (websites, email marketing and social media). While there is significant potential power in having so many ways to reach customers and prospects, this comes with a responsibility to align all the materials with their interests and behaviors. Marketing materials now bear the burden of being consistent, relevant and beneficial to the intended audience. As marketing guru Seth Godin puts it, “In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to just ignore the ordinary stuff.”

Avoiding the ordinary

It may surprise you that avoiding the ordinary is rather simple: know yourself, know your audience, and tell an accurate story clearly.

Know Yourself

Why does your business or organization exist? How would things be different if your business or organization wasn’t operating? What are its core values? Is it an industry leader? The answers to these and similar questions are embodied in your mission and vision statements and tell your target audience exactly what to expect from doing business with you. A mission statement provides focus for marketing activities, while a vision statement describes the business or organization’s future aspirations.

Know Your Audience

Who is your ideal customer? To help answer this question, create a customer profile to include age, gender, job title, ethnicity, marital status, skills, interests, personality traits, values, frustrations, likes and dislikes. Think about who specifically is looking for the products and services you offer rather than everyone you might possibly sell to.

Your target audience can be defined by demographic information – the physical attributes of a population. The most commonly used demographic information for marketing is age, gender, income level, race and ethnicity. Psychographic information adds to demographic information by incorporating the interests, attitudes, opinions, values, lifestyle and personality of a population. Psychographic information is used to predict why a prospect might buy.

Tell Your Story

A business or organization’s story uses clear language and visual images to explain how customers benefit. The focus of the story is on the customer, not on the business or its products and services. Here are some questions that help craft the story:

  • How will your products or services benefit your audience (i.e., what’s in it for me)?
     
  • What needs do your products or services fulfill? What problems do they solve?
     
  • What value does your business or organization bring to the audience that can’t be found with your competitors?

Creating a brand identity

The brand identity of your business or organization is embodied in its visual images: logo, printed materials and website.

Taken together, they define the character of your business. Because most successful sales are based on establishing a trusting relationship between buyer and seller, it is important that the brand identity accurately represent the values of the business and that it be consistent across all marketing channels.

Here are some of the elements of brand identity:


  • The promises you make to customers and how well you keep them. Besides the promises related to specific products and services, this also includes overall business practices like meeting deadlines and delivery dates, delivering added value, and the process for solving problems or making good on mistakes.
     
  • The benefits that accrue to customers from using your products and services. These include tangibles like more time or money and intangibles like enhanced status or greater feeling of security.
     
  • How you nurture the business relationship. Regular communication via printed and emailed newsletters, social media, personal visits, and personalized messages demonstrate that the relationship with the customer matters to the business.

Brand identity extends to the communication style used by your business or organization to provide information. The elements of communication style are words, grammar, syntax and meaning. The most effective communication style is clear (uses commonly-understood words), economical (uses simple sentence structure), free from jargon and obscure references, and has variety.

All brands have a personality, such as friendly, reserved, classic or contemporary. The brand identity embodies this personality in the choice of visual elements – color palette, typography, symbols, graphics, photographs, logo, and communication style. For a traditional, established business, we suggest using a classic typeface, conservative, rich colors, and a more formal, corporate communication style. In contrast, a contemporary, high-energy company can use more edgy visual elements, a non-traditional typeface, and a friendly, casual communication style.

By carefully establishing your brand identity, all your marketing materials should appear to be coming from the same source over time, creating a sense of dependability in the mind of the customer.

Basic marketing package

A basic marketing package consists of five elements: business cards, company brochure, product and service flyers, newsletter and website.

  • Business cards: Business cards are often the first point of contact for a prospect and start the process of establishing a relationship. To avoid visual clutter, edit the information down to the essentials: company name, address, logo and tagline; the individual’s name, title, preferred ways to contact, and company website. The business card will look best if it has sufficient white space. Consider using the back of the card if needed.

  • Company brochure: The company brochure introduces the company, defines the most important benefits that will accrue to the customer, tells how results have been produced for others, and issues a call to action. It also includes company contact information – company name and logo, address, telephone number, e-mail and website address.
     
  • Product or service flyer: A product or service flyer defines what the company is selling. It discusses the features and benefits of a single product or service or group of related products and services, and includes photographs and illustrations to attract the reader’s attention and draw him into the message. The flyer needs a call to action and the specific way to make contact about the product or service. Company information – name, logo, address and website address – is also part of the flyer.Newsletter: A newsletter is an effective way to stay in touch with customers and introduce the company to prospects. A rule of thumb is that at least 80% of the information should be of interest and relevant to the customer or prospect, and no more than 20% sales message. The newsletter can be delivered by the USPS or sent through email.
     
  • Website: Because the company website effectively has no space limitations, it can incorporate all the information from the company brochure and product or service flyers plus tell an expanded version of the company story – its history, specialty area, geographic reach, size and client base. Customers and prospects are free to browse at will for the information they desire.
     

We are an extension of your marketing department

If you don’t have the time to write, design and/or print your marketing materials, call on us to help. We will work with you to plan the creation of marketing materials, ensure consistent brand identity, and help with any or all of the production steps. To get started, email Brigid to schedule an appointment.

Marketing Messages: 3 Things To Avoid

To improve the quality and effectiveness of the messages in your marketing materials, train yourself to avoid three things:
  1. Listing product or service features without translating them into benefits. This forces the prospect to figure out why a feature is important or how it might be useful. Don’t let this happen – the prospect may miss an important benefit or ascribe a benefit that doesn’t exist. Remember, they’re really only interested in what’s in it for them – so be sure to clearly tell them. To determine the benefits associated with a specific feature, name the feature and say the phrase “what this means is . . .”
     
  2. Providing vague and unmeasurable benefits. A vague benefit is one that can’t be quantified, such as “reduces costs” or “improves productivity”. Make benefits tangible by attaching a numeric value that prospects can calculate: “reduces costs by $3 per item” or “improves productivity by 37%”. Any business can make a vague claim. Set your business apart by using concrete examples.
     
  3. Describing benefits in generic or jargon-laden words. A benefit description written in industry jargon risks confusing the prospect and often causes them to lose interest quickly. It also fails to articulate why the benefit is unique. Avoid jargon at all costs, even if you think your target audience is used to technical language.

Act Now! Only 100 Seats Left!

In marketing, a sense of urgency is a technique that gives readers a reason to respond quickly. When reading an advertisement, people have a tendency to procrastinate – to put the ad aside to consider it later. The problem is “later” never comes and the ad is most often forgotten. A sense of urgency helps overcome this tendency by providing a reason to act immediately.

There are two common ways to create a sense of urgency: offer a reward for prompt action, or assess a penalty for not acting. Some examples of a reward include a free gift for responding or a bonus with purchase; an example of a penalty is a limited supply of the product or service being offered or a sale that lasts for a defined period of time.

A sense of urgency works by creating scarcity – the reader must act by a given deadline or be among the established number of people to respond. The sense of urgency can be undermined if the deadline or other conditions are not strictly enforced. In other words, don’t bend the rules if someone responds after the deadline.

Consistent Brand Identity

Brand identity is a new buzz word for describing an old-fashioned marketing concept: consistent use of logo, color, typography and written voice across all printed and digital materials. Consistency allows customers and prospects to recognize communications from your business or organization without having to read a single word. This can be a very powerful tool when competing for the attention of busy decision makers.

Being consistent in how you appear in print and on the web isn’t difficult. Initially there may be an investment of resources, but with discipline, consistency is easy to maintain if everyone understands its importance.

Ask someone you trust to take a few minutes to look at your company’s marketing materials. Then, have a brief meeting so they can report their impressions – we guarantee you’ll find value in the results. Then call us and we’ll help you probe deeper into developing your consistent brand identity.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Develop a Great Logo


An organization or business logo, whether a graphic symbol or a distinctive typeface, is a visual way to instantly identify the entity. When used on signs, in advertising and on marketing materials, it is a shorthand way for its customers and prospects to recognize the business or organization.

Logos come in four forms:


  • Font-based: composed of type only. Examples are Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Google, Louis Vuitton.
       
  • Symbol-based: an icon commonly associated with the type of business, such as the American Red Cross.
     
  • Abstract Graphics: a symbol created for the purpose like the Olympic rings.
     
  • Combination: a mixture of type and either a symbol or abstract graphic, such as the Chanel double C + font.

We cite these examples because they are well known, made so by their advertising budgets that use the logo in global ad campaigns. But it is good design that makes these logos memorable and identifiable.

Logo design principles

In 2009, Smashing Magazine offered five principles for effective logo design:

  • Simple. Milton Glaser, the designer who created the I Love New York logo, touts simplicity as a guiding design principle. A simple design is quickly and easily recognized. Ideally, the viewer sees the logo and immediately understands what it represents.
     
  • Memorable. Paul Rand, the designer of the IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and ABC logos, observed that logo design must be distinctive, memorable and clear but does not have to illustrate what the business or organization does. (For example, the ABC television network logo does not include a television set or broadcast tower.)
     
  • Enduring and timeless. To be enduring, a logo needs to remain current-looking for several decades, a quality called forward looking. Using colors and fonts that are the latest trend is the opposite of forward looking. Milton Glaser’s I (heart) New York logo was created in 1975; its clean lines, simplicity and neutrality have given it staying power.
     
  • Versatile. The logo must work in a variety of sizes (ranging from business card to outdoor signs); in color and black and white; in print and on the web; and on signs, vehicles, clothing and give-away items.
     
  • Appropriate. The typeface, symbol and colors used for the logo must be appropriate for the type of business or organization. A law firm or technology company needs a more formal-looking logo than a children’s clothing shop.

Technical considerations
 

Besides great design, a successful logo follows technical principles to achieve distinction. Understanding and honoring these technical aspects improves the chances of creating a great logo that is easy to work with in all situations.

Simple
A simple logo does not try to do too much. The logo does not have to represent the company’s products or services (the Nike logo is a swoosh, not a shoe) or reflect its company history. It also does not have to be a visual representation of the company’s tagline.

A good practice aimed at keeping a logo simple is to begin designing in black and white. Color can be added later, after the basic design is established. Another tip is to turn the logo upside down so its shape becomes more apparent and reveals possible flaws.

Over time, most logos are redesigned and made simpler. To keep an initial design as simple as possible, subtract anything that isn’t essential. And if in doubt, leave it out.


Memorable
A memorable logo is one that is original and doesn’t borrow from others, either by imitating or copying. A memorable logo is devoid of clich├ęs (a globe to represent international or a light bulb for ideas) and may use only type without a symbol or graphic.

Enduring and Timeless
To create a logo that will last for 20 years without appearing dated or stale, choose a typeface that is simple and legible. This is especially important if the business name is unusual or unfamiliar. Use no more than two fonts in the logo design and avoid gimmicky, currently-fashionable or trendy fonts.

If the logo features both an image and a tagline, construct each of these elements as a separate piece of art – in other words, don’t overlap or entwine them. This will enable using the elements separately as well as together.

Versatile
For today’s multi-media marketing requirements, a logo must be versatile so it will work in print, on the web, and on other items like apparel and give-away items. This means it must reproduce accurately in all three color spaces: PMS Pantone Matching System for one- and two-color printing; CMYK cyan, magenta, yellow and black, for full color printing; and RGB red, green, blue for the web. The logo may also need a version to use on a dark background, over photographs and in gray scale or black and white.

The aspect ratio (the relationship between the height and width) determines the shape and orientation of the logo. A logo that is too tall and thin or too short and wide will present layout problems on artwork. Square and circle shapes are pleasing and adaptable to many design layouts.

Logos need to be prepared in two file formats: vector and bitmap. Vector file formats produce the best quality reproduction for printed material, signage, vehicle wraps, apparel and give-away items. The best possible vector file format is an Adobe Illustrator EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) with fonts converted to outlines.

For websites, blogs and social media, a low resolution bitmap file format is required. JPEG, GIF and PNG are bitmap file formats.

Appropriate
Type, symbols and graphics have distinctive characteristics and should be matched to the brand image. For example, use big, powerful slab fonts to signify strength; serifs or scrip fonts to imply style or elegance; italics or slanted fonts to suggest movement or forward thinking.

Evaluate your logo


If you have never evaluated your logo using the design principles discussed on this blog, we suggest you do so now. If you find a few areas that need attention, give us a call. We can help with refreshing or redesigning your logo. Contact Brigid today!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taglines

As part of its brand identity, a company or organization may develop a tagline – a few words or a simple phrase that describes the company’s product, service or mission. Also called a catchline, strapline or slogan. Consider a tagline to be a separate element of brand identity and do not include it as part of a logo. When included as part of a logo, a tagline could produce visual clutter, interfere with the logo design, or require the use of very small type that becomes illegible or plugs when being printed.

First Impressions

Big national brands spend a lot of time, effort and money developing a logo, then use their large advertising budgets to imbue it with meaning. But what about a business that doesn’t have national scope and a big advertising budget? Does its logo matter to the same extent? Yes! Customers recognize your logo without having to read anything. This means that your invoice goes directly to the accounts payable department. The newsletter with your logo will be put aside to read later.

A logo is equally important in attracting new customers, who often form their first impression of your business from the logo. If you inherited your logo, or if it has been years since it was first developed, you may want to analyze it against the information we’ve provided on our blog. And if you find that your logo needs refreshing, we’re here to help.

Graphic Standards

It is considered best practice to create a set of rules (called Graphic Standards) defining all elements of logo use, typeface system, color palette, layout guidelines and any restrictions on use. Many businesses often provide Graphic Standards documentation with the print-ready and web-ready PDFs provided to the printer or web designer. Here are a few things you can do to create Graphic Standards documentation:

  • Specify the minimum white space surrounding the logo.
     
  • Show allowable variations of the logo (horizontal and vertical formats, minimum sizes) and specify whether any of the elements (logotype, graphic element or tagline) can appear alone.
     
  • Provide examples of what not to do with the logo
     
  • Specify the logo colors using all three color systems: PMS (Pantone Matching System), CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the colors of full color printing) and RGB (red, green and blue, the colors of web sites). Include a translation of PMS color to CMYK and HEX equivalents.
     
  • Define whether alternate colors are allowed and if so, specify them.
     
  • Define any preferred color palettes that are to be used in conjunction with the logo. We often see three color palettes specified: primary color palette, secondary color palette and pastel color palette.
     
  • Define the allowable typefaces, including sizes and weights for various applications (body copy, headlines, subheads). Include fonts that can be substituted if the font you specify is not available. Always include web-friendly font alternatives as well.

Graphic standards documentation helps printers, graphic designers, web designers, give-away item manufacturers, and sign makers maintain a consistent look and feel for your logo. The consistent appearance of your logo helps create memorability, loyalty and top of mind awareness (TOMA) with your target audience. And that’s good business!

Q&A: Is my logo the same as my brand?

No. A logo identifies the company or organization, while the brand is the company or organization’s perceived image – its characteristics, values and attributes. A graphic designer can create a logo, but the audience creates a brand.

A logo is only one element of a brand. Other elements are the name, tagline, graphics, shapes (Coca-Cola bottle, Volkswagen Beetle), colors (Owens-Corning pink fiberglass insulation), sounds (NBC chimes, Harley Davidson motor), scent (Chanel No. 5), taste (Kentucky Fried Chicken spices), movements (upward motion of Lamborghini car doors) and customer relationship management (Nordstrom and Zappos are known for their impeccable customer care).

Branding is not marketing, though it does support marketing efforts. Like marketing, branding may encourage someone to buy a product or service, but it does so indirectly by defining the company or organization, not by defining its products or services.

Ultimately it is the brand that determines customer loyalty. Marketing identifies and activates prospects, while branding creates loyal customers who work to influence others to buy when the brand lives up to its customer’s expectations.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Annual Summer Vacation


Versatility and Results

More and more businesses are using direct mail marketing as a powerful way to inform customers and prospects about their business. Postcards have always been a great tool. They are faster and more economical to produce than other types of mail pieces, allow for personalization with text and images, and have a high read rate.

Postcards have other uses, too, from appointment reminders to birthday wishes. They are great for a quick message to a customer or a follow up with a prospect. And did you know that it’s possible to design a postcard so that it serves as a mini-newsletter?

Don’t overlook the power and versatility of postcards to promote your business. These little giants can produce outsized results. To start a postcard campaign for your company, please contact me at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com.

When Responses Roll In

For even greater results from a postcard or direct mail piece, have a plan for responding to callers who contact your business or organization. Specifically, be sure the person who answers the phone or monitors the website does these three things:
  1. Answer the phone with a smile. Voice inflection – the modulation, pitch and tone of your voice – is positively affected when you smile while answering the phone. Smiling helps your voice sound friendly, warm and receptive for a physiological reason. Smiling makes the soft palate at the back of your mouth rise which in turn makes the sound waves more fluid. That’s one reason why professional singers open their mouths so wide – voice tone improves when the soft palate is high.
     
  2. Ask how the caller heard about you. This is a probing question designed to uncover what marketing tools are the most effective. It isn’t a scientific poll – particularly since people might not remember – but it can be informative if no one ever mentions one of your marketing tools.
     
  3. Get the caller’s full contact information. You won’t be able to follow up if you don’t have full contact information – name, company name, phone number, e-mail address, mailing address. It isn’t as hard as you think to get the information if you give a logical reason for needing it: “In case we’re disconnected, can I get some quick information from you?”
Good voice inflection (indicating friendliness and interest) coupled with full contact information sets the scene for active follow up. Consider these statistics:
  • 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact.
  • 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact.
  • 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact!

More Uses for Postcards


Although most postcards are used for direct mail marketing, they also have other uses. Here are some other ways to use postcards:
 
  • Feature a single product or service. Use a postcard in conjunction with a brochure or catalog to focus attention on the 20% of products or services that provide 80% of your sales. Create a series of postcards featuring those products/services and distribute to customers and prospects.
  • Convince prospects to move ahead. Postcards provide an alternative to follow up by phone or e-mail. They can also include a personal, handwritten message.
  • Remind people about an event. Build attendance at an event (fundraiser, annual meeting, member event) by using a save-the-date postcard, or as a thank you for attending the event afterwards.
  • Provide something of value. Use a postcard as a coupon or discount certificate to reward current customers or to attract prospects.
  • Feature a staff member. People buy from people. Help your customers get acquainted with your staff. Provide a photograph as well as interesting information about the person, like an unusual hobby, that could be a conversation starter or make a connection with a customer or prospect.
  • Remember a customer’s significant event. Use a postcard as a birthday greeting or to commemorate the number of years of customer loyalty.

Marketing with Postcards

A postcard mailing campaign, properly planned and carried out, is an efficient and cost-effective way to market to customers and prospects. Less time-consuming and costly to produce than a brochure or folded self-mailer, a postcard is more affordable and just as effective. Whether your objective is business promotion, donation solicitation, or an event reminder, a postcard gets the job done efficiently and cost-effectively.

Postcards play nicely with others

Because postcards don’t require opening for the message to be seen, they have an impact even on those who don’t actively engage with them. A well-designed postcard has the main message in plain view and catches the reader’s eye with a strong headline or graphic, resulting in a high read rate. Although a postcard typically has less space to deliver the message than a self-mailer, the postcard’s reach can be extended by referring to a website or landing page for more details. Postcards have a longer “shelf life” than e-mail and are easy to file for future reference.

Postcards work best for short messages and for generating leads (not closing sales). And they are remarkably effective when compared to email. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s Statistical Fact Book, the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer mailings, compared to 0.12% for e-mail. That explains why use of direct mail is an essential element of business marketing plans.

Postcards & NeighborMail™

A very popular way to use postcards is with our NeighborMail™ program that helps businesses tap into the power of direct mail. NeighborMail™ is a way to mail to every address in a specific area (defined by carrier route or zip code) at the very lowest postage rate available and without needing to put an address on the mail piece. This makes it the lowest cost-per-piece direct mail option.

The USPS has specific rules that apply to these mailings. One of those is the size of the mail piece. There is a wide range of size choices for postcards, from average to super size. The specific dimensional requirements may be confusing to interpret, but we can help you determine if the size you have in mind fits the requirements.

Besides size restrictions, other requirements include wording and placement of the indicia, wording to use in place of the address, how the mail must be bundled and labeled, what paperwork must accompany the mailing, how postage is paid, and how many pieces of mail can be sent each day.

NeighborMail™ versus regular targeted mailing

For some kinds of businesses, NeighborMail™ is an ideal way to conduct a direct mail marketing campaign; for others, regular targeted direct mail is best. The businesses that benefit the most from NeighborMail™ are those whose target customers can be found clustered in a specific area or zip code. Usually this means the business serves a broad spectrum of the population at large – all ages and income levels. Some examples are:
  • restaurants
  • retail stores
  • florists
  • bakeries
  • window cleaning
  • auto repair
  • car washes
  • hair salons
  • nail salons
  • barber shops
  • dry cleaners
  • pharmacies
  • housekeeping
  • carpet installation
  • convenience stores
  • landscaping
  • pest control
  • handyman services
     
The key is knowing whether to use NeighborMail™ or more targeted direct mail is to determine if there’s a concentration of the target audience in a specific area or zip code. First, define your target audience with measurable demographics like household income and age of head of household. With this information, we obtain a count of households in the specific area or zip code that meet the criteria. Compare that count to the count of deliverable addresses in the specific area or zip code, and the answer will be clear. In general, the less restrictive the criteria, the more likely NeighborMail™ will be beneficial.

Here’s an example: a local pizzeria is targeting households within a 7 mile radius that have an annual income of at least $35,000. Using the income criteria, we can determine how many households within the radius meet the criteria. This number can then be compared to the USPS count of households. If the numbers are similar (say, 4,700 versus 5,000), then NeighborMail™ is the better way to mail.

If a business has a highly specialized target audience, NeighborMail™ may not be the best choice. An obvious example is a swimming pool supply and service business. It is unlikely that a sufficient concentration of swimming pools could be found in a specific area or zip code. Instead of using NeighborMail™, this business owner should purchase a mailing list of households with swimming pools, perhaps with the additional criteria of household income.

Postcards and online marketing

One very effective use of postcards is to integrate them with online marketing – using a postcard to deliver a compelling offer that drives a prospect to a website or landing page. Here prospects can be prompted to complete a form or quick survey, redeem a coupon, or otherwise identify themselves.

Here are the advantages of using a direct mail postcard with online marketing rather than online marketing alone:
  • At the website, there’s no need to ask the prospect for comprehensive contact information as there would be for prospects who get to the website through pay-per-click or a search engine. You already have contact information; you only need one piece of information (such as a code printed on the postcard) to tie the website visitor back to the mailing list.
  • Prospects are more likely to read the initial message on a postcard than an e-mail message. As we mentioned earlier, the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% compared to 0.12% for e-mail. It is easy to delete e-mail without opening it or to block an e-mail sender entirely. With a postcard, it is hard to avoid seeing some part of the message – especially a compelling headline or graphic that may cause the recipient to pause and read the mail piece.
  • By starting with a postcard, you can develop a targeted audience. Using demographic characteristics of your current best customers, you can obtain a mail list of others whose demographics (age, gender, income level and more) are a match. This puts the postcard in front of prequalified leads, increasing the likelihood of favorable response.

Postcards promote success

Postcards are a valuable part of the marketing toolkit for businesses and organizations. Versatile postcards can be applied to many different selling and customer relations situations. They can be used by themselves or combined with online marketing.

We can help you plan and carry out an effective postcard mailing campaign. We are experts in using headlines, text, photographs, illustrations and white space to grab the reader’s attention and promote response. Please contact Brigid at (215) 923-2679 or brigid@creativecharacters.com to discuss your next postcard project.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Make Your Email Marketing More Effective

Now that we've looked at some of the ways to become CAN-SPAM compliant when creating an email marketing campaign, let's look at some ways to make your email marketing more effective.

  • It's all relative – while at lunch the other day, we were talking about how inundated our inboxes have been lately with email marketing campaigns. A colleague questioned if email campaigns were still effective. The short answer is yes, they are if they are done properly. I get 20-30 unsolicited emails daily from marketers that purchased my email address off of some list. All of these get filed in the trash can. However, if my veterinarian were to start sending out a monthly newsletter about dog health, I would probably read that one. I have a dog, and this is of interest to me. If the email is about a product or service that I have used in the past or have elected to receive information about, I am much more likely to read, and forward that email on.
     
  • Don't make me hunt for the good information – emails that scroll on for days and days get sent right to the trash file too. I am way more inclined to read the high level points in a newsletter, and if something interests me, I will click on the article to read more. Don't force me to read it all in my inbox.
     
  • Your newsletter should not just be a jpg – we've all seen the email newsletters that are just a giant jpg. To me, this is taking the easy way out and not providing a good experience for your users. Take the time to recreate the email into a HTML format with actual links and text. Not only will this make the email more mobile friendly, it will also give you the opportunity to link the user up with your blog, website or social media accounts.
  • Don't have all the links in your newsletter go to your homepage – by all means, have a link to your website homepage in your newsletter. A signature at the bottom is a great place for this. However, if you have a teaser headline and a link to read more, the link should take me directly to the article.
  • Give me an offer – I am giving you my precious time by even reading your newsletter. The least you can do is give me an offer at the end of the newsletter. It doesn't have to be a coupon. But give me a reason to want to read them again, to visit your site, to call you, to give you more love.

This is a great start to a list of best practices for effective email marketing. If you have any pet peeves or great ideas for email marketing, feel free to leave a comment here and keep the conversation going.