Monday, November 14, 2016

Marketing Success Using Direct Mail

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

Some Prefer Mail

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

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

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

Success in 3 Steps

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

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

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

Step 1: The Mail List

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: The Mail Piece

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

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

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

Step 3: The Words and The Offer

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

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

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

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

Final Step

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

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

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

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

What Is Seen First?

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!


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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finishing in Style: What Happens After Printing?

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


Bindery Equipment

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

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

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

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

Allowing for Bindery

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

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

DIY or Ask Us for Help

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

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

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

Folding with the Grain

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

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


Start Right, Finish Right

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

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

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seven Identity Items Every Business Needs

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

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

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

The Corporate Identity Package

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales and Marketing Materials

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

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

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

Professional Expertise

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

Effective Promotion

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

A popular brochure format is the 8.5 x 11 trifold.

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

Q&A: I’m trying to decide between using direct mail or email to introduce my new product. Which one will be most effective?

That’s a tough question. The best answer is both. By using both email and direct mail together, the introduction of your new product is sure to be seen by all on your list either in the mail or the inbox.

If you must choose only one, here are some statistics to consider. According to Pingdom, almost 69% of all email messages are spam. Of the 3.3 billion email accounts worldwide, 75% are registered to consumers and 25% to businesses.

Informatics professor, Gloria Mark from the University of California at 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. This creates a backlog of email in the inbox increasing the likelihood the recipient will delete the email without opening it. According to HubSpot, email open rates are around 25%.
 
Contrast this with these direct mail statistics. According to the most recently-published study results, 85% of direct mail is at least skimmed before being discarded or saved.
 
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. Since the amount of direct mail has decreased over the last decade, the average number of households reading their mail has increased. The study results also indicate that about 35% of people say they will respond to a direct mail piece at some point.

Executive Achievement

One of the top tips from HR pros for anyone looking to take a leap up the career ladder is to have a business card. A business card is an essential tool in connecting with others. I’ve heard people say “Business cards are antiquated, it’s better to connect online.” There is no replacement for handing a new contact your business card representing you and your company in a positive light.

Yes, people can easily find you online, but that requires effort. They have to actively go look for you and frankly most people won’t. Why? Because they get distracted, forget your name, forget to look you up or it could be simply that you’re not first on their priority list. With a business card, they’re holding all your information in the palm of their hand. A professional business card sends a subconscious message of executive achievement. Consider it the final touch to a good first impression.

If I can help you make a better first impression with an outstanding business card, please give me a call at 215-923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Better ROI Using Print with Social Media

Use of social media sites has exploded in the last several years. In 2005, Pew Research Center found that only 2% of adults were using a social media site. Today, it’s increased to over 75%.

Along with this growth, social media has evolved from purely personal to commercial use – a way for people to connect to a business and its fans. Businesses find they can use social media for marketing such as dialoguing with customers, building brand awareness, providing coupons or special offers, and alerting customers to upcoming promotions or product launches.

Social media offers a new way for businesses to connect with customers and leverage customer loyalty to attract new customers. As explained by author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: Psychology of Persuasion, the idea of tapping into the wisdom of the crowd is based on a principle of social influence. Instead of making a decision based on traditional measures, we instead turn to outside influences. Cialdini calls this social proof, which he defines as “the means by which we determine what is correct, by finding out what other people think is correct.”

Direct Mail is Still Relevant

Does the popularity of social networking sites mean that businesses and organizations can drop print and direct mail as marketing tools? Research suggests not. ExactTarget surveyed American online consumers regarding how they prefer to receive marketing messages. They asked how acceptable it is for companies to send unsolicited marketing messages through various channels (e-mail, direct mail, text messaging). Direct mail was the only channel where an unsolicited message was not viewed
as inappropriate.

ExactTarget also found that 65% purchased a product or service after receiving direct mail while only 20% made a purchase after receiving an email message, and only 16% made a purchase prompted by a text message.

The Internet Advertising Bureau commissioned a study to examine how consumers interact with various marketing channels. Results showed that 75% of adult consumers discover new products from off-line sources like word-of-mouth, direct mail, catalogs, and television. After the initial purchase, consumers preferred to be sent catalogs and direct mail as a way for companies to keep them informed.

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

Social media also requires consistent effort to demonstrate that something valuable is gained by connecting to your business. How much effort? Idealware, a nonprofit organization that helps nonprofits make informed software decisions, estimates that it takes at least two hours per week on each social media channel to see significant marketing results.

Print and Social Media Marketing

If you can only afford to use one marketing channel, we believe it should be direct mail. Here’s why:

  • The marketing message gets to the customer or prospect. You are reaching out, not waiting for someone to find you.
     
  • You control the message. At a social media site, anyone can say anything, even if it isn’t true.
     
  • You are competing with fewer messages. These days there is far less competition for your customer’s or prospect’s attention in the mail box.
     
  • Mail is a physical media. The brain responds differently to physical and digital media. According to a study by Millward Brown, physical media like direct mail leaves a “deeper footprint” in the brain, involves more emotional processing, and produces more brain responses.
     
  • Longevity. Investing in print and/or direct mail can provide you with a marketing piece that your customer may keep for years.
     
  • Conveys trust. Marketing is all about perception and conveying trust. According to a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) study, 56% of consumers found print marketing to be the most trustworthy of all media channels. In fact, the study showed that you’re 10% more likely to get a response from mail, rather than email.
     
  • Inspires action. According to the same DMA study, after receiving direct mail, 44% of consumers will visit a brand’s website and 34% will search online for more information about the product or service.

Better Together

Here are a few tips for making social media and direct mail work together.

  • Make your direct mail piece interactive by adding a QR code. The code could lead to a landing page or survey with a reward for completing it or a YouTube video demonstrating your product or providing instructions.
     
  • Create a Facebook page for your event. Mail a postcard with a QR code linking to your Facebook page.
     
  • Start an interest group on LinkedIn, and encourage participation with a postcard.
     
  • Monitor Twitter conversations about your products or services. Use the topics in your newsletter.
     
According to Stephen Brown, Chief Innovation Officer at Cookerly Public Relations, “A great printed piece is one you want to spend time with. It has more value and permanence. When it’s passed on to others, it’s a sure sign that the content is quality.” Brown goes on to say that postcards are one of the staples of Cookerly’s public relations strategies. For events, postcards are still a great way to cut through the clutter, especially when timeliness is a factor. Successful businesses are embracing a multi-channel approach to marketing, using both print and digital.

We’re Marketing Experts

Call on us to help you integrate social media marketing with print and direct mail. We have been providing print services to our customers since 1995 and social media services since 2004. We’re good at what we do and passionate about helping you achieve your business goals. For more information or to set an appointment, call Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email her at brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Create Buzz Using Print with Facebook

If your business draws its customers from a neighborhood or other defined geographic area, you can combine direct mail and social media to get people sharing with each other. Here’s how:
  1. Be sure your Facebook page has good customer reviews for new visitors to read.
  2. Make an offer that you know has appeal –  a free gift or an add-on with purchase like free tire rotation with the purchase of 4 new tires.
  3. Develop a mail piece (postcard, flyer, or brochure) that describes the offer.
  4. On the mail piece, direct recipients to your Facebook page and instruct them to write a specific phrase on the page (such as “Got a gift for reading my mail”) to be eligible for the offer.
  5. On your Facebook page, refer to the direct mail piece (“Our neighbors are getting free gifts just for opening their mail”).
This will start people talking. Regular visitors to your Facebook page will ask how they can get in on the offer, and direct mail recipients will read the good customer reviews on your Facebook page.

Q&A: Are QR codes still relevant?

According to a recent survey report, the number of unique QR code users continues to increase. Other findings from the report:
  • The most popular QR code marketing campaigns are connecting to video, app downloads, and product details.
  • QR codes from quick-service restaurants were among the top five industries that use QR codes. Restaurants used QR codes to offer customer promotions.
  • Mobile phones account for 93% of the total QR code traffic.
  • More men (68%) use QR codes than women (32%).
  • 55% of QR code users are 25-44 year olds.
     
Some other common uses of QR codes are:
  • To send information to a mobile phone, like dialing a phone number for instance. Parking lots use this to send customers a text message to let them know where their car is parked.
  • To initiate an email that is pre-populated with the recipients information or to download an audio or video file with information, such as assembly instructions.

Highly Effective Marketing

Consumers’ lives are increasingly online. Businesses need effective ways to break through the noise and be heard. A successful marketing campaign works best when print is used as one part of an integrated solution. On their own, social media and print fulfill vital marketing roles. When combined, they are a highly effective marketing force for any business.
 
Research has shown that adding print to the marketing mix will increase the ROI of the overall campaign. Technology used with print forms a bridge between print media and a brand’s online presence, inviting customer reaction, feedback and purchase, all via a smartphone, tablet or PC. Such technologies increase the effectiveness of print media, as well as enhancing the consumer experience.
 
We can help you navigate all the possibilities, even the ones you don’t know about yet. Give us a call at 215-923-2679. Let’s get started!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Envelopes: Begin With The End In Mind

All too often, a project is conceived, designed, and printed before any thought goes into how it will be mailed. When we say begin with the end in mind, we’re suggesting that early in the planning process thought should be given to what type and size envelope will be used.

If you intend to mail your brochure, invitation, or thank you card, it’s a good idea to size it to fit in a standard envelope. Although custom size envelopes are possible, it’s an expensive and lengthy process.

Common Business Envelopes

Envelopes are made for many purposes, so it’s useful to categorize them according to use.

Commercial envelopes are used for business purposes such as correspondence, direct mail, and billing. They’re made of 24# basis weight paper in these popular sizes:
 
  • #10 – the most common business size; an 8.5 x 11 sheet that is trifolded fits perfectly inside.
     
  • #9 – slightly smaller than a #10; also holds a tri-folded 8.5 x 11 sheet, but will fit inside a #10. Often used as a remittance envelope.
     
  • 6 ¾ – also fits inside a #10; often used as a remittance envelope.
     
These three sizes are all available with or without a standard window and with or without security tint inside.

Large envelopes are used for mailing bulkier material, like booklets, or contracts where folding is undesirable. The two styles of large envelopes are catalog and booklet. A catalog envelope has the flap on the shorter side, while a booklet envelope has the flap on the longer side. Large envelopes are made of 24# or 28# stock in either white or manila. The most popular sizes are:

  • 6x9: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets folded in half.
  • 9x12: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets without folding.
  • 10x13: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets without folding or a standard size 9x12 folder.
     
Specialty envelopes are used for social correspondence and invitations. A good rule of thumb when choosing the size of a specialty envelope is to have at least 0.25 inch more in height and width than the piece being inserted. Common specialty envelopes include:

Baronial: referred to with “Bar” after the size; they are typically available in white or ivory stock. This envelope has diagonal seams and a pointed flap. Used for formal announcements, invitations, greeting cards, and sometimes personal stationery.

The most popular sizes are:

  • 5 ½ Bar – fits a 4.25” x 5.5” response or reply card or a small thank you card.
  • 6 Bar – fits a 4.5” x 6.25” response or reply card or a folded thank you note.
  • 7 Bar or Lee – fits a 5” x 7” folded invitation or announcement card.
     
Each size baronial envelope will fit into the next largest size. However, because of the pointed flap, baronial envelopes cannot be sealed by machine. They must be sealed by hand.

Announcement: referred to as A-style; these envelopes have side seams and a square flap. They’re available in more colors and kinds of stock than a baronial. Used for invitations and personal stationery, the most popular sizes are:

  • A-2 – fits a 4.25” x 5.5” response or reply card or a small thank you card.
  • A-6 – fits a 4.5” x 6.25” response or reply card or a folded thank you note.
  • A-7 – fits a 5” x 7” folded invitation or announcement card.
     
Each size announcement envelope will fit into the next largest size.

Sealing Methods

Envelopes offer a variety of sealing methods:

  • Moisture Activated (also known as “lick and stick”) has gum applied to the flap.
     
  • Press and Seal has two flaps, each with a strip of latex gum that adheres when pressed together.
     
  • Peel and Seal has a paper strip over a strip of latex gum. Remove the strip and press the flap to seal.
     
  • Metal fasteners are sometimes used on large envelopes, particularly those made of manila stock.
     
  • String and button, a metal or paper button with a string that wraps around the button, are common on interoffice envelopes that will be opened and closed frequently.
     
  • Tamper-evident has a perforated strip on the top flap; once opened, it cannot be resealed.
     

Design Considerations When Printing Envelopes

Envelopes can present some unique printing challenges. When printing an envelope, a bleed is any printed element that extends beyond the edge. A full bleed means the printed elements extend beyond all four edges. Since it is not practical to print right to the edge of an envelope, typically the image needs to be printed first and then converted into an envelope. This may not add much expense if a large number of envelopes are being printed, but can add quite a bit on smaller quantities.

Let Us Help

Envelopes play an important role in business communications and transactions as well as direct mail marketing. We can guide you through the choice of envelopes to find the perfect match for your project. To discuss options, call Jason or Marya at 215-923-2679.

Storing Envelopes

Like all paper products, envelopes perform best if stored correctly. Here are our recommendations to prolong the shelf life of your envelopes:
  • Store envelopes in dry, well-ventilated areas. Humidity can affect the glue on the flap, causing it to prematurely react where the flap sticks the envelope closed.
  • Ideal storage conditions are temperatures of 65-85 degrees and 35-65 percent relative humidity. Your typical climate controlled office environment works well.
  • Place boxes and cartons on a shelf or raised surface to prevent moisture from the floor getting into the boxes.
  • Keep boxes and cartons closed to guard against damage from moisture.
  • Store envelopes resting on the side, not lying flat.

Fun Envelope Facts

  • In the Victorian Era, the placement of a stamp was used as coded messages between young lovers whose parents censored their mail. For instance, an upside down stamp meant “I love you” a diagonal stamp means “I miss you”.
     
  •  When creating printed wedding invitation envelopes, it is proper to spell out house numbers under 20.
     
  • In 19th Century England, the recipient would pay the postage of the envelope. Correspondents figured out a scheme to transmit brief messages through prearranged envelope marking. The recipient would decode the message, then hand it back to the postman, refusing payment. Postage stamps were created in order to put an end to this.
     
  • America’s First Envelopes were handmade. In fact, the West & Berlin factory in New York employed about 100 hand folders in 1855, that produced 200,000 to 250,000 envelopes per day.
     
  • When someone says you are “pushing the envelope”, you are going up to or beyond the boundaries that have been set by engineering limits, or perhaps by social norms and conventions.

Q&A: I’m planning a direct mail campaign. Will the envelope size affect the postage rate?

This is an excellent question to ask now, in the planning stage. The answer is yes. Envelope size does affect postage.

The USPS divides mail into four basic categories: cards, letters, large envelopes (called flats), and packages. Envelopes are usually in the letter or large envelope category. Mailing houses, and the USPS, call large envelopes flats.

The best postage rate for presorted bulk mail (either first class or standard mail), is letter size mail. In this category, the envelope must be rectangular in shape – that is, the length must be greater than the width, and the address block must be parallel to the length. The envelope dimensions can range from 5” to 11.5” in length and from 3.5” to 6.125” in width. The aspect ratio – the length divided by the height – must always be between 1.3 and 2.5. If it is not, the USPS considers this non-standard and will add additional postage. One example is square envelopes which always have an aspect ratio of 1 and require more postage than a standard envelope.

Finally, the envelope with all its contents cannot exceed ¼” in thickness and must be flexible enough to make the turns in USPS high speed mail processing equipment. Of course, you are free to design and use any size and shape of envelope you feel is needed for your direct mail campaign. Just be aware of the postage costs for non-standard envelopes.  It may be much higher than you expect. Another example of non-standard envelopes costing more is envelopes in dark colors. Dark colors, especially those without much contrast between addresses, postal indicia and the rest of the envelope, may not be readable by automated USPS equipment. They can still be mailed, but require processing by hand, so the postage cost is higher.

First Impressions

There’s a lot more to envelopes than you might think. In fact, it’s easy to take the envelope for granted, but it definitely deserves more thought. The envelope is the first thing your audience sees, so its appearance says so much about your business. You are communicating a non-verbal, visual and tactile message through the envelope, so keep in mind the impression you hope to make. Your envelope should reflect both your business brand and its personality.

For instance, I once had a client who recycled their envelopes when they moved. Instead of printing new ones, they simply stuck a return address label on top of what was printed there. That may be fine for paying bills, but not for client correspondence. The impression that would make on a potential client is not the kind of impression you want someone to have about your business.

We’re experts at envelopes! We will help you select envelopes that reflect well on your business and carry your documents safely to their destinations. Just give us a call at 215-923-2679.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Note from Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute

I subscribe to a weekly email from Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute. It has lots of neat tips for online content marketing and each email includes a "Note from Joe Pulizzi". This particular "Note from Joe Pulizzi" caught my attention. I am glad to see that online marketing proponents like Joe Pulizzi have thier eyes wide open, as you will see in the Note from Joe Pulizzi below. This was so good I had to put it on out blog for all to see. 
A Note from Joe Pulizzi
Brexit, the Cavs and the Value of Print
A few weeks back, I spent some time in London with my family and, naturally, we stopped at various museums. During a stop at the Museum of London, I discovered a special display of the first issue of the London Gazette (London’s first newspaper), from September 11, 1673. As I looked at it, I thought about the things that, as human beings, we value and keep. It would seem challenging to go to a museum in 100 years and view the first native advertising placement online – it just wouldn't have staying power.
Later that week, the family and I were sitting at breakfast when the Brexit results were announced, followed by the resignation of the U.K.'s Prime Minister David Cameron. It was amazing to see the emotion on the faces of the others in the restaurant... it was as if something tangible was being taken away from them.
As we headed back to the hotel via the Tube (London’s subway system), we saw many people distributing copies of the London Evening Standard with Cameron on the cover saying, "We’re Out." There were way more than the typical number of people going after that paper. Sure, they had all the same information on their digital devices; but having the newspaper made it real.
Then, when I got home from the trip, I was showered with copies of the Plain Dealer (Cleveland’s newspaper), which multiple friends had sent to me to commemorate the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship. I also received a number of other commemorative editions, as well as two Sports Illustrated special editions. All in all, I think I now have over 20 print copies of various Cavs-focused editions.
Lastly, as I went through the mail that had piled up while I was away, I discovered my copy of Contently Quarterly, a quarterly magazine from Contently (one of CMI's sponsors). It’s 164 beautifully designed pages of innovative journalism covering the practice of content marketing. Would I have reviewed that content if it wasn’t in print? Sadly, I don’t think I would have.
What I’m getting at is that print continues to be perceived as more valuable than digital (at least, in my mind).
My take is this: We live in a digital society – there's no doubt about it. But, I feel that the majority of brands are missing out on a huge opportunity by not delivering valuable, consistent experiences in the printed form. Now may be the best time in history to invest in print, as it is getting increasingly more difficult to break through the clutter online.
But to do this right, it can’t be a one-time effort. You must follow the same practices of any great content marketing approach – targeting one audience, in one particular content niche, and delivering the content consistently, over time.
If I were to make a prediction (as I love doing), I would expect to see a number of print launches announced by large brands over the next 12-18 months.
So, all we are saying, is give print a chance.
Yours in content,
Joe Pulizzi
Founder
Content Marketing Institute

This article from Joe is available only in this newsletter for you, the newsletter subscriber. If you have friends that would see value in Joe's weekly updates, please have them subscribe here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rules of Good Design

Design and rules are two things that don’t seem to go together, but there are some basic principles everyone should follow. They can help you create appealing layouts that are both effective and pleasing to the eye. They can better communicate your message to your target audience.

They can also help you understand why your design works – or why it doesn’t. The next time you’re feeling like your design doesn’t look quite right, try adjusting it to fall in-line with some of the four basic graphic design principles.

Do you have enough white space? Is there alignment between elements? Is there a consistent, underlying organization? Asking yourself these questions can help make your design better. Try applying these principles to your next graphic design project. And if you need help, we’re just a phone call or email away.

Q&A: I need to plan a design. Can you give me any tips to get started?

Begin with the end in mind – decide whom you want to reach and what you want them to learn or do. Try using these questions to organize your thoughts.
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What must this creative design accomplish?
  • Are there any perceptions of the target audience that must be created or overcome?
  • What is the single, most important, message the target audience should take away from this design?
  • What is the overall or primary benefit to the target audience?
  • What tone should be conveyed to the target audience?
  • What elements or information must be included in this design?
Today people with no background in graphic design are creating a wide variety of printed marketing tools. There are, of course, many projects that definitely deserve the investment in professional design. Give us a call at (215) 923-2679 if you’d like us to assist you with a project, or if you would like us to create a template for you to use.

Design Challenges

When your task is to fit a lot of text into a small amount of space, or if your project consists entirely of text, you face some significant design challenges. Over the years, we have developed some tricks for organizing text to improve readability. Try some of these techniques.
  • Add contrast to large blocks of text by using headlines, subheads, headers, footers, pull quotes, sidebars, and bulleted lists.
  • Make headlines larger and use a different font than the body copy.
  • Add a one-point rule above and below a subhead and make it span two columns of text.
  • Base your design on a grid and use white space for balance.
  • Create a drop-cap 3-6 times larger than the body copy.
Good design does not come easily. It is a result of studying and applying good design principles, understanding how to analyze design problems, knowing your audience, developing a sensitivity for good design, and lots of trial and error. If you think your layout or design may have a problem, but you’re just not sure – we can help. Just email info@creativecharacters.com or give Brigid a call at 215-923-2679.

Four Principles of Graphic Design

Whether your task is to design a sales brochure, a magazine ad, or a newsletter, the purpose is the same: to communicate a message to the audience that will produce the desired response. What this means is that the design you develop is not just about appearance – it is also about performance. Thus, good design is measured equally by form and function. According to Robin Williams in her book, Non-Designer’s Design Book, she sites four principles of design that underlie every design project – alignment, proximity, contrast, and repetition.

Alignment
Alignment refers to how text and graphics are placed on the page. Alignment creates order, organizes page elements, indicates groups of items, and emphasizes visual connection. Interestingly, good alignment is rarely noticed by the reader, while misalignment is immediately detected. There are two basic types of alignment: edge and center. Edges can be aligned along the top, bottom, left, or right. Center alignment can be either horizontal or vertical. When designing a page, be sure that each element (text, graphics, photographs) has a visual alignment with another item.

Proximity
Proximity describes the distance between individual design elements. Close proximity implies a relationship between the elements; conversely, lack of proximity separates them. Like alignment, proximity is a visual organization tool. Placing elements in close proximity unifies them and communicates a sense of order and organization to the reader. When it isn’t possible to group items proximately, unity between two elements can be achieved by using a third element to connect them.

Contrast
Contrast adds interest as well as organization to the page and is created when two elements are different. Common ways to create contrast include varying size, color, thickness, shape, style, or space. The greater the difference between elements, the greater the contrast. Besides adding interest to the page, contrast can be used to direct the reader around the page and to emphasize importance or differences. Contrast is only effective when it is obvious.

Repetition
Repetition brings visual consistency to page design. When the same design elements – such as uniform size and weight of headline fonts or use of initial caps to begin a chapter – are used, it becomes clear that the pages are related to each other and therefore part of the same document. In this way, repetition creates unity. Some examples of repetition are using the same style of headlines, the same style of initial capitals, or repeating the same basic layout from one page to another.
The four principles of design are interconnected and work together to communicate the message. Contrast is often the most important visual attraction on a page. If the page elements are not the same, then make them very different, instead of making them similar. Repetition helps develop the organization and strengthens the unity of a page. Repeating visual elements develops the design. Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page, creating a consistent and sophisticated alignment.

Basis of Good Design
There are five steps that form the basis of good design:

Step 1: Set the Goal Every design task begins by defining
the end to be achieved – in other words, the goal of the design project. The goal is most often related to the action desired by the target audience. Is the purpose to invite an inquiry? To generate a purchase? To persuade the reader to a new point of view? Keep the goal in mind and allow it to determine the design.

Step 2: Compose the Message The message is the most important element of any marketing piece because it states the benefits of the reader taking action. Affecting behavior is the result of explaining to the reader what to expect from the product or service; or stated differently, answering the reader’s question, “What’s in it for me?”.

If you have a limited amount of space, devote most of it to benefits. Leave the list of features and the company story off altogether, or abbreviate it. The reader cares a lot more about what’s in it for them, than they do about your company story. Make the message reader-centered, and clearly describe the enjoyment the reader will experience or the pain that will be relieved.

Step 3: Choose the Medium The project’s purpose and message both determine the layout. Sometimes the layout will be obvious – a business card, for example, or a magazine ad. Other times the choices will be broader. A postcard or a brochure are both viable marketing pieces; the medium of the message might be determined by the method of delivery to the target audience – for example, via direct mail, at a trade show, or mailed in response to an inquiry.

Step 4: Select a Design To achieve maximum effectiveness, a design must take into account a myriad of elements related to the target audience such as age, education, language skills, visual preferences, cultural expectations, level of knowledge, and desires. These and other factors affect the selection of color palette, fonts, illustrations, and photographs.

Step 5: Illustrate the Message Photographs and illustrations work the hardest when they reiterate and reinforce the message, or show what can’t be said. Secondarily, they set the tone or draw attention to a specific element of the design. It is always desirable when a photograph or illustration can do both simultaneously.

More Tips for Good Design
  • Be sparse and simple. Carefully select the design elements so a few will convey your message. A design cluttered with too many elements may confuse or overwhelm the reader. For example, use one large photograph or graphic on a page rather than several smaller ones. And use lots of white space – studies show that designs with significant white space are more pleasant to read and attract more attention.
  • Use color sparingly. As a design element, color is very important, but too much color can be counterproductive. Use a consistent color palette. Use contrasting color sparingly so that its impact is increased.
  • Limit fonts. Select one typeface and size for body copy and one typeface for headlines, then use these throughout your design. Using too many fonts can be distracting and may interfere with page organization. 
  • Write clear, comprehensible copy. Remember that a good design effectively conveys a message. Write in short rather than long sentences. Avoid jargon and clich├ęs. Use a vocabulary level appropriate for your audience.
By paying close attention to the four basic principles of design, the five steps that form the basis of good design, and the additional tips, you will ensure that your design communicates effectively.

Reach Out for Help
We know you want the best possible design and layout.  We will be happy to look at your preliminary layout and make suggestions. Email a PDF of your design to info@creativecharacters.com, with your name and phone number. We’ll apply our extensive graphic design knowledge to let you know whether your design is compelling or could use modification.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Expand Your Reach with Print Newsletters

One of the oldest and most effective ways to stay in touch with existing clients, prospects and donors is with printed newsletters. Arriving by snail mail, they contain valuable, information-rich content and are an effective complement to online promotions. They also serve niche markets where print is a preferred format. Due to the decrease in postal mail, print newsletters stand out, unlike email newsletters that tend to get lost in the inbox or deleted.

Many businesses understand the value of direct mail as a marketing tool. But have you ever considered using a newsletter as a sales-related publication? A newsletter can help your business or non-profit generate new customers or increase your donor base, cultivate loyalty, increase repeat sales or continued giving, and boost referrals.

How can a newsletter accomplish all these objectives? By communicating useful information in an easy-to-understand format. And when we say useful information, we mean not only facts, tips, and expert advice, but also new product or service information.

In this issue we’ll provide some guidelines and suggestions to help you launch a customer-centric newsletter and realize its benefit as a powerful sales tool.

Newsletter Size

A fundamental decision when starting a newsletter is how it will look. A very popular newsletter format is a tabloid size (11”x17”) sheet of paper, folded in half to produce four letter size (8.5” x 11”) pages. To create a longer newsletter, include additional tabloid size sheets to add four pages or include one letter size sheet to add two additional pages.

The same technique can be used with a letter size sheet. Folded in half, it becomes a four-page half letter size newsletter that measures 5.5” x 8.5”. Add more letter size sheets, and the newsletter page count increases to 8, 12, 16 or more pages.

The popularity of these newsletter sizes is linked to the fact that letter and tabloid sizes are readily available, ream-wrapped papers that come in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and thicknesses. This availability allows newsletter editors a good bit of creativity in selecting paper.

Here are some creative suggestion for consideration. Instead of folding the tabloid sheet in half, fold it in thirds, creating a large trifold, which is a six-page newsletter. Alternately, trim the tabloid sheet to legal size, then fold in half and you have a four-page newsletter with a finished size of 7” x 8.5”. The benefit of these suggestions is that they take advantage of the standard sheet size, yet produce a newsletter that is an unusual size, making it stand out in the mail.

For a truly unusual format, consider a postcard newsletter. You will be amazed at the amount of information you can fit on a postcard. The key is careful design and concise content limited to the essentials.

How much copy does it take to fill a newsletter? Typically it takes 400 - 600 words per letter size sheet, assuming there are a few graphic elements like photographs on each page. We suggest enlisting help from colleagues and other experts in your company to write an article or two.

Recurring Elements

Every newsletter has elements that recur in each issue. The two most common are the nameplate or banner and the masthead. The nameplate is at the top of the first page and contains the name of the publication plus information about the issue. In this newsletter, the nameplate is the blue block at the top of page one containing the publication name, CreativeBrief.

The nameplate is often mistakenly called the masthead. The masthead is actually the list, editor names, contributors, and other information about who produces the newsletter. A masthead rarely appears on the front page. More commonly it is located on the second or the last page and usually in the same position for every issue. Other recurring elements of a newsletter could include:
  • Message from the President or Executive Director 
  • Dates for Upcoming Events 
  • New Product or Service Announcements 
  • Table of Contents for publications longer than 6 pages
     

Design

The overriding consideration for a successful design is that it appeals to the audience and is consistent with your branding. If you are intending to design the newsletter template yourself, we urge you to give much less weight to the opinions of co-workers, executives, and owners than to what you know about the preferences of your audience. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you, your company president or your board members like the newsletter design. What really matters is that the design appeals to the people receiving your newsletter.

Good design – and especially design that helps convey a sales-related message – follows basic rules of organization and artistry. We recommend using columns rather than lines that run the entire width of the page. Reading is faster if the eye can move vertically from line to line. In addition, all newsletters should have an underlying organization structure (or grid). Columns allow you to create a more interesting layout. If you use three columns, for instance, you can vary the layout with graphic elements like photographs that span one, two, or three columns wide.

Keep in mind, columns don’t have to be of equal width. In a two-column grid, one column can be twice as wide and produce a pleasing layout. Similarly, a three-column grid could have two columns of equal width and one very narrow column.

Newsletter Schedule

After good design, the next best thing you can do to ensure the effectiveness of your newsletter is to publish it on a regular, recurring basis. This requires a firm commitment to maintaining a schedule. To determine the schedule, start by picking the date you want the newsletter delivered to the post office and work backwards. The time frame for printing and mailing services depends on factors such as the quantity needed, number of pages, type of paper and how the newsletter will be printed (i.e. in full color, black only or a combination of 1 or 2 colors).

Call Us for Help

A newsletter can be a very powerful tool for two reasons… to keep current customers buying or current donors donating, and to peak the interest of prospective customers or potential new donors so they will become customers or donors. Put this advantage to work for your business by calling on us. We are newsletter experts. We have been helping businesses and organizations design, print, and mail newsletters for 21 years. We can provide a complete turnkey production including copywriting, or work cooperatively with you on any part of the process. For more information, call Marya or Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email info@creativecharacters.com for an appointment. It’s time to get started!

Q&A: What is a bleed, and how do I indicate one in my file?

A bleed is any printed element on the page that extends beyond the edge of the page. A full bleed means the printed elements extend beyond all four edges of the page. We do not print to the edge of the paper; instead, we print 1/8” beyond what the final size of the newsletter will be. Then we trim off the excess 1/8” to produce a bleed. This is called trimming to the bleed. Naturally, this means that the paper must be larger than the finished size of the newsletter.

If you want to include a bleed in your design, you must extend the image or graphic element by 1/8” (0.125”) beyond the edge of the paper and include crop marks to indicate where to trim your layout.

Group Photo Tips

Most newsletters include photographs for design interest and to illustrate the narrative. No matter who in your company is responsible for taking photographs, everyone should be using the same guidelines for getting the best shots.

When taking photos of groups, consider the goal is for readers to be able to recognize each individual. When a group photo includes more than ten people, it is nearly impossible to size the photo so all faces are recognizable. When a group includes more than ten, consider ways you can organize individuals into subgroups – the Audiology Division or the Western Region staff, for example.

Insist that everyone in the group stands close together, and consider arranging the individuals yourself. If people are standing, place them so their shoulders are overlapping, not side-by-side. When arranging people by height, start with the taller people. Once the photo is taken, use judicious cropping to remove extraneous background or foreground objects. Besides allowing you to change the focal point of the photo to the people, you may be able to enlarge the photo, and in doing so, make people’s faces larger.

Engaging Prospects

In a world of e-everything, many companies have shied away from newsletter printing in favor of email newsletters. While email newsletters are good marketing tools, they do not equal the power of a printed newsletter. Printed newsletters have lasting value and cannot be simply deleted without being looked at. They can be casually read, without an internet connection, at the readers’ convenience.

Newsletters go a long way in educating and persuading prospective clients to work with you or potential donors to join your cause. One of the best ways to develop a relationship with your customer/donor base is to send regular updates about your business via newsletters. It’s a more personal way to communicate than through email blasts, and it helps establish long-term customer loyalty.

So if you’re trying to find ways to engage prospective clients and donors, look no further than the company newsletter. And if you need help getting started, just give me a call at 215-923-2679 or email me at brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Idea Generator

A very effective technique to use as an idea generator is called a swipe file. A swipe file is your collection of sales letters, ads, brochures, self-mailers, post cards, newsletters – anything that catches your eye or positively influences you. Two nifty apps for collecting content online are Evernote and Pocket. Pocket is our favorite read-it-later app, and we use Evernote as a digital filing cabinet.

You can create a swipe file geared to whatever you want to compose. One swipe file may be sales letters; another, interesting designs; yet another, good examples of advertising or informational copywriting. Then, when you’re creating your sales or promotional piece, you can look through your swipe file to get the ideas flowing. Remember, though, that a swipe file is only for ideas. You still have to write the copy or design the brochure yourself.

A swipe file costs nothing to create and may give you just the creative boost you need to break a writer’s block. And of course if you are really stuck, please give us a call.
Here are some things to include in a swipe file:

  • Creative, attention-getting ads
  • Competitors’ brochure or information sheets
  • Great promotional ideas
  • Examples of direct mail
  • Examples of promotional products
  • Graphics and cartoons