Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hidden Hazards of Email Marketing

Should you abandon your direct mail marketing in favor of an email campaign? The lower cost and instant dissemination of your message may sound appealing, but keep in mind that there are drawbacks. Emails are considerably less effective than direct mail for getting a response. A high percentage of emails are dismissed without even a minimal glance at the benefits your product or service is offering. Today’s decision makers are inundated with email and are quick to hit the delete button. 

And here is something else to consider; Some email providers, like Google and Yahoo, sell advertising space with each email. G-Mail uses keywords within your email to target ads to the recipient of that email. Whatever you are selling, Google will pick up on that keyword and deliver your message along with a column of ads from companies who may be selling the same thing! You may want to tell your customers or prospects about your special offer on fishing gear, but you may also be sending them “sponsored links” from potential competitors in the fishing gear business. 

We are not suggesting that you abandon email marketing altogether. On the contrary, use all the tools at your disposal. But when you consider the advantages, don’t overlook the limitations of your media. We use email marketing here at CR Print, but we also continue to use direct mail. The combination, or integrated marketing, works far better than either media by itself. Call us to see if your business can benefit from a multi media approach.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Combining Color, Text and Graphics gets Envelopes Opened

The following article is reprinted in its entirety from Print in the Mix, a clearinghouse of research on  the effectiveness of print media published by the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Pitney Bowes commissioned a study to identify factors that could influence when and whether recipients would open their mail and read it. The April 2010 study by Leflein Associates, examined preferences, attitudes and behaviors about mail as received at home by approximately 1,500 U.S. adults.

Participants were presented with graphic depictions of envelopes to determine which features would make them most likely to open them. Respondents examined an average of 16 screens, each containing 4 randomized envelopes, to test for variables including the presence of text, graphics and color on envelope fronts and backs. The key survey findings included the following: What’s printed on the front of the envelope strongly influences when and whether people open it. Participants were 69% more likely to open a mail piece with color text and graphics on the front before opening pieces with no headline or graphic; Given a choice of color graphics or black-and-white text, participants indicated they were 2.5 times more likely to open envelopes with color graphics first.

What’s printed on the back of the envelope is less influential. 57% of participants indicated they hardly ever noticed what was printed on the back of the envelope when sorting through or opening their mail; However, as with the front of the envelope, the study indicated that the presence of color text and graphics on the back was significantly more likely to influence their decision than black-and-white only.

Participants said they prefer physical mail to e-mail for bills, invoices and financial statements, as well as most catalogs and promotions.

66% of participants preferred to receive catalogs by physical mail;
61% preferred to receive bills and invoices by physical mail; and
59% preferred to receive financial or bank statements by physical mail.

About: A total of 1,503 opt-in research panelists (age 18+) completed the online survey between February 23 and March 3, 2010, resulting in a sample margin of error of +/-2%.

Source: Pitney Bowes, Color Makes a Noticeable Difference, July 27, 2010.

The Above article is reprinted from Print in the Mix.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our 2012 Calendar - The Inside Story

Our creative efforts here at CR Print are often collaborative endeavors that emerge from several people kicking around an idea. I hesitate to call that "brain storming" because it doesn't feel all that deliberate or planned. Take our 2012 calendar for example. You can get one of these free, by the way, by going to the CR Print website and clicking on "Free Calendar." 

We design a new, single page, calendar every year. Our clients like the full year at a glance and the handy size for their desk top or wall. Generally, we try to create a different theme for each year and/or tie the design of the calendar into the design of our brochure or other marketing materials. This year we used an environmental look for our brochure that featured a sunrise, blue skies and a field of flowers. We planned on using the same theme for our 2012 calendar, but none of the designs we came up with met with any enthusiasm from our marketing team. Earlier, Mike had made a suggestion that we try a "vintage" press room look for our Holiday card using cross hatch illustrations. The card had a lot of possibilities and was fun to develop. Why not do the same thing for the calendar? Besides, this  theme is evocative of the role of printing in the American Revolution, a history in which our industry takes some pride. 

But this would be a major departure from past designs. The calendar was always a colorful piece that people liked to put up on their wall. A vintage style calendar would lack color and look, well, old. Would it work? And what message could we put on the calendar? Last year's calendar carried the message that "Print Keeps Things Personal."  We wanted to convey some of the subtle advantages of a printed message over an e-message. How could the "vintage" look do that? Mike provided the answer. "Print is not just more personal," he said, "print is timeless."

That was the clincher. We determined to make the calendar look like an old, historic, document that has survived the ages. We chose a font called Caslon Antique that has a slightly distressed look. We used Sundance Felt cover stock (the color is called "natural white") to provide texture and printed an aged, or distressed, background image behind the calendar and on the reverse side. Although it appears brown, it is actually printed in process color. The combination of yellow, red and a touch of blue ink, printed over the yellowish Sundance stock gives it that vintage look.

One thing we did not count on was how it might look as an online image. Seen online, it looks like an old document that has been scanned. It is not all that interesting or inviting online. Something of the "Timeless" theme is lost when you are not actually holding a document in your hands. Maybe that is as it should be. People who pick up the calendar invariably get a smile on their face. They turn it over to look at the back side. They are holding a year 2012 calendar that looks like it was printed two hundred years ago. That is what we were trying to achieve - an illustration of the power of print.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Should Your Message be Cast in Stone, or Should You Just Go Bananas?

One of the more interesting environmental innovations for the printing industry is the development of paper made from stone.The idea is to replace paper made from wood pulp (read "trees") and reduce the water and energy required to produce the paper. Stone papers are generally made up of crushed limestone bound into sheet form with a non-toxic polymer resin. Manufacturers boast that paper made from stone requires no water and no bleach, is biodegradable, and uses significantly less energy to make than paper made from traditional fibers - even recycled fibers. Others argue that mining is destructive and minerals, unlike trees, are a non-renewable resource. For a discussion of the environmental issues, go to TreeHugger Forum.

There are a number of these stone based papers on the market. Brands include Paperocks, Fiberstone, TerraSkin, Viastone, Rockstock, Stonepaper, and probably a few others I have not run across yet. We have used the Paperocks brand here at CR Print, but none of the others. In terms of print production, paper made from stone has very high ink hold-out properties. That is, the ink stays on the surface and does not absorb readily into the paper. This can provide a very nice looking print job, as it does for most coated papers. But with the stone paper, it also results in extended drying time. We are talking days rather than hours here. It is best to avoid heavy solids if your design is intended for stone papers. The stone papers are also heavier and somewhat slower to run through a press. Don't get me wrong, stone papers have a wonderful, unique feel and are terrific for those special, high touch, projects. Just allow some extra production time.

There are lots of other non-tree-fiber papers available in today's market. There are synthetics like Polyart and Yupo, which have the advantages of being water, grease, and tear resistant. There are also papers made from alternative plant fibers like kenaf or hemp, even bananas and mangoes. Here at CR Print, we have printed on a number of non-tree-fiber papers, including the synthetics mentioned above and paper made from kenaf, bananas, and coffee.  If you have a special project for one of these products, give us a call. We can help in the planning stages so you make the most of these unique papers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Every Door Direct Mail

The USPS launched its Every Door Direct Mail program, EDDM, with the idea of making direct mail easier and more accessible to small businesses. It is a good idea. Acquiring mailing lists and postal permits and meeting all of the requirements of the USPS for bulk mail can be more of a burden than many small businesses can handle. With EDDM you can do a mailing without applying individual names and addresses to each mailing piece. You can target a city or pinpoint a specific neighborhood.

EDDM is especially beneficial to small retail stores that rely on traffic within their own neighborhood for a good part of their business. Pizza places, dry cleaners, convenience stores, small restaurants, deli's, auto mechanics, maintenance services, beauty salons, and similar businesses can all benefit from direct mail advertising at a lower cost. Even businesses with generally larger geographic markets, like auto dealers, roofers, or heating and air conditioning providers can increase their market share in a specific neighborhood through EDDM.

Of course, there are some requirements. You have to mail at least 200 pieces, but fewer than 5000. They must be standard flats and weigh less than 3.3oz each. You can plan your mailing yourself using the tools provided online by the USPS. Or you can use a mail service provider, like CR Print, to plan, prepare and deliver your mailing piece to the post office. Either way, you save the cost of buying a mailing list, a permit, and individually addressing each piece.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Story

It has become a marketing commonplace today for businesses to tell their own unique “story,” or tales of how the business got started. The eureka moment when a new idea struck, or the grandparents brought the first seedlings from the old country, and similar histories, are all ways of helping to “brand” the company in the eyes of the consumer. These intriguing and often heart warming tales tell of the founding of the company and the dedication and sacrifice that brought it to where it is today. It is great stuff, and indispensable to many marketing programs.

We don’t have that kind of story. We are not descendants of Gutenberg, Ben Franklin or even R.R. Donnelly. We didn’t invent the technology or even a new way to use it. And we aren’t going to invent a heart warming tale to instill our brand into your memory.

We started in a small storefront in 1983 and learned very quickly that people bought printing because they had something important to communicate. Our job was to help them achieve their communication goals. We knew instinctively that if they succeeded in their communications, then we would be successful as well. We worked hard and took every opportunity to improve our skills.

Hard work pays off. Today, we are much bigger then we were in 1983, and the communications technology we use has expanded immeasurably. But some things have not changed. Our clients still have important things to communicate and our job is still helping them to succeed by providing the communications vehicles that help them to achieve their goals.

That’s our story.