Memorial Day

This coming Monday, May 25, 2015 we will celebrate Memorial Day. This is not just an excuse for a grill out, but a day set aside to remember all of those brave men and women who have died in serving and defending our country.

General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed on May 5, 1968, that the 30th of May, 1868 would be set aside for the purpose of decorating the graves of those who died defending the country. This is why Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.

While New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873, today every state recognizes the holiday and the meaning behind it. Memorial Day was declared a national holiday in 1971.

Some of you may be young enough to remember several decades back when artificial red poppies, made by disabled veterans, were handed out to be worn to honor those who died serving the nation during war. You don’t see them around as often as in the past.

Moina Michael, in 1915, wrote the following poem and conceived the idea of wearing red poppies on this day to honor our heroes.

We cherish too, the poppy red

                That grows on fields where valor led.

                It seems to signal to the skies

                That blood of heroes never dies.

No matter the origins of the holiday, or the official name, this coming Monday is a time for all of us Americans to take a moment for a quiet prayer of thanksgiving. For without those willing to put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms, who knows where our country would be and under what type of government we would live.

Thank you to all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve our great nation to the benefit of us all! And, our deepest sympathies to the families of those who gave their lives to insure our freedom. We are a grateful nation!

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Policing the Community

Today’s blog is far from being business-focused, but my heart is saddened by all of the senseless violence that I see happening.

Disclaimer – I am the proud mother of a Sheriff’s Department Detective. My son started over 15 years ago, at the bottom, by working for two years in the jail. He has been hit by a drunk driver, spit on, cursed at, worked the riots, worked second and third shift for years – all because he really loves his job. And, he’s good at it! Plus he’s learned to laugh at all the “doughnut” jokes he is the recipient of.

His dedication has earned him several promotions and, as his mother, I was thrilled when he made Detective. To me that meant he went in AFTER the crime, not during it. I felt it was safer, and so far, that is true.

I get sick when I hear of a shooting – any shooting. Solving problems by killing people is not a solution. What ever happened to conversation? Obedience? Respect? It seems like those things have died, along with the family unit.

We have children raising children. Children killing children. Many, who never had parental role models, have no idea of how to parent their children, so they don’t. We have an abundance of single parent homes and lack of educational accomplishments because we’ve “dumbed down” our educational system. Suddenly, public assistance provides a better lifestyle than a paying job.

Yet, I hear daily of all of the companies that are struggling to find qualified employees. They’re not looking for doctors or rocket scientists – they are looking for skilled craftsmen like welders, plumbers and press operators. All good paying jobs! I  don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a poor plumber. And, goodness knows you’d be willing to pay them anything when the toilet is overflowing!

There are many reasons people are angry. But, anger doesn’t solve problems. We have police who are angry with unruly citizens and mobs who are out to harm them and the communities they serve. And, since no one is perfect, there are a few law enforcement personnel, who are lashing out at citizens and abusing their power. None of this is right, and two wrongs will never make a right!

Respect for humanity and dedication to insure that our children are fed, clothed, educated, safe and loved must take precedence. We have laws to insure public safety and we all need to abide by those laws – no exceptions! If you don’t like a law, then work through the proper channels to change it.

I don’t know how to eradicate the anger that has swept across our nation and our world – other than lots of prayer. But, I’m thinking personal responsibility might be a good place to start. Taking personal responsibility for our successes and failures insure that we don’t blame others for holding us back. And, it is only through personal responsibility that we’ll be able to experience personal pride and satisfaction.

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Are You Talking To Me?

Variable data printing is defined by Wikipedia as, “a form of digital printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next. . . “. It utilizes triggers, based on customer data, to determine the message and creative elements to insure the printed piece is relevant on an individual level. It’s personal!

We’ve been hearing about VDP (variable data printing) for several years now, yet not all organizations have taken it seriously. VDP requires data and that’s the problem. Many of our clients tell us that they hesitate to use VDP for several reasons:

  • They don’t believe their current data is accurate.
  • Their data is siloed between sales, marketing and IT. No one department seems to have all the necessary data.
  • They don’t believe they have enough data to successfully execute VDP.
  • They don’t see the value in VDP.

I’m sure there are more reasons that this, but this is enough for us to start with. No organization has 100% faith that their current data is totally accurate, but you have to start somewhere. So, begin with what you know is true, and then start the process to continually correct and add additional data on your targets. That data can come from your sales force, customer service, accounting or IT. Consider using a CRM to insure that all data is kept in one place where it is easily accessed by those who need it – and where it can be easily edited to insure it remains up-to-date.

How much data is enough? We hear the term big data, which in my mind means that you have so much data that you’re buried. So, whether you possess a little data or big data, start your VDP journey slowly and increase the variability as you go.

As for the value of VDP, you will not only increase your response rates, but the following has been documented and reported by Cap Ventures:

  • Average order size increases 24.5%
  • Overall revenue increases 31.6%
  • Response time decreases by 34%
  • Repeat orders increase by 48%
  • Response rates increase by 36%

Every year, the number of organizations that are using VDP is increasing. Why? Your targets want to feel that you know them, and when you show that you do, they respond. Notice the mail that grabs your attention. Do the colors appeal to you? Are the graphics informative? Do the images look like you? If so, then you feel that this company knows and understands your needs, and you’re more likely to respond.

Here are a few examples of organizations that have profited from their use of VDP:

  • LaSalle Academy used a VDP self-mailer for their alumni fundraising campaign and increased the average donation by 67% (Source: The Print on Demand Initiative)
  • Hershey Entertainment and Resorts reported that their use of VDP and cross channel marketing resulted in 17% higher revenue and 10% more bookings. (Source: DM News)
  • Wallingford Municipal Credit Union reported $1 million in loan activity that resulted from a VDP postcard campaign. (Source: The Print on Demand Initiative)

So, consider talking directly to your prospects and customers by using VDP in your next campaign. It will help  to drive ROI by talking on a more personalized level to your targets. The results are worth it!

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It’s Friday!

First of all – it’s Friday! The end of a week of hard work, with the knowledge that I’ll be able to relax and recharge over the weekend. Then, on my way to work, I heard the weatherman predict sunshine! Does it get any better than that?

For me it did! I arrived to find my paycheck on my desk and a notice on the bulletin board that the freezer would be stocked with ice cream to celebrate a company-wide accomplishment. Wow! Happy Friday to me!

All of those little things combined to really boost my spirits, bring a spring to my step and a smile to my face. Since I was feeling so good, I decided to share my joy with the rest of our team. I walked through the plant sharing the good news:

  • It’s Friday
  • We’ll have sunshine
  • It’s payday
  • Ice cream at noon

It was funny how all of those things seemed to put a smile on everyone else’s face, too. It feels like our entire company is full of joy right now.

So often we think that we’ll be happy when we win the lottery, get a new house, find a better job, lose 10 lbs. – you get the drift. We’re always going to be happy, sometime in the future, if the stars align and something beyond what we already have happens.

My challenge to all of us today is to take a few minutes to reflect on all of the wonderful blessings that we currently have. And, they’ll be different for all of us.

At Pilates this morning, one of the men shared that he’s going to have a new grandchild soon. Another’s son is getting married next month and the round of parties and showers is in full swing. Someone else mentioned that their daughter will graduate next month and be coming home to start her career right here in our region.

So many things in our lives are good and positive, yet we get pulled into that cycle of always wanting more and withholding our joy until we get it. Just for today, let’s focus on all the positives and spread that joy to everyone we meet!

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3D Printing

There’s been a lot of excitement around 3D printing lately. For those of you who don’t know what it is, 3D Printing can be used to create a 3-dimensional object of almost any shape from a model or electronic data source.

Here is a link to a short video so you can have a better idea of what the process entails.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_b7LpC85pg

Engineers and designers have been using 3D printers for more than a decade to make prototypes quickly and cheaply. It makes sense to produce these prototypes before they begin the tooling of a factory to mass produce an item.

These are 3 primary 3D processes:

  1. Selective Laser Sintering – this process uses a high powered laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powder into layers. It can be a great process for producing art since it is the only process that currently uses ceramic or glass.
  2. Fused Deposition Modeling – this process uses plastic filament or metal wire to produce layers and is the most popular of all the 3D processes. It is perfect for rapid prototyping and is being looked at for future medical tissue engineering.
  3. Stereolithography – this processes uses photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to build layers. It is strong and ideal for producing master patterns for injection molding, thermoforming, blow molding or metal casting.

There are many applications that can take advantage of 3D printing:

  • Architectural scale models
  • Fashion and footwear
  • Military – parts and weapons
  • Medical and biotech
  • Industrial design
  • And, even automotive

Here is a picture of KOR EcoLogic’s fully-functional 3D printed car, called an Urbee. The Urbee is powered by ethanol and can go up to 70 mph.

While driving a 3D printed car is definitely a “cool factor”, just consider the medical miracles that will be possible in the future. Organ transplant waiting lists will be a thing of the past, as organs will be able to be 3D printed. Check out this video of Leon McCarthy, who was born without fingers. His dad was able to print a 3D prosthetic for him for less than $10 on a borrowed 3D printer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGSo_I86_lQ

3D printing will provide many advantages to manufacturers. Bringing a product to market takes lots of time and money. 3D printing will help manufacturing lower the costs and the risks because it will allow organizations to produce small batches which can be viewed by focus groups who can suggest changes that they would like to see. Only after the product is as good as it can get will the organization need to gear up for mass production. 3D printing will also allow for fully customizable products.

While we can’t predict the future, we can assume that early adopters of 3D printing will bring innovation to their organizations and certainly help define the future of 3D printing.

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Accepting Criticism

I was asked by a reporter today what one skill I thought was most critical for business success. It was really hard to narrow it down to just one skill because a savvy business person needs lots of talents, skills and attributes. 

The skill I chose was the ability to accept criticism. And, this applies whether the person doing the critiquing is doing it in kindness or is rather “rough” in their comments to you. 

Merriam-Webster defines criticism as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing”. 

The first thing we need to realize is that all of us have faults – none of us are perfect. And, I believe that most of us want to eliminate faults and continuously improve ourselves. However, we often have trouble hearing that someone doesn’t think we’re perfect. Our feelings can be hurt and we feel vulnerable or disliked. 

That’s the part we need to get over! Instead of allowing our feelings to be hurt and putting up a protective barrier, we need to practice hearing the words – the criticism. Once the words are heard and acknowledged, we then have the opportunity to evaluate whether they are true or just the verbal result of someone lashing out because they are wounded. 

If you come to the conclusion that the words have merit, thank that person for pointing out something that you can improve on and then develop a plan to do just that. If the words are the result of a wounded individual wanting to just make you feel bad, try to understand what’s going on with them. 

Ask them if you’ve doing something to upset them. I love that question because there are only two answers – yes or no. If yes, it gives you the opportunity to find out what you did that upset them and apologize. If the answer is no, it gives you the opportunity to reach out to that person and find out what’s going on. You may have the opportunity to offer kind words that may help them heal. 

We are not born knowing everything. Along the way we have been taught to crawl, walk, talk, read, dance, sing and many other things. Why do we think the learning should stop when we enter the business world? Make it a goal to continuously improve your skills and talents and be open to hearing criticisms that can help you become a better you! 

And, when you get really good at accepting criticism you didn’t ask for, you might consider actively asking for it – ask a few respected individuals for their thoughts on how you can improve.

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Online Storefronts

The emarketing dictionary defines an online storefront as a website that enables visitors to find, order and pay for products and services. If you are reading this blog, it is likely you have also ordered something online from Amazon.com or another retail website. Those are online storefronts.

Today’s consumers are pretty savvy about online shopping and familiar with how to place an item in a shopping cart, checkout and pay for their online purchases. Online storefronts make it easy to shop from the comfort of our homes.

However, online storefronts are a great tool for organizations who have multiple locations, a national sales force, sell through brokers, agents or manufacturer’s reps. An online storefront can house all of your marketing collateral, business stationery and promotional products. Our online storefront is called Connect and is a part of our Direct suite of tools.

Connect helps marketers protect their brand, while at the same time allows those ordering to customize with appropriate images and text, suitable for their targets or geographic region.

This system controls inventory, makes reports available 24/7, enables automatic re-ordering, list purchasing and even the ability to conduct a one-to-one direct mail or ecampaign right from the online storefront.

Some benefits of our online storefronts include:

  • Brand control and dealer/agent support
  • One-stop gateway for ordering all marketing collateral
  • Customized reporting and tracking capabilities
  • Streamlined operations to save time and money by reducing the cost of procurement
  • No server, software, or internal IT support required

If you think an online storefront may be helpful in your organization, we’re happy to provide a demo for you, so you can better judge it’s value.

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