Print Still Matters!

According to Britt Fero, executive vice president of Publicis, a New York-based advertising agency, “Printing is interesting because it actually provokes people to read it.”

Today, the majority of marketers believe that you can’t maintain an effective marketing strategy through digital alone.

Print Works (Domtar) reports that consumers still trust traditional media over online ads. They perceive it carries a higher value that digital content. In addition:

  • 78% of consumers react to direct mail immediately, especially when it is from a brand they’re interested in.
  • 44% of them will visit the brand’s website.
  • 34% will search online for more information about the product.
  • 58% of online shoppers state they browse catalogs for ideas.
  • 31% of them have a retailer’s catalog in front of them when they make an online purchase.
  • 65% of consumers surveyed state they have been directly influenced to purchase an item or service thanks to a direct mail piece.

In our fast paced digital world, print has the ability to provide a tactile experience that has a feeling of permanence and value.

Mary Frances Burt, Creative Director for Burt & Burt states, “Clients are beginning to associate the tactile experience of print with luxury. Digital is cheap, fast and easy. Who wants to be identified with any of those things?”

At Multi-Craft, we believe that an integrated approach is vital to marketing success. There is room for all channels – digital, social, mobile and print. Not everyone will welcome your emails or text messages. And, not everyone will visit your website, social media pages or read your direct mail. But, reaching out to your targets in multiple channels will give you a higher likelihood that one of those channels will encourage them to act.

“When you consider the emotional impact print delivers, it’s easy to see why it works in media mixes. From the magazines in your doctor’s waiting room to the fliers in your mail, print stimulates the senses like no other medium. Print can be thumbed through, dog-eared and show colors as they were meant to be seen. It delivers the memorable experience marketers want from their media mix.” chooseprint.org

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Independence Day

Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. This is the day that the United States of America celebrates its independence from Great Britain.

We most often associate the 4th of July with picnics, fireworks and parades, which are great fun, but sometimes overshadow the meaning of the holiday. 

The most appropriate definition of freedom for today is, “the absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.” That’s because we won our freedom from Great Britain.  

But there is another definition of freedom that states, “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” However, that freedom does stop when it infringes on someone else’s freedoms.  

In my opinion, one of our most treasured freedoms is the freedom of speech. It is such a powerful right and I’m dismayed that we’re seeing it violated. 

From my perspective, I see a group of people who feel that others have no right to their opinions. Anyone that voices opposition to what they believe in are labeled “racist”, “biased” or “prejudiced”. Freedom of speech is a freedom for ALL Americans, not just some Americans. 

While I may not agree with your opinion, I do agree that you have a right to your opinion. And, I believe our country should fight to maintain that freedom for both you and I. 

The very best solutions will always come from debate where differences of opinion are respectfully shared. No one person knows it all. No one person has the answer to every issue. Our country is a melting pot of different faiths, ethnicities, genders and traditions – that’s what makes us great! I believe that every citizen has a right to speak openly and that every citizen also has the responsibility to listen and consider other viewpoints. 

I know it may not be popular to discuss religion in today’s intolerant atmosphere, but God stated that the greatest commandment was to love. This doesn’t just mean to love those who look like you and believe what you believe. It also means you are to extend love to others no matter their ethnicity, religion, shortcomings, gender, sexual activities or crimes. God belongs to everyone who accepts Him! That doesn’t mean you support bad behavior, condone illegal activities, or share someone else’s beliefs. It just means you need to love and respect them as a person – period.  

Our country is great because of our differences. So, the next time you want to shut down the conversation because it doesn’t reflect your beliefs, instead just listen, try to understand and then respectfully share your opinions. Remember, many people have died to make it possible for you to speak freely. Just make sure to allow others to do the same. 

Happy 4th of July!

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Summer Delight!

I love summer! I enjoy the longer days, thanks to daylight savings time. I am delighted by the feel of the warmth and sun on my skin and the slower pace that seems to accompany this season.

When I think of summer, some things just automatically come to mind:

  • Flags, for the 4th of July
  • Popsicles dripping down the hands of little ones as they struggle to keep up with the melting juices
  • Picnics
  • Outdoor concerts
  • Fireworks
  • Boats on the water
  • Sand between the toes
  • Vacations – a time for regenerating our minds, bodies and spirits

Sometimes it feels like you work twice as hard the week before you leave on vacation and then work twice as hard the week after you come back, just to catch up. And, while that’s probably true, unless you have someone who can step in and take care of your work while you’re gone, that week of fun is needed so you can return refreshed and ready for new challenges.

I always look forward to my summer week at the beach with my children, grandchildren and father. We have four generations of my family all in one place for one entire week. There are no schedules, catch-as-you-can meals, little ones bedtime schedules in disarray, wet footprints through the house, evening games and, of course, lots of sand everywhere.

To watch my grandchildren experience the ocean for the first time and get that first taste of salt water in their mouths, was a joy. To see my children laughing together and enjoying the fact that the grandparents and great-grandparents are there to give them a little break also, brings happiness to my heart.

I hope you have a vacation planned so you can enjoy the dog days of summer and refresh your mind, body and spirit!

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Mobile First, Already!

What does it mean to design for mobile first and why should we bother? If a business owner wants to reach as many people as possible, to rephrase the famous dictum of “Wee Willie” Keeler, one will need to hit ‘em where they are. Statistics found in the Pew Research Center’s Mobile Technology Fact Sheet state that 90% of American adults own a cell phone. 64% of American adults own a smartphone.  60+% of all cell phone owners use their phone to access the internet, which includes smartphones and regular cell phones. This doesn’t include other mobile devices such as tablets and e-readers. Consumers are on their mobile devices and business owners need to make sure that all their content on the World Wide Web is accessible via a mobile device. For business owners that haven’t planned for mobile first, a shift needs to happen or be left behind.

 

If that’s the case, what does the shift entail? I can’t say that before mobile devices, designing and developing websites was a known, well understood enterprise that delivered a homogeneous experience. The Web, as we know it, had growing pains before it came to be what it is. Web design and development had to suffer through periods such as the “Browser Wars,” proprietary markup, problematic third-party plugins for rich interactive experiences, and the cannibalization, of the Web API, in order create layouts that violated the original specification. The web was a messy place, and throughout this pre-mobile era, while grudgingly engaging in technically regrettable actions, such as using tables for page layout, designers and developers screamed for a clean standard.

 

The emergence of mobile as a major point of consumption finally forced the powers that be, such as the World Wide Web Consortium, software corporations, and browser vendors to come together and implement a Web API that would work at all points of consumption and deliver experiences that never break no matter the device. The standard is not complete, nor universally adopted, but we are closer to one than ever before.

 

To answer the first question, the attitude of designing for mobile first is to keep in mind that someone using a mobile browser will access content a majority of the time. Therefore, the design process ought to begin with the limitations of the mobile viewport in mind. The good news here, is that nothing new needs to be developed. No fancy plugins need to be created to enjoy content within a mobile context. When someone says that your new website should be responsive, that means that certain elements will adjust to the viewport limits. The website will, by default, contain as little rigid layout rules as possible. The big secret about HTML, the language of the World Wide Web: it’s responsive by default.

 

For years, designing for the web meant one kind of display, the desktop monitor. There was no demand for anything like a responsive layout. As a result, designers created layouts where the default behaviors of elements were immediately overridden and fixed. Once mobile design began to emerge, after the old method metastasized into the marrow of the web design process, the initial approach to web design was to plan for desktop and then see what one could do about mobile. Making a website responsive meant breaking the layout to fit a mobile device. In a way, designers were breaking the web standard twice. The approach should actually be inverted. Website content and layout should be planned for display on the smallest viewport and then altered for larger desktop displays.

 

The business owner’s content strategy will have to change. First, it means the website will be as lean as possible. It will contain the minimum amount of content necessary to deliver the message. Images will be lightweight. Images and video do improve engagement, but what good does all the images and video in the world do when the user navigates to somewhere else because the page takes too long to load? The number of requests made over the network will be reduced to a minimum. Faster page load times translates to higher retention rates, especially over mobile. There’s an added benefit to minimizing page load time: Google gives higher page rank to sites that load quickly.

 

When one plans a website for mobile first consumption, the result is a lean, mean property to which visitors may want to return and continue consuming, especially if the content is changed on a regular basis. As more visitors return, and hopefully share the site’s location among friends, the company’s visibility improves. If the company’s website isn’t responsive to a user’s mobile device, one can only expect the user’s ability to take the company seriously to dwindle over time. It’s time for that company to consider a new approach with mobile as the priority.

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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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