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You’ve heard about content marketing, but is it right for your business? Here are three approaches to ensure investing in this strategy pays off.

Getting Content Marketing Right

We hear a lot of about content marketing these days. Why is it so important? Whether it’s in print, email, or mobile, content marketing builds customer trust, engagement, and loyalty, which are the foundations of long-term revenues and growth. Here are five steps to getting it right.

1. Have a brand message.

Boil your brand messaging down into a simple statement that reflects both your product and your value proposition. Some well-known examples are McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” and Nike’s “Just do it.” Having an over-arching brand message helps you maintain consistency and focus in your broader print and digital marketing efforts.

2. Use metrics to gauge results.

How you incorporate content marketing into an overall marketing strategy will depend on what you want to achieve. Use metrics to further specific marketing goals, including:

• Sales volume
• Market share
• Number of leads
• Cost per lead
• Length of sales cycle

Put numbers to these goals and time frames to achieve them.

3. Speak your audience’s language.

You will speak differently to moms raising children than you will to twenty-somethings just starting their first job. Have a detailed knowledge of who your audience is and what makes them tick. Craft your images and messaging to each segment.

4. Keep branding consistent.

All of your content should reflect consistent branding. Place someone in charge of managing your content strategy and set up guidelines for elements such as logos, brand colors, images, and fonts, styles, and sizes of text. Remember that all of your brand elements must work across multiple channels, including print, email, and mobile.

5. Target the stage of the sales funnel.

Not only can your customers be segmented into different target groups, but they are also at different stages along their buying journeys. For example, someone who needs your product but isn’t yet aware of your brand isn’t ready to skip right to product selection and pricing. Know where customers are along the journey and craft the right message to hit them at the right time.

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be, and you don’t need to go it alone. Give us

Surveys give your customers chances to voice their opinions, and your company can take them into consideration so you can better serve your customers.

What Drives Color Trends?

What influences the graphic designers who are designing your marketing collateral, direct mail, packaging, and displays? According to Jack Bredenfoerder, director of BV Color Strategy, five factors are impacting the use of color in any design project:

1. How the eye sees color.

This refers to the interaction of the object, the light source, and the observer. The same color appears different to the eye based on lighting conditions. Depending on how and where color is used, color choices will differ.

2. The culture around us.

Design trends are influenced by the culture around us, including colors of state, colors of religion, color conventions, and colors of groups (sports teams, corporations, organizations, schools).

3. Psychology of color.

Not everyone agrees on the emotions or meaning that colors evoke, but there is little disagreement that certain colors inspire certain emotions. Use color to do more than look pretty. Use it to influence emotion.

4. Color fads, trends, and cycles.

There will always be color fads, trends, and cycles. To anticipate emerging trends, Bredenfoerder suggests watching the New York runways and the Hollywood red carpet, since fashion designers are often harbingers of the trends that reach the world of print and digital design.

5. Color influence and forecasting.

Color forecasting is an active, ongoing creative process that incorporates more substantial influences such as politics, medicine, and culture. Today, the yearning for simpler things of life can be seen in color trends that relate to playfulness, nature, and joy.

The takeaway? Color is a powerful tool, but just like fonts and design style, they are always shifting. Don’t get stuck in the past.

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Print and Digital: Complements, but Not Interchangeable

In the marketing world, we regularly hear about print and digital marketing being used together. Digital and print media reinforce one another, so rather than seeing the two as competitors, marketers are encouraged to integrate them. However, integration doesn’t mean that the two channels are interchangeable, as one new survey shows. Consumers still want a choice.

A survey commissioned by Two Sides North America reveals that U.S. consumers are unhappy with corporate initiatives forcing them into digital-only communication and eliminating paper-based options. Many of the questions related to bills and statements, but the results apply to marketing communications, too.

Consumers want to be able to choose whether to receive paper bills and statements, and they don’t want to have to pay extra to do it. For example, 79% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information, and 77% would be unhappy if they were asked to pay for it. More than three-quarters (79%) felt that paper options were easier to read compared to screens.

There is also suspicion about the motives of companies forcing their customers to go paperless. Overwhelmingly (85%), consumers agreed that cost savings is the main reason companies use claims such as “Go Paperless—Go Green” or “Go Paperless—Save Trees.” More than half (57%) question the truthfulness of such claims.

So use digital and print-based communications wisely. Use email when you need to touch base quickly, such as sending company news, alerting customers to a flash sale, or offering reminders. Use print where digital communications are not as strong, such as for . . .

• In-depth communications.
• Contacts that contain highly personal information.
• Mailings that involve brand or personal trust.

Studies also show that information is easier for people to understand and recall in print, so use print for “weightier” topics and messages that require attention to detail. If you want to move customers to digital communication, ask first. Don’t make the decision for them.

Before you ditch yours, check out our reasons why you should still be using one to navigate the business world.

Is Your Print Project Really Finished?

Any marketer has access to high-quality printing, but far fewer take the time to invest in high-quality coating. For those that do, the extra time can make the difference between buyers seeing your project as “a nice piece” and a really great, memorable one. Let’s look at three reasons you might want to add a coating before your project goes “live” into the hands of your target audience.

1. Protection. Sometimes a project needs that extra level of protection to keep it looking its best. Printed pieces can be exposed to a wide variety of harsh environmental conditions, including mailing equipment, high levels of moisture and dirt, high-traffic conditions (such as retail signage and displays), and constant handling. Coating provides an important level of protection that keeps the piece looking its best. If you need full waterproof properties, you may want to consider a laminate.

2. Gloss. Shine adds sparkle and impact. It instantly conveys the impression of value and quality. When you print or mail a piece with a high-gloss coating, you are telling recipients, “You matter!” UV coating offers the hardest coated surface and the highest level of brilliance and sheen.

3. Special effects. The number of options for specialty coatings is exploding. Spot varnish, for example, highlights specific areas of the printed piece for visual interest and impact. (Think lips popping out on a lipstick ad.) Soft touch creates a printed piece with a velvety finish. It produces a wonderful tactile feel, with the added benefit of offering fingerprint resistance, as well. Some specialty varnishes can be enhanced with effects such as glitter, tint, and scents. If you want to use a laminate, you can even get holographic effects.

Different finishes have different benefits and drawbacks. They also have different ranges of cost. Talk to us about the differences between coating types and ask to see samples. Then use coatings to make your next project shine.

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Nurtured Prospects Are Higher-Value Prospects

Lead nurturing is the process of drawing prospects into the sales funnel, then “dripping” relevant information to them via print, email, or other channels to keep them moving through the funnel until they make a purchase.

Lead nurturing is a powerful tool, but it is a process unfamiliar to many marketers. According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. It’s worth learning!

Let’s look at five types of lead nurturing campaigns and how they can boost your bottom line.

1. Product-focused campaigns
Once someone “raises their hand” to show an interest in your products, your job has only begun. Now you can begin feeding them content such as case studies, white papers, and data sheets. Give them enough information, and the right information at the right stage of their buyer journeys, to make a purchase decision.

2. Overcoming objections
Part of a customer’s journey is asking questions, so feed them information that anticipates those questions and answers their objections. This might include technical papers, customer testimonials, or analysis from industry experts. A comparison/contrast with competitive products might be in order.

3. Lead re-engagement campaigns
At some point, prospects can become disengaged from the process. Maybe they were wooed away by a competitor. Maybe they handed the project off to someone else. Or maybe they just got busy. Blog posts, case studies, and customer testimonials are great ways to renew their interest.

4. Promotional/closing campaigns
After a prospect has been exposed to escalating “drips” of relevant content, it is time to close the deal. Send a promotional offer or specific, personalized call to action to get them to pull the trigger.

5. “Top of mind” campaigns
Even once someone becomes a customer, don’t stop pursuing them. Keep that relationship going with a welcome letter, postcard, or information kit. Make new customers feel valued and appreciated, then stay top of mind with educational newsletters, tips and tricks postcards, and regular “drip” emails to keep them engaged until they are ready to make another purchase.

Need help planning a lead nurturing campaign? Give us a call!

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3 Tips for Creating a Visual Brand

Top brands have key written marketing strategies, but they have visual strategies too. Think about some of today’s most iconic brands—Nike, McDonald’s, Disney. Just one glance and the entire brand—its core messages and key products—rush into your mind. Do you have a visual brand? If not, how can you create one?

1. Be consistent with brand colors.
There’s a reason top brands place such importance on their brand colors. Think Tide Orange and Coca-Cola Red. Not only are these brand colors used for products and logos, but they infuse every aspect of these companies’ marketing, both digital and print.
Even if you don’t have an official brand color, identify colors that are consistent with your company message and image. Use them consistently throughout your materials. Color can be a consistent presence in all of your marketing materials that triggers visual memory.

2. Tell your story in pictures.
What’s your brand story? How can images of your products tell that story? For example, from a branding perspective, Harley-Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles. It sells independence and freedom. Visuals of the open road are as important as the motorcycle itself. Likewise, Lexus doesn’t sell cars. It sells prestige. Its advertising shows cars driven by men in expensive suits or by women dripping with luxury.
What feelings do your print materials need to evoke? Are your products designed to give people financial freedom, make them better moms, or boost their social standing? If so, what images will reinforce those messages?

3. Go professional.
Stock imagery works in a pinch, but it tells a general story, not your story. Try hiring a professional photographer and using pictures of your storefront or corporate offices, your employees, and your products in use (rather than just house shots). Build a visual identity based on real people, places, and things associated with your company.

Visual branding is a powerful tool — use it!

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5 Tips for Keeping Customers Coming Back

You want to keep your most profitable customers, right? Right! According to research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. You can double your profitability just by keeping the customers you already have. So how do you do that? Here are five tips for keeping your customers coming back.

1. Go holistic. The more you know your customers, the easier it is to know what to do to keep them. Start by tying together all the data you have on each customer to get one holistic view. For example, John W. Smith in your mailing database may also be Johnny Smith Jr. in your email list and J.W. Smith on Facebook. Most customers need help tying these databases together. If so, contact us, and we can help.

2. Make it easy. Reduce barriers to communicating with you. Give people more options, whether it’s via chat box or Facebook Messenger. Make it easier to buy and make repeat purchases. Something as simple as pre-filling response cards and subscription forms can improve the customer experience.

3. Treat them like real people. Customers don’t like feeling like a number. Take what you know about them and personalize text and images, whether in print or email. Invest in expanding your database to include new variables that will increase relevance.

4. Listen. Are you only pushing information out and not listening to feedback? Respond quickly and appropriately to comments sent to you through email, your company blog, and even social media.

5. Take the long view. Forget the gimmicks and quick fixes. Prizes, sweepstakes, and “experiential events” can get results, but they are short lived. As one strategist has put it, “Get to the trenches, examine how your customers live and use your products, and then design a complete meaningful solution for them across all touchpoints.”

There are no quick fixes for customer loyalty. It requires developing a strategy, making a commitment, and investing in an ongoing relationship with your customers that includes listening, as well as talking.

Need help? Give us a call!

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Brand voice is the emotion and personality that go into a brand’s communications, from the language it uses to the images in its marketing assets.

Think Great Color Is Easy? Think Again

Think great color is something everyone can do? Think again. Getting accurate, high-quality color takes effort. Here is a peek behind the curtain at what it takes to give you the best color day after day, and job after job, even when projects are months apart.

1. Define independent color space.

Your computer monitors operate in the RGB color space. Our presses operate in CMYK. The two spaces work very differently, and there is a delicate and complex conversion process that must take place between them. Adding to the challenge is that RGB and CMYK are device-dependent. This means that the same colors look different on different devices.

How do we get the two in sync? First we define color by metrics unrelated to the devices themselves — how color looks to the eye. Take the color of a red apple. On your computer monitor, “apple red” is defined by a set of numbers called CIE L*a*b, which is an objective, device-independent measurement what the eye sees. That CIE L*a*b value corresponds to an ICC color profile, which is an objective measurement of how that monitor “sees” and outputs color.

2. Translate to “press language.”

Now that we have an ICC profile that translates color accurately from the eye to the monitor, we need to be able to reproduce that color on press. Every press is unique, so the ICC color profile for the RGB monitor is translated into an ICC profile for the CYMK press.

3. Workflow steps to make it happen.

Next is to get that color onto paper. This starts with making choices at the RIP (the equipment that processes the job before it is sent to the press) to ensure that the settings match the ones in the software used by your designer. It also requires regular calibration of our presses to make sure that the color is not only accurate but repeatable.

Getting great color is not a magic trick. It requires a lot of craft, science, and hard work. That’s why you don't want to trust your color to just anyone. We hope you continue to trust us with your most color-critical jobs.

Adapted from EFI’s webinar: “World of Fiery: 3 Key Steps to Get the Right Color the First Try.” You can view a video presentation on this topic at http://tinyurl.com/pfw76bu.

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Why Invest in Customer Loyalty? 3 Reasons

What’s the value of loyal customers? According to a study by Yotpo, loyal customers offer a brand three key benefits:

• They tell friends and family about the brand (60%)
• They are willing to join the brand’s loyalty or VIP program (52.3%)
• They spend more on a brand’s product even if there are cheaper options elsewhere (39.4%)

Not only this, but HubSpot has found that existing customers spend 67% more than new customers.

Keep your customers, make more money. It’s that simple. Optimove, reporting on the Yotpo study, put it this way: “The power of customer loyalty is so vital, its effects could mean the difference between your business either thriving, just about surviving, or breaking down completely.”

Optimove went on to suggest three ways you can show your appreciation and keep those customers around.

1. Let them know that you reward loyalty.

Regardless how you reward loyalty, it’s critical to let your customers know that you do. Don’t make them wait to find out. Promote your loyalty program in your direct mail pieces. Create a “loyalty” link on your website. In your print and email newsletters, talk about real people who have saved money and earned free stuff.

2. Create and promote multi-level incentives.

Tier your rewards so that the most loyal customers get the most benefits. The more loyal they are, the more they save, the more they earn, and the more insider benefits they get. Also consider creating a sense of competition. “Enable your customers to compare their scores, points and/or rankings with other customers,” says Optimove.

3. Re-engage disconnected customers.

Don’t assume that lost customers are gone forever. There can be many reasons they have stopped buying, many of which may have nothing to do with them falling out of love with your products. Sometimes, all it takes is a nudge and an incentive to get them to come back.

You’ve worked hard to gain your customers, and they are worth keeping. Make the investment in your customers and they will invest in you.

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3 Secret Benefits to Print Over Digital

In a world infatuated with digital, print marketers have a secret in their pockets—print. Here are three reasons why print still packs a wallop, even in a digital world.

1. Digital channels aren’t as inexpensive as you’d think.

Just because there isn’t a print and mail cost doesn’t mean that digital channels are less expensive than print. Digital channels have constant churn in addresses and profiles, for example, so lists require constant management and updating. Email also has significant costs associated with opt-in, opt-out, and other list management that print doesn’t.

2. Print gets read when email doesn’t.

Your highly targeted, perfectly timed email can get buried under dozens or hundred of others before the recipient even knows it’s there. By contrast, people retrieve and sort their mail every day.

3. Print drives online behavior.

One of the primary reasons people visit your website is because of something they’ve seen or received in print. Study after study shows that print and online channels work in a symbiotic relationship.

Convinced? Great! Here are three tips for getting most out of your efforts:

• Create target segments. Break your customers down into categories that allow you to segment and target your message. You may segment by age, geographic region, product category, or whatever works for you.

• Personalize the discussion. People buy from people, not from companies. Take the time to address each recipient by name. If possible, use data that allows you to speak to their individual needs.

• Use multiple channels. Instead of focusing on one channel or another, develop integrated, multichannel campaigns in which direct mail, email, and mobile marketing work together. Let each channel reinforce what’s best in the others.

Now you have the secret. Let’s put it to work together!

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5 Tips for Waking up Tired Mail

Is your marketing getting tired? Is your target audience tuning out your mailings because you’re sending the same campaign over and over? Maybe it’s time to mix things up. Here are five ideas to get people noticing your direct mailings again.

1. Get creative with envelopes.

Envelopes can be a lot of fun. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and formats. Instead of sending the same old white envelope, consider using one in a bright, fun color.

2. Add a teaser.

Did you know we can print personalized messages on the outside of your envelopes, too? These are called teasers. “Special Offer Just for Bob Johnson!” or “Suzie, you won’t believe what’s inside!”

3. Think beyond the envelope.

Think beyond the traditional envelope. Try self-mailers, postcards, or faux Express Mail or Air Mail designs on occasion.

4. Change your offer.

Your offers can get tired, too. So mix it up. If you’ve been offering a discount, try a free trial instead. If you’ve been doing the hard sell, try a softer approach, such as allowing people to ask for more information first.

5. Add a time limit.

Time limits are powerful motivators. Use a personalized message on the outside of the envelope (“Ben, offer expires in 5 days!”) or create a piece of art that looks like a rubber-stamped time limit across the top. Time limits also give you an excuse to send a follow-up. “Robert, your offer is set to expire. Respond now!”

Every direct mail campaign needs a refresh now and then. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Need ideas? Let’s brainstorm together!

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