Don’t complain about the rising costs of postage if your company didn’t register for last year’s USPS business discount by using QR Codes® (deadline was August 12, 2012). This is the third year in a row the U.S. Postal Service is offering discounts to encourage businesses to use new technology such as QR Codes to improve their mailing results.
This year the USPS is upping the ante by including a scan-to-call component to its QR Code promo. This means when a prospect scans the QR Code with their smartphone that they will be connected by phone to the business that did the mailing. And that business will get a 2% postage discount, which could mean hundreds of dollars in savings per mailing.
For example, a business that normally would have paid $14,750 for mailing 25,000 bounce-back coupons with QR Codes that cost .59 each would only pay $14,250 for postage with the 2% postal service discount.
That 2% would equate to $500 in postage savings. This is more than enough to pay for a celebration dinner for a marketing department when the mailing brings in $652,000 in sales by generating 1,000 purchases (4% of mailing) of a $652 product.
September 30 is the deadline to register your business to receive a 2% discount on mailings you send using one of three emerging technologies shown below:
Augmented Reality Component: Augmented Reality (AR) is a live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.
Authentication Component: Authentication describes the process of verifying a unique customer using a combination of authentication factors (at least two).
Near Field Communication (NFC): Near Field Communication creates a two-way communication link between two devices with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) capabilities.
Want a Deeper Understanding of Postal Changes and Discounts?
Pitney Bowes has produced a series of great webinars and slideshows that summarize the myriad of changes and rewards the postal service has to soften the pain of change.
I recommend starting by reading Pitney Bowes overview slideshow: Understanding the USPS: The Rewards for Change.
I hope by embracing the new technology and the discounts available to your business for doing so. If so you’ll be even more prosperous in 2013.
* QR Codes are a registered trademark of Denso Wave.
In his new book Digital Disruption, James McQuivey, a Forrester principal analyst, explains that technological advances are creating opportunities for more people to meet more customer needs than ever before at lower costs– and that is the essence of digital disruption.
While some businesses have been digitally disrupted, the ones listed below have been completely transformed by the digital age of media that has evolved over the past 20 years.
- The music business (YouTube, iTunes)
- Banking and insurance (online banking, photo deposits, digital signatures)
- Photography (film is nearly extinct)
- Retailing (bricks and mortar are now optional)
- Travel agencies (Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak)
- Newspaper and magazine publishing (online subscriptions)
- Telecoms (home phones are going extinct, VOIP)
According to McQuivey, digital disruption is about to completely change how companies do business. Digital tools and digital platforms are driving the cost of innovation down to nearly zero, causing at least 10 times as many innovators to rush into your market while operating at one-tenth the cost that you do.
This is one reason companies are hiring or stealing the brightest digital innovators in the marketplace like Jeff Hammerbacher, data entrepreneur, who was one of Facebook’s first employees and who is now the co-founder of Cloudera (a Silicon Valley software start-up).
IT, app and software geniuses are in demand today because of the need for companies to protect themselves against digital disruption. Companies needed the brightest and future-forward thinkers on board to retool their businesses to stay ahead of the just-in-time needs of their customers.
3 Ways Your Company Can Stay Ahead of Digital Disruption
Ever-advancing technology forces any company from a lube shop to an international airline to leverage technology to speak one-on-one with its customers and deliver competitive costs, convenient services and products that exceed their expectations.
Personalize Your Interactions. Using well-oiled and captured data enables you as a savvy marketer to send customer communications that are relevant and personalized. Whether you use highly personalized email or variable data print pieces your marketing can be extremely targeted. Consumers welcome personalized offers. They love that you know their likes and market accordingly. Are you using data-driven marketing to optimize your appeal to individual customers?
The Need for Speed. Real-time interactions separate the amateur from the pros in marketing and product delivery. Just look at Oreo’s response to the Super Bowl blackout as lesson #1.
Integrate and Automate. If you haven’t already integrated your marketing channels and platforms, you’re already at risk of digital disruption. Get all your customer contact points talking to one another seamlessly and then tap the power of marketing automation to extend your reach and shorten the time to market. Using sales force automation tools and your CRM (customer relationship management) system you can marketing in a trigger based fashion for maximum customer engagement.
If this post frightens you, perhaps it should. Talk to any CEO or CMO and ask them about their top concerns with the business and chances are disruption and marketing effectiveness will be in the top five. The good news is there are industry experts and talent on hand to help you transform and deliver. Unfortunately this is an endless process.
In How to Produce a Successful White Paper (Part I) you learned about the three types of white papers, how to launch a white paper like a new product launch and how the tone should be educational so as to position your company as a thought leader. In this follow-up blog, you’ll learn the pros and cons of gating your white papers behind a registration form rather than open access, your syndication options and if an ebook is the new white paper.
Pros and Cons of Gating Your Content
According to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rule of Marketing & PR, there are two marketing camps on the subject of requiring prospects to register before downloading a white paper. The first camp believes a registration form is necessary because it allows your company to capture an email address and convert that person into a sales lead. The downside is your registration/download numbers often suffer because people don’t like to give away their emails, get spammed or lose their autonomy.
The second camp believes it is best to make content such as white papers totally free because it increases the spread of the information and therefore the interest level in their product or service.
Now let’s look at some very interesting math that Scott used when he was arguing his preference for non-gated content with a HubSpot in-bound marketer, who is in the first camp.
|Gated Content with Landing Page||Totally Free Content (no form to fill out)
|10,000 people saw white paper offer (form)||10,000 people saw white paper (no form)|
|x 5% register and download content||X 50% downloads|
|+ Zero social shares||+ 10% shares and 5,000 more downloads|
|500 email leads captured, 0 shares, 0 links||10,000 downloads, 500 shares, 25 links|
As you can see above, the gated content only got downloaded 500 times, whereas the non-gated content received 10,000 downloads, 500 social media shares, and generated 25 backlinks to the company’s site or landing page. Of course you have to factor in that the free downloads may be less valuable than those willing to give their email address, but does the sheer volume and viral effect make up for this difference in your multi-channel marketing?
Perhaps you should test both in your next campaign and determine this for yourself. It’s worth a look because Scott says opening the gates to your content can increase download volume 16x what you were getting when it was gated.
Are You Syndicating Your White Papers?
Okay, so you’ve invested in a research firm, copywriter or journalist to write your library of white papers, which are posted on your site. Now what? According to Ryan Malone, founder of Smart Bug Media, you need to syndicate that white paper. Syndication generates additional leads and you can use both free and pay sites to maximize reach and interest in your product or service.
White paper syndication services exist in just about every niche, including banking, technology, business, and IT. Here is a brief list of syndicators to consider:
http://www.idgconnect.com (IT and tech)
http://www.knowledgestorm.com (business and IT)
White Papers vs. eBooks
No surprise that Scott thinks eBooks will eventually replace white papers. He feels this way because too many companies are churning out poorly written, researched and packaged white papers. He says too many white papers are more like warmed up sales sheets. Readers are becoming fed up with the bait and switch, giving companies their confidence and emails, only to be hammered by a hard sell or flamboyant hyperbole such as flexible, scalable, cutting-edge, mission-critical, world-class, etc.
Scott goes on to say that white papers still have a purpose, but because they can’t go viral because people won’t share them, they weaken your marketing efforts.
Ebooks, on the other hand, appear to be the more vogue and hip medium of business communications. Check out the top 10 ebook downloads on Ebook3000 and answer when the last time one of your white papers got download 22,548, 16, 639, or 13,821 times.
Principles of Corporate Finance (22548)
Guide to Financial Management (11006)
Principles of Macroeconomics (10941)
The One Minute Manager (10507)
Your homework is to go through your existing white papers and tweak headlines, copy, graphs, cover pages and then submit and redistribute them as a press release to a syndication site or directly to a media outlet to ask for an interview slot on an appropriate business channel or radio talk show. Tell us about your repurposed success in the comments below.
White papers originated from governments in the roaring 20s as a way to share government policy preference prior to the introduction of legislation. Fast-forward to the ‘90s and marketers began using white papers as a way to communicate research findings about their products, services or technologies.
Used as marketing tools, these papers allow companies to help their customers solve problems. The big distinguisher and reason they are so popular is that the information is presented with an educational rather than sales twist. Facts opposed to propaganda. White papers work because buyers want to make up their own minds, do appropriate research and not be sold.
The proper definition of a white paper is an educational document that is approximately five pages long and written in a straight-forward manner with factual, well-sourced copy and graphs that establishes the company or person as an expert or thought leader. There are three types of white papers
- The Backgrounder. Describes the technical or business benefits of working with a vendor.
- Numbered List. Presents a number of points, questions or tips about a business issue.
- Problem/Solution. The classic case study format is used to walk a prospect through a solution to their nagging business problem.
Written correctly, white papers remain the most relied on content tool used by B2B marketers today. A good paper is laser-focused, clear, understandable and sanitized of any propaganda or sales speak.
“White papers remain the most effective piece of marketing collateral, with 86% of respondents finding them moderately to highly influential in the purchasing decision,” according to a Eccolo Media study reviewed inB2B Magazine.
Headlines and Wording for White Papers
The headline is imperative in your cross-channel marketing. Make it easy to scan and understand. Save your cleverness for your advertising pieces because a play-on-words doesn’t go over well in white papers, according to Marketing Sherpa. Five pivotal pieces of advice Marketing Sherpa offers are:
1. Use clear, but non-salesy wording
2. Shorter is better
3. If you must use a long headline, break it into a headline and sub-headline
4. Add “ing” to your titles. Prospects want to achieve something such as eliminating, preventing, defending, implementing, ect.
5. Run some marketing searches and statistics before naming your white paper
Think Like a Product Launch with your White Paper
Here is Malone’s 7-step launch process that he says will make your white paper a smashing success:
1.Create a strong landing page
2.Share your white paper in press release format on the wire
3.Distribute pitch letters to reporters
4.Get it placed in a publication as a bylined article
5.Pitch speaking opportunities
6.Syndicate your white paper (covered in Part II of this blog here)
7.Leverage social media
Make sure to read our Part II of this blog coming later this week, which goes into the pros and cons of giving your white papers away vs. gating them behind a form and what experts say about the effectiveness of a white paper compared to a blog.
Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks. Zig Ziglar, 82-year old motivational maverick, salesperson, and author just published his 12th book, Find Your Success Code: Born to Win, which features a QR Code® that takes up one third of the front cover.
Ziglar is no doubt pulling out all the stops to hit another home run just as he did nearly four decades ago with See You at the Top, which sold 1.6 million copies and is currently in its 25th edition.
Like Madonna’s tactic of staying relevant by doing duets with Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj, or Cee Lo Green, Ziglar is staying relevant by using today’s technology to drive his point home – find your success code. According to Publishing Perspective, QR Codes might become commonplace with publishers.
Vibe Magazine Tries to Push the Needle with QR
Last year, Vibe magazine introduced its first digital magazine, available only via a QR Code on the cover. Though the hip hop magazine had been featuring QR Codes inside for three months, this was the first time it graced the cover. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to test the code, which was without the http:// necessary for most readers to open the link in a browser.
Learn the lesson… TEST, TEST, and then RE-TEST with lots of different phones and in lots of different ways.
Other Uses of QR Beyond the Cover
If you are authoring corporate coffee table books, CEO biographies, company history books or success stories like Steve Jobs, there are many other uses of the emerging technology to consider.
Here are a few starts on how you can leverage QR codes in your publications:
- Use a Twitter QR Code so readers are prompted to follow the author or tweet comments about the publication
- Link to templates or applications for tracking personal improvements (think Self Help)
- Link to a shopping list of ingredients the reader needs (think Recipe book)
- Link to a map and describe the location (travel books)
- Link to an audio file demonstrating pronunciation (think Language guides)
- Link to a video demonstration how to perform what you’re describing (product guides)
- Link to additional content relevant to the article, game, contest (think Facebook)
- Conduct surveys, gather feedback (think readership studies on your corporate magazine)
Obviously as a marketer, uses of QR Codes are endless. If you decide to use them in your materials, here are the five golden rules.
- Provide some instructions to the reader so they know how to use the code
- Drive to mobile friendly content that enhances their learning
- Include the URL in case the reader prefers to gain the information via a computer, not a mobile device
- Add value to the reader by making the additional content relevant
- Track the performance of your codes or what’s the point
- Test the codes before publishing (do we really need to say why you have to test… see the Vibe comments above)
For nine more ideas on how to turn your book or magazine into a multi-media experience, visit Start a Wildfire. Now take a 15-minute brainstorming coffee break to re-think and re-invent your existing publications and approach, just like Ziglar did.
QR Code® is a registered trademark of DensoWave.
Today reality isn’t always wysiwyg (what you see is what you get). We have reality, virtual reality, alternate reality, digital reality and now augmented reality. This great new tool may be on the way to helping marketers get their clients to experience a new level of reality and help drive engagement and hopefully revenue
Augmented reality is a digital layer over the real world that you can’t see with the naked eye but can see with the camera on your smart phone or computer, according to Vivian Rosenthal, founder of New York City-based AR start-up, GoldRun. Get a glimpse of Rosenthal’s use or AR in this promo (an invisible pop up store) for AirWalk sneakers.
You experience a tiny sampling of AR when you watch a televised football game. The yellow first down lines aren’t painted on the field itself, but inserted digitally to enhance your viewing experience.
A Boeing researcher introduced AR in 1990. By 2008 it was a $6 million industry and expected to grow into a $350 million industry by 2014.
AR is Legalized Steroids for Direct Mail
The movie Avatar used AR in its integrated marketing campaign to launch with Avatar teamed with Coke Zero. Movie buffs could hold their Coke can with the Avatar symbol in front of their webcams and interact with parts of the movie on a “visceral” level.
Don’t be fooled into dismissing AR as all fun and games, it offers an entirely new avenue for engagement and in particular direct mail, according to the February issue of the U.S. Postal Service’s Deliver magazine. The cover and feature article in this issue featured black and white artwork that came to life, movement, and color when you held your smart phone over the graphic after downloading the recommended app.
Taylor, one of the largest direct mail printers in the nation, used AR as the star attraction of its trade booth at the 2011 Direct Marketing Association convention in Boston. Visitors were given a postcard and sent to a special website to unlock the encoded graphics and information. Art Calamari, who manned the booth, said he watched hundreds of attendees share the technology and message with hundreds of other attendees – turning a direct mail print piece into a word of mouth brushfire.
Imagine making your direct mail even more interactive and relevant like some insurance companies have by sending out postcards with agent photos and a neat graphic that changes weekly when scanned just like a rotating billboard. The selling point is helping consumers hold on to that print piece longer as well as being moved further down the sales pipeline as the information changes.
AR is a Magnet for Millennials
Research shows that if the messaging and the experience are not engaging, and do not create brand desire, Millennials may just move on to a competitor. Millennials are defined as those born in the 1980s, whose lives revolve around being constantly connected to technology.
One successful augmented reality iPhone app that attracts Millenials is Le Bar Guide. Using GPS data, the technology locks onto a location serving the popular Belgian beer, Stella Artois, by populating the phone with directional arrows pointing users to the nearest pub that serves it.
Can You Afford Augmented Reality Marketing?
According to Rosenthal, AR campaigns can be as inexpensive as $5,000 and as high as $100,000. She compares costs with full-page magazine print ads, which start at $100,000 in major magazines based on cost per thousand readers or as high as $400,000 for a one-page ad in the coveted Sports Illustrated issue.
As part of a vacation promotion for Snow Mass Ski Slopes, three-dimensional renderings necessary for the AR campaign ran approximately $10,000.
Regardless, the spend definitely can be tied to customer engagement, acquisition, and retention thanks to the measurability of the interactivity and technology.
If the numbers work and the medium directly aligns with your target market, then executing an augmented reality campaign can both bring home the bacon and establish your company as an innovation leader.
Ever since PURLs (or Personalized URLs) hit the scene, the integration of offline and online media has become a powerful way to improve direct marketing results. Now, direct mail and email can link to a URL that can be customized to the individual and can be tracked at the individual level.
After working with PURLs for many years, I’ve come to some conclusions. My insights may change as technology advances, but for now, here’s some insight into how PURLs can help you be a better marketer:
- Pre-populated forms are the bomb. Less hassle for the user, and completion rates go up. Way up.
- A URL with a person’s name in it is a little freaky to someone who doesn’t know you, your product, or your company. Always test a PURL against a non-personalized URL with an acquisition target audience before rolling it out.
- PURLs are great for collecting communication preference.
- And at the same time you collect preference, you can obtain and update contact information, such as those all too valuable email addresses.
- Current customers + PURL + satisfaction survey = Gain feedback, fix problems, make customers happy, and increase customer lifetime value.
- Web pages that deliver personalized offers are an extraordinary advantage over a static web page.
- Measurability at the individual level can be a powerful tool for testing and improving ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment.)
- Combining QR Codes with PURLs – to create personalized QR Codes that lead to a Personalized landing page – could change the way direct marketers think about delivering content to mobile devices.
So my secrets are out. What questions or secrets about PURLs do you have? Please share them by adding a comment to this post.
I’d also recommend checking out Seven PURL Mistakes You Might Be Making to find a summary of all the nutty mistakes I see people make when using PURLs. You should also check out our free report: Using PURLs to Produce Measurable Marketing Results.
Personalized URLs (PURLs) or personalized landing pages are definitely a game changer for direct and database marketing. With PURLs, all that great data you’ve collected about your prospects or customers can be used to construct a truly personalized online marketing experience with customized data, imagery, offers and the all-important pre-populated form.
The key to success with a PURL campaign is creating a great user experience. If there is a poor user experience, it really doesn’t matter if you have a personalized landing page or not. So, here is a short list of things to avoid when creating a campaign with PURLs:
- Don’t use a long web address. Generally people can only remember seven characters at a time. When using a PURL in an offline piece, think about the number of times someone has to go from the offline communication to the keyboard to type in the URL. 14 characters equals 2 times. 35 characters equals 5 times. That gets a little crazy for the recipient.
- Don’t use random numbers for the unique part of the web address. They don’t mean anything to the recipient.
- Don’t creep prospects out with too much blatant personalization. Current customers will most likely understand why you have information about them, and will appreciate your using it to create a personalized experience. Prospects, on the other hand, may not understand why you’re using their information, and react negatively.
- Don’t forget to pay close attention to the quality of your data. Missing or inaccurate data can seriously dampen your response rates; data cleansing and appending is the answer.
- When designing the web page layout, don’t put the form below the visual fold. You want the pre-populated form to be visible as soon as the page is viewed.
- Don’t leave people in la-la land if they mistype the PURL. Display a page that tells them what to do.
- Don’t assume that a PURL will improve response for all audiences and offers. Test. Test. Test.
In conclusion, I’ll add that I am often approached by companies who want to do a PURL for the wrong reasons. Meaning, they forgot to put themselves in the recipient’s shoes. Answering these questions, from the target audiences’ point of view, usually gains the clarity needed:
- Does it make sense that they are sending me a personalized URL?
- Why are they using my personal information?
- Did it improve my user experience?
If you can’t answer these questions, you should reconsider your PURL campaign until you can.
What questions or suggestions do you have about Personalized URLs? Click the comments link to share!
I’ve had several conversations recently about the basics of creating QR Codes, and how to track visits to your site via a QR Code scan. So, I’d like to share a couple options for creating trackable QR Codes for your direct marketing, with step-by-step instructions.
New to QR Codes? Check out this primer first: Guide to QR Codes for Direct Marketers
A) Tracking QR Code Responses Using Google Analytics
If you have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website, using Google Analytics for tracking your QR Code visits will keep all of your data in one location, and allow you to track the online behaviors and conversion rates of your QR Code visitors.
Here’s how to set up QR Code tracking using Google Analytics:
- The first step is to add tracking code to the URL of your target response page.
- Go to Google’s URL-Builder tool and load the target URL for your QR Code, your campaign Source, Medium, and Name. For example, let’s create a code with tracking for this post. I’ll use “mpblog” as the Source, “qrcode” as the Medium and “trackable-qrcodes-post” as the Name.
- Click “Generate URL” and you’ll get a url with tracking code. Here’s the url for the example above, with the tracking parameters in green: http://blog.mailprint.com/index.php/1125/create-trackable-qr-codes/?utm_source=mpblog&utm_medium=qrcode&utm_campaign=trackable-qrcodes-post
- With your new link in hand (or in your clipboard), it’s time to create your QR Code. Go to http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/ or your QR Code generator. Select “URL” from the dropdown, paste in the url with the tracking code, and click “Generate.”
- You now have a QR Code; download it and apply it to your direct mail piece, business card, billboard, t-shirt, or whatever else. When someone scans the code and visits your site, Google Analytics will track the visit and the associated source, medium and name.
- After you’ve tested the QR Code, go into Google Analytics and navigate to Traffic Sources > Campaigns. You can sort by “Medium” and search for “qrcode” to see your test visit (Fig. 2).
B) Using Bit.ly for Creating and Tracking QR Code
If you aren’t using Google Analytics, or just need a simpler process, the url shortening application Bit.ly is a great tool for tracking web traffic it redirects to your QR Code landing pages.
Here’s how to create a trackable QR Code using Bit.ly:
- Create an account at http://bit.ly/.
- Insert the target url into their url shortener. You’ll get a shortened url that looks something like: http://bit.ly/hXMCM1
- In your list of shortened urls, you’ll see the target url, with a link beside it for the “Info Page” for the url. Click on it, and you’ll see tracking information and a QR Code for the shortened url (Fig. 3).
- Right click on the QR Code image to save it; you’re now ready to use it on whatever marketing piece you’d like.
- Now, whenever someone scans the generated QR Code, they’ll be directed to bit.ly, which will count the visit and automatically redirect the visitor to the target url. This will happen fast enough that users won’t even notice the redirect.
- You can then use the reporting tool on your Bit.ly account to track scans/visits via your QR Code
There you go, there are two great (free) options for creating and tracking QR Codes. If you have any questions, or would like to share the free or paid tool you use, please add a comment!