Archive for July, 2010

New Aberdeen Research Shows Print On-Demand Improves Customer Retention

According to new research by Aberdeen Group, Print On-Demand (also called POD, web-to-print or print automation) provides a dramatic improvement in customer retention and ROMI (Return on Marketing Investments). As an underwriter of Aberdeen’s research, we’re pleased to provide exclusive access to their findings.

CustomerRetention 198x300 New Aberdeen Research Shows Print On Demand Improves Customer Retention

From research by Aberdeen Group: Users of Print On-Demand achieved a 42% higher customer retention rate than non-users.

Among their findings was a correlation between companies that use a Print On-Demand solution and a dramatic improvement in customer retention. In an economy where every customer counts, a 42% higher customer retention rate among Print On-Demand users is more than noteworthy. But what’s the correlation? How does POD impact on customer retention so significantly?

Three Reasons Print On-Demand Improves Customer Retention

  1. More timely – With on-demand printing, written communications and printed materials get in the hands of prospects or customers more quickly, as the materials are produced and delivered immediately, instead of waiting weeks to be batched with other orders.
  2. Improved relevancy – Printed materials can easily be customized to be relevant to the recipient using a Print On-Demand system. For example, cross-selling, new customer assimilation, and segmentation strategies can all be applied, one customer at a time.
  3. It builds better relationships – By empowering true 1-to-1 communication, personal communications can be customized to come from their sales or customer service representative to the intended recipient.


Follow this link to download a free report including additional findings from Aberdeen: Print On-Demand: Driving Efficiency and Revenue Growth with Organizational Print Portals.

Additional Benefits of On-Demand Printing

Many times when a company moves to a Print On-Demand or web-to-print solution, another significant shift happens. They move from static off-set printing to digital printing. Several years ago many marketing professionals questioned the quality of digital print. Today, to the naked eye, it is practically impossible to tell the difference between commercial off-set printing and digital.

Using advanced digital printing and marketing automation technology, the delivery of printed materials becomes as easy as sending personalized, triggered email.  In fact, the use of both mail and email together becomes fast, efficient and very impactful.

Many companies have found it helpful to integrate their Marketing Asset Management solution with email and automated print deployment, making the creation and execution processes streamlined and efficient.  In fact, in addition to improved customer retention, many companies save hundreds of thousands of dollars by moving to an integrated POD system. (See case studies at

Thanks to the Aberdeen Group for investing in the research that quantifies what was previously suspected: POD improves customer retention and bolsters ROMI by putting a serious dent in marketing execution costs.

Seth Godin Dishes on Direct Marketing Vs. Mass Marketing

In a recent post from Seth Godin, the influential author and speaker divulges a main difference between mass marketers and direct marketers: the process they follow in creating and scaling their message to reach their audiences.

The comparison below is based on Godin’s main points:

Mass Marketing:

Direct Marketing:

Bets on large-scale deployment to achieve success. Relies on initial small-scale testing to achieve success.
Needs heavy initial resource allocation to push message to entire audience, across multiple channels, simultaneously. Needs low initial resource allocation; deployment scaled  to entire audience as results are proven.
Relies on achieving results on the first attempt. Continually improves results by tracking, measuring, and revising.
Success (brand awareness, “buzz,” and sometimes conversion rate) not determined until end of campaign. Success (conversion rate) is determined at beginning, based on test results.

With tighter budgets and continued pressure to produce measurable results, the safer, predictable direct marketing process would seem a no-brainer. However, everyone from small business owners dabbling in marketing to seasoned advertising veterans are tempted to rely on their personal taste and gut instinct to determine what will appeal to and motivate the masses. This temptation is natural, but not justifiable, according to Godin:

“The key distinction [between direct marketing and mass marketing] is when you know it’s going to work. The mass marketer doesn’t know until the end. The direct marketer knows in the beginning. The mass marketer is betting on thousands of tiny cues, little clues, and unrecorded (but vital) conversations. The direct marketer is measuring conversion rates from the first day.

“That’s the reason we often default to acting like mass marketers. We’re putting off the day of reckoning, betting on the miracle around the corner, spending our time and energy on the early steps without the downside of admitting failure to the boss.

“Of course, just because it’s our default doesn’t mean it’s right. Business to business marketing is almost always better if you treat it like direct marketing. Most websites that do conversion as well. Same with non-profit fundraising.”

So, as it turns out, the distinction between mass and direct marketing is less about the size of your audience, and more about the process you follow to determine the right messaging for them. Are you willing to devote the time needed to test your message, and do you have the humility and persistence needed to acknowledge a failed test and try again? If so, then you’re on your way to achieving more powerful, scalable marketing.

You can read Godin’s complete post here.

Catalog Marketing Delivered On-Demand: An Interview with Jason Kort

An effective catalog has been proven to increase sales, both online and offline, by countless sources.  Throw in variable data, variable imagery, on-demand printing and image generation, and an easy ordering interface, and you have a sales and marketing dream come true.

Jason Kort, Director of Marketing for Redemption Plus

Jason Kort, Director of Marketing for Redemption Plus

I recently had the chance to talk with Jason Kort, Director of Marketing for Redemption Plus, a leading distributor of incentive and redemption merchandise.  You may know them as the inventor of the “World’s Largest Whoopie Cushion.” Redemption Plus is no doubt a very fun business focused on delivering all the wonderful toys, games and prizes used by family entertainment and educational franchises nationwide.

Jason recently led the implementation of print automation and variable data technology that is improving the catalog that is essential to their business.  Here’s a portion of that interview:

How did you recognize that you needed a different process for producing electronic and hard copy catalogs?

JK:  There were really three areas that were driving me crazy:

  1. It was taking too much time to create and produce a catalog and the instant we printed one it was out of date.
  2. It took 10-15 minutes for our sales reps to send our catalog to individual prospects.
  3. It was too hard for our customers to determine what they wanted to buy from us.

What was the biggest challenge to implementing an automated printing and digital file delivery system?

JK:  Variable data and print automation were new to us, so figuring out exactly what we needed and what we wanted to do was the biggest challenge.

What advice would you give other marketers who are changing to an automated variable data catalog?

JK:  This is really like an IT project.  Make sure you thoroughly define what you need and scope it out like an IT project.

Could you summarize the biggest benefit your personalized, on-demand catalog system has brought to Redemption Plus?

JK:  I’d love to narrow it to one, but I can only get to three:

  1. The time it takes my sales reps to order catalogs has went from 10 minutes to 30 seconds.
  2. We never print a catalog that is out-of-date due to the real-time integration with our product database.
  3. It’s easy for our customers to quickly access the types of items they want to order, which has led to an easy increase in sales.

Easy and relevant are the words that come to mind when describing this new tool Redemption Plus has created. Kudos to Jason and his team! To read more about Redemption Plus and their dream-come-true print-on-demand catalog, read the case study.

So how are the variable images and information used to create a personalized catalog?

Here are some visuals of the new and improved Redemption Plus catalog.

Click on the thumbnail images to view larger, with variable information circled.

Personalized catalog cover

On the catalog cover, customer information and the date are personalized.

Variable catalog interior pages

Inside the catalog, products are customized based on current items in the database. Pricing is specific to the end-users’ mark-up requirements.

Variable data catalog personalization

Sales rep information and photograph is automatically included.

Is Social Media Marketing Poaching Direct Marketing Results?

For the marketing community, social media is the newest, shiniest toy we’ve had in a while, and most of us are rushing to learn how to utilize each new social platform to our advantage.

Marketing budgets have begun shifting as well. Of the participants in the 2009 PRWeek/MS&L Social Media Survey 31% reported shifting in marketing and communications budgets to add social media to their mix, with 48% of their social budgets being pulled from past advertising budgets, 41% from direct marketing, 29% from media buying, and 18% from PR.

Despite these budget shifts, marketing executives surveyed in the study still say they believe each of the more traditional direct marketing, advertising and PR channels have a greater impact on the success of their company or brand.

Graph of impact of marketing channels on company and brand success

Source: 2009 PRWeek/MS&L Social Media Survey

So even though marketers believe that direct marketing and other traditional tactics are more effective, they’re willing to divert budget to social media. Is this a rational decision to test new marketing tactics, or are marketers just succumbing to peer pressure and a search for “the next big thing?”

So does social media marketing actually work?

According to the study, 39% of respondents reported that “they are not convinced of the value or ROI” of social media. This may be due to the notorious difficultly of tracking and calculating conversions influenced by social media.

There are many commonly accepted case studies that have shown effective use of social media for business initiatives, including:

  • B2C brand building through viral campaigns.
  • Brand reference monitoring and proactive customer service/complaint response.
  • B2B thought leadership (using outlets such as a blog or social network).
  • B2C customer loyalty programs communicated through social media and mobile marketing.

With all of these business uses of social media, questions still remain about their actual revenue generation. As social marketing practices are honed and social tracking tools improve, this may change. However, it may not. Which leads us to…

Social media marketing plan

Ready to test social media marketing for your organization? It's time to create a focused social marketing plan of attack.

The Marketer’s Dilemma, and a Plan of Action

So budgets are limited, and it’s time to start dividing your resources and time. Social marketing may be a winner for your audience and business model, and should probably be tested. So what percentages should you allocate to social marketing initiatives? Here are some suggestions:

1) Keep doing what’s working

If you’re achieving good ROIs for your direct marketing, PR or advertising, don’t reduce your budgets for these channels for something untested.

2) Allocate a test budget for social media

Is social marketing right for your business model and audience? There’s only one way to be sure. Start by allocating a portion of your budget, just as you would any test initiative.

3) Plan and focus your efforts

Before you start, make sure you have clearly identified your objectives and success metrics. Then, instead of trying to engage in every social media platform, choose one or two specific actions, and focus your efforts. Some examples:

  • Start a blog, and update it frequently with relevant topics for your audience.
  • Set up a free Google Alerts on a specific topic, and monitor and engage in online discussions on the topic.
  • Join or start a LinkedIn group on a topic of interest to potential customers.
  • Create a simple series of YouTube videos answering common questions of your audience.
  • Create a Facebook Fan Page or mobile site and distribute special offers to subscribers (location-specific restaurants and retailer should check out

4) Analyze your results.

Can you attribute new customers to your online interactions? Did traffic and conversion for your website increase? Have you increased foot traffic to your locations? If so, congratulations, it’s time to allocate more budget and increase your social marketing efforts. If not, it’s either time to test other social marketing tactics, or funnel your budget and efforts back to the marketing channels you know work for your business.

So now I want to know, what social media tactics have you tested for your business, and what type of results have you seen?