Archive for September, 2012

Fault-Filled Postcard Teaches You Avoidable Design Mistakes

With the ease of acquiring marketing materials today even small businesses can look like a Fortune 1000 company. But simple design mistakes can make your company look amateur and waste valuable marketing dollars. Avoid making little mistakes, hire a professional designer, and follow these ten postcard design and copy rules. They will help you keep your professional look for better impressions and stronger results.

  1. Use a high resolution stunning image to grab attention on the front of the card.
  2. Don’t use more than two typefaces as it looks unprofessional.
  3. Embrace white space and don’t fill the entire card with content, images and color.
  4. Use a compelling headline. What’s in it for the reader?
  5. Include a strong offer that creates the action you want (call, email, RSVP)
  6. Follow your company branding guidelines and corporate colors for continuity.
  7. Try to avoid using typefaces smaller than 10 pt.
  8. Go big.  Postage is your biggest cost in mailing a postcard.  We suggest using a card that is close to 6” x 11”.
  9. Use high quality paper that will endure the mailing process and look good on arrival.
  10. When in doubt, hire it out. You get one chance to make an impression.

Those small businesses that throw these guidelines to the wind and have their cousin or secretary design their postcards create doubt in the minds of their prospects. A poorly designed, flimsy card leaves a prospects thinking…

  • Did they print this on their home computer?
  • Did they shoot the photos themselves?
  • Should I trust them with my business when they look like they operate on a shoe-string budget?

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Bigger is Only Better When You Nail the Design

Skyline Roofing invested in mailing full color 8.5 x 11 postcards. And while it stood out in a pile of mail, it did not stand out for the right reasons in regards to design. Here are the reasons Skyline Roofing’s card looks more amateur than professional.

  1. While the picture on the front may be compelling, it looks out of focus and like a cellphone took it. The photo includes too many distractions such as full and empty glasses of beer, milk crates, charcoal bags, buckets, and what appears to be a drill or calking gun by the window.
  2. The image isn’t sized properly to bleed off the page and wastes 1/6 of the oversized postcard layout.
  3. The front of the card headline is too small. It uses a serif font in white, which makes it difficult to read. Serif fonts (with the feet) can be hard to read when reversed white on black.
  4. The designer had typeface ADD. There are at least five fonts used on the back of the card.  This creates too much distraction for the reader.
  5. The offer is buried and open ended. Putting a deadline on the chances to enter a drawing creates a sense of urgency. Moving the offer to the front of the card is also an improvement.
  6. The body copy is centered instead of flush left. Maybe this is a personal preference, but I just think it looks bad.
  7. The placement of the company logo and Better Business Bureau logo appears random. Images, logos, etc. should always have a purpose with where they are located.
  8. When I visited the landing page I found the message “Whoops Page Not Found.” Skyline must have removed it shortly after the mailing rather than leaving it up for at least 12 months for those prospects who keep the card and call many months later.  I don’t know about you, but just because I got a postcard doesn’t mean I need a roof TODAY.
  9. Spot color usage of red, yellow, purple, green, and blue appear random. Determine a brand color guide and then stick with it.
  10. Personalizing the front of the card with the prospects name via variable data printing could have pushed response into the double digits.  Adding other variable elements – like age of people in the photos or types of homes may have helped drive results.

My postcard assessment either makes your feel really good about your direct mail efforts or perhaps you learned something to correct in your next mailing. Let us know what your takeaway was in the comment box below.


Will Marketers Get Their Ears Pinned back with Pinterest? A brief lesson in copyright ownership.

Pinterest, Pin it, copyrightIf you are using Pinterest for business purposes, consider the ramifications. There are copyright laws that apply to all pins.

While many companies and artists ignore copyright violations, the companies or individuals that sue usually win. Copyright violations can be quite costly, running from $750 upwards to $150,000. One website owner recently paid $4,000 in damages for using a $10 stock photo without permission even though they removed the photo promptly after receiving a takedown notice. (Source:  Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations,

If you’re on the fence about using Pinterest as a promotional strategy for your business, know that the only fool-proof way to build boards is with original content and photos your company owns or has gained written approval to use.


Pinterest’s Terms of Use

Pinterest’s terms of use clearly state that anything you post is yours to use exclusively or that you have obtained the rights or license to use it.

“You represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy…”

Even more inhibiting, Pinterest’s terms of use also state that you are giving Pinterest permission to distribute, sublicense, and sell your posted content. Its terms go as far to give Pinterest the rights to use, copy, and adapt your content. In short this means Pinterest can replace affiliate links you’ve embedded with ones that earn money for Pinterest. (SOURCE:  GreekGeek)


Pinning for Profits Not Pleasure

Businesses are not protected by Pinterest’s terms. As a business you are on Pinterest to promote your business. Any businesses’ use of content or repining is considered marketing.

If you’re posting another artist’s image or content without permission, he or she deserves compensation according to copyright laws. Many politicians learned this lesson the hard way during the last presidential election when many played pop music that wasn’t licensed to them. The outcome was tens of thousands of dollars paid in penalties.

The safest way to use Pinterest is to post a steady stream of your own content, according to Brian Heidelberger law partner at Advertising, Marketing and Entertainment Law Practice of Winston & Strawn.

For this reason, many companies are leaving the pinning for personal users during off hour.  CMOs are carefully considering their position regarding Pinterest and many have simply decided the liability to their brand is not worth the effort.

If I’ve rained on your promotional parade or made you rethink your current pinning strategy, consider the plight of the artists, photographers, and content creators who loose revenue when their content is used without permission and goes viral.

Blogger and photographer Amy Locurto’s friend and fellow creative found that only five in 100 copies of her heart cake photo and recipe were credited back to her.

On Pinterest, once you pin, that pin becomes the rights of Pinterest and all control is lost of crediting it back to the you yet all the liability remains on your shoulders – you first pinned it you are responsible for it.

Pinterest writes:

“You acknowledge and agree that, to the maximum extent permitted by law, the entire risk arising out of your access to and use of the site, application, services and site content remains with you.”

This is why one lawyer who is also a photographer removed all her Pinterest boards. Will you do the same?


Free eBook Helps You Knock it Out of the Park with Variable Data

VDP, Variable Data, Personalized Communication, Ebook, Variable Data PrintingDon Peppers and Martha Rogers began preaching 1:1 marketing for 19 years – the era of Web 1.0. Peppers and Rogers got on the 1:1 soapbox in 1993 with their bestseller, The One to One Future.  To speak to your customers 1:1 in the 90s, a company had to do it through phone calls, lunches, small seminars, individual letters, mass mailings with a personal note scribbled on the bottom or expensive custom pitches.

Not today. If you do the right prep work, you can speak to hundreds, even thousands of customers 1:1 through variable data printing.  The only drawback is you have to slow down long enough to ensure you’re collecting the right data on each customer. You need to know them, their family, and their buying preferences intimately. You also need to make sure that you are aligned with a partner to establish your data extraction and print processes to make your marketing pieces truly speak 1:1.

Download this newly released eBook, Unlocking More ROI through VDP, which gives you more than 50 pages addressing the ins and outs of variable data printing along with three bonus case studies documenting the double digit results three national companies gained through VDP.

Variable data printing or 1:1 marketing is also known as database printing. With the numerous case studies validating variable data printing’s lift and today’s advancement of data capture technology, it is still surprising only a fraction of companies use it.

The four companies below have grasped the single message source (store) to the single recipient (household) concept and built their CRM systems around it.  These VDP rockstars consistently deliver a “mom and pop” or first-name personalization and purchase preference to millions.

  1. American Red Cross — Red Cross keeps its global mission highly personalized by putting a real face and name on its donor request mailings.
  2. Ferrellgas — This national propane company with 900-plus locations uses variable data printing to increase opt ins to its Will Call Campaign. By using variable data printing and print automating technology to speed their message to their customers Ferrellgas saved over 100 hours of staff time and increased response rate by as much as 30% depending on the season.
  3. Harrah’s Casino — is the second-largest casino operator in the U.S.  Harrah’s keeps gamers returning to its casinos with highly personalized direct mail pieces and frequent-gambler cards that account for its $3.7 billion in revenue (the highest 3-year returns in the industry). SOURCE:
  4. Target — Target builds individual shopper profiles then designs and mails personalized self mailers and emails featuring products and coupons based on each recipient’s previous purchases.  They send their customers coupons and offers that make sense based on past buying habits and complex algorithms for future buying patterns. SOURCE:  XMPIE

As you can see by the four VDP rockstars above, execution of any 1:1 customer campaign involves blending operations with sales, marketing and your CRM system. More than likely you have everything you need to start today. Start revving up your return on investment through VDP and add your name to this list of rock star marketers.


DownloadReport Free eBook Helps You Knock it Out of the Park with Variable Data


5 Ways to Get Your Social Media Campaign Rolling

marbles, ball, rolling, marketingSocial networks began on college campuses. It didn’t take long for them to become part of our daily lives. A few years later, we were connected with friends on the other side of the world. The networks then went through a commercial revolution, where companies realized their connectivity, and how many prospective customers they could reach.

The brains behind social networks realized companies would pay to place advertisements on their networks. This led to the marriage of social networks and business. That marriage led to the birth of social media marketing. Social media marketing has grown up from the awkwardness of adolescence. Gone are the days of lamenting about adolescent issues (like competition for popularity and learning who can be trusted).

Social media marketing now is into adulthood. It knows its role among its peers (print marketing, websites, etc.), is aware of its importance in society, and knows that it has expectations to live up to.

But how does all of this impact companies?

Here’s a little secret – social media has always been social. For years, many companies bypassed this unspoken principle. They simply repeated a strategy they’ve used in other forms of marketing – promoting the company, its products and services. This strategy worked for a short time on social networks.

But social media currently is undergoing a renaissance, returning to why social networks started in the first place. Social media is getting back to social.

It sounds sexy – renaissance. But to companies still trying to understand social media, it’s probably intimidating. Why should your company be more social on social media? Social media helps companies connect on a personal level to gain the trust and loyalty of their customers.

Rhetorical question alert: Does your company want more trusting, loyal customers?

The good news: A social media marketing strategy that gets your company “back to social” can be implemented with just a little time and a few tweaks to an existing social media campaign.

Here are five ways to get you started.

1. First, step back — Look at your current strategy. If you’re posting information only about your company, you’ll need new content. Some ideas for getting back to social:

-Pictures from a company social event

-Blogs about client accomplishments

-Videos of your staff doing volunteer work in your community

-Information about community social events

2. Plan — You must have a social media marketing plan that includes the who, what, when, where and why of your company. Who will your company target and who will implement the plan? What content will you post? Where will this content come from? Where will you engage with your audience? When will you post? Why are you doing social media marketing?

3. Have some fun — Just like social gatherings, social networks are built for fun. Social media is the place to shake the corporate jargon and use terms like “LOL.” Sometimes a situation will arise that requires a more serious response, but most of the time, have fun.

4. Engage — If your company only talks about itself on social media, congratulations, you’re officially on a Soap Box. Instead of telling your social media followers about your company, ask them questions, listen, and then respond. It’s a great way to get to know your followers, and it makes your company seem more personable. People buy from brands they connect with on a personal level.

5. If they don’t come to you, go to them — Social networks are filled with gatherings of people with similar interests (LinkedIn Groups, Facebook pages, etc.). If your company finds it difficult to attain social media followers, go out and get them. Begin with geographic groups based on your home city. Start conversations with your target audience where they already hang out online, and they’ll come to you online.

The social media renaissance has begun. Get your company back to social and experience the opportunities and rewards of social media marketing.


Why Should You Care that Mail Print Got an Operational Seal of Approval?

Audit AICPA SOC, Data, Security, Database, Management, Audit, The American Institute of CPAs awarded Mail Print its seal of approval for operational and system controls this summer. Before I lose you, let me tell you why this endorsement is a huge deal and impacts the way we do business together.

Data is often time the most valuable asset a company can own. Security and data privacy policies work to protect your customers from an accidental compromise of their sensitive information and adherence to strict regulatory laws. Keeping data secure can be costly, time consuming and a worry for companies that work with this type of information. A data breach can be a threat to an organization’s business, as well as to the personal lives of their consumers.

As a data-driven business, 85% of the files we print come directly off our client’s servers vs. being walked into our office on a portable file. Mail Print takes seriously the efforts of operating secure, safe, and efficient processes – especially since we are directly tapped into the servers of many of our clients. So to stay ahead of the risks associated with facility security, information systems, data communications, server integrity, and environmental controls, we voluntarily participated and paid for this third-party audit.

By having “all eyes” examine the general controls supporting our direct marketing and printing services, you can be assured that when working with us you will not receive a corrupt file, be exposed to a data breach, lost data, or delays in production because of risks we should have known about and addressed.


You Can Trust Us With Your Proprietary Information

Because the company pulls proprietary data directly from many of its hospitality, healthcare, nonprofit, and retail clients, we are particularly cautious. Mail Print allocates a percentage of their annual budget to ensure all systems are in place to secure the data and meet its customer’s deadlines.

“Our successful audit validates that we make the handling and security of customer data a top priority,” says COO Eric Danner. “We are one of the few in our industry that annually invest in third-party audits to scrutinize our processes, people and systems.”

Key findings of the audit Mail Print’s SOC1-SSAE 16 Type II Audit were:

Audit Findings What it Means to You
All servers and workstations use anti-virus protection, which conducts routine scans. You’ll never have to worry about corrupt files.
Critical company data is backed up, redundantly, from computers, workstations, shipping machines and presses. You’ll never have to worry about lost data.
Data classification methodology is used to identify and classify sensitive data in the production process We process but don’t look at sensitive data such as health care info or financial data.
Encryption methods are in place and utilized for processing and storing of sensitive data such as credit card and HIPAA-protected information Hacking won’t be a problem.
Our office is secure and employees are heavily screened and hired based on performance and ethics You’ll be working with stand up people.

Feel better? We know we do.