Friday, September 4, 2020

Why Direct Mail Postcards are Worth Every Penny

Although postcards are one of today’s beloved print pieces, they had a humble beginning.


The earliest postcard dates back to 1840 when an English man named Theodore Hook sent one to himself. By 1861, the US Congress allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent through the mail. That year, John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard, and by 1901 postcards were a regular part of mailed communication.


Generate Huge Exposure with Just One Mailing


Fast forward a century. 


Postcards are now an essential marketing option for many businesses, and with good reason. These versatile tools represent a huge opportunity for companies that do it right.


And the results are compelling. One real estate agent makes $5,000 to $20,000 in commissions every time she runs a direct mail campaign. A Texas dentist added six figures in new revenue thanks to one mailing. And a financial services firm spent a few thousand dollars to net dozens of new clients with an average value of $1,500 each.


Why are postcards so effective?


According to UnitedMail, 79 percent of people act on direct mail immediately (while only 45 percent do so for email). More than two-thirds of consumers open all of their mail, even easily recognizable junk. And this is especially true for young people! According to the U.S. Postal Service, 36 percent of people under age 30 look forward to checking their mail, and 37 percent of the coveted 25- to 35-year-old demographic immediately read their mail.


Since postcards are so visually accessible, they are read frequently and generate huge exposure. When businesses target specific audiences and link to tailored landing pages on their website, they can spark considerable revenue with just one mailing.


Postcards generate fast results, and they work for any business. As long as you have a clear marketing strategy and great graphic design, postcards will work for you!


4 Keys for Designs that Deliver


When you are ready to launch your direct mail postcard, here are four keys for generating compelling, actionable designs:


1. Design with Your Audience in Mind


If there’s one mistake common to most marketers, it is this: assuming your audience knows the terminology of your industry.


Whether you’re a financial advisor or a chiropractor, frame your ideas in words that would make sense to anyone. 


2. Paint a Picture of the Problem You Can Solve


People won’t read every word you share, so don’t bury the lead.


Immediately communicate the problem your business can fix. Center your writing around how your product can make people’s lives easier or better.


3. Use Simple, Crisp Graphics


The image on your postcard should be instantly recognizable.


While it may be fun to try something clever, this often confuses the audience. Since you have mere seconds to communicate an idea, your image should reinforce the concept in a strong, obvious way.


4. Add Bulleted Lists and Distinct Next Steps


Readers won’t engage with longer text, so shoot for punchy subheadings or bulleted items that clarify value.


People want more than just a phone number or a web link. Be specific with CTAs like, “subscribe to ___ for ______” or “call today for your free consultation!” 


Let Our Team Mail for You


Ready to expand your reach with a focused direct mail campaign?


Save on stress and expense by consolidating your creative processes. Our full-service design specialists can provide the artwork, the printing, and even the mailing services. To get a quote, visit our website today! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Generate Innovative Solutions with Strategic Design Thinking

Several years ago, a truck driver tried to pass under a low bridge.


Underestimating the truck height, the driver became firmly lodged under the bridge, unable to move his vehicle forward or backward. Emergency workers and city engineers gathered onsite, debating whether they should dismantle the truck or chip away parts of the bridge. Each proposed a solution most aligned with their area of expertise.


Just then, a boy walked by, observed the intense debate, and made a casual comment. “Why not just let the air out of the tires?”


When the solution was tested, the truck squeezed forward with ease, suffering only slight damage to his cab. The specialists were amazed at the solution and also by the fact that they were initially blind to an answer a child could easily recognize. 


A Human-Centric Way of Thinking


This story symbolizes the struggles we face when the most obvious solutions are hard to recognize.


That’s just one reason strategic design thinking has become so prevalent in business. Design thinking is a solution-based, human-centric approach to solving problems, one that embodies both a particular way of thinking and a collection of hands-on methods. In business, design thinking allows you to look at things through your customers’ eyes while devising meaningful, profitable solutions. 


Design thinking can be helpful because it pushes you to challenge existing assumptions, redefine problems, and uncover options. It is especially useful for creatively devising alternatives and prototypes with a team. While there can be three to seven phases in this process, many people find five modes to be particularly helpful. These stages do not have to follow any specific order and can occur in parallel or repeat iteratively.


5 Stages to Shaping Nimble, Profitable Ideas


Here’s how to implement the five-stage process of design thinking with your team.


1. Observe with Empathy


The first step in design thinking is to empathize with your clients and partners, investing in conversations, and identifying hidden needs by living the customer experience


During the 2020 pandemic, one design-build storage company noticed a significant uptick in interest for luxury storage sheds (can you say “man cave?”). Before pumping out products, team leaders spent considerable time with prospects, architects, and manufacturers. By looking at things from the customers’ perspective, the storage specialists became intimately acquainted with changing markets and how demand should drive innovation.


2. Define the Problem


Once you genuinely live and understand your customers’ needs, you can redefine the problem and approach it from different angles.


Through conversations with many families, designers from the storage company realized that a post-pandemic need was not for increased storage but for alternate living spaces that were affordable, durable, and even portable.


3. Ideate with Your Team


The next step is to develop solutions by involving all internal and external team members.


The wider your base, the more imaginative you can be. Creative sessions led our Midwest storage specialists to develop prefabricated backyard offices, “granny” pods, and even elegant miniature lake cabins that could be delivered and assembled on site.


4. Prototype Rapidly


After quickly building and releasing designs, it is important to make your ideas as nimble and customizable as possible.


Whether you add a “Most Popular Items” section to your website or you give customers access to “build it yourself” 3D configurator software, speed and wide-ranging accessibility are key.


5. Test and Validate 


Design thinking is an adaptable process.


Results from prototype tests may show that you’ve misinterpreted customer behaviors and needs in steps one and two. That’s ok! From here, you can return to previous steps and tweak solutions so they are best tailored for current needs. View every blueprint as a living document, and keep working to capture the right opportunities in the right way. 


As you test solutions with your team, you will unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve the end product.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Embrace Conflict and Diversity to Grow the Strongest Possible Teams

2020 has been a time of unrest, listening, and re-evaluating priorities.


Businesses have been particularly challenged to examine their own biases and to proactively seek the well-being of all people. While topics of diversity and inclusion can be difficult to navigate, strong leaders recognize that a variety of opinions and backgrounds bring a better result.


At P&G, this mindset drives leaders to embrace conflicting opinions. To create an inclusive environment, supervisors try not to shy away from disagreements or heated discussions:


“Accessing diverse points of view is vital in creating optimum strategies and plans,” said Geraldine Huse, CEO & chairman of the board. “An inclusive leader creates an environment where disagreement is viewed positively. I have learned from experience that the more diverse the team, the more debate and disagreement we have and the better the outcome . . . Listening to people, understanding and solving problems collectively, taking advantage of all the diverse experience – this is what makes an inclusive leader successful.”


Leadership is Influence


No factor plays a bigger role in creating a company’s culture than its leadership. 


Many people think of leadership as a top-down, closed circle of directors. But real leadership is influence, so scientists describe leadership differently. Specifically, leaders are people who can navigate a psychological process that enables individuals to improve collective actions. The best teams are comprised of people who set aside individual, selfish agendas to work as a cohesive unit. Here, groups achieve something powerful they could never accomplish alone.


If you want to develop effective, influential leaders, collaboration is key. While there is no simple method for building an inclusive corporate culture, here are three traits you can encourage in yourself and others.


Humility


Being in charge doesn’t mean you are right.


Read that sentence again, because we all need to hear it! One of the primary reasons you’ll fail to grow as a leader is your temptation toward pride. Just because you feel confident about something doesn’t mean you couldn’t be wrong. Humble leaders are willing to listen to others, to admit weakness, and to change their minds.


Courage


People who influence others are those who drive change.


But this can be very uncomfortable! While it is rarely convenient to challenge the status quo, innovation and diversity can’t flourish in static environments. In particular, courageous leaders are clear on their values and principles, but they are brave enough to do things differently. As Dr. Carol Dweck once said, the word FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning.”


Courageous leaders can walk away from unproductive situations, and they view diversity as an opportunity rather than a challenge.


Curiosity


Leaders are learners, and no trait is as foundational for growth as curiosity.


Curious leaders are interested in other people and don’t shy away from those different than them. They are eager to understand why people think the way they do, and they aren’t afraid to engage with those who disagree.


To be a curious learner, ask a lot of questions (even dumb questions!). Work to suspend your embedded attitudes, experiences, or assumptions, and lean into a mental or emotional state where things “might” fail. Allow people to explore imaginary outcomes with phrases like, “could it be?” or “what if?” Then listen without judgment to learn.


Fuel Synergy From Diversity


Do you want to build a culture where everyone can thrive?


Leaders who can create a strong synergy out of diverse (or even opposite!) individual elements will embrace conflict and welcome different perspectives. By reducing the homogeneity of groupthink, you will maximize collaboration, encourage personal and corporate well-being, and keep your decision-making biases in check.

Friday, August 7, 2020

What to Do When You're Tempted to Give Up on Your Business

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”


- NFL Coach Vince Lombardi


 


Should I give up?


It’s the question that hits every aspiring leader at some point. It’s a seed of doubt rooted deep in our emotions and our identities as humans.


As an entrepreneur, you will continuously face discouragement that threatens to cheat you out of hope and possibility. When you are tempted to quit on your business, what should you do?


Rest is Best


While there are many things you can do to combat discouragement, one of the best things is also the simplest: REST.


Making decisions when you are fatigued or depressed can have long-lasting consequences. A pessimistic outlook can shape the trajectory of a decision, leading to poor outcomes down the road. And weariness has real effects: one study found that U.S. clinicians were 26% more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics to patients during the fourth hour of work on a typical day.


When you feel beat down or uncertain, get a few good nights of sleep, take a vacation, or focus on a different aspect of a challenging project for a bit. Taking time to replenish your emotional and mental resources is one of the best decisions you can make.


Look for Opportunities


When you only focus on problems, the result is restlessness, anxiety, and ulcers.


Instead, push yourself to look for opportunities. In the COVID-19 season, that’s what many businesses are doing.


Sugarbird Sweets and Tea, a California-based scone specialist, grounded their business in selling sweets and teas wholesale to restaurants and hotels. But once stay-at-home orders were issued, these catering orders dried up and clients disappeared:


“Within three weeks, we were down 95 percent of our revenue,” said Kei Okumura, founder and owner of Los Angeles-based Sugarbird Sweets. “We had to quickly pivot to support and provide our services to consumers, direct.”


Sugarbird made an intentional shift from catering to individual online orders. This meant upgrading their platforms and shipping logistics to better serve current and future customers. Okumera says that, though this has been challenging, she sees the rapid increase in online presence as a push toward growth: 


“I think it’s a good thing—I think it’s a great thing,” Okumura said about going online. “If I could ship this nationwide with hubs across the nation, so I can do two-day shipping to New York or to the Midwest, that would be fantastic.”


While this season is demanding, it can push every entrepreneur to tighten their business plan and drop any distractions.


Reconnect with Your Why


People are most tempted to quit when their business isn’t making money, or it’s just not fun anymore.


A business won’t survive long if enjoyment or profit are the only things driving you. So, when you’re feeling weary, re-examine the greater meaning that motivates you. Get with other trusted friends and talk through questions like these:



  • What do we love to do?

  • What was the difference we set out to make in people’s lives through this business?

  • How does our company or idea bring distinct value, comfort, or joy?

  • Why is our company unique?

The Heart of Every Entrepreneur


While ideas come and go, entrepreneurship is an identity.


To be an entrepreneur is to declare that your mission is to create extraordinary value in the world. Businesses are just vehicles for that value creation, so while the outward form of your business may change, your heart as an entrepreneur will not.

Friday, July 31, 2020

5 Best-Value Print Products to Increase Your Sales

Advertising dollars are sometimes in short supply, and it can be hard to know where to invest yours. 


Print marketing is alive and strong, but if your budget is limited, you may need to focus on a few thoughtfully-crafted items. Here are five pieces that can stretch your dollar the farthest.


1. Business Cards


First impressions can make or break your business, and a positive experience can create long-lasting relationships. 


Despite our online connections, business cards continue as a staple of every industry, because of their role in the branding experience. These cards hold more than just contact details: smart strategists view them as a glance into a company’s quality, personality, or services. 


While they are inexpensive to print, their impact is significant! 


2. Targeted Postcards


A physical object in their hands gives your message palpable weight. 


And recent stats bring news of impressive direct mail response rates. In 2018, postcards sent to generic prospect lists generated a 4.9% response rate, while targeted household mailing lists generated 9%. Thanks to technological advancements, today you can send content-tailored mail to people who actually look forward to it, prompting a higher response!


Want to step it up a notch? Today’s printing capabilities allow you to dream and DO almost anything with sizing, shapes, or finishes. Think outside the rectangle with tri-fold layouts, square promo cards, or coupons with detachable referral slips that people can give a friend.


3. Presentation Folders


Want a tasteful way to share your message?


Presentation folders allow you to distribute information in a convenient, memorable package. Offering people a stack of papers is a good way to have your marketing thrown away quickly, while packaging pricing information, brochures, and contracts in a folder is a great way to keep documents safe and front-of-mind. Containing anything from USB flash drives to stepped insert flyers, even smaller folders can offer the business solution you need. Here are two examples:


Use a 3 * 7-inch promo (including a business card, personal introductory flyer, and coupon incentive) to share during informal introductions or social gatherings.


Try a 4 * 9-inch pocketed folder (including a business card cutout slot, stacked product promos, and customized question/answer flyer) to use during client meetings or referral contacts.


4. Retractable Banners


Want to put your message front and center? 


Gain exposure for your brand with classy custom banners! Retractable banners radiate excellence, and can be used for retail spaces, special events, trade shows, and more. Portable and cost-effective, retractable banners are well-suited for changing out banner prints, ensuring your message stands tall in the busiest pedestrian spaces. 


5. Catalogs


Ready to give catalogs or booklets some consideration? 


You should. Studies from the Data & Marketing Association show that the response rate for catalogs is increasing, partially because younger people enjoy catalogs:


“Millennials stand out a bit higher than other generations in terms of engaging with mail,” said Neil O’Keefe, the association’s senior vice president of marketing and content. “Millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So, the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise.”


The return rate on catalogs can be especially effective when you reach the right audience at the right time. According to CNBC, catalogs sent to key customers at strategic times yield an average return of $3 for every $1 invested – and up to $9 for every $1 invested when sent to the very best customers.


Look Your Best in Print


Print marketing is an effective way to generate leads, make sales, and solidify customer loyalty. 


Ready to start your next masterpiece? From first-glance flyers to head-turning portfolio pieces, we’ll resource you with compelling pieces that make your reputation shine.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Overcome Nervousness in Your Video-Conference Meetings

If you were called to stand up and give an impromptu speech, would you flourish or would you flee?


One of the world’s richest men said he used to be so scared of public speaking that he was “terrified of getting up and saying [his] name.” Warren Buffett spent most of his college years avoiding courses with group speaking elements, and even signed up for a public speaking course but dropped out at the last minute.


Beating Back the Butterflies


Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is believed to affect at least 75 percent of the population.


From small butterflies to full-on panic, public speaking causes many to tremble. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked that some people report that they fear public speaking more than death, so “if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!”


With the 2020 pandemic thrusting us into a new world of virtual meetings, this discomfort can be amplified. Professors and teachers around the world report teaching to dark blank squares, as students turn off cameras and “hide” from their cohorts.


In real-life groups, we don’t feel the same pressure to perform socially as we might through online platforms. Experts say that 15 percent of our communication is done verbally, and 85 percent is sent through body language, so the extra effort it takes to engage through socially distant meetups can be especially stressful.


How can you overcome this discomfort? Here are recommendations from the pros:


Adjust Your Camera at Eye Level


Don’t have the webcam pointed up at you, or you’ll offer teammates a revealing glance at your nose hairs or double chin.


Eye to eye is the best, so even if it feels weird, try to look directly at the camera (straight ahead) as you speak. If necessary, stack books under your device until your webcam is eye level.


Look at Others While You Listen


Perhaps you’re distracted by seeing yourself onscreen and feel more self-conscious as a result.


Adjust your lighting and image touch-ups at the start of a meeting, then do your best to look at others, not yourself.


Treat the Meeting Like an Ordinary Group Discussion


Forget the idea that a video meeting can make or break you.


Treat these like ordinary conversations or casual brainstorming sessions. Speak in a relaxed tone, act like yourself, and show engagement by nodding, leaning forward to listen, or tilting your head to “give them your ear.”


Practice an “Others First” Mindset


During public speaking, you feel “all eyes” watching you.


This can be painfully vulnerable, like a caveman exposed in daylight. While you may want to shrink back, calm your anxiety by focusing on your desire to encourage others. Sarah Gershman, President of Green Room Speakers, says this:


“The key to disarming our organic panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves — away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will like us — and toward helping the audience.


“Studies have shown that . . . showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response. When we are kind to others, we feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in public speaking. When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and start to feel less nervous.”


Before you chime in to share, make small bullet points of what you want to contribute, so you are focused on connection and less critical of your own, awkward voice.


Finally, building confidence takes time. Each time you participate, push yourself to do a bit more.  Unlearning self-conscious thoughts and fears won’t kill you. But it will take practice! So what better time to try?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

5 Thoughtful Strategies for Advertising During the Pandemic

If you’re like many people, you’ve probably been more conservative in your spending lately.


Recent research shows that, during the pandemic, many people were rationing food to save on expenses and grocery runs, and 23% of people were eating more plant-based meals. Discretionary spending has decreased, and consumers are shifting to digital solutions and reduced-contact channels to receive services.


On a larger scale, consumers worldwide say they expect the pandemic to affect their routines or spending for at least two to four months.


A Shift in Content and Scope


In recent months, many companies have shifted the scope and content of their marketing efforts as well.


Instead of pushing products and promotions, proactive businesses have focused on building relationships and adding humanness to their brand, including inspirational direct mail newsletters, heartfelt emails, and down-to-earth videos.


In one example, eBay championed small businesses that power the nation with its “Stronger as One” ad. Other companies highlighted safety changes and customer convenience options, like this “Call In / Pull In / Pick Up” curbside delivery ad:


“During these challenging times, we are here for you. We are making changes moment by moment to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. And what matters most is doing this together, for the community that we all call home.”


A Vision for Marketing Beyond COVID-19


Beyond connecting and empathizing, what is next for marketing beyond coronavirus?


For starters, you’ll need a commitment to move forward. Research shows that 92% of consumers believe brands need to keep advertising. Ads offer people a glimpse at a prosperous future or something hopeful to look forward, and your marketing gives people a welcome taste of distraction, entertainment, and normalcy.


Also, if the firms competing against you have lowered their ad output, now is a great time for you to invest more. As others scale back, your ads are more visible, allowing you to gather leads with a lower cost-per-acquisition.


And even if the economy seems shaky, pulling back now may actually lengthen the time it takes you to recover. If you need to tighten expenses, don’t turn off your marketing. Instead, look at ways you can rethink intake, client services, or business expenses in general.


Need some concrete marketing ideas? Here are five types of ads to consider:


1. A Product Focus


Showcase how your product is safe, accessible, or helps people strengthen their health or physical well-being.


2. A People Focus


Show prospects you care about them and that your business is standing with them during this time. This Fitbit ad offers its premium package for 90 days to help people work out at home, manage stress, and eat and sleep better during COVID-19: “Thank you for doing what you can. We’re all in this together.”


3. A Values Focus


Here you might feature positive company values or champion the solidarity and togetherness of your community.


4. A Nostalgia Focus


When things feel uncertain, old songs or vintage photos can bypass the brain and connect straight to the heart.


5. A Humor Focus


While being sensitive to people’s pain, you can still connect with your audience through humor during challenging seasons. Encourage people to laugh at their weaknesses or make the most of this strange season, like this Ben & Jerry’s “Netflix and Chill’d” campaign.


Though it may seem counterintuitive to up your print output today, now is the time to invest in a strong comeback after COVID-19.


With today’s carefully crafted message, you can ahead of shifting customer needs and shape people’s long-term expectations. As your partner in print, we are open, and we are ready to help! Contact us today to visit more.