Posts By :

    Frank Scussa

    press checks image

    Use Press Checks to Check on Your Printer, not Your Project

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    People who have been in the printing industry a long time can easily remember when press checks were a common occurrence. As recently as 10 years ago, clients would head to their printer’s facility and review test sheets hot off the press to make sure colors were correct, no text was missing, registration was good, and there were no quality issues, such as hickeys or pinholes. Printing technology advancements have made press checks all but obsolete today, but modern marketers might want to consider occasionally scheduling one as an opportunity to evaluate their print partner.

    In the old days, clients were at their printer frequently, mainly to perform press checks. They would do checks for any project that required precise color reproduction. Clients would sit in a room, press sheets would be brought to them to review, and the press operator would make color adjustments by eye to get the piece just the way the client wanted. Through these visits, clients became familiar with the facility, probably took a tour and even got to know some employees.

    Nowadays, industry color standards, advanced proofing devices, precise ink mixing and presses equipped with computerized color matching are producing more predictable results, which seldom vary from the proofs clients see prior to printing. With more consistent reproduction, clients don’t feel the need to dedicate time to a press check. Whereas Perfect used to host several press checks a week, we only do 15 a year now.

    Depending on a client’s standards, they currently only do a press check for “experimental” projects, or perhaps the first job with a new print partner, or when a project uses a color stock or synthetic material. Additionally, clients seem to only check brand pieces and art-like prints on press these days.

    Because press checks are so infrequent, clients seldom go to their printer’s facility anymore. Many clients have never visited their printer.

    Have you ever met a press operator? Have you met your customer service representative face-to-face?

    If you consistently order from your printer, you may want to consider using a press check as a way to get to know them better. You can tell a lot about a print partner by visiting their facility.

    Is it clean? Do they take pride in the building’s appearance? If they do, they probably take pride in their work.

    When there, pay attention to how they conduct the press check.

    Does the press check start on time? Do you feel welcome? Does your host introduce you to other employees? Do you get the sense they just want to get the check over with, or are they trying to meet your needs?

    Even a gesture as simple as giving you a sample press sheet to bring back to your colleagues can make you feel valued.

    If you decide to schedule a press check, here are some pointers for conducting it:

      • Make sure the printer is using the correct stock
      • Check the registration
      • Look for consistent color across pages
      • Fold or trim down the sheet to see what it will look like finished
      • Check color of images
      • Bring along your branding guide or a PMS swatch book

    Unfortunately, a press check is not the time to find typos, copy mistakes or other items that should have been caught during the proofing stage. You can request changes during a press check, but anything beyond color adjustments will frequently include additional costs, so beware.

    digital printing quantities

    With Digital Printing, a Brand Can Print for an Audience of One

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    Years ago, when offset printing was the primary way to produce print materials commercially, if you were a small business or small organization looking to get materials professionally printed, it was practically impossible if you weren’t printing hundreds or thousands of pieces. The setup costs associated with offset printing made it just too darn expensive.

    Luckily, this began to change when digital printing emerged in the early 2000s. At that time, buyers gained the chance to professionally print materials in digital printing quantities as few as 1,000 or even 500 pieces. Not small numbers, but better than what was possible before.

    As digital printing technology continued to improve, affordable digital printing quantities grew smaller and smaller over the years. In fact, digital printing has improved so much, its quality now rivals that of traditional offset. So, print companies that run both offset and digital workflows can now affordably produce almost any quantity a buyer may need.

    Because of this, marketers should never dismiss print as a viable marketing communication channel because they think their audience is too small. Nowadays, a “short run” can be as few as five pieces, or even one piece, depending on what is being printed. Run length has become almost irrelevant in decision-making. The determining factors for whether projects are produced digitally or offset have more to do with turnaround time and other requirements now.

    Small brands have not been the only beneficiaries of the evolution in digital printing. Large companies have benefitted from another digital printing feature—personalization. Digital printing provides the ability to customize print pieces for individuals or segments of an audience. This personalization results in better brand connection and customer engagement. Large brands, with mounds of customer data, have been able to leverage this digital printing feature the most.

    Digital printing has brought another benefit to companies of all sizes—printing on demand. In the old days, companies used to print tons of materials and they’d end up recycling sizable portions of their inventory. With digital printing, brands can print exactly what they need, when they need it. They don’t have to inventory materials because new digital printing quantities can be produced quickly if needed.

    Digital printing has leveled the playing field for small and large brands in terms of how well they can present themselves in print. Once only a mass communication channel for large companies, brands as small as sole proprietors can now produce professional-quality print materials in short, affordable quantities.

    measure direct mail

    You Can Easily Measure Your Direct Mail Campaign Effectiveness

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    According to recent data from the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail generates significant response. When using a house list, marketers can achieve a 9% response rate. The rate for prospect lists comes in at 5%. The conditions driving these rates are consumers’ high trust in print and their preference for receiving direct mail promotions over digital.

    Yet, despite these obviously strong response rates, some brands are still hesitant to commit to direct mail. They cite its high cost and prolonged production process as two factors influencing their decision. But the most often mentioned reason for not fully investing in direct mail is a perceived lack of trackability.

    Some marketers question how they can accurately monitor the success of their direct mail campaigns. They can’t seem to quantify their return on investment, and it can be hard for them to precisely attribute sales and leads to their campaigns since many other factors can contribute to conversions and customer inquiries. In actuality, with proper planning and an understanding of the approaches available, you can easily measure the effectiveness of your direct mail.

    The importance of tracking and measuring your direct mail campaigns cannot be overstated. Without measurement, you won’t know how well the channel works for your product or service. Luckily, there are several ways to measure effectiveness. The challenge comes in setting up detailed tracking methods prior to your mailing and sticking with them over time. Just be sure to keep in mind that all points of contact on your direct mail piece—phone number, web address, etc.—should be considered trackable.

    The simplest way to measure response doesn’t take much effort at all. When you communicate with a new customer or prospect, ask them how they heard of you. The same approach can be taken with your online forms. Include direct mail among the options that customers can select to answer this question on whatever form they’re filling out.

    Other ways to track direct mail include discount codes and campaign-specific URLs. With discount codes, your customers provide the code from their direct mail piece when they make their purchase. You can know right away how successful your campaign is by measuring the number of codes used. The same can be said for campaign-specific URLs. By putting a web address on your printed piece, you can direct recipients to a landing page or a specific page on your website. Then, using your website analytics, you can see how many visitors followed the campaign URL to the destination.

    Call tracking is another approach you can use. You put a dedicated phone number on your mail piece that tracks calls coming into your organization. An added benefit of this approach is the chance to record the calls. These recordings can then be used for quality assurance or customer service training.

    In cases when a purchase is not made at the end of a customer’s direct mail journey, the next most important thing a brand can walk away with is the identity of the customer who expressed interest in the offer by taking some action that fell short of the purchase, like visiting a landing page. Methods such as call tracking, asking how a customer heard of you, and even discount codes can identify individual leads. Traditionally, other approaches, like a campaign-specific URL, have not been able to do this.

    This is changing though. When customers used to receive your direct mail and visit your online asset, you couldn’t identify them unless they completed some type of form. With a new tool, you can now perform a match back to your mail list to confirm the recipients who visited you online.

    Through a combination of cookies, IP addresses and other data, this tool can locate the physical address of a website visitor, which is then compared to your mail list to identify them. This opens a whole new opportunity for you to follow up with potential customers who demonstrated interest but for whatever reason stopped short of buying or contacting you.

    Direct mail is highly effective, and marketers need to realize that it is measurable. Saying you can’t adequately measure direct mail is no longer a valid reason for not using such a powerful marketing tool.

    Personalization in Print

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    Everyone knows that tailoring the customer experience to an individual’s preferences delivers a more satisfying interaction for the customer and builds brand loyalty. This holds true for print communications too.

    Personalization in print used to be including a customer’s name in the piece. We’ve moved well beyond that today. Print personalization is much more advanced thanks to the evolution of data collection and digital printing technology.

    By applying tactics to print that traditionally have been used in digital communications, brands can create materials that are more relevant, responsive and measurable. A new name for this type of marketing has even emerged—data-driven print.

    Print is already a great medium for getting attention. Personalization builds on that strength. Research indicates that consumers are more than three times as likely to buy from a brand they’ve previously bought from than from one they don’t know. By personalizing materials, brands can remind customers that they have an existing relationship. This approach strengthens the relationship even more and makes customers feel valued.

    Personalization can take on many different forms. Previously, personalization was limited to text. At this point, colors and even visuals can be tailored in a piece based on customer data. By personalizing visuals, you can increase your connection with a customer since visuals are usually the first thing that grabs attention in print.

    Incorporating personalization into your campaigns will increase their effectiveness because more relevant print definitely increases engagement. This is incredibly valuable in something like direct mail, which has recently been one of the top channels for acquiring and retaining customers.

    To be able to personalize print successfully, brands need to have access to a solid set of customer data. You can customize print based on data such as purchase behavior, product preferences, customer demographics and even web browsing history. Brands that have acquired more customer data points have more customization options open to them.

    The benefits of personalized print make it worth the effort to grow a customer database instead of relying on purchased lists. Buying lists will never give brands the specific types of data that make print communications most relevant. Brands will achieve better response rates and increased ROI by collecting their own data and using it to build personalized customer experiences.

    Print is More Trustworthy

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    There are a lot of reasons why marketers should include print as a valuable part of their integrated marketing campaigns these days. One of the more influential ones is the consumer belief that print is more trustworthy than digital communications. In this age of widespread digital deception, people do not think of print as “fake news.”

    According to a Two Sides survey, U.S. consumers believe print is a safer, more secure and more trusted medium than its digital counterpart in almost every way. Contributing to this trust is print’s comparative lack of use and the historical journalistic standards associated with it. For example, print magazines are rated as the most trusted news source.

    In contrast, only half of people say they trust the internet. Disinformation currently runs wild across social media in an attempt to influence users and create division. In the same Two Sides survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents say they are concerned with the spread of “fake news” on the internet.

    Besides being untrustworthy, digital communications are getting ignored. Online pop-ups are the most disliked form of advertising. Additional Two Sides data indicates 68% of consumers don’t pay attention to online ads, and more than half admit they try to avoid them at all costs.

    This presents an opportunity for marketers.

    While digital communications certainly aren’t going away, wisely integrating print into your campaigns can pay big dividends.

    For one, it provides a chance to associate your brand with a more trustworthy mode of communication. Additionally, print has been shown to increase message recall. It is widely accepted that handling paper and turning pages makes us remember more of what we read.

    Furthermore, print is just plain effective. Nearly all shoppers say they prefer print marketing when making a purchasing decision. And, almost 80% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately.

    Undeniably, no one uses print anymore to steal your identity or trick you into handing over your bank account information. While it may not be completely out from under the old adage of “don’t believe everything you read,” we can certainly say if you’re reading something in print, you can probably trust it.

    For marketers, this means if you have something important to say, you should really say it in print.

    CMYK

    Is it CMYK or RGB for Print?

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    For years, commercial printers have told graphic designers to convert RGB colors to CMYK before packaging your files to send to print. This is to make sure you can accurately see what the colors you are using will look like in print, since your computer monitor displays color in bright RGB while print uses CMYK. This conversion is no longer required in all cases.

    No harm will be done if you stick to this old habit, but advances in printing workflows and growth in the use of commercial digital printing have eliminated it as a necessity. Some modern printing workflows even prefer files with RGB colors.

    RGB and CMYK are the color processes everyone is familiar with. RGB is an additive process, meaning it adds red, green and blue together in varying amounts to produce other colors. CMYK is a subtractive process. Different amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow and black are used to “remove” reflected colors from paper to create other colors we can see. The two processes have different ranges of color, with RGB providing a wider array of possibilities.

    RGB is used in electronic devices, like computer monitors, while printing uses CMYK. When RGB is converted to CMYK, colors can look muted. Designers were often disappointed when their printed piece looked different than what they had been seeing on screen. To avoid this disappointment, printers told designers to convert colors to CMYK so they’d see them more accurately on their computer.

    Now, modern workflows allow printers to use color profiles that automatically match CMYK ink to RGB values to produce results that are much more similar. Additionally, commercial digital printers can use inks beyond just CMYK to closely match the wider color gamut of RGB.

    Designers actually gain some added benefits under this new approach. RGB files tend to be smaller; it’s always easier to move and manipulate smaller files. Since most designers today design for print and digital applications at the same time, keeping files in RGB gives you more flexibility as well.

    If you’re not sure if you can to let go of this old habit, check with your printer. They’ll tell you whether their workflow still needs you to convert or not.

    Should You Use Informed Delivery?

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    If you’re a marketer looking for an easy, free way to add digital elements to your direct mail campaign, then yes, you should be using the Informed Delivery program.

    The U.S. Postal Service launched this e-mail-based service to provide people with a daily e-mail digest of the mail that gets delivered to their home each day. The digest contains up to 10 scanned images of the address side of letter-class mail. In addition to the convenience that Informed Delivery provides its subscribers, the program is a boon for direct marketers because it offers a free additional customer touch point.

    With Informed Delivery, marketers have the option to add digital elements to the scanned image that appears in the daily email digests. These digital elements include a target url and a custom supplemental image.

    Currently, 95% of Informed Delivery users open their daily digest every day or almost every day. Users now include 10.4 million households and 7.7 million email accounts. The USPS reports that 96% of users would recommend Informed Delivery to friends or colleagues.

    Informed Delivery is now available in almost all U.S. zip codes. The daily emails include images of letters and postcards, as well as some flats. In cases where mailers elect to conduct a digital campaign, they can substitute a custom image for a flat image that does not get scanned.

    The genesis of the program goes back to the early 2000s. After a series of anthrax attacks were made through the mail after 9-11, the USPS began scanning all mail as a security precaution. Scanning gives the USPS and direct marketers a way to integrate their mailings with the digital world in way that was not possible previously.

    You can visit here to register for your Informed Delivery email digest.

    commercial printers

    How Can You Evaluate Commercial Printers?

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    So, you’re looking for commercial printers? Has it been a while since you printed something because you’ve been focused on your social media or search marketing? Are you looking because the relationship with your current printer is a little shaky?

    No matter the reason, finding the right commercial printers can be a time-consuming task. First, you have to locate ones in your area. Then, you have to research those that look promising. Finally, you have to reach out to a few to get estimates to see if their pricing seems right. When you finally decide to work with one, you hope the relationship goes well so you don’t have to search again anytime soon.

    If you evaluate commercial printers on five key attributes—capabilities, reputation, interest, “the basics” and respect—you’ll be sure to find the right one.

    Capabilities

    Early in your search, you have a simple question to answer: do the commercial printers you’re finding have the capabilities you need? If you need a sign printed, do they offer large-format printing? If your brochure needs to mail, do they have in-house mailing services?

    A printer’s website should provide the information you need to understand their capabilities. If you’re still unsure about what they can do after looking online, call and ask. They’ll be happy to discuss your project and how they can help.

    Reputation

    The next question in your search is a harder one to answer: what kind of company are they? Do they have a good reputation? Are they honest? Do they provide a good customer experience? Although these are tough to answer, getting firsthand information about the printers you’re considering could be the most important thing you do.

    You can look in companies’ marketing materials for signs about what type of business they are:

    • Do they have long-standing customers?
    • Do they have well-known or prominent customers?
    • Do they share testimonials or customer feedback?
    • Do they have reviews available online?

    You can also try to uncover their reputation by using your professional network. Have any of your contacts heard of the company? Do they know someone who has? Is the printer engaged in any of the professional associations, groups or events you’re familiar with?

    Interest

    As you narrow your search to a few options, you’ll need to contact them to discuss your project. These discussions provide a perfect opportunity to determine if a commercial printer will be an innovative partner for you.

    Do they ask questions to better understand your project, or do they just take the “order”? Do they try to learn more about your company? If your project is complex, do they offer suggestions to improve the cost, turnaround time or quality?

    They should be curious about you, your project and your goals. The more a printer understands, the better their estimate and proposed solution can be. Having a thorough understanding helps a printer deliver on another key measurement in your evaluation: fair price.

    The Basics

    As you discuss your project with a commercial printer, you’ll have the chance to learn how they score on the basics—speed, quality and price.

    When it comes to timing, what kind of turnaround are they estimating? Do their timelines seem reasonable? If you were able to get feedback from colleagues familiar with them, can you confirm that they meet their deadlines?

    The primary way to evaluate quality is reviewing samples. How do their samples look? How were the samples sent to you? Do they seem to be recent projects, or do you get a sense they’re from ages ago?

    If you have the time, another way to evaluate quality is to visit a commercial printer’s facility. Is the place clean and organized? Do the presses and equipment look well maintained? If a printer puts in the time to take care of their facility, you can be sure they’ll put in the time to take care of your project.

    As far as price, it’s common to want to do things as inexpensively as possible. But as the old saw goes, sometimes you get what you pay for—so beware the low bidder.

    You should get price quotes from a few printers and compare prices. Look for anomalies, like prices that are a lot less or a lot more than the others. Ignore those and focus on the middle. One side note—if you really like a printer but their estimate comes in low or too high, reach out to them to make sure they had the specs correct. Even the best printers can misinterpret specs sometimes. If you feel a printer is providing you a fair price and fair value, they should remain an option in your search.

    Respect

    By this point you should feel comfortable with the capabilities, reputation, service and cost of the remaining printer (or printers). The final factor in making your choice is respect. Has the printer treated you with respect? Have they been courteous and attentive? Have you felt good dealing with them? Put simply, have they made you feel like they want your business? If it feels like they do, you’ve found your partner.

    Technology

    If you’re using direct mail, technology can help improve response.

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    At this point in time, most marketers accept that direct mail generates response. A recent Data & Marketing Association Response Rate Report indicates that the response rate for direct mail is 3.7%. The response rate for all digital channels combined is less than 0.75%. Marketers believe in direct mail so much, spending on it is growing again. In 2016, brands spent $46 billion on direct mail, according to the Winterberry Group.

    If you’re using direct mail as one of your primary marketing channels (as you should be), there are a few ways to make sure you get a response rate that meets or exceeds the average. Not surprisingly, they all have to do with technology.

    IP Targeting

    According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), IP targeting is digital messaging that is delivered to a user’s geographic location as determined by his or her Internet Protocol (IP) address. This technology lets marketers serve digital ads directly to specific IP addresses that are mapped from the physical addresses on their mail list. When combined with direct mail, IP targeting technology lets marketers direct one-to-one messages to prospects both in print and online.

    IP targeting is better than traditional geo-targeting technology because it directs advertising to specific households and businesses. If you have a defined audience with a specific interest in your product or service, IP targeting is a cost-effective option because there is less waste than traditional digital approaches. Combining IP targeting with direct mail is an ideal technique for universities, financial institutions, banks, realtors and professional service firms.

    Enhanced Finishing

    Print is a visual, tactile medium. The more senses you can engage with it the better the reader will remember your message. The physicality of print is something digital marketing cannot match.

    Innovative technologies are helping marketers make better physical connections by adding special effects to mail pieces. They are digital technologies, so they can provide the effects at a much lower cost than in the past, when most special effects required the use of a die. Nowadays, digital foils, special laminates and white inks can be applied to printed pieces to increase the likelihood that they will stand out against competing messages.

    Track Your Mail

    One of the challenges with direct mail is knowing if (and when) it has been delivered. Well, you no longer need to guess about it. The USPS has provided advanced technology that lets you track individual pieces through the mail, so you can know exactly when they are going to be delivered. You can get information on both the projected delivery date and the actual delivery date.

    By knowing when mail gets delivered, you can adjust drop dates as needed to ensure your pieces arrive at the right time, which is key for follow up and planning. You can also use your insight into delivery times to consider using standard vs. first class postage, which can potentially save you money. Additionally, knowing projected delivery dates lets you anticipate customer response. With advanced notice, you can prepare for it and make sure your team is ready and available to handle it.

    Personalization

    The saying in direct mail used to be “spray and pray.” Brands sent out a large volume of mailers and hoped some hit the mark. This approach wasted a lot of marketers’ money. Today, with data-driven technologies, marketers can take a more targeted approach and personalize their messages to each recipient. According to Marketo, 79% of consumers are likely to take advantage of a brand’s offer when it is personalized to reflect their previous engagements with the brand. An InfoTrends study from 2016 showed that more than 75% of marketers consider delivering more personalized print communications to be “important” or “very important.”

    Instead of relying on volume like the old days, you can target just the prospects who are most likely to make a purchase. And, you can appeal to them as individuals. Direct mail is a particularly good channel for personalization because it offers a variety of formats and the ability to connect with the recipient physically. You should be using your customer data to personalize the content and images in your direct mail, so you ensure a positive response.