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    Frank Scussa

    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.


    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.


    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?


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

    If direct mail marketing isn’t in your promotional mix, add it.

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    Not long ago, brands turned away from direct mail marketing. It was expensive and there was stiff competition for reader attention in mailboxes that were overflowing with “junk mail.” On top of that, emerging digital channels offered a less-expensive way to reach large numbers of customers easily.

    Now, the tables have turned. Marketers aren’t blindly accepting the effectiveness of digital channels anymore. Digital is full of competing messages and swarming with fraudulent bot activity. So, where can brands get attention today? In the mailbox.

    According to 2017 Media Usage Survey results, although down from its peak years ago, direct mail marketing is growing. Thirty-one percent of marketers surveyed reported increasing their use of direct mail last year. Another 33 percent kept it at 2016 rates. In 2016, brands spent $46 billion on direct mail marketing, according to the Winterberry Group.

    Companies are returning to direct mail marketing because it works. A recent Data & Marketing Association Response Rate Report shows the response rate for direct mail is 3.7%. The response rate for all digital channels combined is less than 0.75%.

    Direct mail marketing is effective because it combines the targeting potential of a channel such as email with the emotional power of advertising. Recent studies have demonstrated that consumers are reading direct mail more and more. Almost 80% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately. Only 45% do it with email. The fact is, high-quality print pieces get brand attention. Nowadays, print gives you a competitive edge.

    The marketing holy grail of omnichannel campaigns, where all channels work in concert to target the same version of a customer, must include direct mail. Direct mail is fantastic for reaching customers early in the buyer’s journey, when you can make attention-getting, personalized connections.

    According to Andrew Paparozzi, chief economist with Idealliance, the future of marketing lies in personalized, integrated communications where direct mail complements digital experiences. Studies by the U.S. Postal service have demonstrated that when direct mail is used as part of an integrated campaign, it boosts brands’ ROI by 20 percent and helps improve the lift of online campaigns by 62 percent. That seems like good reason to make sure direct mail marketing is part of your mix going forward.

    dimensional mailer gift box

    Does Anyone Not Open a Dimensional Mailer?

    560 315 Frank Scussa

    A dimensional mailer is by far the most effective form of direct mail. Some industry data indicates dimensional mailers have a nearly 100% open rate. According to the DMA’s annual Response Rate Report of just a few years ago, dimensional mail had the best B2B response rate of any direct mail at 8.51%. This effectiveness, however, comes at a price.

    Dimensional mailers are pieces that have a third dimension beyond length and width. This third dimension creates a mailer that costs more to produce and requires special (more expensive) postal handling. Even so, if you have the budget, a dimensional mailer will earn you a higher return on your direct marketing campaign than any other type of direct mail.

    Dimensional mailers include boxes, tubes, containers, bags and other carriers that have length, width and height. The US Postal Service has helpful information on the sizing of dimensional mail.

    Frequently, dimensional mail contains a giveaway item, such as a product sample, promotional premium or widget. The goal is to create an opening experience that is so exciting it results in more effective brand recall. The recipient must spend time with the piece to open it; physically interacting with the piece establishes a better emotional connection between the recipient and the mailer’s brand, assuming the experience is a positive one.

    What form a dimensional mailer takes is limited only by the creativity of the designer. At Perfect, we’ve produced custom boxes, fulfilled containers and produced premium packages. We’ve even seen dimensional mailers that have “pop-up” or “pop-out” elements. Just like other marketing pieces, though, success with a dimensional mailer requires a strong message that connects with the recipient and an effective call to action.

    Since costs associated with producing and mailing dimensional mail are more than regular direct mail, targeting high-value recipients is the most effective use of it. For this reason, a dimensional mailer tends to be better for B2B marketing than B2C. The ideal application is targeting a small, vetted list of recipients with a product or service that has a high price point. This way, a few successful conversions can more than make up for the expense.

    A couple ways you can limit the expense of a dimensional mailer is to use folds to create dimension or ship the piece flat, requiring the recipient to assemble the piece as part of the opening experience.

    adobe stock

    Adobe Stock Makes Working with Stock Images Easier

    600 315 Frank Scussa

    For some designers, using stock imagery sourced from online marketplaces like Adobe Stock is like taking cough medicine—you know you need to use it, but it doesn’t mean you have to like it.

    Since the early 2000s, when stock photography became widely accessible through the launch of online image marketplaces, professional designers have debated whether they should use it.

    On one side are designers who say stock photography offers nothing but cheesy, inauthentic images that can never properly represent their product or company. They prefer custom photos featuring real employees, real customers and real products. They’ll even take their own photos around the office to get them.

    On the other side are designers who think that wisely selecting stock imagery from an online marketplace is an easy and affordable way to meet most of their image needs. With the availability of vector graphics, stock marketplaces also provide a fast way to get illustrations and icons. This can be incredibly helpful in design environments with limited budgets and tight timelines. Stock marketplaces also offer stock video and audio, and they’ve improved their libraries with “signature” collections that have photos with higher production value and better content.

    Considering the online stock image market is a $3 billion business, our guess is many designers come down on the “easy and affordable” side of the debate. Whether they do it with a smile or a frown, we’re not sure. It is just an unfortunate fact that many designers work in organizations that can’t afford custom photo shoots.

    So, if you need to find stock imagery, which marketplace should you use?

    Shutterstock, Getty Images, iStock and Adobe Stock are some of the most recognized names in the stock image market. They all have advantages and drawbacks. Adobe Stock, however, the most recent paid platform to launch, is an option worth seriously considering.

    Adobe Stock offers the right balance of convenience and cost when compared with other options. Its tight integration with the Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) platform sets it apart from other marketplaces. Stock’s benefits include:

    • Ease of use (ability to work from within one application)
    • Competitive cost
    • Ability to buy single images
    • A simple pricing model

    The value of Stock’s integration with Adobe creative tools that designers use constantly outweighs its smaller image library and its lack of audio. According to a study commissioned by Adobe, Stock’s integrated workflow reduces the time involved in licensing an image from 3 minutes to 16 seconds. Since 85% of creatives who buy stock imagery use Adobe software to manipulate and place it, if you haven’t tried Stock yet, you should.

    Users can search Stock from within Adobe CC software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign and save images to their CC Library. One of Stock’s neatest features is a preview mode that lets users add effects and tweaks to a low-res version of an image. The preview version is replaced with a high-res version and all effects are reapplied automatically when the image is purchased.

    In June 2016, Adobe launched an upgrade to the Stock platform as part of its CC update, deepening its integration with CC tools. Stock now has a workflow that lets you select and place an image in your work with one click. The update also introduced the industry’s only one-click purchase capability.

    In addition, Adobe added a Premium collection to Stock, a set of 100,000 hand-selected images sourced from some of the world’s leading photographers. They provide exceptional content, style and production quality.

    If the rationale for relying on stock imagery is its ease of use and affordability, then the same rationale can apply when selecting a marketplace. Other platforms have been around longer and may offer wider selections, but Adobe Stock is the easiest to use and one of the most affordable options out there.

    What Do You Need to Know About Paper Anyway?

    600 315 Frank Scussa

    If you’re a marketing or design professional today, in addition to all of your other responsibilities, you are most likely tasked with buying print services. Years ago, a dedicated production manager or print buyer would find qualified vendors, get bids, submit files and deal with the printer. Unfortunately, that position has almost completely disappeared from the industry. These days, you’re responsible. Considering that you’re already trying to stay up-to-date on things like customer experience, personalization and big data, is it realistic to think you can also acquire a deep understanding of a complex subject like print?

    Take paper, for example. Many creative professionals today can’t dedicate the time needed to get familiar with terms like opacity, formation, brightness or permanence. Given their other competing priorities, the benefit of having this knowledge isn’t worth the investment.

    For example, do you need to know about opacity to be able to buy print for your most common projects? Probably not. A good print service partner will fill in any knowledge gaps you have to make sure your project uses the appropriate paper, based on the design and specifications.

    But, if buying print, should you have a basic understanding of the general types of paper available? Probably. Being familiar with the types will help you know what to ask for when sending a project to print. It will also help ensure that you know what to anticipate in terms of quality and performance. This means a better chance of your final product matching your expectations.

    Below is a quick summary of the general types of paper available for business and marketing communications.

    Commercial Printing Papers


    During manufacturing, a coating is added to the surface of this paper to limit the amount of ink that gets absorbed during printing. With coated paper, ink stays on top, increasing the sharpness of complex graphics.

    Coated paper comes in several finishes:

    • Gloss – a shiny surface good for crisp images in full-color printing
    • Dull/Silk – a non-gloss surface good for large sections of solid ink and improved readability
    • Matte – a low-glare surface, good for readability

    Coated paper is ideal for glossy photos, publications, product brochures and catalogs. It is not ideal for materials that need to be written on.

    Offset & Opaque (Uncoated)

    Offset uncoated paper is sold in large volumes and used in a lot of printing applications. It is more economical than Opaque and it is a good option for when budget is more of a concern than print quality.

    Opaque uncoated paper has more opacity than offset, which provides increased brightness. Ink absorbs more evenly on opaque, providing smooth solids and good reproduction. Opaque has less show-through on two-sided printing, which is good when designs have solid blocks of color, bold type and heavy coverage.

    Offset and Opaque papers are ideal for long print runs, direct mail, and general business documents.

    Text & Cover (Uncoated)

    Text & Cover is the phrase used to describe premium uncoated paper. It is more expensive than other uncoated options. Text & Cover provides superior printing reproduction, a variety of colors and a wide array of textures. It can handle finishing options like coatings, foil stamping and embossing. Textures include selections like cockle (rough and wavy), eggshell, felt, laid, smooth and more.

    Text & Cover is ideal for high-impact communications like reports, corporate brochures, identity pieces, business cards and luxury packaging.


    The last category of paper includes more than just paper. The broad “specialty” category includes unique paper options as well as options that are not paper at all. Any material that can be printed on that is not already included in the categories above is considered specialty. Specialty papers include things like metallic, translucent, synthetic (non-tree), thermal, and food packaging.

    Use the Physical Properties of Print to Show Who You Are

    600 300 Frank Scussa

    “Show, don’t tell” is a maxim for writers that goes all the way back to elementary school English class.

    Executed at the right time, showing, or placing the reader in the moment through the use of descriptive text and detail, can make a much more dramatic sensory connection than using boring exposition (or telling) to relay events and action.

    This adage holds true for marketing with print too.

    For this reason, if you’re investing the money to print promotional materials, you should leverage the physical properties of print to “show” who you are. You shouldn’t just print basic pieces and load them with copy in an attempt to “tell” who you are.

    Do you want to promote yourself as a premium brand? Show it, don’t talk about it.

    Do you want to convince your audience that your offering has a lot of value? Exhibit it, don’t say it.

    Do you want the recipient to know how creatively you think? Display it, don’t describe it.

    Indeed, print’s tactile qualities provide marketers with a fantastic opportunity to make a sensory connection with their audience by taking advantage of our innate predisposition to touch. Research shows that we connect more emotionally with items we can touch, like printed marketing materials. Additionally, communications that take advantage of touch perform better than other types of communication when it comes to message recall. It seems the more senses we can engage when communicating, the longer the recipient’s recall will be.

    If you want to make a longer-lasting impression on your audience and connect with them emotionally, fully leverage the physical properties of print. Combine elements like paper, coatings and finishing techniques to produce marketing materials that match the value of your brand and the offer you’re making.

    Today more than ever, you have to deliver your message in a creative, memorable way to connect with your audience. Consider some of the elements below to improve the impact of your printed promotional materials.


    Paper is the starting point. Your choice will serve as the foundation for any impression you’re trying to make with your printed piece. Paper is the main way your piece will engage the sense of touch. Actually, the paper you pick can make a statement by itself. The type, weight and finish will dictate how the paper handles—how it folds, how pages turn, how the reader interacts with it. Specialty options like metallic, textured and translucent can add another level of feel and improve the impact of your piece. The right paper choice is critical if you want to accurately portray your brand value.


    Coatings are an ideal way to increase the perceived value of your printed materials. With enhanced color, high gloss and improved feel, coated materials can help express a high-value, premium image. The common types of coating available for print are varnish, aqueous and UV. Although each brings its own pros and cons, UV can provide more special effects such as scents, glitter, rough touch and raised surfaces that add depth.


    When combined with the right paper choice and coating, finishing techniques like embossing, foil stamping and die cutting can use the physical properties of print to deliver a tremendous impact. These techniques create depth, change shape, add dimension and add a little fun. Whether it is highlighting elements within a piece or creating a unique format, finishing can increase interactivity and persuade the recipient to handle the piece longer, which will promote recall and connection.

    Good Print Specs are the Key to Successful Projects

    1024 512 Frank Scussa

    With more than 30 years in the printing industry, we know a few things about what print buyers want. Most importantly, they want to work with a trustworthy partner. After that, when it comes to project delivery, they want speed, quality and no surprises.

    Every once in a while, however, some project seems just a little harder to deliver than others. We’ve thought about this a lot through the years, trying to determine the keys to successfully delivering projects on time and without surprises. What we’ve determined isn’t necessarily earth-shattering, but it is important nonetheless: you must have good print specs.

    Yes, the key to successful project delivery is having complete project details from as early in the production process as possible. As a matter of fact, they should exist right from the start.

    Printing is a complicated process. There are lots of details involved and many variables at each stage of production. Miss one small detail and the final product can end up nothing like what was intended. To help reduce the potential for unintended results, basic project details need to be outlined and understood by both the client and the printer right from the start. Establishing accurate print specs at the beginning of the process can create this mutual understanding.

    Print specs are the primary way a client can convey what they envision for their final product. The more complete the specifications, the better the printer can understand the client’s vision. With a clear vision, the printer can provide a more accurate cost estimate, make time-saving or cost-saving suggestions, and ensure they deliver a high-quality product in an acceptable timeframe.

    At Perfect, our estimating, sales and customer service teams know to ask probing questions to help us get the project clarity we need to provide our best service. When customers don’t provide detailed print specs at the start, we have to ask a lot of questions. When customers do provide detailed print specs at the start, we can begin working on their project faster. At the very least, the specifications that help us get a good start on a project include:

    • Project name
    • A detailed description
    • Due date
    • Quantity
    • Size (Flat and Finished)
    • Sides/Number of Pages
    • Inks
    • Paper
    • Directions for mailing, shipping or delivery

    We’ve created a project specification form to help our customers outline their specifications so we can understand their project vision. The form has two pages. You can use the first page for any project; you can use the second page for booklets, which have a cover and inside pages. Feel free to use the form to organize the specifications for your next project.