Thought Leadership

    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.

    Quick Tips on Preparing Files for Die-cutting, Embossing and Foil-stamping

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    Special effects such as embossing, foiling or die cutting are terrific ways to add style and interest to your printed piece. While each one brings a different appeal, setting up your artwork so your piece prints successfully is the same for all three.

    The primary goal when setting up your artwork is to make sure your print partner can easily identify the area on your piece that is being embossed, foiled or cut. This is best done by making the special effect you’re using stand out in your print file.

    As a first piece of advice, only use professional desktop layout programs such as InDesign or Illustrator to create projects with special effects. Using these programs will allow you to create your file as vector art. This is a must since the machines and presses that read your file to create special effects can only read vector information.

    To get started, create a new swatch from the swatches panel in InDesign or Illustrator and give it a name like “foil,” or “emboss,” or “die line” depending on what effect you’re setting up.

    Make this swatch’s type Spot Color, then pick a highly noticeable color like magenta and make it 100%. To ensure this spot color does not knock out other print elements, set it to overprint.

    You can then go about creating the die line, emboss or foil area on a separate layer in your artwork. This will let you toggle the effect’s visibility on and off as needed.

    For foiling and embossing, make the area to be embossed or foiled 100% of your spot color. Only the areas covered by this “spot color” will get embossed or be printed with foil.

    If doing a die cut, make sure you create some space between text or any design elements and the die line. You don’t want to have anything important cut off by the die.

    When submitting your file to your printer you can submit all your artwork in one file if you have the special effect set up on its own layer.

    However, if you want to be extra careful, you can submit two files—one with your complete artwork including the effect layer, and one with just your special effect layer.

    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.


    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.

    pocket folder design

    How Can You Simplify Pocket Folder Design?

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    Pocket folder design can be one of the more bothersome tasks for a graphic designer if they have not created one before. Since the pocket folder will be produced with a series of cuts and folds, setting up the design file correctly can be challenging, but it is vitally important.

    There are quite a few details to consider in pocket folder design, such as the number of pockets to include, how large the pockets can be, and whether to make the pockets straight, angled or curved. This says nothing of details such as whether business cards slits are required or if the folder will need some capacity to hold large or numerous materials. Then there are technical considerations, such as how large to make the tabs for folding.

    At Perfect, we produce a number of custom pocket folders for various uses. One way to simplify pocket folder design is to use one of our print templates as a starting point. Using one of our folder templates can help eliminate the time of creating a new folder from scratch, as well as remove many of the variables that can be at play. Among the templates we have available for pocket folder design are one-pocket and two-pocket folders.

    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.