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Walking the Talk

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

By Barbara Pellow

Firms with decades of experience in prepress and offset printing are starting to reposition themselves as marketing service providers (MSPs). These organizations are leveraging their talent and techniques to pioneer some of the world's latest marketing technologies. They want to participate in the more lucrative marketing value chain by providing an array of services in the marketing process from campaign inception to program execution. The combination of affordable color and multi-channel campaign marketing solutions with integrated marketing dashboards is helping the savvy print service provider transform into a more profitable MSP.

The MSP knows that success links to the creation of one-to-one communications that are based on a deep understanding of the customer’s needs. MSPs are implementing the infrastructure—technical, sales, and consultative skills—to develop solutions for efficient communications.

The big challenge in making the transition is gaining credibility with customers and prospects. If you want to be perceived as an expert, you need to act like a true expert. This concept sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? If you want to be thought of as an expert in your field, though, you must know your stuff and also be able to demonstrate your stuff. A-list experts that people respect, hire, and buy from know how to act. They realize that actions speak louder than words. MSPs are taking on this challenge by illustrating through high quality multi-channel marketing campaigns that they can in fact walk the talk. They are utilizing today’s multi-channel technologies to drive business results for their firms.

Integrated Campaign Management: The Basics
These MSPs want to illustrate to customers that the Internet introduced new channels for marketing and has created new customer interaction techniques. To be most effective, marketers need to reach customers via print, Web, and email. By tying them all together in an integrated campaign, they have the ability to collect more customer data for use in the next stage, track responses with personalized URLs, and learn which media is most likely to get a response from each contact for more successful and cost-effective follow-ups. The savvy MSP is illustrating this through campaigns to build awareness for its business.

The integrated marketing campaigns that MSPs are delivering start with direct mail. The majority of MSPs utilize full-color postcards with variable imaging software products like DirectSmile or DirectType. They use unique sizes for printed pieces as well as appealing color and are very focused on a relevant offer to drive the recipient to the next step. This is typically a link to a personalized URL (pURL). The campaign's mail file—list of direct mail recipients—is used to generate pURLs for each recipient. These pURLs are then woven within the direct mail piece, along with other variable data.

When the recipients type their pURLs into a browser, they arrive on personalized Web pages—landing pages or VIP pages—populated with images and offers that are also based on customer data. These are frequently termed microsites. pURL Web pages can be as simple or advanced as the needs of a marketing program dictate. From there, the measurement and reporting of results begins.

Once the individual has linked into the pURL, service providers try to gather additional data about the prospect. The offer strategy is designed to entice the respondent to complete a brief survey or provide data relative to interests and needs. The objective is to ensure a high level of interaction with the prospect.

Systems available in the market today include built-in tracking to enable continuous monitoring of the campaign’s progress as customers enter their personalized pages and provide additional relevant information. Campaign response rates, visitor response patterns, and detailed lead information can be made available 24/7 as the campaign unfolds. Because systems are template-driven, adjustments to messaging and offers can be done in a matter of hours versus days. This enables users to make changes in the campaign in near-real-time based on the results they are seeing. Toolsets also have the ability to generate powerful reports so the marketing executive can share the impact of critical marketing programs with the entire management team.

This kind of response tracking service means that the MSP can accurately pinpoint the effectiveness of a campaign and understand how to best target campaign resources and improve returns on the marketing investment.

Based on the responses to survey questions, leads can be proactively forwarded to the sales staff. Systems actually route leads to the appropriate representatives via multiple communications platforms, including CRM, email, cell phones, and pagers.

MSPs at Work
In October, the Scottsdale, AZ-based Print Management Group, owned by Ted Raymond, and the Allegra franchise, run by Eileen Rogers, merged. Raymond and Rogers wanted to make sure that existing customers understood the breadth of capabilities that the new entity could provide. They concluded the best way to accomplish this objective was a clear demonstration of the resources they could bring to bear to support clients. They did it with a highly effective multi-channel campaign—in other words, their actions were much louder than words.

To announce the merger, Raymond and Rogers sent out a uniquely-sized postcard to existing customers that showed two roads merging. The direct mail effectively communicated that by combining the agility of Allegra and the innovation of Print Management Group, customers would benefit from a powerful integrated print and marketing organization. When recipients logged onto the pURL, the landing page was an audio message from Raymond and Rogers.

The site provided great information about the benefits of continuing to work with the company. The site also served to ensure that the combined customer records were up to date. If the recipient’s contact information was on file, the identification fields were pre-populated. The end benefit was that the combined entity would have a current database.

Finally, there is nothing more important than results. Raymond and Rogers tracked the number of individuals that hit the flash page, welcome page, and survey page; com- pleted the survey; and ultimately arrived at the thank you page. The overall response rate was in excess of 20 percent.

While Raymond and Rogers will benefit from an updated database, of equal importance was the fact that they demonstrated to clients that the new entity was capable of delivering high-quality printing as well as a comprehensive marketing solution. Raymond and Rogers walked the talk and proved that actions really do speak louder than words.

Multi-Channel Leadership
NAPL decided to utilize a multi-channel campaign to build awareness of its tools and support for business development. Members were also surveyed to evaluate current and future needs to assist NAPL in the development and delivery of future offers.

NAPL sent out a high–quality, uni-quely-sized direct mailer that emphasized the new tools available from NAPL to support graphic communications firms with a combination of insight, guidance, and strategy. The company wanted to ensure that members saw the association as a trusted source for new and innovative ideas to drive business.

The direct mailer had different offers depending upon whether the recipient was an NAPL member or a prospective member. The offer strategy—a free pass for members to the conference program at Graph Expo or a white paper on multi-channel marketing for non-members—was designed to entice respondents to complete a brief survey or provide data relative to interests and needs. The objective was to ensure a high level of interaction with the prospect.

Systems available in the market today include built-in tracking to enable continuous monitoring of the campaign’s progress as customers enter their personalized pages and provide additional relevant information. While the campaign did not receive double-digit response rates, more than four percent of members responded in contrast to a one percent response rate from traditional direct mail campaigns.

This afforded NAPL the opportunity to learn about member needs. The top area for anticipated growth was variable data. The top five areas where members were seeking additional support included: financial benchmarks (45.15%); business development support (41.75%); variable data implementation information (40.29%); sales training (39.32%); and compensation information (34.95%).

For members that were seeking support in making the transition to MSPs, this also demonstrated that NAPL knew how to leverage technology in implementing solutions.

Walking the Talk
The bottom line is that action makes the difference. Good things may start from ideas, but action is what's needed to accomplish anything. The graphic communications market is seeing service providers take action, demonstrate abilities, and ultimately become credible marketing service providers.

Jan2008, Digital Output

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