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8 Reasons to Think Local – Buy Local – Be Local!

4 Nov

Technology makes it easy to buy services and products from anywhere. Studies show, however, there are many benefits to buying local. Here are 8 reasons to Keep It Local.

  1. Buy Local and Support Yourself: When you buy from an independent, locally owned business Keep it localrather than a regional or nationally owned businesses, your money stays local to make purchases from other local businesses and service providers. This continues to strengthen the economic base of the community.
  2. Reduce environmental impact: Locally owned businesses require shorter transit times for customers and employees. It also means less trucking of services or goods. This means contributing less to pollution and road decay.
  3. Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and, locally, provide the most jobs to residents.
  4. Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the local impact of products or services they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.
  5. Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future. Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.
  6. Build a Larger Tax Base: Local businesses pay a large share of the community’s taxes and help offset funds needed for community services such as city administration, rescue personnel, and other community enhancements like road repair and parks. The bottom line? A greater percentage of local independent businesses keeps your taxes lower.
  7. Encourage local prosperity: Entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character. Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class. Also, the multiplier effect created by spending locally generates lasting impact on the prosperity of local organizations and residents.
  8. Enhance Health of Residents: Research shows a strong correlation between the percentage of small locally owned firms and various indicators of personal and community health and vitality. A 2011 study of 3,060 counties and parishes in the U.S. found that counties with a greater proportion of small businesses had lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes.

Choosing to buy from local, independently owned businesses provides many well-documented benefits to our communities and to each of us. While it is not always possible to buy local, keeping it local when possible provides many often-hidden pluses. Think Local, Buy Local, Be Local.

Variable Data and Push vs. Pull Marketing

26 Aug

Variable Data Printing (VDP) is important to marketers because it enables them to articulate a special message in a particular way to potential customers. In other words, Variable Data Printing allows marketers to drive the customer relationship.

VDP gives marketers the option of applying a push or pull strategy. Push marketing (outbound marketing) refers to pushing information out to the customer. Direct mail is one example. Push marketing is driven by the vendor.

Pull marketing (inbound marketing), in contrast, is driven by the customer. The customer pulls information about the Push Pullproducts in which he or she is interested. For example, a car dealership might have a Web site where customers can select the information they want to receive about a certain car model. The customers’ choices are entered into a database from which VDP can create a personalized brochure for mailing.

The two strategies are often used in tandem. The car dealership can obtain databases of potential customers within its geographic area (see last week’s blog on the Ins and Out of Using Mailing Lists)  and push advertising about the latest car models to them through a direct mailing. For example, the car dealership can use information in the database about the customers’ family size and advertise features most likely to be attractive to them such as SUVs and wagons for families with children, and sports cars to single males.

The value of using variable data printing with pull marketing is that it makes pull marketing far more cost-effective.

The value of push marketing lies in making potential customers aware of a vendor and in enticing them to take the next step toward purchasing products from the vendor. Push marketing is often an initial contact in which customers receive information that encourages them to take some action.  Potential customers who respond to the push marketing can be given an opportunity to pull more information, as in the example of a car dealership with a Web site. By specifying the information they want about a new car, potential customers identify themselves as likely customers who already have a sense of what they want to buy and have taken a step toward a purchase from the vendor.

The value of using VDP with pull marketing is that it is more cost-effective than push marketing. The customer has already targeted himself or herself, and the vendor prints a brochure only for a customer who is already interested in its product. The vendor provides more of what the customer is looking for and less of what they have no interest in.

Next week, we will look a little closer at this by looking at variable data printing and one-to-one marketing.

 

Ins and Outs of Using Mailing Lists

18 Aug

The key to a successful marketing campaign is getting your message to the right people. How do you expand the number of people you’re contacting or reach out to an entirely new market? One option is to use a mailing list generated by a list company.

General Mailing List Guidelines

Geographical Area: When you buy a mailing list, the first thing you want to do is to define the geographical area you wish to target. Targeted mailing lists are proven to increase response rates. Define your direct mailing list by state, county, city, SCF, zip codes, or even by radius.

Demographics: Think targeted marketing when determining which demographics to use for your mailing list. Who are your best customers? A direct mailing list performs better when you target your prospects based on the demographics of your current customers. Define your mailing list by age, income, gender, length of residence, interests, memberships, and any other attributes desirable to your campaign.

Append Telephone Numbers: In today’s world of multi-channel marketing, consider adding phone numbers to the list. You will pay more but you will have another way to reach your target audience.

Pricing & Method of Delivery: The demographics you choose usually determine your pricing. Once you make your purchase, most companies offer several methods of retrieving the mailing list: 1) a downloadable file directly from your account with the list company; 2)  a file sent via email; 3) files sent on a CD; or 4) printed labels. Pricing may vary by method chosen.

Companies providing mailing lists are a dime a dozen. What differentiates one company mailinglistfrom another? These are a few things you will want to consider when looking at mailing list sources:

Accuracy: How new is the list? Has it been recently refreshed? Does the company offer a guaranteed percentage of deliverable addresses?

Price: Pricing varies by provider. Price shouldn’t be the only consideration, however, as an old list that hasn’t been refreshed in years won’t provide good results.

Type of List: Are you looking for a residential or business list? Consumer? Educational? Companies may specialize in the type of lists they provide.

Usage: Is the list a one-time use only list, or can you use it as many times as you want within a specified time period? Make sure you understand the terms of the list usage before making your purchase.

With so many list companies to choose from, how do you know which company to use? At Mediascope, we have developed relationships with a few key providers based on their service, prices, and accuracy of mailing lists. Contact us at 507-452-5555 and we will gladly help you find the right list for your next mailing project.

Variable Data Printing Basics

6 Aug

At its simplest, Variable Data Printing (VDP) is the use of digital technology to link printing equipment to databases containing content such as text or graphics. During the printing process, computer applications take content from the databases and integrate it into a document according to rules specifying usage. As a result, whether a print run quantity is 10 or 10,000, VDP makes each piece different by changing the information.

The value of Variable Data Printing comes from its ability to support customized printing and make it efficient and economical. Customization increases the document’s attractiveness and greatly improves the effectiveness of the message it contains. Because the database contains information specific to the audience of the printed document, the document is customized in ways that hold special appeal to the audience.

Variable Data Printing today is light years beyond the bland, unsophisticated direct mail of the past. It is much more powerful than it was even a few years ago. Today, it can dynamically assemble four-color images, charts, text, and other objects to create attractive, highly customized documents.

There are three general levels of variable data customization, and all three levels start with at least a basic layout template that is common to all of the pieces. The template defines which elements are static and which are variable. The static elements will remain unchanged across all pieces. The variable elements change for each individual piece, however, as determined by information contained in the accompanying databases.

Basic Customization: The lowest level of Variable Data Printing is Basic Customization. At this level, only the name and salutation of the recipients are variable, and no graphical elements of the printed pieces change between pieces. The “Mail Merge” feature of Microsoft Word which allows users to connect their document to an Excel spreadsheet of names and addresses is one example of basic customization. While the names and addresses change from piece to piece, the layout and content of the message remains the same across all printings.

This most basic form of VDP has been readily available to most companies for several years and produces the lowest response rates of the three levels because of the low amount of customization.

Versioning: The second level of Variable Data Printing is Versioning, and consists of several pre-designed layouts that are selected based on variable criteria. In a nationalDifferent post-it notes mailing, a unique layout could be designed for each state and the correct layout is automatically selected for each recipient, assuming the database contains the state of residence information for each record. Versioning usually produces a higher response rate than Basic Customization, but lower than Full Customization.

Full Customization: Individual components throughout the entire piece are customized by multiple different criteria, often times contained within multiple databases. Images, text, and layout structure are customized for each recipient in the entire mailing list, maximizing relevancy for the readers, and consequently returning the highest response rates. At this most advanced level, marketers can experience the full potential of Variable Data Printing.

These are the major elements found in a typical variable data printing project.

Database: For most variable data printing, a simple table containing the copy, graphics, and photographs that will be varied in the printed document is adequate. Such database tables are created in applications such as Microsoft Excel. Databases drive the effectiveness of VDP so we will talk more about them in a future article.

Rules: These are rules that specify what variable content to use and where to place it.

Content: Both static and variable content are created with a variety of software: text with word-processing software, photographs (taken with a digital camera or input using a scanner), graphics created from graphics software, and so on.

Layout: The layout for the document is created by using common desktop publishing or word-processing software. It must be designed to accommodate variable text and images.

VDP application: Software that “merges” content and prepares the document for printing.

Output devices: Printing devices that turn the digital files into hard-copy prints

Here at Mediascope, we offer full variable data printing capabilities. Watch for more information on VDP over the next few weeks as we explore the importance of great databases and the benefits of variable data printing in marketing.

5 Reasons to Choose Direct Mail Over E-Mail

21 Jul

direct mailMarketing budgets stretch only so far. If you are debating between a direct mail and an email campaign, here are five compelling reasons to look at direct mail.

1) Reach Your Market

Market Scan, a market research company, found the figure for available legal emails is around 20 percent of postal addresses, meaning that by avoiding direct mail you could be missing 80 percent of your target market.

Also, people who use email regularly have become savvier at blocking out sales messages with advanced filters.

People also abandon email accounts and create new ones frequently, so even solid leads expire quickly.

2) Higher Response Rates

A study done by the Direct Marketing Association found that the response rate for direct mail to an existing customer averages 4.4 percent, compared to 0.12 percent for email. When balanced with the right artwork and data, direct mail delivers more than just a meaningful piece of mail; it can provide a powerful return on investment.

3) Follow the Money

Mailers will go where the money is and that’s primarily to older people. Younger folks simply don’t have extra dollars to spend. Nowadays, we have more elderly Americans than we used to and they are living longer. It’s interesting to note that one study showed only 45% of seniors have internet services.

4) Memorable

Well-done direct mail is memorable. Remember the last time a nice envelope or a parcel landed on your desk? I bet you opened it and, what’s more, remember who it was from? Now think about how many emails you have received in the last few days? Remember them? I didn’t think so.

5) Give Consumers What They Want

According to figures released by Central Mailing Services, more people want to be contacted by direct mail than any other medium. Only 6% of the 9,000 people surveyed said they want to be contacted through internet while 32% listed direct mail as their first preference.

Four Direct Mail Marketing Strategies

3 Jun

Have you heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder”? Change the word “Work” to “Mail” and you’ll have the best overall strategy for direct mail marketing.

Here are four ways to make sure you are mailing smarter, not harder

1) Personalize, personalize, personalize

The benefits of personalizing mail pieces have been known for quite some time now. Hopefully, you are gathering pertinent data on your customers and capitalizing on the information you’ve learned. Smart personalization goes beyond name and address; think in terms of age bracket, income level, and Direct Mailinterests. The more you know about your customers, the better you can tailor marketing campaigns to each individual or market segment.

Some people worry that too much personalization is intrusive. It’s hard to argue with statistics, however. According to MarketingCharts.com, 86 percent of consumers polled said that personalization influenced purchases.

Melissa Data, a company that provides address data for companies, says that highly personalized color print campaigns can receive response rates as high as 6.5 percent compared to 2 percent for non-personalized direct mail pieces.

2) Use your brand  to tell a story

Knowing your customers allows you to appeal to them on several levels, especially emotionally. Use stories in your brand  to make you stand out from your competitors and make your advertising memorable.

Buyers are looking for relationships and brand stories foster these connections. A brand story appeals to the humanity in each of us and serves to link people together.

3) Don’t overlook digital marketing

Savvy marketers will integrate digital forms of communication in their print and direct mail efforts rather than trying to replace one form of marketing with another. Always include your website address, and consider using individualized landing pages to monitor interest and track results.

Social media is another great way to spark interaction and keep your customers engaged. Ask your buyers for their stories and you may find great advocates for your brand.

4) Keep female consumers in the forefront

A 2012 study by Epsilon, a marketing company, showed that of the two sexes, women are more likely to trust direct mail—whether addressed or unaddressed—when gathering information.

Statistics also show that women have become the primary decision-makers for most household purchases, from healthcare to groceries to automobiles. In fact, women are responsible for 85 percent of household purchases, yet a staggering 91 percent of women feel that marketers don’t understand them.

To summarize, postage price increases means direct mail marketers need to mail smarter than ever. Using mail techniques targeted specifically to the buyer’s heart, mind, and wallet is the best way to see a return on investment.

 

Google ranking system now considers mobile

28 Apr

If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you may be left behind on Google.

Google recently changed its ranking system to favor those with mobile-friendly websites that are easily read on smartphones.

Some people are calling this Mobilegeddon.  A top 1 or 2 website in a search query could hypothetically fall to ninth or 10th place, causing a loss of thousands of dollars in potential business, says Greg Sterling, an independent analyst and columnist for the SearchEngineLand website.

“As many as 40% of top websites are not currently mobile friendly,” says Sterling. “There’s a big category of people who have completely ignored mobile.”mobile friendly

Google made the change because so many more people are now using the smart phone as the hub of their daily lives.

How do you make your site mobile friendly? First, check to see if your website passes the Google test. Google has a mobile friendly test page in its developer section (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/).  Type in the URL and see if the website passes. If it doesn’t, here are some options:

• Call your website host. Many have tools in place to transition your website. GoDaddy, the top provider of website addresses and hosting, offers a tool to completely rebuild your website to make it mobile friendly, and charges $1 monthly for the service. Competitor Bluehost has a another tool that’s potentially cheaper. For a one-time fee of $25, it’s goMobi tool builds a smaller, mobile version of your site.

• Go to a service like dudamobile for a more robust, yet smaller version of your website, with more images and text than through the website builders, starting at $5 monthly.

• Get in touch with a local Webmaster to create a mobile friendly site.

No matter which way you go, it pays to ensure you have a mobile-friendly website. With all the competition on Internet, Google rankings play an important role in helping your site be found.

Direct Mail is Trending Up

25 Feb

Many years ago, the predicted demise of direct mail captured marketing headlines everywhere. As a result, the downturn in direct mail volumes between 2006 and 2008 when other forms of customer engagement captured people’s attention and budgets during the economic slump surprised no one. The downturn was short-lived, however, as statistics show the volume of direct mail has stayed stable or increased each year since 2009. The United States Postal Service reports that Standard A mail volumes rose in fiscal year 2013 by 1.16 billion pieces to 80.96 billion pieces or 1.5%. This is in stark contrast to the continued decline of First Class mail which declined by 4.2% to 66.7 billion pieces in the same time period.upward trend

Direct mail is still trending up because it works. Why does it work? Take a look at these statistics recently published by Digital Marketing Ramblings.

  • 39% of customers say they try a business for the first time because of direct mail advertising.
  • Direct mail marketing yields an average of a 13-to-1 return on investment ratio.
  • Direct mail brings in 78% of donations for non-profit organizations.
  • Since 2004, direct mail marketing response rates have increased by 14%.
  • 44% of customers visit a brand’s website after receiving a direct mail piece.
  • Direct mail pieces are save-able. 48% of people save mail for future reference.

If you’ve been considering a marketing campaign, make direct mail part of your strategy. Combine it with a well-designed and personalized print piece that has an effective message and you will be pleased with your return on investment.

Impulse Buying

20 Mar

We recently did a blog on the five stages of consumer buying. Called You’ve Got It, But Do They Know About It?, the blog talks about the five stages in a marketing/sales life cycle. Only one type of buying sidesteps this cycle and that is the impulse buy. Approximately forty percent of consumer spending is impulse buying. Good retailers understand the power of the impulse buy. Everything from the apple pie conveniently placed next to the loaf of bread at the grocery store to the 50%-off-car-wash-coupon-with-a-gas-purchase is geared towards the impulse buy.

Statistics are interesting:

– The single most motivating factor for an impulse buy (88%) is a sale price

– Younger consumers with higher incomes have a greater percentage of impulse purchases

– 90% of people make occasional impulsive purchases

– Statistics state that 20% of what shoppers buy at the grocery store is bought on impulse

– A study in 2011 showed that 60% of females made an impulse buy within the last year

Also interesting is that according to a British company called Npower, men spend more money on impulse buys than women: men spend approximately $41 per impulse buy versus $31 for women.

The main reason is that women spend more time bargain hunting, going  to sales, and researching before they buy something. Men are more  likely to grab something off the shelf or buy something online.

Men are also more likely to go out impulsively to eat or drink while women plan their meals and nights out more carefully.

The study found that the average person spends $114,293 in their lifetime on impulse buys. According to the study, the top ten most common impulse buys are food, clothing, magazines, wine, books, DVDs, shoes, trips, beer, and toiletries.

The next 10 most common are home furnishings, music, clothes for  the kids, jewelry, accessories, gadgets, garden accessories, flowers,  toys, and day trips.

What do you think? Who spends the most on impulse buying in your household and what are the most common types of things bought?

Questions About Fulfillment? We Have Answers!

26 Feb

Here are answers to most commonly asked questions about order fulfillment.

What is Fulfillment Outsourcing?

The definition of fulfillment is the process of receiving, packaging and shipping orders for goods. Any company that sells products directly to consumers via phone sales, their website, or through mail order must provide fulfillment to process these orders. Some companies choose to perform these services in-house with a staff of employees that receive the orders, process them, and mail them to their customers while other companies outsource this function to a third-party full-service fulfillment house.

Full-service fulfillment companies offer an end-to-end solution: they take your products from warehouse shelves, pack them, hand them to shippers and then send an automated e-mail response to your customers to let them know their packages are in transit. They can also supply current inventory levels to your website, reorder products, offer call-center services, send notices of shipping, and handle returns.

What Services Do Fulfillment Houses Provide?

Order Processing Services: Whether the orders are received via phone, mail, or web, the fulfillment house processes the order and ships it. This service is the key element to the utilization of a third-party fulfillment service.

Return Processing: Fulfillment houses also provide the service of accepting and processing returned or damaged items.

Storage: Fulfillment houses store your merchandise and provide security/insurance for the items that are located in their locations.

Product Assembly: Fulfillment houses provide the service of assembling or kitting products for their customers. Fees dependent upon the complexity of the assembly are usually associated with this service.

Inbound Call Center Services: Fulfillment houses provide inbound call center services to handle phone inquiries.

CD/DVD Replication Services: As part of their array of services, many Fulfillment houses offer the service of CD/DVD replication.

Contract Packaging: Often times, Fulfillment houses will package products in specialized or customized wrapping per your specifications.

Rebate/Sweepstakes Services: Fulfillment houses will provide services to their clients to process rebates or sweepstakes.

What are the Benefits of Fulfillment Outsourcing?

While there are many benefits to outsourcing fulfillment processes to a third-party fulfillment house, some of the most important reasons include:

1. The ability to concentrate on your core business. Not being involved in the day-to-day process of fulfilling orders enables personnel to focus on marketing your products, thereby improving sales and increasing revenue.

2. Staffing concerns are shifted from your company to the fulfillment service. During peak seasons, your fulfillment provider will manage staffing and space concerns.

3. Controlled costs. Since you will only be paying the fulfillment house for the work they perform for your company (fulfillment of orders, assembly of products, storage etc), you are able to project costs and maintain the specific margins needed to ensure profitability.

4. Warehouse space is no longer a concern since this will be passed on to the fulfillment house. It is the fulfillment company’s responsibility to provide enough space for busy times and seasonal needs.

5. Many of today’s successful companies including General Electric, Pepsi, Merck, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, McDonalds,  and Amway have discovered that outsourcing gives them a competitive advantage.

How Do I Select The Right Fulfillment House?

When choosing what fulfillment service to partner with, keep the following criteria in mind:

1. Make certain you have a clear-cut understanding of exactly what services you require and make sure you and the vendor you choose are on the same page.

2. Be certain to ask for references, preferably from other clients that sell similar product lines to yours. All reputable fulfillment houses will be able to provide references from customers who use their services.

3. Evaluate the geographic location of the fulfillment house. While some companies prefer to work with a fulfillment service that is in relative proximity to their physical location, others prefer to work with one in a centralized location to maximize their shipping savings.

4. Discuss manpower concerns with potential fulfillment vendors. Fulfillment houses often times employ a core group of permanent employees and supplement staff with temporary workers during peak periods. Discuss any concerns about safety and security with prospective companies.

5. Accuracy rates are very important in fulfillment (see Why is Accuracy Important in Fulfillment?). Make sure to ask any potential fulfillment sources for their current accuracy rates.

In summary, there are several reasons to outsource fulfillment work and there are many quality fulfillment houses from which to choose. Make sure the fulfillment provider you choose has the tools, staff, and experience to do the very best job possible. After all, each packages shipped on your behalf is a reflection of your company.