Your Printer as a Partner

4 08 2013

The general perception in the marketplace is that print is a commodity. You can go online and get your printing from a number of sites and for some this is a good and relevant option. But one thing to keep in mind is that they are only going to produce what you give them. They will give you ink on paper in return for your money, but they will not care if the design is less than optimal, or the messaging is muddy, or even if the color is consistent on repeat orders. The secret to their success is volume and your project along with many others are produced all together on one big press sheet.

This can be a problem if color accuracy is important in the sale of your product. Furniture or fabric are two items that come to mind. If the color of your product and the color of your print advertising are not the same, your product may be coming back after the sale. If you have a logo and branding that center around a specific color or look, you may find that over time your print collateral is not consistent in it’s appearance. This is not because people don’t care, it’s just a consequence of the process. This is the biggest reason that most companies that have a brand well known in the market will not choose an online printer, but one that that will print each item for them as a separate and distinct project and not combined with others.

Take a look at the print for your company’s marketing efforts. Is it communicating the value that you offer? Is it pleasing to look at and the type easy to read? Does it carry the message of your brand consistently over time? These are the things that a good printing company can help you with. We know what looks good, we know how to make it look good and we know how to make it work better. The more effective your print collateral works for you, the better value it becomes for your marketing spend.

Not all QR Code Reader Apps Are Created Equal

14 04 2011

Now that QR codes are starting to go a little more mainstream, those of us who were early on board the QR code train don’t have to jump around as much waving and screaming so people will listen. You might even say that QR codes have arrived. When you start seeing them in Time Square, on the giant Jumbotron at the House that Jerry built, and in your favorite magazine I think its safe to say that print has a new tool in the marketing arsenal. So what’s next? Qr codes can be printed, they can be tracked for metrics, they can be variable…but they have all the personality of a Borg Cube. They need a little creative to spice them up. So we’ve been messing around, and testing to see how spicing them up can affect their functionality, and what we’ve discovered may surprise you. It sure surprised me.

As a test, whip out your Smartphone and fire up your favorite Reader App, go here: (this is public link to a Photo Album on the Sorrento Mesa Facebook Page containing some test codes) and scan them and see what happens. What we found is that depending on your reader application, some will work, some won’t, some work all the time, and some don’t.

QR codes have a basic built in error correction function in their format so that if part of the pixels are blocked, the code will still render the destination URL. But if you exceed that error correction threshold, the code will not resolve to the destination site and the user will experience a failed scan. What’s interesting about all of this is that not all reader apps perform with the same success rate. Before I share what we’ve seen I want to state that this was a purely unscientific test and I make no claims about the viability or lack thereof of those apps mentioned, but clearly there were some trends that we discovered.

I asked some friends in my industry, all owners of other printing companies around the country to help me with the testing. Blackberry, Droids (various manufacturers) and iPhones were the three phones used and the apps listed were I-Nigma, NeoReader, ScanLife, QuickMark, Barcode Scanner, Optiscan, Beetag and Blackberry Messenger. Some worked, some didn’t. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but one thing that we discovered was that I-Nigma worked almost every time for all three of these test QR codes. Again, all of these reader apps will work for a Plain-Jane Black & White QR Code, its when we dress them up and put stress on the reader app to perform is where we see a major difference in the results.

The big takeaway for us with all of this is that if you decide to get creative with your QR codes, test, test and re-test. Use various apps and phones in combination to see what happens when scanned. The most important thing about QR Codes is that they work. Going forward we’ll be suggesting that people use I-Nigma as their reader app because of the success we witnessed in this informal test. You can download it here: .

Social Media + CRM = A Killer App?

7 03 2011

CRM is defined by WikiPedia as:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support.”

There’s been an entire universe of content written about social media. What it is, how to use it, what to do, what not to do, but there hasn’t been much said about how social media and CRM can work together. In some ways social media on its own can function as a CRM tool. A Facebook business page serves as an excellent example of how we can touch our clients and they can respond in a way that builds community.  Social media has now brought us the ability to do things in real time that CRM never quite has. Yet, the strength of CRM lies in the data. Whether your CRM tool is software that sits on your servers or in the cloud, social media at this time can’t match the width, breadth and detail of business intelligence that can be contained within CRM software.

But imagine for a moment if the two could be brought together to work as one powerful tool. Could this be defined as a killer app? I think yes. At Sorrento Mesa Printing we use Goldmine for our CRM software and we use it to keep track of clients and prospects in the sales and marketing efforts that we undertake. The power of Goldmine (or any CRM) is that all sales specific conversations, emails, phone calls, letters and other related activity is compiled and accessible in one place. And since it sits on our network, accessible by others in our organization as well.

I picked up a tip last year from Chad Smith’s Goldmine blog: which has allowed me to integrate both CRM and social media into what may be defined as a sales and marketing killer app. One of the features of Goldmine is that it has a tab (GoldMine has a tabbed window interface allowing various functions to be seen with a few clicks) called GM+View which opens a window that is script driven and can give various views. I picked up a number of scripts from Chad’s blog one of them being a script that gives a view of the prospect’s LinkedIn profile, another a view of the prospect’s company on Google Maps – all of this driven by the data in the contact profile. Imagine the ability to search for a prospect listed in your CRM and in an instant have at your fingertips their LinkedIn profile and a map and directions to their company and various other useful tools. That capability exists and can be an incredible tool in your quest to compress time and find new clients and companies to do business with.

There is nothing fancy or proprietary about any of this. But it is an illustration of how these tools are all around us, we just have to be creative and assemble them in a way that helps us reach our goals. Social media is a powerful tool that can also be fun and very helpful in the propagation of your company’s brand and conversation with your clients, but with the addition of CRM as a force multiplier we may just have a killer app at hand.

The Power of Face Time

6 10 2010

Having just returned from Graph Expo in Chicago and the NAQP/NAPL Owners conference, and sitting in the airplane on the way back to San Diego reflecting on the last few days a simple truth became crystal clear: There is no replacement for the power of face time.

Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) gives us a new ability to instantly connect and communicate. It give us a reach – local, national and international to instantly keep up, know what’s going on, stay in the loop. Before social media it was email, before email it was the phone and the letter via USPO. You could even take it back to carrier pigeons and smoke signals if you want yet with all these new methods of communication one essential piece is missing and its big, the human connection, face time.

Face time allows us to share, to laugh, to read the facial expressions of others punctuating what’s been said in a way that is not possible unless you are right there in the moment. Sitting around at the Billy Goat Grill in Chicago with other printer friends this week realizing this is the place where the SNL skit Cheezborger Cheezborger, you want double Cheezborger? (can you still see John Belushi?) was born just can’t punch through on Facebook. You have to be there.

What I find personally satisfying is meeting in person for the first time, those who I’ve established relationships with previously only online. It’s kind of like listening to a DJ or commercial voice talent on the radio for years and then finally seeing them or meeting them, and its never what you expect for the mind just fills in the blanks of what is missing right or wrong. Unfortunately social media now takes the visual surprise away, yet many wonderful undiscovered qualities of first contact still remain. Voice, height, size, a smile, a handshake, and instantly you feel like you’ve just met an old friend, that you’ve never met before. It is surreal. I filled in a lot of blanks these last couple of days and it was incredibly satisfying.

There is no replacement for face time, none. It’s the richest form of communication and also the most complex and the most wonderful. In today’s interconnected digital world it brings a reality that is impossible to replace. So I say get out there, see people. Take every opportunity whether it’s a national conference or a just meeting with a client to get some face time, you won’t regret it.

Has E-Mail Marketing Jumped the Shark?

20 07 2010

Last week I decided to actually look at the statistics generated about the email I’ve been receiving lately. I’ve noticed that if I don’t check my email over the weekend, by Monday morning I’m usually greeted with over a thousand emails. I have several email addresses I use. One reserved strictly for clients and is not available to anyone else. I have the venerable Gmail and Yahoo accounts and then there’s my main public email I’ve used that email address for over 10 years now and over that time period it’s been splashed all over the web as the current level of SPAM can testify to. That is the address I want to talk about -which has just about gone out of control crazy with SPAM. Now, I will be he first one to admit that some of the traffic on this address is of my choosing. I’m now subscribed to 46 various list serves and blogs that send me traffic not to mention the 49 groups on LinkedIn that I’m a member of. Thank heaven for Eudora and all of its filtering and JUNK filter prowess. For a program that hasn’t been updated for more than four years and is now in the hands of the open source community (still waiting for a new version folks…tap tap tap) it hangs pretty tough. For anyone who is a power email user and is a Eudora fanatic like me, well we know which side our bread is buttered on. I could not live without Eudora. There, I said it.

So putting aside all the legit emails and the list server traffic and the LinkedIn traffic in other words: All the email I sign up for, the rest is labeled SPAM/JUNK. And most of that SPAM is from people trying to either sell me stuff, or trying to get my attention so I’ll look at them so they can sell me stuff. In other words E-Mail Marketing. Here are the statistics and they are truly frightening:

For the month of June 2010

Total emails received: 31,290

Total emails  classified as JUNK: 25,750  92%

(This month, July so far its running at 94%)

Accuracy of Junk Filter: >99%

What this tells me is that A. I love Eudora, and B. 25,750 E-Mail marketing messages are not getting through. I’m not ever seeing them and they get dumped tens of thousands at a time into the trash. If you’ve given up on print media marketing and replaced it with email marketing, I’d say you have something to think about. For it’s game over, the spammers have won. I’ll have to eventually start with a new address. Has email marketing Jumped the Shark? I say yes.

I believe E-Mail still has its place but for an online marketing strategy I think social media is where it’s at. I also believe that social media combined with print media are the best bet these days for cutting through the clutter and getting your message read. Email marketing is cheap and it’s easy and you should still use it as part of your overall marketing strategy, but to rely heavily on it while excluding other methods for communicating your message you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really working. Social Media takes more effort (and time, lots of time) and print media costs more money but in the end it’s results that count. If your marketing strategy is heavily dependent on email marketing, I hope sharing these stats will give you pause and hopefully make you consider all the alternatives as well.

Have you seen what DEVO’s been up to lately?

18 06 2010

Like most these days, probably not. Remember DEVO that crazy weird quirky band of the 70’s and 80’s. You remember those nerdy dudes that dressed up in garbage bags and wore those weird red “energy dome” hats. Yeah Whip-It! and Girl You Want! and DEVOlution – yeah you remember now don’t you? Well guess what, they’re back. And its how they’re coming back that I think is worth watching. Personally I never much liked their music it was always a bit out there for me but now they’re back and they’ve gone corporate. They’ve sold out to the “big record company”. The title of the new album “Something for Everyone” says it all. DEVO’s gone mainstream. Now the Energy Domes are blue instead of red.  Get ready for DEVO, Inc.

Now I’m not a music critic so their music isn’t the  focus of this post. What I find fascinating is how they’re coming back.  They already have a well established brand and tons of fans, they just need to wake them up. And they’re doing it in a big way. At the heart of it is the Club Devo site where the story is told. They’ve got YouTube and Twitter and Facebook firing on all cylinders (I’m sure there’s got to be some print in this strategy somewhere) plus they took a page out of the old “give ’em a sample and they’ll come back for more” book by streaming their new album over and over on Ustream. The 24 hour Cat Listening Party was a bunch of kitty’s hanging out on a blue energy dome cat perch with all DEVO all the time playing in the background. There were people messing with the kitties (strings and lasers and such) to keep the action going because if you’ve owned cats, you know they’re not a motivated bunch. It was brilliant. I found myself listening to DEVO for part of the day and occasionally bringing up the kitty tab in my browser to see the latest.

Its weird but its a brilliant well executed marketing strategy. Don’t be surprised if you find DEVO racing up the charts very soon as this stuff continues to go viral and just in time to kick off their tour which begins Saturday June 19th in Las Vegas. A well known brand has been repackaged and served up for a whole new generation. Its a great illustration of the power of social media.

A Printer Who Believes in More Than Print

9 06 2010

Lets face it, print is no longer the only game in town. I’ve met and talked to many printers who still concentrate their marketing efforts on direct mail, yellow pages and printed newsletters as the only way they communicate their message. Things have changed and we’ve seen a tremendous shift away from the “print-centric” mindset in the marketplace. However, there is now evidence that completely abandoning print may also be a mistake.  Marketers who run away from print may end up with an unbalanced communication strategy. Print is still very relevant and should  be used wisely in conjunction with other media (web, mobile and social). This more effective “cross-media” approach is more balanced and more effective in communicating your message to your target audience.

Recently I have seen change within the print community as many are now branching out and embracing social media as are most in the business world. The adoption rate is picking up as more and more of my printer friends are establishing Facebook Fan (or is it now Like?) pages and some of them are even beginning to tweet. I have a printer friend on the east coast who has turned into a powerhouse blogger. Every week she has something new to say. I only wish I could be more consistent with this blog. This is all very encouraging because social media takes time to understand and develop. The sooner you get started the sooner you are on the path to success with these new tools.

Most of my social media efforts has been centered around my business, because as most of my small business colleagues know:
You are your business and your business is you.

Here is my lineup of non-print media where you will find this printer:

Combined with web, mobile and social media there are many new tools in print media that are available that can make your print more effective, more powerful and elicit a much higher response rate. I’ll leave those discussions to another post.

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