Category Archives: knowledge center

5 Steps to Great Print Planning

Most successful printing projects don’t happen by accident. They start with a good plan. Here are 5 steps to ensuring that everything goes smoothly and on budget.

  1. What is the goal of the printed piece?

Is the goal of the piece to entertain or inform? To impress? Your marketing goals influence the design and quality of the piece. Certain ideas may have a significant impact on turnaround or cost. For example, some binding options can take extra time, and certain trim sizes might incur extra expense. Paper choices can also affect the project cost and turnaround time.

  1. Who is the audience, and how will they use the piece?

If you are designing a flyer for a theatrical opening, it will look different than one promoting a rock concert. People read a book differently than they read a poster. Before setting anything in stone, talk to us to determine how your design decisions can affect the project budget and schedule.

  1. How many suppliers are involved?

Take into account the schedules of any outside service providers. For example, if you are using a freelance illustrator or label designer, you need to take his or her availability into consideration. If you’re adhering a label to a bottle, you need to work with the bottle company to ensure that the bottles are available when you need them.

  1. When does the piece need to arrive?

Always plan backwards from the delivery date. It’s particularly important to involve us in this part of the planning process so we can schedule your project. Because we juggle many jobs at any given time, your project needs gets to press in time to meet your deadline. If not, your job may get rescheduled behind other jobs, and especially if those jobs are large or complex, that can affect its mail or delivery date significantly.

  1. How much “fudge” do you need?

Finally, you need to incorporate “fudge factor.” Always add in buffer time to accommodate slippage in the schedule. The larger the project, the more buffer you will need.

The moral of the story? Good print planning starts with communicating early—and often.

5 Tips to Selecting Images that Win Customers

Do you have the right images to reinforce your message and engage your target audience? Let’s look at a few ideas to help you select photos and illustrations that help to achieve your campaign objectives.

  1. Mirror your target audience. The quickest way to let your customers know your product is right for them is to use images reflecting the same demographic. A company promoting a new perfume might show a 35- to 44-year-old woman surrounded by admirers. A health club might use this same age demographic but change the image to athletic men and women.
  2. Empathize with your prospect. A working mother is anxiously looking at the clock as it approaches 5:00 p.m., wondering what she will serve for dinner. A man looks out the window of a crowded bus and sees the sign for a car dealership promoting good cars on limited budgets. Use images that empathize with your customers’ challenges.
  3. Demonstrate your value proposition. Illustrate how your product will help prospects solve a problem. A food chain promoting its carryout menu might present the working mother as she puts a hot, healthy meal on the table for her family. The car dealership could show the man from the bus speeding away in a clean and dependable vehicle.
  4. Be authentic. Instead of a stock photo of a multicultural team laughing together around the water cooler, incorporate likenesses of your own employees in real offices, or the actual delivery truck customers will see pulling up to their business or residence. If a prospect can believe in your pictures, he can believe in your words as well.
  5. Reinforce the message you intend to convey. Using images that reflect what people care about is a great way to engage customers and keep them coming back.

Need help selecting the right images? Let our top-notch designers help!

5 Updates to Freshen Up Direct Mail

Are you looking for ways to spice up your direct mail campaigns? Even if your response rates remain high, are you looking to freshen things up? Here are a few ways you can update your direct mailings and give them new appeal.

  1. Update the package.

Are you using the same envelopes you have for years? If so, change the color. Change the size. Add a personalized teaser on the front (“John, check this out!”). If you are selling high-value products, consider dimensional mail or novelty envelopes that look like UPS packages or USPS Priority Mail.

  1. Tweak your text.

Still using the same marketing text from last year? Try a new approach. If you’ve been using an informational style, insert some humor. If you’ve been sending punchy one-liners, try adding more educational text.

  1. Freshen up the images.

How long have you been using that same picture of your headquarters? Is your headshot on the back of the postcard from the 1990s? Take a new company photo. Upload a current headshot with a fabulous smile. Or maybe you just want some new images as backgrounds or illustration.

  1. Add a new variable.

If you are personalizing your mailings, why not add a new variable? If you’ve been personalizing by name and gender, add age bracket or income. If you’ve been personalizing by ZIP Code and household income, refine by life stage.

Look for fresh, new ways to relate to customers and increase the relevance of the message.

  1. Try a new offer.

What incentive have you been using to get people to respond? 15% discount? If so, try 10% or 25%. Go crazy and try BOGO. How are you encouraging people to log into their personalized microsite? Entrance into a sweepstakes for a gift card? Try a set of concert tickets instead.

Mixing things up can be a great way to stay fresh and relevant, even when sending to the same audience. So get creative. Step outside the box and see what happens.

Need some ideas? Contact us. We can help!

5 Ways to Trim the Print Budget without Compromising Results

Want to get better results with a smaller investment? Try these simple tricks.

  1. Plan smart. Simple mistakes often can be avoided with a little planning. Take time to communicate with us about your budget and deadlines, but also the more interpretive elements of the project so we can discuss any challenges we foresee.
  2. Gang your runs. By placing many projects on the same sheet, or piggybacking on an unused portion of a sheet, we can reduce manpower, plates, and prep time.
  3. Think “down the line.” Changes become more expensive the further along you are in the print job. Everyone who needs to approve your files should do so before you submit them for printing. Proofread your copy multiple times. Confirm that you’ve prepared your digital files properly, keeping in mind that the resolution of digital files varies greatly.
  4. Tweak your paper. Paper can account for 30%–50% of your printing costs, and there are a number of cost-saving measures you can take without adversely affecting your results.
  • Reduce the size and number of pages. By targeting and segmenting your mailings and information packets, you can often save a lot of money over time.
  • Use thinner paper. Changing the weight can save 10%–15% of your paper costs.
  • Make subtle changes to brightness. Generally speaking, the brighter the paper, the higher the cost. But few people will notice a slight change in the brightness of your paper, so this is often somewhere you can tighten the belt.
  • Consider colored papers instead of bleeds. You may be able to create the effect you want less expensively with colored paper instead of ink.
  • Opt for the house paper. Paper prices fluctuate often, but you can save time and money by using papers we purchase in high volume. Ask us for samples.
  1. Remember that boring is your friend. When it comes to print production, you want your print job to be uneventful once it hits the pressroom. To make this happen, talk to us early and often!

Need more money-saving ideas? Give us a call!

Tips and Tricks for Selecting Colors

Color sells. It increases brand recognition, improves comprehension, and can motivate purchase decisions between products. Color also identifies. The United Parcel Service, IBM, and Home Depot are all synonymous with specific colors. Some companies even trademark colors as brand assets. Think Tiffany’s robin’s egg blue.

A study by G.A Wright Marketing found that the use of high-quality paper and color applications can increase response rates by nearly 50%. For example, the study showed that a four-color promotional mailer printed on heavy gloss paper stock had a more than 40% higher response rate than an identical three-color version printed on a lighter matte paper stock.

Colors summon emotions and create connections with the people surrounding your brand. Warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow are associated with a range of emotions, from optimism and excitement to violence. Cool colors like green, violet, and blue can be calming and nurturing, but they can also be impersonal and antiseptic.

Choose colors that will elicit a positive response from recipients, then balance them in a visually appealing way. Using variations of a single color will create a visual effect that is classic and easy on the eyes, but not as vibrant as it could be. Enrich the scheme by introducing analogous colors, selecting three colors next to each other on the color wheel. Examples include red/orange/yellow; green/blue/purple; and yellow/yellow-green/green. Consistently use one shade as the dominant color.

For higher contrast, select a complementary color scheme, choosing colors across the wheel from each other. This works best when you place a warm color against a cool color, such as red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow. Any tint can be used. Midnight blue/tangerine and royal purple/gold are effective combinations.

Most any color mix can work as long as you retain harmony and richness in your presentation and avoid the hues used by your competitors.

Test combinations until you find the scheme that sends the message you want associated with your business. Your customers make split-second decisions based on color, so use it to your advantage.

Need help? Just ask!

Is Your Direct Mail Trustworthy?

If you’re looking for some pointers for your next direct mail campaign, Classic Litho is here to help.

People don’t just buy from companies they like. They buy from companies they trust. When you send out direct mail campaigns, it’s important to keep this in mind. Let’s look at five ways you can establish trust with your customers.

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Use solid, believable content. Leave the extravagant claims and cheesy superlatives to the late night infomercials. Make your headlines and body copy factual and believable. Back up your claims. Be specific so people know that you are representing the product accurately.

Write for your audience. If your marketing copy sounds generic, recipients might not feel that your claims are genuine. It’s hard to trust a company that is willing to sell anything to anybody whether they really need it or not. Target your offers, marketing copy, and calls to action to each target audience specifically so they recognize your claims as true.

Credible design. Marketing copy can be superficial and cheesy, and so can design. If you use five different fonts and clutter the design area with tons of images and an impenetrable sea of text, your piece will look unprofessional. If your design looks unprofessional, your company will too. Avoid super tiny fonts because they make it look as if you are trying to hide something.

Use real people. Customer testimonials are great for establishing credibility, but they have to be from real life people. Use names, locations, and pictures of smiling faces when possible. Assure readers that these are actual people, not customers you made up.

Proofread your text. Spelling and grammar errors don’t make for a professional image. Have a professional editor or proofreader get a final set of eyes on your copy to ensure that there are no mistakes.

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When it comes to direct mail, there are no shortcuts.  Be sincere. Be credible. Present not just a great product, but a company that people can trust.

With our full service creative team, variable data capabilities and fulfillment service, get in touch to see how we can help you take your direct mail to the next level.  sales@classiclitho.com

Are You Designing for Visual Impairment?

When we think about selecting a font for a print marketing piece, we tend to think about the creative aspects of the selection. Does it match the branding? Will it convey the right message (strength, creativity, whimsy) to the target audience? But there are some practical issues that need to be considered as well. These relate to readability.

Not everyone in your target audience has the same level of vision. Older members might be facing issues like cataracts, macular degeneration, or glaucoma. Even younger consumers may have untreated amblyopia or eye teaming. These visual issues make reading challenging. If your audience has trouble just reading the words, the larger marketing message will get lost.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, when choosing a font, here are some specific things to consider for target audiences (or portions of those audiences) who might be facing vision issues:

Font type: Use easily recognizable characters in fonts such as standard Roman or Arial. Avoid decorative fonts.

Font size: Increase the font size to make it easier to read. This is especially important for in-store displays, signage, and other materials that may be read from a distance.

Serif vs. sans serif: For maximum readability, use a sans serif typeface.

Bold it. When possible, use bold type because the thickness of the letters makes the print more legible.

Contrast: Choose colors and type styles that contrast from background. The more contrast, the easier the font is to read. You may want to avoid using italics or all capital letters. Both make it more difficult to differentiate letters.

If you are going to a general audience, it might be worth segmenting out specific age groups or other demographics and including font selection and sizing as part of the customization.

Need help choosing the right font for your audience or segmenting your projects to get the right match between the two? Let us help.

 

7 Ways to Maximize Impact on a Small Budget

A high-impact marketing campaign comes from creativity and strategy, not from having limitless resources. Let’s look at seven ways to optimize your marketing budget for maximum impact, even on minimum dollars.

  1. Concentrate on a niche market. Target your message to a smaller market versus a diverse group of prospects. Maximize your marketing spend by mailing highly relevant, targeted offers rather than general solicitations.
  2. Plan your printing. Involve us in the design of your printed pieces from the beginning. We can often recommend paper, ink, trim sizes, and layouts that will save you money.
  3. Maximize your postal spend. New postage rates have recently gone into effect that address size, shape and weight. Using these new parameters, we can advise you on creating mailings that will minimize your postage expense while maximizing your ROI.
  4. Consider postcards. Some studies estimate postcard readership at close to 100%, especially if your design is eye-catching and your message is brief. Ask us for assistance in creating a low-cost postcard that meets postal service specifications for reduced postage.
  5. Be the expert. When prospective clients are in need of your product or service, you will have instant credibility if they have seen your name in print. Create a newsletter or blog, write articles for magazines, newspapers and journals, or even consider producing your own branded magazine.
  6. Network. Join a speakers bureau and attend trade shows and conferences. Utilize online networking resources, such as LinkedIn. Pass out and mail business cards and brochures to boost awareness among your potential clients.
  7. Partner with non-competing businesses. Identify companies that offer complementary goods and services, and create cooperative marketing collateral using a pool of shared dollars.

There are many cost-effective ways to let future customers know about your company’s products and services. Be resourceful and you will reap the rewards on your balance sheet.

3 Ways to Make More of Your Data

One of the biggest misconceptions about 1:1 (personalized) printing is that marketers don’t have enough of the data to create personalized, highly relevant campaigns. This might be true in some cases, but you might also be overlooking ways to do more with the data you already have.

Here are three ways to maximize the use of existing data:

  1. Revive existing customer relationships.

Find those customers that used to order frequently but who might have dropped off the map. Send them a note telling them you missed them. Ask them to fill out a survey (to find out why) and offer a coupon encouraging them to come back.

  1. Cross-sell and upsell.

While prospecting is an important part of marketing, your most profitable relationships are the customers who already buy from you. Take advantage of these relationships by proactively cross-selling and upselling relevant products of use to them. If you are an auto dealer and know a customer’s lease is about to expire on a Toyota Corolla, for example, send a personalized brochure appealing to all of the benefits of upgrading to a Toyota Camry.

  1. Start a loyalty program.

Ask existing customers to join a loyalty program. These programs encourage customers to maintain their relationship with you based on deals. Buy nine, get the tenth free. Earn discounts and free stuff based on shopping frequency or referrals. Sometimes loyalty program benefits are discounts and free merchandise, but especially for luxury items, exclusive access and insider information can be powerful incentives, too. If you are a local winery, ask tour visitors to sign up for a wine club. Offer insider “deals” like exclusive wine tastings and access to lectures from local celebrities.

Need help maximizing your existing customer data? We’ve got great ideas. Just ask!

 

Personalized Marketing: It’s Mainstream

From personalized coupons at the checkout counter to “just for you” recommendations at Amazon.com, personalized marketing is everywhere.

While some marketers are still deciding whether to take the plunge into this “new” form of marketing in print, fully personalized documents have been around for a long time. Back in 2010 (“Capturing the Cross-Media Direct Marketing Opportunity”), InfoTrends found that the overwhelming majority of marketers were already using segmented (40%) or fully personalized (21%) communications. Only 40% of campaigns fit into the category of “one to many.” This means that if you are sending static mail pieces, you’re competing with marketers who are not only speaking to their customers and prospects on a personalized level, but they are seasoned at doing so. If your competitors are personalizing and you are not, you are at a competitive disadvantage.

Need to get started? Even with a simple basic customer list, here are steps you can take:

  1. Personalize by name.

Use the recipient’s name creatively. Integrate it into the design in an interesting, eye-catching way.

  1. Target by a single, simple variable.

Will it help to target the mailing by gender? How about by ZIP code? Would it help to add a map? (This works great for new businesses or new branches or locations.) These are data you already have. Use them!

  1. Beef up your marketing database.

Purchase simple variables like home ownership or household income for the names you already have. Adding to your database is not expensive, and it can boost your marketing effectiveness exponentially.

Need help? Talk to us about how you can put data to use to create a more personal relationship with your customers.