A Printer’s Guide to Cross Channel Marketing

olden daysWithin print we’re great at applying labels that confuse. We apply terms to marketing services which the marketers have never heard of. Think VDP, for example. Ask a marketer what she thinks that is and be ready for a blank stare. What we call variable data printing, she thinks of as personalisation – no wonder it’s hard to sell!

And we’ve done it again with “Cross Media”. If you don’t be believe me just Google it and see what results you get. To have a fighting chance of being understood outside of the print industry we should be calling it Cross Channel. But, worse still, I have a sneaking suspicion that many bandy the term around without really understanding the concept. So, here’s my Printers’ Quick Guide to Cross Channel (or Cross Media if that’s what you prefer!):

1.  It’s what marketers used to call multi-channel marketing
2.  They’ve always based their campaigns on a number of “touches” i.e. exposures to the brand/product being promoted
3.  These touches typically included a host of different channels as it wasn’t known which medium the recipient preferred, or was most likely to respond to
4.  A campaign was virtually “set in stone” from the outset
5.  Print was almost always one of the channels included
6.  In the pre-digital days there was far more “hope” and “guesswork” to campaigns
7.  A campaign could be judged on its overall success but rarely on individual elements or touches
8.  Marketers relied on, for example, printed codes on reply paid coupons or the timings of responses which might be attributed to the timings of an advert or piece of DM
9.  The emphasis was on COST, rather than ROI
10. “Push marketing” was the norm and the exact same message was broadcast to all recipients, without real customisation or tailoring
11. A scattergun approach was common and people believed marketing to be a numbers game – that is, the larger the database the more likelihood of success
12. That was before there was “online” – digital marketing arrived and changed the game
13. It meant speed, measurability and was perceived as cheaper
14. Emails could be created without the skill of a designer, broadcast immediately without any production time lag or real delivery cost, and sent from a user’s PC desktop
15. Using relatively inexpensive software their impact could be tracked and if when they were received and opened, forwarded or acted upon and any resulting actions measured
16. Similarly which pages on a website were visited, when, how often and by whom
17. Data from all of these channels could be captured for future use
18. Search engines allowed customers to easily find what they needed anywhere in the world
19. It became much easier not just to source but to compare suppliers and benchmark costs
20. The advent of social media  facilitated 2-way dialogue over “push marketing” or broadcasting
21. All of this meant marketers had far more channels to contend with
22. More channels means more expertise is required, more suppliers to engage with and manage
23. Print as a marketer’s choice suffered because of its perceived cost – the cost of production but also, in the case of direct mail, the cost of postage
24. The modern day marketer has very little understanding of print – no one teaches them but it’s just one of the channels they need to know about
25. Content marketing is an addition to the modern marketer’s repertoire. It relies on developing and making available information that is useful and which invites engagement for “pull marketing”
26. Bombardment, unsubscribes, spam complaints, irrelevance and overkill are what keeps today’s marketers awake at night
27. Cross channel is a potential “cure all” for these ills
28. Cross Channel Marketing software or a Marketing Automation system is the technology behind this
29. It delivers what marketers want/need – that is, relevant, timely and triggered campaigns
30. Campaigns are no longer set in stone. Now they develop based on recipient responses and generate individual customer journeys on a “what if?” basis
31. The framework and flow of a campaign is developed to include the messaging, creative, concepts and elements of collateral
32. A dataset of recipients is defined
33. Variable data is employed to produce personalised “touches” – this can span all channels including emails, print and pURLS and landing pages
34. These personalised touches can be supported by additional media, for example
·  Social media updates/integration
·  Traditional media advertising (Print, TV, radio, etc.)
·  Pay per click (Pay Per Click) advertising and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
·  Out of home (OOH) advertising
35. The response to the 1st touch determines what and when the next touch will be. Some examples,
·  where an email is delivered but not opened this might be re-sent on a pre-determined date or sent again with an alternative subject line
·  where an email is sent twice but not opened, this might generate, as an alternative, the message as a piece of printed direct mail
·  where a pURL link is clicked but a contact form on the page abandoned, this might generate an email encouraging the recipient to revisit
36. This triggering continues and so the response to the 2nd touch determines what the next touch will be, and so on
37. The target only ever receives something wholly appropriate and customised to him/her
38. Variables are seemingly endless, but automated
39. Reporting and analytics are available in real-time
40. Deviations and improvements to the campaign can be initiated quickly and at any time during its course
41. Success and ROI of individual elements is accurately measured
42. Future campaigns can be built on intelligence gleaned from previous ones

Simple? Yes, in theory. But actually getting it right requires expertise and some experience. Calling it by a name your potential customers might recognise is a good starting point :)

#Hashtag? #isitme?

pink hashtag

#irritating #little #symbol

That a young mother named her poor baby girl “Hashtag” is old news now. She may have been the first but she probably won’t be the last as a growing number of people strive to find unusual, and often ridiculous, names for their unsuspecting offspring – Like, Facebook and even At (presumably shortened to @) among them.

Disturbing as that is, I’m currently more concerned by the creeping of the innocent and, until recently, rarely used little character into everyday conversation. Twitter’s a phenomenon that can’t be denied; I for one spend more time than I probably should on this increasingly addictive medium. However, I’m noticing that it’s those that don’t know their tweets from their elbows that are adopting the rediscovered hashtag into everyday conversation – using the little crosshatch symbol in the same way that, in the past, people irritatingly gestured quotation marks with their index and middle fingers.

#Justsaying is a modern day “get out of jail free” card, meaning any statement that immediately precedes it can’t be held against the speaker. I can see the validity of that (from time to time anyway) but I recently sat in a meeting where someone used it to ask #whoseturnisittotakenotes? and that’s #ridiculous and #justabridgetoofar

What more can the industry do to promote the power of print?

first published: Print Monthly – May 2013

“blinded by the technology”

When I started in marketing in the late ‘80s, print was the medium of choice. When I say “choice”, I use the term loosely. Aside from print media advertising the rest of my budget was split between direct mail and a smattering of telemarketing.

In comparison today’s marketer, the new print buyer, is literally spoilt for choice. Email broadcasting, social media, online advertising, SMS, SEO, etc., all compete for a slice of her budget. It’s no surprise then that, when push comes to shove, she’ll opt for a) what she knows and b) what she believes delivers the best ROI.

So, if these 30-something “digital natives” don’t understand print and feel blinded by the technology then that’s a) taken care of. If they perceive it as expensive because as an industry we insist on presenting it as a commodity with a focus on price, then there goes b) too.

Modern day marketers have, on the whole, had little or no exposure to print and they certainly don’t learn about it in their studies. That means we need to tailor our approach to them, losing any references to the “speeds and feeds” and plant lists which she’s simply not interested in.

Instead the focus needs to be on how powerful the medium really is and how it can deliver her a healthy ROI for her campaigns. There’s a wealth of evidence out there which proves that many of the other channels (and particularly those viewed as cheaper or even free) are nowhere near as effective, or as good at eliciting a response, as print. But I’m not convinced that we’re taking the time to learn about these competitive/complementary channels and their weaknesses, and arming ourselves with the facts we need to convince the marketers of print’s ROI and continuing value.

In some instances and for some campaigns the other channels might have the edge but, for most, print will have a crucial and indispensable role to play. We certainly shouldn’t be keeping that good news to ourselves!



Taking notice

pink loudspeaker compressedI spoke at the FESPA Global Summit back in January and, a couple of weeks after, took a call from one of printer delegates that had been there. In itself not unusual, I’m an obvious target for a cold call because I buy a fair bit of print. But this conversation went along the lines of,
Printer: “Hi Jacky. Did you get my parcel?”
Me:        “Parcel? I don’t remember a parcel…”
Printer: “Hmmm, that’s strange. Someone in your office signed for it yesterday.”
Me:        “Really? Give me your number. I’ll have a rummage and call you back.”
Turns out he was right. A package had been delivered, signed for and then, inexplicably, buried under an assortment of office debris. Parcel found I was intrigued to discover its contents. Shallow I know but I receive a box “out of the blue” and my greedy little brain assumes it’s going to be some sort of a gift!

Hastily unpacked, and really quite excited by this point, I found it contained a selection of samples (interesting substrates, nice finishing, well presented) and a letter. Again not particularly unusual you’d think. Except the difference with this “letter” was, not only was it beautifully designed and vibrantly coloured, it was a) all about me and b) printed onto a 10mm thick piece of acrylic so, actually, more of a wall plaque than a letter.

Guess what. I didn’t throw it away, I put it on my bookshelf and called him back. And, let me tell you that never happens. People don’t ring cold callers back. On the whole they’re lucky if they get through in the first place. We had a conversation. He was a really nice guy who’d come along to the Summit hoping for some “takeaways”; things that would help him in his business. There’d been plenty, he told me, and he went away feeling inspired.

One of the presentations he’d sat through was mine. I’d talked about printers’ marketing materials and how they should be the best. With all the production means at their disposal, their marketing collateral is an obvious way to demonstrate their skills; what we call “showing versus telling” in marketing. I’d also said that most I’d seen were disappointing; far too focussed on the technical, lots of references to equipment and, on the whole, just far too much about them and very little about me and how they might help me. I’d also referenced how many calls I get from printers asking if they can quote on my next project. Thereby making what they do all about price and, effectively, a commodity purchase rather than a service offering.

I was impressed, and flattered. He’d taken notice of what I’d said and put together something personal that demonstrated what he offered, talked personally and directly to me (and about me – never underestimate a marketer’s vanity!) and provided the opportunity for us to engage and have a conversation. In return he’d made me take notice of him. His approach was just a little bit different; what he sent reflected the quality of his workmanship and, because the plaque he sent sits on my bookshelf, there’s not a day goes past when I’m not exposed to his brand. Which, until I have a need for that particular service, has to be the best we can hope for with our marketing.

Triggers award winning broom

A printer I know has, over the course of a few months, had to replace his entire sales team. Now losing one or two members could be said to be unlucky but losing them all has to be plain careless! Though I admire the entrepreneurial skills of the Trotters, I wouldn’t say that “Only Fools and Horses” had a lot to recommend it in the way of good business practice. However the clip below, in which Trigger explains his broom’s role in securing a business award, puts me in mind of this particular printer. Like the broom that has 17 new heads and 14 handles, how many people can you “lose” before a business is so fundamentally different that clients can no longer recognise it?

Legally of course it’s an entity in its own right but in every other way surely it’s just a collection of people? The key I guess must be to have strong leadership and a culture that isn’t dependent on the individual, to maintain relationships with customers that engender their loyalty, to supply a service that’s top-notch irrespective of the person delivering it and, as Trigger and roadsweepers the world over would testify, to “look after your broom”!