Kohler wraps clients in one-to-one marketing

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By adding personalized URLs this year to a 20-year-old holiday promotion, Kohler Print Group involved the St. Louis design community and showcased its one-to-one marketing services simultaneously.

For the past two decades, Kohler has printed its own custom-designed gift wrap and given it to clients around the holidays. This promotion gained steam in the past five years as the firm began working with local charities to design gift wrap specifically for them while engaging more of the local design community. This year, Kohler invited designers to submit gift wrap designs and asked clients to vote for their favorite entries at a personalized URL.

"In 2006, we decided to carry the gift wrap promotion a little further and at the same time market our one-to-one services," Kohler president/CEO Kevin Kohler said. Because the St. Louis company is seeing more demand from clients for direct mail with personalized URLs, "the idea was to showcase what we're doing for other clients and use it for our own purposes."

Though a few clients understand the power of combining personalized URLs with direct mail, many are just learning about it, said Keith Kohler, president of KPEX, Kohler's digital marketing solutions company.

"A lot of clients are unaware of what the latest state-of-the-art print technologies can do, such as personal printing and integrating personalized URLs," he said. The latter, for example, "ultimately drives much higher response rates than conventional mail alone."

In the first stage of the promotion, Kohler mailed 60 invitations in mid-September to local designers, asking whether they wished to submit a gift wrap design. The invitation was mailed with a tape-dispensing wristband. Both were packaged in a gift box that was wrapped in one of last year's custom-designed gift wraps.

The company received 25 designs that it pared to six. Those six designs were promoted on www.kohlerprint.com and in a direct mail piece. Kohler sent 1,700 mail pieces in mid-October to clients and prospects that included a personalized URL where each recipient was greeted by name and could vote for his three favorite designs. Once online, recipients also could update their contact information and indicate whether they wished to learn more about Kohler.

The three most popular designs were printed by Kohler and sent out as holiday gifts, just like in the past.

More than 20 percent of all recipients used their personalized URL to vote for their favorite wrapping paper. In addition, 13 percent, or 236 voters, indicated on their personal Web page that they wanted to know more about Kohler's one-to-one marketing services.

One benefit of personalized URLs for a printing company like Kohler is that their success reignites interest in direct mail.

"In the past, people were sending out direct mail pieces with business reply cards and not getting quite the response rates they hoped for," said Betsy Burnett, president of KPEX. "Now with personalized URLs, you eliminate the postage cost for the business reply card, and all of the data that is being collected is electronic from the get-go, so there's less administrative work involved."

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