Plug-ins: printing & production

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The printing and production sector has undergone major transformation in a digitally dominated market, and many marketers can now use the dual impact of print media and technology to communicate marketing messages to customers. At the same time, there has been a recalibration of expectations for improved sales and greater return on investment.

Our experts offer up their best advice to help marketers take advantage of these advancements, including Web to print technologies. As Natasha Kesaji, VP of client services at the Jacobs Agency, notes: “Print communications need to connect with online assets to continue the dialogue with customers.” Rocky Abbett, VP of NOVA Marketing Services, advises marketers to segment lists carefully, and get creative with design and packaging in traditional campaigns. Dustin LeFebvre, EVP at Specialty Print Communications, indicates that internal culture must change and become more nimble, collaborative and relationship-focused in order to drive advancement.

Five ways to keep pace with print evolution:
Dustin LeFebvre, EVP, Specialty Print Communications

For much of its history, the evolution of print seemingly moved at the pace of a drifting continent. Even in recent years as digital has taken root, print has been perceived by many as a fading tactic of the luddites. A couple years back, I even concealed my badge in shame at an Association of National Advertisers event, as digital and social media became the rage and threatened to render "old media" obsolete. 


However, today digital is driving print, and printing is now digital. A tectonic shift is at hand; the same technology that threatened to displace print is providing it new vitality.


Digital and hybrid printing 
are now delivering a user-driven customized experience that drives to digital. It is quietly insistent, a vital tool to extend an engagement. Print is now intertwined with digital technology, and moving forward, the two will evolve in concert. Expect a major, industry-changing innovation every few years. 


As a marketer, keeping pace with this "hyper evolution" in the printing industry will work to your competitive advantage. Here are five tips to help 
you do so.


1. Create a culture of change. To keep pace with the ongoing innovation and new technology in today's printing industry, you should contribute towards a company culture that is amenable to change. Expect and anticipate change as an organization, and structure your company to be adaptable. 


Entrepreneurial spirit and autonomy will enable first mover advantages on new trends and technologies. 



2. Collaborate. Discuss ideas in a team environment, both internally and externally. Use strategic partnerships already in place to share ideas, laterally apply experience, and ask unexpected questions. 


By leveraging partnerships, we were able to pioneer a four-color hybrid imaging process to enable companies to tailor direct mail to individual customers with the visual combination of variable words and pictures. We were able to realize this as a capability thanks to vendor partners, technology providers, and academic cooperation. 



3. Use whitepapers. Read 
consultant whitepapers to stay abreast of new industry 
technologies, trends and innovations. Additionally, don't limit yourself to traditional media. Follow relevant social media feeds for real-time updates. 



4. Attend trade shows. Many new products and technologies are launched at trade shows for maximum exposure and effect. Attendance and curiosity will put you on the cutting edge as sales reps fall all over themselves to share with you how their new widget will revolutionize your professional landscape. 


These types of shows occur every year in the U.S. and throughout the world, and can be invaluable in terms of keeping you ahead of the competition. The largest worldwide show, Drupa, takes place this coming May in Germany.



5. Be relationship-focused. Business isn't sterile; it's conducted between people. Being approachable as an individual and a company provides opportunities to make both professional and personal connections. Oftentimes, people seek to do business with people they like and respect, so understanding the value of relationships makes good business sense.


Combine dimensional mail with QR codes:
Rocky Abbett, VP, NOVA Marketing Services, a division of the Matlet Group

Greater technology capabilities, including the rise in popularity of quick response (QR) codes, has fed the growth in dimensional mailing. It has also reset expectations for improved sales and greater return on investment (ROI) among marketers. Combining dimensional mail pieces with QR codes can help improve campaign effectiveness by increasing the number of touches with your target audience. Here are four things to keep in mind. 

1. Do your data homework. It begins with list management and your database. Segment your in-house list to selectively reach those customers that best match the parameters of your campaign in order to generate the best ROI results. If you are reaching out to new customers, emphasize quality over quantity. More names for less money is not always the best choice. Choose demographics that mirror your customer profile.



2. Trust your design. It is a 
visual world, and your mailer needs to make a statement. Be bold about the colors, shapes and unique sizes you use. Use these to drive customers online, where you can continue to engage them on your website.


3. Make packaging a 
priority. Use a substrate or paper stock that will travel well through the postal stream to ensure the piece arrives 
undamaged. Bring multiple 
technologies into play and consider the latest advancements using foils, scents or shiny coatings. Also keep in mind that Pantone recently introduced 175 new colors for designers, so think about some that would make an impression with your target audience.



4. Analyze and learn. Make sure to analyze the ROI for each marketing campaign. It takes time and is often overlooked, but it is the only way you'll know if your efforts have paid off. Did this mailer accomplish your goals and reach the intended audience? What did you learn from your customers? What could you do differently the next time to enhance the customer's experience?

Enable print to prompt digital touchpoints:
Natasha Kesaji, VP, client services,  Jacobs Agency 

With the fragmentation of media, marketers need every audience touchpoint to further engage and drive the next interaction. Print communications need to connect with online assets to continue the dialogue with customers, as well as maximize the impact of marketing investments.

The integration of variable printing with digital response technologies has allowed print communications to become more relevant and prompt digital experiences directly. Here are three ways to leverage the print to Web technologies to spur further audience engagement. 

1. Determine the next appropriate touchpoint beyond print. Evaluate where the print media aligns with your audience's decision-making process, and then provide them with the next touchpoint towards their purchase. Deliver content or brand experiences in the form of a video, webinar, text message or social media. Drive prospects to landing pages or microsites 
to complete purchases or 
other actions.


2. Identify the best response technology. If you have enough customer data, consider using personalized URLs (PURLs) to create a richer and more one-on-one online experience. If you lack the level of customer data necessary for PURLs, try leveraging a quick response (QR) code on your non-variable, printed pieces to send targets to rich media, promotions or specific Web pages. 


3. Ensure content fulfills expectations. There is an expectation of a more robust experience beyond a standard HTML website when targets respond through these mechanisms. After your prospect makes the effort to engage, the last thing marketers want is to disappoint them. Be sure to create a personalized experience that acknowledges past interactions compared with asking the respondent to identify themselves. Remember to optimize the resulting QR code content for mobile Web so you fulfill that expectation for "quick response" and do not have deterrents like slow-loading video.

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