print marketing

Selling Beyond Print with Direct Mail

If there is one thing we have learned from successful printing companies, it is that they regularly offer new offerings to their customers. Whether you are a large, multi-plant printer or a small, local printer, one area that is undergoing changes is direct mail. With a market size of almost 47 billion dollars, according to the Winterberry Group, the opportunities for supplying direct mail to customers are endless.

Even during the recent tough economic years, the direct mail market has continued to remain strong. It is projected that this is an area that will continue to be a major and effective marketing channel used by customers, both big and small. Most experts predict that the combination of the increased use of ink jet printing, easier personalization, and the continued introduction of new substrates will spur growth.

Direct Mail is Scalable

Almost all printing companies offer some sort of direct mail products and services. There are many variations to direct programs and campaigns that even the smallest print provider can offer. Also, there are thousands of new potential printing customers who could be introduced to the power of direct mail marketing.

Nick Nicolich, co-owner of Star Press of Pearl River in NY, said, “We learned to be successful in direct mail by listening and adding value for our customers. Our team attempts to learn what our customers are trying to do as a very first step. When you get someone to talk about their project and learn more about it, you can give them a better way to accomplish their objectives. If we can do that, we generally keep them as a customer for life.”

This is a good time to reassess how we approach the direct mail market. Here are some of the behaviors we have seen from successful companies:

Focus on customer education about the value of print

There is growing ignorance of the value of print, especially direct mail. When entry level and new managers first enter the workforce, their first thought on how to get a message out is often not print related. Educate them on the value and effectiveness of a well thought out marketing mix which includes direct mail.

Provide great customer service

Millennials are showing us the value great customer service can add to the bottom line. They are flocking to providers (such as Amazon) that provide excellent customer service. Putting together a direct mail campaign may seem intimidating to those new customers not familiar with print. By helping them overcome their fears about the technical intricacies of print, you can build a closer relationship.

Deliver an entire solution

New and understaffed customers need and want the total solution. Direct mail customers need advice, design, copywriting, data bases, print and distribution services. Having templates, samples, advice, and information readily available will create leads and also help to explain the entire process to your customers. 

Start small

A great way to introduce your customers to direct mail is by using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program for small retail customers. It’s a great solution for customers such as restaurants, banks, home improvement companies and insurance agencies. You don’t have to know the names and addresses of recipients, you simply choose a neighborhood and marketing pieces are delivered to every address along the route.

Even seemingly simple projects can result in the development of a long-term and profitable customer.

The First Step for Sales is Understanding the Customer

For most customers, direct mail is baffling. 

Since every qualified potential customer should receive an outstanding first impression, sales and customer service people should understand the customer’s capabilities and requirements BEFORE making recommendations. Here are some potential questions to ask that would make any customer feel confident in a print provider:

What is the goal and objective of the project?

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  •  How will the results be measured?

Why has the customer decided to use direct mail?

  • Have they used direct mail before?
  • Do they need design support, templates, databases, etc.?
  • What is the time frame and budget?

What is their vision of what the direct mail piece will look like?

  • Do they have a design and ideas how the project should look?
  • Have they seen other campaigns that they found appealing?
  • What is their understanding of the process to develop and distribute the piece?

Once these questions are answered by naturally weaving them in a normal conversation with a potential customer, then the specifics of the project can begin. Direct mail is an important product and service category for all printers. It takes patience to learn about data bases and the requirements of the USPS.

The payoff can be extended and a consistent flow of new applications and a profitable revenue stream.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions ( is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was first published in the October edition of the Printing News.


Building Sales With Customer Events

Intellective Solutions Marketing

Intellective Solutions Marketing

There is no better way to increase prospect levels then hosting a great customer event. Given the proliferation of customer marketing messages found online, in email and through social media, having a customer event is an excellent way to drown out the noise and gain quality time with prospects.

For some, the idea of an open house or customer event is greeted with little enthusiasm. It requires a lot of hard work and can be very embarrassing if only a few or the wrong kinds of prospects attend. We have seen print providers spend large sums of money to promote a customer event only to see it result in an expensive party attended mostly by company employees.

What Makes a Successful Customer Event?

There is no shortage of creative ideas for events. A key question is, “Why hold an event in the first place?”

An obvious reason would be to generate qualified leads and prospects for your products and services. Other reasons include launching new products to existing customers, educating customers on personalization, web to print, or digital packaging ideas or simply to make existing customers aware of new capabilities.

Here are some steps that we have found to be essential in executing outstanding return on investments and time for customer events:

Set an Objective

The first step in any marketing initiative is to establish an objective. The objective will determine how much cost and effort an organization will be willing to exert.  Many organizations set a revenue target based on the amount of sales generated by the event.

A more reasonable approach would be to set objectives based on the number and quality of the attendees. Then later on, there can be a calculation on how much incremental business was generated over a longer time period.

Do the Research and Planning

Great customer events are built on good planning. That means determining who you will target, what is the budget, what is the purpose and what must be done to make the event a success.  Event types can range from a webinar, trade show, or off-site customer recognition event, to an onsite training extravaganza.

Successful event planners are great at creating “to do” lists. The list becomes part of a project plan based on what needs to get done, deadline dates and who is responsible. For most print providers, every person in the organization should be involved in some way and committed to its success.

Build an Event that Will Drive Interest and Excitement

Based on our experience working with many print providers, showing print products alone will not be enough to gain attendance. To get customers to come out of their office, there must be something in it for them.

Having a fancy theme and providing free gifts or food is not good enough anymore.  Look at the customer’s perspective. Give them a reason to go. Most of all, buyers are looking for value for their time. New ideas to make customers successful will attract even the busiest buyers. Creativity and excitement will not hurt attendance either.

Get the Word Out

Using a cross media approach makes a great deal of sense for print providers. Not only does cross media generate better results, but it is a great way to show off your capabilities.

Building an online registration site will help reinforce what the event is all about and allow for tracking of attendance. This combined with email blasts, video and direct mail, will provide multiple touch points.

For most small and medium size print providers, customers will not respond just to email and direct mail pieces. Salespeople and CSRs must personally follow up on invitations and reinforce the value of the event.  

Also, it often happens that customers will sign up to attend and then forget to come. Reminding each customer just prior to the date will increase the likelihood of attendance. In addition, online registration sites can send automatic reminder emails to guests.   

Make the Day Memorable

This should be a day that each attendee will remember and be inspired to take some new action. Ensuring that each guest is greeted by name and thanked for attending is a must. A common mistake is not having enough staff at the event to ensure that all customers are personally addressed.

Shortly after the event, quickly following up with customers is where business results are generated.  Here is where assigned sales and marketing personnel can qualify each attendee and ensure the appropriate next steps are taken.

Whether or not to hold a customer event is an important marketing decision. The question is can we attract customers, build loyalty and penetrate accounts as effectively using other marketing methods? Most successful print providers have at least one event per year.  Given all the choices, a customer event is a perfect place to differentiate and build a deep relationship with both new and existing customers.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (  works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. The Intellective team enjoys providing Customer Event marketing services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in Quick Printing Magazine and