Decisions are a part of everyday life, whether it’s what shirt to wear or signing on the dotted line for a million-dollar business venture. So, how should we formulate a decision? I’ve found that the best approach is using multiple decision-making tools to get to the best answer for everyone.
Those making decisions currently rely at least partially on artificial intelligence. According to the 2018 Data and Marketing Association (DMA) Statistical Fact Book, 51% of marketing leaders already use, or plan to use, AI technology over the next two years, and about 50% said, “it is an important objective to make decisions based on data.”
What about good old-fashioned intuition? Using one’s gut instinct can only take you so far. It’s important to be objective and leverage good data to support the ideas you have.
In fact, the successful people that I know analyze data and use their intuition to make sound business decisions.
Mistakes will undoubtedly happen, but when they do, reduce your risk as much as possible by finding ways to lessen the loss. There is much to be learned from failure.
Some say Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before he invented the light bulb. He had a different take on his innovation. Edison said, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." Successful people will have a plan B in place, knowing that circumstances vary and may not be within their control.
It’s important to do your research before making decisions. Even if everyone is in favor of an idea, you should still do your due diligence before forging ahead. Good decision-making entails a balance of taking time to do your homework, and being careful not to purposely look for red flags that could derail you or squash the entrepreneurial spirit of a team.
I find that I gain insight when I least expect it. For clarity, be sure to give your brain a break. Slowing down gives you the ability to listen to your instincts with better clarity: This is why meditation is practiced by so many.
The most important thing -- look at the entire picture when making big decisions. Ask yourself these questions:
- How will it impact future business or future opportunities?
- How will it fit in with my current responsibilities and priorities?
- Will I need to put something else on the back burner?
Reach out. Don’t make decisions in isolation. Tap into your team or a network for insight. The best question to ask others is “What is your thinking on this?” It will give you the most helpful feedback. Never ask what they think you should do, and keep your confidant group small if you are seeking fast input for quicker decisions.
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Can you believe that inkjet printing has captured half of the digital color print market globally? We can because it is more capable than ever of overcoming many of today’s print manufacturing challenges and it delivers just what our customers need!
As technology progresses, so do customer expectations of a seamless brand experience — this includes personalization in all channels. We know from experience that inkjet technology is the perfect tool to complement an omnichannel approach.
Inkjet technology ensures your communications are agile, and it delivers 100% personalization across an entire page. Brands can maintain a flow of relevant physical communications that complement other channels OR can be integrated with the branded interactions your customers are probably already receiving in the digital channel.
If millennials are part of your target audience, then even more reason to shift your strategy to include personalized print, because 84% of millennials willingly spend time opening and looking through their mail, according to a recent white paper by Xerox.
You are most likely familiar with older print methods, like offset. Consider these advantages of using inkjet technology:
- Print cost-effectively by incorporating customized full-color marketing content even on high volumes
- Improve time-to-market for targeted publications
- Produce high-volume jobs cost-effectively with a shorter lead time
- Transform catalogs from static offset to personalized, revenue-driving communications
- Create large ROI-driving personalized and triggered direct mail campaigns.
While we are on the subject of personalization, it’s hard not to mention the importance of data management and the skills that are needed to support increased personalization. Appropriately managing customer data will help to determine how best to generate customized offers based of off each person’s history and preferences.
Digital technology is probably more versatile than most people know! Consider inkjet for all of your print needs, whether those pieces are books, transactional, commercial print, or catalogs.
Increasingly, customers expect a smooth connection across all their touchpoints. Mount Vernon can help you get there with a deeper level of engagement and value with inkjet technology!
Photo: Courtesy of Xerox
Utilizing technology can propel your marketing efforts and is truly worth your time and investment when it’s done right. Specifically, I’m talking about a cutting-edge tech trend that has made some great advancements: marketing automation.
This trend is expected to grow exponentially and become even more sophisticated. On a basic level, marketers can expedite the busy work, leaving more time for creativity and strategy.
- Automation can be used to analyze buyers’ digital behavior to personalize, engage, and inspire, including through the use of print.
- It allows marketers to experiment and test to see what works, providing quick course-correction if needed.
- Automation can find the right prospect, create the right message, and deliver it at the right time, both digitally and traditionally (ex. a printed newsletter or a direct mail piece to cut through the digital noise).
On a deeper level, marketing automation has the potential to strengthen the partnership between marketing and sales departments, removing some of the “us vs. them” mentality, also known as silos. Sales teams will no longer hound marketing for leads, and marketing teams will not need to give sales a hard time for not following up on those hard-earned leads.
But, before you take that leap into automation, here are three things you must consider:
1) Define your strategy
Without a sound strategy (based off of your revenue goals), you will not be able to pick the right marketing automation tool, because believe me, there are many in which to choose. During your research, ask yourself, “What do we need it to accomplish?”
When implementing a marketing automation platform, you want to be certain that your company will use all of the awesome capabilities it provides (and not to pay for capabilities you won’t use). Having a strategy in place will ensure that doesn’t happen.
2) Understand your data
Knowing your data will help you choose the right marketing automation software. It serves as the foundation that will guide you in your search for the perfect tool that fits your business.
Your team should know:
- If your data is clean or not
- How it’s formatted
- If it comes from single or multiple sources
- How you want to use that data
Big tech companies like Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and IBM tend to present their automated offerings at a high level, not understanding the minutia of your data, hence creating a knowledge gap on how their software will fit into the inner workings of your business.
To narrow the gap, be sure to involve others in your selection process (like third-party service providers) who understand how your data is being used, and are experienced in marketing automation solutions.
3) Keep Customers at the heart of everything you do:
Keeping customers at the heart of your business will most definitely lead to success.
Because, frankly, what is really driving this automation process is the desire to fulfill customer expectations of a unified multichannel brand experience (hint: that goes back to #2 and cannot be done without collecting and utilizing data).
I carry that same philosophy in my print business. I know print has to be able to be tracked, monitored, and measured just like digital channels are handled, because in the end it is the customer’s satisfaction that makes or breaks every business. Let me know how I can help …
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Businesses like Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks have consumers programmed to expect personalization. The healthcare world is catching up: Healthcare marketing is becoming more personal to match the expectations of Americans.
Studies show that consumers, especially younger ones, want to receive an experience that is tailored to them. Just like with big brands, healthcare members expect their healthcare providers to connect with them on a personal, one-to-one level.
Speaking directly not only positively affects a healthcare company’s bottom line, but it also can have a big impact on everyone’s health, keeping check-ups or screenings top of mind, and new tailored offerings or programs front and center.
There are many things the healthcare industry can do to engage members. By creating personalized member collateral and enrollment materials, you will have patients feeling like more than just a number.
Members want to be heard and understood. They want to be given clear directions on next steps, and personalized printed enrollment materials are the first steps to providing information that is actionable – allowing them to be in better control of their health care.
Use data to get personal
Email marketing, including automated emails, can also help nurture your members with timely and personalized messages. Here are a few tips.
- Set up communications based on pre-defined triggers such as behaviors or demographics.
- Use email to ask for member feedback.
- Send relevant, healthcare-specific material.
- Make members feel special by sending birthday emails. Wish them another year of health and happiness.
When it comes to physical marketing materials, take advantage of technology that helps you utilize print as a tactic within a data-driven campaign. This method allows MCOs and other healthcare organizations to create personalized direct mail communications with print-ready files for printing and mailing as cost-effectively as possible.
Mailers can also leverage transactional documents, like EOBs and insurance information, along with promotional content that is often tied into account data. These pieces are tailored to the recipient and prevent wasting paper on inserts that do not apply to that member.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide communication solutions that maintain compliance but also demonstrate change and positively impact health care. Healthcare organizations must lock in the right partners to assist in their personalization quest, ensuring member data is safely and effectively harnessed to meet objectives for both organizations and members.
If successful, overall member engagement and satisfaction will continue to rise for your organization, as well as the health of each member, which is a win-win for all!
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Data opens many doors when it comes to reaching customers and prospects. It makes it possible to personalize any communication, and it truly allows any business to make better-informed marketing decisions.
The key is to collect the right types of data in order to improve customers’ experiences. Understanding customer behavior enables you to create relevant communications, timed perfectly to meet their needs.
What’s more, analyzing data and behavioral insights give anyone the power to create more targeted communications, with strategies that can build engagement, not to mention brand loyalty.
This tactic isn’t just for brands though. The healthcare industry also reaps the rewards of creating data-driven campaigns for members.
By sending personalized direct mail, you are creating a conversation with your customer, prospect, or member. For the best data-driven campaign results, be sure to design your direct mail piece with multiple response channel options.
We see data-driven print communications playing an even bigger role than ever before within the healthcare industry. Here are two ways in which providers can use personalized communications to engage members:
1) Personalized patient outreach
Providers who want to successfully engage members know that personalized patient outreach is pivotal. They understand what kinds of data to harness that encompasses a member’s life, not just a transaction. Even better, the more actionable information a member is provided, the more members can take charge of their own healthcare. And that benefits all of us in the long run.
2) Influencing healthy behaviors
Many healthcare facilities do a good job of influencing healthy behaviors in-house, but there is some work to be done on the outside. They must get better as a whole when it comes to communicating screenings, patient actions and follow-up care communications – something that is accomplished efficiently with data-driven print.
For example, my veterinarian sure does an excellent job of reminding me when it’s time for “Max’s” next check-up or annual shot. Shouldn’t we as humans receive the same follow-up care?
Providing general health education is also part of it. For example, awarding members for watching a video or taking a health assessment online can be a great way to engage and promote healthy behaviors.
At Mount Vernon, we have technology that allows our customer base to utilize print within a data-driven campaign. This gives customers the opportunity to create personalized communications using print-ready files that not only include the printed piece, but also provides them with the ability to have it mailed – straight from our facility – providing the most cost-effective direct mail to fit any budget.
Imagine the positive influence if we all received healthcare communications, keeping us up-to-date on next steps for OUR specific healthcare. The right communications can have a profound ability to educate, inform and motivate members to take charge of their own care.
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Protecting data is of the utmost importance for any business that handles personal information, especially for those of us with healthcare or financial services customers. It is our job to protect your PHI – personal healthcare information.
Data breaches seem to be as common as catching a cold, as more and more organizations succumb to the acts of hackers. Sadly, 60% of data breach victims are small- to medium-sized businesses as they are at the greatest risk for attack.
With that being said, it is more important than ever to safeguard sensitive information such as email addresses, addresses, social security numbers and health records... just to name a few. This is why Mount Vernon is SOC2 certified and in 2019 we will become SOC2/HITRUST compliant. In addition, our parent company, RRD, has secure facilities that can meet your needs in various areas around the country. This compliance means we will have strict security measures in place to protect any personal information that we handle.
The Mount Vernon staff – all of us – are required to go through special training to make sure we follow very specific protocols for handling sensitive communications. The print shop also has to meet rigid HIPAA standards to obtain the certification.
When it comes to protecting sensitive data, here are some tips that you need to consider, both in a partner and for your own safety.
1) Create a culture of security-minded employees: Educate your employees to be mindful of security practices so they become automatic, no matter what the project entails. For example, locking your computer when you’re away from your desk. It seems basic, but it’s effective. This is yet another reason why our entire staff goes through the certification process.
2) Control access to personal information: Only give access to the team that needs it. Set up safeguards like limited access to certain areas of the building, shredding overages, etc. Taking the right precautions will allow your business to be HIPPA compliant, avoiding an audit by those who enforce it, like the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
3) Network access: It is tempting to use networking tools such as peer-to-peer file sharing and instant messaging, but those should be used with extreme caution. Wireless signals should operate in an encrypted mode so only the intended recipient can pick up the signal and access the sensitive data.
4) Strong Passwords help: Although passwords can’t stop hackers, they are everyone’s first line of defense and have the ability to slow down or discourage an attack on data.
5) Protect staff’s mobile devices: If employee devices cannot support encryption, don’t use them. Be sure to set up strong access controls for phones too.
I’m glad that other segments are cracking down on the handling of sensitive data as well. Organizations like unions, and the finance and insurance industries, are also requiring a higher level of security compliance when searching for communication partners who are SOC2 compliant. The bar has been raised.
The next time you are looking for a solution provider to handle sensitive data, check to see if they have security measures in place. I can assure you we do!
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Consistent branding builds customer trust and creates loyalty. This is why many companies choose to use branded promotional products like logo wearables, writing materials, trade show giveaways and really, anything else you can think of. I’ve even seen drones adorning company logos given away (and no, unfortunately, I didn’t win one).
There are many benefits of having promotional material on hand. Just to name a few…
Creating loyalty – Customers and prospects will remember your brand long after that trade show or event when they use those branded items over and over. Whether it is a cool pen, the newest phone accessory, or a cleverly designed battery charging stick. This is your chance to get creative! Be sure to tie in that giveaway with your company products and services, or to the event itself to boost retention.
Budget-friendly – Using promotional products as a marketing tool is probably easier on the budget than most people realize. When you consider other methods of advertising, this one is more cost-effective by far. People tend to hold onto these types of gadgets or wearables for months to come, keeping your brand top of mind.
Lead Generation – Promotional products play a major role in generating leads and they potentially have the power to convert visitors to loyal customers. The key is to pick an item that will add value, or fulfill a need the prospect didn’t even know they had. Hint: Including a concise call to action with prospects by encouraging them to visit a landing page can also help you gather useful data.
Easily boost brand visibility – Promotional items can do the marketing for you. With little effort on your part, they provide brand visibility. Sometimes they even get passed onto others (think pens or stress balls). Choosing the right promotional item is important if you want consumers to use them for months to come. Be sure to check out the latest trends when you’re on your quest for the perfect giveaway that is relevant to your business.
At Mount Vernon, we are equipped to operate like an extension of your sales team. Not only do we offer promotional products – basically anything under the sun – but we can also store and fulfill those materials any time you need them. Our digital storefronts ensure that our customers can print (or select something from storage), fulfill and ship their marketing materials with just a few clicks to anywhere in the U.S., or across the world.
Our attention to detail and reporting gives customers peace of mind that promotional items and collateral alike will be delivered correctly and on time, not to mention helping customers to keep a close eye on their inventory.
Sourcing our vast network via RRD, we can provide you with the best solutions and prices. But we know it doesn’t stop there. Our customer service team and sales reps are available with a quick phone call for questions or concerns about your order.
Give us a try the next time your plan calls for promotional items and collateral. We’d love to set up a meeting with you!
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The more things change, the more they stay the same. It seems that many retail giants are adjusting their marketing strategies to include print, bridging the gap between digital and physical printed material.
Amazon printed a 70-page toy catalog for this Christmas season. The catch is that in order to see a price you must go online to the Amazon website. Omnichannel marketing at its best! The catalog has a very distinctive retro look, designed to appeal to previous Toys “R” Us shoppers. What’s more, some toys shown will have their own QR code, so browsers can instantly scan and shop. Digital versions of the catalog are also available on Kindle and in PDF format online.
Walmart and Target are also jumping on the print bandwagon by substantially increasing their catalog content, along with increasing in-store toy selection. This is all to get a piece of the $3.3 billion toy market.
Target is also releasing 22 million gift catalogs slated for both in-home and store distribution this holiday season, with 15% more toy pages compared to 2017. Consumers will have the option of scanning items with the Target app to find out more detailed information, and to get exclusive deals.
Using print to create a brand experience
Restoration Hardware is famous for printing large 15-pound books. Why do they do this? Partially because only about 20% of their products can be found in-store, and because their strategy is to inspire consumers with hundreds of images enticing them to reach for their device to place quick online orders. The brand doesn’t get the same result with email campaigns, or pay-per-click ads.
Clearly, print catalogs and online activity are not always separate experiences.
Catalogs have been proven to be the first step in the buying journey. This post from Workfront cites a Kurt Salmon study on catalog trends that says 86% of women aged 18-30 have purchased an item after seeing it in a catalog. This also provides evidence of why retailers are migrating back to print as part of their integrated strategy.
Browsing a catalog certainly creates a different shopping experience than browsing a website. Turning pages more easily engages customers, invoking brand loyalty and brand recognition more than just browsing the Internet.
Personally, I see the value of being able to turn the pages on beautiful printed material. It’s too bad that more websites aren’t laid out with an experience-driven design like traditional catalogs. In fact, many publishers have gone to a model that includes more overall interactive content.
Omnichannel marketing is crucial to retailer’s success and the catalog is just one more component that leads shoppers to a particular brand.
As retail continues to explore different channels from e-commerce to traditional brick-and-mortar, the catalog is most likely here to stay in one capacity or another. It may be smaller and arrive in a more targeted mailbox, but it is certainly still effective.
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This year there has been a lot of discussion, and even a task force assigned by the President, to review what the USPS charges to ship packages. This assessment has prompted the postal service to propose another price increase in the hopes of bringing in much-needed revenue, while still keeping them competitive. (Ouch.)
If the Postal Regulatory Commission approves it, the proposed increase will begin on January 27, 2019. And if it does go into effect, here is what you can expect both for yourself and your business:
- Proposed 3.9% increase on priority mail express
- Proposed 5.9% on priority mail
- 10% increase on first-class stamps
This comes in combination with proposed a 9.3% increase on service for packages weighing over one pound and a 12.3% increase on lighter packages.
With that said, now is the time for marketers to get busy planning their next direct mail campaign BEFORE the USPS price increase goes into effect early next year.
Since Mount Vernon has an in-house mail department, this topic is near and dear to our heart. Even with a postage hike, we’ll work with you to figure out the best ways to reduce your postage. Our customers’ mail projects are verified in-house and because of our industry expertise, we can offer all-in-one solutions, from consulting to printing to mailing. This means we can easily manage many different types of direct marketing campaigns.
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Many of our customers are familiar with the quality of an offset press, but they sometimes question the quality when it comes to a digital press. So I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about our recent expansion of 4-color inkjet web capabilities – sure to capture your customer's attention like never before. Our new technology enables relevant messaging that drives results. Think next level inkjet web.
These new presses — Screen Truepress Jet520 HD and ZZ — feature:
- Four-color variable imaging at near offset print quality
- Ultra-fast RIPing of high-volume data
- The world’s smallest droplets
- Resolution of up to 1,200 dpi
Truepress Jet520HD High-Definition Inkjet Web Press
Accurately Reproduces Lines
The Truepress Jet520HD Press is so detailed that it brings color to life. What sets it apart is the unique printhead technology. It places the world’s smallest droplets of ink exactly where dots are required as the paper moves through the transfer system. The maximum resolution of 1,200 dpi provides detail smaller than .10 of a point. You might not know what that means, but I can assure you that it results in sharp, eye-catching finish without ink spread.
Really Fast, High-Volume Data
This press features an enhanced workflow system providing more production benefits:
- Automated job and color management
- In-RIP imposition, JDF communication and PDF/VT support
In a nutshell, even with high-volume variable data and high-resolution images, print quality can be maintained without compromising productivity.
Defect Detection Saves Time and Money
The JetInspection System performs a comprehensive, real-time inspection of variable images across all pages, with control coming directly from the operation panel. Using a camera to capture barcodes and optical character recognition fonts, it decodes and produces the inspection results. It also checks for missing dots, color variations and improperly output text.
Truepress Jet520ZZ Inkjet Web Press
If your project requires consistent high-quality and accuracy, then the Truepress Jet520ZZ is a solution that can print up to 190,000 colorful pages per hour.
Better, Precise Printing with Single-Pass Production
The unique single-pass multiple-head array allows extremely high printing precision. With short distances between the inkjet printheads, the colors, and the media, we can ensure exceptional color-to-color registration for your project.
Smoother Reproduction with Four-Tone Printing
The Truepress Jet520ZZ delivers cleaner, smoother printing due to its four tones per dot. Compared to the two tones common in standard high-speed inkjet printers.
Fastest Processing Speeds with Smart Variable Data
This inkjet press minimizes the RIP processing load delivering high productivity. A function built into the press automatically recognizes and assigns reusable elements to a background layer. This simply means no reRIPing, significantly improving processing speeds for large volumes of variable data, since only the altered portion needs to be RIPed.
These innovations are offering our customers personalized marketing campaigns with faster turnaround times and quality beyond ordinary high-speed inkjet printing.
One retailer increased its ROI by 14% after incorporating highly-targeted 4-color print into a campaign. Watch the video to see more.
If you want to know more about our newest additions and how they’ll produce your boldest direct mail campaigns yet, let’s get something on the calendar.