Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Have Moved My Blog Site

Well, its official.  I have moved this blog over to my own domain using Wordpress.  You should be able to continue to follow my using the same RSS feed. The new site is StevesAGJournal.


Stephen Eugene Adams

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Ways We Are Messing Up Our Social Media Efforts (Part 2)

Our AlphaGraphics Social Media Activities Can Use a Lot of Improvement In Promoting Our Printing Business

I spent the last couple of days reading "Inbound Marketing" by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. I was attracted to this book because I am a fan of David Meerman Scott and he highly endorsed this book. I will say that, at first, I thought the book to be a little simplistic since I have been studying this area for awhile. However, as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to think about all the good advice that I was not following. I wish I had read this book a few months ago before I started on my Social Media journey I highly recommend this book to everyone who is trying to figure out how to market their business in this new Web 2.0 age. It does lay out the steps you should take in a very systematic way. Based upon my reading, here are the things I am doing wrong in my inbound marketing activities. You can read the first 5 listed items in last week's blog. These are the last 5 out of 10 items.

6.  I Have No Mechanism to Touch My Prospects When They Are Not Yet Ready To Buy
We contact prospects and leads, we talk to them, we give them quotes on printed products when they ask for them. However, if they are not ready to buy from us at that point, we don't really maintain a way to keep in touch with them until they are ready to buy.  We do try and put them on our monthly email marketing list but there is no process of touching these people in a special way.  From my reading, I do believe that it is important that our prospects that are not ready to buy at this point, are contacted on at least a monthly basis and that at the end of a pre-determined point such as six months, we give them a call.

7.  I Am Not Controlling My Databases
We have customer, prospect and lead information all over the place and it is not well controlled in any of our locations.  We need an integrated database of contact information and within this database, we need to have as much information on each contact as possible.  For existing customers, we need to document and summarize their buying habits so we can better serve them in the future and for prospects and leads, we need to be able to document each contact we have made with them, how we obtained the lead and how we plan on continuing to contact them.

8. I Am Not Analysing The Success of Each of My Marketing Channels
Actually, this was the biggest Ah Ha moment I experienced from Inbound Marketing.  I have seen the sales funnels many times before in many sales books and in many contact management systems but I have never put much credibility in them.  What I learned from Inbound Marketing is that there needs to be several of the sales funnels for each operation.  Each funnel is designated by how the lead is generated or obtained.  Marketing channels differ from each other in terms of success rates and time to close and once those differences are identified, then an analysis can be made as to how cost effective each marketing channel is in getting to the sale.  By doing this, the more inefficient marketing channels can be reduced or eliminated and more time and money can be devoted to the more productive areas.  Some of the marketing channels (funnels) I foresee setting up are: leads from cold calls, SEM efforts, website (SEO) efforts, telemarketing calls and targeted companies (Book of Lists).

9. I Am Not Analysing the Reach of My Social Media Efforts
One of the great things about Social Media, is that you can measure your reach fairly easy.  How many followers do you have on Twitter, how many first time visitors to you have to your webpage, how many calls and emails do you get from your SEM efforts, how many fans do you have on your company FaceBook page, how many subscribers do I have for my blog and how many connections do you have on LinkedIn. I measure none of that although the information is readily available. It is time to start setting up my charts and showing how my efforts are being rewarded by the growth in reach.

10.  I Am Trying To Do This All Myself
In these economic times, keeping down our payroll costs is critical to the growth and survival of my three AlphaGraphics centers. So I am doing almost all of the marketing and social media efforts on my own.  I am not a trained marketing person, but I am learning rapidly about what I need to do to promote my business in this day and age. I do know, that as the economy improves, I will be looking for someone to help me in my Social Media efforts, both from a creative and technical standpoint.  Doing all of this is kind of fun, but I know, from experience that I will get bored fairly rapidly.  As I always say, my next employee will be hired to do what I am currently doing.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing       FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

10 Ways I Am Messing Up My Social Media Efforts (Part I)

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)
Our AlphaGraphics Social Media Activities Can Use a Lot of Improvement In Promoting Our Printing Business

I spent the last couple of days reading "Inbound Marketing" by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.  I was attracted to this book because I am a fan of David Meerman Scott and he highly endorsed this book.  I will say that, at first, I thought the book to be a little simplistic since I have been studying this area for awhile.  However, as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to think about all the good advice that I was not following. I wish I had read this book a few months ago before I started on my Social Media journey I highly recommend this book to everyone who is trying to figure out how to market their business in this new Web 2.0 age. It does lay out the steps you should take in a very systematic way. Based upon my reading, here are the things I am doing wrong in my inbound marketing activities. These are the first 5 out of 10 items.

1.  My Blog is Hosted by Blogspot
When I initially set up my blog,  I took the easiest route simply because I did not know better. Brian and Dharmesh highly recommend that a blog needs to be hosted with the company website.  There are many reasons for this, but the best reason is that a blog drives activity to the website.  The way I have it set up is that the activity is driven to blogspot, which is a Google entity.  Google does fine on its own, and it does not need to have my activity to help its rankings. The same goes for those who have Wordpress host their blog.  How do I fix this? I really haven't figured it out.  Since the webpage for each of my three centers is a sub-domain of the main AlphaGraphics site and right now AlphaGraphics doesn't have a way to host blogs on their website, I am stuck.  I have considered a separate domain to host my blog outside of the AlphaGraphics website, but I am not convinced that this gets me ahead of where I am now.  Even if AlphaGraphics decides to give us the ability to have our blogs on a sub-domain of the AlphaGraphics site, I don't know how I will be able to cover my three centers with one blog. Someone smarter than me will need to help me with this problem.

2.  My Twitter Name Is Personal and Has Numbers In It
When I set up my Twitter account, I did not do a lot of thinking about the account name.  I did want to make it personal because I did not want to run an account that was an impersonal one of just "AlphaGraphics Arizona". I think people want to follow people and not business names. One of my salespeople posts to a generic AlphaGraphicsAz account, but he is not an avid poster and it really is his personal account. The number in the name was decided upon because there are about 4 million Steve Adams' in the world.  Maybe there is only 3.9 million, but you get my point. The 291 represents the store # for my Mesa center.  I have been using that number for years.  In most of my social media activities, I have been using my full name so I can track my activity on Google. Hence the Stephen Eugene Adams. (I got that advice from David Meerman Scott). So how do I fix this? I think I am pretty well set now but I did change my name on the account to Alphagraphics Steve.  We'll see how that works. I also might start using the AlphaGraphicsAZ account more.

3. I Have Protected My LinkedIn Account Too Much
When I set up my LinkedIn account, I treated it the same as my personal FaceBook account. I only wanted to connect with people I knew and did not allow anyone I did not personally know to connect with me. After reading this book, I figured out that I need to open this thing up.  I need to search for people I want to be connected with and I need to allow connections to people who want to connect with me. I also need to start posting on this channel more often to be able to start more conversations.  Although I have joined some marketing groups over the last couple of months, I need to work this area a little better.

4.  My Website Has Nothing For My Prospects To Do Except Call Me.
Our Alphagraphics site does have a limited CMS feature to it.  I am driving people to my website that may not be ready to buy at that point in time. I am able to control the middle of some of our pages, but not the outside frames.  At this time, I do not know how to put a sign-up form into my web pages and we cannot host a PDF file for download. So our websites lack a call to action.  They can call me, email me, send me a file or place an online order if they are an existing customer. The first thing I believe I should do is to figure out how to put a form onto my site(s) and how to have my PDF's hosted at another server.  Again, this will take someone smarter than myself.

5.  My Content is Not Remarkable
I have been trying to have a blog posting once a week since sometime in December.  Sometimes I go a couple of weeks, but mostly my postings have been weekly. I do not seem to be getting a lot of traction with the number of subscribers to my blog. Using Google Analytics and SiteMeter, I do see that I do get a few hundred people to read my blog each month and the readership does increase each month, but I can't seen to increase my subscribed readership.  So, according to Inbound Marketing, it has to be my content. I am not writing what the industry wants to see.  I think some of this is the paradigm shift that is happening in our industry.  We are printers that have determined that in order to survive going forward, we need to be more marketing and communications consultants.  So I am writing about that stuff and not about our core, legacy businesses. No one expects a printer to write about marketing and communications.  There's not a lot of people who want to read about printing, copying, bindery, mailing services and pre-press design. So what do I do.  I believe that I still need to continue to talk about our shift to marketing and consulting, but I need to figure out how to increase my subscriber base.  If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment below.

Next week, I will give you an analysis of points 6-10.  There just as brutal and will cause me a lot of work to correct.

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing        FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing      FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing    FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our AlphaGraphics Video Has Arrived

After a couple of weeks of waiting since the Mesa Chamber Annual Awards luncheon, we have finally received a copy of our video that was shown at the meeting.
I am going to make great use of this video.  I have uploaded it to YouTube, I have embedded it into my AlphaGraphics Mesa, my AlphaGraphics Tempe and my AlphaGraphics Phoenix websites.  I have now linked the video to my Google Maps page for each of my centers and I am on the lookout for additional places to put it.

The word on the streets is that the Google rankings love videos on your website so, for me, this is a great test. Enjoy the video.

My Twitter Page  @steveadams291

Monday, April 26, 2010

We're Killing Trees....But Not the Forest

I would like to say that the title is true. At least I thought it was true when I started researching this article. Did you know that between the years 2000 to 2005, the U.S. lost a bigger percentage of its forest coverage than Brazil?  Sure Brazil lost more acreage but the U.S. lost almost 6% of its forest acreage during that time period.  Most of the lost acreage, believe it or not was in the southeast part of the country, and not the northwest where most people believe that the loss would occur. For more information on this phenomenon, go to http://bit.ly/bZPEu0 . However, in some countries as much as 80% of the timber is harvested illegally, often involving the violation of human rights and destruction of protected forests. A key factor behind the threats faced by natural forests is the perception by many societies that they lack economic value. The extraordinary social and environmental value of forests in comparison to other land uses is often not considered. In other words, forests are often converted to other land uses which lack many of the social and environmental values of forest but promise higher economic returns. You can read more about FSC at their website at FSC.org

So Why Does AlphaGraphics Believe That It Is Saving The Forests?

Just recently AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline Road in Arizona received its FSC Chain of Custody Certification. You can review this short video to see what this means in the printing industry.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. This organization was formed for the express purpose of controlling the demise of forests around the world. Not only do they control the cutting of the old large trees, but they control the use of chemicals that may harm wildlife in those forests. The goal of the organization is sustainability.  The perfect environment is that as more and more timber is removed from the forest, it is naturally replaced and that over a long period of time, there will be just as much timber and coverage in that forest as when lumber operations commenced.  In addition, the natural wildlife of that forest will not be disturbed.

So how does AlphaGraphics fit into all of this.  The FSC certification assures that there are procedures in place so that wood that is removed from an FSC controlled forest is identified, tagged and followed all the way to the end user.  So our responsibility is to assure that when a customer requests that a project is printed on FSC certified paper, that we buy the paper from an approved source (Xpedx Paper in our case), that we control the paper when it is in our possession and that we notate on our invoice that the printed product is printed on FSC paper with our Chain of Custody number prominently displayed. 

The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.

There are three types of FSC Chain of Custody logos that our customers can put on their products.  The most common is FSC Mixed Sources. This assures that the paper used in the printed product is made out of paper from a managed forest, combined with recycled material.  The second is the 100% recycled logo, which is self explanatory and the third is Pure, which means that the paper product contains 100% new paper from a managed forest.
At this point, of my three centers, only AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline is able to print the FSC logo on printed products.  What this means is that our customers at AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot and AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley will have their jobs invoiced out of my Mesa operation to assure the proper chain of custody.
For those who might want to know more about FSC, here is a 20 minute video from their website showing the benefits of FSC.  It is quite moving.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Lost...But Really We Won

At the Mesa Chamber of Commerce's Annual Luncheon, AlphaGraphics Mesa was one of the finalist for Mid-Sized Business of the Year. We did not win. Yes, I was nervous, yes I was disappointed, yes I was a little angry for a little bit.  However, as I thought about the whole experience, I believe that when we consider the entire event, we were a winner.  Let me explain.

I have spent a considerable amount of time and effort over the last few months promoting my business with SEO efforts.  I have worked on optimizing my website with the right keyword presentation, I have started a blog, I am doing press releases online so that they are picked up by Google, I am writing online articles with Ezinearticles.com, we are distributing a monthly email newsletters, we have done a couple of 3-dimensional mailing pieces to select customers and prospects and I continue to look at other opportunities to promote my business outside of the internet, such as sponsorships and networking.

So how does the Mesa Chamber experience fit into all of this? 

Well, a few months ago, I was asked by a staff person at the Chamber to "self-nominate" myself because they had not received enough nominations from the business community.  After a little thought, I did. I then learned that I was one of two finalists in the Mid-Sized category.  This was my start of a big SEO effort. I updated my status on Facebook and Twitter several times that we had been nominated. I wrote about it on my blog. (I guess this post qualifies also). I issued a couple of press releases, one with PRWeb.com, and one with Grassroots PR.  I was interviewed by a reporter with the Arizona Republic, which was published online and in print.

I received a few benefits also. 

My new picture that I am now using in my social media efforts was donated by a Chamber member (Steve Nissle).  The Chamber did a great video on my business. I will be receiving a copy of this video which I am going to upload to YouTube and embed it into my next blog, our AlphaGraphics websites, our Google Maps site and where ever else I can put it. I have been trying to figure out how to put a video on my websites for quite some time.  Google loves videos when evaluating the rankings of a website.

In addition to the SEO activities associated with this nomination, I received some RLO (Real Life Optimization) benefits. Even though the nomination had been made public by various means, most people did not know of the nomination until the event.  I had many businesses in the area congratulate me on the nomination and comment about how well I must be doing to be nominated (I do not bring up the fact that it was a self-nomination). I had a lot of people say they wish I had won for one reason or another and our new video was played to a room full of Mesa businesses.  What can be better than that?

So here come the sour grapes. 

The difference between winning and losing was that I did not receive a framed picture of my building (which I already have). I guess I will not be able to wear the tiara, to go to grocery store grand openings or to work for world peace, but I will survive. Instead of having more material for another press release on this nomination, I will work on a press release about our new FSC Certification.

I want to thank the staff of the Mesa Chamber for allowing me to be a part of the process and I sincerely want to congratulate Invision Auto Body for winning the category. Maybe we will try again in a few years.

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley - Printing and Marketing

Follow me on twitter: @steveadams291

Friday, April 9, 2010

AlphaGraphics Mesa is a Finalist for Mid-Sized Business of the Year

I'm usually not one to toot my own horn, but I thought you might be interested in a press release I just published on PRWeb.com.

For Immediate Release-April 11, 2010-Mesa, AZ--Stephen Adams, owner of AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline Road announced today that they have been notified that they were selected as one of the two finalists to be recognized as Mesa's Mid-Sized Business of the Year. The other finalist is Invision Auto Body in Mesa. The winner of this category will be announced and recognized at the Mesa Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon this Tuesday, April 13th.

"We could not be prouder of this recognition by the Mesa Chamber." stated Stephen. "I have watched over the years as many deserving companies received this recognition and have secretly aspired to becoming recognized to stand among the former recipients. Our category is going to be tough to win. Invision Auto Body is a great Mesa company and a contributor to the community."

Other finalists in the other categories include SCF Arizona and the Hilton Phoenix East /Mesa in the Large-Sized Business category and FastFrame and Express Employment Professionals in the Small-Sized category. The event is being held at the Hilton Phoenix/East Valley and tickets are still available by calling the Mesa Chamber at 480-969-1307.

Some of the factors used by the evaluation committee in making their selections included service and involvement in the community, staff retention and employment practices, commitment to quality services and participation in Mesa Chamber activities.

AlphaGraphics Mesa started 20 years ago in a Downtown Mesa location near the current Mesa Arts Center. In 2000, that location was moved to the Southern and Country Club area and then in December, 2005, they moved into their newly constructed building at 535 W. Baseline Rd., in Mesa.

Stephen has been very active in the community serving as President of the Downtown Mesa Association (formerly the Mesa Town Center), President of the Mesa Rotary Club, Chairman of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and he currently serves on the Mesa United Way Board of Directors. "We believe that it is important for all businesses to contribute to the community, both financially and with volunteerism." said Stephen.

Stephen Adams also owns two other AlphaGraphics franchises. His second center is located in Tempe near Kyrene and Elliot and his third center is located in west Phoenix near the Black Canyon Highway and Northern Avenue.

AlphaGraphics franchises that are owned by Stephen Eugene Adams can be reached at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing

Twitter: www.twitter.com/steveadams291

Friday, March 26, 2010

Who is the Real AlphaGraphics Millennial Customer?

I found this video on YouTube a few days ago.  I think it precisely presents the gap between what a lot of businesses think about Gen Y/Millennials and how the Millennials think about themselves.  Honestly, I think the perception is somewhere in between, slanted toward the latter view.

The reality of the matter is that a lot of the Millennials have not ventured into an AlphaGraphics Printing Facility unless they have been trained for a design background.  We are also finding out that the trained designers are being trained for all things Internet and very little print.  In a lot of cases, we have to train our young customers on what it takes to have something printed on an offset press or that things need to be presented differently if they want to take an Internet page and convert it into a printed piece.

The Millennials are not only a significant portion of today's market but they will be the dominate portion of the overrall market in the future. So we will need to learn how to promote ourselves to them.  They will eventually learn the value of the printed piece so we must be patient in teaching them the benefits of print, combined with the digital presentation.

Previously, I published a Blog post on this subject.  You can find my thoughts at: http://stepheneugeneadams.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-alphagraphics-customer.html

At AlphaGraphics Printing in Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona, we do more than just print.  We are also marketing and communications consultants familiar with annual marketing plans, website design, SEO, SEM, Email marketing, direct mail campaigns, news releases and blogging.  We can be reached at the following websites:

Alphagraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing
Alphagraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing

Follow us on Twitter at:  @steveadams291

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Benefits of Social Media

I ran across this new video on how certain businesses can identify how they have benefited from being active in the Social Media arena.  You can see how the numbers can be mind numbing.

Social Media Video:

Wondering how Social Media applies to you and your business? Tired of battling through all that misinformation and theory, when what you really want to see is hard numbers? Still trying to decide if the time investment is worth it? Watch this video, "Social Media ROI: Socialnomics," to see how other big name brands are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to boost sales, awareness and excitement.

Maybe all of this Social Media Activity is worth it. I have often wondered how I am benefiting my AlphaGraphics Printing and Marketing business by being on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  This video helps to quantify what can happen if you devote some attention to Social media.

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley - Printing and Marketing

Follow me on twitter: @steveadams291

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How We Use Twitter in Our Printing Business

In conversations that I have with business associates and my fellow AlphaGraphics owners, we frequently start discussing what each of us is doing in the Social Media area.  As most of my followers know, I am very active with postings to my blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  I have just started experimenting with Namyz, but that is really a job search site and I am not actively looking for a job.  When we start talking about Twitter, I get a lot of questions about how Twitter could possibly benefit my business.

How can posting a 140 character status update a few times a day possibly benefit my business.  In one of my older blog postings, I referred to Twitter as the "Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" application.  Most people have this impression of Twitter.  I'm at the coffee shop. I am having a bad week. I can't sleep. My flight is delayed.  I'll be glad when my kids are back in school.  I think I have seen almost all of these status updates on Twitter over the last several months.

So, how do I use Twitter? First, I use it as a resource tool.  I am immersing myself in the marketing and social media areas of my business.  I have started following many experts in this field, both their blogs and their Twitter accounts. By following these people on Twitter, I get a sense of what they are reading, thinking and saying at all times.  Some of the people I am following in this regard are John Jantsch, David Meerman Scott, Chris Brogan, Lisa Barone, Matt Cheuvront, Lee Odden and Seth Godin.  Every day I find someone else I should follow in order to learn more in this area. When these people post, they often give a URL link to either their latest blog post or to an interesting blog post that they just read that is informative and educational. I especially like following Lisa Barone on Twitter because she not only has a lot of insightful things to say, but she also is very entertaining.

The second way I use this tool is to keep up with what is happening in our communities.  Following entities such as the local chambers, the united ways, various city departments, certain news reporters and politicians. Following these sources on Twitter allows me to keep current with what is happening without having to refer to their specific websites for my information.

The third way I use Twitter is to promote my AlphaGraphics websites, my blog postings (this may be the way you got to this posting) and various aspects of what is happening in our business.  Since our business is mainly business-to-business, I do not use Twitter to broadcast any promotional offerings because I believe that the fastest way to lose followers on Twitter is to start promoting specific services. The hardest thing I found to do with Twitter is to grow a following of local businesses and customers.  I do spend some time searching for companies that have a Twitter account in the areas where by printing businesses are located.  I then start to follow them with the hopes that they will someday start following me.  I have had some recent success of growing my local business contacts on Twitter but this is a big work in process for me.

At the time of this posting, I am currently following about 300 people and I have approximately 150 followers.  I am finding that following 300 people on Twitter is becoming somewhat overwhelming when it comes to following postings.  Since a lot of people I follow make their livings by posting to Twitter and by blog postings, these people put out a lot a stuff. There will come a time where I will have to stop following the postings of all the people I am following and start to identify only those people that I have an interest in.

So, how are you using Twitter.  I would like to know.  Leave a comment below and give me your thoughts on how Twitter benefits your business or how Twitter seems to be a major waste of time. 

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley - Printing and Marketing

Follow me on twitter: @steveadams291

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The View From a Declining? Industry

Is print dead? Do we need to renew the print industry? Why are direct mail volumes down? Has social media replaced the need to print marketing pieces? Has print become such a commodity item that all printing needs can be met by online printers? Will everything go back to where it was before the recession hit?

Those of us in the printing industry have all asked these questions and we continue to ask these questions, sometimes without answers. Its no secret that revenues in the overall printing industry are down, advertising revenues are down, the post office is hemorraging red ink and public relations firms are struggling.  By the time that a full recovery is achieved by our economy, I will lose quite a few of my competitors who will just close up shop because of the hard times.

I have often ranted about how my competitors are pricing themselves out of business.  It is one thing to price from a position of strength (Walmart for example).  It is something else to price from a position of weakness.  Pricing at, or below, cost has always been a formula for disaster.  However, I can symphatize with businesses that are forced to use this as a marketing strategy.  It is hard to anticipate how much in costs and expenses that need to be cut in a declining market. To battle the loss of revenues, you can either cut your costs or find ways to increase your revenues.  The panic to increase revenues at all costs results in pricing decisions that would not be made in normal times.  They see that other printing companies are pricing at significant discounts and therefore they should price at those levels even though the pricing provides no profits or overhead coverage.  This is a formula for disaster.

So here are my thoughts on the future of print

No, print is not dead.  Yes, some may say that we are shopping for the best hospice center, but there is still life in this old bird. We are already seeing a resurgence in the need to have the printed piece in any company's marketing effort.  Businesses are starting to see that SEO, SEM and Social Media efforts, while significantly cheaper, are not always reaching the eyeballs intended, especially in a business-to-business environment.  Sure, print volumes will stay depressed as the trend towards shorter runs will continue, but the added value of personalized promotion pieces will offset some of those revenue declines.

The loss of some printers will not be bad.  Not only will some of the bad pricing that is happening start to decline, but the excess capacity of equipment and print employees will start to level out.  I hate to be a person who roots for their competitors to leave the business, but there are way too many printers in the market who are not properly acting as responsible business people.

The printing industry does need to renew itself. We have to be more marketing oriented.  Becoming marketing consultants to small and medium sized businesses will be a difficult transition, but it is a neccessary transition over a period of time.  A significant knowledge of marketing planning, website design, creative content, email marketing, SEO requirements, SEM, personalized direct mail (and email), blogging, demographic profiling, large format signage and fulfillment activities will be neccessary for the printer of the future.

Equipment purchases will no longer be the name of the game.  It used to be that a printer's status hinged on what equipment was in the portfolio.  The bigger the press, the better the printer and the more that printer received in revenue.  This will no longer be the case. Most of the digital equipment that is in an up-to-date printer will satisfy the needs of the on-demand and variable markets. Employee training and knowledge will become the focus of the new printer. We will need specialists in creative, website design, SEO and the other marketing arenas.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline-Printing Services 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot-Printing Services 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley-Printing Services 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: @steveadams291

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Friday, February 26, 2010

What's Up With The Economy?

Last week I attended a seminar put on by Lee McPheters with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State. I took this seminar as part of my continuing education to maintain my C.P.A certification. Although he started the session saying that the outlook is not doom and gloom, when I left 2 hours later, I was significantly depressed. As most people know, economists agree that the U.S is now in recovery mode. Here is a graph showing the GDP growth rate for the last several quarters.
So, if our GDP is growing, why the doom and gloom.  Well, to start with his projections show a .5% increase in unemployment for the year in the U.S. (-1.0% in Arizona). So it looks like the recovery is not going to be employment based. His overall GDP growth rate for 2010 for the U.S. is predicted to be about 2.5%.  This tells me that the sales that we experienced in 2009 will repeat, at best, in 2010.  If you are planning on significant growth in 2010, you are fooling yourself.

Lee also discussed the lost decade.

 That's right, the S&P 500 Index is where it was in 1999. All of the stock market gains we experienced in the 2000 decade have all disappeared.

How has employment held up for the last decade?

We have fewer people employed at the end of 2009 when compared to the end of 2000. That's why we feel that we are struggling.

Lee also spoke about the U.S. savings rate.  Our savings rate over the last couple of years has increased to 5.9% of earnings, which sounds great.  However, 70% of our economy is consumer driven.  For each 1% increase in the savings rate, about $100 billion is removed from the economy.  We need the consumer to become comfortable with their position in life and start spending again.

How do you feel about the recovery.  Well, 65% of people who were polled stated that the recession is not over.  In fact, what a lot of economists have stated is that the increases in the GDP that we have seen have been caused by two main reasons.  First, manufacturers have decided to bring their inventory levels back up to pre-recession levels and that is thought to be a temporary measure.  The second reason stated is that the stimulus monies are having a temporary effect on business activity (though you could not tell it by me).

When Will the Full Recovery Happen?

So what is the timeframe for a full recovery?  Can you believe 4-5 years.  2014 is the year we may be able to celebrate and say that everything is back to pre-recession levels.  The official recession lasted 21 months where the average recession in the past has lasted 10 months.

The recession in Arizona has been significantly worse than the rest of the U.S. and the recovery will follow the U.S. In the past, Arizona has shown significantly wider variations in growth and contraction rates and will probably show a higher growth rate when we finally start to come out of this.

My Thoughts

After hearing all of this (and more), I have the following thoughts about going forward as a small business in Arizona:

Everything that you wished you had done to make 2009 a better year, do it in 2010:
If you wished that you had reduced your costs sooner or to a greater extent, make sure you make those reductions now.  2010 will not show a significant increase in revenues and your expenses will continue to grow if you do not take measures to control them.

Hire back slowly:
Be slow to fill new or empty positions with full-time staff.  Now is the time to have a plan on hiring temporary and part-time employees.  Have a good agency ready to fill temporary needs.

Explore alternative financing options:
The availability of conventional credit lines will continue to dry up for small businesses.  Even though there is a great amount of discussion about having the banks open up their lending, they still have to deal with financials that reflect two years of losses and reduced balance sheet health.  It is time to start looking into the SBA programs again and what they may have.

Start innovating again:
It seems that lately, Google and Apple are the only companies that continue to innovate (if you call the iPad an innovation considering it looks like an oversized iPhone without calling capabilities). Its time to look at your business and figure out what it is going to take to make it a profitable enterprise in this next decade. I know its hard to think about the future when you are fighting the current battles, but it is imperative to the future of your business and the economy that we start innovating again.

Make the hard decisions:
You know which ones they are.  From letting people go, to closing down an unprofitable branch, to selling off an unproductive asset or to getting another job.  These are hard times and the people who are able to make the hardest decisions are the people who come out ahead at the finish line.

There you are.  Now doesn't everyone feel better?

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The New AlphaGraphics Customer

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got back from the Alphagraphics Gold Circle meeting in Naples, Florida. One of our speakers was Liz Brohan of Colman Brohan Davis a company specializing in brand strategy and creative marketing. The first part of Liz's presentation to us was explaining to us what the new Gen Y customer was like. In a nutshell, here is some of the things she asked us to consider.

First, Gen Y is defined as those young adults born between 1980 and 2000, essentially children of the baby boomers. They, in fact, do not like to be called Gen Y'ers but would rather be called "Millennials". The millennials have high expectations, they feel special, they are connected 24/7, they are very technical and, quite suprisingly, they want to serve their community. Liz also said that they feel indispensible, they love a challenge, they work best with friends, they are good with finances, they are goal oriented and they want recognition for what they contribute.

So, how do millennials go about making a decision to buy. In case anyone has not noticed, they go online. They go to the company website, they go to blogs, they go to business directories, they go to wikipedia, they ask their friends (online of course), they search out comments on the business in the social media networks of FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Only when they have found out as much as possible about a business or product will they actually try and contact the business. One of the surprises in Liz's presentation was that the millennials will also look at printed items to help in their selection. The other aspect of how the millennials are doing their searches is that they are increasingly using their mobile device to do all of the research.

In the business-to-business environment, the millennial will probably present their decision to their boss, a baby boomer or a Gen X'er who will make the final decision. In the near future, the millennial will make the decision. Then, once the decision is made and the transaction is completed, the millennial will go back online, and will rate the quality of the service and product by going to sites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, City Search, Google Maps, Bing Local, etc. In addition, they will post a comment on FaceBook, Twitter or probably Google Buzz.

So what is a business to do to help the millennials along on their search? We need to be active in the Social Media arena. We need to have our websites in good order so that when we are found, we can answer what they are looking for. Our websites need to have a mobile phone presentation. We need to blog. We need to have a presence on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the ratings sites.

I am commonly asked. What has all of the work that you do in the social media area gotten you? My answer is that the rewards come slow, but they come. Just this week, I had a inquiry on Twitter about signs and posters and I had a customer compliment me on how high I ranked in their mobile Google search which got them into my door.

My thanks to Liz Brohan for her insight into our new customers and I hope that when she checks in with the AlphaGraphics owners in the future that she will see that all of our social media work has benefited us greatly.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:
AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I Learned at the AlphaGraphics Gold Circle Meeting

Last week was our annual Gold Circle meeting of the top revenue owners in the AlphaGraphics system. We held the meeting in Naples, Florida. There were 31 owner groups represented. Contrary to what a lot of businesses are doing in this economy, AlphaGraphics continues to have these meetings of top performers and also having our annual conference each summer. The location was not as exotic as in the past, but the company was, again, outstanding. Thank you to Kevin Cushing, AlphaGraphics CEO and the rest of the AlphaGraphics staff in having the foresight in continuing these meetings in these difficult times.

So what did I learn?

From the group as a whole...Yes these are hard times and many of us have experienced revenue declines from the prior year, but we still need to laugh and enjoy ourselves. We had several discussions about how to improve our businesses and how to gradually change ourselves to adapt to the changing business climate. There was a lot of laughter in our meetings and dinners.

From Grant Richey in Bountiful, UT...maybe its time to hire a person who devotes themselves to the marketing aspects of our business, especially for SEO and social media

From Butch Clarke in Dallas...the best way to transition into becoming marketing and communications experts is to bite the bullet and start having conversations with our clients

From Rodrigo Abreu in Brasil...being an expert in marketing does not mean we have to be on the bleeding edge. Man, this guy really knows his marketing stuff. Good choice Kevin.

From Chuck Stempler in Seattle...maybe we can make money in this marketing and communications consulting gig. Great work on the Humane Society.

From Rob Johnson in West Valley City, UT...there is plenty of money to be made in the large format arena. I'm going to take a look at vehicle wraps.

From Clair Meehan in Pittsburgh...If you have a creative mind, our customers will seek us out for their most important projects.

From Bill Meehan, her husband...before we can present ourselves as experts, we need to market our own businesses in the way that we preach.

From John and Karen Bickers in Madison...if you want to get into litigation support, you need to right business structure and the right software.

From Keith and Shelly Hermanson in Billings...we need to invest in new types of people in order to make this transition and we have to plan to maybe fail before we succeed.

From Mike Sparaco and Darin Osborne in Tempe...keep investing in the business, become an expert in everything we try to do, and have passion for the business.

From Jeff and Jill Lerner in Sunnyvale, CA...Being active in the community is where its at. Also, when you check your airline tickets for departing time, also check the departing airport :-)

From Sally McKenzie with Ecommerceconsulting.com...Google is taking over the world and our personal lives.

From Karen Brinker in Greenwich, Connecticut...starting another AlphaGraphics can be exciting and hopefully rewarding. I hope they learned a few things from me in that regard.

From Larry Furlong in Phoenix...continue to have a marketing mind. We need to continuously promote our businesses by direct mail, on the internet and wherever our propective customers' eyes might fall. And, as Kevin Cushing said, he continues to do God's work (love you Kathy!)

From Liz Brohan of Colman Brohan Davis...our customers do not want us to find them, they want to find us by researching and getting recommendations online. The Millenials are going to rule the world and we need to adapt to this change. However, we can still teach them about the benefits of direct mail.

And for all of the other Gold Circle owners and presenters I did not mention above, thanks for the most enjoyable and instructive meeting I have had in a long time.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites and phone numbers:
AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline 480-844-2222 FaceBook
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot 480-413-1900 FaceBook
AlphaGraphics Phoenix-Northwest Valley 602-234-2944 FaceBook
Follow us on Twitter

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Rules...

In the last couple of months, I have been reading a lot of books on marketing, advertising, public relations, SEO and email marketing. The two books that stand out as it pertains to my AlphaGraphics business are David Meerman Scott's book "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" and John Jantch's book "Duct Tape Marketing-The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide". Both of these books have valuable insights and advice on how to market in this new Web 2.0 environment and how to save money in this area over traditional methods. I now follow both of these authors on their blogs and twitter postings.

I have been reading all of these books for two reasons: I want to be the best in marketing my three AlphaGraphics centers and I want to be able to consult with my customers on how to market their businesses in this environment. As I stated in my last blog posting, quick printing businesses are becoming more marketing consulting oriented and to become so means to learn all the tricks of the trade.

In this posting, I want to discuss David Meerman Scott's book and how it has effected my marketing thus far. My timing on this book could not be any worse. Just after I finished reading his 2007 edition, he released the second addition last week. David's first book was very heavily oriented in the blogging area with additional discussions about social media, video and podcasting which he admitted were areas he needed to spend more time. Well since that published date, he has expanded these areas and I am sure that the new edition has significant additions to these areas.

With apologies to David for copying the following section, I believe that he said it best in his book. In the first couple of chapters, David described the Old Rules of Marketing and PR, namely,

"-Marketing simply meant advertising and branding
-Advertising needed to appeal to the masses
-Advertising relied on interrupting people to get them to pay attention to the message
-Advertising was one way-company to consumer
-Advertising was exclusively about selling products
-Advertising was based on campaigns that had limited life
-Creativity was deemed the most important component to advertising
-It was more important for the ad agency to win advertising awards than for the client to win new customers"

"-The only way to get ink was through the media
-Companies communicated to journalists via press releases
-Nobody saw the actual press release except a handful of reporters and editors
-Companies had to have significant news before they were allowed to write a press release
-Jargon was okay because the journalists all understood it
-You weren't supposed to send a release unless it included quotes from third parties, such as customers, analysts, and experts.
-The only way buyers would learn about the press releases' content was if the media wrote a story about it
-The only way to measure the effectiveness of press releases was through "clip books," which noted each time the media deigned to pick up a company's release"

David then went on to talk about the new rules of marketing and PR, namely:
"-Marketing is more than just advertising
-PR is for more than just a mainstream media audience
-You are what you publish
-People want authenticity, not spin
-People want participation, not propaganda
-Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
-Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of under served audiences via the Web
-PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It's about your buyers seeing your company on the Web
-Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. It's about your organization winning business
-The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
-Companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
-Blogs, podcasts e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
-On the Web, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred"

In "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" David discussed that determining the various persona's of your buyer was very significant in designing your website and delivering your "thought leadership" message through blogs, emails, new releases, white papers, wiki's webinars, e-books, podcasts and videos. He also discussed re-purposing content to fit into these various avenues since the customer is now going to the Web to seek out content and information, not to see an advertisement.

So what have I done for my three AlphaGraphics center since I read this book?
-First, I started this blog. I have written on a number of marketing concepts and thoughts. Some of my postings, I am very proud of, some were just postings.
-From these postings, I have submitted three of them as ezinearticles.com publishings. The first attempt was brutal, but I finally got the hang of it and am was able to publish on my first attempt the last two times.
-I re-purposed two postings into news releases. One about the Top 10 Ways to Market a Business in 2010" and the other about the benefits of Direct Mail. I also post these news releases as separate pages on my website.
-I issue a monthly email newsletter to my customers using some of the information in my blogs. I now archive the past issues of my e-mail newsletters on an off site website that links into my main website.
-I've improved the keywords on my website.
-I've become active in the blogging community, commenting on blog postings and reading as much marketing information from this source as possible.

I would whole-heartedly endorse this book for all my fellow AlphaGraphics owners (the second edition, of course) and to any small business owner. It really cleared my head about what I needed to do to expand my marketing effort.

So what has this done for my businesses since I started this effort? Well, that is a subject for a later posting.
You can reach us at the following websites;
AlphaGraphics Mesa 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe 480-413-1900
Follow us on Twitter: @steveadams291

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Future of Your Neighborhood Print Shop

As you can imagine, revenues are down and continue to decline in the quick print environment. This decline started in 2008 and continued through 2009. Everyone is hopeful that 2010 will be a growth year, but hardly anyone expects revenues to return to the 2007 levels anytime soon. Print industry experts are predicting a continuing overall decline in the traditional revenue streams that have been the stalwart of the quick printing industry for years, namely: offset printing, high-speed duplicating, digital printing, bindery and graphic design. Products such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, fliers, newsletters, brochures, manuals, postcards, forms and direct mail have all seen declines due to the conversion to Internet marketing, the rise of Internet printing companies, or from companies purchasing equipment at the user level sufficient to produce these items in-house. Because of the overall decline of traditional printed items, there also is significant price pressure on those print shops that have survived this economic decline.

So, what is the future of your neighborhood print shop? Dr. Joseph Webb, a contributor to one of the industry's think tanks, What They Think, has written a book entitled "Renewing the Printing Industry". In addition, Barb Pellow, a contributor to InfoTrends, has also written many articles about the condition of print overall. Both of these individuals have analyzed the printing industry and have concluded that changes need to be made in order for all printing entities to survive.

There are several avenues that a quick print owner can consider. I will discuss two of them. The first is to fight the trend by being the best marketer of their service, to become more efficient than their competitors so they can compete on price, to implement on-line ordering to the general public, to acquire the business of closing print shops, and to, in fact, significantly reduce their pricing. I refer to this business plan as the commodity approach. Be the best in the traditional printing environment. There is still money to be made in the traditional printing environment for those who continue down this path. The biggest downside is that this market will continue to decline. The last maker of buggy whips was the most efficient of the bunch.

The second avenue of approach, and the one that most quick print franchisors are pushing is the conversion to becoming marketing and communications experts while milking the traditional printing area as much as possible. This approach also has significant risk for many reasons. At this point, there are few profit models to duplicate, there is little, to no recognition from outside the industry that a former quick printer can provide this expertise, there is a diverse expertise of franchise owners that does not include marketing training, and people that are already providing this service to businesses are also struggling to survive.

A couple of years ago, many in the quick printing industry developed personalized communications expertise. This allowed them to sell a 1-to-1 marketing piece for their customers, many of which were connected to personalized url's (purl's). This technique, combined with a targeted, well defined list allowed response rates to balloon from 1-3% to as much as 35%. What many in the industry found out is that the lead time to sell these projects were significantly extended over the time it took to sell traditional printed items and that not all customers could make the cost/benefit leap of faith. However, the ability to sell and produce these types of items led people to believe that they were now marketing and communications experts.

I personally believe that the second approach is the way to go for our industry. It will be a difficult road to travel and will probably see a lot of failed attempts along the way. Owners of these operations will need to commit to learning the marketing and communication business, will need to circulate within the marketing, advertising and public relations communities and will need to promote themselves as marketing experts within the business environment. It will be a long and slow path to profitability so the quick printer will need to rely on its traditional printing revenue to survive before the marketing area takes off.

So what is the future of your neighborhood print shop? It will depend on the path they take. If you are a customer, you should have a conversation with them to find out what road they are taking. A commodity printer or a marketing and communication expert. The downhill road or the uphill road.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:
AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Do's and Don'ts of Email Marketing

I spent part of this last weekend between watching football games reading a new book entitled "The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing" by Eric Groves. Eric is the Senior Vice President of Global Market Development at Constant Contact. Constant Contact is the largest provider of email marketing software and tools for small businesses, associations and nonprofits. Eric wrote this book because he noticed that a lot of their users were not avoiding some of the biggest pitfalls when it came to using their services. Eric is big on lists about the do's and don't of implementing an email marketing program. In fact, the first chapter is a summary of all of the lists condensed down to 40 items to consider.

As I said in my last posting about the benefits of direct mail, I am a firm believer in Email Marketing. At AlphaGraphics, we started a practice in 2009 of sending out monthly email newsletters to our customer lists. We are also active in getting our customers and prospects to sign up for these emails. What I found out after reading this book, is that I can do a significantly better job with these emails by using the information in this book. I do use Constant Contact for my emails and I do highly recommend their service if anyone is serious about doing this on a frequent basis.

The biggest concern that Constant Contact has and the one I have always been concerned about is the number of spam complaints received from any of the emails sent. Eric stated that if an issuer can keep the spam complaints to less than 1 in a 1,000, then there should be no concern. Since the emails are sent out by the Constant Contact ISP, any large spam complaints effect both Constant Contact and the issuer's domain name which could result in excessive blocking and filtering by the larger email providers or worse yet, a CAN-SPAM complaint. That is why Constant Contact makes the issuer assure them that they have permission to send emails to the recipients prior to accepting the list. The biggest gray area, however, is in the area of implied permission. Eric stated that if the recipient knows who you are, has done business with you in the past, or if you get them to give your permission then you probably can avoid any CAN-SPAM problems.

There is also a couple of chapters on how to decrease the number of emails that are rejected by the recipients and the number of unsubscribes. Some of the discussion centers around being recognized by the recipient, using a good subject title, avoiding spam words and giving the recipient what you promised when they signed up to receive your emails. The length of the emails was also discussed, which is an area that I struggle with. The longer the email, the faster the recipient will lose interest and unsubscribe. If you do have a longer message, it is usually better to give the essential information in a paragraph or two and then link to your website where the full information is available. This is also a great way to get the recipient to go to your website.

Although emails that promote your product are acceptable, the most favorably received emails are the ones that are informative in nature. Writing as an expert in your field are the best emails. Even though you don't feel like and expert, you certainly know more about your field than a majority of your readers. Having a call to action is also very important. Getting the reader to go to your website to download a white paper, participate in a survey or receive a promotional offering is important when you consider why you are sending these messages out.

Constant Contact, as well as most of their competitors provides a lot of analytical information on each email that is sent. They can tell you how many people have opened your email and who they are, how many people forwarded your email to someone else, who opted out of future emails from you and how many emails were non-deliverable for a variety of reasons. These analytics allow you to adjust your message or your subject line to increase readership.

Eric does spend a lot of time trying to help the reader address the concern about content. He acknowledges that this is the weakest link in having and maintaining a long-term email marketing program. His biggest suggestion is to write like an expert but don't say everything in the first email message. He also states that the value of an email marketing program is significant enough that you might want to consider hiring someone in charge of content whether it is an in-house employee or a consultant.

I do believe that anyone who is currently using an email campaign or are contemplating a campaign should both read this book and consider using a company such as Constant Contact for their provider. AlphaGraphics can help you design an email marketing program and has access to content writers.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:
AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline 480-844-2222
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot 480-413-1900
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is Direct Mail Dead?

We, at AlphaGraphics Say Definitely Not!

One of my salespeople had a conversation with one of her customers last month where she asked the customer whether they had thought about doing a direct mail campaign. The answer she got back was laughter. Why would anyone consider a direct mail campaign when you have email newsletters, a drop-dead website, a business FaceBook page, an active Twitter account and an ongoing blog? Why pay anyone to design a mailer, have it printed and pay postage to distribute it?

Here is a short print industry video to kind of illustrate the point:

I am not here to bad mouth Social Meda and the Internet. I, myself, have adopted all of the practices I described above and I believe that each of these items are a critical part of any company’s marketing arsenal. However, I believe that direct mail is still a vital component of a comprehensive marketing plan.

First of all, here are some of the discussion points that most people use to justify an email only approach:
-According to the Direct Marketing Association, a properly constructed email campaign returns about $45 per dollar of expense compared to $15 for direct mail.

-Admittedly, an email newsletter is cheap to distribute. No printing costs, no postage.

-There is a perception that the printed piece is hard on the environment, wasting valuable forests and energy costs to produce and distribute.

-A properly run email campaign will allow the issuer to obtain valuable analytics. You will know how many people opened the email, and how many people clicked on the enclosed links.

So what are the benefits of Direct Mail?

-Direct mail has almost a 100% deliverability factor. If a customer or prospect has changed their address, the Post Office will give you the new information. Most emails sent will have between a 33% to 67% undeliverable factor depending on spam filters and blocking. If someone leaves a company or changes their email address, there is no notification received with the correct information. EMailLabs did a survey in 2006 with company executives which asked the question: How significant a challenge is deliverability for your company’s email marketing programs? 30.5% responded that it was a significant challenge and 51.8% responded that it was somewhat of a challenge.

-Direct mail can support and enhance a great email program. Royal Mail, Britain’s Post Office, did a study and determined that an email marketing program supported by a direct mail program increased the effectiveness of the email program by 65%. Quite an improvement.

-Direct mail can stimulate web traffic. In today’s SEO world, the name of the game is to attract prospects and customers to your company website and/or to your blog. Sometimes the only way to get people to these online locations is through the printed piece.

-Direct mail can keep the company’s database current, including active email addresses. Mailers, with attached personalized url’s drive people to a landing page that has the customer update their data. I should note that the recipient will need a good reason to go to the website such as a gift certificate or a downloadable white paper.

-Believe it or not, there is still a big portion of the market that is not Internet savvy. There also needs to be a way to contact customers and prospects that opt-out of your email messages. Understanding the demographic targets of a company’s customers and prospects will allow the right choice on media to use.

-Most of the paper used in a printing operation comes from FSC certified forests. These are forests whereby the trees used in the manufacture of paper have been grown specifically for that purpose. Most of these papers also have a high mix of recycled content thus reducing the energy used in its manufacture.
John Jantsch, author of the book “Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide” had this to say about Direct Mail:

“…one of my favorite forms of advertising for the small business—direct mail. The reasons I like direct mail are pretty simple, but it all leads back to my prevailing principles when it comes to analyzing any form of advertising.

1. Does it allow you to specifically target your Ideal Prospect?
2. Does it provide a high return on investment?

Properly executed, direct mail offers a resounding yes to both of the above questions.”

He also wrote, “Few advertising mediums are targeted enough to offer the small business a high enough return on investment, but the primary reason I believe direct mail is the best choice for most small businesses is that you can start very small, test very quickly, and easily expand your efforts when you have a winner.”

He then goes on to discuss the ability to personalize direct mail and the need to have a great list, which is the subject of a later posting.

I leave you with some final statistics supporting Direct Mail. In 2009, marketers are estimated to have spent about $149 billion on direct marketing, which accounts for 54.3% of all ad expenditures in the country, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Measured against total U.S. sales, these advertising expenditures will generate approximately $1.78 trillion in incremental sales.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:
Mesa 535 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ 85210 480-844-2222
Tempe 720 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 480-413-1900
Phoenix 8041 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ 85021 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account