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Looking Beyond the Printed Piece

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What is your goal?

It goes hand-in-hand with ‘motive’ and ‘purpose.’ It is an all-encompassing mindset that looks beyond a single printed piece and engages the outcome of an entire business as well. While the content of a printed piece is important, the impression it leaves with the consumer has a far greater impact.

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blog_modified-iron-crossIf your piece is mostly informational, you may consider a brochure. A creative fold, such as the popular ‘iron cross,’ encourages exploration of the piece, such as in PrintingForLess.com’s HR recruitment piece. On the other hand saddle stitching or perfect binding can encourage a customer to walk through the piece in a more orderly manner.

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As much as we don’t like to admit it, we as humans develop impressions, values and sometimes stereotypes based on a first glance at almost any situation. That’s why the choice of the format for your printed piece is so meaningful: it directly affects how the customer sees the product in the long-term.

 

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diecut This charging rhinoceros, die-cut and UV-coated, is the logo for Shirt Rhino, an online T-shirt company for custom screen-printing. The powerful design of this business card is sure to lead with a roar.

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You also might try to leave something useful with the customer, such as in Gibsun’s plastic-coated business card with a die-cut guitar pick built into the card itself.

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When deciding on a format, consider your overall goals: Why do you operate your business the way you do, and how can you best communicate this to the customer? What specifics are you highlighting? Use your business essentials to drive your detail choices—not the other way around.

 

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The not-for-profit coalition National Center for Women & Information Technology wanted to cement their idea of ‘The Red Chair’ in consumer’s minds: for NCWIT, this symbol promotes their slogan, ‘Sometimes you have to sit to take a stand.’ They created a business card with four die-cut pieces that could be punched out and assembled into the Red Chair itself: and still maintains its business-card purposes, with NCWIT information (and instructions for assembly) printed on all available faces.

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There are a variety of options for format when it comes to printed material: business card, folder, newsletter, etc. These are fairly standard choices. But you may need to unleash your creative when it comes to details such as size, design and special effects.

 

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WhiteIceThe highly contrasting colors on this White Ice postcard draw the eye to the few white spaces left on the card—namely, the brightness of the woman’s teeth, for which the postcard is advertising. The offer and contact information for the tooth whitener are contained on the back of the card. The simple design of a postcard may be just the thing you need to quickly catch your customer’s eye.

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Greeting cards are an excellent way to relate to customers on a personal level while stilfoill maintaining somewhat of a business mindset. KLOVE radio station made these cards with foil-stamping on a plain black front to highlight on two words, which, when combined, form their main message. The visual contrast between the black and gold again underscores their key phrase.

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Like greeting cards, stationery can address formal issues while keeping your company’s name and logo in plain view. Matching envelopes are always an impressive touch.

 

Bold, Beautiful, and Brand-Centric: Business Cards that Pop

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What’s the one piece of printed material that embodies your company, your company’s brand, and you personally? That’s right, the common business card.

It’s not just an entry ticket for the local deli’s lunch giveaway. Your business card is one of the strongest, most personal pieces of collateral that you can produce. It may be the first piece of your brand that a prospect will see. And it’s an intentional, purposeful connection, delivered directly from your hand.

Your card should have visual and tactile appeal that ties directly to your persona and your company’s brand.  This can be a difficult mix to master, but there are some organizations that get it right—and some that knock it out of the park.

Enter three players: Mitchell’s Garage, a Montana-based creative media agency run by Derrick Mitchell; their client Falkor Defense, the firearm product line for a precision engineering firm and aerospace manufacturer; and PrintingForLess.

Mitchell was working with Falkor to rebrand their line of firearm products. He contacted us to help produce printed collateral for their rebranding. Falkor had an idea of what they wanted in their business cards: a strong aesthetic appeal, distinct, soft touch feel in the hand, and the new Falkor logo.

Through collaborative discussion, we identified the elements that would define success for this project. Thick stock, 24 point black Touché paper would give each card the weight, substance and distinct in-hand feel the client wanted.

The matte finish of the paper stock would act as a foundation. The company logo and contact information would be stamped on with two colors of metallic foil to visually leap off the card. The contrasting black and red foils, on the matte black stock, would produce a card sure to stand out from the crowd.

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After the PFL Customer Advocate team spelled out the specifics, production took over. Our press operators worked closely with the design team as they created dies and ran the cards through the foil stamping process.

The final cards were die-cut with rounded corners, with results that exceeded client expectations. The metallic black and red foils catch and reflect the light when the card changes angles, shimmering and shining with an arresting and engaging visual effect.

Memorable? You be the judge.

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Think about your own cards. Do they say what you want them to about you? Do they represent your brand, your company in the best possible way? If it’s time for an update, let us know! We’re happy to help you knock it out of park, too.

Be Seen: Signage Design Done Right

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Need to get your small business out in the open? Signage — indoor and outdoor— is a great way to get your message out there. But where do you begin? The options and best practices may seem overwhelming. But we’ve been helping people get their ideas printed, so let us help you! Ready to turn some eyes your way? Let’s begin your signage journey.

Signage for Different Occasions

First things first: be clear on your needs. There are different signs for different purposes and occasions, not to mention marketing purposes, so let’s break them down:

Brand Awareness: Need to get your logo and tagline known? Banners, posters, yard signs, car magnets and flags are a surefire way to get your contact details, information, branding, or anything else you need, out in the open.

Outdoor Events: Festival goers and craft fair mavens need to know how to get to your goods! Arrows, signs, banners and flags can help attract the attention of potential customers.

Trade Shows: Prepping for an indoor event? We can help you choose the best table tents, banners, foam boards and branding details with ease.

It’s a Sale! Estate, yard, liquidation sales and more. People won’t want to miss out on your mega deals when they can see them advertised!

Window Displays: Posters and decals help attract extra attention and spread your news.

Consider the Details

Now that you know what kind of signs you need, think about how and where they’ll be used. For instance, an outdoor sign in Florida needs to not bleach out in the sun, whereas a sign outside in Montana needs to stand strong against wind and snow. Where is the sign going to be physically placed? Size up and down, with respect to your messaging, appropriately.

Do your signs need to tie to a pole or trees? Does it need to be free-standing? Does it need to be tied down some other way? Think the physical details through before you head over to design and get it all laid out.

Get That Sign Designed

You know what you want and you know what your signage needs to stay in plain sight. Now it’s time to get your idea into its visual shape. Here are some tips to get you started, straight from our design expert’s mouths:

  1. Wise Typography Wins: Use big, bold fonts to capture attention. Fonts with elegant, thin lines are hard for the eye to immediately recognize and understand.
  2. Keep it Simple: Big signs are not meant for complex messaging. Keep your ideas boiled down to the fewest possible words and symbols. The longer details belong on printed pieces that are closer to people’s eyes and that can home with them, like brochures, one-sheets and iron crosses.
  3. Be Eye-Catching: High color contrast is hard to miss. If your logo is a dark color, go for a light background. Keep the sign’s location in mind too– don’t use dark shades in a shady area, or for instance reds against a brick wall!

  1. Learn Substrates: Will there be glare? If so, avoid glossy finishes. Matte finishes work best in brightly lit spaces.
  2. Vector logos only: You need your artwork to be scalable, and a fixed, flat image file won’t work. Go for as high-resolution as possible, always. A file can always be scaled down, but not up, and keep its clarity. We gladly accept virtually every Mac & PC file format, including any version of:
  • Adobe: Acrobat, FrameMaker, Illustrator, InDesign, PageMaker, Photoshop
  • Apple: Works
  • Broderbund: The Printshop, version 15
  • Claris: Works
  • Corel: Bryce, Draw, Lotus, PhotoPaint, Quattro Pro, Ventura, WordPerfect
  • Deneba: Canvas
  • Macromedia: Fireworks, Freehand
  • Microsoft: Excel, Home Publishing, PhotoDraw, Powerpoint, Publisher, Word, Works
  • Quark: Xpress
  • Serif: DrawPlus, PagePlus, PhotoPlus
  • Also: .EPS, .JPEG & .TIF files

Have a file that isn’t listed here? It’s likely that we can use it. Call us at 800-930-6040 to get your signage project started!

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Why the Font Should I Care?

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Why the Font Should I Care?

Sometimes an idea is great enough to rise above even the worst presentation.  For all other ideas no pictures, poor grammar, or a bad font can lose your audience before you even have a chance.

In the span of human history, few things have truly changed our culture more than the invention of the written word.  And ever since then we have struggled to bring to our writing the same meaning and emotion that we are able to breathe into words.  This is just as true when we are pouring our hearts into a personal blog, as it is when we are writing our brand promise on a company brochure.  Our business is our livelihood. Our business fuels the most important things that we need as humans: a meal to eat, a place to rest and a means to participate in the world around us.  

So when it comes to putting cursor to webpage, or printing press to paper, every choice that we make matters to our message.  There are so many of these decisions that we make while speaking that don’t even register to our conscious brain. The way we move our hands.  The way that we angle our head slightly to maintain eye contact. The gleam in our eye as we get into an exciting topic. How do we put that into a written piece?

Part of the secret is in the font choice.

The Power of Font

Research tells us that fonts can drastically change the way readers react to your writing.  A 2012 New York Times study by Errol Morris found that using Baskerville font lead to a 1.5% increase in readers believing a false scientific report over five other fonts.  Serif fonts, those with the ‘tails’ and ‘feet’ on the ends of letters, have been used in scientific and professional reporting since printing began. Baskerville has a classic, reliable look that breeds confidence.  

The Internet went into hysterics when CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle in a press release using Comic Sans.  If CERN had a marketing department they would have been nominated for awards based on the coverage from that release. There was even a Change.org petition to change the name of Comic Sans to Comic Cerns.  You can’t buy coverage like that.

So how do you choose what font will best represent your message?  While there are no clear rules to follow, a few guidelines can help add nuance to your writing.

To Sans, or not to Sans?

The Serif, also called Roman fonts, have small projections on the ends of most letters.  Serif fonts are some of the most recognized because of their early use in print. Serif fonts convey credibility, professionalism, and academic integrity. These fonts are easily recognizable, especially in print, because they created the standard.  

Sans-Serif fonts have none of the projections and are sometimes referred to as Grotesque or Gothic fonts.  These letters give a cleaner, more modern look and are usually easier to read in long paragraph formats.

Script fonts mimic cursive letters.  You can tell a story of class and elegance, quality and royalty using a script font.  They can be difficult to read in long sentences or paragraphs.

Display fonts are the strange ones.  Marquees, Old Western, Ransom Note. Used sparingly, these fonts can create an instant connection before the reader has even acknowledged what the words say.

Choose Colors Wisely

Contrast is an important element in print and on the web.  Bold color can draw attention to a line of text, but be aware of background images and color.  It is also worth remembering that 8-15% of people are colorblind and unable to differentiate certain hues next to each other.  

So Why the Font Should I Care?

All of your choices are important when creating your brand, and font choice allow you to bring the reader into your story without saying a word.  If you would like help crafting the perfect look for your story, PFL’s design and print team have the experience and knowledge to make it happen.

 

Non-Profit vs. 501c3 – Small Business Decision Time

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A reader of my previous articles on non-profit organizations asked, “Why would someone want to form a non-profit organization and not want to become a 501c3?”

What is a Non-Profit?

Simply put, a non-profit — or not for profit — is an organization that does not distribute its profits to shareholders or owners. Instead of distributing taxable wealth to owners (like a for-profit company), a non-profit uses profits in order to fund its programs and services.

A non-profit can hire employees and a management team and do anything else required to operate. After all such expenses are paid, a non-profit business treats its surplus money differently than a for-profit business.

Instead of paying profits to stockholders, the “extra” money is instead used within the organization to pay for and expand its programs and services.

Non-profit is a legal status pertaining to how and why an organization is being run. It doesn’t confer tax-exempt status, nor must such an organization necessarily pursue tax-exempt status.

What is a Tax-Exempt Organization?

Tax-exempt is a taxation status. Tax-exempt means that your organization will not pay regular income taxes on monies left over after expenses are paid.

While you may be running a non-profit organization in terms of how you handle “extra” funds, you might or might not have a need to obtain tax-exempt status.

Your organization will be doing things to raise money to afford the products and services you want to offer, and some of that money will be used to pay your employees or marketing or other operational costs. After those things are paid, you have a profit.

Do you want that profit to be taxed, or do you want that profit to be tax-exempt?

If you want the Internal RevenService to exempt your organization from paying the same taxes as other businesses, you must seek approval for one of the many tax-exempt statuses available. The most commonly known tax-exempt status is 501c3.

You apply for 501c3 status with the IRS. If approved, your organization will be tax-exempt. As I explained in Now You’re Ready for Tax-Exempt Status, having a tax-exempt status does not mean that you don’t have to file with the IRS. You will have to file, and you will have paperwork.

Do I Need Both Non-Profit and Tax-Exempt Status?

Again, your organization can be non-profit and tax-exempt, or it can be non-profit and not tax-exempt.

Non-Profit Tax-Exempt
Legal status Tax status
No shareholders No Shareholders
Pays taxes on profits May not pay taxes on profits
No extensive application process to IRS Extensive application process to IRS
Activities not regulated by the IRS You’ve volunteered to have your activities highlyregulated by the IRS

You will have to weigh the costs versus the benefits against the objectives of your organization. These are not decisions to be made lightly. However, these decisions can be changed as your organization grows and perhaps changes some of its objectives.

Handling Difficult Customers is an Opportunity

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    Handling Difficult Customers is an Opportunity by 4Forum.biz

    Plan your strategy to handle difficult customers with this sentence in your mind. There is no such thing as a difficult customer. If you start in this way, handling difficult customers will not be any more difficult for you.

    On most occasions, a customer becomes difficult only because of our mistakes. Either something wrong has gone with our product or service, or the product or service is not up to the mark to meet his expectations. Late delivery of the product or the delivery of wrong product may also make a customer difficult to handle.


    Win an Argument: Loose a Customer
    The first and foremost thing to remember while handling difficult customers is that you can never win an argument. Argument leaves both the sides drained and the subsequent atmosphere is rarely conducive to selling or good communication. Even if you win an argument, you lose possibly one of your best customers. An argument challenges the customer’s emotional judgment. It becomes very difficult to change his opinion once you challenge this judgment.

    A difficult customer who has come with a complaint is, in fact, an opportunity to demonstrate the high standards of professionalism of your company. The best way is to listen to him. Do not try to calm him down. Instead, try to keep yourself cool. Ensure that your body language or telephone reaction is not conveying anger or shock.

    Do not interrupt, and let him vent out his feelings first. Once he finishes, start by asking questions that demonstrate your real interest in solving his problem. Complaints are unavoidable in any kind of business. How you handle the complaining, will dictate the course of your future relationship with the customer.

    Finally, you must thank the customer for bringing the complaint to you, because a customer always has the choice of switching over elsewhere.

    BURN THE SHIP: a story of an entrepreneur in Montana

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    Doug Fletcher found fly fishing, or more appropriately, fly fishing found him. And it changed his life’s direction.

    In 1996 he and his wife left Atlanta, a high paying job, security and a safe career path for Montana, blue ribbon trout streams, mountains and a large measure of uncertainty. The momentum behind this big move was a long trip to Montana after grad school two years earlier, backpacking and travelling, and of course fly fishing, thoroughly enjoying all things Montana has to offer.
    This exposure to the Big Sky state and the quality of life he witnessed helped him make up his mind. “It was a huge imbalance with life”, Doug recalls, referring to what Atlanta and his current career path did NOT give him. The couple made up their minds. It was time to jump…

    In 1996, after grad school and several years in the corporate grind, Doug found himself in Bozeman, Montana, more or less “chronically underemployed” and looking for his niche and direction. One observation he had at the time was the successful people in town were all small business owners-beverage distributors, a high quality shoe and boot maker, some real estate. They were the familiar fixtures in the community, worked hard, and had carved their own place in the area and were flourishing. This was all Doug needed to realize his own direction-his instinct from his early twenties kicked in-being your own boss is the answer. The soon to be entrepreneur had to step up.

    Fast forward to today after a decade in business, Doug Fletcher and North Star Consulting Group is recognized as a leader in the field of global, web-based market and organizational research. This includes projects for employee and client satisfaction surveys as well as comprehensive employee performance evaluations.

    I sat down with Doug over a burger and beers to pick his brain, and see what an entrepreneurial Montana transplant has to say about success, the prospect of failure, stick-to-itiveness and fly fishing.

    Q: What brought you to Montana?

    Doug Fletcher:

    “Believe it or not, fly fishing. While I had ‘the Life’ in Atlanta, a house, good job, the right choice it appeared on the surface, but it was not what I truly wanted. After grad school during the summer, my wife and I packed up and headed west to travel, explore and fish in Montana, before my job started in Atlanta. And that was it. When I got back I realized that there was a huge imbalance with my life, and I couldn’t do the things I really wanted to do there [Atlanta]. Fly fishing was part of it, sure, but it was just one thing that represented the quality of life I wanted. When we finally decided it was time to quit, pack it up and move, we were bound and determined to make it work-we had to. And, by the way, I did manage to fit in 100 days of fishing that year!”

    Q: How did North Star Consulting come about?

    DF: “At an early age, maybe in my twenties, I decided that I wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial life-corporate life was not my bag. So, after realizing that the successful people in the area were their own bosses, I collaborated with two friends, kicked in a little money, made some contacts, and the company was born in 1998-with $7500 between the three of us.”

    Q: What does North Star Consulting do?

    DF: “North Star evolved into a company that helps other companies and corporations do employee surveys, customer surveys, and recently with our release of Rave Review, performance evaluations for professional HR infrastructures. Our clients are small to medium sized businesses, and we are internet based, using proprietary software. With regard to clients, we do not advertise. We built our business in the early days through networking on a national basis and once we got a critical mass of clients, we have grown via repeat business, organic growth with existing customers and word of mouth.”

    Q: What in your view are some of the pros and cons of living and working in Montana?

    DF: “To a certain degree, starting from scratch in more traditional jobs in Montana can be an uphill battle-prohibitive transportation costs, small, widely dispersed population, difficulty in moving a lot of goods-all make for a complex go of it. Being web-based with a low cost structure has given us the freedom to be national and worldwide. Additionally, Montana has a wealth of talented people, with a very good knowledge base. The ‘white collar’ population is strong here.”

    Q: Who is your competition? How do you differentiate?

    DF: “We really have two levels of competition. There is the lower end, quick-hit inexpensive DIY sites and the very large, corporate agencies. Both serve a good purpose; the low-end services are great for college students, non-profits, highly bootstrapped start-ups. Then there are the larger ones that we occasionally compete with. But our advantage over them is twofold: one, when you call us, more than likely you are speaking with me or one other person-the level of service is highly personalized and dedicated. Secondly, we are fast. Many times I can be on a call with a client, have a proposal by the afternoon, and be rolling on a project the next day if need be. That is difficult to do with a much larger company, and that is not the business plan or value of lower end sites.”

    Q: What are you doing, or will be doing, to weather the current economic climate?

    DF: “We are maintaining a low cost structure, we have low overhead, and we are small enough to be nimble-we can change as we need to, so as to ride out anything that comes at us.”

    Q: What are some of your personal goals you have set for yourself and your company?
    DF: “My short term goals, say in the next 12 months, are growth related. We are not worried about survival of the company; it is in a good place. But, we won’t be able to probably grow it like we did the previous 5 years at a rate of 10-15%. I want to keep it level. From a long term view, the key is diversification. Too much of the company in ‘one big egg and two small eggs’ can be risky; I want to get more of the company in more places.
    My personal goal is to train the next generation of senior management. This is two-part: one, to groom good new managers who our clients will see as competent, and really just an extension of me, and the company, and to get someone in place to eventually transition into my role.”

    Q: What is your advice to new entrepreneurs looking to strike out on their own?

    DF: “My advice to anyone looking to go out on their own and be their own boss is pretty straightforward. First, take a long, hard look your personal strengths and weaknesses. And don’t just trust your own opinion-talk to others, people you respect, who can give it to you straight. Second, be very honest and conservative with your financial resources-we started North Star with $7500, and in the last 10 years, we have done roughly $5 million in revenue, with 2 full time employees and 2 part time. If you drain all your resources to get it going, or go way beyond your means, you can fail. There is no such thing as an overnight success-you hear about the story of Google and the like, but that is not the norm. It takes consistency and that day-to-day presence in the market. Additionally, whether you call it luck, good timing or opportunity, every start-up will get that chance, that time at bat where you will get a shot. The trick is to make it work, recognize the opportunity, and start climbing up.

    I think about what it took to get North Star off the ground and start being successful, and really it was like ‘burning the ship’. The Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez would literally burn his ships upon entering uncharted territory, thereby making it essentially impossible to just turn back and head to safe ground. They had one direction to go-forward. That is how I viewed it. There was no safety net, no deep pockets-I felt I had to succeed, and I would.”

    Doug Fletcher, 42, is the co-founder and CEO of North Star Consulting Group. He is an avid (you guessed it) fly fisher, bowhunter, traveler, runner and trains and competes in triathlons whenever he can. He has completed an Ironman, the Bridger Ridge Run (more than once), and completed a (nearly) cross-country solo bike trip, from southeastern United States to Montana. He and his wife, Brigitte, have two children and make their home in Bozeman, Montana.

    You Gotta Know When to Fold’Em

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    Including a unique fold is a great way to increase interaction with your marketing material. Standard tri-folds are popular because they are an industry norm, but there are countless folding options to choose from. A well-conceived fold can add both dimension and interest that sets you apart from the everyday ho-hum. It can also make paper fly across the room; yep, paper folding is sweet!

    Let’s take a look at a few great folding options:

    folds for print materialsThere are countless other ways you can fold your promotional material that will engage customers with attractive, original elements.

    This customer out of San Francisco, California did an excellent job of complimenting the mood and personality of their production. Designer Kevin Clarke and photographer, Pak Han, rendered a product that is both artistically appealing and informative.  It is also very appealing to the touch. The smooth, strong paper with matte aqueous coating gives the piece a nice finish.

    The folding completes the originality of this promotional mailer. The modified-corner fold is then folded in half for distribution. This custom printed mailer will engage its recipients and is unlikely to be discarded without a thought.

    Folds can be incorporated with business cards, brochures, presentation folders, flyers, newsletters, and cards. We can help you explore the many possibilities.

    You gotta know when to fold’em, but more importantly, you gotta know how! The foldfactory.com is an excellent resource for you and your designer when contemplating the layout of your next piece. Our print experts are ready to assist you and can help your project be a success! Call 800-930-6040 to get started!

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    6 Ways to Sell with Storytelling

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    In the early 1960’s, a track and field coach out of Oregon had a ritual he lived by. At the start of every season, he could be found in the locker room, wrapping a measuring tape around the feet of every runner, jotting down measurements on a pad of paper. He believed that if he could remove one ounce from a shoe, based on the gate of a decent runner, he could shave a total of 55 pounds off an athlete’s stride over the course of a mile.

    That coach’s name was Bill Bowerman. He would go on to train 51 All-Americans and 31 U.S. Olympians. He also started a company called Nike. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

    Bill Bowerman, Oregon track and field coach

     

    Ever since Bowerman was cooking rubber soles on his wife’s waffle maker, the concept of Nike was fueled by one thing-belief. Why Bill Bowerman did what he did meant more to him than how or what he did it with. If he could have made his runners faster by altering their track uniform or creating a sunscreen that made them more aerodynamic, he would have done that instead. That’s because what Bill Bowerman cared most about was why he made shoes for his athletes. He believed in being the best, and that the difference in first or second place was always an ounce away.

    To this day, Nike refers to senior executives as “corporate storytellers.” What Nike understands better than almost anyone is that their stories should never be about business plans, statistics or financial factors. They are about beliefs, values and the human experience. More importantly, Nike understands that stories sell.

     

    Stories that sell.

    When I first heard Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why,” it forever changed not just the way I communicated as a marketer, but the way I communicated within the world, too.

    I had always believed in the power of stories. How they connect people across the world more than any other medium, and that we as a people had known their value since our ancestors began smearing berries across cave walls on an island in Indonesia.

    So why don’t more companies apply stories to the way they market? As we take a look at the power of storytelling and the reactions it garners, you’ll be scratching your head as to why stories aren’t strewn through every campaign you’ve created.

     

    “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

    There is a reason that only a few names are universally recognizable out of the millions of businesses in the world. For example, Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, or Toms are all companies that are instantly identifiable in a way that provokes a specific feeling. That feeling is a result of marketing through storytelling, and starting with the why.

    It’s often said in marketing that people don’t buy because they need something, they buy to be a part of something. There is a right and a wrong way to tap into this theory, and frankly…

     

    Most companies are doing it wrong.

    When it comes to selling, most companies start with what they sell, then move on to explain how they sell it, and lastly will tell you why they sell it (if they even know why). This is why most companies inspire nothing more than a low value purchase. However, if you were to look at a company that turns the process inside out and starts with the why, you’ll find companies whose brands have become movements, and whose products equate to a way of life.

    But what about these stories provokes adoption, and more importantly, provokes adopters to become lifetime brand advocates?

     

    Crafting the perfect story.

    Stories work because people are interested in themselves more than anything else. It’s why your name is your favorite word. When companies market through stories, they put the spotlight on the user or customer, instead of themselves. Let’s take a look at how to craft a great marketing story.

     

    1. Remember your customer.

    wesley-bowing

     

    -There’s nothing worse than being stuck at a party with the guy who wants to tell you about every coloring contest his kid has ever won. Don’t be that guy. Remember that while you’re telling a story, you’re still talking about the customer. This is true in every instance, even when writing your “About Us” page. If you’re not relating every statement back to your customer, you’re losing their interest.

     

    2. Your pencil should outlast your eraser.

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    -“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” This quote has been attributed to a lot of men in history, all of them brilliant. Make sure your story has a concise focus with a clear beginning, middle and end. Great storytelling is really about great editing, and knowing when to kill your darlings.

     

    3. Make it relatable.

    related tyler

     

    -Your story is useless if not relatable. Jeffery Zacks discovered this through a series of MRI brain scans on people reading a story or watching a movie. As the main characters encountered a situation, it activated parts of the subjects’ brain that would have responded had they themselves been in the same predicament in real life. The takeaway? Your stories need to include the emotions you want your readers to feel.

     

    4. Leave the sales pitch at the door.

    sales pitch

     

    -Better yet, don’t even take it out of the car. Leave it in the backseat with the doors locked. Stories are about building trust, and nothing turns prospects and even current customers away faster than a sales pitch. Leave the gimmicks out and let the story sell for you.

     

    5. Believe it to achieve it.

    believe it

     

    -If you don’t believe your own story, no one else will. To write a great story, you have to start with the why, which means you have to know what the why is. Apple does this better than anyone. As Simon Sinek explains in “Start with Why,” if Apple wanted to be a mediocre computer company, they would have sold like this:

    “We make great computers.” (what)

    “They’re beautifully designed, easy to use, and user friendly. (how)

    “Wanna buy one?”

    Not really. Nothing about that pitch is inspiring, and it doesn’t connect with any sort of belief system. Now, let’s look at how Apple actually sells their products. It looks like this:

    “With everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo; we believe in thinking differently.” (Why)

    “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.” (How)

    “We just happen to make great computers, wanna buy one?” (What)

    Knowing what you believe allows you to always start with why. Because, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

     

    6. Take it One Step Further with Storydoing

    storydoer

     

    To tell a truly great story, you have to be more than a storytelling company, you have to be a storydoing company. With this approach, customer stories don’t just appear out of thin air. Rather, they are the result of a company that is fulfilling its brand promises.

    Bonus: Not only will this inspire customers, but internal employees as well.

     

    If You’re Reading This

    You have a story. If you think that storytelling may work, but doesn’t apply to your business, you are gravely mistaken. Just as there is a reason why you started your company, there is a story waiting to be told. From B2B to B2C, people are biologically driven to participate in stories they believe in. The question to ask yourself is, what will your story be?

    Delight Customers with Dimensional or “Lumpy” Mail

    0

    dm-blog-header
    If your daily mail consisted of a stack of flat letters, cards, circulars, and a package, which would grab your attention? The package, or dimensional mail, naturally.

    Packages and other examples of dimensional mail stand out by virtue of their shape and bulk, so of course they catch our eye. Your market will react the same way, which is why you should consider sending ‘lumpy mail’ as part of a direct mail campaign.

    Dimensional mail campaigns are dramatically effective in producing great results. Whether you send something in a box, a tube, or you tuck a very cool gift inside an odd-sized envelope, recipients will notice.

    Research shows that well-executed dimensional mail campaigns are highly effective. In a recent Response Rate Report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) showed that a 3D campaign, when compared with a flat direct mail campaign, can outperform the flat mailings by 200 – 300%. Even more significant is their finding that dimensional mail averaged the highest response rate of any direct response medium, at 5.49%.

    With such a high response rate, this type of campaign is worth a look-see, even though it will cost you more than a traditional flat campaign. You just need to plan your mailing strategically and make it memorable.
    be-strategic

    Any time you move away from standard-sized and -shaped direct mail items, you could increase your production costs. Here’s a tip: print materials based on multiples of 8 ½ x 11” are standard for printing presses (as well as the post office). When you go to other sizes or alter the dimensions of a flat mailing drastically, you might pay more for printing and for mailing.

    As you start planning a dimensional mailing – such as a boxed package, something delivered in a tube, or even a padded envelope – know that your costs will rise. But since your response rates will likely improve, it’s something you should consider.

    Other key elements to think about are when to send dimensional mail, to whom, and of course, what you should send.

    When’s the right time in a campaign to send something dimensional?

    As a “first touch”? To move a prospect closer to a sale? Perhaps to attract registrants to an upcoming event? Maybe to thank someone for downloading a white paper or attending your webinar? All of these reasons are valid, and there are many more. You need to work out the strategy with your team.

    Who should get your dimensional piece?

    That’s another element to consider. Based on your objective and your budget, identify who gets a particular 3D mailing. Some marketers produce different pieces for different lists. For example, if you’ve segmented your list by size of account, you could send more expensive mail campaigns to the larger accounts. Similarly, you could create an amazing, unique dimensional mailer for key decision makers only. Or make dimensional mail pieces a part of your loyalty program. There are lots of options.

    make-it-memorable

    Creating a dimensional mail campaign is the exciting part. There’s practically no limit to what you can produce. If you’re using the USPS for delivery, you just need to ensure that whatever

    you’re planning can be mailed. Almost anything can – even a coconut! – but work with your print partner and mail specialist to design your package with the delivery method in mind.

    Here are some neat examples of memorable dimensional campaigns:

    A leading medical website sent personalized packages filled with healthy snacks, a catalog highlighting their company’s benefits, and a personalized postcard.

    A developer of a hybrid disk and a flash storage sent a Japanese takeout container (a bento box) to prospects. It contained chopsticks, a picture of sushi and a mockup of a $150 gift card. Those who completed a demo were sent a real $150 gift card to a sushi restaurant in their area.

    A database software company sent customers personalized packages with a varied combination of goodies, depending on the account size. Some received branded calendars or pens, while others received branded bags of caramels.

    So your dimensional campaign can include items produced and personalized for your list, then inserted in a box, envelope or tube. The other big thing to remember is that some print partners can produce dimensional mail. Some presses can print on a wide range of materials and substrates – like wood, tile, textiles, magnets, ceramic, and even glass.

    Bottom line?

    Dimensional mail done the right way can pack a punch like no other marketing campaign. We all get excited about packages, particularly when they’re a surprise. And just like that, we’re kids again, opening a birthday or holiday gift. For a while, we forget about everything else but what’s inside that box.

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