Tips for Ordering Promotional Products

Promotional products, whether common items such as pens and refrigerator magnets or more unusual items such as branded toys or back scratchers, can be powerful components of a multichannel marketing campaign. They tend to be kept for longer periods of time than traditional marketing pieces and can be highly effective door openers for hard-to-reach targets, particularly in the C-Suite. But ordering promotional items isn’t like ordering print. Here is a quick checklist to make the most of your investment.

  1. Don’t overload the promotional item.

Keep it simple and don’t try to overload with copy or images. Often times, a logo and phone number is all you need.

  1. Avoid the rush.

You may be used to being able to rush orders for brochures and direct mail, but promotional items require more lead time. Plan at least several weeks in advance.

  1. Simplify your use of color.

The differential between single-color and multicolor printing is relatively minimal. However, promotional items are generally imprinted using silkscreen or pad printing, and every color adds more cost. Use single-color versions of graphics and logos to keep the cost down.

  1. Price breaks matter.

In the world of commercial print, you don’t want to over-order product simply to get a price break, especially when considering the cost of obsolescence. Promotional items will go out of date less quickly, however, and the price breaks with volume can be substantial.

  1. Dimension matters.

Remember to take into consideration the final mailing cost. A more expensive promotional item that ships flat may cost less in the end than a lower priced but bulky item that needs to be mailed in a dimensional package.

Want to learn more about best-in-class use of promotional items? Talk to one of our business development experts.

5 Steps to Great Print Planning

Most successful printing projects don’t happen by accident. They start with a good plan. Here are 5 steps to ensuring that everything goes smoothly and on budget.

  1. What is the goal of the printed piece?

Is the goal of the piece to entertain or inform? To impress? Your marketing goals influence the design and quality of the piece. Certain ideas may have a significant impact on turnaround or cost. For example, some binding options can take extra time, and certain trim sizes might incur extra expense. Paper choices can also affect the project cost and turnaround time.

  1. Who is the audience, and how will they use the piece?

If you are designing a flyer for a theatrical opening, it will look different than one promoting a rock concert. People read a book differently than they read a poster. Before setting anything in stone, talk to us to determine how your design decisions can affect the project budget and schedule.

  1. How many suppliers are involved?

Take into account the schedules of any outside service providers. For example, if you are using a freelance illustrator or label designer, you need to take his or her availability into consideration. If you’re adhering a label to a bottle, you need to work with the bottle company to ensure that the bottles are available when you need them.

  1. When does the piece need to arrive?

Always plan backwards from the delivery date. It’s particularly important to involve us in this part of the planning process so we can schedule your project. Because we juggle many jobs at any given time, your project needs gets to press in time to meet your deadline. If not, your job may get rescheduled behind other jobs, and especially if those jobs are large or complex, that can affect its mail or delivery date significantly.

  1. How much “fudge” do you need?

Finally, you need to incorporate “fudge factor.” Always add in buffer time to accommodate slippage in the schedule. The larger the project, the more buffer you will need.

The moral of the story? Good print planning starts with communicating early—and often.

5 Tips to Selecting Images that Win Customers

Do you have the right images to reinforce your message and engage your target audience? Let’s look at a few ideas to help you select photos and illustrations that help to achieve your campaign objectives.

  1. Mirror your target audience. The quickest way to let your customers know your product is right for them is to use images reflecting the same demographic. A company promoting a new perfume might show a 35- to 44-year-old woman surrounded by admirers. A health club might use this same age demographic but change the image to athletic men and women.
  2. Empathize with your prospect. A working mother is anxiously looking at the clock as it approaches 5:00 p.m., wondering what she will serve for dinner. A man looks out the window of a crowded bus and sees the sign for a car dealership promoting good cars on limited budgets. Use images that empathize with your customers’ challenges.
  3. Demonstrate your value proposition. Illustrate how your product will help prospects solve a problem. A food chain promoting its carryout menu might present the working mother as she puts a hot, healthy meal on the table for her family. The car dealership could show the man from the bus speeding away in a clean and dependable vehicle.
  4. Be authentic. Instead of a stock photo of a multicultural team laughing together around the water cooler, incorporate likenesses of your own employees in real offices, or the actual delivery truck customers will see pulling up to their business or residence. If a prospect can believe in your pictures, he can believe in your words as well.
  5. Reinforce the message you intend to convey. Using images that reflect what people care about is a great way to engage customers and keep them coming back.

Need help selecting the right images? Let our top-notch designers help!

5 Updates to Freshen Up Direct Mail

Are you looking for ways to spice up your direct mail campaigns? Even if your response rates remain high, are you looking to freshen things up? Here are a few ways you can update your direct mailings and give them new appeal.

  1. Update the package.

Are you using the same envelopes you have for years? If so, change the color. Change the size. Add a personalized teaser on the front (“John, check this out!”). If you are selling high-value products, consider dimensional mail or novelty envelopes that look like UPS packages or USPS Priority Mail.

  1. Tweak your text.

Still using the same marketing text from last year? Try a new approach. If you’ve been using an informational style, insert some humor. If you’ve been sending punchy one-liners, try adding more educational text.

  1. Freshen up the images.

How long have you been using that same picture of your headquarters? Is your headshot on the back of the postcard from the 1990s? Take a new company photo. Upload a current headshot with a fabulous smile. Or maybe you just want some new images as backgrounds or illustration.

  1. Add a new variable.

If you are personalizing your mailings, why not add a new variable? If you’ve been personalizing by name and gender, add age bracket or income. If you’ve been personalizing by ZIP Code and household income, refine by life stage.

Look for fresh, new ways to relate to customers and increase the relevance of the message.

  1. Try a new offer.

What incentive have you been using to get people to respond? 15% discount? If so, try 10% or 25%. Go crazy and try BOGO. How are you encouraging people to log into their personalized microsite? Entrance into a sweepstakes for a gift card? Try a set of concert tickets instead.

Mixing things up can be a great way to stay fresh and relevant, even when sending to the same audience. So get creative. Step outside the box and see what happens.

Need some ideas? Contact us. We can help!

5 Ways to Trim the Print Budget without Compromising Results

Want to get better results with a smaller investment? Try these simple tricks.

  1. Plan smart. Simple mistakes often can be avoided with a little planning. Take time to communicate with us about your budget and deadlines, but also the more interpretive elements of the project so we can discuss any challenges we foresee.
  2. Gang your runs. By placing many projects on the same sheet, or piggybacking on an unused portion of a sheet, we can reduce manpower, plates, and prep time.
  3. Think “down the line.” Changes become more expensive the further along you are in the print job. Everyone who needs to approve your files should do so before you submit them for printing. Proofread your copy multiple times. Confirm that you’ve prepared your digital files properly, keeping in mind that the resolution of digital files varies greatly.
  4. Tweak your paper. Paper can account for 30%–50% of your printing costs, and there are a number of cost-saving measures you can take without adversely affecting your results.
  • Reduce the size and number of pages. By targeting and segmenting your mailings and information packets, you can often save a lot of money over time.
  • Use thinner paper. Changing the weight can save 10%–15% of your paper costs.
  • Make subtle changes to brightness. Generally speaking, the brighter the paper, the higher the cost. But few people will notice a slight change in the brightness of your paper, so this is often somewhere you can tighten the belt.
  • Consider colored papers instead of bleeds. You may be able to create the effect you want less expensively with colored paper instead of ink.
  • Opt for the house paper. Paper prices fluctuate often, but you can save time and money by using papers we purchase in high volume. Ask us for samples.
  1. Remember that boring is your friend. When it comes to print production, you want your print job to be uneventful once it hits the pressroom. To make this happen, talk to us early and often!

Need more money-saving ideas? Give us a call!

Tips and Tricks for Selecting Colors

Color sells. It increases brand recognition, improves comprehension, and can motivate purchase decisions between products. Color also identifies. The United Parcel Service, IBM, and Home Depot are all synonymous with specific colors. Some companies even trademark colors as brand assets. Think Tiffany’s robin’s egg blue.

A study by G.A Wright Marketing found that the use of high-quality paper and color applications can increase response rates by nearly 50%. For example, the study showed that a four-color promotional mailer printed on heavy gloss paper stock had a more than 40% higher response rate than an identical three-color version printed on a lighter matte paper stock.

Colors summon emotions and create connections with the people surrounding your brand. Warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow are associated with a range of emotions, from optimism and excitement to violence. Cool colors like green, violet, and blue can be calming and nurturing, but they can also be impersonal and antiseptic.

Choose colors that will elicit a positive response from recipients, then balance them in a visually appealing way. Using variations of a single color will create a visual effect that is classic and easy on the eyes, but not as vibrant as it could be. Enrich the scheme by introducing analogous colors, selecting three colors next to each other on the color wheel. Examples include red/orange/yellow; green/blue/purple; and yellow/yellow-green/green. Consistently use one shade as the dominant color.

For higher contrast, select a complementary color scheme, choosing colors across the wheel from each other. This works best when you place a warm color against a cool color, such as red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow. Any tint can be used. Midnight blue/tangerine and royal purple/gold are effective combinations.

Most any color mix can work as long as you retain harmony and richness in your presentation and avoid the hues used by your competitors.

Test combinations until you find the scheme that sends the message you want associated with your business. Your customers make split-second decisions based on color, so use it to your advantage.

Need help? Just ask!

Is Your Direct Mail Trustworthy?

People don’t just buy from companies they like. They buy from companies they trust. When you send out direct mail campaigns, it’s important to keep this in mind. Let’s look at five ways you can establish trust with your customers.

  1. Use solid, believable content. Leave the extravagant claims and cheesy superlatives to the late night infomercials. Make your headlines and body copy factual and believable. Back up your claims. Be specific so people know that you are representing the product accurately.
  2. Write for your audience. If your marketing copy sounds generic, recipients might not feel that your claims are genuine. It’s hard to trust a company that is willing to sell anything to anybody whether they really need it or not. Target your offers, marketing copy, and calls to action to each target audience specifically so they recognize your claims as true.
  3. Credible design. Marketing copy can be superficial and cheesy, and so can design. If you use five different fonts and clutter the design area with tons of images and an impenetrable sea of text, your piece will look unprofessional. If your design looks unprofessional, your company will too. Avoid super tiny fonts because they make it look as if you are trying to hide something.
  4. Use real people. Customer testimonials are great for establishing credibility, but they have to be from real life people. Use names, locations, and pictures of smiling faces when possible. Assure readers that these are actual people, not customers you made up.
  5. Proofread your text. Spelling and grammar errors don’t make for a professional image. Have a professional editor or proofreader get a final set of eyes on your copy to ensure that there are no mistakes.

When it comes to direct mail, there are no shortcuts. Be sincere. Be credible. Present not just a great product, but a company that people can trust.