2020 has certainly been a historic year, and we’re only in April! We’re addressing new challenges and discovering unique solutions.
Stafford Printing is fortunate that we’ve been able to remain open during this pandemic, and we’re thankful to the clients who allow us to provide print and signage. We opened 33 years ago out of a desire to do something I enjoy . . . using typography and art to promote, inform and entertain.
To quote the opening of I Am A Printer:
I have been around for 570 years
I invented the Renaissance and caused the Reformation
I have recorded war and peace [and the 2020 pandemic]
My pamphlets and documents created America
I take ideas and information and make them tangible
I print lofty Bibles and lowly forms
I am a printer
Today, combining print with digital tools creates dynamic communication that inspires, compels you to act, and stirs memories.
Again, I thank you for your business, your referrals, and your testimonies, and I leave you with this question: in this time when businesses and organizations are living through a major challenge, how are you adapting?
More to come . . . and soon. Meanwhile, it’s never too early to start planning for the future, so let’s talk about your post-pandemic marketing efforts!
How many obituaries do we have to read proclaiming that print is dead? I call BS on that, and here’s why.
No matter where you look, print is everywhere. You see it all day long, from the moment you wake up in the morning – it’s on everything from your tube of toothpaste, to the cup of coffee you bought on your way to work. Pretty much every item you encounter in your daily life has print on the label, the box, or the instructions. You can’t avoid it!
For well over three decades I’ve been hearing about the paperless office, and while it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t fully reflect the reality of how businesses actually operate. Granted, you can email an invitation, a brochure, or a newsletter, but print delivers more, and I can prove it.
We had a client call us in a panic. After months and months of advertising, marketing, public relations – all digital – seats remained unsold for an event. Obviously this was a huge cause for concern. The client called us and said that they needed postcards, thousands of them, as quickly as possible. So Stafford Printing produced some snazzy postcards that could be returned without a stamp . . . and suddenly the responses flooded in. Within the first week there was a 3% response rate from prospects saying that they wanted to buy seats, at an average price of $1,000. With an anticipated conversion rate of 10% – meaning one out of every 10 respondents will purchase – a minimum of $100,000 in revenue is anticipated on a campaign that cost $19,000 to produce. It will be interesting to see the final numbers . . . but print came through in a pinch to generate revenue for the client.
The key to the program was a targeted audience. This was not a shotgun approach, but rather a purchased list identifying demographics that would be interested in the product.
Print isn’t dead; it’s just being utilized differently. The value of print is not only that it’s beautiful, but that it can evolve along with the marketing landscape.
Clients have a vision for what they want to achieve; it is up to print service providers to demonstrate how print can be the best way to make that vision a reality.
Now that January is almost history, it’s time for a quick reflection. The first month of the year can be a little overwhelming. You’re recovering from holiday break, looking back on the prior year, and thinking of the million goals you have for the current year . . . all while you’re in quicksand!
As we prepare to celebrate 33 years of Stafford Printing, I know how time can become a blur. I don’t know exactly where I picked up these “eight practices for effectiveness,” but I want to share them here because I think they can be helpful when you’re trying to get organized and move forward on your plans for the year.
- Ask yourself, what needs to be done now? Choose just one big task, or two maximum. Most people don’t have the capacity to focus on multiple major projects simultaneously, so it’s better to work on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.
- Another question: what is right for your business? Be brutally honest with yourself about this one. Chasing silver objects is great in fiction, but not so much in real life.
- Develop an action plan for each project, or what some call a “statement of intent.” This should be a written plan detailing exactly what steps you intend to take to accomplish your goal, and in what time frame.
- Take personal responsibility for decisions. Don’t just raise the flag – make sure there is buy-in, direction, accountability, and follow-up.
- You also need to take responsibility for communicating. Though technology has taken us to outer space and back, it hasn’t come up with a way to transmit the information in our brains and hearts to interested parties.
- Focus on opportunities rather than problems. This goes back to accountability – problem-solving does not produce results. Exploiting opportunities does.
- Run productive meetings. Kill the PowerPoint. The end.
- That old saying “there is no I in team” may be trite and overused, but it’s also true. You have to think in terms of “we,” and make decisions through that lens.
The first two practices give you knowledge; the next four convert knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the organization feels responsible and accountable. This is a great recipe not only for getting projects done, but also for staying true to your company values and taking care of your team in the process.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a bonus tip that comes from personal experience: listen first, speak last.
It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season is flying by. New Year’s Day will be here before we know it! With 2020 closing in, so is all the advice from experts, overflowing with recommendations for everything that you need to do and change to make your business more successful. They’ll tell you that you “should” overhaul your marketing strategy, that you “have to” start preparing for changes in search engine optimization, or that you “absolutely must” learn to navigate new developments in social media. The suggestions are endless, and they all follow a common theme: throw out everything you did in 2019 to make room for 2020.
Is it necessary to take such a drastic approach, though? Is running a successful business in 2020 really going to be that much different from 2019? Does it make any sense to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?
The truth is, how much you need to change your business in the new year depends on how well things have been going for you up to this point. It’s certainly important to identify problem areas, and if your system for doing things is not helping you connect with and serve your clients in the best possible way, then of course that needs to be addressed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; you simply have to look at what is working and what isn’t, and make your adjustments accordingly. Throwing everything out and starting over is rarely necessary, but occasionally certain aspects of your business will need a more major overhaul.
There’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change from year to year, though, and that’s the importance of keeping your clients at the center of your business strategy. The whole point of being in business is to provide services and products that make life easier for the people you’re serving. Without that as your number one priority, all the marketing advice in the world won’t matter.
In reality, when we’re back at work in January, how we bring value to our clients won’t change all that much. It will still be about relationships, service, innovation, and erasing friction so that interactions are as seamless as possible. Sure, there will be adjustments to the process along the way. There may be some new tools that come in handy, or a new type of software that helps streamline the work. But at the end of the day . . . your fingers will still have to do the walking, your mouth the talking, and your actions delivering on your promises!
When you work in the non-profit sector, there’s a constant struggle to be heard above the noise of all the other organizations trying to raise funds. Most donors have a set budget that they put aside for yearly charitable contributions. With so many worthwhile causes out there, the deciding element in where the money goes often comes down to the presentation and “wow factor” of a particular fund appeal.
We have a non-profit customer that works globally in the environmental field. Every year their fund appeal is innovative and amazing . . . and their results prove that what they are doing is effective.
They recently wanted to show their clients the value of a $1 contribution, by demonstrating how we spend a dollar in the United States compared to the value of a dollar in third-world countries. Their focus is protecting the rainforest, stopping habitat loss before it begins, and saving endangered species. They are GuideStar Platinum rated and have a track record of more than thirty years of conservation successes.
They designed a wonderful infographic for their donors. It was printed on a 20 x 29 sheet of paper that was folded to 10 x 14.5. Unfortunately, there isn’t a stock envelope available to handle that size. In order to accommodate their needs, we developed a custom envelope that would contain the infographic, an appeal letter, a magnet, and other information collateral. The envelope was then digitally printed and die cut. We were even able to address the envelopes during printing, which meant that after die cutting and finishing, they were immediately ready to be stuffed and mailed.
The result was an oversized and unusual envelope that stood out in the mail and screamed to be opened. Inside the envelope were beautifully printed pieces, each personalized to the donor. Imagine receiving something like that in your mailbox. Certainly it would be the very first thing that caught your attention, the piece of mail that you’d be most curious about opening. The contents would not disappoint, either – impeccably designed printed materials with a personal touch to add to the impact of the message.
This time of year is especially important and especially challenging for non-profits. Your job is to come up with a creative fund appeal concept that will stand out above the rest and grab your donors’ attention. Our job is to help you make that concept a reality.
Who wants to think about the new year in September? It may seem a bit premature, but for business owners, the end of 2019 will be upon us before we know it. If you don’t start preparing soon, you’ll take your business into 2020 without a clear sense of direction for what you want to accomplish. The best time to start getting your ducks in a row is right now, but what are the most productive ways to set yourself up for strong growth as we finish one year and start a new one?
One last marketing push. There’s still time for 2019 to shine, so take advantage by pulling out all the stops. Email may be the easiest place to start, but don’t forget the power of printed promotions.
A holiday card that means something. So many businesses send out a generic, cheap-looking card that was clearly a last-minute afterthought. No one wants to receive that; it’ll go straight in the trash. If you start now, you have plenty of time to make a statement by creating a card that is interesting, personal, and well-designed. Don’t wait until the first week of December to start thinking about this! Show your customers that you care about the little details.
An end-of-the-year customer survey. Were your customers happy with your business this year? Is there any service or product they wish you would start offering? Are they even familiar with all the services you currently provide? A year-end survey with carefully-constructed questions can provide you with both clarity and direction. Doing this may feel a lot like the dreaded performance review, but that’s a good thing – it’ll give you the information you need to start making adjustments to any plans you have for the next year.
A look ahead to the 2020 trade shows. Be honest: how long has it been since you freshened up your booth and marketing materials? At the very least, you probably need to have a few things reprinted, but while you’re at it, this is a good opportunity to look over everything you have and assess the need for editing and rewriting, updates to your designs, or even a complete rebranding.
With the holidays just around the corner, we’re heading into a great time of year full of parties and customer events. Don’t forget, though, that it’s also a time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this year, and start making plans and taking action to get ready for 2020.
Almost everybody has a story of exasperation with fundraisers. It can either be from the perspective of an organization struggling to collect donations, or from the standpoint of receiving repeated requests to give. There is donor fatigue as fundraising appeals grow every year. Maybe it’s a stretch to say that anyone really enjoys the fundraising process, but people genuinely do want to help, and if you go about your fund appeal in the right way, you can not only get more repeat donations, but more first-time donors, as well.
The most important aspect of making a good fund appeal is to create a compelling narrative. People like stories that will touch them, and emotional connections are what lead to larger and more frequent donations. You can’t just use the same tired appeal script over and over – although it seems like less work in the short term, people will learn to tune it out, like any repetitive advertising. Instead, explain the problem that your organization aims to tackle, tell real and recent stories of people who are affected by this problem, and let that drive your fund appeal forward.
You also want to make sure that you keep your messaging and donation process simple and clear. Sure, there are probably hundreds of things that your organization needs, and just as many ways that people could help out with those things, but the main issue right now is that you want people to donate, so don’t bore them with a lot of irrelevant complications. As we discussed before, one of your main goals in any venture should be to make things as convenient as possible, so remove as much friction as you can for your donors. Prepopulate the donor card with whatever information you have available, for example the donor’s name and address. You can also take the guesswork out of deciding on an amount by mentioning that the donor gave $X last year, and suggesting that the donation could be increased to $Y this year. When it comes to asking for money, keep it straightforward, simple, and transparent.
Lastly, don’t overlook the design of your fund appeal materials. We all know that how things look matters, so don’t leave this as an afterthought. Strong branding and imagery may feel like blatant marketing tactics, but that is in fact the boat you’re in – you have a message that needs to reach people, and it needs to penetrate the wall of thousands of other marketing messages that people are bombarded with every day. How does your design stand out from the rest? You can achieve a lot with the right choices of text, paper, and incorporating the use of die-cutting. If your appeal has a strong visual component, reflected in good design and image choices, you’ll have a lot better chance of your signal sounding out clearly above the rest of the noise.
It can be tricky to find the perfect equilibrium with a fund appeal – don’t hesitate to ask us if you need help moving in the right direction.
Business owners have a lot on their minds. There are so many moving parts to running a successful business, that often the more creative aspects get put on the back burner. It’s important to remember, though, that creativity can actually help move your business forward in several crucial ways.
Branding is the glue that holds everything together. When was the last time you looked at your logo with a critical eye? Your logo is the company brand and is usually the first visual that pops into your head when thinking of a company. Stafford Printing’s swirling O in Stafford and the arc that wraps from the R in Printing to the swirl is memorable. Customers often comment about our logo and it has remained in place for over 25 years. Owner Howard Owen commented that the swirl represents the energy of the employees at SP because it can get crazy manufacturing orders on a moment’s notice!
A consistent branding strategy is essential for any business, and although that includes a wide range of things like establishing company tone and messaging, the visual features of branding should never be underestimated. Think about how many brands you can recognize simply by their logo or font – how things look really does make a difference to how memorable your company is.
A strong visual impact brings in customers. In most cases, the first contact a customer has with a business is something they see: an advertisement, a website, or maybe even a product in its packaging. First impressions matter, so you want that initial contact to have as great an impact as possible. Like it or not, looks are important in this regard – after all, most people buy wine based on which label they like best, and consumers will naturally be drawn toward companies that have clearly put some thought into their graphic design strategy.
Simply put, people enjoy things more if they’re pleasing to the eye. Have you ever received a stunningly beautiful invitation to an event, or flipped through a luxury product brochure that was really high quality and well-designed? There’s something undeniably satisfying about the experience. So whether you’re trying to court new business, create something fun for the people in your office, or announce a new and exciting development, it’s always going to be more enjoyable for everyone if it looks great.
Creativity and passion go hand-in-hand. Sure, there are a lot of important parts of a business that aren’t particularly glamorous – crunching numbers, making business plans, and organizing all the legal paperwork. What makes it all worth it, though, is the first time you see your newly-designed logo printed on your business cards, or the name of your business displayed across a huge sign. it’s a feeling like none other, and that sort of motivation can really drive you to remember why you wanted to go into business in the first place.
Don’t let the visual components of your business be an afterthought – work with a skilled designer and a quality printing service, and make sure you get all the great-looking materials that your business and its customers deserve to have.