5 Thoughtful Strategies for Advertising During the Pandemic

If you’re like many people, you’ve probably been more conservative in your spending lately.

Recent research shows that, during the pandemic, many people were rationing food to save on expenses and grocery runs, and 23% of people were eating more plant-based meals. Discretionary spending has decreased, and consumers are shifting to digital solutions and reduced-contact channels to receive services.

On a larger scale, consumers worldwide say they expect the pandemic to affect their routines or spending for at least two to four months.

A Shift in Content and Scope

In recent months, many companies have shifted the scope and content of their marketing efforts as well.

Instead of pushing products and promotions, proactive businesses have focused on building relationships and adding humanness to their brand, including inspirational direct mail newsletters, heartfelt emails, and down-to-earth videos.

In one example, eBay championed small businesses that power the nation with its “Stronger as One” ad. Other companies highlighted safety changes and customer convenience options, like this “Call In / Pull In / Pick Up” curbside delivery ad:

“During these challenging times, we are here for you. We are making changes moment by moment to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. And what matters most is doing this together, for the community that we all call home.”

A Vision for Marketing Beyond COVID-19

Beyond connecting and empathizing, what is next for marketing beyond coronavirus?

For starters, you’ll need a commitment to move forward. Research shows that 92% of consumers believe brands need to keep advertising. Ads offer people a glimpse at a prosperous future or something hopeful to look forward, and your marketing gives people a welcome taste of distraction, entertainment, and normalcy.

Also, if the firms competing against you have lowered their ad output, now is a great time for you to invest more. As others scale back, your ads are more visible, allowing you to gather leads with a lower cost-per-acquisition.

And even if the economy seems shaky, pulling back now may actually lengthen the time it takes you to recover. If you need to tighten expenses, don’t turn off your marketing. Instead, look at ways you can rethink intake, client services, or business expenses in general.

Need some concrete marketing ideas? Here are five types of ads to consider:

1. A Product Focus

Showcase how your product is safe, accessible, or helps people strengthen their health or physical well-being.

2. A People Focus

Show prospects you care about them and that your business is standing with them during this time. This Fitbit ad offers its premium package for 90 days to help people work out at home, manage stress, and eat and sleep better during COVID-19: “Thank you for doing what you can. We’re all in this together.”

3. A Values Focus

Here you might feature positive company values or champion the solidarity and togetherness of your community.

4. A Nostalgia Focus

When things feel uncertain, old songs or vintage photos can bypass the brain and connect straight to the heart.

5. A Humor Focus

While being sensitive to people’s pain, you can still connect with your audience through humor during challenging seasons. Encourage people to laugh at their weaknesses or make the most of this strange season, like this Ben & Jerry’s “Netflix and Chill’d” campaign.

Though it may seem counter intuitive to up your print output today, now is the time to invest in a strong comeback after COVID-19.

With today’s carefully crafted message, you can ahead of shifting customer needs and shape people’s long-term expectations. As your partner in print, we are open, and we are ready to help! Contact us today to visit more.

6 Proactive Responses to Negative Reviews

2018 was a strong year for tourism in Vienna.

International arrivals totaled around 7.5 million, hotel revenues rose 12 percent in 11 months, and 94 percent of Viennese reported a positive attitude toward visitors.

But in this season, the Vienna Tourist Board tackled a new difficulty: negative reviews. While many firms are split on whether to confront or ignore public complaints, Vienna chose a lighthearted tactic, turning so-called “flaws” into strengths by highlighting them in gorgeous photo-based advertising campaigns.

In a series of ads mounted in the London underground and in digital bus stops, the Vienna Tourist Board portrayed five fun and beautiful Viennese moments overlaid with mean comments and poor ratings. In one ad, a romantic picture of a couple cuddled in a boat on the serene Danube was captioned “Boooring!” and given zero stars.

To highlight how polarizing comments can drag an experience down, the “See Vienna, not #Vienna” ads challenged readers: “Who decides what you like? Discover your own Vienna.”

Simple Strategies for Responding to Your Critics

Responding to negative reviews is difficult.

Bad reviews hurt, and sometimes they are dishonest and downright cruel. But Vienna was right to address them. Stats show that 95% percent of holidaymakers read at least seven reviews before booking a trip. And consumers share perspective. Ninety-four percent say that a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business, and 88% of people read reviews to determine the quality of a business.

Want to turn the tide of negativity? Here are a few simple strategies:

1. Personalize the Response

Reviews come from real people, so whenever possible, use the name of the individual you’re addressing.

2. Say Thanks

Critics occasionally bring to light something you’ve missed.

Even if you disagree with their opinion, show positivity, like “I appreciate you bringing this to our attention,” or “Thank you for taking the time to let us know.”

3. Sympathize

Apologizing may not right a wrong, but it is a powerful demonstration of your humility and care for customers.

Express regret that your service did not satisfy, that an experience did not match expectations, or for rude behavior or botched communication.

4. Take Responsibility or Offer Alternatives

Whenever possible, own your mistakes and avoid excuses.

Phrases like “we are so sorry for missing the mark,” “that’s on us,” “that never should have happened,” or “this is certainly not the standard our clients deserve” can go a long way toward defusing resentment.

If you’re able to offer compensation, go the extra mile to satisfy a disgruntled customer. If not, publicly pledge to do better next time.

5. Embrace Your Critics

Like the Vienna Tourist Board, you may choose to make light of bad reviews or welcome them in some way.

This may be as simple as letting them exist alongside other (positive or average) reviews, which exemplifies transparency and demonstrates a spectrum of customer experiences.

And some reviews can be leveraged with humor or irony, like the Snowbird Ski Resort, which highlighted negative skier reviews to boost its elite, high-caliber appeal (“What’s ‘Too Advanced’ for Greg might be just right for you”). With humor, you can harness the empathy and understanding of customers who roll their eyes at the more absurd comments.

6. Make Peace with Criticism

Fault-finders come and go, but they don’t have to be the downfall of your reputation.

Reviews are a great way to build personal connections, to engage the general public, or to learn from blind spots.

By embracing negative reviews, your company can even benefit from the empathy of others, boosting a positive response from readers at large.

Generate Leads with a Winning Sales Letter

Are you looking to entice a new lead or land a big client?

Today’s marketers know direct mail is an especially persuasive medium. According to 2018 direct mail response statistics, direct mail offered a 9% response rate to house lists and a 4.9% response to prospect lists. And one of the most potent tools of the trade is the good old-fashioned sales letter.

Want to grab attention with a persuasive, relevant, engaging letter? Here are a few tips:

Start with a powerful hook

If you want readers to make it past the first sentence, your first paragraph must arouse curiosity, evoke emotion, or resonate with a problem or pain point of a specific individual.

People can’t finish what they don’t start, so the opening sentences must be rock solid.

Make your sales letter look like a regular letter

The most relatable letters are those that feel personal.

For a more casual effect, use script font or type-writer styles like New Courier or Prestige Elite.

Write with a conversational tone

Use personal pronouns and write for one: I, the letter writer, am talking directly to you, the reader.

Avoid the pompous business-memo style or fluffy ad-speak. Be friendly, natural, and specific.

Use skim layers for easy reading

Underline phrases and indent paragraphs for emphasis, or use asterisks, bullets, dashes, or arrows to make reading more efficient.

People are turned off by long blocks of text, so keep your page design lively and your language succinct.

Use benefit loaded subheadings

Improve reader response by including precise user benefits that match your target audience.

Hikers have little interest in buying boots. What they want is dry, blister-free feet. Remember, people don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.

Make it about them

Focus on readers and their needs rather than your product and its features.

For example, instead of highlighting “our high-caliber bookkeeping software,” try something like this: “Account for EVERY CENT with smart, secure book-keeping.”

Add colors or borders

The most important information in your letter should leap off the page.

Can you highlight a paragraph in yellow? Add blue “handwriting” font in the margin? Put a box around copy that absolutely cannot be missed?

Use a specific call to action

Explain what you’re selling, what it can do, and how they can get in on it.

Add discount offers, expiration dates, or “magic” marketing words like irresistible, no-obligation, flash sale, hassle-free, guaranteed results, buy one get one, free trial, or last chance offer.

Tell and Sell with This Winning Combination

There is an old saying in direct mail: the letter sells, and the brochure tells.

In any direct-mail package, combining a letter and brochure can be an especially powerful combination.

Ready to get started? Save time and trouble by partnering with our experienced team! When you’re ready to move ahead, we’ll help you create stunning pieces that make your message shine. From initial formatting to direct mail packaging and delivery, we’ll do the heavy lifting and streamline the entire process.

Visit us online or give us a call today to talk options!

Why Direct Mail Marketing is a Brilliant Investment

When email marketing began around 1978, its low cost, speedy delivery, and great response rates made marketers wonder if direct mail would disappear forever.

Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth. An overload of digital messages has caused open and click-through rates to decline substantially, and many spam filters and firewalls block emails altogether.

At the same time, a volume decrease in traditional mail has allowed direct mail marketing to rise to the top of the mailbox, being noticed, read, and responded to more frequently.

Need proof? Here are some stats to consider:

  • According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2017 Response Rate Report, direct mail offered a 5.1 percent response to house lists and a 2.9 percent response to rented lists across all direct mail formats. (In comparison, the 2017 response rate for all digital channels combined was 2 percent.)
  • Eighty-five percent of consumers will open a piece of mail that catches their attention, and more than 40 percent of recipients read the entire piece.
  • Ninety-two percent of Millennials are persuaded to make a purchase decision based on direct mail as opposed to 78 percent who are influenced to purchase through email marketing. Sixty-three percent of these direct mail responders said they had made a purchase in the last three months.
  • Consumers of all ages are 22 percent more likely to purchase products promoted through direct mail than they are products advertised through email.
  • Eighty-two percent of Millennials say they read direct mail they get from retail brands, and 54 percent said they enjoy looking through print catalogs they receive in the mail.
  • Forty-nine percent of Millennials use print coupons at retail stores, with three out of four making use of grocery inserts found in direct mail or the newspaper.
  • Branded products, on average, get a 1,300 percent ROI from direct mail.
  • Direct-mail packages generate 78 percent of all donations made to nonprofits.

Direct Mail’s Superior Advantage

If digital marketing is easy and inexpensive, why does print marketing continue to dominate?

Studies show that the physicality of print creates a “deeper footprint” in the brain: an enduring emotional connection for those who connect with it. In fact, MRI imaging showed a higher rate of brain stimulation for those reading content on paper, which shows our minds automatically perceive physical materials to be more genuine. One advertising study found that consumers recalled print ads better than digital ads and had more emotional responses to print as well. Heightened emotion leads to higher perceived values, increased product desirability, and greater follow through when it comes to inquiries and purchases.

Are you ready to craft the right message, for the right people, at just the right time? When you want to make strong connections with your prospects, an ink-on-paper sales letter or direct-mail package will help you spark interest, generate leads, and boost response rates.

Streamline the Process

Maybe you want to try direct mail but you’re not sure where to start. When you’re ready to move ahead, we’ll help you create stunning pieces that make your message shine. From initial formatting and to final ordering and delivery, we’ll do the heavy lifting and streamline the entire process.

Overcome barriers today with memorable, actionable mailings!

How to Produce Thoughtful Designs that Generate Big Results

Design is a process that turns an idea or a requirement into a finished product.

While many people believe designs just “happen,” that isn’t the case. Some designs may come together quickly, but generally, there are many stages along the way. Whether you need full-service graphic design or collaboration together along the way, it can be helpful to approach the design process in stages.

Want to produce more inspiring designs? Approach the process in a strategic, focused way. Here are four key stages:

1. Define & Research

At this stage, the design problem and the target audience should be clearly defined.

Preparation reviews information such as the demographics of the target market, the key concepts or language that connect with these people, and the focal message you want to share. The more precise you are in this pre-planning, the more targeted your design solutions will be. Here’s one inspiring example:

Three is a British mobile communications company that used its award-winning “Holiday Spam” campaign to feature travelers sending a flood of cliched holiday photos to people back home. The company appealed to new customers by offering free data services during holiday travel abroad.

Tracking mobile data of customers traveling abroad, Three’s research found that, during holidays, people used 71 times more data than they would have used if they had to pay extra (and this was mostly generated from holiday snaps on social media!). By featuring travelers “spamming” their friends with holiday snaps, Three successfully tapped into audience desires while driving awareness for free data services. This brought a 90% increase in their social conversation volume, higher brand metrics, and increased customer savings as people signed on for new service.

2. Ideate and Prototype

Ideation involves the generation of ideas through creative thinking and prototypes.

Idea generation may come through brainstorming, sketching ideas, adapting previous ads or designs, or by using creative design exercises. While many people rush through the brainstorming stage, ideation strategies are paramount because they allow designers to flow in a life-giving, streamlined environment, releasing ideas that are imaginative, strategy-driven, and smart.

From here, prototyping offers a workup of designs for interested clients. Prototypes give clients the ability to visualize and vet ideas before they are formally produced. The ideation and prototype stages are a critical juncture for printers and clients to collaborate, so the best possible outcome is achieved.

3. Select

During the selection phase, proposed solutions are measured against the original design objective.

Some solutions initially seem practical, but when compared to the original benchmark, you see that they aren’t a good fit. Once a concept gets closer to completion, cost, time, and media formats will sharpen focus and help you choose the most effective design.

4. Implement

At this stage, partners collaborate to bring ideas to life and to generate final delivery.

In print production, finishing techniques are imperative for beautifying your design. This stage includes the application of print finishing processes like folding, die-cutting, binding, varnishing, embossing, or foil accents. Finish techniques are a beautiful way to support and enhance your message and are best considered during the ideation stage so they can be efficiently melded into final print runs.

The Best Possible Product

Different jobs require the use of different techniques, but the strategic design process is generally the same.

This focused approach ensures your design will serve both economic and creative goals. The ultimate aim is to present information in the best possible way for your readers while equipping designers to unleash tremendous creativity in the process.

The Experts Weigh In: Two Strategies for Recession-Proofing Your Business

As COVID-19 shakes businesses around the country, today is a great time to reflect on the victories of those who’ve survived previous financial struggles.

In particular, the 2008 recession offers valuable lessons from entrepreneurs who shifted to either a “prevention” or a “promotion” focus. Here are two real-life success stories, with takeaways for your team.

Prevention Focus: The Montgomery Group

Ernest Montgomery is an NYU grad who launched a creative agency that produces advertising campaigns and manages its talent (photographers, stylists, makeup artists) in-house.

In 2008, Montgomery enjoyed modest success, booking clients like American Airlines and Pepsi. He rented a beautiful office on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, expanded his staff to 15 artists, and grew revenue to around $800k/year. But when the recession hit, he was forced to make some difficult decisions.

Choosing a primarily defensive strategy, Montgomery cut every expense he could think of. He abandoned offices and made his entire staff remote. He axed his web design budget and learned to build sites himself. And most dramatically, he permanently relocated to the Dominican Republic.

Why?

“A campaign that costs $100k to produce in Miami can be made for $65k in the Dominican Republic,” said Montgomery. “A location that costs $10k in Miami costs $500 here — and there is so much less red tape — street permits, blocking off traffic, all that.”

To this day, when Montgomery meets with clients he hops a three-hour flight into New York City, spends the whole day in the U.S., and takes the last flight home. To survive financial hardship, he advises companies to ask their clients, employees, and associate three questions:

  • “What can we do to make things feel better?”
  • “How can we survive this as a group?”
  • “What are we going to do differently once this is over?”

With a leaner overhead, companies are more nimble, with greater flexibility to follow the market and its new demands. And that defensive maneuver can give you an offensive advantage.

Promotion Focus: The Baker Hasseldenz Studio

Scott Baker and Mary Ann Hesseldenz are known for making custom luxury furniture for wealthy clients.

Before the 2008 recession, their Arizona studio catered to clients who were building new homes and wanted matching $17,000 couches or $5000 cocktail tables. But when the housing market tanked, they had to recalibrate.

The couple says they survived the 2008 crash by paying attention to trends and making quick adjustments. While wealthy people weren’t building new homes, they noticed there was still a thriving remodeling market. Their studio quickly shifted focus from high-end furniture to millwork and cabinets.

During the recession, the couple kept overhead low by hiring independent contractors and keeping workshop space minimal. Due to their quick thinking, the couple later noted that their income during the recession actually went up! A decade later, they’re up to $1 million in gross revenue: $500,000 in millwork, $300,000 in furniture sales, and $180,000 in interior design fees.

A promotion focus will look different for everyone, but it requires offensive moves. This may include diversifying your client pool, forging strategic partnerships with other companies, pivoting to a different product focus, doubling inventory where you find strategic buyer’s markets, or rolling out a creative new ad campaign.

A Time to Showcase Your Brand

Whether you take a prevention or a promotion focus, it’s important not to hide!

Today is the best day to showcase your brand and maintain relevancy. Take advantage of this season to build new systems and amplify name recognition. The objective during a crisis is to go beyond survival and to come out stronger.