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It’s Time to Realize Value

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“You can hate me, choose not to work with me anymore, that’s ok, but I have to say this guys” my Father In Law, Jeff Zuelke (whom we call PJ which stands for Papa Jeff), said as he took on a more serious look than his normal natural easy-going and fun ways.

I shot a quick look at my wife, then at my four-year old son, concern grew through me as I knew he had something very important to say.

“I need you to start seeing the value in these homes I am showing you. I am taking on a completely different message from my prior stance of, be comfortable with your decision” he paused  “to see value in your decision,” PJ said now waiting for our reaction.

At first I was a bit taken back, why would that statement make me angry? Why would that make me want to fire my father in law as our real estate agent? It didn’t, but I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so I filled the air with “Well PJ, I know we lost on three homes now, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable going any higher than we did,” he stopped me right there after those words escaped my lips.

“Noah, if I could show you how to take a dollar and make it into a $1.30 or even $1.50 within five years, wouldn’t that be of VALUE to you?” I nodded my head to agree “Then Noah, the three homes we lost on, there was value to them. You made a decision based on being comfortable, and we lost. The value is, that those homes would have had a significant return on your investment in the very short-term, even if they were a bit more than what you were comfortable with.”

Before you all start shaking your head and saying “yeah right, what housing market is this guy in?” keep in mind the majority of the homes we have been looking at are short sales and very good deals to be had!

PJ was right, I was still kicking myself over the last bid war we lost on, but I was caught up in nickle and diming and feeling like I got the best price possible that I completely failed to realize that even at full purchase price the house was still a great deal because it had value…..unfortunately someone else was able to see that, and we lost out on the house.

This entire time PJ was waiting for me to come to this resolve myself, but when he saw that I was getting too caught up in “best price possible” and not seeing turning a dollar into a $1.30, he knew he had to say something.

That very moment, as we walked out of the house we were viewing, I came to a stark realization, I was a hypocrite! I have been through so many bid processes for catalogs, brochures, and especially magazines as of late only to have lost it by a very slim amount (sometimes more, sometimes less) that I don’t understand it as I am confident I have shown the Publisher or Print Purchaser how working with us will change a dollar into a $1.30.

I understand it now, sometimes we all get polarized by the day to day events of our lives, the economy we live in, or just trying to get the best deal possible and nickle and diming everything they can.

Friends, I come to you today to repeat a message my Father In Law, Jeff Zuelke, said to me this very night……” I am taking on a very different tone with you, you can hate me, choose not to work with me, that is fine, but it needs to be said. It is time to start making decisions because they hold value, not because you are comfortable or because they are the cheapest deal.”

In the end, when you find a printer that shows you value, you will be very comfortable. Consulting on digital, print, and advertising vehicles, not leaving once the sale is made, establishing relationships, friends, is their value you to that? If so, don’t be like me and realize it before it is too late!

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Books, Catalogs, Digital Magazine, Mailing, Printing, Publishing, Relationships, Sales, Social Media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Staying Power?

In the printing and publishing industry we talk alot about whether magazines and the like will be sticking around, and if so, at what capacity? I truly believe the honest answer to this is that there are so many different mediums now days that the consumers can choose to interact with your publication/message, that  it is bound to shrink. With that said, I do believe that printing is not going anywhere, and in fact will become more specialized, meaning higher quality products will be a must in the near future in order to compete.

With that said, one printed product that I truly believe is not going anywhere, and in fact will grow, are marketing collateral products. (ie literature, brochures, catalogs, postcards, direct mailers, and the like).

“Yeah right Noah, I can create a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Twitter Page, to market my business and not have to pay a thing!” Ok their guy, take a look at this years sales amount and compare it to last years when you abandoned printing all together..what did it cost you?

Here is why I believe this:

1.

I was watching a news cast the other night, I can’t remember if it was 60 Minutes or something else. They were doing a feature on people ordering products online, thinking it was the authentic product, but when the product came to their house, it was a fake. They were using Rosetta Stone as an example, and spot lighted several people that thought they were ordering the authentic Rosetta Stone software to only find out they were duped.

The news cast then went on to interview the CEO of Rosetta Stone, and he showed the news anchor 100’s of different websites using the Rosetta Stone name, and some even using his image on their website. How the heck would a consumer know the difference? They wouldn’t, even the CEO himself admitted that. So my point, where is the credibility and trust? Print is still the most credible marketing/advertising vehicle out there, and think about how that plays back to your brand……

2.

It has staying power. If I see something online that I like, the chances of me finding it next week when I am ready to purchase it seem to be slim. If I want to find out more about you next week I don’t want to jump on my computer to read about you, I want to lay on my couch and hold a physical printed product in my hands that allows me to see what you do. If I am interested, then I will jump on the internet and find out more about you! If I am not ready to partake in what you have to offer, I will hold on to it. Chances are, within the next several months, your catalog, brochure, etc will catch my eye as it sits on my counter top and I will be interested as I am now ready.

3.

People love to receive things. I have to admit this, and you can try to deny it all you want, but you know it’s true! When I receive a message in my email box trying to solicit me something, the first thing I do is “delete”. However, when I receive something in my mail box at home, I can’t get rid of it even if I wanted to!

My son Owyn (4 years old) loves to get the mail, in fact he calls it “his job”. The bills and letters come to me, the solicitations he waits patiently for as I hand them to him. He loves mail, doesn’t matter what it is, it makes him feel special like someone is writing to him. I found myself the other day going through his shoe box of stashed mail, and there were actually really great offers that I am now researching and willing to find out more about. I then realized, I too love to get mail!! (Trust me, this isn’t a shameless plug for the USPS, I don’t have alot of love for them, they need to get their act together, but the fact remains, everyone likes to receive something!

I chose the image I did of the baby, because it goes to show you how many businesses are out their fighting for your attention, and that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. The image has staying power, images in print have even more staying power, and credibility. Don’t take my word for it, just turn on the news!

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Books, Catalogs, Mailing, Printing, Publishing, Relationships, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Wonderful World of Catalogs!

“Honey, have you seen the IKEA catalog? I swear I left it right there on the coffee table” my wife said with her finger extended towards the table sitting in the middle of the room. Fighting back my dimples from showing (she knows I am fibbing when my dimples show) “No honey, I haven’t seen it.”

She walked out of the room, I thought I had finally won! I threw that catalog away, and wasn’t about to tell her! For the past few weeks, new items have been showing up at our doorstep, and from where?, you guessed it, from IKEA! It’s not that we don’t need these things, we do, especially with a newborn on the way, but I was just afraid this would continue to happen once we had all the things we needed.

“Oh well” my wife said as she walked back into the room, “I found this Target catalog I got last month.”

I am thinking many of you can relate to this! 🙂 So what’s the point?

Recently I have taken on a massive research of catalogs. The main point of this is to see how many are now PDF or digital only. All in all, I went through about 1,500 company websites that either print a catalog, or had printed a catalog and now only have a digital version. Of those I went through, about 15% were now digital,and typically only a PDF was posted on the websites. I was surprised by this information, but I also understood it. (Disclaimer, the above percentage may not represent all catalogs throughout the entire market, this is only my own research). By saying I understand these results, what I mean is I understand increasing paper and postage costs, as well as the overhead and time involved with printing and mailing catalogs has.

However, I have come across several sources showing that a printed catalog not only increases your sales, it also increases traffic to your website. Some sources have sighted an increase of 84% all the way up to as much as a double in your profits, so although there are some mixed messages, the fact is that it is proven to increase profitability and here is why:

  • Longevity- If you noticed, I had mentioned my wife found a catalog she got from Target a month ago. Just because we don’t order something right away, doesn’t mean we are never going to order something. Having the catalog on hand allowed us to pick what we wanted when we wanted.
  • Increase Brand Awareness- By receiving your catalog, if you were to call me, send me a piece of direct mail, or if I come across your store, the chances of me opening your mail, taking your call, or stopping in your store would be much higher because I already know who you are.
  • Convenient- I no longer have to call your toll-free number or get up and get on the internet to order your products out of a catalog. Make it easy for me, put a QR code on your catalog so I scan it with my phone and I can order the product from the convenience of my couch or while I am waiting for my flight in the airport.
  • Tier your mailings- Here is a cost savings tip. Instead of holding the inventory which takes up storage, and then mailing each catalog as a new mail order comes in tier them. Let’s say you print 45,000 catalogs, then do three mailings per year or whatever your heart desires. Why? We at JB Kenehan have storage space to hold these for you, in addition, we can handle each tiered mailing for you so it isn’t taking up time out of your day.
  • Pass Along Rates- Printed pieces have a valuable function, they have pass along rates. So although you may send your catalog to my household, my mother is at our house at least once a week (seriously, ask my wife!) and she too looks at our catalogs. I know this isn’t unique only to our household.
  • Less Cluttered- While going through a digital catalog or PDF, I couldn’t help but to feel overwhelmed with all the information. It seemed very cluttered, while in a printed catalog I can easily find what I am looking for.
  • Get me Excited!- Throw in a tag or augmented reality code next to some of the products that I can scan with my smart phone. If you are an outdoors retailer, put a tag next to a tent and show me the easiest way to set the tent up so I feel more comfortable purchasing it (because you are making me look like a rockstar and manly man in front of my family!). If I am looking through a food catalog, take me to a video of how I can use the product in recipes etc…the ideas are endless!

Now I am not saying abandon your digital reproduction of your catalog, but what I am saying is, do not abandon your printed catalog. Although it hurts me to say that (well it hurts the pocket-book anyway) whether it is a B2B or B2C, whether you are a major brand or a less known brand, a printed catalog will only increase your profitability and awareness.

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Catalogs, Mailing, Printing, Publishing, QR Codes, Sales | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Tips to reduce your paper costs..

My friends, it is official, all paper mills have announced rate increases effective 4/1/2011 of an additional $2 per CWT. If you are wondering what compromises you can make to not only budget for this rate increase, but possibly reduce your paper costs, then this blog is for you!

  1. Look at backing off on the brightness of the paper. Let’s say you are printing on a 60# No. 3 gloss with a brightness of 87, well there is also a 60# No.3 with a brightness of 84 that will offer you a savings. You can also look into #4’s with brightness of 76 or #5s which are typically around a 72 Brightness. The bottom line here, if you are willing to compromise on the brightness of your paper stocks, you will reduce your paper costs. In addition, this is an effective method that doesn’t scream “I changed my magazine” to your readers and advertisers alike. Subtle changes like this can save you money in a big way.
  2. Look at reducing your basis weight of your paper stocks. You might be thinking to yourself “I can’t do that, everyone will notice” then my question to you my friend is how serious are you about reducing costs? The key here again are subtle changes to keep it as unnoticeable as possible. For example if you are on a 70# paper, look to a 60#, if you are on a 50#, look to a 45#…I think you get it….. Keep in mind too, the less your publications weighs, the more savings you will see in postal costs as well.
  3. Remove your cover! I know this one isn’t going to be for everyone, I realize this. But if you are willing to make a drastic change to reduce costs, then this one would be right up your alley. Many publications have a 4 pg cover over the inside pages. Get rid of it! If your inside pages are on a lighter basis weight paper stock such as a 38# and you are utilizing a 80 or 100# cover to protect it, look to bump your inside pages up to a 50# or 60#, you will still see a savings. I know many advertisers pay top dollar for positioning on the cover, they can still have quality positioning within the publication, and with the amount you will be saving you may be able to offer them two ad spaces at a discount to keep them happy. Based on your print quantities, savings can be enormous.
  4. Change your trim size. I love big, and truly believe the larger your publication the more readers and advertisers you will attract. HOWEVER, I realize this is a very simple way to reduce paper costs and mailing costs. Again subtle changes such as 10×13 print in 16 pg forms, at a 10×12 we can print you in 24 pg forms. 10×12 prints in 24 pg forms, at a 9×10 7/8 we can print in 32 pg forms. The more pages in a form, the less your paper and press costs. From there, you can look to reduce your trim to whatever compromise you are willing to make because most printers tap out at 32 page forms. Changing your trim size to reduce your paper consumption can yield a very nice savings depending on your print quantities.
  5. This one I was on the fence about, but am going to put here anyway. You may be able to reduce your paper costs by supplying your own paper. Printers typically purchase paper directly from the paper mills. You can look to paper brokers to see if you may be able to find a better cost on your paper stocks.Here is the caution, this paper is sometimes a “secondary paper” meaning there are imperfections in the paper. In addition, printers typically charge a paper handling fee if you are supplying your own paper. The amount you are saving by supplying your own paper may be eaten up by the handling fee, and now you have one more thing on your plate which is the paper broker. If you are going to supply your own paper, make sure your printer is involved with the process. Get samples of the paper, send those samples to the printer so they can evaluate it as well. I would suggest allowing the printer to supply the paper, however, I wouldn’t be completely honest with all of you if I didn’t recognize that this was another way to reduce your paper costs.

In case you didn’t notice, the theme was subtle changes to reduce costs. I can think up some very drastic changes to reduce costs such as going from gloss to newsprint, going from heatset to coldset ect….. I believe protecting the integrity of your publication while doing everything possible to reduce your costs will lead to your longterm success as we fight through these tough economic times and rate increases.

Talk to your print rep, I am more than just a salesman. Without you there is no me, I will be here to help in anyway that I can be which is more than just providing you numbers.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Mailing, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

5 Roles your print rep should play for YOU!

You may have noticed a lack of action from me over the past couple of weeks. My three year old son has been in and out of the hospital, but I am happy to say we have him home now, and we finally feel like we are out of the woods! This experience has caused me to take a good look at my priorities, not only at home, but also with my clients and prospects.

I sat down when I finally got back to the office the other day, and wrote out a list of how I can play more of a role for lovers of print. I asked myself what can I do to become better and help my clients become better, and here is what I came up with. These are 5 roles your print salesman should be performing for you!

1. Technology.Your print representative should be instructing you of new and creative ways to attract and build loyalty with your advertisers and readers alike. In today’s market, QR Codes, Augmented Reality, Digital Magazine. PURL’s, etc… aren’t right for everyone, but there is something right for anyone. Your sales rep should have a vast knowledge of your company, and be your consultant with new technology to help instruct and help increase your ability to not only survive, but grow as well! Also, there many creative avenues to offer other than technology such as gatefolds, tipping on an ad piece, RPN notes, and the like!

2. Quality Control. This is key in offering you a consistently quality piece. Your advertisers, members, and readers all deserve the highest quality product, after all, you are paying for it! Now I am not saying your print rep needs to stand over the press men to ensure there are no errors, most press men have great talent and an eye for when inks may need be adjusted. Also, with the advances in technology, presses have become very automated. However, they should be reviewing quality control pulls, communicating with you if there is any problems with your PDF files ie low DPI or too small of fonts etc.. Honesty and integrity are key, no one is mistake free 100% of the time, but how they communicate and take responsibility for the mistakes are essential to your business.

3. Cost Savers. Often times you can see a significant savings in some very small changes. With an increasing paper market, there may be an equivalent paper stock for far less cost. You could look at different cover coatings, going from UV to Aqueous typically saves cost. Often times there are sweet spots on how many pages in a form a printer is most economical in, changing your page count to fit this is much more economical.

4. Postal Rep. You thought I forgot about this didn’t you? OK, it could have fit into number three’s category, but I think we all know this deserves its own category! With ever changing postal regulations, rate changes, and the like, your print rep should be instructing you on changes not only now, but what also might be coming in the future. USPS regulations affect everyone, and when something comes along like the proposed rate increase (thank goodness it failed), the droop test, and much more your representative should be showing you how it will affect you, and what is most economical way to come into compliance should you need to. Just because the postal hikes didn’t pass doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be something else on the horizon, I know I have my ear to the ground!

5. Support. Yes, this is a different kind of support that I am speaking of than what I have outlined above. I pride myself on not being a hit and run type of representative. What do I mean? After the sale you no longer see your sales rep, they are like a ghost….hear their footsteps but never their voice! Building personal relationships allows for open and clear communication, also it just makes for a more fun way of doing business. It is nice to know that they are not only working for you, but also with you. Some say family fights more than friends, but to that I say blood is thicker than water!

Evaluate your relationship, these are only some of the things that your print rep should be doing for you. Take advantage of our knowledge, we want to assist you and see print survive! Without you, there is no us, and without us, you are not the best you.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Mailing, Publishing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We as mailers need a viable and effective postal service.

The exigent postal rate increase proposed back in July was denied by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on September 30. The news is a great relief to all mailers, especially periodical and catalog mailers. The proposed rate increase had many mailers scrambling to figure out how to absorb the latest financial burden in a sluggish economy.

 The USPS rate increases over the last three years were tied to the Consumer Price Index. This was one result of Postal Reform Act passed at the end of 2006. Since the CPI has only increased 0.6%, the USPS requested an exigent rate increase to help offset a looming financial crisis. The USPS is projecting nearly $240 billion in losses over the next decade. The denial is a serious blow to the USPS financial plan.

 The USPS has proposed a number of measures to meet the projected losses. Internal cost cutting focused on reducing the number of employees, and putting that number more in line with declining mail volume. Unfortunately, mail volume declined much quicker than they could reduce the workforce. USPS was able to cut $6 billion in costs, but it didn’t make up for the $7.7 billion in losses. The USPS is also looking to consolidate facilities, go to a 5 day a week delivery schedule, relief from (and refund of?) the overpayment to the employee pension plan and no longer be required to prefund employee heath benefits. The latter two require congressional approval and the first has been opposed by individual congress people not wanting to lose offices in their district. The USPS will now face a steeper uphill battle counteracting the proposed shortfall.

 Many believe (which apparently includes the PRC) that the USPS financial circumstances were at least partially of their own making. The PRC cited this saying they believed these financial difficulties would have happened regardless of the economy. The PRC did not feel the USPS met the criteria for an exigent increase. All of the following conditions must be met to approve an exigent increase request:

      1. Due to either extraordinary or exceptional circumstances;

      2. Reasonable, equitable, and necessary under best  practices of honest, efficient, and economical management; and,

      3. Necessary to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the kind and quality adapted to the needs of the United States. 

  New and more rigid regulations combined with the internet and the economic downturn helped to drive mail volume down. The new rate structure for periodicals three years ago (which added things like container charges), the huge increase in rates for standard flats a few years ago and more recently the change in preparation requirements for letter sized booklet mailers (coming soon for self mailers), the stricter droop test (poorly timed with many publications a fraction of the size they were years ago) have all combined to make mailing less attractive for mailers. Those that depend on mailing are forced to reduce the quantity or charge customers more to meet the increased processing costs.

  The latest proposal would have heaped a 5% increase on catalog mailers, an 8% increase on periodicals and a 23% increase on standard parcel mailers. This would have resulted in more job losses and possibly put some mailers out of business. The poor timing of this increase was sure to have had a serious if not disastrous effect on businesses.

 Hopefully this will force the USPS (and Congress) to take a hard look at their operations. The likely result will be conditions that will adversely affect the mailer and the USPS. Despite how we feel about USPS handling of these circumstances, we as mailers need a viable and effective postal service. 

-Guest Post by Bill Carter, Distribution Manager at J.B. Kenehan

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Mailing, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worried about being too droopy?

USPS Deflection or “Droop” Requirements I promised to examine some current postal issues in this column. Since the new deflection test started June 7, and postage “penalties” start October 3, this is a good issue to start with. Deflection refers to the flexibility of the mail piece. The Deflection or “droop” test only applies to flat mail pieces. Flat mail, for the most part, refers to: a) pieces more than 11-1/2 inches long, or more than 6-1/8 inches high, or more than 1/4 inch thick and b) pieces not more than 15 inches long or more than 12 inches high or more than 3/4 inch thick. The USPS requires that flat mail pieces not be too rigid or too flexible.

The deflection test is necessary to help the USPS determine whether a flat mail piece will go their flat sorting equipment. The ability to automate a piece is one of the foundations for USPS discounts. Extensive testing was done to determine these standards. Despite the testing, there is and has been a good deal of debate about whether this test should be applied.

The current deflection test requirements are that flat mail pieces that are less than 10 inches do not “droop” more than 2”. Flat mail pieces that are over 10 inches cannot “droop” more than 3”. The post office will assess non- machinable or non automation rates depending on the class of mail and sortation category. The severity of the penalty varies with the sortation category, but is significant regardless of the category.

 One of the complaints about the new test is that the USPS does not provide guidelines or standards for passing the deflection. A mail piece is tested each time it mails (even if it is the same paper, dimensions and page count). For pieces that are borderline it is possible you could pass one time and fail the next! The USPS will not give pre-approval on a design. With that said, our staff is prepared to work with you to help you figure out what will work.

I have provided some links to the Federal Register write up on this rule and a link to see how the test is conducted. I also have a link to the FSS (Flat Sequencing System) which is relevant to the new deflection rules. Please contact your local MDA (Mail piece Design Analyst) or let me know if you have further questions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEfS2EOnFhc

http://pe.usps.gov/FRN/Deflection_final.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xzHw2b0Nis
(Guest Post by Bill Carter, Distribution Manager, J.B. Kenehan)

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Mailing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment