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The Water Crossing

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Do you ever feel like this, a herd of animals rushing to cross the water? You are in such a hurry, driven by instincts and madness, it’s your turn to jump in. To the left you see another member of your herd being trampled, they stumbled and none of the other animals waited or tried to help him get up. To the right out of the corner of your eye you see five or six massive crocodiles picking members of the herd off one by one. Your’e frozen with fear, but the fear of being trampled and not following the crowd is even greater, so you jump in and start kicking as fast and as hard as you can to get to the other side. Whack, the animal in front of you kicks you in the face as they too are frantically kicking to get to the other side, you feel your nose start to bleed and you hope it doesn’t make you a target by the crocodiles patiently waiting on both sides. As you get to the middle of the river you can no longer touch the bottom, but you gain some confidence as you tell yourself you are half way there, just keep kicking, you can do this. 

Screaming, that is all that can be heard now, the animal in front of you is in a fight for it’s life, a crocodile has him by the leg. Not sure whether to help, you again become paralyzed with fear, but you keep kicking. Finally you can touch the bottom again now, and the other bank is within feet of being reached, safety, food, calm, all within your grasp. 

Pulling yourself up on the bank into safety now, you take a look behind you, you see nothing but chaos, the chaos you just survived, and as you look to your right you notice something that shocks you. About 50 yards up stream, there is one lone member of the pack, he has yet to cross the river like you just did, but you can see as he begins his decent down the bank and into the water he is calm, taking his time, no crocodiles even notice him as they are all focused on the chaos at hand. He walks up the other side of the bank, unscathed, and as you look down into the grass you see nothing but bright red, your own blood that is dripping from your nose.

Now I am sure if you invested in Facebook’s stock when they first offered you feel exactly like this, bought into the hype and now feeling the punches! 🙂 However, if you are in the publishing industry you probably feel like this every day.

I pads and tablets will kill prints experts are screaming, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. Postage, fuel, and paper costs are on the rise, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. I have to reduce my costs, I am losing advertisers, subscribers, members, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. By this time the crocodiles, the trampling of each other has threatened the herd close to extinction, and then you realize your fear has become the greatest enemy to you. Your nose is bloody, but when looking over your shoulder you see a select few that crossed the river once, and they are far in front of you, calm, safe, and full.

I recently had the privilege and honor to have the opportunity to attend as well as speak at the National Plant Summit. This was a convention that my client, The American Rose Society, hosted several horticulture societies across the country to discuss their ailments, successes, and band together to help one another. By realizing they needed to come together to ensure their future, they took the first steps into the river, not following the herd of chaos in front of them, but far away from the danger. 

While speaking at this Summit, I had many things I wanted to say, but as I listened to them speak I decided to throw away my notes. My notes originally were the different in house capabilities, customer service, and quality the printer I work for possesses. Sure we have that, but then I thought to myself “How many times have these guys heard exactly that same thing by five other printers that called them last week?” They didn’t want to hear that stuff, and to be quite frank I didn’t want to talk about that either. They had me inspired, and I too wanted to get out of the chaos of the constant water crossing, so I went with what I felt in my gut, the truth. 

As I began, I stated what my old boss always said to me “Business is supposed to make sense, and be fun!” If you are losing money on your international subscribers or members, then why send magazines to them? Instead, only offer them a digital magazine, but utilize a digital magazine that has translation software so that they can read it in their own language and enhance your readership in that country. 

If you offer a digital magazine that is readily available on your website for all to view at no cost, while charging for a subscription to your printed version, then ask yourself what you are saying about the content you are putting out there. Is it the content or the vehicle you utilize to distribute the content that you are charging for? De-commoditize yourselves! Offer a few teaser pages of your digital magazine, if they want to see more then they must subscribe. Are you charging more for advertisers to be represented in your digital magazine? Would you charge them to have a banner on your website? Then why wouldn’t this added benefit of being represented on your website via a digital magazine be of value?

Invest and re invent yourselves, never stop trying to become better at what you do. Whether that is looking at re designing the image of your publication after 10 or 15 years of having the same look, upgrading the quality of your printed publication, utilizing a digital publication that offers rich media, developing an app for the i pad/ smart phones, or simply engaging your followers on social media there are many ways to do this. Do this out of wanting to invest in your future, not out of fear for your future. 

There are so many multi channels of marketing to take advantage of now. It will continue to grow, technology is here to stay. It doesn’t make your publication any less relevant, and sure there is more white noise than ever before to fight through, but not following the chaos to get to the other side of the river and instead banding together will ensure your success. Print, digital, social media, and yes even radio are still alive and can all come together.

I implore you all to never forget this one last thing, talk, not type, put it on your schedule once a week to talk to one another!

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June 10, 2012 Posted by | Catalogs, Digital Magazine, flipbook, Printing, Publishing, Sales, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Who’s in your black box?

Recently I rolled out a new marketing program, and when I received what I had ordered, I had a stunning and embarrassing realization, what I had ordered were too big to fit into the packages we had! If you can’t send them, then what’s the point of having them!

Feeling like Gomer, I sped across the street to Wal-Mart, they had to have the best pricing on the packaging I needed, after all, they are the biggest retailer in the world and their commercials always say, “We’re rolling back prices!” I found the packaging, bought the entire shelf of it without even looking at the price (because they are Wal-Mart, pricing had to be the best), paid, and ran back to the office to start stuffing packages.

Later on that same week, I began running out of the packaging, and needed to purchase more. Just as I was pushing myself out of my chair to run to Wal-Mart, I realized something that made me sit instantly back down. I had a lunch meeting the week prior with a friend of mine, Tim Horton, also a local business owner of Discount Office Items(http://www.discountofficeitems.com/). His words came roaring back into my memory :

“Noah, do you know why people choose to purchase their goods at the largest retailers?” asked Tim.

“Well duh Tim! Because they have the best prices, the smaller retailers just can’t compete” I quickly responded without giving it a second thought.

Tim sat there, a grin began to make its way across his face and as he shook his head he said, “No Noah, it’s because they tell you they have the best prices. It’s the perception that they have built.” and now, these words echoed through me. So I jumped on Tim’s website, found the exact same packaging, saved a significant amount, and even better it was delivered to my doorstep the very next day.

They got into my black box, and I didn’t even know it! What is the “black box”? This is where we as humans make decisions, and is the role of marketers to infiltrate it without us even knowing it to influence our purchasing decisions.

It got me to thinking, do people do this in the publishing and printing industry too?, have their black boxes been infiltrated? I began to evaluate the many phone conversations I have had with publishers and purchasers of print. “Well you can’t co-mail in-house, you are too small for me” said one person. Another said “I print with one of the largest printers in the world, there is no way you can beat their costs.” “You couldn’t possibly match the turn around times I am receiving” yet another proclaimed.

I can tell you today two of the people who made the above statements are now clients. Sure we can’t co-mail in-house, but we do offer co-mail through the worlds largest co- mailer, and how do you know how much savings your printer that co-mails in-house is passing on to you? I am sure your printer has very aggressive rates, why else would you have chosen them? But what can I do to consult with you to help reduce costs even further? I am sure you are receiving great turn around times. But how flexible are they when you might miss a deadline? Will you get bumped? Or will they work with you? Being a medium-sized printer, we are going to work with you and be as flexible as you need us to be!

Just because a company “says so” isn’t good enough, it takes a proactive approach with the willingness to listen to ideas that may be of major benefit to you. Big or small, there is no right or wrong answer, but writing someone off without even giving them a chance makes you wonder, has your black box has been infiltrated , have you been influenced without knowing it?

May 7, 2011 Posted by | Printing, Publishing, Relationships, Sales, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Little Dots….

Do you ever feel like a random little dot, on this big canvas, unsure of where you fit in to the bigger picture being printed or painted? If you look at a printed product under a magnifying glass, what will you see? A bunch of scattered little dots that look like they don’t make up anything. However, when you pull that magnifying glass away, what do you see? A beautiful picture that all the dots have come together to make.

What’s the point to this philosophical start to my blog? This week, as I am sure many of you know (thank you all for the warm wishes) my wife gave birth to our second son. The only way for me to describe this instant bond is to compare it to the movie Avatar when they connect the end of their hair piece to their “flying dragon” and they are instantly connected….it is immediate and forever.

The next day, a big beautiful bouque of flowers showed up at the hospital. My wife looked at me and said “You shouldn’t have!” I looked back at her a little confused and said “I didn’t!” After looking at the card, we found out it came from my co-workers, and today, a big beautiful bouque of cookies came….again from my co-workers! (The best co-horts in the world I might add!)

To add to our wonderful new experience many other warm wishes have been sent through email, cards, social media, tweeted, and posted…… from friends and connections, all which have meant so much to me and my family.

Although he made me eat catfish on my last visit to Georgia to visit him(I won’t hold it against him), one of my clients I have inherited is now the Godfather of my newborn (begin scene of Jerry Maguire 🙂 )

I have had the great fortune of speaking with people like Paul Castain who have helped me along with my career in sales, without keeping any score board. Now I have the privilege of calling him a friend and mentor!

So what’s the point to all of this?  The point is that relationships matter! Without relationships what do we have? Nothing, we are just a random little dot, but with relationships we come together to make a great big beautiful picture.

I know we must all be fiscally responsible, but when only looking at numbers you are limiting the potential of a profitable, successful, and caring relationship that may have more value than someone with a “best price”. I urge you all to evaluate the relationships you have and what you can do to become a better partner to encourage each others success not only in business, but also in life.

After all, this is what social media is about, is it not? Creating new relationships that are long lasting and add value to our lives…

Take it from me, it doesn’t take having a newborn to have your eyes opened for you, but when I did, I saw all the people that care about me and my family. These are relationships I will treasure forever, and will always remain fiercely loyal to. Put the extra time in to get to know the other person, there are more than just numbers to consider.

In uncertain times like these, we need one another. Relationships still matter!

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Publishing, Relationships, Sales, 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