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July 2010

James Michelson selected to share "Interest in Cross Media Print Sales" by What They Think

After a presentation at PODi's 2010 AppForum, James Michelson was interviewed off the cuff by What They Think. Check out the video here:

James Michelson shares his interest in cross media print sales


WhatTheyThink Video - Published on July 27, 2010

James Michelson of VDP Web talks about measuring ROI from specific marketing channels

This is James Michelson from VDP Web, the Principal there.  And one of the things we’ve had the most interest in during the AP Forum is how, as a commercial printer, do we really look at – how do I get into the sales process.  What are the challenges that become and what’s preventing our customers from really getting involved in cross media, in Pearls, in leading pages, in variable data?

Well, we found that in a lot of the case studies that are presented, there’s all these different parties involved.  You have information systems and information technology and the agencies and all these other people that come together to pull that.  Well, the challenge is, how do I sell that group?  And would it be better for my sales process and my bottom line if I could look at it and go to one person and make a decision and that one person who makes a decision I can provide all the different services that they need?


Now, if we have access to data from IT, great.  If we can get creative from their Marketing Department or their agency, terrific.  But as the printer, if you can say to one decision maker, “Hey, I can take care of all of this for you, we’ll handle the process from soup to nuts…” then you can make it work.  One example is from a printed static piece, Harrah’s was launching a new – and we figured we were in Vegas; this is probably a good example.  We’re launching a new casino vote in Chicago, and what we’d like to do is we’re going to print these flyered pieces.  Terrific.  Well, let’s put on a test-to-win and a unique 800 number, and a generic landing page.  So, from one sales process, by adding those three collection mechanisms, the printer was then able to launch follow on direct mail campaigns, follow on collateral campaigns so they’ve got multiple runs of ink on paper from one print sale.

The other thing that does is now, that commercial printer is in charge of the data stream.  All that data is collected is sitting at that commercial printer’s location and they have control of the marketing process.


The Three Tiers of Cross Media Marketing

While presenting at TS2 this year, a quick survey of more than 100 marketing managers and executives overwhelmingly agreed with the following:


• My budget is either the same or decreased from previous years

• My staff levels are unlikely to return to post recession levels

• The C-Suite is expecting to see social and cross media channels added to the mix

• There is increasing pressure to prove the ROI of every marketing expenditure


During a recent session I sketched out a diagram that may be useful for marketers looking to see where their organization fits into the scheme of things.  One on extreme is the low budget DIYer who uses a selection of free or inexpensive tools to create and distribute content across various channels.  The reason for this approach may be budgetary or a growth in experience that started with a newsletter to press release and continued to add channels and tools over time.  On the other extreme are the big spenders with fully integrated marketing automation systems and templated content that tie into enterprise level CRM systems that have dedicated support staff.


The challenge of the one side is that the manual process of logging into numerous systems and tools in order to create content is a pain in the backside and the result is multiple pockets of data that must be consolidated, usually without the assistance of a skilled data person.  The big spenders have challenges, too.  In addition to having to foot a six figure bill, front line managers, subsidiaries or division may not have access to the resources to utilize these systems to meet their emergent and needs.  Big systems tend to be difficult to change and customization is not a simple matter of shooting an email to IT.


Occupying the middle ground are those organizations that either do not have the financial resources to invest in a big system or have decided to spend the money elsewhere and those firms that have stretched into a cross media platform that will do most of what the big solution will do at a fraction of the cost.  Here is a breakdown:


Low Budget DIYers



• Easy to begin

• Low cost or free software products



• Labor intensive

• Data collected in silos

• Difficult to coordinate content across channels

• Difficult to coordinate content across divisions or departments

• Difficult to standardize and control brand, fit, feel and messaging


Estimated annual spend with setup included:   $ 700 - $ 900


Middle Ground

Estimated annual spend with setup included:   $ 1800 - $ 2400



• Blend of low cost and high functionality

• Low cost of entry

• Blend of self service and DIY tools

• Creation of systems by at any level of the organization is possible



• Systems may not perform every task desired

• May not offer complete automation of processes


Big Spenders

Estimated annual spend with setup included:   $ 40,000 to $ 500,000+



• Content can be locked down to only what corporate has approved

• Virtually unlimited customization and channels can be added



• Expensive

• Difficult and time consuming to implement

• Content can be locked down to only what corporate has approved

• Difficult to add products and content downstream


For those managers and executives with large budgets, the choice to select a fully integrated suite may still be worth reconsidering when the extra labor involved could easily be less than the license and setup costs of a huge plan.


Our advice:  For most firms, choose a blended system and create a body of content before you decide to spend the money and time to implement a huge marketing IT project.

Reflecting on QR Codes. Why the buzz?

As many of you know, JFM has jumped on the QR Code bandwagon that has been driving around in cross media marketing circles.  A client asked me point blank the other day (after reading our blog posts and watching a recorded webinar on the topic) why these things have taken off.  Are they a robust technology? What is the value for my customers?  Should I be doing this?

There are some great reasons to use QR Codes.  They are particularly useful when we want to get content or contact information into a mobile users device or let them capture information.

We think there are two reasons that QR codes have taken off. First, they are an easy addition to virtually any system.  A static code (or small batches of variable codes) can be generated for free from various sources.  Reporting can be leveraged by using a landing page or pass through to record the traffic so no new programming was needed to tie the codes in.  If its cheap and easy why not add it?

Second, and most important, it gave the industry something to talk about.  The buzz before QR Codes was trickle marketing and how it was the key to cross media nirvana.  Phooey.  Although trickle marketing makes sense for firms generating a significant number of leads, the time and complexity to develop the multiple touches for most opt-in campaigns made the idea cost prohibitive for most applications.

QR Codes, trickle email marketing, and even carrier pigeons have their place in the marketing mix when used appropriately.  A balanced mix that starts a two conversation and provides a demonstrated ROI can use almost anything.