Should Documents be Counted as Part of the Customer Experience?

May 21st, 2017

From the Practical Stuff Newsletter

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Transactional Documents Banner 150 x 118Articles advising companies on CX often suggest improvements to touchpoints such as websites, mobile apps, and customer service. Did these customer relationship experts forget about bills, statements, correspondence, and notices that continuously trigger a customer response? Or are those other channels so sexy they’re more fun to play with than the lowly transactional documents?

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Old Content Decays

January 11th, 2017

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Publish or perish. You’ve probably heard that phrase before, usually as a strategy for advancing academic careers and attracting desirable students or donations to a sponsoring university. Consistent publication has benefits for your business too, and for individual career growth. Neglecting to publish makes you and your organization a perishable entity, and your shelf life is brief.

Social media experts advise businesspeople to post interesting and relevant articles in their social media accounts. I recommend at least some of this content be original, but time constraints forces many organizations to rely on material written by others. Regardless of your sources, sharing informational content with your network is a great idea.

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Bad Writing Turns Me Off (and I’m Not Alone)

January 4th, 2017

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I was on a web site last week, doing research for an upcoming white paper. The article I was reading applied to my topic, but the writing was so poor I clicked away before I got half through the content. It wasn’t worth the effort.  If you’ve got material of questionable quality on your website, you might be driving visitors away too.

When a new client asks me to propose a content plan for them I review their web pages and blogs. I’ll take a look at their available online material including social media posts, YouTube channels, and SlideShare presentations. I’ll run Google searches and read any articles the company may have published throughout the internet.

When I find unprofessional online material however, I must inform clients their existing content may be hurting their business instead of helping.

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How to Save 100% on Postage (Without Abandoning Print)

November 21st, 2016

cartoon-man-with-money-150-x-172From the Practical Stuff Newsletter

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According to the newest USPS rate case, postage for all Commercial First Class Presort letters will no longer be tied to weight. After January 22nd, the cost to mail letters weighing over 2 ounces will be less than it is today. Mailers can then use heavier materials, coated paper stock, sturdier envelopes, or they can add pages to their communications without paying more to mail them.

This isn’t the first time the Postal Service has raised the weight limit. In 2012 the USPS made the second ounce free to encourage more transpromo content. They believed the ability to mail extra pages of promotional material would slow the pace of transactional mail migrating to digital delivery channels.

With the 2017 rate case, the USPS has again reacted to technology changes in the document industry. More mailers are transitioning from toner-based printing platforms to inkjet, forcing them to change paper stocks, some of which may be heavier. The adjustment planned by the USPS will reduce the cost to mail First Class letters weighing over two ounces.

Switching to full-color inkjet printing also encourages companies to add photographs and other images to personalized promotional and informational messaging. This practice allows for more precise targeting compared to inserting pre-printed bill stuffers, making the pieces more effective. It also increases page counts and piece weights.

A strategy I recommend to inkjet-migrating companies is creating longer print runs. Companies accomplish this by merging jobs, which can present opportunities to household documents addressed to the same individuals or family. With customer permission, mailers can combine documents and make householding pay off even quicker under the new postage rates.

Under the new rates, householding just two documents will save a mailer 100% on postage they would have spent mailing the items separately.

Combining more than two pieces can produce even greater savings. A financial services company sending separate envelopes for each account type for instance, could save between 74 cents and 90 cents per account if they can household three account statements. Combining 4 statements generates savings of between $1.11 and $1.35, depending on sortation level.

Keep in mind that householding can change presort density. Reducing the number of pieces addressed to a zip code could turn 5-digit mail into 3-digit mail, for instance. Though the difference in postage rates based on sortation is much less than the cost of mailing pieces separately, analyzing the overall effect of householding should take this factor into consideration.

Mailers can exploit the opportunity provided by the new postage rate structure by adding value to their documents with charts and graphs. Individual customer profiles can trigger promotional and informational content printed inline. Variable maps and driving directions to nearby physical locations can turn mass mailings into personalized communications. More testimonials can increase charitable donation amounts. The possibilities are endless.

The flattened postage rate structure should encourage mailers to replace some stand-alone mailings with extra content added to existing high impact communications like bills and statements.

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Expand Your Email Audience Without Buying a List

November 12th, 2016

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Want to grow your email list? Don’t go out and purchase names.

Try guest blogging instead. You won’t get the instant gratification that comes with adding a ton of names, but the quality of your email list will be much better and you’ll avoid pitfalls like spam traps. Best of all, guest blogging costs nothing.

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How Not to Do It – HSA Company Blows It

November 6th, 2016
HSA Mail photo

Collected mail from my HSA company

From the Practical Stuff Newsletter

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My health savings account (HSA) administrator finally closed my inactive 2-cent account. after sending me over 80 pieces of account-related mail over the course of six years.

I’m kind of sorry to see them go. The account has been a source for many articles and videos over the years. It has been an outstanding illustration of how inattention to detail wastes money in transactional mail.

Besides being incredibly wasteful, such practices ruin the image companies want to portray.

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Shifting Bill Presentment Policy

June 29th, 2016

From the Practical Stuff Newsletter – April 2016

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U-Turn signThose of us in the customer communications business talk about bills as important customer touchpoints. We point out these documents get opened and reviewed more than just about anything else consumers receive in physical or digital form. Bills are ideal places to connect with customers, upsell, communicate important information, and drive engagement in other channels.

All those things are significant, but the biggest reason companies send bills is to get paid. Making it easy for that to happen should be the first priority.

Some InfoTrends research revealed what customers really want from billers.

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People Aren’t Reading Your Stuff

June 29th, 2016

From the Customer Retention NOW! Newsletter – April 2016

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TypewriterKeys150If you are like most people sweating over your next great blog post or newsletter article, you might have lost sight of your true goal or have an inflated expectation of reader consumption. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a topic or forget that we only connect with a fraction of our audience with any single piece of content.

It’s OK. We all do it. We imagine our readers are hanging on our every word as if our post is the latest Dan Brown best seller. In our heads we relate the new article to others we’ve written in the past, forming a complete and compelling theme. We know our material is valuable and assume our readers share our enthusiasm for the information we’ve generously provided for free. Most importantly, we believe the next thing for readers to do (call us, go to the web site, subscribe to our newsletter, etc.) is glaringly obvious.

None of that is true.

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How Much Should Content Marketing Cost?

June 29th, 2016

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From the Customer Retention NOW! Newsletter – December 2015

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How much does a year’s worth of brand awareness and lead nurturing content cost your business?

It’s OK if you don’t know. Most companies I speak with don’t know the answer either. The reason for this knowledge gap is simple: few companies actually have a plan for the year. If they produce any content at all, it’s a haphazard collection of one-shot, unconnected items.

Find out what you need, how to get it, and how much it costs

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Can You Ever Tell a Customer No?

June 29th, 2016

From the Practical Stuff Newsletter – August 2015

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Stop, wait, go sign

Have you ever turned down work from a customer? During my career in the print/mail service business I don’t think we ever did. As long as it was a job that would run on our equipment we just followed the customer’s orders. A business philosophy of “the customer is always right” still worked back then. Today it’s different.

The customer is NOT always right. Here’s why I say so…

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