Connect the Dots: Helping your team win the multi-channel marketing game.

In April, AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District launched our “Connect the Dots” self-promotion campaign with the mailing of agTwister, a play on the classic game of Twister, with our own AlphaGraphics twist!

Many of our clients jumped in, gave the spinner a whirl, and joined us in our multi-channel marketing game. They visited their personalized URLs and gave us some great feedback on their own marketing efforts.

May has arrived, and the game continues. On the heels of the boxed game, we mailed a brochure that describes just what we mean when we say, “the multi-channel marketing game.” To our clients who responded to the first mailing, we threw in a little something extra—a set of four agTwister coasters (handy for agTwister parties, of course).

Our “Connect the Dots” message is simple. For marketing success, you’ve got to put into play four must-haves:  Target, Engage, Integrate, and Measure.

It breaks down as follows…..

TARGET – Prioritize and personalize.

•  Target marketing = focus.
Segmenting your list allows you to concentrate your marketing efforts and zero in on your target. 40% of your direct marketing success depends on the effectiveness of your list.

•  Define customer lifetime value, and segment accordingly. Know how much each customer spends and how long they’re with you. Focus on those with the greatest value to get the biggest bang for your buck.

•  Develop the relationship. Speak one-to-one with each customer by personalizing your messaging.

ENGAGE – Knock their socks off with relevancy.

 •  Don’t underestimate the power of a good offer. A relevant, timely offer increases response rates. In fact, 40% of your direct marketing success depends on the offer!

•  Start with a big idea and great design. Add relevant images and personalized messaging through variable data. Now you’ve got the “wow” factor that engages and motivates your customer to respond.

•  Remember the 40/40/20 rule:  40% List, 40% Offer, 20% Creative = Direct marketing success!

INTEGRATE – Market strategically across multiple channels.

•  Most successful marketers use 3-7 touchpoints to reach a customer.

•  Choose the channels that best fit your target. Skip those that don’t. It doesn’t have to be complicated—just smart!

•  Follow best practices. Each channel has rules and best practices that successful marketers respect. Leverage the strengths of each channel.

•  Build your brand. Speak with one voice across all channels. Be clear, cohesive, and consistent.

MEASURE – Measure total value: sales, leads, data, cultivation, brand building.

•  Tracking, measuring, and reporting of results adds up to an integrated view of your customers.

•  There’s value in cultivation. It’s proven to increase customer retention, engagement, and brand building.

•  Put costs together with customer lifetime value and look toward what’s really important: return on investment (ROI.)

Written by Anne Flanagan,
Marketing Strategist & Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District



Making a List…and Checking It Twice

As we approach the holiday season, many minds are focused on lists. Holiday shopping wish lists, holiday card lists, to do lists, the list goes on!

At AlphaGraphics we are always thinking about lists throughout the year.  Here’s why you should be too.

Let’s use the example of sending out a mailing.

When setting up an excel file of data for a mailing, be sure to have a separate column for each data field for each separate contact.

There should be no more than 2 columns for the address (address 1 and address 2).  These should be numeric street addresses. If you would like to include a business or organization in the excel file, they should be separate columns from the address fields.

There should not be any hard returns in any cells of data in the excel file.

Try to make sure the data in the excel file is the most current data you have.  Are the addresses complete?  Do you have zip codes?  The more information we receive  in the file, the better chance the  addresses have making it through our mailing software successfully.

Check out the sample screen shot of an excel file for mailing for a visual on what the initial set up looks like.

You can also download the file here to use as a starting point. (My holiday gift to you!)

Mail list sample

As always, the team at AlphaGraphics is available to answer any questions you might have when gathering data for a mailing.

As an added bonus for reading the blog: check out this fun little type kerning game……test your skills!

Happy list making and happy holidays!

By Kristin Needham,
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District


The “Use Your Coconut” Campaign, Phase III: The Ultimate Power Lunch

    With our targeted customers participating in our multi-channel, multi-touch “conversation” that began with the mailing of a coconut, we set our sights on the ultimate prize: gathering many of our most valued partners in one room for one grand event designed to educate, inspire, energize, and drive new business.

Phase III of our “Use Your Coconut” theme began as the first two phases did—with a personalized mailer. This time, our recipients got an elegant printed invitation, branded with our distinctive coconut graphics and mailed in a square, brown, translucent envelope.

“Join us for an exciting and powerful marketing event at one of downtown’s hottest spots,” the invitation read. “It’s the ultimate power lunch!”

Recipients could respond by going to a generalized URL to register to attend (or not) an executive marketing workshop featuring direct marketing industry expert Joe Manos of Mindfire, Inc., worldwide leader of marketing intelligence software and services. The lunchtime learning session offered not only the latest marketing know-how, but divine dining at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, a posh new downtown hotel.

Delighted with a 31% response rate to our invitation, AlphaGraphics welcomed more than 40 customers to the two-hour workshop. While our guests noshed on soup, sliders, salad, and (of course) coconut macaroons, Clare Meehan introduced Manos, who gave a dynamic presentation that explained the implications for marketers of Cross Media Marketing, illustrated successful marketing campaigns through real-life case studies, and discussed the best practices for improved return on marketing investment in 2011.

ClareMeehanJoeManos5.19.11    Manos summarized, “Mindfire partners with forward-thinking companies like AlphaGraphics in providing the powerful software necessary to execute multi-channel marketing campaigns. With Mindfire’s technology in-house, the team at AlphaGraphics can help you create a personal, relevant ‘experience’ that generates enormous opportunity for growth.”

Armed with fresh insight and a personalized marketing packet (Manos’s presentation included), our clients expressed praise and gratitude. 53% of the attendees completed a brief online survey that we emailed to each attendee the day after the workshop. Of those who responded, 100% said that the information presented at the executive marketing event was beneficial and that they would be interested in attending similar workshops hosted by AlphaGraphics.

With the wrap-up the final phase of the campaign—an apparent “end”—came a new beginning for our sales team. “Use Your Coconut” immediately generated 14 new multi-channel marketing campaigns and nearly a dozen hot leads and new opportunities to assist clients in achieving their marketing communications goals.  

ROI calculations for our “Use Your Coconut” campaign are preliminary, but the early “ballpark” prediction, based on the 14 new campaigns, is that we will realize more than 200% ROI!

Now that’s using your coconut!

by Anne Flanagan
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District

The “Use Your Coconut” Campaign, Phase II: The Power of Integrated Direct Mail

“Would you believe over half of my 20-something staff had never even tasted a REAL coconut??! Great mailer, and thanks for broadening my staff’s “palatable” horizons.”

Such were the Facebook postings we were receiving as our coconut mailing gained steam. With the buzz building, it was time to launch the second phase of our “Use Your Coconut” campaign, about two weeks after the coconuts were mailed.CoconutPhase2MailerRET

Our strategy was to continue to explore attention-grabbing direct mail formats, so we chose to mail an oversized, “lumpy and bumpy” envelope that contained a personalized, vellum insert sheet, a 4-page brochure, and a tent card “freemium.” The envelope itself was intriguing: made of brown translucent paper, it stood out in the mail pile. Furthermore, the contents were designed so that a large “Use Your Coconut” logo showed through the front of the envelope like a colored watermark beneath the address. A colorful butterfly first-class stamp added to the tropical vibe.

Each recipient opened the envelope to see a personalized vellum insert sheet with either a “thank you” message and reference to their response to our survey, or a “there’s still time” message and “second chance” offer to enter to win a secondary prize­—a $50 gift certificate to a local tropical-themed restaurant—if the recipient logged on to his or her personalized URL. Under the insert was a 4-page brochure—another customer education piece—with the Top 4 Trends in Direct Mail, personalized to each recipient. A third enclosure—a tent card “freemium” containing either a recipe for a pina colada, coconut cream pie, or coconut shrimp; an instruction card for creating a coconut shell planter; or an instruction card for playing Coconut Bowling—rounded out the package, and was matched to each recipient’s answer to a survey question on how he or she would like to use his or her coconut.

Our multi-channel, multi-touch campaign had really taken off! As the result of the first and second phases of the campaign, we achieved a 46% response rate, more than doubling our goal of 20%!

To keep things interesting, we continually posted coconut photos, updates, and musings on our Facebook page while our customers chimed in, and tweeted about our campaign. We also posted fresh rotating website banners every 4-5 days proclaiming various direct marketing factoids.

To cap the second phase of the campaign, respondents received a “Save the Date” email, inviting them to pencil in on their calendars a special lunchtime marketing event hosted by AlphaGraphics. The culmination of the campaign, this executive marketing workshop promised to be a truly dynamic, interactive demonstration of the power of integrated direct mail using a multi-channel approach.

by Anne Flanagan
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District

The “Use Your Coconut” Campaign, Phase I: Thinking Outside the Box


It all started with a simple question.

“Did you know you can mail a coconut?”

Immediately the light bulb went on, and us creatives were off and running with the nutty theme of our wildly popular self-promotion campaign: “Use Your Coconut.” 

It’s been quite a ride watching the campaign grow from a simple objective—positioning AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District as thought leaders in direct marketing and building awareness of our mailing services—to through-the-roof response rates and a visit from one of the country’s leading experts in multi-channel marketing.

In this post, I’ll explain our rationale for the theme and the first phase of the campaign; future posts will address phases two and three, and a wrap-up of results.

On day one, we articulated our objective and set our sights on the bullseye: who we are aiming to reach. Our target audience was composed of high value current customers not using our mailing services but likely to, or using our mailing services, but on a limited basis; and a few key prospects.  Because our focus was mailing services, we wanted to demonstrate the use of a number of mailing formats and multiple touches. Since a high-profile direct marketing event was to be the culmination of our campaign, we determined we needed to mail an invitation, preceded by at least two other major touches that would effectively engage and motivate our audience. 

With an audience that can sometimes be hard to reach (higher level executives often get their mail screened, a.k.a. rerouted to the round file) but well worth it if you do, we decided on a dimensional mailer to break the ice—more expensive than other formats, but capable of delivering a higher return on investment. Here’s where the creativity really kicked in!

We took “thinking outside the box” to a whole new level when I asked, “Did you know you can mail a coconut?” Having heard that it was possible (but not knowing how one does it), we concocted the campaign theme, Use Your Coconut, which invited our target audience to use their coconuts both literally (the furry brown fruit that grows on tropical trees) and figuratively (as in, using your brain for thinking and learning).

Considerable research, trial, and testing was necessary in order to determine how best to mail a coconut! After ruling out painting on it (messy and time-consuming), adhering a label on it (smooth surface needed for sticking power!), and shrink-wrapping it (mold grows after four or five days), we hit upon wrapping it in nylon netting and attaching a hangtag. Our design team partnered with several U.S. Post Office officials in preparing a final sample that was not only mailable, but eye-catching and impossible to ignore in one’s mailbox.
Branded with a uniquely designed Use Your Coconut—Think Direct Mail logo, our coconut mailer certainly grabbed attention. The hangtag featured a few educational factoids on direct mail, and invited recipients to go to their personalized URL for a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to one of Pittsburgh’s hottest restaurants. Respondents answered survey questions that gave us valuable information on their businesses’ mailing needs, as well as on their favorite uses for their coconuts.

We basically went nuts for coconuts, creating large window clings for our center’s windows (one featured a quiz and text message answer), rotating website banners proclaiming various mailing factoids, and a Facebook page featuring coconut photos and entries posted by our staff members and clients alike.

Surrounded by coconuts (purchased in the Strip District in 40 lb. bags), our staff needed a break after the mailing. Our manager, Rich, grabbed a hammer and whacked away at one of the extras. Cracking the thick-walled orb was difficult, but once it split, a big puddle of coconut water spilled out.

Quickly catching the remaining liquid in Dixie Cups, we drank. Most of us hadn’t dealt with a “real” coconut before.

“Tastes like bathwater, with a coconut aftertaste,” I said. The coconut meat wasn’t much better. The sweetness I’m accustomed to apparently comes later, in the processing and packaging of the flaky coconut I purchase in plastic bags.

Tastiness notwithstanding, our coconuts impressed­—in fact, they set records. Stay tuned for more details….

by Anne Flanagan
Marketing Strategist and Creative Designer,
AlphaGraphics in the Cultural District