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2017 WSPA: Print Excellence Awards

Posted by Crystal Lague



Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM is proud to have won the following awards at the Western States Printing Alliance 2017 Print Excellence Awards. This is a print competition that includes entries from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and southern Wyoming.

BEST People’s Choice & BEST Poster / Art Reproduction – Electric





BEST Marketing Campaign – NOLS Rebranding





BEST Self Promotion – Vision - Eagle 2017 Calendar





BEST Variable Data Printing - Simple Energy Billing





BEST Presentation Folder - River Spirit Deluxe Presentation





SILVER Award – Marketing Campaign – Regal Rogue One Ultimate Ticket





SILVER Award – Digital Non-Hardbound – Cushman Premier Offering, US Bank Office Building Wire-O booklet





BRONZE Award – Books Non-Hardbound – Concorso Italiano





BRONZE Award – Catalog – Cruel Denim


Thank you to the incredible staff at Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM as well as all the amazing organizations we get to work with. You made these awards possible!


A Lasting Watermark for Mici

Posted by Crystal Lague


A Lasting Watermark for Mici

                Watermark Advertising is a company dedicated to differentiate. Their goal is to connect people with a tailored approach and turn their individual challenges into success stories. That is exactly what they did for Mici as they prepared to open their new restaurant location off of Colorado Boulevard.

                “This was the first store we actually got to do the whole interior, the other stores were existing before we came on board,” said Vice President of Watermark Advertising, Cameron Burns. “We talked to Cathy (our Vision Graphics’ account executive) and felt like Vision Graphics was the best fit for this large job.” Watermark has been working with Vision Graphics on a variety of projects over the past 12 years and knew they would produce nothing but the highest quality.


                The first step to this project was discovering who Mici is as a company and what they needed to create a look and feel that honored their identity in a fresh new way.

                “They are very family oriented and have very strong roots in their Italian culture. We definitely wanted to modernize their look compared to the other stores, but maintain the same cultural atmosphere,” said Burns.

The team at Watermark created a full 3D mockup of what the store would look like, allowing Mici to walk through every detail prior to any production being completed. This process ensured that every element fit together cohesively, including some pieces that had been previously designed. For example, they took an existing wall mural design and added a textured look, which they matched when designing the second mural. From wall color and tile choices to point of sale and directional signage, these efforts successfully transformed both Mici’s new space and their brand.

Production and Installation

                “We definitely went off suggestions from Cathy and her team there (at Vision Graphics) on what the best materials were going to be,” said Burns. Vision worked with Watermark to demonstrate how different materials could be used to create each component based on their creative ideas. “Working with Cathy is always a pleasure. She is so detail oriented and she just gets things done for us.”

                Many of the components of this project were produced using Vision Graphics wide format technology including three wall murals, a variety of double sided window graphics, directional signage, heat bent POS signage, several standoffs, and a large magnetic menu board. They also utilized Vision’s digital technology in creation of variable name badges and table tents. In addition, Vision was able to provide some small specialty items that helped bring the project to completion, such as bathroom signs that include braille and cut vinyl store hours.

                “We have been really impressed with the innovative approach that Vision is taking as far as their equipment and keeping on the cutting edge of printing technologies and always investigating new ways of doing things … Cathy bringing us samples of different materials and varnish techniques. That’s exciting for us, because it opens new doors for design approaches that don’t cost an arm and a leg,” said Watermark Advertising Sr. Account Executive, Gini Queen.


Unique Challenges

                Every project has challenges unique to the company, location, and client base. One of the challenges in this particular location was where to hang the menu board that would be easy to read.

                “We worked with a fabrication group to build a special menu board that’s hanging from the ceiling and coordinated with Vision Graphics to make it so that copy could be changed out. They are actually magnets attached to a giant magnet on the steel frame,” said Burns, who went on to explain how the size of the project was a challenge in itself. “There were a lot of parts and pieces that could have easily slipped through the crack…I think that was the biggest challenge for us was just making sure that everything got done the way we envisioned through our 3D mockup of the restaurant.”

Brand Consistency

“We did a cohesive brand strategy with them (Mici) as part of making sure all the stores got some element of the same marketing pieces throughout: menu boards, window clings, POS signs, and table tents.” said Burns.

“We took a lot of the ideas that were implemented on the new store and used them to revamp components of their existing stores,” added Queen. This brought the “new fresh look” and helped create “consistency in branding across all of their locations relative to what we did in the new store.”


Ecofirendly Printing

Posted by Crystal Lague


Ecofriendly Printing

            Due to the very nature of printing, the industry is not always seen as an environmentally friendly one. Vision Graphics is committed to meeting and exceeding environmental regulations and working continuously to improve the effectiveness of our sustainable management programs. We have been recognized by the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program and we are a Green Member of PIA Certified Green Printers. We are also FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified by the Rainforest Alliance.


            We offer our clients a wide selection of recycled papers and FSC certified products. Recycled papers no longer have to look recycled and they come in a variety of stocks and weights. Our Komori GL 840 high-efficiency UV press produces zero VOC emissions and is ozone-free. This is one of the cleanest offset presses on the market. For our HP wide format printer, we use water-based latex ink, which is non-flammable. This ink meets Greenguard criteria and does not produce hazardous air pollutants.

            We also operate an extensive recycling program that includes virtually all of our post-production waste. Some of the products we recycle include paper, packaging material, plastic drums, aluminum press plates, steel banding material, pallets, press blankets, inks, CRT monitors and computer equipment.



Posted by Crystal Lague



We’ll Get Back to You

Posted by Crystal Lague



Hanging in the Balance

Posted by Crystal Lague


Hanging in the Balance

How to manage selfish needs with the well-being of others

By Charles Lunon

Last May, as sales were taking off at his company in Salt Lake City, Cotopaxi founder and CEO Davis Smith was milling about a train station on the border of Slovenia and Croatia awaiting a train jammed with refugees from Syria. His mission was to learn what he could about their needs before traveling on to Istanbul to join 5,000 other people attending the World Humanitarian Summit.

That may not seem like the best way for the CEO of a startup to spend his time, but because Davis and Cotopaxi’s COO Stefan Jacobs incorporated the company as a public benefits corporation in Delaware, Davis was merely doing his job.

Delaware law requires that “B Corp” officers and directors balance the pecuniary interests of their stockholders with “the best interests of those materially affected by the corporation’s conduct, and the public benefit or public benefits identified in its certificate of incorporation.” The law enables B Corps to pursue social and environmental goals without risk of being sued by investors for not maximizing shareholder returns.

In the case of Cotopaxi, which makes tents, sleeping bags and other gear for outdoor adventures, the certificate calls for inspiring “social and environmental change that results in the improvement of the human condition, increased social consciousness and the amelioration of poverty.”

By the time Davis and Jacobs met at the Wharton School of Business in 2010, Davis was already running his second successful online retail startup in Brazil and scouting industries susceptible to disruption. But as someone who grew up in Latin America, he also had a yearning to lift people out of poverty.

So, in 2013, he and Jacobs founded Cotopaxi as a benefits corporation to send a signal to both consumers and potential investors that it was committed to a triple bottom line of profits, people and planet. Two years later, the company became the first incorporated as a B Corp from inception to raise venture capital from institutional investors.

Cotopaxi, which takes its name from a volcano in Ecuador, used some of that $6.5 million in Series A capital to hire Lindsey Kneuven at its first chief impact officer. Best known for writing a report on human trafficking in Silicon Valley for the region’s preeminent community foundation, Kneuven went to work bolstering Cotopaxi’s non-profit partnerships and social and environmental compliance programs.

That year, the company spent about 3 percent of its sales funding grants to non-profit partners working to improve health, education and employment outcomes in impoverished communities. It also inspired hundreds of people to collect trash, plant trees and donate food at festivals it sponsored across the United States. In Salt Lake City, it launched a pilot program to teach refugee youth computer science skills. Not too shabby for a three-year-old company with less than $1 million in annual sales.

In 2016, Kneuven focused on implementing standards designed to promote humane treatment of geese, ducks, sheep and llamas that produce the down and wool used in Cotopaxi’s products. She added a questionnaire to the company’s product design brief to get product developers to begin thinking about the social and environmental impacts of the products at the design stage.

That initiative aims to ingrain such thinking in employees and improve the company’s GIIRS Ratings, which are derived from an assessment tool B Lab developed to help its companies woo socially minded investors. It also helps back up the company’s tagline – “Cotopaxi: Gear for Good” – with consumers.

Research by professors at Harvard suggests that the more an industry engages in “hostile investor-centric behavior,” such as greenwashing, mass layoffs and high levels of income inequality between top executives and average workers, the more likely it is to spawn certified B Corporations.

That’s certainly true in the outdoor gear business, where Patagonia, Klean Kanteen, Newton Running, the footwear brand Olukai and fly fishing brand Fishpond have all converted to B Corps in a bid to distinguish themselves from the competition. All told, B Lab has certified more than 1,700 – or about 40 percent – of benefit corporations incorporated in the United States since 2007.

However, B Corps also are a response to socially minded entrepreneurs who are convinced that with the right legal protections, businesses can and should play a bigger role in addressing the world’s social and environmental challenges. “It’s no longer an option,” Richard Branson wrote in a preface to the latest annual report for The B Team, a not-for-profit group inspired by the B Corp movement that he co-founded in 2013 with 22 other executives. “Business must become a force for good.”

The report goes on to explain how businesses large and small can address global warming, income inequality and resource depletion to enhance the overall well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

Echoes of Aristotle

While the “triple bottom line” was not widely used until 1994, when British author, entrepreneur and environmentalist John Elkington coined the term, the debate over the rewards of altruism can be traced back 2,500 years to a debate between two Greeks.

Aristippus of Cyrene argued that happiness could best be achieved through hedonism, or satisfying one’s immediate sensual pleasures, while minimizing discomfort. Aristotle countered that pursuing pleasure rarely produced long-lasting happiness, which could only come from realizing one’s full human potential. He described this as eudemonia, which is derived from the Greek word for “true nature” and connotes a more holistic sense of well-being.

“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly, one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy,” Aristotle wrote in his ethics treatise, “The Nicomachean Ethics.”

In the United States, the notion of eudemonia gained adherents in the 1970s and 1980s as disasters such as Love Canal and Three Mile Island compelled many to question growing glorification of unbridled self-interest. The zeitgeist contributed to the making of the 1987 motion picture, “Wall Street,” in which a corporate raider played by actor Michael Douglas famously lectures business students about the virtues of greed.

When the Exxon Valdez slammed into a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound two years later, a small group of pension fund managers and other Exxon investors issued “The Valdese Principles,” which called for a new sustainable business model that would “protect the health of the planet and the long-term prosperity of its people.”

Today’s CSR movement

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR as it’s come to be known, has since flourished with help from Elkington’s pioneering work helping organizations figure out ways to measure their social and environmental impact. Elkington has served on the boards of dozens of not-for-profits and corporations, ranging from the Nature Conservancy Council and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, to BP and his own consulting firms. Few have done more to expand and improve corporate disclosure of social and environmental impacts.

Meanwhile, the authors of the “Valdese Principles” morphed into Ceres, a global non-profit that has lobbied for fuller disclosure of corporate environmental, social and human rights performance globally via the widely adopted Global Reporting Initiative, where Elkington once served on the board. As of late 2016, Ceres had helped pension funds and other activist shareholders secure climate-related commitments from 350 publicly traded companies. The organization takes its name from the Greek goddess of fertility.

In the past five years, state pension funds have gone on to divest their stakes in companies that manufacture the modern sporting rifles used in mass shootings; banks have cut back their lending to the coal industry; and U.S. retailers have opted to close their stores on Thanksgiving Day in a bid to advance the common good. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have enacted benefit corporation legislation to make it easier for businesses to pursue the triple bottom line.

Kneuven, who has developed sophisticated grant-making and employee engagement programs for multi-national companies through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and built rural literacy programs in Kenya, is convinced the benefits corporation movement marks a significant milestone.

“Companies like Oracle and Patagonia have been giving for decades,” Kneuven says. “These companies have made social and environmental innovation and leadership core to their businesses. Their persistence, disruptive thinking and longevity have enabled great impact. This hasn’t been the norm across the private sector but now you are seeing a shift in consumer expectation and entrepreneurial mindset that is leading to more and more businesses that have truly integrated models. That a young company hired someone like me to create a plan for social impact from the outset is different and exciting.”


Trending with Chad Pollitt

Posted by Crystal Lague


Trending with...

Content marketing thought leader Chad Pollitt dishes on what to expect in 2017

Chad Pollitt’s name seems to be everywhere these days.As one of the country’s foremost content marketing thought leaders, Pollitt’s insights are regularly tracked by the likes of Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Inc., Ad Age, and many others. A decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army commander, these days, Pollitt serves as the VP of Audience and co-founder of Relevance, an agency, events company and digital magazine dedicated to content strategy, promotion and marketing. If that isn’t enough, along with authoring several books, Pollitt also is an adjunct professor of Internet Marketing at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, and adjunct instructor of Content Marketing at the Rutgers University Business School. For more than 15 years, he has been creating profitable online campaigns for some of the world’s most recognizable brands. See what he believes marketers can expect in 2017.




What advice would you give today’s marketers on how to stay focused, create conversations and increase conversions in 2017?

Today’s marketers who wish to stay focused should start by closing email and not touching their smartphones. Creating more conversation and increasing conversions comes with creating more content. Not just any content, but good, quality, thought-provoking content. I’m really good at focusing when I close my email and don’t touch my phone. It’s definitely something we should all do more of in 2017. I want to do a lot more testing of paid media platforms, more specifically, different forms of native advertising. I see this as the future of advertising and I want to learn everything I can about it next year.


What should brands do to ensure these touch points are consistently hit?

Marketers, customer service people and communications professionals will use live “news rooms” to track and listen to social media chatter. Some will even use geo-fencing on mobile devices to track online conversations happening in their brick and mortar locations.

How do today’s consumers want to be engaged?

That mostly depends on their generation. Some prefer email, while others stick to their social media du jour. Some even prefer to make an old fashioned phone call. That said, I think we can safely rule out faxing.

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer today?

Be consistent. Brands aren’t built overnight. Whether it’s a personal or business brand, the act of building one is a marathon, not a sprint. Start with creating good content and have a plan for promoting it. Build an audience. Harvest that audience. Rinse and repeat.

How important will customer engagement be?

Customer engagement is always important. It’s easier to keep a customer than it is to bring on a new one. Jay Baer wrote a whole book on it, “Hug Your Haters.” The difference in tomorrow’s customer engagement versus yesterdays is the channels of engagement. We have a generation of people coming up who aren’t interested in calling or emailing a company. They’d rather tweet or post their complaints, problems, concerns, etc. Businesses better be prepared.


So, you want to be a market leader?


Go ahead, ask Ken Rutsky the question. What does it take drive a market? To be a leader? And, in today’s highly competitive and ever-shifting landscape, just how long can you stay on top?

To be fair, these are tough questions. And Rutsky knows it. The easy answer is that everyone wants to be a market leader. But, as Rutsky earnestly proclaims, some companies lead while others lag. The leaders. They focus on winning by articulating and connecting their unique value to their customers’ world and context, while the others focus their communication on features, functions and benefits.  

In his book, “Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, And Ignite Movements (www.LaunchingToLeading.com),” Rutsky lays out the game plan for getting to the top (more and better leads, eliminating the quantity vs. quality trade-off, and improving key marketing and sales metrics).

For the past 20-plus years, the B2B marketing thought leader (www.KenRutsky.com) has worked in and around and with the sales, marketing and C-Suite communities. Today, his clients include the like of FireEye, Nimsoft, and others.

Why is it important for brands to not employ a "follow the leader" strategy?

Because they never catch up. It is one thing to neutralize a leader's advantages, but to break through we must differentiate, and the greatest differentiation comes by having a unique viewpoint that tilts the market in our favor.

What are the barometers for creating the perfect niche?

The perfect niche is big enough to be meaningful to your business goals, and small enough to provide focus in your sales and marketing efforts. Positioning and messaging is as much about whom you don’t serve and what you don’t claim, as much as whom you do serve and what you do claim. Leaders create flashmobs of rabid customers, while at the same time have a vision on leading a big market parade and movement.

Why is it important to view the marketplace from your customers' perspective?

Markets are conversations. The topic of the conversation is the exchange of value.   Value, as in beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The context of this market conversation is the customer's world and perspective not the seller’s. The seller is an interloper into the customer's world. Enter with the perspective of the buyer and frame your value in that perspective. If you do this well, you earn the right to help shape the market and lead.

How (and why) do brands miss the boat on this?

Brand that overvalue their value miss the boat. They are too focused on the great things they deliver, and less focused on the customer's context. Value without context is not valuable to the buyer. Brands must start and end their value conversations in the customer's world, not theirs.  

Define an example of a brand that hit the mark on this.

Zuora, a provider of subscription billing SaaS solutions, focuses their entire value conversation on "The Subscription Economy." They relate to, influence and shape the market for billing platforms. They have a point of view; they connect their value to the customer's world, and paint a vision of success. 


Strength in Numbers: Why your employees are your best branding asset

Posted by Crystal Lague


Strength in Numbers

Why your employees are your best branding asset

By Charles D. Lunan

List three of the most successful North American consumer brands of the last 10 years and a few names come quickly to mind: Starbucks, Virgin and Lululemon.

Not coincidentally, these three brands share three other characteristics. Each believes that to win market share, they must first win the hearts and minds of their employees. Each does this by investing in formal initiatives to boost employee engagement. And each has seen their share price rise at least three times faster than Nasdaq Composite Index over the past two years.

Their success lends credence to what's come to be called "internal branding," or the systematic process by which organizations con­sciously cultivate employees to be brand ambassadors.

Internal branding is based on the simple, and often overlooked premise that every time an employee comes in contact with a pros­pect, customer, vendor, investor or other stakeholder, they are leaving an impression that will overpower and outlast every dollar their organization spends on brand marketing.

The term has gained currency over the past 20 years as enterpris­es large and small have sought to compete in a global marketplace awash in low-cost manufacturing capacity and high-quality products.

To avoid commoditization, many forward-thinking consumer products companies are reevaluating their priorities. Today, they are focused on recruiting, developing and retaining the best talent in the belief that engaged employees are more likely to consistent­ly deliver excellent customer service and fulfill an organization’s brand promise.


Employee surveys by Gallop, Aon and other consulting firms, along with more than 10,000 academic studies, show internal branding to be a fertile area. Most have found that just 30 percent of American workers are engaged and inspired by their work.

A meta-analysis Gallup conducted this year of 339 research studies across 230 organizations in 73 countries found companies ranked in the top quartile in terms of employee engagement and satisfaction scores outperformed those in the bottom quartile by a significant margin in 10 performance areas.

Specifically, the median differences between top-quartile and bottom-quartile companies were 10 percent in customer ratings, 21 percent in profitability, 20 percent in sales production, 17 per­cent in production records, 24 percent in turnover (high-turnover organizations), 59 percent in turnover (low-turnover organiza­tions), 70 percent in safety incidents, 28 percent in shrinkage, 41 percent in absenteeism, 58 percent in patient safety incidents and 40 percent in quality (defects).

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson credits his company’s success in such disparate industries as entertainment, travel and telecommunications in large part to employee engagement. Branson is a big believer in giving employees autonomy, celebrating their achievements, cultivating them as brand ambassadors and monitoring their feedback.

“Our customers and investors relate to us more as an idea or philosophy than as a company,” Branson told Entrepreneur magazine. “We offer the Virgin experience, and make sure it is consistent across all sectors. It's all about the brand.”


Companies and brands have to be particularly attentive during periods of rapid growth, when management is stretched thin. Some of the biggest fiascos occur when founders push a business into high growth mode.

As they rush to open offices, online stores or otherwise "reach scale," they often overlook the need to institutionalize the passion that drove their early success by implementing formal internal branding programs, says Cliff Oxford, CEO of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta. The center specializes in helping entrepreneurs navigate through periods of rapid growth and position their businesses for a sale.

“You can be successful because of a leader’s personality and company personality, and now you have to convert that to a brand and organization you can sell,” Oxford says.

By the time entrepreneurs join the Oxford Center for Entrepre­neurs, they've already progressed through an initial period of rap­id, self-funded growth. "When you are in hyper growth, revenue covers up a lot of sins that can get you in trouble once you have to start investing to expand," Oxford says.

To avoid this, Oxford preaches “alignment and acceleration,” which calls for aligning strategy, shared values, skills, staff, struc­ture and style before a company accelerates.

The faster a company grows and the larger it gets, the greater the risk that senior management will go astray. "There is a reason Mr. Walton drove a pick-up truck," Oxford says in reference to Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "You've got to live it, eat it and be it. If your internal branding is 'we are a cost-con­scious company' and the CEO is driving a Ferrari, it's all just talk. It's not about what you have chiseled in the wall of your lobby, but how you work every day."


That resonates with Darryl Meattey, co-founder and CEO of Surell Accessories, a Troy, N.H.-based company that designs, manufactures and sources fur-lined gloves, hats and apparel.

Meattey got his start in the fur business by unloading trucks and setting up product displays for a company that made chil­dren's and bridal accessories. Along the way, the New Hampshire native learned to cut and stretch rabbit furs and run a sewing ma­chine. After five years on the job, and with no college education, he was named president of the company.

When the firm went out of business, Meattey partnered with former co-worker Sue Adams in 1979 to open Surell Accessories. With help from a salesman who had called on New York City's de­partment stores for decades, Meattey landed many of his former customers' private label business.

In 2002, his two college-educated sons, Daniel and Dominic, joined the business as partners. Today, the company's more than 1,400 products can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom and Macy's. The company also sells its own Surell Accessories line to retailers and directly to consumers through a factory outlet at its New Hampshire factory and online store.

At 64, Meattey remains engaged in day-to-day operations, but he's also starting to think about what happens when he retires. With the help of a management consultant he meets with twice a week, he's begun distilling his core philosophies into words in a key first step toward internal branding.

"After 40 years and making many mistakes, I figured out you've got to lead by example," Meattey says. "If I'm never here, how can I expect my team to be here? You've got to have a philosophy and you've got to kind of live by it."

So far, Meattey has come up with "ACT," an acronym for three core values that have helped him succeed: Attitude, Commitment and Team.

Last year, Meattey asked his staff to focus on improving com­munication. Of late, he has gotten in the habit of asking staff to repeat to him key points they gleaned from their conversations. "We are under 10 people at any one time, but I find I have to be constantly talking to people," he says. "Every year, we have an area we want to work on and we put it on a chalk board in our conference room. Communication is always the No. 1 thing and we sucked at it last year."

Meattey now is investigating how to expand their wholesale business and must get buy in from everyone involved. "Histori­cally, I have relationships where my buyers come in and hug me. However, I don't scale." To make real progress, Meaty must try and nurture the same characteristics within his team. "We've had some customers for 35 years," he says, "so I'm not just handing them over to anybody until I know they are truly a brand advocate."


Two Sides: Greenwashing

Posted by Crystal Lague



Two Sides North America

Busting more Myths about Print and Paper

In a world that is increasingly concerned about the environment it is important to recognize the difference between “Going Green” and “Greenwashing”. Greenwashing is the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization's environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities. This short video is an introduction into why “going paperless” is often a greenwashing tactic.


Q&A with Fran McGehee: Belfor Property Restoration Marketing Manager

Posted by Crystal Lague


Q&A with Fran McGehee

Belfor Property Restoration Marketing Manager

BELFOR Property Restoration is the North American leader in integrated disaster recovery and property restoration services. With more than 110 full-service offices in the U.S., BELFOR is prepared 24/7 to repair or restore damages caused by fire, water, wind and other natural or man-made disasters.  From small kitchen fires to major hurricanes, BELFOR has been called upon by commercial and residential clients to help get things back to normal for more than 70 years.

As marketing director, what are some of your primary responsibilities?

My responsibilities include promoting the company by developing effective marketing, advertising and sales support collateral and materials.

What are some of the marketing tactics you utilize?

We have a strong national sales team that is able to keep in consistent contact with our clients and companies that could benefit from our services.  Part of my responsibility is to help them in their efforts and provide them with the materials they need to showcase our services and promote our company.  That might be brochures, case studies, special events, direct mail pieces, sales flyers, sales presentations, and digital media.  We also create video case studies that give our customers a compelling look at how clients have successfully taken advantage of our services in the most challenging situations.

What tactics have you found to be particularly successful?

We use both print and digital technology to reach our customers. We see digital becoming more of a focus; however, we still have a lot of clients that prefer to have printed materials in their hand.  People want the information in print on their desk for future reference so we continue to use a lot of printed materials. Our case studies are of particular interest to our clients, because they are real-life examples of what we do and how we can help.   

What makes you choose Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm as you primary print vendor?

Vision Graphics has delivered the bulk of our printed materials, brochures, case studies, invitations to events, and posters for about two years. I have worked with our Vision Graphics sales representative, Cathy Harlow, for about three years.  We have established a strong business relationship and continue to be impressed with the level of service we receive.  When it comes to commercial printing, we pay close attention to a company’s ability to consistently deliver a quality product.  Cathy has always been there to answer questions, catch errors, make recommendations, suggest options, and provide status updates.  That’s the type of professional customer service that we need and that keeps me happy with Vision Graphics. It’s really nice to know that our printing projects are handled correctly and in our best interest.


Recognizing Talent From Within: David Crandall

Posted by Crystal Lague


Recognizing Talent from Within
David Crandall, VP of Operations

How long have you worked for Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm?

I have been here for 17 years. I started out here in an entry level customer service position as a project manager. For each account manager, there were two project managers, similar to the account manager/account specialist structure that we have today. I remained in that position for about a year and a half. The company was in an expansion stage at that point. Eagle:xm had been acquired right about the time I was hired by a national conglomerate of printing companies. We were growing and a position was created for purchasing. I took on the challenge of defining this new role. About four years later I tried my hand at sales for a while before deciding I was more geared toward production. I then took a short term role doing some special estimating projects. After that I was promoted to manager of the fulfillment activities and did that for about eight years.

How would you describe your primary job functions in your current role as VP of Operations?

My role consists primarily of supporting and leading the other managers and supervisors in production, helping them manage their workload, schedules and process improvements. I look at ways to make improvements to the overall manufacturing process to increase production capacity and improve efficiency. I also function in a large way as an intermediary between sales, customer service, upper management and the production team. Communicating back and forth the different projects we are working on and anything we are doing to improve efficiency or meet client demands.

What are some of the challenges this industry faces today and how does Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm meet those challenges?

The modern environment in printing is such that companies are buying less print and doing more electronically. There is less print purchasing taking place and that creates competitive pressures in the marketplace. Part of my role is to figure out from a manufacturing standpoint how to meet the needs that clients are presenting to us all the time. They need their print materials faster and they need them less expensively. As a company we figure out how to meet those demands in such a way that we are not sacrificing quality. That builds customer confidence and they allow us to continue helping them with their print and marketing needs.

Keeping those challenges in mind what are some of the factors that makes Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm stand out from its competitors?

We are very flexible. Being a medium sized, but privately owned company, we have one plant in Denver, everybody is here. We are able to respond quickly and flexibly to customer needs, whether it is schedule or looking at different ways of costing a project or IT or database needs. We have our own in house departments to help us with those things. Those tools allow us to respond whether the customer need is for speed, cost, or ease of ordering with an online portal. We don’t have to call corporate or work with a division in another part of the country. It is all right here. That gives us an advantage over a lot of our competitors in the marketplace.

On a more personal level, what is it about this company that has made you want to keep working here?

There are several reasons that I like working here. I can always find new challenges and I thrive on that. There is something new every day. Printing does not stay the same. Client demands, the jobs we create, and the technology we use to find new marketing solutions from both a manufacturing and marketing perspective are constantly advancing. That kind of dynamic gives me more energy in my work. The people I work with are also great. We have a phenomenal team here and that’s a big thing. We work together well and it’s a pleasure to serve every day with this team.

Of all the projects that you have worked on here what stands out in your mind?

When Vision Graphics and Eagle:xm started the process of merging about five years ago. That was a massive undertaking. It was not a takeover. It was truly a merger where we combined two companies that were both functioning extremely well in their space in the marketplace, Vision having a strong presence in the commercial print space and Eagle having a strong presence in mailing, data analytics, and custom fulfillment. Over the last five years we have worked diligently to bring us together as one company. Today we are one team, in a single location, running on a single system, serving the same great clients.

I have been personally fulfilled through my active role in bringing the teams, and systems together. Figuring out how to do the estimating and the job processing of both types of business into a single channel for management of those jobs was a significant moment for us as a company. This has allowed us to do unified scheduling, unified estimating and to manage the overall workload in a more efficient and accurate way. That was a significant achievement for the company and I was happy to be a part of that process.

Is there anything else you would like to highlight about your position here or the company in general?

The diversity of projects that we do here is really one of the most exciting things about this company. As the VP of Operations I find myself dealing with estimating, fulfillment, the pressroom, mailing, the design department, database marketing, IT systems issues, staffing and scheduling opportunities. It provides me with plenty of challenges, but it also provides a full spectrum of marketing services to our clients that are all in one place. It is fun and challenging all at the same time.


The Great Escape

Posted by Crystal Lague


The Great Escape

Marketing ideas to set you free

In his book, "Pre-Suasion," social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a curious light on the art of effective persuasion, revealing that the secret doesn’t lie in the message, but in the key moment before that message is delivered. Cialdini, the bestselling author of the iconic book, "Legendary," explains how to capitalize on that essential window of time before you deliver an important message – the "privileged moment for change” that prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. As Cialdini says, optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion.

In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader also must change “states of mind.” Greg Chambers believes this way of thinking will be one of the most important marketing ideas to gain traction in 2017. Chambers, founder of the sales-and-marketing consultancy Chambers Pivot Industries, says the beauty of this creative version of storytelling – successfully mastered by the likes of Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell and Laura Hillenbrand – rests in its ability to unravel a mystery.

"It starts by positing a question, then taking the reader on a journey for the answer," Chambers says, "discussing all of the possible explanations until it finally reveals the answer. Marketers will do this more with their brand stories, case studies and narratives."

It has been quite a year – across all marketing fronts. Heading into 2017, marketers want to keep the momentum accelerated in areas like content marketing, marketing automation, customer engagement and social analytics, just to name a few. Ask for the goals and strategies they will focus on next year, and marketers say the game plans involve engaging and growing their communities, along with closely analyzing customer patterns throughout their journeys.

"The imperative in 2017 for marketers will continue to be customer experience," says Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence for analytics leader SAS. "Winning at customer experience requires a combination of individualized insights, contextualized interactions, and fluid processes to engage the customer in their channels of choice."

Raj says there will be two prevailing themes dominating this quest next year. First, machine learning will be more mainstream in marketing technology. "Marketers will be smarter; predictive systems will improve over time; they will learn from previous events/in­teractions; adapt to changing conditions and new data; and optimize to improve marketing goals," he says.

Second, data privacy will be elevated to a customer experience priority rather than a governance issue. As consumers browse the web, post to social media sites, share data from wearables and mobile devices or shop online, they are intentionally – and sometimes unknowingly – giving away digital bits of information about their identities.

"As digital opportunities and threats become critical to business strategy," Raj says, "boards and C-level executives must have the digital expertise to balance between protecting the business and enabling profitable digital growth through personalized brand experiences."

Knowing Thy Customer

In the race to know anything and everything about today's ever-so­phisticated consumer, Mike Sciortino believes that focusing on creat­ing the client experience will be a major asset for any marketer.

The founder of Gratitude Marketing and bestselling author of "Gratitude Marketing: How You Can Create Clients for Life," Sciortino says companies that become memorable work hard to master the art of consistent, creative, fun engagement and deliberate, emotional connection with their customers.

Sciortino says that knowing and creating the experience begins with asking the following questions:

  • Do I have a systematic approach to consistently communicate with my top customers and top prospects?

  • What are the most effective ways I am using to reach my cus­tomers today?

  • Do I have a carefully crafted and specific plan in motion to po­sition myself to be the thought leader in my industry, market­place and community resulting in me staying relevant and "top of mind" with my customers and prospects for when their need for my services arises?

  • Which marketing strategies have I tried to improve my business worked and which ones didn't work?


"To create the ultimate customer experience, be prepared to listen, and listen to be prepared," Sciortino says. "Train your staff to listen intently to what customers are saying in the day-to-day operation of your business. Customers who feel like they are being listened to feel accepted and appreciated."


Keep thy customer


With the rising costs of customer acquisition, marketers such as Sciortino believe brands will place greater emphasis on nurturing what he calls the 3 Rs:

  • Increased customer retention

  • Increased customer referrals (one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing)

  • Increased customer revenues (per customer)


"Customers want to be regularly reminded that they are important to you," he says. "It's not up to your customers to remember you. It's your job to constantly and consistently remind them of who you are and reinforce why they have a relationship with you."


Data, data, and more data


Forgive Carlos Hidalgo if he sounds like a broken record, but the founder and CEO of ANNUITAS believes that collecting buyer intelligence in terms of buying committee involvement, purchase path, pain points, content consumption patterns and preferred channels will be critical again in 2017.

"Marketers need to look at how they align to them," says Hidalgo, whose company develops and builds buyer-centric Demand Generation programs. "If this occurs across marketing organizations, we will see marketing become a growth driver for their companies."

Hidalgo believes the trend in buyer sophistication and complexity and growing buying committees will bring orga­nizations to the place where they must adopt buyer-centric strategies in terms of people, process, content, data and tech­nology. "I see so many organizations building strategies around technology or tactics, but to get it right, the strategy has to have the buyer at the center," he says.

SAS' Raj says data will continue to be the foundation of marketing and brand strategy. Data-driven or algorithmic marketing will continue to expand as more marketers adopt algorithmic attribution over traditional rules-based attribution models such as first or last-click.

"This approach will remove much of the subjectivity that currently plagues rules-based marketing attribution models," he says. "In content marketing and digital asset management, we’ll also see more algorithms used to assemble, analyze and create meaningful content."


Be the storyteller


The need for brands to inject storytelling into their marketing to tap into people’s emotions, aspirations and needs hasn’t changed. But SAS' Raj believes the way brands can tell their stories has changed.

Today, a brand’s narrative can be told through tweets, posts, crowd-sourced content, rich media, etc. "The best stories tap into people’s emotions because they genuinely connect to what a brand stands for," he says.

For example, find stories that stand out from a crowd, give a sense of belonging or confidence, and show how to succeed in life or how to feel secure. It’s about connecting the brand’s narrative to one’s personal nar­rative. "The marketers who can best paint such pictures and create such personal narratives are well on the way to establishing long-term brand loyalty," Raj says.


The Internet of things


In today's ever-changing marketplace, brands can’t ignore the Internet of Things (IoT) as a channel for customer experience and engagement. SAS' Raj believes that IoT presents an entirely new paradigm for building relationships with customers.

"In the past, the only connection between brand and con­sumer was typically a loyalty card or discount coupon," he says. "With IoT, brands can be connected via an expanding mesh of digital endpoints, devices, applications, etc. Brands must evolve and adapt their strategies to take advantage of the multi-way communications IoT affords."

In the end, marketing thought leaders say that when seeking to budget and maximize your marketing spend, realize that traditional marketing speaks at people. Today, it's about engaging and connecting with people.

"This will grow your business in a deliberate and measurable manner and allow you to better target and select the clients you want to work with for the long term," Sciortino says. "It will position you to attract clients, not pursue them."


Happy New Year!

Posted by Crystal Lague


Happy New Year!

Over the past year Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm has had the privilege of working with a variety of clients in a multitude of different industries. We are thankful for the new clients we have gained and the many loyal companies we have worked with for years or even decades. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for allowing us to provide your marketing, print, mailing, and fulfillment needs. We look forward to working with you through 2017 and beyond.

We are also grateful for the fantastic staff that keeps this company moving. Without all of you Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm would be nothing. Thank you to the customer service and sales team for providing our clients with the knowledge and care that keeps them coming back. Thank you to prepress and data processing for being so diligent and meticulous in your work. Thank you to the pressmen and production team for consistently making sure we only send out the highest quality products. Finally thank you to the shipping and mailing departments that are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure every job is delivered in a timely and professional manner.

Thank you all for a fantastic 2016! We look forward to spending another year with you!


Mixology: Marketing Blends Data & Experience

Posted by Crystal Lague



Marketing blends data with experience

By Michael J Pallerino

Identify. Target. Listen. Serve. When you break down the basic tenets of strategic marketing, the plan doesn’t get any clearer than that. Or so you would think. Driven by the continued infatuation with the prowess of Big Data, marketers seem to be doing yeoman’s work on the identifying and targeting sides of the equation. But thought leaders like Tanya Korpi Macleod don’t believe you should always be so dependent on what the data says.

Is she intimating that data can sometimes steer you off course?

Depends on your interpretation. Macleod, president & CEO of The Holistic Marketing Agency, believes that data tends to be total­ly context-dependent. Take, for example, website metrics. Your intel may tell you that very few visitors ever make it past the first page. The initial reaction is that your home page is just plain terrible. But what if that page contains all the information your customers need, and there is no need for them to press on?

That may be what the data implies. But what do your customers say? What information did you (should you) uncover from having real world engagements with them? Is hiding behind data analysis alone the answer?

Take that website example. By combining your high-bounce rate (bad) with customer service feedback about how easy it is to get info off of your website (good), you see a different picture. “Your customers and clients are real people to you,” Macleod says. “There are so many more sensory inputs when you engage in one-on-one conversations. You can read body language. You can sense emotion. You can connect and laugh. You can build compassion. It’s incredibly important to have an intimate understanding of what your customers want and need.”

Truthfully, that means relying on your team to get out into the field to have real conversations with people. If you don’t, you’re precluding learning. “It’s a little Zen, actually,” Macleod says. You have to have a beginner’s mind, especially with things like social media and the way algorithms and consumer buying habits are changing all the time. People aren’t fundamentally changing, but the tools they use are. You have to keep up with that. If you think you already know everything about everybody, there’s no room for new info. It shuts down your imagination. And that’s not good for anyone.”

Meet me out on the street…

In today’s technologically astute world, with so many different modes of communication available, it can be easy for marketers to hide behind data. But that’s a feeling you must shake – and fast.

And here’s the thing – it’s as hard (or as easy) as you make it. If you put the wall up, you can take the wall down. The blueprint is pretty simple. Make sure you and your team get out into the field to meet with your customers. Set aggressive, quarterly goals for meaningful customer discussions. Targeting customer engage­ments is a good habit to take on. Hearing firsthand your customers’ real successes and frustrations – being a part of the customers’ world – is paramount to improving the way you connect with them.

And that means leaving your ego at the door. Ask any marketer and he’ll tell you that egos create roadblocks. While it’s good to be confident in what you do and what your re­search says, an ego can paralyze you. Face it – you’re human. You don’t know everything. You can follow the trends, stay current by poring through the research, but in the end, there always is more to learn and do when it comes to marketing.

“It’s hard to get to know your client, or who you are marketing to if you think you are the best,” says Kathy Michel, director of marketing and media relations at Goucher College in Baltimore. “Data doesn’t hurt, but numbers don’t feel emotion. When you combine the facts and the emotion, it’s easier to prove why you stand out among the rest of your competitors.”

Facts are facts, but oftentimes it’s the emotional piece that sells. Marketing comes down to emotional intelligence. It means being self-aware and having an understanding that your clients may be making life-changing decisions, so it’s important to be empathetic.

“Marketing is about channeling and harnessing the mind of your audience,” Michel says. “That’s why that real-world engagement part is so huge. You have to know whom you are engaging with. You don’t get that sitting behind a computer screen. It’s always best to know who you’re targeting through face-to-face interactions.”

Mack Story wants you to look at it like this: Your clients will not buy from you until they feel understood by you. The key to influencing them is to first allow them to influence you. Your most valuable clients value those who first value them.

Story, co-founder of TopStoryLeadership.com, believes that you lead with influence. “Until our clients feel like they matter to us, we don't matter to them. That’s why your most valuable clients are also your most important word-of-mouth advertisers. They already know, like and trust you. Reinforce their belief in you by seeking to understand their needs.”

What Story and thought leaders believe is that while the pro­cess is not about you, it starts with you. Who you are on the inside is what others experience on the outside, which means it’s critical that you see the world through the eyes of your clients.

“None of us is as creative as all of us,” says Story, whose clients include Chick-fil-A and Koch Industries. “When we work with the client, we can leverage the synergy of two or more minds thinking as one. We can't offer a prescription until we have the proper diagnosis. The quickest way to build rapport with a client is to demonstrate through your actions that their thoughts and opinions matter. When you seek out their input, you move beyond communication and begin to connect.”


2017 To Do list…


It's almost the New Year. Time for our annual resolutions. Time to craft the perfect to-do list of items that will help set the course for every step you take in 2017.

Setting an organized game plan of the strategies you want to accomplish – the markers you need to hit in 2017 – should be a work in progress. Your New Year's resolutions are just the starting point.

Most everyone aspires to learn something new, delegate more, give back to their community, achieve better work/life balance, help their customers attain more success, and make more money. Those are real and tangible goals – initiatives you should work on each and every day.

The crux of every resolution, however, is to never lose sight of your mission statement. That means approaching your New Year's resolutions by remembering why you are in business in the first place. 

Deborah Shane, small business thought leader and author of "Career Transition — Make the Shift," says that one of the keys to successfully mastering your New Year's resolutions is to take on the initiatives that help you and your customers achieve success. 

And that starts with those first of the year resolutions. Be selective and strategic. Make sure that every choice you make is a step toward bringing you closer to your goals. Set goals that everybody can reach together. Stronger and more succinct marketing plans. Better communications initiatives with your customers. A full commitment to improving the business acumen of your team and their reach with your customers.

Just don't over think things and complicate your progress. 

Planning is a fundamental and essential part to you and your customers’ growth and success. It is the stuff of great New Year's resolutions. 

Want some more advice? Follow the "10% Rule." Strive to change or improve by 10 percent. Being realistic is well served when it comes to setting bars that are just too high to hit. 

There's your first resolution right there.


Happy New Year,

Vision Graphics


Recognizing Talent From Within: Julie Ellis

Posted by Crystal Lague


Recognizing Talent from Within

Julie Ellis, Account Manager

How long have you worked for Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm?

I have been here for 16 years next April. I was hired on as an account manager. For a while, I moved into a Broadband Marketing Group lead by Joel Susel, who is still with the company as our leading performance solutions developer. That group’s role was to provide marketing solutions and customer service to companies like Comcast, Charter, and Time Warner. We would brainstorm and create new programs for cable companies customized to their needs. Joel has an incredible talent for inventing new forms of marketing solutions and developing programs that have never been done before. The extensive amount of knowledge I gained in that group is invaluable. I am now back in an account management role now, but still get to work with Joel on marketing solutions in several industries. We have worked together for over ten years now and I feel we make a good team.

What is a typical day like for you as an account manager?

There really is no such thing as a typical day for an account manager. I could be putting in an estimate and suddenly have five order requests, a change to an existing order, a need to check on something in our fulfillment system or any number of other tasks. It is highly important to stay organized and prioritize. I don’t think I have had two days that were the same in all the time I have worked here, which is a good thing.

What I am doing also depends on what client I’m working with. What I do for Regal is completely unique to them; we do not provide a program like theirs to anyone else. Joanne Caldwell, another member of our account services team, works with Eagle Ticketing which has some similarities. We are able to utilize some of the same expertise and technology for both programs, but the products are very unique to the client and the programs are completely different. It is all about inventing things here, creating solutions that have never been done before. I have never heard someone here say ‘We can’t do that; that’s not what we do.’ Maybe we don’t do something right now, but we can do it and when we do, we will do it in a way that is customized to the needs of that particular company. That is what is so nice about the environment here.

What do you feel makes the customer service at Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm stand out?

As an account manager I really get to know my clients and I have come to feel like I am a part of the companies that I work with. I will work with someone day in and day out on a project and our team here really becomes an extension of their company. If someone calls me in a panic, because they need something rapidly I feel their urgency. I believe that is why so many of our customers have been with us for so long. They know that we engulf ourselves in making sure their companies are successful.

The other aspect that really sets us apart, as I mentioned previously, is this ability to create new programs and methods of doing things and having that freedom to be expanding and changing. It’s always been the kind of company that if you want to do something not in your typical role you can. You are given the resources to grow and the company grows as a result.

If you had to pick one project you have been a part of here that stands out in your mind what would it be?

Launching Regal’s gift card program was really one of the most fun and unique projects I have been a part of here. We invented a whole new process and I imagine it is quite unique compared to how other gift card programs are managed. Regal had been our customer for many years, but we were not doing their gift cards, which they themselves had just recently started doing. They had a vendor that was doing just their gift cards that frankly was not serving their needs very well. They told us that they wanted to have everything we did for them, primarily paper tickets, and the gift cards from one provider. Initially we partnered with another company that had gift card capabilities we did not. It did not take long to realize they were not going to provide a quality up to our standards. We decided during the production process that we were going to bring everything in house midstream. We had to figure out on the fly how to transition from this other vendor to doing it internally with systems up and running incredibly fast. Our IT team got together with the IT team at Regal and rose to the occasion in just an amazing way. We started from scratch and we were able to make it exactly how it needed to be for Regal. That is what we do and that is one of the reasons I love working with Joel, who was a big part of that process as well. He has this ability to create solutions that are ongoing programs customized for a specific goal. Of course, over time we have found ways to make the whole program more efficient, but seeing the way everyone in both companies came together to make this program happen from the start was truly a memorable experience.


Trending with Andrew Neitlich: Executive Coach

Posted by Crystal Lague


Trending with Andrew Neitlich: Executive Coach

In his book, “Elegant Leadership: Simple Strategies, Remarkable Results,” Andrew Neitlich shows how strong leaders are the ones who remain committed to learn­ing what they don’t know. If it sounds simple, it’s not. Maybe that’s why Neitlich, founder and director of the Center for Executive Coaching, spends so much time helping today’s leaders perfect their craft. Over the years, he has trained more than 1,000 coaches around the world, with an impressive client list that includes the likes of FedEx, Aflac, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. De­partment of Defense, and Deloitte Consulting, among scores of others. Here, Neitlich dishes on what today’s leaders are made of and how they can get better:

What do today's leaders lack?

It depends on the individual leader. Everybody has strengths and areas where they can develop. What works is an approach that looks at your thinking and communication styles, behavioral traits, the impact you have on others, your alignment with your manager(s) and the organization’s strategy, and your requirements for success. By understanding these issues, you can find that one new attitude, behavior or skill that will have maximum impact and improve results. Sometimes, this one thing can be a strength upon which to build, a behavioral blind spot that might be derailing your career, or a new behavior to start or do more.

Where are those blind spots?

Some leaders who have technical skills – physicians, engineers, scientists and at­torneys, among others – often lack some of the softer skills to engage their teams and communicate effectively. In non-profit or­ganizations, for example, I often work with leaders who feel uncomfortable asserting themselves or having any kind of conflicts. In highly political organizations, some leaders would rather look good than do the right thing. One framework that helps shed light on this issue is the triangle between ego, results and relationships. These three areas must be in balance. If you focus too much on ego, then you care more about getting credit, having status and looking good than getting results. If you focus too much on getting results, you can hurt relationships and come across as coercive. And, if you focus too much on preserving relationships, you avoid tough conversa­tions, don’t get results and end up hurting business relationships anyway.

What is the key to getting better?

Good leaders constantly ask themselves questions about how to keep improving. Five crucial questions are: How can I earn the right to lead with my people? How can I help others to succeed? How can I model the habits I want to see in the organization? Which behaviors and attitudes do I need to stop tolerating in myself and in others? How can I build a stronger organization that isn’t dependent on me?

What is the real key to successful leadership?

You have to care deeply about whatever it is you are doing and why you are doing it. That way, when you wake up and don’t feel like leading, you still see possibilities to create; you still do what needs to be done. True leaders lead even when they don’t feel like it. It’s about getting up after you’ve been knocked down repeatedly, being able to influence and engage others, being authentic without manipulating, and not caving in on values or quality.

How do you see leadership changing in today’s new business landscape?

This truly is a new world defined by a gut-wrenching pace of change and volatility, uncertainty, complexity and interdependence. It’s causing too many to believe that things are really under their direct control. Given that, many leaders have nearly impossible jobs. It is no wonder that some have cynically chosen to look out for their own interests over and above the needs of their constituents and organizations. But for those who want to be the “real thing,” there is an opportunity to engage others to develop a shared vision and purpose. There are opportunities to set a clear direction, and develop and unleash other leaders who can make great things happen. Today’s leaders can be authentic role models of the behaviors and habits they want to see in others. Only extraordinary people can or want to lead today, and still be able to maintain their health, work-life flow, values and perspective.


Out of Sight Out of Mind

Posted by Crystal Lague


Out of Sight Out of Mind

Why you need to get to know your customers personally

By Jamar Laster

By her own admission, Liz Miller flies a “ridiculous” number of miles with American Airlines. As senior VP of marketing for the CMO Council, which entails hosting executive functions or presenting marketing-focused research findings at global conferences and thought-leadership events, her travel schedule is as closely aligned as possible with that of the quintessential jetsetter.

Not surprisingly, Miller enjoys “elite” status as an American Airlines Advantage Executive Platinum member. As the name implies, she’s set apart from the airline’s other customers, not only in ravel perks and rewards, but also the types of marketing materials – and accompanying content – she receives. Those perks include quarterly updates with references to business perks and features of the American Airlines executive lounge; relaxing imagery of vacation spots in far-away places; and targeted ads on a specific country to which she frequently travels on international business.

Translation: The airline knows she’s not the typical traveler, so it personalizes the message she receives.

By contrast, Miller’s husband, also an Advantage program member – not of the Executive Platinum status, mind you – receives marketing materials, too. But they feature a distinct difference in content, a subtle nuance that has caught Miller’s eye. “When he gets his [American Airlines marketing materials], the content, images and promotions for destinations usually mirror what you can find on their website,” Miller says. “If they’re opening up a new route to Auckland, the cover of his brochure will be centered on Auckland. His materials will generally feature content about what they have to offer the mass populace of their customers.”

The amount of personalization contained in the airline’s communication with her leads to a point of differentiation that Miller says makes the content more appealing. “They’re talking to me about things I may need in my travel life that are very different from my husband,” she says. “Every single piece of communication, while it’s content that can be found someplace else, is highly relevant to me. And it’s probably also highly relevant to executive platinum flyers because we all tend to have the same behavior.”

The lesson in this example for marketers is simple: In a day and age where clients will only buy from those they trust and from those with whom they have relationships, one of the best ways to establish both of these key components is to appeal to one of their basic needs: personalized communication.


In many situations, gaining your customers’ trust requires being part of an inner circle that sometimes can be difficult to access. In a business-to-business context, one of the best ways to begin breaking down any barriers to entry is to provide valuable, quality content that gives the customer an advantage in their market, says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations Inc., a Long Island, N.Y.-based public relations and marketing firm.

“If you know what their challenges are, share with them articles, videos and other materials that will help them overcome challenges, and you will build trust,” Corbett says. “This allows for opportunities to develop and for relationships to grow.”

Corbett, a former adjunct professor at Iona College and occasional guest lecturer at other institutions, also touts personal communication as a way to crack the proverbial walls some actual or prospective customers can erect. Ironically, he says technology – likely the very culprit in the establishment of these barriers – can be helpful in facilitating the communication that can help marketers break through.

“LinkedIn, for example, offers many ways to engage in personal conversations,” Corbett says. “The key here is listening to the specific client or type of client. If you know what they are looking for or what they need, you will have a better opportunity to reach them and provide what they are looking for. Don’t hard sell; however, this does not mean don’t communicate.”

Technology, in some ways, may have gotten a bad rap in this entire scenario. “It’s not the technology that’s the problem,” Miller says, “it’s the overwhelming flood of irrelevant messages that we keep sending people and an absolute lack of connected content.”

Such content not only has to be connected to a unified message, but it also must contain a thread connecting it across channels, Miller says. “That level of connection, where we’re actually connecting all the dots between message and channel, has to also connect to something that is highly relevant to our customers.”


“Female between ages 22 and 34.” “College graduate.” “Mother with at least one child.” “Household income between $100,000 and $125,000.”

It’s easy for marketers to think in demographic terms; after all, the analytics portion of the job almost mandates doing so. But referring to customers in such terms also accentuates the problem of relating on a personal level with customers.

It’s best to start by gaining a deeper understanding of your customer, then communicating with them in familiar terms so that they aren’t reintroducing themselves at each engagement.

“No one introduces themselves as, ‘Hi, I’m a woman between the age of 22 and 34. I come from the Midwest and my socioeconomic background is…,’” Miller says. “But that’s how we talk about our customers, then we break it down into product categories, why they are buying and their demographics. If you were to ask what that woman is buying, she would say, ‘I’m buying back-to-school products because my kids need them for school, but they need paper in packs of four, so why do you sell packs of three?’ If we can start shifting how we think about customers and why they do business with us, and talk to them the way they want to talk to us, it shifts the relationship.”

Corbett says another way to learn how to talk to clients is not to talk about business. “Find out what an individual is interested in and talk with them about this and get to know them,” he says. “Eventually, the conversation will turn to business and this is when you have an opportunity to discuss what you do, why you do it and what makes you different.”

Communicating with clients in these terms not only softens barriers, but it shifts the company’s or brand’s relationship with the customer and drives loyalty. “We stop talking to them like they’re a catalog,” Miller says. “It encourages them to be part of the buying experience, whether it’s a long buying cycle like in B2B markets, or a short one like in B2C markets.”


On a smaller scale, personalization is very much a grassroots effort. Corbett says plans of action include eschewing multiple e-blasts and newsletters, instead focusing on personal interactions with customers.

“Thank people personally for meetings or shares of their social content,” he says. “Call them when appropriate. When you find an article they are mentioned in, send it to them and congratulate them. If somebody does something for me, I do a social shout out. Business is a two-way street. Do whatever you can to help the client get exposure and show off what they do to your audiences.”

But on a macro scale, such personalization may not be realistic. One-to-one communication, at scale, is a scary proposition. After all, a company with millions of customers can’t possibly hire a marketing staff of millions.

But that’s OK, Miller says, because individualization isn’t the goal. It’s really about the perception of personalization. “How are we speaking to that individual so that they believe we are truly speaking to them as an individual?” she asks. “I think that sometimes people miscommunicate personalization because they think that it’s total individualization. It’s really not. It’s that mass personalization that delivers intense layers of relevance to that individual customer.”

And don’t misunderstand the message to mean that simply mail-merging a letter with customers’ first names and the city in which they live (à la the technology of the 1990s) will do the trick. That’s bush-league in today’s marketing game.

“We’re talking about creating highly relevant moments, regardless of channel,” Miller says. “So that means that if a company is sending an email to me, Liz Miller, not only is it reflective of my history with that brand, but it also is tailor-made for me. That may be different visuals, different offers or offers that are more relevant for me than they are for someone else. It’s about making that intense relevance, because relevance drives relationships.”


5 plays to add to your 2017 marketing playbook


You can say this about 2016 – it hasn't been boring. Heading into 2017, the momentum will continue to surge in areas like content marketing, marketing automation, customer engagement and social analytics, to name a few. For marketers, each of these strategies has helped engage and grow their communities. Here are some of areas to watch in 2017.


A Novel Concept

Posted by Crystal Lague



Novel Concept


Studies Show Why Content Marketing is all the Rage

Why is content marketing the trend that keeps getting stronger and stronger? Let's go to the data. Below are a handful of studies that prove just how effective content marketing is in the branding process:

  • 75% of marketers surveyed said they saw positive bottom-line outcomes from their content marketing efforts, while 57 percent saw positive top-line business outcomes in the form of increased revenue and sales (Forrester Research)
  • Marketers who publish a blog are 13 times more likely to have a positive ROI. (HubSpot's "State of Inbound" study)
  • 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. (Demand Metric's "A Guide to Marketing Genius: Content Marketing)
  • Kraft generates the equivalent of 1.1 billion ad impressions a year and posts four-times-better ROI via content marketing than through targeted advertising. (AdAge)
  • 77% of B2C marketers and 76 percent of B2B marketers say they’ll create more content in 2016. (Content Marketing Institute's "B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America")
  • 74% of readers trust educational content from brands, as long as it doesn’t push a sale. (Kentico Digital Experience Survey)

Talent From Within: Jeff Holby

Posted by Crystal Lague


Jeff Holby

Machine Operator


How long have you been in the printing industry?

            This is my 39th year. I started right out of high school. Growing up my dad owned a couple printing companies in Minnesota, so I guess you could say I was raised in this industry. I started working in my dad’s shop when I was 18. That is pretty much where I learned the business.

            I began as a press helper and ended up in bindery. The machines where all different back then, but they had the same functions as the ones we use now.

            The printing industry has been good to me. I met my wife in the printing industry. We have been married 24 years; have a great son, a great daughter, and an amazing grandson. It’s been a good life for me. It’s hard work and it’s rough on your body, but it’s been good.


How long have you been with Vision Graphics?

            I have been with Vision Graphics/ Eagle:xm for 15 years this September. It is a larger company than the others I’ve worked for. We have a very upscale focus and we also do a lot more mass commercial printing. When I started here I had never run a stitcher. I was a folder and cutter operator and I ran a number of smaller machines. I have loved the stitcher since I first learned it. It’s like it was meant for me. I find it to be more challenging than the other machines and I’m up to that.


What are some of the machines that you operate?

            I primarily operate the sticher, folders, and cutters, but I can also run any of the smaller machines: the drills, shrink wrapper, power stapler. Just about any machine in the finishing department I have run at one time. The more you know the better. Operators that can run a variety of machines are more valuable employees, because we can work whatever is appropriate for the types of jobs on the floor.

            The first step of running any machine is reading the job ticket and making sure there is a proof to work from. It’s important to read the job ticket closely to ensure the customer is getting the exact specifications they asked for. If I am on the stitcher, the next step is to place parts 1-6 in the pockets and the cover in the cover feeder. After that I set the pockets, the trimmer, and the stich heads to match the job specifications. Once I am all set up I will start running the books through. As the pockets drop sheets the machine assembles the book for me.

            If I am running a more complex job, one that has an envelope drop on the chain for example, I will put clips on to hold the envelope in place. This prevents the envelope from sliding up the book and getting cut open during the trimming process.

            Another function of the stitcher is that I can take off the stacker at the end of the machine and put on a knife folder. This allows me to fold the book in half as it comes off, which is valuable for jobs that mail, because it costs less in postage. We could use one of the folders to carry out this function, but the versatility of the stitcher allows the product to go through one machine instead of two, increasing time efficiency and decreasing related costs to our clients.    


Since you started in the printing industry how has technology changed the way that the bindery equipment operates?

            Things have come a long way. It wasn’t a push button world back then. Machines could not be programmed the way they are now. The ones you could program where incredibly expensive and most places didn’t have them. Everything was done manually.


Talent From Within: Arlene Maes

Posted by Crystal Lague


Arlene Maes

Mailing Supervisor

How long have you worked in the mailing?

            I have been in mailing for almost 22 years and 20 of those have been right here at Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm. I supervise the mailing department which includes the inkjet, inserter, handwork, and of course sending the product to the post office.        When I was first brought on at Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm I didn’t have the extensive knowledge of mailing that I have now and I had never operated a machine before. When a position on the inkjet opened the company trained me as an operator. With hard work and a willingness to learn I worked my way up to supervisor.


What is a typical day like for you in the mailing department?

            The first thing I do in the morning is pull up a schedule and make sure I am up to date on everything that’s due. Next I print job tickets for everything we are inking or mailing that day and I order all the stock, stamps, and tabs we need. I work side by side with Melissa Oviatt, who is supervisor of hand bindery. She will order her own materials and get her people set up. We work out any foreseeable issues that may arise throughout the day together.

            At 8:30 every morning I go to the Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm production meeting, which involves the heads of each department and our customer service staff. This meeting ensures that the whole company is aware of everything on the schedule and also facilitates communication between departments.


What are some of the functions carried out in your department?

            Mailing and hand bindery complete a variety of functions specific to each job. Some of these include shrink-wrapping, kraft-wrapping, drilling stock, hand labeling, gluing pocket folders, and inserting letters. 

            The videojet is one of the larger machines we operate in the mailing department. It prints addresses, return addresses, and indicia on items being mailed. It can also print barcodes and some pictures. We can do up to 16 lines of data and they can be printed in multiple locations at the same time. The most basic example is that we can print the return address at the top and send to address in the center in the same pass.

            The other large machine we run in mailing is the inserter. It inserts up to six pieces at a time into an envelope then seals and stamps it. We have two different sized inserters to account for a wide range of envelope sizes. Certain specialty envelopes still have to be hand stuffed, but we don’t mind putting in the extra effort to get our clients the custom product they desire.

            Our department also includes a number of smaller machines. The tabbers, for example, will attach to either the videojet or inkjet. Tabbers put circular tabs on pieces that mail folded without an envelope. Then there are some hand held machines we use periodically as needed. The corner rounder is one example.


Is there anything about the mailing department that you would like to add?

            Yes, the real highlight of my department is the people. When Vision Graphics and Eagle:xm merged, I think there was apprehension from the employees of both companies. Vision Graphics relocated from Loveland to Denver and Eagle:xm had a new owner. Everyone was facing big changes and how smoothly those changes went depended heavily on working together. I knew I would be working closely with my Vision Graphics counterpart, Melissa Oviatt, so naturally having never met her, I was nervous about that.

            Melissa and I got along right away and working together we were able to integrate our departments. It’s great to be working as a team and it increases efficiency as well. Melissa and I recognized from the start that an open flow of communication was vital. We were able to develop a sort of knowledge bounce off. She needed help learning some of the Eagle stuff and I needed help learning some of the Vision stuff.

            At the end of the day we all have the same goal and that is to put out high quality products in a timely manner. If one of us has a problem we talk about it and find a solution together. The people are truly the best thing about my job and my department.


Crash Course: Defining today’s marketing vehicles and how they work for you

Posted by Crystal Lague


Crash Course



By Michael J. Pallerino

            Randall LaVeau is one of those marketers who likes to spend every minute of every day thinking about the best ways his clients can improve upon their strategies. As a senior consultant for Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), he is part of a team of former sales and marketing leaders dedicated to helping brands meet aggressive goals in unreasonable time lines.

            Ask LaVeau, and he will tell you straight up that in today’s highly competitive business landscape, the scope of what marketing is expected to (and can) deliver shifts depending on the situation. The one thing that LaVeau and the SBI team will profoundly admit to is that “making your number” is the goal every marketing initiative strives to attain.

            Take a quick snapshot of today’s marketing world, and you will find that it continues to be more about quality than quantity. And as the industry evolves, and buyers become more aware of yesterday’s tactics, marketers are facing the harsh reality that the legacy approach of broad-based content and messaging is failing. For this reason, LaVeau says marketers are laser focused on the customer journey and the alignment of hyper-personalized content to their buyer’s specific buying process.

            “We live in an age of information,” LaVeau says. “Marketers are now more than ever in a position to leverage that abundance of information to make strategic decisions based on quantifiable metrics. With information at our fingertips, and the means to reach our audience through multiple channels, today’s marketers are earning the respect of their peers and having an undeniable impact on measurable revenue targets.”

            As organizations refine and evolve their buyer and user personas, marketers are becoming extremely targeted in their channel approach. Having the ability to understand how your buyers buy and their preferred method to consume information is critical. The key is to understand the vehicles, by persona, applicable to buyers based on the stage they are at in their buying process. And while LaVeau says that social remains one of the most rapidly adopted channels for distribution, print, email and next-gen content such as podcasts and videos, continue to provide high ROI.

            As with any marketing program, in any marketplace, it is imperative to know what to use, and when. “Those who are agile in their approach are leapfrogging their competition,” LaVeau says. “The key is to be flexible in your approach by observing industry trends and buying behaviors to remain relevant and in tune with what your buyers are demanding. You also must know how they are consuming information, and then distribute the right content, through the right channel.”

The simple, direct approach

            Pick a channel, any channel. Whether it’s print, social, email, mobile, events, web/digital, salespeople or content, the success is in the approach and how each complements the other. For the past 30 years, Michael F. Sciortino, Sr., has been sifting his way through the marketing landscape, helping his customers deliver on their approaches.

            Sciortino believes that success in marketing today still is about the consistent implementation of simple, basic, fundamental and memorable ideas that connect with clients. “Clients want to know how you will serve them, what to expect from you and how you will communicate with them,” says Sciortino, founder and CEO of Gratitude Marketing. “ROI, or results, are still what matter. With the cost of acquiring new clients being about seven times what it costs to retain clients, companies that focus on nurturing relationships are realizing substantial growth.”

            Sciortino says brands should not be afraid to test obvious methods or strategies for several reasons, including that most other brands don’t do it consistently and the positive results often will surprise you. “Once you find a method that is producing results, stick with it. Marketers often get bored with a method that is working before their audience does.”

            In the end, most traditional marketing speaks to people who want to be engaged. Engagement will be driven through marketing channels by hyper-personalization of stage-appropriate content. Identifying the customers with the highest propensity to buy, combined with a detailed understanding of their buying behaviors, will allow marketers to evolve these vehicles in new and exciting ways.

            “The buyer’s journey spans across multiple stages representing multiple channels in which buyers are consuming content,” LaVeau says. “Understanding this journey, and aligning each vehicle with the journey, allows marketers to present stage-appropriate messaging to prospective customers. The ultimate goal is to understand this omni-channel journey and tell a cohesive story with targeted content throughout the process.”

            With the rising costs of client acquisition, Sciortino believes today’s companies will place greater emphasis on nurturing what he calls the three R’s: increased client retention, increased client referrals and increased client revenues.

            “We will continue to benefit from the testing and history of our past,” Sciortino says, “But whatever new vehicles come along will still have to ultimately pass the field test with consumers. In other words, how does the method make the client feel? Does the vehicle provide an engaging, fun, memorable experience for the consumer? The success of your business will rely on happy and loyal clients. And while they may not always remember what you say or how you say it, they will remember how your business makes them feel.”


Spotlight: Q&A With Scott Nordstrom

Posted by Crystal Lague


Q&A with Scott Nordstrom

Global Orphan Relief (GO!): President and Founder

 Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM: Vice President of Sales

In May of 2005 the Nordstrom family was blessed with the birth of Faith Anastasia Nordstrom. Faith was born with complex medical issues that ultimately resulted in her passing at only 14 days old. Through their grief, the Nordstrom family was moved to help children in need and by Christmas of that same year Global Orphan Relief (GO!) was born.

Faith’s short time on earth inspired the creation of an organization that currently supports 698 orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Zambia. The House of Faith Orphanage in Silembe, Zambia is GO!’s largest campus serving 49 children. With the help of 144 volunteers GO! has deployed 21 relief teams to DRC, Mexico, Uganda, and Zambia.


You personally have over 25 years’ experience in sales management and business development, how has that experience aided you in expanding Global Orphan Relief?

With a movement like ours it’s difficult to depend on just a handful of donors. This type of service work requires resources. Marketing, whether it’s positioning our website just right or simply asking people for money, is necessary to be able to serve so many children. With my sales experience, I am not afraid of asking people for money. I am comfortable talking to just a couple of people and have also presented to groups of about 300. The business experience I have allows me not to be intimidated by those types of situations. With Global Orphan Relief in terms of donor development, call it sales if you want, my sales experience has been an important element for our movement.  Children’s lives are in the balance.


How is business development in a nonprofit organization different from a commercial organization?

My career has been focused primarily on business to business rather than business to consumer marketing. The business to consumer process is less personal, it usually does not require a prior relationship before presenting your goods or services. At Global Orphan Relief we are asking individuals to take money out of their own pocket for a movement that is very far away. The vast majority of GO!’s funding is from individual donors. Trust is foundational in the relationship between a nonprofit and their funding partners. Donors need to know where their money is going and trust that it is being used efficiently. The challenge is tapping into that emotional motivation that will encourage someone to make a difference. It is far more difficult when you don’t have that prior relationship.


What are some of the marketing strategies utilized by GO!?

We have focused primarily on digital marketing: our webpage, social media, and email. It has been our goal to minimize any administrative costs and drive growth of the movement. When someone gets an email from the president and founder of an organization it is a personal form of communication. I break all the electronic marketing rules. Messages are not short; they are not brief. I give everybody the full scale and scope of what we are doing. We don’t have the resources to communicate as often as maybe we should, so when we do I want to give them a full expose’ of the movement. I know what our capacity is. I think it’s important for any nonprofit to understand it’s capacity and what their priorities are. Our priority is to serve children in need, which takes away from our capacity to communicate with our donors. In that process of balance, I build expectations with our funding partners.

In person one-on-one communication has definitely been a critical component as well; many of our donors know me, one of the board members, or someone else that is involved in the movement. Overall I would say our funding is driven by one-on-one communication via email with a follow-up phone call. Sending an email is great, but response rates go up about 85% with a personal phone call after the initial communication.

We utilize some printed materials for presentation purposes. Vision Graphics/ Eagle:xm helped us design and produce vision cards for the movement. These provide us with an easy reference point to outline what we are doing, what we have done, and where we are going while having a conversation with a potential donor. Leaving these cards with the people we’ve spoken to reminds them of what we talked about and provides them with additional information. For example, we utilized these cards at our annual Gala earlier this year. Vision Graphics/ Eagle:xm has also produced some fantastic display graphics for us with their wide format capabilities.

It has been amazing to see how effective we have been with so little it is nothing short of supernatural. Marketing is important, but prayer is what has allowed us to grow the way we have. For me the whole experience has been a faith builder. Last year we went to Zambia and we set forth some funding expectations for the trip at about $25,000. I am very good at math and I really couldn’t conjure up any way this funding goal was going to be reached.  I knew that it was a real stretch.  We ended up raising $28,000 for the project.  It was an amazing accomplishment based on the time and effort invested by a group of volunteers.


Donating is one-way people can contribute to GO!, what are some of the other ways for individuals to get involved?

It is difficult to deploy volunteers here locally, because our work is so far away. We have some folks that work in accounting on a volunteer basis and we have folks that work in creating child profiles for the website. Our board is an all-volunteer board; they oversee the administration of the movement. At times we have had volunteers update our website and coordinate social media. If someone wants to volunteer, depending on their skill set, they might be able to put their skills to good use in a movement like GO!.

We have also deployed 144 volunteers on 21 different teams to Zambia, DRC, Mexico and Uganda. The teams are typically in country  for two weeks. They encourage the local people and they themselves change because of the experience. We try to have one single focus for the team as they are deployed, but that focus is not crystalized until we know who is on the team and the skill-sets involved. 


Where do you see GO! in the future?

We have a vision to serve 1,440 orphans on a monthly basis. We came together as a board and agreed on this in August of 2014. At the time we were serving about 80 children on a monthly basis. Today we are serving 698 children on a monthly basis in 5 countries.

Each country offers its own set of very specific challenges, so I would like to stay focused on the 5 countries where we serve today, but we are not necessarily restricted by that. I believe that by 2020 we could be serving 1,440 orphans. We are an all-volunteer movement so garnering the resources is challenging.  When you deploy resources to the field there is an accountability aspect to that and you certainly want to be prudent with the resources people entrust to you. As we add to the number of children this process becomes more challenging. If we limit ourselves to the 5 countries in which we are currently serving, it makes this process a little easier.


To learn more visit www.globalorphanrelief.org, check out thier YouTube channel or visit thier Facebook page.


Home Grown: Cultivating your talent to foster your company’s vision

Posted by Crystal Lague



Home Grown

Cultivating your talent to foster your company's vision

Quick – what’s your company’s most critical asset? While the answers may vary depending on your market, your goals, your brand’s vision, etc., John F. Dini says that your employees should be at the top of the list.

            Dini makes the case that it’s incumbent upon companies to take the initiative to foster and nourish talent, but that too many believe it is a one or two-step process. The consultant, speaker and author of the award-winning book "Hunting in a Farmer’s World” says that reaping the benefits of a highly-skilled and talented employee requires a carefully crafted strategy – one that every company should learn to master.

            “We all say that, but it is easy to fall into a mindset that takes for granted [employees’] arrival each day and willingness to perform to the best of their ability,” Dini says. “Like any other asset, maximizing the value of employees requires maintenance.”

            Dini says that many factors are included in optimal employee performance, citing research from best-selling author Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” as a perfect example. Pink asserts that in the workplace, once compensation satisfies an employee’s financial needs, performance then is based on his ability to enjoy three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

            Autonomy requires employees be trained well enough to make independent decisions within the scope of their responsibilities. Mastery is employees’ ability to see progress toward a better self-image, and the confidence that they know what to do, and then doing it well. The third prong, purpose, is the use to which those skills are applied.

“All three [of these principles] are planted and nourished by training and mentoring,” Dini says. “The harvest is stronger employee performance.”



            Magi Graziano, CEO of KeenAlignment, says when an employee’s natural abilities are combined with the right attitude for the job and aligned with the company’s mission and vision, that person will be positioned for success.

            “Everything becomes easier,” says Graziano, whose talent-management consulting firm offers solutions for every stage of the talent life cycle. “There is less resistance, management is more akin to coaching and there is a fundamental agreement on what [the employee] is there to do.”

            A particular mindset – on the part of employees and employers – is required to foster development. Dini says continuous learning should be ingrained in the company’s culture; that being the case, employees will adapt with a greater understanding of how to advance.

            “Employees should understand that they will not get wage increases just for ‘treading water,’” Dini says. “They have to grow in their abilities to make more money. That said, the employer is responsible for giving them the tools or opportunities for that growth.”

            Graziano says both parties must have a talent mindset, in which people and culture are the competitive advantage allowing the organization to thrive. Managers, who are directly responsible for coaching, developing and mentoring their people, can foster such practices. But the onus also is on the company, including the human resources department or those responsible for talent optimization, to provide the resources for managers, coaches or trainers to identify competency gaps and use mistakes and failures as learning opportunities.

            “Fundamental training for managers in how to unleash the human potential in people is required,” Graziano says.



            While the responsibility for development is shared, it’s important to remember another adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Translation: Though the onus is on employers to make learning opportunities and training resources available, the employee must bear the brunt of the responsibility in pursuing them.

            What’s more, Dini says learning opportunities shouldn’t be limited to before or after working hours, or on weekends, or even when employees are “all caught up” with regular work. Rather, there should be mutual investment to realize mutual reward.

            Identifying the importance of training in grooming talent begs the question: What’s the best training approach? Dini says to ensure it’s taken seriously – training initiatives must be ingrained in the company’s culture so that it’s not simply viewed as a commodity. He recalls attending a training workshop years ago in which attendees complained they had experienced a perpendicular approach to the ideal training approach.

            “All the corporate trainers in the room kept complaining that their colleagues refused to release employees for continuing education,” Dini says. “Either those other managers weren’t incentivized for employee development or the training didn’t produce any result with identifiable value. Either way, the message from the top clearly was, ‘Training is something we have to have, but it isn’t all that important if you make your numbers.’”

            KeenAlignment fulfills its mission of empowering leaders through a multi-pronged services package that includes values-based training, tools and resources that help companies make the most of their “people investment,” according to the company’s website www.keenalignment.com.

            The company’s suite of services includes talent strategy consulting, leadership development, team and organizational effectiveness programs, employee engagement and retention programs, and more. Graziano lists a number of characteristics contained in the ideal training approach, including targeted competency development and knowledge transfer, hand-picked subject matter experts, adult learning principles, coaching, mentoring and regular feedback.



            While training program implementation can be pure in its intent, it’s inevitable that roadblocks can arise. To remove them, Dini says training should be integrated into performance evaluations – including employee goals. “Set a roadmap for what the employee is expected to learn each year, make certain he or she knows where to access the training needed and follow up regularly to see if they are on track,” he says.

            Graziano says the best way to remove training roadblocks is to create a talent capacity index for each employee, department and the organization overall. “Most people resist training that they do not think they need,” she says. “When sound and correct data is collected from the employees responsible for doing the work and the managers who lead them, and that data and the overall business strategy is taken into consideration, better – more targeted – training can happen.”

            On the other side, development also should be part of evaluat­ing managers and supervisors. It’s important, after all, that they understand their job goes beyond ensuring their subordinates simply accomplish the jobs they are assigned. “Measure performance improvement by department or division,” Dini recommends. “And, of course, the commitment to training doesn’t stop at any level of the organization, but continues to the top.”

            A positive, supportive environment that includes commitment and enthusiasm may be one of the most important underlying factors in fostering talent in employees. This all starts with alignment, or hiring the right people for the right jobs. Graziano says that from there, promoting the right people into management roles – those with the natural ability to lead and develop people into who they can be – is important.

            As technology is enabling companies to do more with fewer people, the quality of each employee becomes increasingly important. Thus, an environment where the employee sees a clear path to being better is paramount. Says Dini, “The best employees need – and deserve – a workplace where they are excited to show up in the morning and enjoy performing at their best each day.”


The Closer: 5 ways sales can leverage content marketing to seal deals

Posted by Crystal Lague






5 ways sales can leverage content marketing to seal deals

Listen up – you can close all those leads your marketing team generates. The answer is arming your sales reps with the tools (content marketing) they need to do more than just sell. Here are five challenges that keep deals from closing and the tips for fixing them:

1. Sales reps must be viewed as thought leaders

Potential customers don't want to talk with sales reps about products; they want to talk with them about solutions. If your sales team can communicate valuable content with prospects, buyers would be more willing to engage with them.

Try this: Provide your sales team with an infographic and ask them to write a 200-word introduction. Have them publish it through their LinkedIn account.


2. Sales reps must build a relationship digitally

Inside sales teams are growing and field sales teams are shrinking. As face-to-face opportunities decline, so do opportunities to build personal relationships. To do so, your sales reps need thought-leadership content to solve problems, not sales collateral.

Try this: When you write a new article, share it with your sales reps with a bullet-point list of reasons why a prospect would find the article beneficial.


3. Sales reps must stay top-of-mind between long touch points

If your prospect has to budget for your solution, your sales reps don’t have enough touch points to stay top-of-mind. That means they seek excuses to engage with their leads, which puts your product or service on the back burner.

Try this: When you publish a report, study or other content, share it with your sales reps so they immediately can share it with their prospects.


4. Sales reps must help prospects sell internally

Sales reps rely heavily on influencers to champion a product. These champions understand the problem and how to fix it. Your sales reps can provide the prospect champions with tools, i.e., content, to educate them on this solution.

Try this: Provide helpful content that tells the story of how your company solves prospects’ problems. Infographics are highly digestible.


5. Sales reps must understand their prospect’s world

It feels frustrating to hand over qualified, sales-ready leads, and not have them come to fruition. If you have crafted well-developed content, your sales reps can use it to speak their prospects’ language.

Try this: Join the weekly sales meeting to share your most recent content. Ask your sales reps to share how they used previous content, which will help gauge what can be done to close deals.

Source: Content Marketing Institute and Alex Lopes, CEO, Sharebird – For more information, visit www.contentmarketinginstitute.com


The Fall of the Story

Posted by Crystal Lague



The Fall of the Story

Marketing is a House of Cards without Compelling Content


            A lack of true content is killing the reputation of content marketing. That's the view of Joe Pulizzi, who is hearing more griping from the small business owners and executives attending his content marketing classes. They complain that their email newsletters, blogs and Facebook pages are not getting enough traction. When the complaints came up at a workshop a few months ago, an exasperated Pulizzi asked his audience how their content was different. He was greeted with silence.

            With a little prodding, one vendor said it had posted coupons on Facebook, another vendor had shared content with 300 of its dealers, and a third posted an article that was intentionally generic to avoid giving away his advice. He told them that until they became serious about creating original, compelling content, they’d be better off spending their money on advertising.

            It’s hard to find a bigger content marketing evangelist than Pulizzi, who founded the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) in the late 2000s after deciding he could help global brands do a much better job with their marketing. Today, CMI offers content marketing education and training, produces the Content Marketing World Conference and Expo, publishes CCO [Chief Content Officer] magazine and offers its Content Marketing Master Class through a nationwide seminar series.

            Pulizzi has written two books on the topic and CMI’s site is chock full of great content about content marketing, which it describes as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

            When done correctly, Pulizzi argues content marketing establishes an aura of authority and trust that are at the core of any brand promise and can help brands own their media channels, rather than rent them through advertising. In his 2015 book, “Content Inc.,” Pulizzi argues that finding and filling information voids online can help startup companies stake out leadership positions in fast-moving markets before they even ship their first product. The problem is that “99 percent” of marketers are not generating distinctive content.

            "Somewhere along the line," Pulizzi wrote in a blog post earlier this year, “we marketers became infatuated with the tools and less concerned about what we put inside them. This, my friends, has got to change.”

            Many marketers have found telling real people’s stories to be one of the most potent tools for breaking through what Rutgers University Marketing Professor Mark Schaefer called “overwhelming information density. In his book, “The Content Code,” such stories are original and, therefore, authentic by definition.

            The way marketers create and distribute content is constantly changing, but the basic dynamics of storytelling – and their power to influence – have stood the test of time. “People still love a good yarn and, more importantly, they will remember it long after their memory of product specifications, endorsements and Facebook promotions fade,” Schaefer says.

            In helping small active lifestyle brands craft their voices, Verde Brand Communications CEO Kristin Carpenter-Ogden has found it particularly useful to start with the founder. Their stories nearly always follow one of the seven classic heroic themes marketers have exploited for centuries, such as overcoming giants, naysayers and scarcity.

            Even gear heads rarely remember the weight of every waterproof-breathable garment they use, what blend of fabrics it features or what awards it has won, but they can nearly always recall the story about the sudden mountain storm that inspired the founder to create the brand.

            The challenge for the marketer remains finding stories that will evoke the desired response from the target customer in a way that is consistent or enhances a client’s existing brand. “The objective of storytelling is to earn trust,” says Carpenter-Ogden, whose firm works with dozens of small active lifestyle brands, including K2, Keen, Mad River Canoe, Pearl Izumi and Raleigh. "People buy prod­ucts they think align with the people they want to be.”

            Seeing this, and under pressure from Greenpeace, United Students Against Sweatshops and other activist groups, a handful of forward-thinking athletic and apparel brands began incorporating corporate responsibility into their content marketing strategies in the 2000s.

            Nike, Adidas, Patagonia and Timberland began publishing annual reports laying out progress they had made against sustainability goals, such as reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and use of energy and water to position themselves as leaders with their environmentally-minded consumers amid growing pressure from activists. Though fast fashion apparel brands and retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, have since launched their own corporate sustain­ability programs, it’s unlikely they will gain significant mindshare with environmentally-minded consumers, even though their efforts will have a bigger impact due to their larger size.

            Athletic and outdoor brands own the space and they continue to raise the bar. In its annual corporate sustainability report, outdoor gear retailer REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) now lists informa­tion still considered trade secrets by some brands, including a list of all its overseas factories by name and location, aggregate results of factory audits, and the percentage of factories they've placed on pro­bation for failing to meet REI’s environmental and labor standards.

            Such transparency is fast becoming the new coin of the realm in a world where more and more middle and upper-class consumers expect to know not only where their products are made, but how the workers who made them are treated, what the brand is doing to lessen their carbon footprint and even what they are doing to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

            Staking out a leadership position on sustainability also has creat­ed a steady stream of content, including stories about Timberland’s work reforesting Haiti and Grand Trunk’s efforts to begin sourcing some of its hammocks in the United States.

            Founded in 2002 by two surfing buddies to import hammocks they discovered while surfing in Thailand, Grand Trunk beat a much larger competitor to begin making nylon sling hammocks in the United States.

            It took the small company several years to piece together a U.S. supply chain capable of delivering hammocks that meet its quality standards and price points. The OneMade line ultimately will have to compete on quality and price. In the meantime, however, the venture has distinguished Grand Trunk in a rapidly growing, but increasingly crowded market.

            Skillful storytelling, which should generate some compelling content, sure beats adding to the torrent of "me-too" content that is softening the content marketing world.


Q&A with Becky Ayers: Editor of NSAA Journal

Posted by Crystal Lague


Q&A with Becky Ayers: Editor of NSAA Journal

The National Ski Area Association, NSAA, is a trade association for ski area owners and operators. The NSAA represents 313 alpine resorts that together account for over 90% of skier and snowboarder visits nationwide. Its members include an additional 414 industry suppliers. NSAA members enjoy a variety of benefits including subscription to their bimonthly publication The NSAA Journal.


What is your role with the NSAA?

      As editor, I’m responsible for producing the association’s bi-monthly magazine, the NSAA Journal. I’m essentially a one-person publications office. I assign the articles, edit them, and also write content, but I couldn’t do it without the help of two fellow staffers—Dave Byrd, NSAA’s director of risk & regulatory affairs, and Earl Saline, director of education programming. Those two give me a lot of support and come up with some really great article ideas. They also write some of the articles, which is invaluable.

            In addition, I hire freelance writers and other subject matter experts. I also handle the production management, which involves working with our graphic design agency, Moxie Sozo in Boulder, as well as our excellent printer, Vision Graphics. There are only 12 employees at the NSAA office, so it’s a tight ship, which makes for a compressed publications schedule. I do some general communications duties as well. I help write press releases for the association and provide editorial support to other departments here at the national office. It’s a busy job, and needless to say I am not bored.


What are some of the benefits your members get from reading the Journal?

One of NSAA’s primary functions is to conduct a variety of educational events that support ski area owners, operators, and other resort management throughout the country. Not everyone gets to attend these conferences, conventions, and trade shows to learn about all the things that are affecting the industry, so the Journal is a very critical component of that communication to the management and operational staff at our member ski areas—as well as to others in the ski industry.

Another important NSAA function is to analyze and distribute key industry stats on a variety of issues that affect ski area operations. In addition, we’re very active in state and governmental affairs that affect the industry. While the Journal is a primary reference point, we also send out electronic communications on timely, pressing topics so that people will have that information as soon as possible, and we post some of that material on our website as well. Using all of these communication vehicles helps us ensure that all our members have access to the information.

       We strive to produce a publication that is much anticipated, that looks fresh and professional, and that contains essential, timely, and interesting content. Our hope is that people will find value in each issue, talk about it with their peers, and hang on to their Journals for future reference. Based on the feedback we get, many of them do—which tells us we’re doing something right.


The NSAA hosts a number of events—what are some of the more interesting items you have seen featured at these events?

The trade shows are a way for our supplier members to showcase the latest and greatest in terms of snow sports equipment, snowmaking and grooming technology, and a variety of other products. We’ve had mini drones flying through the trade show, girls in bikinis at snowmaking supplier booths, special appearances from gold medalist athletes, and so on. The trade shows can be pretty lively, and they are an important component of our regional conferences and also our annual convention, which have an educational focus on the operational aspects of ski area operations…everything from risk management and human resources considerations to marketing and sustainability. We also have several risk management workshops that are held in different parts of the country during the fall, a Western Winter Conference and Trade Show and an Eastern Winter Conference and Trade Show, and the National Convention and Trade Show, which is the big one, with as many as 700 or 800 attendees.

Our educational sessions cover a broad spectrum of issues that affect ski areas. Recently we had a session on what to do in the event of a terrorism or active shooter situation at a ski area, and we brought in some presenters from Homeland Security to discuss how to handle such an incident. It’s a very remote possibility that something like that would happen at a ski area, but you can’t be too prepared any place where the public is going to be. It’s very smart to be forward looking and that’s one of the things that NSAA tries to provide its members.

Another thing that’s been really interesting in the last couple of years is drone usage at ski areas. There have been all kinds of legal hoops to jump through and that’s one of the things NSAA has been involved with—working with governmental agencies with respect to setting rules not only for the ski areas themselves but also for the general public visiting ski areas.


During your time with the Journal is there any particular article or issue that stands out as being something you are especially proud of?

Over the past few years our members have responded very favorably to our ongoing coverage of drone technology and the laws that govern the use of drones at ski areas. Another hot topic has been ski areas’ compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Our member areas are working to ensure that their properties, operations, and even their websites are all accessible under the ADA. And, I would say our coverage on the millennial generation has been very good—learning as much as we can about that huge demographic, what their motivations are, and why more of them aren’t involved in snow sports. Digging into those character aspects has been really fascinating and enlightening. We also did a good article leading up to the Olympics in Sochi in terms of what the Russians had to go through to prepare a ski area in a very unconventional climate for alpine activity. It was interesting talking to some of our suppliers who were involved in that.

We also do a fair amount of coverage on what’s referred to on the industry as “terrain based learning,” which has in the past several years been a revolutionary way of grooming beginner terrain at ski areas to make it easier for people to learn.


What has your experience been in working with Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM?

The responsiveness to my concerns and suggestions has been really strong. I have enjoyed working with Scott Smith, who has been an excellent rep and makes sure that Vision does whatever needs to be done to get the publication produced in a high-quality, timely manner. Scott is sensitive to the fact that we have a small staff and that I’m usually pushing my deadline. He’s done a great job of keeping things on track to the fullest extent possible. One of our concerns was the length of time it takes to get our publication in the mail. Scott has really been on top of that.  His follow up has been excellent, and Vision has managed to shave some time off the production schedule, which has been wonderful.


You can learn more about the NSAA by visiting www.nsaa.org


Recognizing Talent From Within: Eladio Villalobos

Posted by Crystal Lague



How long have you been in the printing industry?

                At West High School in Denver they offered a printing class. They taught us camera work, how to cut paper and how to run the school newspaper on a press. I have been a pressman ever since, but I have also done some prepress, bindery and cutting. I worked for three printing companies for a combination of over 30 years before I came to Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm. I’m hoping this is it for me. I am going on four years here in June.

                I enjoy working here. It’s different. I like that we do a variety of things here. It’s not just printing; we have bindery, mailing, fulfillment, an excellent customer service staff, and the database analytics.

Since you started in the printing industry how has technology changed the way that you operate a press?

                When I first started it was all manual, now a lot of it is digital and a lot less hands on. I used to have to get the ink water balance for example. That is automated now. Operating the Indigo involves using hardware and software together, so I have to be able to do both. I do color adjusts throughout the day. There are inline scanners, which read the color to ensure that the machine is stable and the colors are consistent.

                I have run a 2000 Indigo, a 5000 Indigo, a 5500 and now the 7500. This one is really stable. It runs faster than the older machines. The 7500 is the best one when you are talking about maintenance, breakdowns, and print quality.

What kind of products do you print on the Indigo?

                Everything, I print business cards, letterheads, magazines, posters, books and lots of other material. The Indigo allows you to make every sheet different, so you can utilize variable data. It has a rewritable plate. The offset press has static plates. Both presses are valuable, it just depends on the circumstances. For example, I can print a unique name or address on every single piece.


Recognizing Talent From Within: Darchelle Jay

Posted by Crystal Lague



How long have you been in the printing industry?

                I came into the printing industry in about 1987 and have worked in a variety of areas. I started in the bindery department shrink wrapping, doing hand work, and running equipment. From there I moved into plate making and then film stripping. That led to electronic imposition and now I am in electronic prepress.

                Knowing the production side of printing helps me with my role in prepress. It is important to understand how the bindery equipment works and the functions of the press. My job is to process files provided to us by clients, output those files to proof, and then to send them to the press production ready.

                I have been with Vision Graphics for 15 years in July. I enjoy my job. I like that it’s challenging with a wide variety of projects. I get to work on everything from corporate brochures, to variable data jobs, to packaging work, and I also maintain a few of our digital storefronts.

How have technological advancements changed the way prepress functions?

                It’s been dramatic. When I started in prepress we were shooting art on the camera and stripping film. Now it’s all digitized and we are developing ways to automate our workflow where we can.

                The variety of software we use has increased drastically. We use InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat with Pitstop plugins. Not to mention, Preps, Quite Imposing and Freeflow for impositions. Prinergy is the backbone of our workflow with Insight as our prepress portal, which allows clients to upload files, view proofs and make notations if there are any corrections.

What is the process you go through from the time you get a file to the time you send it to production?

                If it is a well-constructed, print ready PDF file, it is fairly straight forward. When the file is uploaded to Insite, Prinergy puts the file through a normalizations process that optimizes it for print production. We create the imposition, verify the colors, size, and if there are any bleeds. We also make sure the product matches the specifications on the quote. The next step is to output a proof for final approval.

                If the file contains errors or does not match the quote, it could go back and forth between me and an account manager or sales person multiple times. We will coach the client on what we need for new files or on how to fix their existing file. We will also fix the file for them if they chose.

                We prefer print ready PDFs, that assists us in getting the files through to press quicker, because the files can be automated through prepress. This benefits our customers with tight deadlines, but not all products can be automated. When we are working on a piece that involves spot gloss varnishes, special papers or die cuts we cannot automate those specialty products. Custom products require a more customized process.


Stoking Creativity: Why the Right Brain Ignites Success

Posted by Crystal Lague


Stoking Creativity: Why the Right Brain Ignites Success

            Mark Donnolo doesn’t believe that thinking “outside of the box” inspires creativity. Creativity often is perceived to be about breaking through boundaries and replacing familiarity with innovation. But saying this to highly effective employees is like offering vegetables to a pack of wolves – it’s the wrong context.

            The managing partner of SalesGlobe, which helps companies connect their sales strategies to their bottom lines, says that when you take away your employees’ “box,” which represents tried-and-true pro­cesses and technical specs, you inadvertently create a major constraint – not being able to conduct business in a way that is familiar to them.

            Rather than promoting new thinking by creating an "outside of the box" environment, Donnolo recommends identifying a company’s creativity need – boosting functional creativity, which has constraints, but is targeted toward an issue or objective, or artistic creativity, which has minimal or no constraints and is targeted toward expression.

            Take, for example, the notion of coaching sales reps to think like artists. Using a right-brain approach helps them address the needs of today’s customer. This much we know – when it comes to sales, organizations always are looking for an edge. It’s how they differentiate themselves from their competitors and win deals.

            Unfortunately, Donnolo admits that sales organizations too often develop strategies and solutions that repeat the same old practices. That “do-what-has-been-done-before” approach can leave them vulnerable in today’s ultra-competitive business climate. “When it comes to strategies, salespeople usually veer toward one of two extremes – operating analytically or by the seat of their pants,” says Donnolo, who also wrote “The Innovative Sale,” which examines how to integrate the right-brain aptitude for innovation with the left-brain affinity for logic and process.

            “As sales organizations develop solutions for their businesses, they certainly have plenty of left-brain models,” Donnolo says. “But these models don’t help us to innovate. Salespeople can build upon their natural intuitive abilities with a right-brain model – a creative process to develop better customer solutions and sales strategies.”

            The process begins by defining the specific sales challenge and considering all the current solutions, including what competitors are doing or the way someone used to do it. Once the tried-and-true ideas have been acknowledged, Donnolo says it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and consider unrelated ideas – how problems are solved in other industries, in other cultures, in other periods of history.

            “This is the discovery phase, and it’s what most people skip when they go through a typical brainstorming session,” Donnolo says. “Most jump straight to the final stage – application, where tried-and-true ideas usually are plugged in. Every couple of weeks, I get calls from clients asking how companies in their industry implement cross-selling or how they motivate their sales teams. But they don’t really want to know how other companies are doing it. They want to know what to do, because right before they called me, they were grasping for solutions and replicating the status quo.”

            The simplest approach to stoking the fires of creativity is to find strategies that take you beyond those “been-there-done-that” approaches. And most times, that process is harder than it has to be.

            Mark Montini, CEO of marketing-tech­nology company Promio, believes that creativity simply is approaching some­thing from a unique perspective. Think about it, and you will agree with Montini when he says that there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t see several things daily they would do differently. It can be as simple as how to speed up the line at the local Starbucks or as profound as a new brand position for a large corporation.

            “Everyone is creative, every day,” Montini says. “Whether or not you can be creative depends on whether or not you choose to, or if you are empowered to act on those things you would do differently. Everyone has the ability to be creative but being creative is determined by whether or not you act.”

            From a leadership perspective, it’s about providing an environment where your employees are empowered to act on their creativity. And that means building a culture that embraces cleverness and the mistakes that come with it.

            One of Montini’s friends works for a company that regularly rewards employees who advocated concepts that ultimately failed. In addition to handing out rewards for achievement in various areas, it also presents awards for the best ideas that didn't succeed in the end.

            “It really illustrated that the company valued creativity and fully embraced the reality that failure is the primary risk” Montini says. “If you build a culture of fear, you’ll find that the status quo reigns. In my opinion, ‘management/process’ and ‘creativity’ are mutually exclusive. Creativity comes from empowerment and management/process, by definition, is about providing clear direction and control. So, trying to manage creativity requires stifling it.”

            Montini believes leaders should cast a vision that provides the framework to make creativity productive. If employees know the company values inventive ideas and is willing to accept the mistakes that result from it, they will feel empowered to be creative. “At the end of the day, cre­ativity from one inspires creativity from others, and the end result are solutions that have tremendous impact.”


3 Types of Printing

Posted by Crystal Lague


3 Types of Printing

            Here at Vision Graphics/ Eagle: xm producing high quality products is a top priority. We understand that the quality of the materials we produce reflects on the image of our clients. The wide range of clientele we serve makes it necessary for us to have expertise and equipment suitable to produce a variety of media types. We use three different types of printing to create custom products perfect for each individual client and their current need.


Digital Printing is a valuable way to create personalized direct marketing, print on demand, reduce inventory, save on short-run projects, achieve color consistency, and meet quick turnaround times. Vision Graphics is equipped with an HP 7500 digital press that prints the broadest and most accurate digital color spectrum on the market. This press will print on a variety of stocks and weights, allowing for a more custom product. The digital printing process allows us to deploy targeted direct mail programs, automated marketing, automated customer care initiatives, and web-based print on demand fulfillment solutions. Digital printing can be utilized for books, brochures, posters, postcards, invoices/ statements, service reminders, security notifications, and much more.


Offset Printing is the way to print when you are talking high to mid volume commercial, UV, and large format sheet fed printing. Vision Graphics’ offset press runs up to 15,000 impressions an hour while still maintaining the highest quality and color management. Using offset printing we are able to print on a wide range of substrates from onion skin to 24 point board as well as add flood, spot, soft touch, UV, and special effects coatings. This type of printing also allows us to provide top sheets for corrugated and other packaging applications.


Wide Format Printing allows us to print seamless images up to 10’6” by 200’. The wide format press can print on an extensive variety of fabrics, adhesive backed vinyls, specialty vinyls, and backlit materials with weights up to 18oz. This form of printing allows us to produce banners, signs, widow displays, wall displays, and much more. From point of purchase retail displays to complex trade show exhibits wide format printing is a valuable tool in getting the look and feel you want.


Vision Graphics/ Eagle xm Services

Posted by Crystal Lague


Vision Graphics/ Eagle xm Services

1 – Vision Graphic’s Insite Portal (SFTP):  We provide all of our clients with this unique service feature.  This is a personalized and secured site for ease of uploading files and viewing high resolution proofs.  It also enables the client to download pdf’s and manage individual user access.  We also provide a secured/personalized ftp site for your convenience.

2 – Proofing of files & Graphic Design:  Vision Graphics is a GRACol 7 Certified Master Printer  – This unique feature provides color management and matching across multiple output segments.  For example, your digital poster will match the digital flyer, which will also match the conventional pocket folder and postcard, ensuring your campaign color message remains consistent on all materials.  Vision Graphics also has an In-house Graphics Design and Marketing Department.

3 – Stochastic Printing (Staccato):  All of our conventional printing presses utilize this printing dot pattern technology.  Compared to a traditional hex-dot system of 175 line screen (175 dots per square inch), the stochastic (continuous-dot pattern), increases to 350-400 dots per square inch, maximizing ink distribution and doubling the resolution.

4 – High quality print providers – Vision Graphics is a nationally recognized, award winning master printer and current provider of maps for the National Geographic Society.

5 – Full Service Mailing Facility – Vision Graphics /Eagle xm is one of the largest mail facilities in the state.  We provide all functions and mailing capabilities, including data processing, Variable data output, data analytics, file management and daily delivery to The USPS.

6 – Full Service Digital High Resolution Provider – Vision Graphics /Eagle xm is one of the only print providers in the region that offers in-house large format digital graphics output (up to 10 feet wide by 300 feet long) on a wide range of substrates with variable data file output.

7- In House Graphic Design Department      


Experience the Power of a Bookbook

Posted by Crystal Lague


See this interesting video on the untra thin light weight 2015 IKEA Catalogue, which comes with pre-installed home furnishing ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0


Drilling Down: Marketing in the Modern Landscape

Posted by Crystal Lague


Drilling Down: Marketing in the Modern Landscape

Jim Beach loves to talk shop. And when the conversation turns to entrepreneurship and market research and why the dialog with your customers must constantly stay open, Beach relishes at the chance to discuss the art of market research – an exercise he admittedly says is a never-ending endeavor. This is where Beach excels. At age 25, he started the American Computer Experience and grew the company with no capital infusion to $12 million in annual revenue and more than 700 employees. At the time, American Computer Experience was the world’s largest technology training company for children and fostered partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, Lego, NASA, among others.

After Beach sold the business, he ventured into the academic world, clocking in as the top ranked business school professor for 12 semesters running while at Georgia State University. These days, he rules the airwaves with his School for Startups Radio, which can be heard on 12 AM/FM stations and scores of internet platforms. Among his many guests are “Shark Tank” judges and winners, billionaires, bestselling authors and countless entrepreneurs.

Give a listen, and one of the themes that runs through all of his guests’ success stories is their ability to deftly identify the trends and challenges that define their marketplaces. The foundation is simple, really. Success finds those companies that can find a good idea or run a good business better than anybody else.

“If you sit around and wait to be hit with a lightning bolt of creativity, it’s just not going to happen,” says Beach, who also is the bestselling author of “School for Startups.” “I don’t believe in creativity – at least not when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship has nothing to do with creativity. Most of us are not creative people. Creative people end up in the arts. Ninety-three percent of businesses around the world are copies of existing businesses.”

One of the keys to building a successful and sustainable enterprise is being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your market. Enter market research. When it comes to the strategy, this much we know: Real market research – the kind that successful companies conduct every day – requires taking the time to uncover trends in your marketplace and finding out why they are there.

Simply put: You cannot afford to build a mousetrap without knowing if there are any mice.

“I think one of the most important things you can do with your market research today is to think way outside of the box,” Beach says. “It’s about calling people that you would think would never give you help. Start locally by calling your direct competitors – the people right down the street. Pretend you are a customer and find out everything there is to know. Ask what a good customer should know about the market and their business. Ask why you should do business with them.”

Next, Beach recommends expanding your research nationally to get the vibe on what the market looks like for similar companies in other areas. What are their customers looking for and how are they meeting those demands? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he says. Entrepreneurs love to talk about their business. They love to share best practices.”



A Statistical Look at Content Marketing

Posted by Crystal Lague


A Statistical Look at Content Marketing (CM)

Source: Forbes “35 Content Marketing Statistic You Need to Know in 2016”


Business to Business

Business to Consumer

Use CM

88% (only 48% have a documented editorial mission statement as part of their CM strategy)

76% (37% say their CM strategy is effective)

Have a Documented CM Strategy


37% (compared to 27% last year)

Will produce more content in 2016 than in 2015


77% (only 2% say they will produce less)

Use Linkedin

94% (66% rank this the most effective social media platform)


Use Twitter

87% (55% say this is effective)

82% (50% say this is effective)

Use Facebook

84% (30% say this is effective)

94% (66% say this is their most effective social platform)

Use YouTube

74% (51% say this is effective)

77% (53% say this is effective)

Use Other

62% Google+

62% Infographics (63% say this is effective)

Use Search Engine Marketing

66% (55% report that this is their most effective paid advertising method)

76% (64% say this is effective)

CM Goals

85% say lead generation

Sales comes in second.

83% say sales

Customer retention and engagement are tied in second.

Amount of total marketing budget going towards content

Most effective marketers 42%

Less effective marketers 28%

32% (25% last year)

Other Interesting CM Statistics

  • 61% of the most effective B2B content marketers meet their content team at least once a week.

  • 48% of the most effective B2B marketers have a documented editorial mission statement.

  • The 5 most important marketing tactics for B2B businesses are: in person events, webinars/webcasts, case studies, white papers, and videos.

  • The 5 most popular content marketing tactics for B2C businesses: social media, illustrations/photos, eNewsletters, videos, and website articles.

  • 50% of B2C companies say they will increase their content marketing budget in 2016.


WSPA: Print Excellence Awards

Posted by Crystal Lague


Last Thursday evening Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM had the honor of receiving the following awards at the Western States Printing Alliance 2016 Print Excellence Awards. This is a print competition that includes entries from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and southern Wyoming.

Best of Show: Diamond Spas' perfect bound book.

People's Choice Award and a Silver Award: McLaren digital hardbound book produced on the Indigo with specialty stock and case binding.

Silver Award: Aspen Properties' digital brochure.

Bronze Award: Drenched Fitness marketing campaign.

Bronze Award: Inspirato: Invitation to Join invitation/program.

Thank you to the incredible staff at Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM as well as all the amazing organizations we get to work with. You made these awards possible!


Following Instinct: Striking a Balance Between Intuition and Data

Posted by Crystal Lague


American business lore is rife with anecdotes of the entrepreneur who followed his gut and – against all the odds and naysayers – built a multi-million dollar brand. But if gut instincts – or intuition – are so critical to achieving the American dream, you may have to ask why half of all new small businesses fail within five years and three quarters of venture-capital backed startups never return capital to their investors?

The reason is that despite overwhelming evidence that outcomes improve when decision-makers engage in a more deliberative, data-driven process, we continue to base our decisions largely on quick, automatic and intuitive processes ommonly referred to as “gut instinct.”

Given the highly competitive and fast-moving nature of the marketplace, this should surprise no one. Marketers often have to make decisions on the fly, particularly online, where opportunities may only last a few hours. This makes it essential for marketers to recognize when they’re acting on gut instinct, how reliable it is and when they should supplement their intuition with a more deliberative decision-making process.

The Role of Instinct In a Sea of Data

In their 2004 paper – “When Should I Trust My Gut?” – Eugene Sadler-Smith and Erella Shefy noted that intuition comes from knowing and sensing. The former, or “intuition-as-expertise,” comes from knowledge and experience, and can improve with time. The latter, or intuition- as-feeling, is driven by emotions such as fear that may be irrational and hard to control.

While instinct may tell you the growing availability of data analytics are diminishing the role of intuition, Sadler-Smith and Shefy argue intuition provides “mental shortcuts” executives can use to quickly process a growing torrent of data and make decisions more efficiently.

This may explain why CEOs and successful entrepreneurs continue to list “good instincts” as one of their top reasons for their success. But not everyone should trust their instincts, says Paul Schwada, a managing partner at Locomotive Solutions and author of “8 Blocks: The Critical Realities for Growing Any Business.”

“Even those with good instincts – which isn’t really some inherent magic, but is usually the product of years of experience and careful analysis of what works and why – they can’t trust their gut all the time or entirely,” says Schwada, who suggests everyone develop a framework within which they can evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of their instincts.

“When we’re thinking about growth, especially, we are tempted by the gut, such as, “I just feel like we need to get to $20 million,” Schwada says. “A framework can force us to consider the critical angles – why we might need that, what it might look like, how we might accomplish it. It helps validate good instinct. It also shows us where we really need more data, and which data represents critical assumptions, meaning we have to make sure the data is correct and its subsequent insights are valid.”

Have Hope

Striking the optimal balance between intuition and data is one of the greatest challenges facing marketers, says Lindsay Pedersen, a principal of LCP Consulting. “Creative evaluation is a subtle blend of art and science, heart and mind,” says Pedersen, who earned her marketing chops as a brand manager at data-driven Clorox. “This delicate, yet critical balance is not often taught. Thus, it’s a topic I’m often quizzed about.”

To help her clients navigate the creative review process, Pedersen has developed a three-step HOPE (Heart. On Point. Execution.) Framework. In the first step, Pedersen urges clients to record their immediate gut reaction to the creative. In the second step, she advises laying the creative aside to spend 10 to 15 minutes reviewing the objectives of the campaign. Next, she recommends taking a second look at the creative to see if it is “On Point.” Ask if it embodies the brand’s personality and tone, and fulfills the directive laid out in the creative brief.

“It’s imperative at this point to be analytical,” Pedersen says. “No emotional reactions allowed; make a purely objective assessment.”

In the final step, Pedersen advises the client to imagine “Execution” of the campaign to see what practical issues might emerge with logo colors, trademarks and packaging design. This can be the most time-consuming step. “Your thinking must be granular and precise to avoid embarrassing – and costly – missteps,” Pedersen says.

Debunking the 'One and Done Rule

It was customer segmentation and customer life cycle analysis that saved direct marketer Harry & David from extinction after more than a century of selling fruit baskets.

When sales plummeted in the wake of the 2008-09 recession, executives knew in their gut the company could do a better job converting customers who only shopped Harry & David once a year into repeat customers. So they brought in a new marketing chief to shift the company’s focus from products and distribution channels to customers.

By connecting data stranded in various company silos with an SAS-powered data analytics platform, Harry & David was able to take its data analytics to a new level. Along the way, the company learned how to convert a worthwhile percentage of customers acquired via social media discounts into repeat customers, despite the conventional wisdom that such customers were “one and done prospects” not worth pursuing.

In the first three years after emerging from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Harry & David grew the number of most valuable and loyal customers in its database by 10 percent, customer retention 14 percent, sales per customer 7 percent and profits 20 percent.

Using Data to Hone "Instincts"

Global fashion and other consumer brands seek out The Lion’esque Group for help setting up pop-up shops in Manhattan, Los Angeles and other fashion hotspots to get access to founder and CEO Melissa Gonzalez’s renowned merchandising instincts.

Those “instincts,” it turns out, are being continually honed with data collected from consumer surveys Lion’esque conducts at every store it helps open – a number that now exceeds 100.

Gonzalez and her team spend much of the fourth quarter “running on gut instinct” to make hundreds of decisions needed to get stores open in time for the holidays. But when the holiday rush ends in January, they crunch the data from their newest surveys, review external research and attend industry conferences to see where their instincts may have fallen short. “We are feeding ourselves, so that later in the year we can trust our instincts even more.”



Posted by Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm


We learn something new every day. That's the idea anyway. We exact plans and strategies. Some work and some don't. Then, we sit down and sift through the pros and cons of every single move. We are pawns in the big game whatever that big game may be. Win, and the world is a better place. Lose, and, well, you know the story. The trick, as we know, is never make the same mistake twice. Success can be gleaned from the ashes of failure period.

When it comes to marketing, there is no shortage of challenges. Just look at how the marketing world has evolved during the last decade, and the amount of cross-training marketers have experienced: VoC, data collection and analysis, and product and message development.

Today, marketers continue to face a barrage of new technologies aimed at making things easier, faster, more cost effective and more transparent all in real-time. The key is navigating this complex and constantly changing landscape, and then creating a unified marketing strategy one thats focused on driving customer engagement and can impact the bottom line.

If you're looking for a consensus of where the true art of marketing lies, it would go something like this: Build brand and marketing campaigns, develop sound messaging strategies and create products that deliver a good customer experience. The key is listening to your customers and the world around you to craft meaningful conversations that spark imagination, inspire loyalty and create interest in your solutions.

Marketers are a naturally inquisitive, inventive group who are excited about possibilities, says Tracy Hansen, CMO of Tealium, a leader in enterprise tag management and digital data distribution platforms. The key is to channel this passion for the creative and the new into a learning opportunity to understand what is possible, and then employ the power of pause. By taking the time to craft an integrated, unified strategy that employs technology to drive business value, marketers will find that their investments are leveraged fully and that they have the appropriately trained staff to take advantage of their visions.

Sounds easy, right? In this technologically driven world, we decided to look at the seven deadliest sins marketers are making today. Here's what we uncovered:

1. The Safe Route
Marketers often are stuck in safe mode and are not willing to take risks that stray from the status quo. They often are too comfortable with their own processes, creative, communications, target audience, etc., which reduces their ability to drive new conversations about the future.

A marketer should never be comfortable, says Chris Cottle, executive VP of marketing for the customer experience (CX) software and research firm MaritzCX. They need to be responsible for leading the conversation about the next phase for the company, and lead the charge in developing new tools, new communication vehicles and new ways to get the message out creatively

2. Misuse of Technology
According to a review of customer data-centric software listed on Capterra, more than 3,000 marketing technology products, platforms and point solutions are being deployed across nearly 30 application categories. Combine the proliferation of solutions, plus a constantly contracting and collapsing market, with the fact that most marketers were not educated as technologists, and you have a recipe for confusion and frustration.

By neglecting to take the time to understand how marketing technologies can work together and how data can be unified, marketers are falling into the same trap that so many technology buyers find themselves in, says Tealiums Hansen. They have a host of siloed applications and fragmented data sources that are being under-utilized, because the processes, training and skills are not in place to take advantage of the technologys original promise.

3. Inefficient Data
The ability to use technology and data (or science) to further marketings reach, to create more personalized campaigns and to be more relevant is paramount. Both sides must be weighted properly and used appropriately to maximize impact. One without the other is pointless. If content is king and context is queen, data is the emperor. Today, the first-party visitor data gets recognized as the most valuable kind, because it allows marketers to take true, real-time action to increase results across channels and devices.

Increased access to data is a tremendous gift modern marketers have at their disposal, says Matt Voda, CMO of OptiMine, a leader in cloud-based omni-channel marketing analytics and optimization. A mistake, however, is to use data to the exclusion of their own knowledge and experience. For example, some marketers invest based on which channels traditionally have been easiest to measure, and therefore direct more spend to lower-funnel digital channels (search, etc.). They scale back or exclude brand awareness investments that, when measured properly, can contribute even more lift to the lower funnel.

4. Undersharing
The prevalence and sheer volume of Big Data allow most companies to see the very essence of their customer bases and their activity. But unless more people in the organization have access to customer feedback and analysis, the data simply is rendered useless. You must have a process in place to analyze and act upon it.

Our independent research has found that most companies are more effective at capturing and sharing customer feedback than they are at analyzing, integrating, and acting on it, MatritzCXs Cottle says. Many companies put their departments in silos (product development, sales, call center, IT, marketing, etc.) that fail to communicate with each other. Strategy means nothing unless it can be consistently implemented across the enterprise.

5. Stuck in the Short Term
Marketers are under increased pressure to deliver results and prove their value. Therefore, its natural to gravitate toward direct-oriented, late-funnel channels that are most tangibly measured versus early-funnel/brand channels and/or emerging channels whose impact on business results historically have been more challenging to quantify.

Marketers often become hyper-focused on short-term results, leading to a lack of new innovation, new channels and consumer dialogue, OptiMines Voda says. For example, focusing on the most measureable last click will drive more budget to channels like search, only to lead to a major dead end in terms of future growth and market development.

6. The Original Plan
Too many marketers hold on to the concept of the annual marketing plan, which is quickly becoming a relic in a real-time world where the landscape changes overnight. While its important to outline goals, objectives and strategies for the upcoming year, marketers are wrong if they dont allow or even plan for change. They must have a test-driven mindset and set aside a portion of their budgets to test new approaches and tweak strategies regularly as the year progresses.

Getting locked in and pursuing the same strategy, despite evidence to the contrary, is wrong, says Rob Gelphman, VP of marketing and member relations for the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA). It can be difficult to justify change and take on risk when everything is seemingly going well, but marketers have to continuously scan the horizon for storm clouds. Though a sunny day, rain may be in the forecast.

7. Broad Targets
Many companies fail to define the target customer(s) narrowly enough. Too often, the target is defined much too broadly. Serious problems with marketing effectiveness begin with a broad target, because it becomes increasingly difficult to define the needs of the target customer. This impacts the type of content developed to reach this target. Messages become less refined and, thus, less effective.

This stems from an overly broad target, says Ron Hess, professor of marketing at William & Mary. A broad target creates difficulties in specifically defining the needs of these customers. The best positioning statements clearly identify three to four reasons that a companys offerings are different from the competition. These reasons must be relevant/important to the target customer.



Posted by Vision Graphics Inc


Social media has transformed birthdays into big deals. It's not unusual for friends and family you actually haven't spoken with in years to join the birthday frenzy, posting wishes, songs and photos on your Facebook or Instagram pages. But most people still find birthday cards that arrive in the mail far more engaging than a hasty social media message or e-card. In fact, despite all of the recent changes in the way we communicate, most of life's more cherished messages are conveyed in print, and perhaps tucked away to be held and admired over and over again.

Wedding invitations are no exception. Despite the popularity of Evite and other online invitation sites, when it comes to the big day, nothing says big like a beautifully engraved invitation. Casual weddings and wedding websites are on the rise, but formal wedding invitations with their cottons, foils and multiple envelopes are more popular than ever.

The much-loved wedding website The Knot reports that the average cost for wedding invitations in 2013 was $450. Prices range from about $2 each for digitally printed invitations available through online websites, to $10 or more for beautifully engraved invitations from a storied stationery retailer like Crane & Co.

Why does this pricey tradition persist?

When the recipient holds it, he or she can feel the richness of the paper and the detail that went into the printing, says Katie Lacey, president of Crane Stationery. We live in an instantaneous, electronic age, and so knowing someone took the time to put a personalized piece of paper in the mail leaves a lasting impression no email or text message can compete with.

The fact remains that, while digital messages often are fast and fleeting, print done right lingers to engage again and again. Marketing experts say the key to using print effectively is to use it creatively.

While print is in a rapid state of evolution, it remains an essential part of most integrated marketing plans, says Crystal McKinsey, founder and CEO of the integrated marketing communications firm McKinsey Development. You can touch it, feel it, distribute it and share it in a way that is more tangible than digital outreach. The key to successful print inclusion in marketing plans today is creativity. Print pieces that are unique, interesting and on brand with the rest of your integrated plan are more likely to gain response. Instead of sending out a direct mail piece with push messaging, consider mailing an invitation to visit a personalized URL that hosts content enticing enough to inspire the next user action, for example.

Understanding your objective and your message and taking the appropriate marketing approaches are key. Our main goal is not to sell more presentation folders, says Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders, an online presentation folder boutique that has thrived since inception more than a decade ago. Our goal is to educate our customers and help them effectively meet their marketing objectives. Print offers engagement opportunities that other marketing tools cannot.

Gendelman says that all messages feel the same when you touch them on your iPad screen. Print has the capability of engaging on another level through touch. You can effectively use print to convey your style and distinguish your brand through the sense of touch by varying elements of the paper and the ink. Holding something in your hand is an experience that cannot be replicated digitally. Many of the high-quality folders we make are repurposed or held on to, keeping the message alive on a subconscious level.

Business-to-business marketers are finding that good, old-fashioned snail mail is becoming one of the most effective ways to get their printed message in front of the right people. Studies indicate that, while the average businessperson receives in excess of 100 emails a day, he receives a personal mail piece once every seven weeks. This underutilized medium can serve as an invaluable way to garner the attention of prospective clients. And advances in print technology offer new ways to get your message across.

Print today is more versatile than ever, McKinsey says. In fact, with the advent of 3D printing technology, a brand can print on almost anything. Print pieces can also be more personalized than ever before. Variable data printing, for example, allows a marketer to customize and personalize brand messaging by criteria ranging from industry to gender, brand purchase history, and more.

QR codes continue to be an effective bridge from print to digital marketing, and many people are using QR codes as part of an integrated messaging campaign even brides. A classic engraved wedding invitation (a mingling of gold and copper inks on pearl white, 100 percent cotton paper) that displays a QR code (that links to a website with gift registries, videos of the bride and groom, and directions to the wedding venue) is the perfect melding of something old and something new.

Says Lacy, I think the most successful communicators find a way to combine the two, whether it is by including a letterpress printed QR code on an invitation or an engraved Twitter handle on a business card.



Posted by Vision Graphics Inc


Reading a newspaper one morning, musician Jarbas Agnelli had a different perspective. He saw a photograph of birds sitting on five parallel wires and thought that it looked like a musical score. The birds’ relation to each
other spread out on the five wires suggested chords and a melody to the composer, so he sat down at his piano to see what the melody might sound like. The resulting tune was featured in an award-winning YouTube video,
Birds on the Wires, which has been viewed by nearly a million people worldwide, and in a popular Brazilian TED talk. 

Similarly, many of today’s successful companies are hearing music in the vast and cluttered landscape of data, where others are just hearing noise. In a world where Google routinely captures a petabyte (1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) of information every hour, it’s becoming more of a challenge to listen carefully and separate the music from the noise. Perspective, once again, is the key. “Think like a marketer, not like a techie,” says Donald Hinman, SVP with Epsilon Data Services. Often referred to as “Dr. Data,” Hinman has a Ph.D. in Mass Communication Research and is a 35-year veteran in the field of data.

Organizations can suffer from analysis paralysis when there is too much data. The solution is to first have a clear understanding of your objectives 

“Before you dive into Big Data, you need to be clear about your objectives,” Hinman says. “Make sure you know what you want to achieve, and determine if data will enable you to do a better job. It’s more important to understand marketing than to understand Hadoop (standard computing platform written in Java). Narrow your focus by asking the questions a marketer would ask: who, where, what. Who is my customer, where do I find him and what does he need that I can provide?” 

Eliminating the noise 
By everyone’s measure, there is a loud crescendo cacophony of data circling the globe – more than we can effectively process in the foreseeable future. With the increased technical capability to gather and store data, the exploding amounts of data shared on the internet and faster processing times, you easily and quickly can collect vast amounts of structured statistical data (how many units purchased) and unstructured data (how those units were regarded) relating to your clients and potential clients. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Unfortunately, unimportant data seems to be growing much faster than relevant data and drowning it out. (Do you really need to know what your client had for dinner last night?) Hinman says that when assessing data, you must examine it in terms of The Four Vs (see “Breaking down the Vs of Big Data,” page 13). “You can readily determine the volume, velocity and variety of data, but the more important question, and the more difficult to determine, is, ‘What is the value of the data? Is it worth looking at? What insights will it help you gain?’” 

Dan Soschin, VP of marketing at Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Fla., says that having a clear objective is instrumental to success. From his perspective, Big Data enables more personalization for marketers to create better user experiences for future and existing customers. “This extends into all aspects of the customer lifecycle – advertising, acquisition, nurturing, selling, fulfillment, loyalty, and so on,” Soschin says. “More data points enable organizations to fine tune each of these experiences by better knowing their customers.”
“ As a marketer, I endeavor  to understand first what my objective is, then how I will measure my campaigns against that objective before I ever launch the campaign.” -Dan Soschin, VP of Marketing, Ultimate Medical Academy
Organizations can suffer from analysis paralysis when there is too much data. The solution is to first have a clear understanding of your objectives. “As a marketer, I endeavor to understand first what my objective is, then
how I will measure my campaigns against that objective before I ever launch the campaign,” Soschin says. “In other words, I would not run an advertisement or marketing campaign without first knowing what my goal is and how
to measure the results against that goal.” 

Staying in tune
At American Public University, data is used for more than analyzing purchasing patterns and refining marketing programs. It uses data to stay in tune with their students from enrollment through graduation and beyond. “We focus on the entire lifecycle of the student. We’re an online, data-driven university; we codify everything,” says Sebastian Diaz, AVP of Marketing Analytics and a former college professor of statistics. “What zip code students are from, how often they log on, when they log on – it all has value when it comes to ensuring the ongoing success of our students, and that has huge implications for us. We care about what happens to our students after they enroll, so we use predictive analytics to identify and address potential problems that may prevent student success. We are proactive. We target at-risk students and then provide those students the added support they need to graduate.” The university’s endeavor to stay in tune with students has helped earn the school consistently high reviews and a No. 34 ranking on U.S. News’ “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.” Whether you need to fine-tune your marketing or stay more in tune with your clients, the right data used appropriately can transform meaningless prattle into a resounding melody. “All data is not necessarily useful,” Hinman says. “But data has the potential to help marketers make better decisions and faster decisions – you can react to changes in the marketplace much quicker than ever before. It gives marketers a good picture of what’s happened in the past, what’s happening right now, and if used optimally, it can give you great insights into what’s going to happen in the future.”


How much data? Google reportedly captures a petabyte (composed of customer transactions, photo uploads, social media posts, business statistics, and much more) every hour. One petabyte could hold approximately 20 million four-door filing cabinets full of text. It could hold 500 billion pages of standard printed text. 

How fast is data coming at you? Increasingly faster with improved hardware and software technology. Data has a short shelf life – it must be captured while it’s timely and relevant.

Data includes both structured (columns of statistics) as well as unstructured information that can be derived from narrative texts like tweets and blogs. Analysis of language and narrative data is a growing field. 

Not all data is significant for decision making.  Big Data encompasses everything coming across the internet, but a large amount of that data has little importance to business or government.





Posted by Michele McCreath





From the start, the vibe and response to this marketing campaign was different. In spring 2013, Dove introduced a video called “Real Beauty Sketches,” showing an FBI-trained forensic artist drawing women based on their own perceptions, and then another sketch based on that of a stranger who’d only briefly met one of the women but was asked to describe her. The sketches were put side by side and shown to the women and, in almost every case, revealed that the women had been harsher describing their appearance than the stranger’s observations. The video hit a nerve. Within 10 days, the viral video had 660,000 shares on Facebook, according to Adweek. Within a month, it had garnered more than 114 million total views. Business Insider said it was the most viral ad video of all time. The marketers took a unique approach, with an intuitive sense of what the audience wanted to hear. You could call it a “sixth sense.” And it’s not just a complement to creating a marketing campaign – it’s crucial. “The sixth sense is important because it’s what  allows us to push our ideas from good to great,” says Theresa McDonnell, executive VP, chief consumer strategist for Kaplow, a marketing and communications firm. “It makes room for risk, and therefore, great reward. It pushes the envelope and opens consumers up to new possibilities.” But is this ability innate? Can it be developed?
“I believe very few people have a sixth sense. Just like any other talent. … A large part of the skill has to do with being in touch with your emotions.”
   – Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., Professor, University of Texas McCombs School of Business

Unspoken needs
Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., a professor with the department of marketing at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, says the sixth sense can be quantified to some extent through market research, but that the problem is that not all marketing decisions can be tested at all times. Sometimes, a firm may need to figure out what product “look” or “color scheme” to go with, or what particular marketing mix variables (price, promotion, etc.) to go with because of time pressure or because of budget constraints. They may not have the time or resources to conduct market research. “Further, market research may also have a lot of limitations and flaws,” Raghunathan says. “For example, directly asking customers what they want and like may not yield desirable results because they may not know what they want.” In an article for Psychology Today, Raghunathan examined a study that New York City officials asked anthropologist William Whyte to conduct regarding
what citizens wanted out of building public spaces like city parks. The answers Whyte received for parks were similar – a pond, animals, places to see nature at its finest and get away from other people. But in actuality, people tend to gather in crowds at the popular features in parks. This tells us two things about human nature, Raghunathan wrote: “First, we are social animals. Second, we often don’t know what we really want.” Intuition is important because ultimately, the customers themselves may not have a good idea of what they want. “Thus, you need to get behind their brain, so to speak, to figure out the hidden needs and wants,” says Raghunathan.

Growing your sixth sense
Unfortunately, this sixth sense comes in varying degrees in marketing. Some call it a rare commodity. “I believe very few people have a sixth sense,” Raghunathan says. “Just like any other talent. Very few people are at the genius level in terms of music, sport or any other dimension.”  Most marketers would agree that the sixth sense essentially is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be taught. “A large part of the skill has to do with being in touch with your emotions,” Raghunathan says. “When you recognize what you like and what you don’t, and you are able to articulate the reasons for your likes and dislikes, you will be better able to tune into others’ likes and dislikes and their reasons for them. Thus, such “intra-psychic” intelligence is critical to having your fingers on the customers’ pulse.” McDonnell says marketers are innately curious and very observant, and should use those traits to their advantage. “We often notice details other people don’t – nuances in consumer behavior, patterns in our everyday lives. Insights for marketing campaigns are often born this way. I don’t think that can be taught.” Still, McDonnell believes the sense can be developed. “We are always evolving and maturing as we learn from our professional experiences. With that, we learn to trust the sixth sense and gain confidence to apply it more liberally.” McDonnell is skeptical that a brand can be successful without using the sixth sense, especially today when consumers are inundated with messages. “The sixth sense is disruptive, surprising and captivating. The brands that do it best are getting the most buzz.”



No matter how you define it, philanthropy continues to be a part of our culture and our heritage. Some would even say it is part of our DNA. In an economy that has stretched too many people to the limits of what they can afford, nonprofits continue to thrive on the generosity of those who can contribute. In 2011, individuals contributed $217.79 billion to nonprofits, while foundations pitched in another $46.9 billion.

And it’s not all about money; scores of people also volunteer their time to make a difference. In 2012, one in four people volunteered in some form or fashion, fervently contributing 7.9 billion hours of service valued at $171 billion in 2011, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Meanwhile, many employers struggle to find ways to engage and motivate employees being well compensated for their time. So what makes nonprofits tick?  How do they succeed where traditional businesses with more resources fail?

The ABCs of nonprofits – three elements essential to the success of these organizations:

  • Altruism 
  • Bonds
  • Chronicles

Here’s how they work:

The fundamental difference between for-profits and nonprofits is that the mission of nonprofits usually is altruistic. Nonprofits are focused on service to others as opposed to making a profit. “In the nonprofit world, passionate people are focused on filling an unmet need in society while the private sector is focused on selling a product or service and making a profit,” says Robert Thompson, VP, resource evelopment, at Save the Children, a global humanitarian agency. Not only do nonprofits serve a need and have a higher purpose – such as helping to feed hungry children or saving the whales – by their very nature they provide an avenue for individuals to engage their passions and satisfy their own inherent need to make a difference. As Daniel Pink wrote in his bestseller, “Drive,” “Carrots and sticks are so last century.” Pink believes that for 21st century work, we must upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose. “Most people desire the reward of knowing that they are making a difference – doing something that is helping someone else. It speaks to our altruistic nature and fills a void that working in the private sector often can’t,” Thompson adds. “Having that sense of purpose is very empowering. That is the source of a lot of energy and creativity in nonprofits.” Thompson says this need to serve a purpose particularly is important to the 20-somethings entering the work force now. Frequently referred to as the Millennials, this generation increasingly prefers making a difference to making more money. “I think this is fascinating. I recently heard a report indicating that 80 percent of Millennials put mission ahead of compensation in the workplace. This is significantly different from previous generations.” Companies trying to build their work force are taking note, flaunting their corporate consciousness and emphasizing their altruistic endeavors with their mission statements. For example, State Farm is “helping people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.” Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” While it may appear that Coca Cola’s mission is to ensure that everyone in the world drinks gallons of their products regularly, their stated mission actually is “to refresh the world…to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and to create value and make a difference.” “The perspective that you are able to help others is very impowering and gives people that sense of purpose that is essential to our being,” Thompson says.

Relationships with employees, donors, advocates, volunteers and benefactors are at the heart of the non-profit dynamic. Thompson based his 30-year career in the nonprofit industry around two words – relationship building. “Quite simply, sustainable, authentic relationships with donors, volunteers, board members and staff are critical to the success of nonprofits – more so than in the for-profit world,” Thompson says. “Being able to develop a unique engagement opportunity to bond and build a loyal following that is sustainable and scalable starts with good interpersonal skills.” Kathy Keeley believes bonding is more important than ever. And as nonprofits struggle to do more with less and the demand for services increases, Keeley says margins are tight and there is rarely money in the budget for financial rewards for staff or volunteers. “So, connecting with them and facilitating connections among them is even more important,” says Keeley, the executive director for All About Development Disabilities, a 57-year-old Atlanta nonprofit. Keeley has spent the last 25 years working with profit, nonprofits and government organizations in every state and more than 20 countries.   “We try to include opportunities and activities to connect and build relationships – go bowling or go on a picnic,” Keeley says. “We make it a priority to show our appreciation and make sure our staff and volunteers see how they are helping to make a difference. The ongoing challenges create cohesiveness and spur creativity.” Likewise, Keeley says relationships within the community are essential to the success of her organization and to the overall health of the community. “Relationships that we have with businesses and government organizations within our community form the foundation of a healthy community. We need each other – I fill a gap in services that they can’t provide. Together we make a healthy, vibrant community.” Long-established nonprofits frequently nurture and enjoy multi-generational relationships with devoted families. “We have many donors today whose families have been involved since the charity was first started more than 125 years ago as an orphanage,” says Alexandra Reardon, vice president of resource development for Thompson Child and Family Focus, a nonprofit headquartered in Matthews, N.C., that focuses on aiding children and families. “We make it a priority to keep our donors involved and let them know what a difference they are making by constantly sharing results, which are, after all, due to their investment in our mission.”

Nonprofits recognize that donors, volunteers and advocates all enjoy knowing their gifts of time and money are making a difference. Unlike for-profit companies, whose marketing strategies involve convincing targeted audiences they should buy their products, nonprofits targeting current and potential donors, advocates and volunteers frequently engage their audience with stories and anecdotes that illustrate and
celebrate their organization’s successes. In these real-life chronicles – with the help of patrons, donors, advocates and volunteers – a young boy in Haiti gets regular meals, a village in Africa gets a well for drinking water, an underprivileged high school student in Mississippi gets a college scholarship – lives are improved. “Nonprofits focus their marketing on the impact they are making on their beneficiaries – people and institutions,” Thompson says. “That’s why storytelling is very important. The marketing differentiates them from other nonprofits and highlights the positive outcome they are having on others as opposed to marketing in the private sector that usually maximizes the appeal of a product or service.” Thompson, who has 30 years of experience leading nonprofits, says that both compete for impressions in the marketplace. “They both want to be top-of-mind or tip-of-tongue, but nonprofits tend to speak to our hearts rather than our wallets.” Many for-profits are discovering the marketing value of storytelling as well. As marketing enters the post-advertising age where people choose which messages they see and hear, engaging and entertaining stories have a greater chance of not being TiVoed out, clicked away from or banished to the spam folder. The best stories are becoming internet sensations. In March, Pepsi MAX’s Jeff Gordon spot logged 33 million views – about 13 million more than 2012’s most-watched spot had for the entire year. In April, two viral ads did even better than the Pepsi MAX video. The first was a video from Ogilvy Brazil, uploaded to YouTube on April 14. Five days later, Evian posted its latest Babies commercial from BETC Paris. Both spots stormed past the Pepsi MAX view count to become 2013’s most-watched YouTube ad to date. Interestingly, like nonprofit pitches, these video chronicles tugged at hearts rather than wallets and spotlighted the altruistic rather than the egoistic. Perhaps there are other lessons we can learn from nonprofits as well.



Posted by Scott Smith


Digital marketing folks will tell you that print is dead, while print marketers will insist their medium is alive and well. Whether using coupons, incentives for product samples/trials, market research data/feedback and sales tracking by zip, direct mail can provide a direct channel to your customer.

A highly targeted approach using a quality list will allow you to speak directly to the consumers you want to reach – your target audience. Spending a bit more to develop a quality or purchase an accurate list will greatly increase your response rates. To keep things economical, your direct mail partner can use their permit number and pass the postal savings on to you. They can also help you choose sizes and formats that mail at the least expensive rates. Different than targeted lists, the US Postal Service has launched a program called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) that allows small business an on-line mapping tool that gives them access to address data selection. Making it easier to reach consumers based on the demographics of particular neighborhoods.

Emails are easy to delete, and even correspondence you’re interested in often gets lost in the inbox. Direct mail is memorable: an intriguing offer will end up on the kitchen table or desk for that second or third look. An interactive approach includes attention grabbing images, an easy to remember URL, and QR codes that link to your site or a particular offer, message or video.

Crafting Your Message

Make sure your message is timely, unique to what’s going on right now. Try to think in terms of starting a conversation, using real words, simple explanations and true reasons to try your product. If you make an offer, make it creative and consider including a deadline for their call to action. And make sure to highlight and dramatize the benefits of your product. Your message will have more of an impact.

Direct mail can even be more useful and have a higher response rate with more personalization and programs that tailor the message to the age or gender of the recipient. The cost per piece is higher but so is the ROI compared to more traditional mailings. The price range for direct mail could be as low as a few hundred dollars for a thousand or so mailed through EDDM to over a thousand dollars for a larger run. It’s up to you to decide which approach is best based on your product. Continually “tweaking” the program to make it work better for you is all part of the process. In the end, direct mail is the channel many B2C (business to consumer) marketers cite as delivering the best “bang for your buck” when marketing your product.

Scott Smith is an account executive with Vision Graphics/Eagle:xm, a Denver based company that leverages data intelligence and marketing automation to enable right time dialogues between companies and consumers across the spectrum of digital and print channels.  A life-long print professional, he realizes the importance of supporting local natural foods companies. He can be reached at 720-308-7333.



Posted by Vision/Eagle:xm Staff




Posted by Mark Steputis


I am pleased to welcome you to our blog and our newly re-launched Eagle:xm and Vision Graphics websites.

For those of you who know our brand story and have been a loyal customer throughout our 60 years in business, I want to thank you for your support! For those of you who are new to our website, we want to thank you for visiting and taking the time to learn about us and what we have to offer.

In January 2012, we announced the acquisition of Eagle:xm by Vision Graphics Inc. which expanded the breadth of customer engagement solutions we can offer. By combining one of Colorado’s fastest growing printing companies with a successful integrated marketing and fulfillment services agency, we are able to help our clients engage with consumers in ways that haven’t been considered possible until now.  While Vision is known for and will continue to produce high-quality printing, the joining of Vision Graphics Inc. and Eagle:xm demonstrates our shared commitment to offer our clients solutions that enable right time dialogues across the spectrum of traditional and digital channels to improve business performance and profitability.

As we continue to grow, we wanted to give back to our clients by sharing valuable information on the lasted trends, insights and challenges that brands face today and feel our blog is the perfect forum!

Welcome and thank you for stopping by,
Mark Steputis
Vision Graphics Inc/Eagle:xm



Posted by Michele McCreath


“I think that I shall never see
                           A poem lovely as a tree.”
- Joyce Kilmer

In today’s environmentally conscious world where communication professionals are making decisions for themselves and their clients on how to reduce their carbon footprint - it is more important than ever to base decisions on facts and not the popular rhetoric of the day.

We all know the value of print.  It drives business to stores, to your website, showcases your products and drives sales.  But in a world where we are bombarded with electronic devices and media, the question is – “with all of the misconceptions out there, how can you help your company and clients make communication decisions that contribute to the environment?”

The following statistics delves into the misconceptions that if companies stop using print they will save trees and the impact this decision can have on the environment. So, the next time your clients ask “if they are sacrificing a tree when they print?” you can give them the facts – “that using paper is as lovely as planting a tree”.


Have you heard someone suggest that by using less paper you can “save a tree”? The fact is that when the demand for paper declines, tree farming also declines, taking all of the important ecological impacts like clean water and wildlife habitat along with it.  The reality is that decreasing paper use may well cause a forest somewhere to be replaced by development. The future of our forests depends on slowing the conversion of these precious resources by managing sustainably to ensure their economic, social and environmental health benefits generations to come. That means we’ve got to provide not only the financial incentive but also the education and tools for responsible forest management. 

There are strong penalties for knowingly sourcing illegal timber. Fact - One of the most important advancements in the fight against illegal logging in the world’s forests is the LACEY ACT passed by Congress in 2008.  With this act the U.S. became the first country to ban the import, sale or trade of illegally harvested wood and wood products.


  • By keeping trees from being cut down we are actually keeping trees from being planted - currently three trees are planted for every tree harvested in the U.S.
  • If current trends continue, we will have lost 23 million forested acres by 2050, the size of Maine - not to logging but to parking lots and highways.
  • Forests are renewable. When managed sustainably, they are harvested and replanted responsibly to create watersheds and sequester carbon.
  • Responsible forests are a very important source of clean air and clean water - 1/3 of drinking water in the U.S. comes from forested land.
  • Climate experts believe that responsible management of forests is one of   the least expensive ways to fight climate change.

Certification - out of concern for the responsible management of the world’s forests, third party certification groups have emerged to help ensure that forests are responsibly managed. Today, virgin fiber (pulp) is produced in accordance with a variety of these certifications.

Printers and mills enlist the services of a third party auditing organization like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and PEFC to have their practices around the purchase and/or sale of wood fiber reviewed against criteria established for certification. Once it is established that a company’s practices do not contribute to the use or destruction of old growth or rainforest timber, loss of habitat, or the displacement of indigenous people - they will certify a company (Vision Graphics is proud to be certified).

               IT’S “CAN WE SAVE A FOREST?”

Saving trees requires thinking about them in the context of woodlands and forests. Like the tree farmers, forest product companies exist because of the perpetual growing, harvesting and replanting of trees. Their financial future requires continual renewal of the forest. With no economic incentive, tree farmers are finding it more profitable to sell their land to developers.

  • 80 percent of all rain that falls east of the Mississippi River falls on family-owned  forests where it is purified, stored and released into aquifers.
  • 70 percent of U.S. forests are family owned, and as owners age, this land is being   divided, sold and transferred for urban development.
  • 600 million trees are planted every year by the paper and forest products  industry.
  • 60 percent of the energy used to make paper in the U.S.  comes from carbon-neutral renewable resources.


“Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.”  This seemingly well-intentioned plea suggest that digital communication is greener than paper. But is it? If  the goal is to save trees or the environment, the choice to go paperless is not as green or as simple as some would like us to believe.

While electronic statements may save companies money and reduce the workforce, the energy used to digitally post, host, archive, view and transfer these cumulative billions of electronic statements is currently more than 90 percent powered by fossil fuels, and specifically coal. Mountain top removal coal mining has, according to the EPA, deforested seven percent of the Appalachian Mountain Range - sending out electronic statements does NOT save a tree!

As much as we love our electronic devices, they don’t grow on trees or anywhere else. They are much more complex and expensive to recycle, recover and reuse due to the toxic nature of many of the components.

  • Only 18 percent of electronic waste is recycled in the U.S.
  • The average data center serving our electronic services consumes the same amount of energy as  25,000 households.
  • 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent of all heavy metals found in the landfills are from e-waste.
  • The majority of the U.S. paper industry’s power and electricity needs are derived from renewable biomass that is sourced from sustainably managed forests.
  • Since 1973, the paper industry has reduced the amount of energy needed to produce paper by 42%.   

Source:  International Paper; Greenbiz.



Posted by Michele McCreath


“To tweet or not to tweet; to email or not to email; to print or not to print  – that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the marketing mind to suffer?”

Ok so maybe marketing isn’t exactly a Shakespearean tragedy but with technology emerging at rapid speeds the one question on all of our minds - "when it comes to communication channels, which one should I use to reach consumers and build brand relationships?”

Understanding consumers’ purchasing behavior and how it aligns with multiple marketing channels is a crucial component of any good marketing department.

                           They want print. They want online. They want it all.

Consumers’ Purchasing Behavior

As the economy makes a comeback, marketing advertisement seems to be back on track; according to MAGNAGLOBAL, a media tracking service provider, as spending rose 3.3 percent during the second quarter of 2011. No doubt, much of that spending has been allocated for digital communication channels, but as consumers’ inboxes become increasingly crowded, many marketers are discovering the value of multiple marketing channels.

Nearly one-third of consumers say they rely on three or more different channels (online, in-store, print catalogs, mobile devices, customer service reps) from the time they start researching products and services to when they complete their purchase; Eight out of 10 ( 78%) report using at least two or more channels to perform purchasing research.
Catalogs are a strong traffic driver to the web.
78% of consumers said they use catalogs to browse and discover new products and services.

Catalogs remain an integral part of the multichannel shopping experience.
Six out of 10 consumers surveyed say that make purchases via catalogs four times a year or more.

Mobile commerce is playing a role in the cross-channel experience, particularly with younger consumers

  • 27% of consumers 18 and older are using their mobile devices to browse or research products and services at least periodically--this number jumps to 41% for the 18-34 year-old age group.
  • 13% of consumers are using mobile devices to make purchases at least four times a year.
  • The 18-34 age group makes the greatest use of mobile devices for commerce -- 23% say they make purchases on their mobile devices at least four times a year, 15% make purchases monthly, and 8%  say they do so weekly.

 Social media is another emerging marketing channel

  • Like mobile, the use of social media and networks is currently being adopted more frequently by the 18-34 age group.  When broken down by age group, 42% of 18-34 year olds, 23% of 35-54 year olds, and 8% of those aged 55 say they incorporate online purchasing activities into their presence on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
  • 22% of all consumers surveyed aren't aware of social media as a purchasing channel.

Consumers often start browsing and researching online, yet ultimately make purchases in the store

  • 39% say they went to a store because they preferred to touch and feel the product.                  
  • 36% said they visited a store to compare several brands of the same product.
  • 22% said they opted for the store because they needed the product immediately. 

Take-Away:   "On average, more than three-quarters of consumers are using two or more channels to browse, research, and purchase products. Because consumers are coming to merchants through multiple channels, it’s necessary to link those experiences and create a continuous conversation to avoid gaps where the sale could be lost. Merchants don’t have to necessarily serve up the identical experience in each channel, but rather optimize and connect channel interactions to deliver consistent brand experiences."

Source: Print in the mix/ Utopia



Posted by Michele McCreath


Does the old adage of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” no longer apply in today’s ‘always clicking’ world of big data?

According to the latest Harvard report on Big Data the marketing world as we know it is changing.  The market is being flooded with new technology that makes users walking data generators. Data generators that can help us learn what channels drive our customers to respond.  They are not only telling us but demanding we communicate with them the way they want, when they want and how they want.  We can no longer act solely on hunches and instinct.

The days of businesses using traditional HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) approach to making decisions is being replaced by data-driven decisions.  Leaders will either embrace this fact or run the risk of being replaced by others who do. As the big data revolution continues to evolve so too should the ways we engage with our customers. Making it less about channel selection and more about what do we know about our customers to enrich their experience with our brand.Marketers spend a great deal of time and money to study what compels consumers to make purchasing decisions so that they can better formulate appropriate marketing strategies. So much so, that it would take volumes of space to list them all. One thing is for sure , technology has shifted marketing from brand push to consumer pull as consumers' demand brands listen to them, understand them and know them.

Where the connected world will have the greatest impact on marketing will be in the opportunity to deepen relationships with their customers at every touchpoint across multiple integrated channels. The science of analyzing, evaluating and influencing consumer behavior is foremost in determining which marketing efforts will be used and when.

                                                              where is marketing to start?

The good news is... the shifting landscape has given us more channels to communicate with our customers, the bad news is....the shifting landscape has given our competition more channels to communicate with our customers.  To differentiate yourself from the competition the best approach is to start by defining a strategic roadmap that is focused on the customer and how to improve their experience and journey.  What channels do they prefer that you use to communicate with them and how can you better serve their needs?

When applying a customer-centric approach to your marketing mix it is imperative that you strengthen two solutions:

Customer insights - by using analytics and predictive modeling you can better understanding both the persona (group of demographics) and the person by paying closer attention to their behaviors. What message or platform gets their attention?

Brand Relationships -  be consistent and coordinated with sustained interactions and engagement.  Build loyalty by building a customer engagement framework.

Methodology to create an engagement framework and optimize customer experience:

  • Know more by analyzing customer behaviors and asking them how they prefer to communicate.
  • Define your marketing strategies and campaigns by leveraging customer insights that will drive your desired responses.
  • Engage in a personalized conversation with your customers by integrating channels so that they work together to maximize purchasing potential. Right message, right time, right channel.
  • Fulfill the mission with web accessible tools that support brand consistency and localized marketing.

Source:  Harvard Business Journal



Posted by Vision/Eagle:xm Staff


As any good marketing department knows you can’t create great collateral without thought-provoking copy and awe-inspiring graphics. So why is it that we try to engage customers and increase sales conversions without the two most important marketing analytic tools - customer segmentation and predictive modeling - in our marketing mix?

Customer Segmentation -  when defined accurately, customer segmentation is a powerful strategic roadmap that can help shorten purchase cycles, drive higher spend, build customer loyalty, win-back and lower service and support costs.

Predictive modeling - predictive modeling is the exercise of calculating customer behaviors to determine future customer actions. Predictive modeling can help identify the most profitable customers with the greatest profit potential or those most likely to discontinue business.

Benefit - the maximum benefit are the results you get when you effectively combine both segmentation and modeling.  While segmentation provides the groundwork for designing, testing, measuring and launching marketing initiatives, predictive modeling renders new opportunities and offers a greater concentration of targeting accuracy.

Aberdeen research reported companies using predictive analytics experienced 75 percent higher click through rate and a 73 percent higher sales lift than non users.



Posted by Vision/Eagle:xm Staff


Findings from Gartner show that a well implemented event-triggered campaign can save up to 80 percent of a marketer's direct mail budget. These savings are earned by using personalized on-demand printing based on triggered events, rather than mass mailings of uniform brochures to an unfiltered list of unqualified prospects. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Gartner's research suggests that event-triggered marketing messages have nearly five times the response rate of non-targeted push messages. Attaining these results is an achievable goal for campaigns that utilize a consolidated database which automatically captures customer activity from all points of contact, from on-line action, to customer service phone calls, to in-store purchases. Mining this data is crucially important to cross-sell and up-sell offers, and if it's not cross referenced with other purchase behavior or third party data, it's far more difficult to target personalized offers.

So what is event triggered marketing?

Event-triggered marketing includes identifying, categorizing, monitoring, optimizing and executing events such as after a purchase one attempts an upsell or cross sell or knowing that a customer has a high likelihood to defect after 3 months of service and sending them an incentive to stay. It can be applied in a multichannel relationship (such as social, mobile, direct mail, inbound call conversions, lead management and email marketing). It’s an approach to B2B and business-to-consumer marketing that addresses the appropriate timeliness of offers from the customer’s perspective, rather than the company’s perspective.

Large databases and good market timing are no longer sufficient to gain new customers and/or effectively market to existing ones.  Today there are significantly more channels for building two-way customer relationships, from phone to print to web to email. Thus, the dated one-dimensional practices (one mailing, one message, and one marketing program) must evolve, just as the technology has.

Event-triggered marketing tactics require two things: personalization, and a way to track previous purchases and preferences across many points of contact. To maximize the potential of event-triggered campaigns, marketers must put valuable customer and prospect information to work for them to "trigger" personalized messages, initiatives, and offers.  As marketers we must look at our current methods and technologies to ensure that the proper technology is being used to take advantage of the customer data collected and metrics are tracked regardless of which channel it came from.



Posted by Vision/Eagle:xm Staff


QR codes are a two dimensional code that can be read from any direction at high speeds used to connect the physical world to the digital almost always from a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet computer.  QR codes that can contain any alphanumeric text and often feature URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place is a practice known as mobile tagging or mobile marketing.

Decoding software on smart phones interprets the codes, which represent considerably more information than a traditional one-dimensional code of similar size. The codes are increasingly found in places such as product labels, billboards, and buildings, inviting passers-by to pull out their mobile phones and uncover the encoded information. Codes can provide tracking information for products in industry, routing data on a mailing label, or contact information on a business card. Small in size, the code pattern can be hidden or integrated into an esthetically attractive image in newspapers, magazines, or clothing.

QR codes can be as much about utility as they are about marketing. The more a QR code enhances or streamlines the lives of customers, the more engagement you can expect.   The most important step in making your QR campaign a success is to think clearly about the purpose of your code.

  • Is the purpose to provide an instructional video, a catalog of products, contact information or product suggestions?
  • Are you looking to create a mobile purchasing behavior through coupons and loyalty rewards?
  • Is your goal to collect an email address a social media engagement and or a phone call?
  • Are you just providing more information about your product?

We have found the simpler the message the more effective and useful the QR Code engagement will be.

One of the most important metric of a QR campaign should not be the number of daily scans. Rather, the length of engagement time that your code is generating should be a marketer’s primary indicator of campaign success.  If people are spending two to three (or more) minutes on a link, the campaign is a success. The power of a QR code is to transform the user experience from a “quick glance” to a “deep dive.” When users spend a lot of time on your QR (mobile) site, it shows that you have developed something captivating and useful.

Bottom line:

As stated by Jeff McKenna  of Research Access  after concluding a study of QR Code usage, “Clearly, marketers should remember the point that nearly one-in-five of people who scanned a QR code ended up making a purchase based on the information they received. A sizable (and we expect growing) share of consumers are relying on QR code scanning to assist and improve the purchase process”.


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