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June 2008
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Magic 8-Ball Says 'Ask Again'

THE POLICE officer who has a car stolen. The fireman with dead batteries in a smoke detector. The magazine editor who sends an e-mail out with typos in it. There's a special kind of embarrassment that comes with screwing up at something related to one's own profession.

Yet, one of the regrettable truths of the printing--aka graphic arts, marketing services, communications--industry is that many member companies have a poor track record when it comes to sending out self-promotion campaigns to their own customers and prospects. Adoption of digital printing has been a game changer because of the need to educate the market on the printing process and the use of variable data, personalized URLs (PURLs), etc. That twist has also put a premium on coming up with creative applications of the technology and flawlessly executing the campaign.

[ The Proposition ]

F.P. Horak, Bay City, MI, wanted to showcase its PURLs marketing capabilities, along with promoting the company's digital color printing and variable data marketing services. It was seeking to generate "warm leads" for the sales staff to pursue, with the objective of setting up face-to-face meetings and landing new business.

Doing a self-marketing campaign using the technology was the obvious solution, and it paid off. About 30 percent of the recipients visited their personal landing page and more than 6 percent signed up for a meeting with the sales staff. Ultimately, 10 of the initial prospects ended up becoming customers.

[ The Solution ]

The success of any direct marketing campaign, especially one incorporating variable data, in large part hinges on coming up with a suitable, clean database of quality prospects. F.P. Horak started by purchasing a list of businesses within Michigan that mirrored its existing customer roster, including manufacturing companies, financial institutions and universities. It then folded that data into the company's mailing list of current customers.

What set Horak's efforts apart was it had a staff person research each prospect to make sure that company was a good fit for the campaign. Furthermore, it called each firm on the list to get the correct name of a marketing contact.

To create the direct mail piece, an internal team was assembled that included F.P. Horak's electronic graphic services department, its business development director, marketing coordinator and HP Indigo press operator. "We have the method to end the marketing madness" was the slogan the team came up with to reflect the campaign's theme of making better marketing decisions.

In four waves, the company mailed a total of 554 packages. Each contained a Magic 8 Ball (toy fortune-telling device) with a personalized label on the box that read: "Technical Guidance Enclosed." The recipient's PURL was printed on an insert placed atop the toy. After removing the 8 Ball, the prospect saw a tab affixed to the box window that also listed the PURL.

To encourage prospects to view all pages of their personal Websites, the team kept the material fun and lighthearted. The first thing a site visitor saw was a Flash animation of a coin flip, then a hand doing the "rock, paper, scissors" child's game of chance and, finally, a Magic 8 Ball being shaken.

The animation was followed by a short survey that asked questions such as, "Will you be nice to the F.P. Horak sales rep who contacts you?" It also asked which products and services the prospect's organization uses, and what services it needs help with to reach its marketing and business objectives.

Horak's marketing coordinator credited the light tone of the questions with helping the project to succeed. It kept prospects from feeling like they were being pressured into answering questions about their business needs.

[ The Execution ]

The printed portions of the campaign were produced on the company's HP Indigo press 3050. HP Yours Truly variable data software and MindFireInc's LookWho'sClicking PURLs solution were used to complete the marketing package.

After the mailing went out, F.P. Horak sales representatives quickly followed up with prospects who visited their personalized Websites. The company found that using PURLs instead of asking recipients to respond via telephone or mail made it easier to check the results of the campaign and to manage the gathered information. PI

This case study was derived from PODi's 2008 Digital Print Case Studies collection. Forty-five new digital printing case studies have been added to the database, bringing the total to more than 300 entries. It is the largest collection ever assembled of successful digital printing projects. In addition, the interface has been upgraded with expanded search features.

PODi is an industry initiative with hundreds of member companies, including executive board members EFI, HP, Pitney Bowes, Quark and Xerox. PODi members receive free access to the case studies, as well as other resources including presentations, reports and online seminars. Membership in PODi is open to companies and organizations involved in digital printing. For more information on joining PODi or submitting your own case study, visit


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