2021 Rising Star: Jacob Hoffman Views Print As 'Not Just a Commodity'
Here is one professional from this year's crop of “Rising Stars.” Seven exceptional 20- and 30-somethings recommended to Printing Impressions as exemplars of the next generation of leadership in the commercial printing industry. We asked each of them to tell us how they got here, what keeps them dedicated to the industry, what they’re proud of having accomplished so far, and where they hope to be going forward.
We also made a point of asking them why, in their opinion, it’s so perennially difficult for the industry to recruit people of their age group. The most compelling answer was basically, “Nobody from the printing industry ever told me what a rich career opportunity I’d find in it. I had to figure that out for myself.”
This bears thinking about. So does the fact that there are many more young stars like these just below the horizon, waiting for the outreach that will let them rise and shine as print professionals in their own right. We’re pleased to profile their role models here.
Director of Data Solutions
Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Still in his 20s, Jacob Hoffman is responsible for mapping data strategies at Arandell Corp., one of the industry’s leading producers of catalogs. He has been in the post for less than three years, but he already has a veteran’s grasp of what those responsibilities entail. He also possesses a clear vision of why data management has become so vital to print’s role as a marketing channel.
He grew up in Wisconsin, earned a marketing degree at University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, and played four years of soccer while there. Now his focus is on helping Arandell’s customers and prospects ensure their catalogs are as successful as possible, reaching the audiences they’re meant to reach, and generating the responses the catalogers want.
“We bring in data solutions at the starting side of the equation, making sure they are integrating, making sure they can run their attribution models accurately and correctly,” Hoffman explains. “One of the things I always recommend is leveraging data. Definitely understanding who you are mailing to, what do your best customers look like. And then we can align your best customers with potential prospects that fit the criteria of your best customers.”
Measuring the Performance of Each Channel
He notes that one key to doing this effectively is getting the attribution right. “Attribution is essentially how you are accrediting each channel with the sales success associated with it,” Hoffman says. “If you think about all of the current channels are at marketers’ disposal, it is really hard to determine, ‘Is the sale being credited to the catalog?’ or ‘Is it getting credited to the website or the digital?’ Helping brands navigate through that, we’re able to isolate the distinct performance of each channel.”
Another technique in his toolkit is postal retargeting, which he regards as “the best acquisition tool that exists in direct mail.” This consists of using deep data analysis to convert otherwise anonymous Web traffic into mailable names and addresses. “We’ve seen an unbelievable success with a number of different customers in that arena,” Hoffman comments.
As if wrangling data for an enterprise that ranks No. 55 on the Printing Impressions 350 list of the industry’s largest companies weren’t enough, Hoffman also manages the company’s external marketing. He’s also been assigned to build a business case for starting a digital division at Arandell, a launch that could take place by the end of this year or at some point in 2022.
With a working agenda as diversified as this, Hoffman is finding all of the professional satisfaction that anyone could hope for in a career path. “I believe in the industry,” he declares. “There’s an unbelievable amount of potential that exists. And I think we’re just really scratching the surface of what the true power of print is.”
The personal payoff comes from “getting that excited call that says, ‘Hey, we’re growing, and our sales are doing awesome. We are expanding our warehouses and hiring more people.’ When I look at the impact this has on people’s lives, and how by helping businesses grow you are making a huge impact on those communities, that’s always made me feel good about what I am doing,” he says.
Hoffman aspires to run his own printing company one day, in keeping with the vision he has for the printing industry as a whole. That vision, he makes clear, includes “a rebrand and a refresh” for which he thinks the industry is overdue.
Proper Messaging to Young People Lacking
Part of the makeover would be stronger outreach to people of his age group. Hoffman notes that until he actually joined a printing company, “nowhere along the way did I ever get the sense of how meaningful and impactful the career I would have is, based on any material presented to me by the printing industry.”
He’s also noticed the absence of young faces in print industry organizations and in attendance at printing trade shows and events — an under-representation he thinks industry decision-makers ought to do something about.
More broadly, he envisions an industry that stops thinking of printing as just an “output device” and starts promoting it as a data-driven asset that’s integral to modern-day marketing. “It’s kind of my mantra,” Hoffman says. “As an industry, we need to evolve into being more of a service — not just a commodity, but a staple in marketers’ business plans.”