Winner of Best of the Best

Ad and Plaque

For 13+ years we have been voted Best of the Best by the readers of the Auburn Journal, and we couldn’t be more thankful to our community and our fantastic customers.

Since opening the business in 1946 we have striven to be been involved in the community and has enjoyed giving back. In 1984 Brad and Merrill purchased the business and have since continued to be involved and continue the tradition of giving back and supporting many community events. Being a big part of our community, being involved and giving back is what I am passionate about. I do it because I see a great future for our community and all there is to benefit from for me, our company and my kids.

Besides being such a staple of the community we work hard at being a partner to the land trusts and non-profits locally. We give back to many non-profits and work closely with them to find new ways of attracting donors and new revenue. Using print, email, direct mail, signage and promotional products to elevate their clients message in a cohesive, timely and branded manner. Our clients have seen that the value improves exponentially with a multi-touch approach.

I strongly feel that we are a one of a kind shop in this area with all the equipment and up to date technology that we have in our North Auburn location. Feel free to stop by and see all that we have to offer.

Adjust your communications to match attention spans

funny notePeople’s attention spans are shorter than ever before. We are constantly bombarded with messages from every corner, have no time to read long emails, and we have a rough time holding onto a business related conversation that doesn’t seem to have a point.

As a millennial, I have friends that use acronyms for everything. Raised on outlandishly detailed books by Charles Dickens, I have a rough time understanding these little quips. The first time I saw “ROFL,” I was thinking about barking waffles, but “rolling on floor laughing” is better. I guess. At any rate, I learned these little things to communicate with my friends and not be boring. This carries over into business, in a sense. We must adjust our content to people’s attention spans.

You don’t have to go so far with this as to be unprofessional in your communications, but you do have to shorten your message and get to the point. Cut the clutter, cut out anyone who doesn’t need to hear what you are saying, and give the person on the other end a more direct and conversational approach that they can easily digest.

Here’s a few tips to get you started in your business communications:

1. Be personable

This automatically makes you approachable and well-received. It doesn’t have to be outlandish. Use little remarks like “I hope you had a great weekend,” or “thank you for getting in touch.”

2. Use an easy to follow structure with headlines and bullet points

Don’t make your reader sift through your information. Breaking up information into palatable chunks helps people absorb content without getting distracted by the many other things demanding attention.

3. CCs

Don’t copy people on emails unless they must know the information contained in the email. I know that sounds obvious, but sometimes things can get out of hand. A conversation between two colleagues can go on for 20 emails, and their boss doesn’t need to be in on each one of those emails—only the first and last one.

4. Be precise

Save time by reading over your email or letter and making sure nothing has a double meaning, is too long-winded, or doesn’t get to the point. Is there a point? State your point first and your supporting information afterward in bite size portions.

Hopefully those tips will help you going forward. Being long-winded myself, I have to cut out my “babies”—my precious little details that nobody else cares about. Did it work? You’ll have to let me know next time you stop by the shop.

The 5 Stages of Awareness that can make or break your campaign

People don’t buy products, they buy a better version of themselves.

A better parent, a better friend, a better marketer, a better business owner…Think about it; you might buy a seat for a webinar, on how to increase your profits using social media, because you want to be a business owner or marketer with a more profitable business.

It’s so obvious that it can sometimes be hard to figure out the next step in your marketing plan to reach the people that want or need what you are selling in order for them to feel fulfilled. Sometimes you just have to talk to somebody who has been there before. That’s what we sent our designer/marketer-in-the-making out to do. She found a great resource in Talia Wolf’s messages about reaching people where they are in the stages of awareness. The whole time she was reading or listening to the webinars, she realized that she was also in a sales funnel—Talia’s sales funnel. And she was OK with that because what she was getting out of the experience made her want to go all the way to the end. She recommends that you, the reader, check this person out here: https://getuplift.co/ and you will not be disappointed.

Before we go further, let’s examine the difference between marketing and sales.

They go hand in hand and cannot survive without each other. What makes them different is the order in which they are used, and how they are used. The marketing department’s job is to do the research, plan product launches and campaigns, and provide collateral for the sales people. The sales department needs to get educated by the marketing department on what they are selling, get familiar with it, and then go out and well…solve problems! Both departments have a role in the typical sales process.

There are 5 stages of client awareness during the sales process and it is up to marketers and their sales people to nudge potential clients through the stages. The end goal is to solve the person or company’s pain. Don’t sell to them, solve their pain.

cool fox shows the 5 stages of awareness5 stages of awareness:

  1. Unaware. These people don’t know they have a pain that needs solving quite yet, but they ARE going through the pain. They need to be shown that there is pain and that they have it.
  2. Pain Aware. These people know they have a pain. Let them see that you know and understand their pain. This is where you can show them some DIY solutions and push them to Solution Aware. Don’t show your products yet; you are still letting them get to know you.
  3. Solution Aware. They know there are solutions, services, platforms that can solve their pain but don’t know what is right for their particular circumstances. Talk about different solutions and how your solution solves their pain. Do NOT talk about features of your product yet. Focus on solving pain first. Pushes them into the product aware phase.
  4. Product Aware. They know you, your competitors, etc., and are just not convinced you are the right one. Now you can talk feature, services, prices, etc. You’ve already shown them that they have a pain, you understand their pain, there are solutions and yours is one, now show them how yours is better than the other solutions. It’s important that you wait until this stage to do this. Skipping the other steps is a good way to lose people. You have go to hold their hand a little so they know that you care about solving their pain.
  5. Most aware. People decide to convert but they need a buy button, a call to action. If you did a good job on the other 4 steps, you get the opportunity to make a difference in their professional or personal lives. If you have failed to make your case in the other 4 steps, you will lose them here.

Continue reading The 5 Stages of Awareness that can make or break your campaign

3 Million chances to convert with direct mail

In 2017, almost 3 million pieces of direct mail passed through our building. That’s a lot of mail! Among them were catalogs, oversized postcards, standard mail, letter sets, etc. That’s three million chances for businesses to get their potential clients to take action. How well will it work? Let’s take a look.

As a business owner, you may have heard that direct mail made a comeback after the recession slump. Well, it never really left as a viable option; the recession just reduced the competition!

direct mail has much higher response rates than other marketing channelsDirect mail is doing well today with or without recovery. Check out these stats from the Data and Marketing Association Response Report that we gleaned from Compu-Mail:

  1. Direct mail household response rate is 5.1% (compared to .6% email, .6% paid search, .2 online display, .4% social media). This is the highest response rate the DMA has ever reported, since coming out with the Response Rate Report in 2003.
  2. At 6.6%, oversized envelopes have the greatest household response rates over other mediums (followed by postcards at 5.7% and letter-sized envelopes at 4.3%).
  3. At 37%, oversized envelopes have the greatest household return on investment over other mediums (followed by postcards and letter-sized envelopes at 29%).
  4. The response rate for direct mail among people aged 18-21 years old is 12.4%.
    The top response rate tracking methods are online tracking such as PURLs (61%), call center or telephone (53%), and code or coupon (42%).

So, what if you aren’t getting the responses for your direct mail that you see in these stats?

It all comes down to two things: 1. Foot-in-mouth problems 2. Attention to your target market and where they are in the 5 stages of awareness. This dictates copy (words), design, and timing of your mail piece.
Continue reading 3 Million chances to convert with direct mail

2018 USPS Rate Increase

mail dogThe U.S. Postal Service once again raising rates. Here are some details of the 2018 postage rate increase. This increase takes effect on Sunday January 21st.

First-Class Mail

First-Class Mail Letter rates are slated to increase from their current 49 cent rate to 50 cents.  Now is a good time to buy Forever stamps, before the price goes up!
The postcard rate, which applies to individually mailed postcards measuring 4.25 x 6 or smaller, increases from 34 to 35 cents. The additional ounces charge for first class letters will remain at 21 cents, and international letters also hold steady at $1.15.

If you use metered postage in your office the rate also increases by one cent, from 46 cents to 47 cents.

Marketing Mail

Marketing mail (also known as standard mail) rates are slated to increase by an average of 1.94 percent. Included in this category are presort standard as well as the nonprofit rate. Presort Standard automated letters increase slightly less than the rest at only 1%, which is less than 1 cent increase. First Class Presort automated letters also see an estimated 1 cent per piece increase, from 40 to 41. Nonprofit automated letters hold at approximately 17 cents per piece.
The largest postage increases in this category target Flats, going up about 1.5% across the board.

Every Door Direct Mail

The USPS’s very successful Every Door Direct Mail program is also scheduled for a small increase from 15.6 cents to 15.7 cents on DDU shipments. The other categories also went up 1/10 cent each.

Shipping Services

As in previous years, the main focus of the rate increase is on Shipping Services, which sees an average increase for Priority Mail of 3.9 percent, including a 5 cent increase on most Flat Rate shipping charges.

If  you have any question or want to have your next mailing project quoted in advance please contact one our mail design experts.

Need the price chart?

Click here to download the PDF: 2018postage_prices

Net Neutrality: Not Neutral Anymore

Net neutralityIf you aren’t familiar with net neutrality, you are not alone. Most Internet users don’t realize what it is or how they can be effected. Below is a quick overview.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality legislation was put into place to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against or showing favoritism toward certain websites. Let’s say you use your local cable and Internet comp for streaming video; without Net Neutrality they could now intentionally slow down the stream of competing services such as Netflix, giving themselves an unfair advantage.

How Will It Impact You?

Broadband providers will be able to charge consumers and companies varying rates. You could be charged more for a package that allows unrestricted access to streaming sites than someone else who only uses their Internet for email and reading newspapers.

What Does This Mean for Web Searches?

Currently, websites all have an equal opportunity to be found and visited. Without legislation in place to keep it that way, the stage is being set for large, established companies to be able to push out the little guy much like with current TV stations.

In a pay to play environment, large companies could put their websites in an express lane of searches. This is of course bad for smaller or new companies and bad for us as consumers, because our freedom to evaluate two services on a level playing field is restricted. This gives larger payers an advantage over smaller, similar services.

Specific to SEO, without net neutrality, it could mean that sites that rank high may not get the traffic or customers they did in the past. Also consider how highly Google values website speed; sites that are paying for speed will have access to their sites, a clear advantage based on money not merit.

The Internet has become a very integral part of our everyday lives. Even though recent legislation protecting Internet equality has been killed, it will take months if not years to see the full impact of an unregulated Internet.
If you are a small business owner with a websites or and online store, don’t completely overhaul everything just yet, the SEO industry isn’t going away for quite some time.

And the Future Will Be?

Web searches as we know them will be changing in the next couple years. But changes and evolution are just part of the game, good changes will evolve and bad ones will disappear. Help keep the internet equal for everyone:

SUPPORT NET NEUTRALITY

Why Business Thank You Notes Are Important

TY NOTE

Growing up we were always told saying thank you was important; writing a thank you note was even better. The art of sending a Thank You Note has faded a bit but there are still a lot of people that send them and for good reason. Not only does it show you are appreciative for an item, an action, or just a relationship, but in the business world you are giving your perspective customer or current customer another reason to see your name, your business name and just another “touch” in a world that likes to be noticed.

Sometimes we get busy, sometimes we just plain forget, but making sure to send a thank you is a GREAT thing when trying to make someone feel the warm and fuzzy. It requires very little effort, it doesn’t have to be a novel, just a quick jot of words will do. A proper thank you note contains just a few things; generous, specific, prompt, concise and personal. Even if you are late to write the note, don’t let that hold you back, late is better than not at all.

Writing a Thank You note will set you apart from your competitor. Like I said before, Thank You Notes are fading a lot from what they were in the past, so sending a handwritten thank you sets you apart from the other company that has been trying to get their business. When you send a thank you note, the receiver is more likely to see your worth and value your appreciation than just a quick email or social media post. Studies have shown the great power of saying thank you. When you send a Thank You to your customers they in turn spend more, they tell their friends about you and your service delivery.  This drives profit, margin and success.

The Well-Targeted Newsletter Audience

Imagine:

Example #1

It’s Friday afternoon and you’ve just sat down in your favorite chair on the porch with your favorite beverage in one hand and a stack of mail in the other. You revel in the fall breeze at it gently pushes away the once stuffy, hot air. It’s nice to be outside again.

You examine your stack of mail:

Cable TV ad. Nope.

Another “pre-qualified loan offer”. Not falling for that again.

Car insurance quote offer, for the hundredth time. Maybe later.    

Bills. Absolutely later.

Here is a newsletter from the community organization that you donated $20 to last year. Well that is interesting. What’s going on in the community? What are they doing with your investment? You can’t believe what you are reading. ALL OF THAT is happening right now? How can you help? You get this strange, powerful drive to do something for your community and look for a person to contact. All the info is right there.

Example #2

Next door to you, the neighbor kid has just gotten home from school, fallen on the couch, and is looking through his Facebook feed. Endless streams of information. But he isn’t really reading it, he is scanning, turning his brain off for a bit and only stopping when certain interesting words or images catch his eye.

Angry cat. Hah, that cat is great.

Political upheaval. Later, when I have more energy.

An ad for a T-shirt with his last name on it. The shirt reads: “It’s a Smith thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Clever, but that’s been way overdone.

Headline: “A man plunges into a rushing river and what he does next will amaze you”. No, it won’t. It will be disappointing. The picture displayed here won’t even be in the article and it will only be amazing to a toddler. Oh wait, no pictures. Not even toddlers are impressed. The kid starts to write a post about how annoying headlines have become and then erases it. Nobody cares about that either.

His attention piques when he sees a post about the alarming rate of child trafficking in Placer County.

The next few minutes are filled with furrowed brow, narrowed eyes, and held  breath. The wheels of alarm are turning. What can he do to help? He cares about his community a great deal and must do his part in something great. Well it says right there how to help, who to contact, and some words of encouragement. Hey look, a button that says “Yes, I will help organize a Safe Walk Home meeting at my school.” Yes please.

Example #3

Miles away in the city, a young woman is finally on her last hour of the work day. She checks her email one last time and notices an e-newsletter from the community organization that she volunteered at last year during a park trail cleanup. She likes getting emails from this organization because they gather up all the most important things going on in the outdoor (about as outdoor as you can get in the city) community and give her a snippet of what each thing is about. She thinks that the articles are always on point and usually relevant to how she can participate further or what has been done as a result of volunteers like her.

She’s had a rough day. She clicks on the link to learn more about using plants to create a stress free environment in the workplace. There is a great place right over in that corner for a succulent plant!

Reading this newsletter gives her inspiration to go outdoors over the weekend, and also to buy a plant for her office.

And look, they are having a tree planting event next week in the park! She will make sure to join. The park is just a couple blocks from her office.

These are what well-targeted readers and tailored content look like. Not every avenue is perfect for the entirety of every audience. In fact, it’s best for an organization or company with a wide range of clients or potential clients to reach out in different ways, according to segments of their audience. Not sure where to start?


Start Your Information and Invitation Funnel by:

  1. Surveying existing interested parties and researching their demographics and motivations so that you can get more readers like them.
  2. Decide on how to tailor content to each segment of your audience.
  3. Plan a timeline and follow it repeatedly, provided it works. Otherwise make adjustments.
  4. Make your content. What do you want your audience to do and how will you make it clear that they are to do that thing?
        
    Now is the time to send your message. Not sure how to get it done? Or are you concerned about the professional quality or the possibility of hitting the spam folder/trash can? If you get lost anywhere in the process or you just need somebody to take over in the social media, email, design, or printed newsletter department, give us a call! (888) 282-8764. Or email us at quote_request@api-marketing.com

Authenticity in Modern Marketing

A free range, grass fed blog postAuthenticity.  What does it mean to you?
Is it a pristine, original painting? A perfectly restored classic car? Perhaps organic fruits and vegetables? Artisan firewood? Using leeches as a way to heal wounds? Well, you get the picture. Humanity can get a little carried away with authenticity. But it sells. In fact, the Rule of Seven (“rule” stating that you must contact a person 7 times before they will consider your product or service), is becoming a laughable thing of the past. It’s no longer about how many times you contact somebody, it’s about HOW you contact them and if it is RELEVANT and COMPELLING to them.

We are obsessed with authenticity
In the digital age we are bombarded with demands for our attention,  In our over-processed lives nearly every outlet is untrustworthy. The things we do trust are original, simple, and down to earth. We are drawn to people and other creatures that persist, and that are unapologetic originals—because we want that too. This phenomena can be seen in nearly every issue on every side of the political aisle and is manifested in different ways.

Businesses can direct that passion and drive for authenticity on a product or service by speaking the new language of the consumer.
Continue reading Authenticity in Modern Marketing

Groundhog Day for Businesses

Sunny with a chance of shadows: groundhog out of his holeIt doesn’t take much to predict the weather better than a groundhog, but even a groundhog gets out of his comfort zone to check things out—which is something that many business owners don’t do often enough.

If you are doing just fine, then don’t sweat it. If you need a little help to stay afloat, it’s time to change things up.

As a country we are catapulting into polarized politics and our comfort zones are already being broken down. People are becoming accustomed to dramatic messages and won’t be swayed as easily as they were a few years ago. The competition to get your business seen above others, and above the rest of the things on people’s minds, will be even greater as the year progresses. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and provide a little boost to your clients. Maybe you have a revolutionary new idea, or maybe you provide a sense of security in a volatile sea of unsteady choices.

Whatever it is you have to offer, we can help you stand out above the others in your market. Just give us a call and we can set you up with a free marketing consultation. This is the Year of Standing Out! Make it count. 888.282.8764

A little background on Groundhog Day:

Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmotte; Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will arrive early, some time before the vernal equinox; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

Modern customs of the holiday involve early morning celebrations to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.