Archive for November, 2012

Getting Noticed with Direct Mail Die Cuts

Guest Post by Dave Ward of Highland Marketing

We often hear reactions to creative work expressed with an air of excitement, “oh, that’s interesting” or “is that ever different”; quite simply, people just like experiences that go beyond the humdrum things seen every day. The same applies to direct mail and pieces that attract attention are far more likely to generate desired results for your small business when compared to familiar, “same old” pieces that normally land in our mailboxes.

Over the past few years one of our favourite “stand out” techniques here at Highland Marketing has been the use of unique, die cut mailers and promotional materials. However, die cuts are not the only way of getting noticed. We’ve seen favourable results through the use (or even combined use) of techniques such as:

  1. clear polybags – where the contents can be seen without opening the package
  2. the use of larger items – we mailed over 14,000 full-size wine bottles (unfortunately empty) on one campaign
  3. insightful, personalized targeting – through the use of powerful techniques for Variable Data Integration (VDI)

Example of a coffee cup die cut created for a Highland Marketing client. What kind of Die cut could your small business create?

Building Excitement

Die cuts are not only effective for getting your business noticed, they can also put a lot of fun into direct marketing. Sure, they need to be consistent with your brand and image, but it can be very rewarding to generate new and creative ideas. While we have designed numerous die cuts, we’ve also enjoyed watching clients come up with some outstanding ideas on their own after discussions with us.

On Results

Obviously, businesses are curious about how well die cut mailers work. Although we are strong proponents of die cuts, and as much as we often ask our client to measure, we do not always have access to actual campaign results.

I can say, however, that we use die cuts ourselves and have seen returns far in excess of the investments we have made. We also have one client who launched a pilot program earlier this year, in which they sent different Roundcards to different customers, based on specific information that they had collected. The program was such a success that they have continued to mail every two weeks.

We also had a client for whom we’ve mailed over 400,000 house-shaped postcards, over the course of 20 different mailings. It’s probably a safe bet that this company has also seen positive results. Consider that their first drop was a mere 2,500 pieces. Since then, the quantities have grown to upwards of 30,000 pieces per drop. They would not be continuing to increase quantities in this manner if the program was not tremendously successful.

It’s Only Expensive If…

Another question people often ask me is: how much do die cuts cost? Typically, we have found that they add about 25% to 50% to the cost of a standard print job, with the difference diminishing as volume increases. Of course, this does depend on both the size and complexity of the die.

Although this adds to the cost of the mailing:

  • direct mail is only expensive when it doesn’t work, and
  • the incremental cost of well-designed die cuts, with good copy, certainly enhances the likelihood of their success.

Although we are focusing on die cuts in this post, I will often stress these particular points by referring to a project where we mailed about 14,000 messages in wine bottles (over an 18 month period). Amazingly, this campaign actually returned every dollar budgeted to it long before it was even completed – and that was with an all-in cost of $16 per piece. It was a great project, but certainly not for the faint of heart.

Repetition is Still Key

We must never underestimate the value of repetition. Yes, it’s possible that you may come up with an awesome design, great copy, and a superb offer that gets your phones ringing off the hook with just one mailing, but more often it can take two or three mailings (or sometimes more) to the same audience to really see significant results. I often tell new clients that if they want to be successful, rather than mailing to 9,000 new prospects once, they might consider mailing to the best 3,000 prospects three times. If the product is good, the copy is good, and there is a solid offer – it does work.

It really does pay to be tastefully different and die cuts can help you stand out. Many of our clients have already put their “marketing in shape” and as we mentioned, it not only adds value, it also adds a lot of fun.

About the Author

Dave Ward is the president of Highland Marketing, which he founded in 1993 and built on the foundation of strong technical skills and a commitment to always trying to help clients achieve that most effective balance between cost and creativity. Dave is also the founder of the DM-Toolkit, a one-stop resource for integrated direct marketing, as well as a published author, with several of his articles appearing in Direct Marketing News. You can follow him on Twitter.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Marketing, Small Business Solutions

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Back to Basics: Small Business Accounting Simplified

If your small business were audited tomorrow, would you be ready?

If not, you’re probably not alone. It seems many small business owners struggle to keep their finances in order.

We sat down recently with one of our business mentors, known for their excellent bookkeeping throughout 28 years in business, and asked for some tips on becoming more organized. Although some prefer an online method, or to use accounting software in attempts to ‘go green’, our mentor suggests that some small retail businesses might benefit from going back to basics and the good ol’-fashioned print-and-store method.

Overall, good bookkeeping isn’t an intimidating process exclusive to those who are good with numbers, rather it’s a system you can create and follow as long as you’re dedicated. In fact, as our mentor points out, you really only need a box and a binder to make this system work.

How the System Works

What you’ll need: a banker’s box, a binder, envelopes, and commitment.

Step 1: The Banker’s Box

In a large banker’s box dated with your fiscal year, label large envelopes for each month and file accordingly. Print all of your bills for the month and separate them into the envelopes based on ‘bills to be paid’ versus ‘bills paid’. Mark each of the bills with the cheque number or the confirmation number; this labeling allows the bills to be reconciled at the end of the month with your bank statement.

Step 2: The Binder

With a business checking account, your bank will send a monthly statement summarizing your transactions. In a binder with separated sections from January to December, keep a copy of each month’s bank statement.

Step 3: Reconcile

At the end of each month compare the contents of the envelopes in your box with the charges listed on the monthly bank statement in the binder to make sure they are the same.

Some useful tips for using this system:

      • Even if you’ve paid for something with your debit card, print the confirmation or write down the confirmation number and how you’ve paid the bill to include in the box. This information is featured on the monthly bank statement and keeping track of small transactions is important with respect to accounting for everyday purchases.
      • Keep track of your sales and label them as income as it accumulates. This tracking ensures that there are no sales that go unaccounted for.
      • For expenses under $10, pay cash and keep the receipt. When you have accumulated a couple hundred dollars worth of these receipts, write a cheque and label it according to the category it belongs to (e.x. “supplies”). It’s important not to lose track of small daily expenses as they can add up quickly; you should know where your miscellaneous cash is going.
      • Confirm what your bank charges for debits and deposits so that you can ensure you’re not spending unnecessarily on the convenience of using debit. Sometimes cash for small expenses can actually save you money as long as you keep your receipt.

While the box & binder is a basic system and may not work for everyone, our mentor who owns a retail business found it very handy because she was able to simply hand over the box and binder to an auditor which eases the stress of an audit overall. Even after implementing a system like this however, it’s also a good idea to keep track of your finances with other resources as well.

Other things you’ll need to stay financially responsible…

Accounting Software

Many small business owners can benefit from organizing their finances with accounting software. Our mentor recommended Quickbooks, but there are other options to look into as well. Accounting software can generate financial reports so that you can literally visualize your sales and compare from year to year. Furthermore, it can help with sales forecasting to determine future sales based on current figures. If you’re looking for free online software to get started, Wave Accounting is also an option to explore.

An Accountant you can Trust

Our mentor advises asking other small business owners to recommend strong accountants in the area. When you aren’t sure of accounting practices yourself, it’s best you have an accountant who will look after your best interests while adhering to proper standards and avoiding the pitfalls of creative accounting.

Book a Consultation with us

Ultimately your financial health needs to be observed regularly so that you make sound decisions in all aspects of your business. Better bookkeeping can seem daunting, but once you have a system in place, it’s easier to manage your finances and you won’t have anything to fear if an auditor comes to call. Additionally, you can contact our business development officer Tina Heathers to book a meeting to review your financial situation and bookkeeping practices via


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