How To Elevate Your Virtual Conferences with Innovative Mailers

Listen — by now, we’re all pretty sick and tired of traditional old Zoom calls. Connectivity issues, disjointed conversations… It’s no wonder National Geographic is publishing studies on the effects of “Zoom fatigue.”

But this past year has also shown us just how useful and convenient virtual engagement can be. Whether it’s working from home or attending far-off gatherings, the benefits of video communications have never been clearer.

Juggling these two realities beckons a difficult question: How do we harness the power of online meetings without succumbing to Zoom gloom?

Perhaps no one needs such a virtual solution more than the trade shows industry

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 had a serious impact on all sectors that rely on mass attendance and travel. And in the world of trade shows and business conferences, that impact was palpable.

In June 2020, for instance, over 70 percent of B2B executives stated that they’d canceled an event. Another report noted that the $15 billion trade show industry was likely to take its biggest financial hit of all time.

With their backs against the wall, conference organizers turned to video. In it, they found a solution that isn’t just a temporary stopgap; it’s a door to untapped possibilities.

Sure, virtual events sacrifice some networking ability… But that negative is offset by an exponential increase in accessibility. Remote capabilities negate the need for travel, and the ability to record is a godsend for anyone facing schedule conflicts. The bottom line here is greater reach and, in turn, wider impact.

Plus, early returns on virtual conferences are showing that they’re actually no less effective in creating leads. As such, it’s no stretch to imagine that new-age trade shows will be defined by a reduction in in-person attendance alongside a corresponding rise in online attendance.

… Especially when you have the tools to make those online experiences memorable.

At Structural Graphics, we’ve spent the past year-plus developing such tools

Our goal is simple: Transcend the monotony of your average Zoom conferences and forgettable collateral mailers. We want to create an interactive experience — one that does your brand justice.

Most notably, we’ve developed virtual trade show booths that essentially mimic the in-person sensation. In some instances, such actually fold out with panels that hold small video screens with your chosen content. In others, those panels contain augmented reality tags, QR codes and NFC tags that launch the virtual experience right on your phone.

In either case, these unique dimensional mailers can immediately bring your viewers to relevant online resources. You get every benefit from a trade show interaction — without having to compete with neighboring booths for attention.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Depending on your needs, we can tailor the virtual experience and accompanying materials to fit. For instance, we’ve recently partnered with a number of healthcare marketers on:

  • Interactive invitations — Eye-popping first impressions that cultivate curiosity in the short-term and transform into desktop mainstays that build brand recognition in the long-term.
  • Information kits — Helpful step-by-step guides to preparing for, logging into, and participating in any sort of virtual affair.
  • Interactive elements — Any sort of resources to accompany the main event, from quizzes to polls to follow-along materials.
  • Classic takeaways — All the goodies you’d normally accumulate at a trade show, including t-shirts, swag, snacks, and presentation materials.

See them in action here and give us a shout to see how we can make your next virtual conference come to life!

Dimensional Mail: Your Solution to the Rising Costs of Digital Marketing

With Digital becoming the standard marketing avenue, companies are pouring more of their resources into social, video, and written content to captivate their audiences. Even compared to last year, 2021 should see 12% more digital ad spend — up to 55% of all advertising spending.

As a result, we’ve reached a state of digital marketing overwhelm. What used to be a blue sea of opportunity has now become red with competition.

And on top of this market saturation, we also have to deal with steadily increasing ad costs. (Just consider how once-affordable Instagram has risen in ad cost since being acquired by Facebook). But with online click-through rates falling, wasted ad spend is crippling marketing budgets across industries.

Putting these factors together, we’re now at a point where we have to question the viability of digital marketing. So here’s our new marketing conundrum: How to effectively stand out from all the noise in an ROI-friendly manner?

Want high engagement? Then direct dimensional mail’s your best friend

Naturally, that’s our answer here — and with good reason. Traditionally, direct mail has pulled in considerably higher open rates and response rates than digital. 

HomeWorks Energy Pop Up Mailer

The reality is that despite our increasingly digital tendencies, physical mailers tend to cultivate more trust and emotional reactions. (With the recent prevalence of data privacy issues online, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise). When readers can hold something, experience it with multiple senses, and give it their undivided, non-scrolling attention, the result is a greater impact. Greater impact equals longer-lasting recall. And for our purposes, longer recall is what drives the sales we so covet.

And lest we forget, we’ve so far been concerned only with traditional direct mail — which has an average response rate of 4.4%. That’s impressive compared to email’s 0.12% figure, but it’s completely overshadowed by dimensional direct mail which sees a staggering average response rate of 8.5%! With its heightened focus on quality and engagement, dimensional mail undoubtedly lies at the top of the “effectiveness” food chain for direct mail.

And the kicker is, dimensional mail is only getting more effective

Consider USPS’s deep-dive study that pinpoints three notable areas of improvement in the direct mail landscape:

  1. Targeting well-defined audiences with relevant marketing
  2. Tracking the long- and short-term metrics of campaigns
  3. Working hand-in-hand with omnichannel campaigns (and even driving digital traffic!)

These three bullet points have traditionally been digital’s biggest advantages over print. But now, as intelligent innovations develop, that gap is closing.

At Structural Graphics, for our part, we’ve been integrating these industry-shifting innovations into high-impact dimensional mailers. The result is an unprecedented combination of new-age data capabilities and enticing visual and tactile designs. Here’s what they look like:

USPS SleekPeeks® VR Viewer

So here’s the bottom line: We’ve long known that dimensional mail is as powerful as it gets from an engagement standpoint. And its rapid integration of technological developments is only further boosting that effectiveness.

Meanwhile, digital channels are as crowded as ever, with returns diminishing at a steady pace. Marketing here is cheaper than via direct, sure, but the ROI simply isn’t what it used to be.

And that’s why we’re so high on dimensional direct mail: If you actually want to inspire engagement and cultivate meaningful customer relationships… It really is a no-brainer.

Keep Your Brand Top of Mind with Dimensional Print

The magic starts from the moment they open the mail. And it lasts until… well, even months into the future. 

That’s the power of creative dimensional mail — if done right. But here’s what “done right” looks like from start to finish:

It opens with an unforgettable first impression

The mail we receive on a regular basis doesn’t tend to inspire much excitement, right? That’s why we put such a premium on making that first impression unique — to capture attention and invite engagement.

Unsurprisingly, studies back this up: Direct mail is praised for delivering open rates as high as 90%. And under this direct mail umbrella, dimensional leads the first-impression pack; when people receive something that immediately appears out of the ordinary, they can’t help but indulge their curiosity.

For instance, here at Structural Graphics, we partnered with global luxury brand agency Hudson Rouge, in collaboration with Maker House, to create a sleek foil-stamped package containing a hardcover welcome book for new Lincoln vehicles. To truly capture the Lincoln brand and wow the viewer, the books outer edge lit up in LED lights when opened — mimicking their cars lighting up when unlocked. Best yet, when the book is removed, thin speakers in the box automatically play a custom composition by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Now, have you ever seen anything like that before? We’ll bet that those Lincoln customers hadn’t, and we’ll bet they weren’t quick to forget it.

Once they’re hooked, it’s all about engagement and response

The Lincoln book’s elegant, lit-up appearance may have been the invitation, but the music inside was the real party. So once they’re in, you want to continue cultivating an experience for the recipient. And the best experience is one that they participate in; dimensional mail’s greatest strength is that it’s not a one-way street.

For starters, people appreciate that direct mail lets them engage on their own time, at their own pace. One study found that direct mail remains in homes for 17 days on average. And in that 17 days, your mailer is much more likely to make an impression than any email; print ads can have recall rates 30% higher than digital. 

But we’re not just talking about any print ads. We’re talking about the most innovative designs, sent straight to the reader’s door. Get this: Average direct mail’s response rate of 4.4% easily trumps email’s 0.12%… But dimensional mail makes both look like child’s play, with a staggering 8.5% response rate of its own!

Point being: There’s no better tool for engaging your audience. And no tool is as safe a bet for high ROI.

And we’re not done yet: Dimensional mail has unmatched shelf life

People throw out mail. If you’re lucky, they skim through it and then toss it. What else would they do?

Well, if you give them a rare reason to keep it, they just might. Take this self-standing popper we made for Uniti. This nifty piece of dimensional mail shares a message promoting community education. And with its eye-catching diorama and light scheme, it’s quite easy to leave standing on one’s desk for long-lasting impact.

Or how about something that offers long-term value without a self-standing setup. Here’s a recruitment brochure we made for UC Riverside to share vital enrollment information. With pop-up graphics and fold-out panels containing useful resources, UC Riverside gave students every reason to keep the card for future reference and even share it with other friends applying to college.

And that’s yet another feather in dimensional mail’s cap! It creates an experience that’s not only memorable (and in some cases long-lasting), but it also begs to be shared.

Which brings us full circle: Dimensional mail “done right” is a branding home run — from the first impression, through the experience of the mailer, and into its next life as a desktop ornament.


Emotion In Advertising Is Now More Important Than Ever

We all know good advertising when we see it or, more accurately, when we feel it.

The best brands – the ones that consumers turn to in good times and bad – focus on connecting deeply with their audience by consciously harnessing the power of emotions and using it skillfully in their advertising.

In recent weeks, in particular, we’ve been seeing this more frequently from all kinds of brands. From Budweiser to JanSport and Dominos, businesses the world over are tapping into the fear, loss and isolation many of us are feeling while waiting out COVID-19.

But emotional advertising isn’t just relegated to a screen. Dimensional print enables marketers to create emotional connections and build brand loyalty quicker and more effectively than ever before.

Here’s how:

It sets the stage. Who doesn’t love to receive a piece of mail? Especially now, when so many of us are stuck in front of screens or locked inside our homes, it’s an easy and (can be) a relatively low-cost way to surprise and delight. The format you choose for your piece can set the tone with the right emotional moments.

It presents options. Are you looking for something that pops? How about something that spins? Structural Graphics and Red Paper Plane can design anything from paper, whether it means incorporating sounds, lights, pull tabs or even video. The ways you can deliver your brand messaging are endless.

It can be tracked. Physical mailers are notoriously difficult to track. However, with designs like Web Keys and add-ons like QR Codes or NFC tags, these make it easy on your team to see the value of your advertising and assess if the emotion you’ve conveyed is on track.

3 Ways to Shift Marketing Strategies in the Age of COVID-19

The rise of COVID-19 has brought an array of challenges for brands, one of which is effective marketing. With a drop in on-site video and photo production, teams being asked to work from home, and businesses being forced to shutter indefinitely, it’s certainly pushing marketing teams to think creatively about how to cope with our “new normal”.

Here are a few ways to shift your current marketing strategy to help better equip your business during COVID-19.

Ditch the handshake: Unfortunately, we’re living in a world in which face-to-face interactions aren’t feasible for many of us for the foreseeable future. At a time when lead generation feels as though it’s being challenged, focus on engaging with the accounts that have the greatest potential for revenue. Refresh your LinkedIn page and increase your engagement with new or former customers. Set up one-on-one webinars to demo a product or service that can be shipped or installed in a safe environment. Create an immersive experience for prospects as soon as they visit your website or social media channels.

Shift dollars to dimensional: We all seem to be spending a lot more time in front of our screens than usual these days. Instead of investing in a one-dimensional marketing strategy, consider using print mailers to your advantage. Dimensional print pieces like the ones at Structural Graphics and Red Paper Plane stand out, deliver the message you want, and offer an interactive experience that’s sure to be remembered.

Communicate: We can’t think of a better time to strengthen your communications skills. Whether it’s updating internal staff on company news or sharing how your brand is pivoting during this time, consistent and engaging communication is integral to the longevity of any business.

Struggling With Lead Generation? Here Are 4 Simple Tips.

Lead generation. It’s the holy grail of the marketing world.

Everything hinges on it, whether that’s the overall success of your marketing campaign or the business’ bottom line. However, it’s important to note there’s no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to finding and converting new prospects.

So, where does one begin? Here are a few tried and true tips to get you started:

CURATE. Before beginning any type of direct mail or email campaign, it’s important to pare down any of your current mailing lists so that you’re only reaching out to the right people for your brand. Who is your ideal buyer? Where do they live? What income bracket are they in? Essentially, cultivate a targeted profile of who you want to take an interest in your product.

DELIVER VALUE. In our opinion, this is the most important (and often overlooked step). What is your value proposition? Once you’ve determined who your target audience is, it becomes much easier to decide how your product or service will solve a problem they have. Does what you’re selling offer convenience? Help with self-esteem? Provide comfort? Your mail piece, whether it’s a postcard or an email, serves a purpose. Don’t let it get lost because you’re unable to deliver value to the recipient.

BUDGET. No business wants their marketing assets to appear cheap, especially when making a first impression on potential new customers. However, it’s important not to break the bank either. Now is the time to decide whether you should use an in-house graphic designer, copywriter or photographer, or if it would make more sense to outsource. This is a great opportunity to explore helpful third-party websites like RedPaperPlane.com, which allows brands to customize “WOW”-worthy direct mail pieces at an affordable rate.

TRACK. If you want to know if you’re generating viable leads, you need some way to track who is responding to your marketing calls to action. Aside from using tracking software, consider incorporating QR codes, NFC technology or web keys into your direct mail piece. When used correctly, these interactive tools can tell you exactly what content is working for your business and who is interested in what you have to offer.

Ready to get started generating viable leads for your business? Give us a shout to learn how we can help.

Are You A Direct Mail Noob? We’ve Got Some Tips for You.

Are you a marketer who sees the value of direct mail marketing, but aren’t quite sure where it would be most effective with your brand or business? Here at Structural Graphics, we like to think of ourselves as direct mail experts and have put together a few quick tips for incorporating it into your next campaign.

Start with a goal in mind. Do you want to drive virtual event attendance? Website hits? Lead Generation? Whatever it is you’re setting out to achieve, make sure you outline your objective in detail and consider what a successful execution of your campaign would look like. From there, determine your budget, audience and time frame.

Now, make it pop (literally). Two-dimensional direct mail pieces are a thing of the past. To really capture the attention of your target audience, consider going the dimensional route with a Pop Up Cube, VR Viewer or Video Mailer. These designs are now easier than ever to find and have the ability to surprise and delight where a generic postcard just can’t. At Structural Graphics, and our online design-it-yourself offering, Red Paper Plane, you’re in the driver’s seat and can customize the dimensional design of your choice with logos, colors, copy, and graphics unique to your brand.

Finally, send and track. To get the most out of your direct mail pieces, we highly suggest using a detailed approach to tracking them. You put all that time into making sure they perfectly reflect your business, after all! Be sure to collect tracking numbers for each of the mailers you send, then create a spreadsheet to keep track of its status. It’s also important to include the intended recipient’s name, address, and the sales representative or project manager who is responsible for following up.

And that’s it! Follow each of these simple steps and you’ll be a direct mail marketing champ in no time. Give us a call at (860)-767-2661 or send us a message to find out how we can help you get started on your first campaign!

Entering Q2: Our Future Marketing Predictions

In the lead up to the new quarter, we put our heads together to share our vision for the months ahead. Here are a few trends we think will be shaping our marketing throughout the remainder of 2020.

Video Marketing

It’s no secret that customers respond well to visual content. Now, more than ever, this type of content is essential, due to in person meetings and events being cancelled. But, just because you can’t be there in person, doesn’t mean you can’t be there at all. Video marketing is relatable, emotional and aids in building relationships. Much like we predicted in 2019, video content will continue to be an essential part of any marketing strategy for the duration of 2020. 

Whether you’re just getting started with video marketing or you want to up your video marketing’s “wow factor”, give our Video Mailers a try. Not only are they attention-getting, they also provide a visual experience of your brand for your prospects.

Online Goes Offline

Believe it or not, what’s tried and true are staples for a reason. That’s why direct mail still has value.

However, now brands are using technology and data gleaned from customers’ online presence to inform how to approach them offline. Billboards, retailers and others have begun experimenting with this ultra-targeted communication and consumers are falling for it. 

Don’t have the budget (or the data) to do this yourself? Use what you do know about your customers to approach them in a thoughtful way that is both relevant and valuable to them. 

Increased Direct Communication

Similar to our above point about personalizing direct mail, we expect the channels of communication between customers and brands to improve. Instead of the impersonal connections that many social platforms and websites offer, we’re seeing text messaging platforms, real-time Twitter Q&As, and on-call customer service representatives resurfacing and resurrecting the strong direct connections many of us have missed having with our favorite brands.  

SleekPeeks® Cardboard VR Viewer

Sensory Immersion

It’s not just about pumping out consistent content anymore. Customers are oversaturated with it. Instead, capturing the attention of potential buyers will require brands to get more creative. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will continue to deliver on this front, but we’ll also see more interactive marketing experiences like this one that engage each of the five senses.

HIPPA and Direct Mail: Do You Know the Rules?

So, you think you know the rules when it comes to HIPAA, but do you know how it relates to your marketing?

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding patients’ medical information. It applies to organizations that are considered HIPAA-covered entities, including health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers. Private health information like names, social security and health plan numbers, vehicle identifiers, fingerprints or facial images are some of the information protected by HIPAA.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule defines marketing as “a communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service”. With limited exceptions, the rule requires an individual’s written authorization before his or her protected health information can be used for marketing. (It’s important to note that the HIPAA Privacy Rule distinguishes marketing communications from those communications regarding goods and services that are essential for quality health care.)

When considering sending direct mail within the healthcare community, it’s important to remember that HIPAA is, ultimately, there to protect patient health data and to protect your business against violations and fines. However, there are still ways that your team can market without putting patients’ privacy at risk. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Digital

  • Don’t create ads, posts or emails using patient information without obtaining explicit permission from the patients involved.
  • Don’t allow staff members to take any photos or videos, including cell phone photography, within the practice if there is the potential that personal information will be visible.
  • Create and enforce social media policies for employees limiting what they can and cannot post.
  • Ensure that any third-party agencies, photographers or vendors are HIPAA compliant. Legal Business Associate Agreements must be executed with all vendors, including marketing firms.
  • Encrypt any email sent to patients that contains personal information, including name and email address.

Direct

  • Receive explicit authorization from patients before sending them any direct mail.
  • Send marketing communications via certified mail and require the intended recipient’s signature.
  • Clearly and prominently identify your organization (if you are the one sending it).
  • Include clear opt-out instructions.
  • Explain why the recipient has been targeted with your communication and how the product or service you’re selling relates to the health of the individual.
  • Disclose whether a covered entity, such as a healthcare provider or partner, has received or will receive direct or indirect remuneration for making the communication.

5 Ways to Incorporate Tech Into Your Direct Mail

Do you ever feel like a print marketer in a digital world?

Well, you’re not wrong. But you’re not exactly right in feeling this way, either.

From Facebook ads to targeted email campaigns, it’s evident that technology plays a crucial role in influencing the purchasing decisions of customers. However, even despite the ongoing wave of technological advancements, customers are embracing direct mail, too.

Here’s how you can combine both technology and print, and use them to your advantage:

Video Brochures: By taking the best parts of video (sound and image) and merging it with the best part of print (context), Video Brochures are a win-win. Instead of sending another flat postcard with copy and graphics, these brochures allow brands a greater opportunity to connect with and capture the attention of their recipients. With a variety of sizes to choose from and the ability to customize not only the video, but the brochure as well, this is a format that is sure to take your business’ printed communication to the next level. Not to mention, marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than those who don’t. Click here to read about how combining video with a high-impact printed solution is such an effective marketing tool.

Audio in Print: Why settle for plain text when you can make it pop with sound? Print plays to the human senses in ways that digital tech is hard-pressed to match. Add sound and you’re able to deliver your customers and/ or prospects the ultimate sensory experience. Start by adding your jingle to your print communications or include a personalized video message from your sales representative or CEO. Now, that’s sure to capture their attention.

Near Field Communications: NFC technology uses tiny, radio frequency emitting tags to connect with digital devices like smartphones. When a smartphone comes within range of the signal, its web browser displays the content the signal steers it to – no apps necessary. What’s especially great about NFC is that it can be used on just about any printed material: brochures, in-store signage, posters, flyers, coupons, business cards and more.

Virtual Reality: Have you been considering incorporating VR into your marketing? New, inexpensive VR headsets like our SleekPeeks® have made it possible for brands of all sizes and budgets to deliver this immersive experience to their customers. Ours ship flat, assemble in seconds and are fully customizable.

Augmented Reality: Unlike VR, AR invites people into an interactive experience that doesn’t require the need for a headset. Customers, prospects and other members of the public are able to experience computer-generated information in a real-world setting. Combine AR with a brochure, magazine insert, invitation, or other printed collateral and deliver a larger-than-life experience to your customers.

Interested in incorporating technology into your next print campaign? Let’s talk.