With June fast approaching and the warm weather just within our reach, many people look to Memorial Day as that unofficial mark to the beginning of summer – complete with a beach day, barbecue, and three-day weekend. But we are often so busy gathering around the grill or lounging by the pool that we forget the real significance of the day which is so much more than some time off.
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a day to remember those in the American armed forces who have given up their lives in service to our country. The holiday dates back to the end of the Civil War, originally commemorating the quarter of a million lives lost during that four-year period.
While independent memorial gatherings were most likely held before 1968, the first noted recognition of the day came from General John A. Logan, a former Union Army general, and political leader. He designated May 30th of that year as a day to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers and honor their sacrifice. Because of Logan’s position and prominence within the Union Army, the holiday was initially practiced mostly by those in the North. But subsequent to the first and second World Wars, Memorial Day came to be a date that honored ALL fallen U.S. soldiers and was celebrated throughout the country. It wasn’t until Congress implemented the Uniform Holiday Act in 1971 that Memorial Day became a federal holiday and was moved to its current date of the final Monday in May – thus your long weekend.
Memorial Day has come to mean vastly different things for many people. For those who have recently lost a loved one, it is a time of grief and sorrow, while for others it may serve as a reminder that many before now have lost their lives to provide us with the opportunities we now possess. But for all of us, it can prove that a country once divided can stand as one to honor our fallen heroes.
In present times, many continue the tradition of visiting and decorating the graves of soldiers and the memorials dedicated to them. The President or Vice President presents a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, showing honor to the many who have died and went unidentified, and flags throughout the country are placed at half-staff until noon. A new tradition has even come into being where people are asked to stop what they are doing at 3 pm to reflect on the meaning of the occasion. So while it is by no means bad to enjoy the time off that accompanies Memorial Day, it is important to understand the true meaning of the date and recognize that for many, it holds great significance. Use it as an opportunity to remember those who have died for our country and be sure to hold the soldiers in your life just a little bit closer.
Augmented reality (AR) has been around for awhile now, and several marketing campaigns (such as IKEA’s furniture shopping app) have piqued marketers’ interest.
But with the explosive popularity of 2016’s Pokemon Go game, more companies are realizing the potential of the technology to grab customer attention. If AR isn’t in your bag of marketing tricks, it might be worth a look.
First, let’s look at what AR actually is. In case you’re not familiar, AR is a blending of virtual reality technology with the real world. Using an app (often on a smartphone), AR overlays digital elements on the user’s real environment.
In Pokemon Go’s case, players “caught” Pokemon that the game placed in real-world locations. By scanning the location with the camera on their smartphone, a player could find the creature.
IKEA’s brochure is another great example; the company’s app allowed customers to scan a brochure page, then view a piece of furniture as it would look in their own homes.
Why You Should Consider Adding AR
All companies want to create buzz around their brand and/or products. Augmented reality can help provide that – and you don’t necessarily have to invest in your own AR app to do it.
Going back to the Pokemon Go craze, many businesses designated their stores as “Pokestops” – places where gamers could collect specialized items and where more of the virtual creatures would congregate. This was a creative way to tap into an existing trend, without the businesses having to invest in technology of their own.
Of course, you can’t always count on being able to leverage these fads, so you’ll want to consider how your own AR apps could boost your business. Look at your buyer’s journey; are there places along your sales funnel where augmented reality could help your customers envision your product? Could a creative use of AR help boost customer engagement with your brand?
Experience Enhancement vs. Gimmick
The key is to improve the user experience – so avoid adding AR just for the sake of a gimmick. It should add value, helping your customers in some way. Some clunkier uses of AR technology include scanning a brand logo and having an ad display on the user’s phone, or overlaying information like current promotions over stores in the user’s area. These examples have little attraction for customers beyond the novelty factor.
However, if you have a technical or higher-ticket item that customers will want to learn more about before purchasing, AR can help deliver information in a more engaging way than a paper brochure. It can also help customers envision themselves using your products – for example, a cosmetics company could incorporate an AR app that lets users see how different shades of makeup look on their own faces. This adds both fun and real value – a winning combination.
Augmented reality may not be the best option for every product and situation, but creatively incorporating it into your customer’s buying process can help you generate buzz. And thinking carefully about where you incorporate it can help successfully turn a novelty app into an income generator for you.
Staying competitive in this digital world means more than just cutting your prices to the bone. You need to find ways to improve productivity and deliver more value to customers so they no longer see you as another vendor to price-shop – they see you as a partner in their marketing efforts.
One way to improve your productivity is to automate as many of your daily tasks as possible. By using a digital storefront with a streamlined workflow, you can both boost your productivity and provide your customers a more convenient ordering process.
Benefits of Managing Your Workflow Through a Storefront
There are several key benefits for both you and your customers of directing your workflow through a storefront. First, you can more easily add services beyond print, such as fulfillment, branded/personalized products, and marketing materials.
Another great benefit is your ability to generate orders even during off hours. Your customers can place orders, re-order products, and more. The storefront provides them 24/7 access to their orders, along with stock levels and customization capability. And by automating the ordering process, you can increase your order volume without adding several more staff members.
One of the best things about using a digital storefront to manage your workflow is that you can centralize a lot of your tasks. Your storefront solution can combine order submission and fulfillment, cutting down on a lot of the administrative tasks that limit your daily productivity.
Do you have to outsource the occasional job? A digital storefront can even make this more seamless, merging an outsourcing job efficiently into your larger workflow. On the client’s side, their ordering process can look exactly the same as any other order they place with you. This cuts additional steps that can put a hitch in your otherwise smooth ordering and fulfillment process.
Growing and thriving in the face of an ever-more competitive market can seem overwhelming. Automating your workflow through tools like a digital storefront can cut down on the need to add more staff and other resources – which means you can increase revenue without a lot of extra overhead.
In a previous blog, we talked about some of the big mistakes small businesses make regarding keeping their data secure. With even some big-name companies seeing major data breaches in recent months, data security is an important topic.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got some best practices that should form the foundation of your data protection policy:
1. Assess and update your current security practices
How many people in your company have access to sensitive customer information?
The more people who have that access, the higher the potential for human error. You also need to make sure your whole team is on the same page when it comes to your data security policies.
Your first step, then, is to limit how many of your employees have high-level administrative access to your customer data. Also, have a policy in place that tracks when and how those employees use that information to avoid costly mistakes or data leaks.
You also need a clear, well documented data security policy that applies company-wide. We’ll discuss how to come up with that policy in a future post, but in general, you need to set standards for who can access information, when, and how that information is used. Having this policy in writing and integrating it with your overall business operations will take all guesswork out of it for your team.
2. Use ‘Least User Access’
A Least User Access policy means that employees only have access to the data they need to have in order to do their jobs. This limits the potential for human error and data leaks, along with the number of people who have sensitive customer data at their fingertips.
One example: an employee in marketing that just needs demographic data doesn’t need to have access to specific customer data like accounts and payment information. Creating tiers of information with different access levels provides an added level of security. Non-essential employees who may not be as familiar with security protocols won’t have the chance to make mistakes with this data.
3. Adopt company-wide password management policies
User accounts and their often weak passwords are a key point of entry for data thieves, so make sure they’re well-locked down.
Require that all of your employees use strong passwords – a general rule of thumb is at least eight characters including both letters and numbers. Ideally, the software you use should require strong passwords when users create their accounts. You’ll also need to educate your employees on the importance of keeping passwords safe.
Another area to look at is external vendor logins. Are your employees using the same login on those external systems as they are for your internal software? That’s also an area of concern – a vendor whose system gets hacked could unwittingly open your own system to the hackers. Require your employees to create separate logins with unique passwords for every external system they access.
When an employee leaves your company, part of your exit policy should include removing that worker’s logins immediately. You should also perform regular audits in case any inactive accounts slip through the cracks.
4. Use email authentication
Phishing and spoofed emails have become a major headache for consumers and companies alike. Data thieves have gotten very adept at creating fake emails that look like they came from a legitimate company.
In addition, these hackers can create websites that look identical to legitimate business websites, even mimicking the legitimate URL. Unsuspecting customers enter their logins to these fake sites, handing their information over to hackers without realizing it.
You can protect against this problem by using an email authenticator. Your email service provider should provide authentication service.
5. Use the right server certificate
SSL certificates are now all but a requirement for doing business online – but are you using the right kind of certificate?
There are three types of server certificate. The first is the Domain Validated (DV) certificate. This is a far less secure certificate, since it only validates that you’re allowed to use your domain name. It lets visitors know that they’re on your actual, legitimate website, but doesn’t provide a lot of security beyond that.
An Organization Validated (OV) certificate requires a little more information from you about your company; this information is provided to visitors of your website when they click on your secure site seal. This information provides trust by showing who owns the domain and who’s behind the website.
The most secure type is the Extended Validation (EV) certificate. Before issuing an EV, the certificate authority conducts a thorough vetting process. They’ll verify your company’s legal, physical, and operational existence, that your company identity matches official records, and that you have the exclusive right to use your domain.
This extra vetting delivers a much stronger level of security and trust for your customers, and is well worth the investment.
Bonus: Always keep the human element in mind
These best practices will help you start thinking about your data security – but always remember that your security is only as strong as the people who have access to your data. Make data security training a regular part of your ongoing employee development, and keep up-to-date on current security threats.
Taking these steps now can help you prevent a security breach that could devastate your company’s reputation and finances. Give United Mail a call today to discus your data security needs at 866-542-2107.
Written by Chase Kirkwood, President, United Mail
In December, search engine and email platform Yahoo uncovered a data breach from 2013 that involved over a billion user accounts. In November, an independent researcher found a privacy hole in Cisco’s Professional Careers website that left sensitive data open for prying eyes. And just last month, Verity Health System notified more than 9,000 patients that their personal information may have been stolen through a medical group website no longer in use.
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a website that reports on data breaches, more than 900 million records have been breached since 2005. These breaches can be devastating to a small business; according to security company Kaspersky, the average cost of a security breach to a small company is $38,000. Enterprise-level breaches can cost upwards of half a million dollars.
To help you tighten up your security measures, we’ve gathered a few too-common data security mistakes that could cost you dearly:
- Failing to Recognize the Danger
Think that you’re not a target for a hacker or security attack because your business is too small to be attractive? Think again. Even smaller pools of customer data (containing names, addresses, phone numbers, and other identifying information) are at risk.
It’s critical to recognize that your small business needs a security plan, and to make sure all of your employees understand the importance of keeping customer information safe. You can start by auditing your current system to look for potential problem areas. Is all of your software up to date? Are you using data encryption, including email encryption? Do you have a comprehensive data management policy that details which employees have access to various kinds of data? Do you have an action plan for everyone to follow if you do discover a breach?
- Not Teaching Employees the Importance of Data Security
As mentioned above, your team needs to understand how critical it is to keep customer data locked down. Don’t just assume your workers know what your security policy is, or that they’re following it properly at all times. Your team also needs to know how to spot suspicious activity and who they need to report it to.
The solution? Incorporate a data security training program into your onboarding process, and give your employees a refresher periodically. A few things your team must know include:
- how to recognize phishing emails – and what to do if they spot one
- the importance of password hygiene – changing passwords regularly, creating secure passwords, using different passwords for every account, etc.
- what each person’s specific responsibility will be if your data is breached – what part of the breach action plan will they be responsible for?
Remember: even the latest, greatest security software can’t protect against careless or untrained employees.
- Not Investigating Encryption Used by Vendors
The current benchmark that the U.S. federal government requires for encryption is FIPS 140-When you’re evaluating vendors for data security, ask if their product has been tested and validated to meet this standard. If not, you’re taking a risk with a product that might not properly protect your customers’ information.
- Failure to Secure Employee Devices
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies can be a great way to boost employee productivity – but you have to use caution. An unsecured mobile device with access to your sensitive data tosses all of your hard security work out the window.
If you have or want to start a BYOD program, take a few steps to keep it safe. Using a cloud-based data hosting solution focused on data security is a great first step. You should also require your employees to use encryption on any device that’s able to access company information.
- Not Knowing Where Your Data Is
This doesn’t just mean the physical location of servers where your data’s stored – though that’s important, too.
But more important is where your data goes as it makes its way through your company. Who has access to it at each point? Are employees following your security policy properly – or are they moving work data to their private cloud accounts so they can work at home? What monitoring system do you have in place to detect unauthorized access or other potential problems?
Any of these mistakes can leave you vulnerable to a breach. Cleaning up the security mess is only part of the cost – when you factor in loss of customer trust, customer turnover, and other business impacts, it’s easy to see how a breach can drive smaller company right out of business.
Because this is a critical topic, we’ll revisit data security in a regular series in future posts. in the meantime, think about your own policies for protecting customer information. Are you making any of the dangerous mistakes on this list?
– Chase Kirkwood President United Mail
According to the FEC filings, Donald Trump spent 37 cents of every dollar on direct mail, whereas Hillary Clinton spent 20 cents. Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Trump won the election. Trump was notoriously frugal during the campaign but spent $29 million on printing and postage. This contributed to him raising money from rural voters (62% of rural voters voted for Trump), as well as mobilizing them to vote.
So what does this tell us?
Targeting is everything. While it is possible that Trump wasted some money targeting Democratic voters, he clearly did something right. He purchased lists for rural voters, which led to an epic turnout, at least according to early polling. Utilizing direct mail lists can create an effective campaign.
Where else did they differ in terms of spending?
As of October 21st, Trump has spent $40 million on weekly TV ads, vs. Clinton, who has spent $140 million. Even though Clinton far outspent Trump on TV ads, she still didn’t win. People are tired of being inundated with political commercials. People drown that kind of information out, whereas direct mail is an unobtrusive way to not only encourage voting, but encourage donations. Tangible objects (like mail) allows users to look at it on their own time, which is imperative to Millennials. Commercials play to everyone with cable, vs. direct mail which can be targeted to likely voters.
What about digital advertising?
As of November 1st, Trump spent $237K on Facebook, and $1.4 million on Twitter. Clinton spent $6 million on digital outlets, although there isn’t a specific breakdown. According to NBC, Trump spent $8.4 million on digital as for August, most of it for buying and renting email lists. This would’ve been a great chance for either campaign to utilize list profiling and digital direct mail to target their digital spending, rather than showing general ads, especially since both campaigns spent so much on direct mail.
Why did Trump’s brand resonate better?
Trump had easy, simple messages that he got across at every turn. These kinds of statements are great for direct mail, in which there isn’t much space. Clinton had long, complex ideas, that didn’t induce excitement. Trump’s messages were exciting and created an emotional following. Appealing to emotions is a great way to make a direct mail piece stand out.
It’s interesting that Trump outspent in direct mail (percentage-wise) and underspent in other forms of advertising, yet he still won the election, isn’t it?
The USPS has been implementing the Mailing Promotions & Incentive Programs for First Class & Standard Mail since 2011 to create awareness of innovative usage of mail. You can achieve a 2% upfront postage discount on mail that qualifies for these programs, except for the Earned Value Reply Mail, which has its own promotional value. Check out the calendar to see the registration dates and program periods. The registration date for the Earned Value Reply Mail is almost over, so don’t miss the important details about this and other upcoming promotions/incentives:
1. EARNED VALUE REPLY MAIL
What: This promotion encourages first class only mailers to promote mail as the primary reply mechanism, versus encouraging their customers to use technology for their preferred reply method.
When: Registration period is November 15th – December 31st, 2016. The actual program period is January 1st – June 30th, 2017
How: You must have an Intelligent Mail Barcode, and incorporate your Mailer ID on your Business Reply, Courtesy Reply Mail, or Alternate Postage (Share Mail) enclosures.
Why: Technology is becoming an increasingly popular way for customers to respond to mail they receive from businesses. Instead of paying an invoice online, the USPS would like you to encourage your customers to pay with a mailed check.
Who: Anybody who offers Business Reply Mail, Courtesy Reply Mail, or Share Mail as a way for customers to respond to your letters and invoices. Make sure to register your Mailer ID, and include IMB’s on your Business Reply Mail or Courtesy Reply Mail pieces.
How much: Rather than saving 2% upfront on postage, mailers earn credits of $0.05 per BRM, CRM, or Share Mail pieces that are counted (returned) based on their MID’s for first time mailers in the program.
2. TACTILE, SENSORY & INTERACTIVE MAILPIECE ENGAGEMENT
What: This promotion encourages mailers to incorporate some type of sensory or interactive element into their direct mail pieces. Standard Mail and Nonprofit Standard mail only is eligible for this promotion.
When: The registration period is December 15th, 2016 – June 30, 2017. The actual program is February 1st – July 31st, 2017.
How: You must incorporate some type of sensory element into your mail piece. Examples include:
- Light-changing ink, conductive ink, or ink that changes color when exposed to water.
- Scented paper, mail that has a speaker, or sandpaper paper.
- 3-Dimensional mail pieces, pop-ups, or infinite folding mail.
Why: Neuroscience and neuromarketing research supports that sensory mail can have a significant impact on brand recognition. This can drive customer engagement, and really help them remember.
Who: Any company trying to expand their direct mail marketing should take advantage of this 2% of eligible postage discount. It’ll inspire your crew to be creative, and you’ll have mail that could go viral. At the very least, it’ll be very memorable.
3. EMERGING & ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
What: This promotion encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with mobile technology, video/print technology, NFC, augmented reality, or virtual reality. This works for First Class, Standard Mail, or Nonprofit Standard Mail only.
When: Registration period is January 15th – August 31st, 2017. The actual program period is March 1st – August 31st, 2017.
How: You must incorporate NFC, enhanced augmented reality, iBeacon/Beacon technologies, incorporating video in print, or virtual reality, leading to a mobile optimized webpage. A new facet is Digital to Direct mail, in which a customer interacts with your website, and a direct mail piece is sent out based on that behavior.
Why: Incorporating some type of emerging or advanced technology into your mail is a great way to get a consumer’s attention.
Who: If you are a company looking to expand your marketing messaging, this is a great place to start. The iPhone 6 has incorporated NFC, as has the Apple Watch, both of which are discussed in a previous blog. There have been some brilliant pieces incorporating enhanced augmented reality, which includes full 3-D animation or videos that pop up on your phone.
If you only do transactional mailing, this promotion is not for you.
4. Direct Mail Starter
What: This brand new promotion is offered to first-time promotion mailers to promote events and offers that incorporate print-mobile technology, up to 10,000 mailpieces. This will save 5% on postage!
When: Registration period is May 15th – July 31st, 2017. The actual program period is May 1st – July 31st, 2017.
How: This is open to any mailer that hasn’t participated in past promotions, and who utilize QR codes, NFC, a link leading to your website (and you have IMB) or some other type of print-mobile technology. Only Standard Mail and Nonprofit Standard Mail is eligible.
Why: The USPS Mailing Promotions have been effective in encouraging mailers to utilize their mail in different ways to obtain a postage discount. This will be an “entry-level” promotion that doesn’t require changing much in your mail, and ideally you’ll utilize other promotions moving forward.
Who: Anyone who hasn’t used these promotions before, and mails out in Standard Mail should definitely consider doing this. It’s super easy, and a great way to get a big discount for just adding a QR code.
5. PERSONALIZED COLOR TRANSPROMO
What: This promotion encourages mailers who produce bills and statements to incorporate color Variable Data Print on First-Class Mail utilizing dynamic variable personalized trans-promotional marketing messages on bills and statements.
When: Registration period is May 15th – December 31st, 2017. The actual program period is July 1st – December 31st, 2017 — so the promotion goes on for the last six months of 2016.
How: You must incorporate personalized dynamic variable color messages into the text of your bill or statement to qualify. It has to be a full color piece. Examples of personalization include addressing the customer by name, promotions based on an existing relationship, or leveraging any demographic and psychographic data. The promotions do not stack — you can’t use this promotion and something else on the same mail piece.
Why: Personalization increases the bond between you and your customers, and increases response rates greatly, and colors attract the attention of these customers.
Who: If you already print in color, utilize consumer personalization, and mail First Class. It’s absolutely worth trying to take advantage of this 2% of eligible postage discount for your bills and statements. Work with the post office or United Mail to make sure you meet all of the requirements. If you mail standard mail only, then this isn’t going to work for you because this promotion is for First Class Mail only, and it’s probably not worth upgrading to First Class.
6. 2016 MOBILE SHOPPING
What: This promotion encourages mailers to incorporate mobile marketing into their direct mail pieces. Standard Mail and Nonprofit Standard mail only is eligible.
When: The registration period is June 15th – December 31st, 2017. The actual program is August 1st – December 31st, 2017.
How: You must incorporate a QR code or another type of print mobile technology into your mail piece, leading to a mobile-optimized website, or to a social media ‘buy now’ button. The QR or qualifying barcodes must be a minimum of 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch, and the placement needs to be included next to a marketing message. At this site, you must have a way for someone to purchase a tangible item that can be delivered via FedEx, USPS, or UPS. The social media can link to any product on social media, such as Pinterest, as long as it has a “buy now” button on the page. Charitable donations are the exception to this rule, though you still have to provide a thank you note. The USPS has very strict rules to follow, so if you are interested, let United Mail assist you with the details.
Why: People look at their phone at least once per minute. QR codes readers come pre-downloaded in most phones, and are easily scanned. It’s a great way to drive engagement with your website. Social media is very prevalent, and directing a consumer to a social media site with a “buy now” button is a fantastic option.
Who: Any retailer or charity should take advantage of this promotion. All you have to do is add a qualifying barcode to your direct mail piece, and you get the 2% upfront postage discount. It doesn’t take that much work, and it’s better for you to have a mobile-optimized website, anyway.
Last year, we told you that USPS was increasing their prices to increase their revenue. Well, this year, in a historic moment, USPS decreased their prices, and here is our new rate card:
Lee Kirkwood, owner and founder of United Mail, was named the 51st most influential leader in Louisville, KY by Insider Louisville. Mr. Kirkwood is a business owner, and classified as a community leader, due to his involvement with multiple community boards. Join us in congratulating our founder in his excellent community achievement!