Targeted Mailings Maximize Your Return

Direct Mail – How to Ensure You Get the Most “Bang For Your Buck”

Direct Mail Art
Direct Mail, a vital part of cross-media marketing campaigns

Direct mail is still a great way to reach your customers and prospects. Web-based marketing (e-newsletters, Facebook, etc) is a great addition, but printed pieces still prove to get the best return. However, with postage rates increasing, you’ll want to narrow down the mailing list to get the most “bang for your buck”.

Eye-Opening Statistics

Research by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) shows:

  • 73% of consumers prefer direct mail over email, 18% prefer email
  • 79% of households read or skim their “junk” mail
  • Spending on direct mail is expected to increase 3.6% by 2014

(Read more: Mythbusting: Is Direct Mail Dead? | National Mail Order Association)

Researching Your Market

The trick to a successful direct mailing is to do a little market research to determine who is your target audience:

  • Geographic Qualifiers – where does your target audience live/do business? In your state, county, zip code… or maybe within 1 mile of your location?
  • Demographic Qualifiers – who makes up your target audience? What is their age, gender, household income… are they homeowners?

Once you have these questions answered, call or e-mail ImageSmith to do a FREE list search for you. We can tell you how many contacts are in your target list and the cost for purchasing the list. Then let us design, print, and mail your campaign… all Under One Roof!

We know direct mail, and we want to show you the benefits of integrated marketing – call us at 828.684.4512 or check us out online.

White Lines in Your PDF?Don’t Worry, They Won’t Print.

One of the most common questions we hear in the PrePress Department concerns those pesky “white lines” that are visible on screen in pdf files. The bottom line on the lines is:

  • they are a display-only apparition – called “stitching”, they will not print
  • you can make adjustments to your display in Acrobat to remove them
White Lines PDF
Transparency used in the drop shadow creates “stitching” visible when flattened for PDF/x-1a.

The Long Answer: Complex Issues of Transparency

Transparency has been available in page layout programs for quite some time now. The problems arise when you realize that PostScript – the language that is used by imaging devices for offset printing and many desktop printers – does not understand transparency AT ALL. At some point in the process from desktop to plate, transparency must be “flattened”. This can be a very complex, though behind-the-scenes, process whereby all your content containing transparency that was created in PhotoShop, Illustrator, and a page layout program is transformed into “PostScript-legal” content that can be read and correctly imaged by a RIP, yet still “looks” transparent. You may not know any of this is occurring, but it must happen in order to print.

The PDF solution

If your file is not for print (and you are not concerned about file size), there is no reason to ever flatten the transparency – the white lines will not plague you. PDF files since version 5.0 can contain “live” transparency – as Adobe realized pdf files can be optimized for uses other than printing. If your files are destined for print, however, you need to create PDF/x-1a files. These are optimized for Acrobat 4.0, and for PostScript output. Now, this is where the dreaded “white lines” issue arises. The process of flattening to create this file “cuts up” your page content into pieces or atomic regions, and these appear to have tiny white gaps between them. THERE IS NO GAP! The “pieces” fit perfectly together. (In fact, you could probably never print any lines that fine on an offset press anyway due to dot gain.)

White Lines  PDF Prefrences
Adjust Preferences to hide “Stitching” lines.

The Visual Fix

Now – if print is not your issue, but you simply want to view the pdf WITHOUT the white lines showing, go to your Acrobat Preferences, and in the Page Display Tab UNCLICK “Smooth Line Art” and “Smooth Images”. By doing this, you will create another problem — if you had turned any of your text to outlines, that will now display poorly and pixellated. Again, it will NOT print that way. These are just unfortunate side effects of bridging the gap between software that handles transparency and PostScript imaging language that does not.

You will find plenty of insight in the Adobe forums from users just like yourself who were left wondering “How do I get rid of these stupid white lines?!”

ImageSmith knows the pitfalls and common stumbling blocks when moving from desktop to offset – call us at 828.684.4512 for smooth guidance on your next print project.

How to Handle Spam and Email Scams

There is nothing more frustrating than a full inbox, especially when most of the emails are unsolicited spam from shysters overseas. Often times they will send professional looking emails, acting as a professional representative of a reputable company.

For instance, a company called Domain Registry of America (DROA) has been scamming for years. In 2003 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint on DROA for deceptive practices. Yet DROA and others are still at it, sending spam to the masses trying to gain control over domain names.

How Do I Combat Spam?

Mark as Spam in Your Email Program/Client

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to stop these emails from appearing in your inbox. The best way to handle these emails is to simply ignore them, mark them as spam in your email client, and delete them from your email completely. If you ever have doubt or feel you need help figuring out if the email is legitimate, don’t hesitate to ask a person who is more savvy than you are. Also, try a Google search for the company or the “from” email address and look for other people posting about the scam and their experiance with that particular company or email address.

File a Complaint to the FTC

If you wish to take action you can file an official complaint the FTC on their website. To file a complaint with the FTC, visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

GO GREEN – Conservation Stamps Promote Sustainability

At Imagesmith, we work toward sustainability in our business every day. As a provider of mailing services, we are happy to see that the U.S. Postal Service shares that commitment and is promoting social awareness with their latest stamps: “Go Green.”

Energy & Resource Conservation

 

USA Go Green Postage Stamp
Use 'green' stamps to highlight your commitment to the environment.

The sheet of 16 Forever stamps was issued on April 14, 2011 and highlights simple messages for energy conservation: sharing rides, using public transportation, turning off lights and leaky faucets, recycling, use of energy-efficient lightbulbs, and other easy practices everyone can implement. When you use these stamps on your personal mail or business communications, you both show your interest in sustainability and help promote awareness of the things everyone can do to help.

A History of Conservation

The press release from the USPS about these stamps and the first-day-of-issue ceremony, explains how the organization has a long history of conservation and sustainability. Their first electric vehicle? 1899! The USPS operates over 44,000 alternative fuel capable delivery vehicles today and are the only mailing/shipping company in the world whose stamp and shipping supplies earned “Cradle to Cradle” Certification, meeting standards for human and environmental health and recyclability.

The “Go Green” stamps can be ordered online at usps.com/green.

ImageSmith offers complete business mailing services – give us a call at 828.684.4512 or contact us online for great information on ways to save money on your next marketing/mail campaign.

USPS Postage Rate Increase

April 17, 2011 saw a postage rate increase from the U.S. Postal Service for a number of mail classes. Here is a quick overview of changes that might affect you:

Postage Rate Increases

Direct Mail Art
Direct Mail, a vital part of cross-media marketing campaigns
  • While First Class Letters (single piece, one ounce) remain at $0.44, the cost of additional ounces increased from $0.17 to $0.20.
  • Postcard rates rose by one cent from $0.28 to $0.29.
  • Charges increased for special services like Signature Confirmation, Certified Mail and Registered Mail.
  • Business Mailers will see increases and changes to Standard Mail, Periodicals and Package Services.

Express Mail and Priority Mail prices remained the same (they were increased just this past January). Increases, by law, are limited to the Consumer Price Index cap of 1.7 percent, and come in response to decreased mail volumes and reported losses of $8.5 billion in the fiscal year 2010 for the USPS. A current price schedule can be found at the USPS website – or for a fast estimate of your mail costs check out the Postage Calculator on our website.

Mailing rules and pricing from the USPS are complex and intricate. Call on ImageSmith at 828.684.4512 for any advice or questions you may have about our mailing services and how we can save you time, hassle and money! It’s one of the ways we earn our stripes!

How To Optimize Pictures For Your Website

What Is Image Optimization?

When you take a digital picture, the file size of the picture depends on the camera. Most cameras and smart phones produce high quality pictures and the file size tends to exceed 2 megabytes (Mb), and this size is to large for the web. So, in order to make the picture suitable for the web, you must use image editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, to optimize the image. When you optimize an image, you are compressing the image and making it smaller in file-size, but keeping the overall quality of the image.

Nowadays companies have more control over the content on their company website. Here at ImageSmith we develop DotNetNuke websites for our clients and teach them how to log in and make changes to the copy, create additional pages, and upload images. One problem that our clients run into is that they tend to upload very large images which take a long time to load.

Free Image Optimization Solutions

There are a few places on the internet that provide image optimization for free. The objective is to keep the image file-size under 100 kilobytes (k). Images under 100k will render fast enough for all connection speeds. Here are a few of my favorite sites for free image optimization applications:

  • Image Optimzer – Using this free online service, you can re-size, compress and optimize your image files.
  • Smush.It – Uses techniques specific to image format to remove unnecessary bytes from images.
  • Web Resizer – This free online image Web Resizer helps you optimize photos for web or email easily.

As always, if you feel like this is way over your head, give us a call at 828-684-4512 and we will be happy to provide image optimization for your website.

Embedding Videos In Your DotNetNuke Website

Adding Video to Your Website

Adding a YouTube video to your website is unbelievably easy. In fact, all the big players in the internet video market provide embed code so that website owners and bloggers can add video to their webpages. Most video websites like YouTube, Veoh, Break.com, and Hulu provide a snippet of HTML code and allow your to embed the video into your webpage. Here is how you embed a video on your DotNetNuke website:

Copy The Embed Code

Copy the video embed code
Copy the video embed code

Let’s say you have found a video on YouTube and you want to embed the video on your website. Simply locate the embed code on the page and copy the code to your clipboard by selecting text and pressing Control+C. The image below shows where the embed code is located on YouTube. Other video websites have different layouts, but just peek around until you find the code.

Paste the Code

Next, log in to your DotNetNuke website and go to the page you wish to embed the video. In order to paste the code in correctly without messing up any existing content you should add a new Text/HTML module to the page. Once you have added the Text/HTML module to the page, click on the link for the module labeled “Edit Content”. This will bring you into the HTML editor for the Text/HTML module.

Now remember, we have copied HTML code, and when you go to paste the embed code into your website, you need to be in “Code View”. So, click on the the link to go into code view. Once you are in code view simply paste the code you copied from YouTube in the module and click UPDATE at the bottom of the page. That’s, it your done! I have embedded a video tutorial from Chris Hammond on how to add pages to your DotNetNuke website:

Creative Suite 5.5 Debuts

For the first time in years, Adobe has released an upgrade to Creative Suite “between versions”… version 5.5. In looking over the reviews and information from both Adobe and unconnected sources, it appears that the developments have been in response to the rapid proliferation of change in the world of mobile devices, apps, HTML5, CSS3 and ePUBs.


As you may know, Creative Suite comes in 5 different “flavors”, each specialized with a specific focus. This release contains a new 5.5 version of each. At ImageSmith in the PrePress department, we rely on Creative Suite Design Premium, tuned for print content as well as web design, e-books and other digital content. However the other flavors may be more perfectly suited for your line of work and creative output: Design Standard: excellent for print production, typography, image manipulation and eBooks; Web Premium: for websites, mobile apps and tablets; Production Premium: focusing on video production; and Master Collection: the best of all for “delivery of design across media.”

From what I can read online, the improvements and changes deal specifically with HTML5, CSS3, and affect mostly the production of eBooks and web content. For example, jQuery and PhoneGap are now supported – frameworks widely used in the mobile phone app development world. You can read a nice review of the changes at Bob Levine’s InDesign blog.

For the first time, Adobe now offers a SUBSCRIPTION method of payment for its software – apparently in an attempt to entice users who have been scared off by the high pricetag of the Creative Suite and its individual programs. You can still purchase as in the past or pay for the programs in a monthly fee. For an article about this see Dave Girard’s post at ARS TECHNICA.

Word is that the new CS6 will be released in 2012. You can follow up to the minute details and read questions and answers about Creative Suite by clicking this link for their Twitter timeline.

QR Codes: Your Vital Link Between Print & Web

If you haven’t heard of or seen them yet, you must be trying to ignore them! QR – or Quick Response – codes have begun popping up everywhere (I’ve noticed them on package labeling in Wal-Mart so they have definitely gone mainstream). Easy to create and use, you could be missing a powerful and low cost opportunity to connect people with your business or your multimedia online content.

The Basics

Business Cards with a QR Code
QR Codes connect your print marketing materials to web content

Think of QR Codes like a barcode you see on all product packaging. The main difference is that QR Codes are 2D matrix codes that are capable of holding MUCH more information. Consumers “scan” the codes with their camera-enabled smartphone – in other words that just snap a picture. (the software is free online – but most smartphones come preloaded with a QR Code reader.) What happens? Depending on the type of code, their phone will automatically link via web browser to specific online content or activate any one of a number of smartphone functions (such as email, IM, SMS, contact info, etc.). Probably the most basic application is on business cards – take a picture of my business card and it will add my contact info directly into your smartphone’s address book.

How Can You Use These QR Codes?

The possibilities are endless… but the bottom line is QR codes should be a part of any promotions or marketing campaigns you begin. You can print them on virtually anything (all printed materials and signage, as well as anything from t-shirts to car wraps, billboards, etc.) and drive traffic to your website or online content of your choice. What information could you supply via QR Code:

  • Directions to your business
  • Coupons or special offers
  • Free downloads
  • Feedback forms
  • Product information
  • Instructions for product use
  • Event promotions or announcements
  • Sign ups for giveaways or mailing lists
  • Price lists
  • … you get the idea – any information you want people to access

A Case Study: Putting QR Codes to Work

Check out this link to read about how CENTRAL PARK IN NYC incorporated QR Codes into the heart of their events for Arbor Day this year. This example really got my mind working about the many ways these codes could be used to promote any event or marketing campaign. Very soon, consumers will begin expecting to find these codes as a way to get the information and opportunities on any purchases they make, or any places they visit.

We have more information on QR Codes at our website… check it out! Talk to us at ImageSmith for great ideas and practical help in getting started with QR Codes in all your promotions.