Real Time Reactions…What is Fast Enough?

Marketing Question: what is considered a quick turnaround in the super-connected world we all live in? Life with smartphones, email, texting and Twitter means that we are available to be touched 24 hours a day. This hyper-access has accelerated people’s expectations of what is a reasonable amount of time they should wait for a response to a query.  How many times have you received a phone call from someone wanting to know if you got their email because you had not responded yet? How fast is fast enough. It appears that the gap is closing.

How much does the rate of response affect ROI?  A comprehensive lead response management survey from MIT and found that the odds are 21 times greater of qualifying a Web-based lead if it is responded to in five minutes versus 30 minutes.  How do you do that? What tools are available to make that happen?

One answer is cross-media based marketing strategies that include direct mail, email and interactive Internet tools. Utilizing PURLs (personalized URLs) and database digital printing technologies to produce unique printed pieces in one print run, you can drive potential customers to a micro-site that will generate an email notice to your Sales Team in seconds. This allows your team to respond in the critical time period when the prospect is prime for purchasing your goods or services. This all sounds very complex and expensive but the reality is that this technology is very affordable and very simple to incorporate into your current marketing strategy.

What sort of techniques are you using to respond quickly to your prospects? Is it working? Have any of your clients communicated to you that they appreciated your quick response?  Let us know. We are always looking for ideas that work. A marketing plan utilizing cross-media tools to drive prospects to your site and to give you the ability to respond immediately will help generate the immediate responses and ROI you are looking for to succeed.

Steve Davison is a marketing consultant providing marketing and sales support to CustomXM. When he is not doing that Steve is a professional touring guitarist.

A Post without Image

Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Read more

The E-reader Review: Kindle vs. iPad

Let’s ignore the fact that a “print guy” is comparing two popular e-readers.  Consider it market research.  Let’s also ignore the fact that it’s probably a little odd for one person to have two e-readers.  For the record, the Kindle was a Christmas gift from my wife. The iPad was an Easter gift(?) to my wife.  (Okay, maybe that one is a stretch).  So I have both and this fact was made known to a couple of Twitter friends – Arlton Lowry (@arlton) and Tom Dixon (@twd3lr).  They had the bright idea that I review both and give them some feedback.  I agreed to do so with the condition that they recommend the reading material.  Arlton suggested Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin; Tom suggested The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. So I accepted their challenge, and began immersing myself simultaneously in an informative business book, and a popular fiction title aimed at young adults. (Again, a stretch, but please play along with me.)

This review is purely based upon each product as a simple e-reader.  And by that, I don’t mean interactive, multimedia experiences.  I approached each device as a tool used to read business books and/or novels.   I did not consider how each device handled magazines, newspapers or blogs. 

So, in no particular order…


Wikipedia defines ergonomics as the science of designing equipment to fit its user.  I’ve never once given much thought to this term, until now.  In this case, the Kindle has the superior design.  At 10.2 ounces, it is less than one half the weight of the iPad (1.6 lbs.).   Initially, that doesn’t sound like a significant difference, especially given the functionality of the iPad. But remember, I am comparing e-readers, and nothing else.  The Kindle is smaller (8” x 5.3”) than the iPad (9.56” x 7.47”), and that works in its favor as well.  Being smaller and lighter, the Kindle feels more book-like. While reading in a comfortable chair, lounging on a sofa, sitting out on the porch, reading in bed, or even standing,   the Kindle is just more comfortable.  It’s easier to move and handle.  Read while cross-legged?  Kindle is kinder. Read while leaning on your left elbow; then need to switch to your right? The Kindle accommodates. The Kindle just works better for how I read.  It’s design works better for me.  So for ergonomics, the Kindle wins.

WINNER: Kindle


We take books wherever we go, right?  Especially paperbacks.  So we should expect the same maneuverability and portability from our e-readers. Again, due to its smaller size and lighter weight, I give the nod to the Kindle.  I found it interesting that I handled the iPad more gingerly.  Granted, it’s a more expensive device (more on that later). But because it is so much more than an e-reader, I tend to handle it differently; with greater caution. I didn’t treat it like a paperback; I was treating it more like a laptop.

(On a subject related to “portability”, is “pot-ability”.  While this may be a gender specific category, the Kindle wins this one too.)

WINNER: Kindle

Daytime Reading

Avid readers look forward to the warmer days of spring and summer so they can enjoy their pleasure poolside or beachside. Since Arlton and Tom weren’t subsidizing my research, I improvised in my backyard with a lawn chair and ice chest.  No difference really.  But the big question here was how the iPad’s backlit LED display compares to the Kindle’s electronic ink display.  For my reading enjoyment, there was simply no comparison.  It was difficult at best to read the iPad in the bright sunlight.  Regardless of the brightness setting, the backlit screen got lost in the sunlight.  I found the overall glare on screen and the black iPad frame to be distracting.

The outdoor Kindle experience was better by far.  No glare, no difficulty in adjusting to the outdoor brightness.  In fact, in many ways, I found the Kindle an even better outdoor reading experience than that of a traditional paperback.  While in direct sunlight, the Kindle screen seemed easier on the eyes than that of real paper.  (If you quote me, the print guy, on this, I will deny it.)

WINNER:  Kindle

Nighttime Reading

As you might expect, the iPad’s screen has the upper hand in this category.  In low light, or complete darkness, it is difficult, if not impossible, to read with the Kindle.  (My first question upon receiving the Kindle was how to adjust the screen brightness.  You can’t). However, as a book reader, I will point out that it is difficult, or impossible to read a traditional book in these conditions as well.  So what is the solution?  A reading light. Works for books, works for the Kindle too.

But in this area, the iPad does have the better solution.  While the glare of the backlit screen was initially a distraction, I was able to overcome that and better enjoy the nighttime reading experience. 

But is reading in the dark a necessity?


Page turning

Both devices allow you to turn pages by tapping either the screen or the designated button.  These “buttons” are positioned so you can use your thumbs or index fingers to turn the pages for you. The Kindle does have a “previous page” button that often comes in handy.  A similar button may exist for the iPad, but I have yet to discover it.  I see no clear winner or loser in this category.


Color vs. B/W

The iPad’s hi-res color screen is outstanding.  While a color screen is not essential to the enjoyment of reading a novel or business book, it is nice to have the ability to “highlight” text selections in true, highlighter yellow.  In comparison, highlights for the Kindle are accomplished via an underline of the selected text.

Although I said I wasn’t going to compare newspaper or blog reading between the two, I must admit that the iPad is the clear leader for reading this media.  The color and interactivity of the iPad create a whole new experience for on-line newspaper reading.  I had subscribed to an on-line newspaper on the Kindle, but quickly cancelled that after seeing the iPad alternative.



The Kindle uses its “Whispernet” network to provide free wireless access to the Amazon store.  This is extremely useful for not only purchasing books, but for syncing with other Kindle devices (iPhone) you may own.  Its access is generally available all times, in most all places.

The current iPad includes wi-fi access.  My recent experiences with this at my house has been frustrating.  While it is not necessary to have wireless access while reading an e-book, it is necessary to purchase, download, and sync books.  It seems that everytime I turn on the iPad, it is often slow to access our wireless connection.  Often, I must re-enter our password before connecting.  And as we all know, this version of the iPad doesn’t have 3G connectivity.  And when it is available, it will come at a price.

Kindle wins this category.

WINNER:  Kindle

Battery Life

An iPad can go about 10 hours without needing recharging; the Kindle can go about a week.  Enough said.

WINNER:  Kindle

Cost of Ownership

Maybe this is the most critical category; especially when we look at the original purpose of this post – to compare e-readers.

The Kindle currently costs $269.00. Most books on the Kindle cost $9.99.  However, Meatball Sundae was $14.37 for the Kindle and $18.99 for the iPad. 

The iPad costs $499 for the 16gb wireless configuration. Most books, with the exception noted above, are about $9.99 as well.

While the Kindle is not cheap, it seems to be a fair price for what it is: a high quality device to be used for reading electronic books.  The iPad, at nearly twice the cost, is so much more than an e-reader.  We all know that, but my charge here is to compare e-readers.  So in that regard, the iPad is overpriced as just an e-reader.

And we all know, in about 9 months to a year, the prices of both will most likely drop.  Significantly.

WINNER:  Kindle


The Kindle is designed to one thing, and it does it very well.  It’s lightweight, portable, easy to handle, user friendly, and a great device for reading books.  As one who once said, “Oh, but I will miss the feel of turning the pages”, I can assure you, you will get over it.  The Kindle makes the e-reading experience that good.

The iPad is an amazing device.  Other than the connectivity issues I mentioned, I am truly amazed every time I turn it on.  But I don’t think of it as an e-reader.  It has so much more functionality. It can (probably will) become a replacement for a laptop or home computer.  And, if you need to, you can read a book with it.

If I were looking purely for an e-reader to read novels, business journals or books, even lengthy PDF files, the Kindle would be my recommendation.  When I was on the fence debating about whether to purchase a Kindle, (or tell my wife what I wanted for Christmas), I saw a woman in a Krispy Kreme store using one. I inquired as to how she liked it, and if she missed the touch and feel of a “real book”.  She smiled and said, while pointing to her Kindle, “with this, I don’t have a book, I have at least 60 books with me wherever I go.”  That convinced me, a print guy, that this was what I wanted.  And even with an iPad available to me, I am still convinced that the Kindle is the better device.

What are your thoughts on e-readers?  If you have other questions about either device, please let me know and I would be happy to answer them.

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

Don’t Listen to Kermit, It is Easy Being Green

Today, as you all should know, is earth day. As marketers sometimes it feels like struggle to honor the earth and stay green. When you start calculating the print materials, the postal transportation, the impact of inks, and the overall product waste from over printing you start to feel like maybe you need to go to confession tomorrow.

I decided to chat a bit with our president Paul Strack, who knows a thing or two about printing and confessions, to see what we can do to help offset the environmental impact.

Greg: Can marketers request recycled paper or materials in their print jobs?

Paul: We actually use a large number of recycled materials our printing process to begin with. A large portion of our paper is recycled, we use recycled boxes, and I recycle a lot of old jokes so I am sure that makes some impact.

Greg: How about the chemical impact of using inks?

Paul: Our Kodak Nexpress is actually green itself, it uses no harmful chemicals and the toner we use for it does not affect the “recyclability” of the paper. Not to mention some genius suggested we use all the pollen off my truck for yellow ink, so we have cut back on the impact of the employees washing my truck every Thursday.

Greg: Over printing is always an issue for me. I have taken jobs before where we have thousands of out dated materials from as far back as the 70’s sitting around that will have to be thrown away.

Paul: We have made the move as a company to focus on digital printing. The plus side to digital is that it allows you to print exactly what you need without waste. You no longer have to print several thousand extra just to hit price breaks. This reduces the quantities needed and as a result saves landfill space and trees. Now let’s just hope my wife doesn’t find a way to get rid of her outdated husband and reduce the space he takes up.

Greg: So essentially CustomXM already took the steps for marketers to reduce their environmental impact and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves feel better?

Paul: Yeah, basically. Let me know if you need the number to my priest.

image  Greg Henderson is marketing and social media professional with 8 years marketing and online experience. Greg has worked with several companies focusing on integrating online and offline marketing.

The CustomXM – Kodak Video Challenge – Enter and you may win!

There are vendors, and there are partners.  Kodak is one of our partners.  Over the past three years, Kodak has played an instrumental role in helping us expand our offering of digital printing solutions.  In addition to these successes, this relationship has lead to numerous award recognitions over that past several months. As a result, Kodak will soon feature CustomXM in a series of print, on-line, and trade publications.

But this recognition is not about the awards.  It’s about our success in adapting to the digital world around us.  It’s about the solutions we provide for our clients. And, it’s about how we interact with you.

Now we are beginning a fun new venture together.  As part of our continuing, combined efforts to show CustomXM as a thought leader and innovative solutions provider, we are attempting to expand the reach, awareness, and influence of the graphic communications industry through a series of videos.

And we need your help. We need your ideas.  And we want to have some fun!  So here’s what we want you to do:  Give us some ideas for a short one to two minute video.  Videos will be filmed in our facilities, using a Kodak Zi8 HD video camera.  One lucky winner will win their own Kodak Zi8 HD video camera. This lucky winner will be selected from all the qualified entries.  To be considered for entry into our Video Challenge contest, your idea MUST include:

  • The concept of our president, Paul Strack, appearing in the video while wearing a tuxedo
  • The phrase, “but it’s not about the awards.”, must be included in the video script
  • The concept, or tagline, “Print Lives” must be worked into the video in some manner

For an example, take a look at this video we recently produced:

Videos that we produce and submit to Kodak may be posted as appropriate on Kodak TV, YouTube,, other industry sites, and of course, our CustomXM site.

Again, we will choose one winner from all qualified entries.    Additionally, if we select to produce a video from the qualified entrants’ ideas, we will award another Kodak Zi8 HD video camera to the entrant of the first video we select to produce.

So here are the submission guidelines:

Submit your ideas via the blog comments below, or send via email to [email protected].

In addition to the 3 requirements listed above, describe to us a scene or two you would include. Visit our website at,  or our facebook page to learn more about who we are and what we do.  Use this information to make your ideas relevant to our organization.  Finally, let’s have some fun.

Deadline for entry is Friday, April 30.

How do I get folks to open the envelope?

While discussing a subscription renewal appeal for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Rep’s Director of Marketing, our good friend Angel Galloway (@angelmg) asked, “How do I get folks to open the envelope?” 

After getting over the excitement that Angel still considers direct mail a viable marketing channel. (Trust me, it is!), here are some of the tips we offered, as well as a few others: 

  • Make the piece relevant to the recipients. It the message is designed specifically for the recipients, it is more likely to be read.
  • Variable data helps make the message more relevant.  Using the information (database) you already know about your recipients, your message can be individually tailored to them.
  • The offer inside is king! In creating a highly effective direct mail campaign, your offer is 40% of the battle, the database is 40%, and the creative is 20%.
  • Focus on the offer, not necessarily the brand.  Respect the brand, but don’t make it the overriding element of a direct mail campaign.
  • Remember, the campaign is not about you, it’s about your recipient. Talk to them, keeping in mind the things they want to hear. 
  • Instead of “spray & pray”, target your audience and your message.  Don’t try to be too many things to too many people.  Main Street, USA is still where most of us live.
  • Try “lumpy” mail.  Include something in the envelope that creates an “I wonder what’s inside” feeling. (a pen, a keychain, etc.)
  • Make the offer obvious .  Make it evident what your recipient is supposed to do.
  • Color graphics capture attention and improve response rates. With improved digital printing technology, you can affordably add color and variable data printing to envelopes as well.
  • Where practical, include free samples – let your target audience give it a shot.  Let sampling campaigns prove the power of your product.  (In a recent USPS survey, 82% said they would try a product after receiving a sample)
  • Regardless of the channels used, be sure to incorporate ways  to track response rates – Business Reply, offer codes, QR codes, PURLS, specific 800 numbers, etc.

As consumers continued to be bombarded by email and more and more online advertising, now, more than ever, may create a situation where direct mail is more likely to be noticed.  Mail volume has decreased, this in turn may create more opportunity for your message to get noticed by this marketing channel. 

Want to try full color, targeted envelopes to see how it improves your open rates? Enter our Bucket O’ Swag Facebook giveaway to get 50 free prints along with other items. Or if you are ready take advantage of our 2 for 1 special going on right now.

What direct mail success techniques would you like to share?  We’d love to hear from you.

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

I had the pleasure of attending   the 2010 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. If the venue itself, Eureka Springs, was not engaging and entertaining enough, the information presented was certainly captivating for those in attendance.  More importantly, the information was welcome and exciting news for all of us as citizens of the Great State of Arkansas.

Rarely do I look at Arkansas as a visitor, but my eyes were opened to the incredible work that our State Parks and Tourism , Aristotle  and CJRW  are doing to bring visitors to the Natural State. And it is nothing short of amazing.

Consider this:

  • The primary site for Arkansas tourism: received 6,184,550 visitor sessions in 2009. This was a 10.5% increase over 2008.
  • Arkansas is the first state to incorporate the use of QR codes, or mobile tagging, which allow visitors to take advantage of URL shortcuts to travel information throughout The Natural State.
  • allows you to enjoy the sights of Arkansas through the eyes of four Travel Writers covering all areas of the State. No other state comes close to this complete coverage.
  • When defining “market share” as number of hits to its website, Arkansas is ranked number one compared to all contiguous states, including Texas!
  • Arkansas became one of the first states to launch its own iPhone app. Using this app, you can find coupons for family fun and shopping, or get daily specials at an Arkansas spa. Even catch special rates for romantic getaways, weddings and honeymoons.
  • During 2009, Arkansas was in the top five of the most visited state tourism sites every month, except one, in which we were 6th(Hey, even our state needs a short vacation!)
  • And the most amazing fact:  All these resources are available free of charge to you, me and the tourism destinations that choose to take advantage of them.

One other “undocumented” fact, but one I witnessed personally, is that the Tourism Communications Manager, Dena Woerner (@DenaJill) has got to be the hardest working dynamo in the tourism industry. You may try to follow her on Twitter, but you can’t catch her.

So there you have it: A State Agency, An Internet Agency, and an Ad Agency, working in unison to make Arkansas Travel & Tourism tops in America.  How is it done?  Naturally.

The peak travel season is drawing near, won’t you share with us your favorite Arkansas destination?

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

Becoming a Linchpin

After a lot of persuasion from friends I finally picked up a copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin this week. Just a few chapters in it is already a book that changes the way I view my position. However something struck me this morning. Why can a company itself not serve as a Linchpin for the community as a whole?

Godin describes a Linchpin as people who “invent, lead, connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos”. In a sense that really is what CustomXM has become in my mind to our community.

I met Paul a little less than a year ago. I was immediately struck by how he tries to push the envelop of what a print company can be, without fear of being ridiculed or making a mistake. That is the essence of a Linchpin.

Paul approached me as you all know a few months ago to help him with social media. I accepted not based on pay, because I could certainly make more doing other side jobs, but because I wanted to be a part of what he was doing here. I’ve seen him do that with others as well. CustomXM is up to something game changing in the print industry, and people want to be a part of it.

Finally, I am not sure if you noticed or not but the print industry is in a state of chaos. Traditional print business models simply are not working. The tighter a company embraces those models the quicker they are to fall. Everything you knew about print 5 years ago is dead. Offset press – dead, envelopes and stationary – dying with mail, large print productions – dead. Paul and CustomXM has chosen to embrace this new culture of technology, speed, interactivity, and personalization by creating a form of order out of the chaos that the print industry has fallen into. More than that he is constantly pushing the edge of what print can do and has, from what I have seen, become a leader in the industry.

Now Paul does not pay me to talk good about his company, in fact he will not see this until I publish it. I write this particular blog as a customer of CustomXM, which I am. CustomXM has become exceptional in the Little Rock community, they even have the awards to back that up. In a sense they have become a Little Rock business Linchpin.

I work every day with struggling manufacturing businesses, if there is any industry that understands the recession as well as the print business it is manufacturing. I have come to realize that the reason for this recession is not the housing market or corrupt loans. It is because businesses refused to think, they continued to do the same old thing every day. The other parts such as loans just brought the problems to the surface. In order for the US to survive and grow again we need business Linchpins in communities across America to step up the way that CustomXM has to lead this change.

If you are a business owner ask yourself what your company is doing. Are you sticking to your old principles or are you taking a risk and breaking the mold to become better than your best? Pick up a copy of Linchpin, take some time to apply it to your business, and lets get better together.

Greg Henderson is marketing and social media professional with 8 years marketing and online experience. Greg has worked with several companies focusing on integrating online and offline marketing.

And the Award Goes to……Social Media

We were recently selected as Arkansas Business of the Year in a night that was equally euphoric as it was humbling.  When I consider how fortunate we were to even make the cut as one of the five finalists, I naturally look at the efforts of our staff, and the loyalty of our clients.  Both combine to allow us to provide high energy, creative solutions in a enthusiastic way.

As I explore further the reasons for our success, I cannot ignore the role technology has played along the way. Throughout our 44 year history, we’ve tried to walk fine line between being on the “leading edge” of technology, without crossing over into the “bleeding edge”. And during 2009, we made the leap into the realm that is called Social Media.

Is it fair say that Twitter had a role in our selection as Business of the Year?  Consider this, over the past 9 months, Social Media in general, and Twitter specifically, has:

  • Made our company more accountable and responsive.  (The world is listening.)
  • Made me a better spokesperson. ( LRTweetup is chock full of communicators, PR types, marketers, and more. All are incredibly smart, and giving.  I have learned much from all of them.)
  • Greatly increased our brand. (For 42 years we’ve been known as Custom Printing Company. Yet, to our Social Media crowd, the only name they recognize is CustomXM.)
  • Increased my vocabulary. (think: Words with Friends)
  • Improved my writing skills. (140 character limit makes one be succinct.)
  • Totally reinvented my thoughts about business lunches. (Free Valet Parking!)
  • Improved my listening skills. (Some might call it voyeurism, but the audience IS talking. We must listen.)
  • Taught me how to Engage, Interact, and React.
  • Created some incredible relationships.

And that final point is the key to any organizations’ success. The relationships. Our relationships with our staff, our clients, and our friends make us better as individuals,  and as a company.

So on behalf of social media, we humbly accept this award.

How has Social Media improved your company?  Please share your success with us.

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

The state of digital printing

Let’s start with some statistics:

1) According to Pira International, the total global digital printing market has grown 122% since 2002, and by 2012, it is expected to double again, accounting for 21% of the overall global printing market as a whole.

2) Today, 30% of print providers offer web-to-print services. (CAPV)

3) 30% of today’s digital work is versioned or personalized. (Interquest)

What I hear loud and clear from these facts is that the future of print is healthy. As the economic situation in our country continues to force companies to tighten their belts and their budgets, the efficiencies of digital printing become more and more critical to a company’s marketing strategy. Let’s take a brief look at the how and why:

(Digital) Print-on-demand: In the past, the price points gained by printing long runs on off-set presses was the key factor in how printed material was produced. The price per unit was the determining factor. Alas, in most cases boxes of printed material was sent to the landfill because it had become irrelevant and outdated.  Therefore the cost efficiency of long runs was not as great as imagined.  POD allows you to create short runs of relevant material at an affordable cost and also gives you the added benefit of being able to personalize each printed piece and take advantage of the power of targeted marketing.

Another advantage of POD is the ability to merge your print production and fulfillment with a web-to-print solution online giving you a greater amount of control in your print purchasing than you could imagine.  Picture this…a company’s sales force can go online and order sales collateral that is personalized for their prospects, in their region and have the product shipped directly  to them without ever having to pick up a phone.  The web-to-print portal can also produce reports on usage, manage warehousing of certain products and provide online proofing and design features.

Integrated Marketing Solutions: What is an integrated marketing solution you ask?  Good question. In our print-centric approach, digital printing’s abiity to create personalized print pieces allows us to harness the power of database technology and the web to create marketing campaigns in multiple channels.  Using Personalized URLS (PURLS) we can create printed materials that drive prospects and clients to websites that are designed to give you the opportunity to A. pitch a product or service B. gather valuable data about the prospect via a survey page including an email address for future marketing purposes C. forwards leads automatically from the site to the proper personnel and last but not least D. provides an online dashboard for managing the campaign. These tools also provide the ability to integrate the campaign with your CRM and your client database.

What kind of strategy does your company have for reducing marketing costs while increasing the efficiency of these strategies?  Can you manage print costs over a large geographic area? Do you have the right tools to drive prospects to your web site? Lets talk about that.

Steve Davison is a marketing consultant providing marketing and sales support to CustomXM. When he is not doing that Steve is a professional touring guitarist.