Photo of Ben E. Ketih sunglasses - lumpy mail

Ben E. Keith Uses Lumpy Mail to Increase Trade Show Appetite


Ben E. Keith, a distributor of food service products and premium alcoholic beverages, located in North Little Rock, Arkansas, frequently uses hospitality and food trade shows to showcase their newest products. The company had committed to participating in a new event in Memphis, Tennessee and wanted to maximize their return by attracting restaurant owners, chefs and others in the industry to this event. They engaged CustomXM to assist them in their marketing efforts to drive booth traffic to this single-day food expo.


Over 160 individuals stopped by the booth and registered, which yielded a 52% response rate. Glenda Clark, part of the Ben E. Keith Marketing team, was ecstatic with the results.

“The turnout at the Memphis show was great! That is well over what we expected. At the last tradeshow we had in Memphis several years ago, we had less than 20 visitors.” 


The targeted audience was restaurant owners and chefs in the Memphis, Tennessee area.


Ben E. Keith engaged CustomXM to assist them in marketing an upcoming food show in Memphis, TN. It had been a while since they had participated in this Memphis event, and they wanted to use unique techniques to engage prospects and drive booth traffic. After determining the objectives and incentive, an Alaskan Cruise, two mailings were created to attract and engage the target audience. Ben E. Keith had a database of 305 prospects and sent them an invitation via a traditional style A6 mailer.

This was followed with a lumpy mail box that included a customized card and luggage tag, inviting recipients to stop by the booth and register for the grand prize of an Alaskan Cruise.


The mailer box, which was approximately 3.75” x 6.5” x 2”, looked very similar in shape and size to a “fried pie” box made famous by a national fast food chain. After getting postal approval that this box could in fact be mailed, CustomXM proceeded with the graphic design and production.

On the outside of the box, the words “Need A Vacation?” were boldly and prominently displayed along with the Ben E. Keith logo. Anyone in the restaurant or food industry knows how few and far between vacations are, so these words were chosen as they would certainly resonate with the recipients. Additionally, the unique size alone of this lumpy mail piece would capture the attention of the mail recipient. Inside the box was a personalized note card inviting recipients to visit the Ben E. Keith booth during the food show and register to win the grand prize of an Alaskan Cruise. Additionally, to reinforce the idea of a much needed vacation, a Ben E. Keith branded luggage tag was included in the box as well.


The main reason for success was a clever design that caught the attention of the recipient combined with a great offer (free cruise).

SignsXM Launches with Out-of-the-Box Lumpy Mail


CustomXM added a new division, SignsXM. It wanted to find a unique way to announce its new offerings which included all types of wide format printing, including banners, signage, wall graphics, vehicle graphics and more. CustomXM also wanted to use a cross media, multi-channel approach that would drive results and illustrate CustomXM’s marketing capabilities.

The SignsXM Awesome Banner Thingy Campaign: Complete with personalized box, envelope, personalized mini-banner and a fun-to-follow instruction sheet below. The inside of the box lid had a QR code that led to a fun video



CustomXM created a unique, dimensional mail piece that included a personalized mini-banner for all recipients. CustomXM encouraged recipients of their “Awesome Banner Thingys” to post photos on Instagram, which would qualify them for entry into a prize drawing.

420 pieces were mailed to prospects and current clients of CustomXM. Over 12% of recipients responded and completed the online survey. Additionally, over 13% of the recipients posted photos of their Awesome Banner Thingys on  Instagram accounts. Many of these respondents were a different subset than those that responded to the online survey.

The campaign received quite a bit of social media buzz and accolades from local ad agencies. It immediately led to meetings and opportunities for signage and direct mail proposals for clients and prospects. Many of these opportunities led to new business within the first three weeks of the campaign.

This campaign also received national recognition by receiving two Bennys awarded by the Print Industries of America during their Premier Print Awards, an international print competition.


The targeted audience was current clients and prospects of CustomXM.


At CustomXM, they like to market themselves a little differently. They like to use the marketing tools they are constantly advocating, and they like to have a little fun. They accomplished all this and more with their “Awesome Banner Thingy” campaign.

Recently, CustomXM added wide format services to their offerings. They even created a separate division, SignsXM. But they felt that it wouldn’t be enough just to tell folks about these new services, it would be better to show them. And have them show others.

To engage its target audience, CustomXM developed a dimensional mailer – an 8” x 8” x 1.25” box complete with a personalized label informing recipients that a “surprise” was inside. Inside the box was the following:

  • A personalized envelope and note card introducing the new division and services.
  • An instruction sheet showing recipients how to put together their own Awesome Banner Thingy
  • A QR Code that linked to a video explaining how to construct the Awesome Banner Thingy
  • The actual Awesome Banner Thingy which was a 3.25” x 7.5” vinyl banner, personalized with the recipient’s name, complete with a grommet and very tiny banner stand.

To encourage responses recipients were given two opportunities to participate in a prize contest

  • By visiting their personalized website and completing a survey
  • By sharing a photo of their Awesome Banner Thingy on Instagram

Above:  photos posted by Box Thingy recipients. Recipients were asked to post photos of their banner-thingys on Instagram with the hashtag #thinkitsignit. The Instagramers were entered into 3 different sets of drawings for prizes and winners were announced via Instagram videos.



The main reason for success was a clever design and personalized promotion.


Article courtesy of W. Caslon & Company, 2015,

Resurrecting Funeral Directors Association Membership

The Challenge

The Arkansas Funeral Directors Association (AFDA) works to establish, cultivate, and promote programs and policies that strive to mark the passage of life with dignity and instill high standards for ceremonies that are sensitive to the special needs of those who survive.

With approximately 300 funeral homes in the state, and membership currently at about 80 members, the Association was exploring ways increase statewide membership, while retaining and increasing engagement with its current members. A membership of 150 funeral homes was the desired goal. While cost of membership is often the reason given for those who decline membership or renewal, the association also wanted to explore ways to promote the value of the membership itself.

The Solution

CustomXM, a North Little Rock, Arkansas direct mail and print provider, proposed a concentrated effort to promote the value of membership in AFDA in conjunction with their upcoming 2015 Annual Convention. Because of the small existing membership and potential membership population, we recommended the following:

  • A direct mail campaign consisting of a well-organized and visually attractive brochure. This piece highlighted member benefits and included the conference event schedule, as well as member testimonials. The brochure would feature an incentive offer that reflected a substantial savings for members if they acted before the registration deadline.
  • The brochure mailing also included a well-organized registration form encompassing membership renewal and the conference registration.
  • A series of personalized postcards followed the brochure mailing. The postcards highlighted membership benefits and the available training opportunities. The same call to action incentive was also included in these direct mail pieces.
  • A segmented email campaign was launched just before the incentive offer expiration which targeted A) non-members and B) existing members thanking those who renewed early, and asking them to attend the conference and training. Lastly, an informative email that included the conference schedule was sent to the entire database prior to the registration deadline. All emails contained a link to the AFDA website with event information and links to a downloadable version of the registration form.
The Results

As a result of the campaign, AFDA membership reached new levels and the conference had a record number of attendees. Jeff Smith, President of the Arkansas Funeral Directors Association had this to say:

We had a record crowd this year and exceeded our projected attendance for the banquet, Thursday and Friday Continuing Education, and increased membership 20%.
Thank you! Your creative work with our efforts yielded great results.

What’s New Wednesday – Negative Space

If you are familiar with any visual or graphic design related topics, you probably have heard or even used the phrase, “white space is our friend.” White space, or negative space, is simply that: an unmarked portion of a related graphic, print, canvas or other medium where images or text do not appear. I’ve recently come across an interesting use of negative space that is more literal in nature. It is space so negative, that it doesn’t exist. In theory and in reality, it is full of holes.

Vinyl banners have been a mainstay for outdoor announcements and signage. You see them everywhere – grand openings, auto dealerships, community and sporting events. Banners and signs like these are affordable and effective sales tools. They begin working the moment you put them up, and don’t stop until you take them down. And when the need arises for these to be outdoors for an extended amount of time, or depending upon the height at which these banners will be displayed, you may notice banners with half-moon slits cut into them. This is done to allow the wind to pass through the banners. After all, most advertisers would prefer that they remain banners, and not 6’x10’ sails.

But this may not be the most attractive answer to this problem.


Wind slits in banners – a shotgun approach?

Fortunately, an esthetic and functional solution exists, and it’s a wholly pleasant improvement to the situation that involves negative space. Or it’s a holey improvement. Mesh Banner material, a digital media that is 60% material and 40% air (give or take) provides a solution that has some rather eye-catching benefits. This material holds full color images in a stunning fashion, and actually blends into the environment with a near translucent effect depending upon where the direct light hits it.

Mesh banner along walkway at Rockwater Marina.

Mesh banner installed along walkway at Rockwater Marina.

Until recently, I was under the impression that this material was best suited for outdoor environments only. But a visit to JCPenney in North Little Rock showed me how effective this material can be indoors too, especially in the retail environment. In the photos below, you can see how this mesh banner provides an artistic product backdrop when the primary light source is in front of it. Yet, it can appear nearly translucent allowing for product display behind it when the stronger light is behind it.

jcpenny photo 2 jcpenny photo 1

It becomes a very affordable, yet highly effective piece of interior display design.

So if you are looking for an effective way to get your message across, don’t make your audience read between the lines. Instead, let them look through the holes.


blog photo

Paul Strack [email protected] @pstrack


What’s New Wednesday? Paper USB Drives

It’s Wednesday, and you know what day it is?? Of course I’m referring to What’s New Wednesday. Weekly, or at least regularly, or at least on certain Wednesdays, I plan to introduce new products, new ideas or new thoughts that relate to marketing, print and signage. Some of these may well be the next big thing in the world of communications, and some may be nothing more than a curiosity. And let’s be honest, some may just be lame. But we won’t know until we take a look, so let’s begin.

If you know anything at all about me, you know there are two true loves in my life. Yeah, yeah, we all know about my wife and our kids, but I’m not talking about them right now. I’m talking about paper and technology. Old school vs. new school communication. Imagine if you will, a world in which both of them live together in harmony; one feeding off the other. We may have discussed this courtship before when we’ve talked about QR codes and even Augmented Reality. While those relationships still do exist, some of them anyway, I found this newest union to be very interesting.

It’s called swivelCard, and in a nutshell, it’s a paper USB drive that is embedded in a business card. Cool, right? We have smartphones, smartwatches, so why not a smart business card?

Here’s a peek at their Kickstarter video:

Since it is my sworn duty to explore all things paper-embedded-with-technology, I inquired about becoming a reseller of this product, and purchased a sample pack. I wanted to properly celebrate this marriage made in heaven. Sadly, the honeymoon may be short lived.

I suppose that USB drives are also called thumb drives for a reason. You need your thumb to insert them into the USB slot. And when you combine the fact that I am generally all thumbs, and attempting to gingerly, then not so gingerly insert a paper USB drive into my laptop, the results were less than appealing. Admittedly, I had issues. And crumpling. Fortunately, I had more than one in my sample pack, and finally successfully loaded the drive and launched the content.

I do like this idea and the overall concept. Anything that finds a way to make the printed word more relevant and engaging is a must have for me, But I do have questions that make me wonder if this will have legs:

  • I am sometimes leery of putting USB drives with unknown content into my computer. Is this a widespread concern?
  • I appreciate the concept; I was so excited about it after watching the video. But the construction, folding and execution was a little awkward and borderline cumbersome. For my time, I would rather simply type in a URL, or hey, maybe even scan a QR code.
  • The example of using this in a medical facility is genius; patient education is a great shortfall of our healthcare system and in theory, this could go a long way in making headway in that area. But is it easily deliverable on a patient-by-patient basis? Again, the idea is brilliant.
  • They do have some entertaining video case studies, even one using the swivel card at a wedding. Would you use this for your wedding?
  • And major kudos to include the ability to track and measure analytics with this device. Remember, if you aren’t measuring, you aren’t marketing!
  • But is it cost prohibitive? The swivelCard is much less expensive than a preloaded USB drive. But at a cost of about $2.00 each, it is much more expensive than a standard business card. (Granted, it offers much more than a standard business card.) And the USB drive, based on my mangling experience, may be a one-time use.

Actually, ignore that point, we can always print more!

So that’s What’s New this Wednesday. Is the swivelCard something of interest to you?  Will this marriage last?

And please, tell me What’s New with You?

blog photo

Paul Strack

[email protected]


CustomXM Wins Three National Awards!

Yeah, we are a little excited about this…

North Little Rock, AR — October 12, 2014 — CustomXM , a marketing, print and signage provider in North Little Rock, AR recently received three national awards from the graphic arts industry. CustomXM received two “Bennys” (named in honor of Ben Franklin), the highest honor in the 2014 Premier Print Awards, for its campaign announcing its expansion into the wide format and signage market. Additionally, Paul Strack, President of CustomXM, was one of twelve national industry leaders inducted into the Soderstrom Society, the graphic communications industry’s most prestigious honors organization.  Both awards ceremonies recently took place in Chicago.

The Premier Print Awards, the graphic arts industry’s largest and most prestigious worldwide printing competition recognizes outstanding achievement in print production. CustomXM received its “Bennys” in the categories of Variable Data Campaigns and Self-promotion.

Michael, Lisa & Paul Strack after receiving the 2 Bennys in Chicago.

Michael, Lisa & Paul Strack after receiving the 2 Bennys in Chicago.

The Premier Print Awards are hosted by Printing Industries of America. In its 65th year, the annual contest recognizes those responsible for the creation and production of superior print communications. The event promotes excellence in print communications and rewards companies and individuals who produce the very best in print media.

This year, more than 3,000 entries were received from printing and graphic arts firms from around the world, and judges awarded the Benny to the top entry in each category. “It’s quite a compliment to be recognized by the industry as a company that produces award-winning print on an international level. The quality of print today is really quite amazing. To have won such a prestigious award for print quality is exciting for our entire team,” said Strack

Michael Makin, president and CEO of Printing industries of America, agrees. “The Benny winners represent the best our industry has to offer. This year’s entries were outstanding. There were entries from companies in 7 countries. Despite the fierce competition, CustomXM through hard work and dedicated craftsmanship produced not only one, but two pieces worthy of the Benny.”

The Soderstrom Society is named for Walter E. Soderstrom, one of the founders of the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL). The Society recognizes the contributions of industry leaders, including print company owners, industry supplier executives, educators, journalists and consultants. This year’s inductees represent a wide variety of industry segments, from equipment, materials, and services suppliers to printers, mailers, and marketers.

“We are pleased to present this impressive slate of Soderstrom Society inductees, who have distinguished themselves in their fields and are very worthy of the honor,” says Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of AMSP/NAPL/NAQP, the new association created this year through the merger of the Association of Marketing Service Providers, National Association for Printing Leadership, and National Association of Quick Printers.

“We are proud to add these outstanding industry executives to the list of eminent men and women that make the Soderstrom Society the industry’s most illustrious organization,” notes Truncale. “Over the years, Soderstrom Society members have made significant contributions to the growth and advancement of our industry in innumerable ways and membership in the Society is a mark of distinction in every area of graphic communications.”

“It’s quite an honor to be inducted into the Soderstrom Society, and I thank NAPL for this significant recognition,” said Strack, President of CustomXM.

For more information about CustomXM ( contact Paul Strack at 501-375-7311

What’s The Buzz? Join us for Lunch to Find Out.

Over the past couple of years, through our popular quarterly Lunch & Learn programs, we have tried to present new marketing tips, tricks and techniques.  Our goals are to continue to help you add more arrows to your quiver to enable you to make your marketing efforts, and the measurement of those efforts, more effective.

Our next Lunch & Learn on Thursday, November 29, takes a slightly different approach.  With the variety of marketing channels available, it becomes critical for successful marketing professionals to focus on the necessary tasks to support the organization’s marketing goals.  In addition to the tools, it is also necessary to incorporate not just a project management tool, but a marketing management tool.  Marketers must be able to effectively focus on how to create, store and distribute marketing content in ways that not only save money, but maximize resources while producing higher returns on marketing investment. And that’s exactly what our next Lunch & Learn will showcase.

Jon Davis, COO of lee|Stafford, will present marketing success stories that utilized their Beehive Protocol software.  The Beehive Software solution empowers marketers to support multiple campaigns, channels and activities – both online and offline.  In short, it provides ways to help marketers – Organize, Communicate, Respond, Track, Adjust and Improve.

Jon is a veteran of the medical device and healthcare industries.  He has been instrumental in the development of patient communication efforts and in thousands of product launches that represent billions of dollars in sales for his clients, all using the BeeHive Protocol proprietary software that he helped develop.

Please join us for lunch as Jon introduces this concept of how to available software allows you to maximize your quick response marketing needs in compelling case study examples.

And if that is not incentive enough, one lucky attendee will win a new iPad Mini!

I look forward to seeing you on the 29th!  Register here.


Paul Strack, CustomXM


Is it still ok to think outside the box?

If I recall correctly, we retired the phrase “think outside the box” a few years ago. And rightly so. It was a tired cliché, and its use rarely led to a win-win situation that allowed us the opportunity to wrap our head around it to continue the paradigm shift. So I won’t go there.

Recently, a couple of marketing projects afforded us to avoid that cliché completely, and more importantly, allow us to think inside the box!

The JamBox

A financial services client is a firm believer in highly targeted, direct marketing campaigns. Often, the typical approach involves a message to individuals who desire to increase their wealth. But in this campaign, the idea arose that it might be better to target those individuals who have already accumulated wealth, but have concerns about their ability to pass it along to their heirs. In an uncertain economy, these individuals need assurances that the fruits of their hard work will be preserved. Hmm….how do we convey the message of preserving fruits..hmmm…think about it…ah ha – Preserves!

So we found a supplier of Arkansas-preserves, BlackBerry Jam to be specific, and mailed them to these targeted individuals. It was a very soft sell, we didn’t want to spread it on too thick.

Nothing is certain in life or direct marketing, but we feel pretty confident that this JamBox will get opened, and will receive a second look. We be jammin’.


Corporate golf outings remain popular events. Finding a way to get the most out of your sponsorship often times yields results that are sub-par. Our client knew they wanted to furnish top quality golf balls for this event, but if you are like me, those branding moments never seem to last beyond the 5th or 6th hole. We suggested this time that they think ON the box. We replaced the traditional golf ball sleeve with a customized, branded version that featured the flagship product. Now, every time the golfer reached for a ball, they couldn’t help but notice the sponsor. And our guess is, due to the uniqueness of these non-traditional “goody bag” items, they may have spent more time admiring them than their partner’s golf shot.

Did this approach work?

Here is what our client tells us:

Golf balls and boxes were a HIT! We will definitely do that again – one customer saw the picture of the motor on the box and approached our salesman to make an appointment to visit w/him about switching to our motors…

It sounds like that mulligan we purchased won’t be necessary.

If you are feeling a little boxed in with your direct marketing efforts, give us a call. We can help, and the cliche’s are optional!


Paul Strack, CustomXM


How Do They Do That?

I’ve always been a fan of magic.  Houdini, David Copperfield (the magician, not the book), Criss Angel (sort of) – the art of the illusion has always fascinated me. And if you are like me, a very good magic trick doesn’t always have to “wow” you, but it does need to leave you wondering – how do they do that? And once you figure it out, it’s like “oh yeah, why didn’t I think of that?”

Our upcoming Lunch & Learn on Wednesday, July 25th will showcase a little bit of magic as well.  The ABCs of Marketing Magic Made Simple, presented by Paul Schaller, may not mesmerize you with smoke and mirrors, but my guess it will still certainly have a “wow” effect.

Paul is the president of ABC Financial Services in Sherwood, AR. Over the past 20 years, he has guided ABC through the evolution of targeted, one-to-one marketing by implementing customized solutions to secure, enrich and maintain client relationships. This leadership magic has made ABC Financial the country’s largest provider of financial and marketing services for the health club industry.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do point out that ABC Financial Services has been a client of ours since about 1998.  While our partnership has enabled ABC to take advantage of the one-to-one marketing technology, it has been the dynamic vision of Paul Schaller to make marketing magic when it comes to growing customer relationships.  I invite you to come hear more next Wednesday as Paul shares his magic.

You can register now at

I look forward to seeing you there.



Paul Strack, CustomXM