Sunday, May 10, 2015

When It's Important, It goes on Paper

I was struck this past week by two experiences. Each experience, upon reflection, involved paper. Perhaps that shouldn't be a big surprise seeing as how I work with paper all the time, but these experiences reminded me about how very special paper can be.

The first was a manuscript written in 1855. Our client, the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, has amongst their treasures, this handwritten music manuscript. Our job was to scan and reproduce this for a project of theirs. There's something different about handling a piece of paper written in 1855; almost as if it were a holy object. It felt like a glimpse back in time. America in 1855 was on the verge of civil war; the poet Walt Whitman published "Leaves of Grass", the Crimean War was waging on in the Ukraine, and the California Gold Rush was in full swing.

The second was the process of printing the Honorary Degree certificates and Citations for a major  university in Boston. We have printed other diplomas and certificates in the past, but this process was a bit different. Most schools ask us to print 2-3 copies of each diploma. That way if a signature gets flubbed or some other mishap, they have a back up. In this case we were asked to print 100 copies of each. One of their senior people then comes in and hand selects 5 copies to take for signature. Once again the importance of paper struck me. The meticulous work that was demanded was to produce a document that would be revered, framed, and meant to last the test of time.

That got me to thinking about all of the other media I've encountered over the past twenty-something years. Then it struck me, oh my goodness, what would happen if these important documents we stored on other media? Remember floppy discs? Bernoulli drives? Syquest discs? CDs? Imagine, in the name of progress, if you were to get your diploma on a thumbdrive? or your wedding certificate on a floppy?

For me, now more than ever, I'll take the paper version.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Refreshed – With Gratitude! The Unlikely Entrepreneur

I began my business more than 20 years ago, and I dare say, without much of a business plan. Graphic design on computers was a young business, but I knew that I wanted to make a go of it. Aldus Pagemaker 2.0 had just been released, so I bought that along with a computer and a laser printer and was in business. 

Being and entrepreneur was something that was defined for me in the ‘rear view mirror’; not anything purposefully set out to become. Wikipedia defines entrepreneurship this way:

Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a business or other organization. The entrepreneur develops a business plan, acquires the human and other required resources, and is fully responsible for its success or failure.

Before too long I was busy enough that I needed to hire an employee; that is the acquiring humans part. Now, not only was I responsible for myself, but I had another human; a person with a name and a life; to whom I was responsible.  

I worked hard, as did she, and several years had gone by when my wife and I realized that we’d not been on a vacation since the business had started. 

How could I leave? I thought. If I left I was certain I’d go out of business and not only would I have let down my family, but my 1 employee as well. I do not believe that it is ego, or ego alone that drives the entrepreneur to believe that business responsibility rests on them alone, but it’s a heavy burden. I cannot remember where we went on vacation, only that we took one.

Much to my surprise I returned and had not gone out of business. In fact, my absence, gave my employee the space to grow and thrive. Not only did she ‘hold down the fort’ but indeed everything went just fine…maybe better?!

I write this blog entry from an airplane returning from a 2 week vacation, and in full confidence that in my absence the business will not only be there for me to return to, but that everything went well. Yes, 20 years later a lot has changed. We are now more than 30 employees and I still feel a great responsibility to each and every one of them. But I also owe them a great deal of thanks and appreciation.
We traveled back in time to Petra, Jordan

I am now returning after 2 weeks, refreshed and renewed, ready to go back to work. So, in case I have not made it clear, I would like to say “Thank You” employees. I value your contributions to our clients and our company; and, now that I’m refreshed, I will continue to work hard for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why is Snow White??

Maybe it's because I live in Boston and we've had more than 100 inches of snow this winter; but did you ever wonder why snow is white? (no yellow snow jokes yet...but we can explain that too!). The short answer is…snow is white for the same reason cucumbers are green, or apples are red. But, for many people the short answer won't really help without a quick refresher on color theory 101.

Think about a, green, blue, orange, violet, etc. All the colors you can see in a rainbow are the visible colors in the white light spectrum. So, that establishes the color we can see, but why do we see different objects as different colors? The answer to that is based on what visible light is absorbed by an object and what visible light is reflected by an object. A cucumber absorbs all of the rainbow colors except the green which reflects off it. The yellow snow absorbs all the colors but reflects the yellow...but what about the white snow?
Snow is really just frozen water. Under a microscope it's actually clear, like ice. But it crystallizes and traps little air pockets. All of these crystallized, hexagonal, frozen icicles reflect all of the the white light spectrum, so the snow looks white.
To learn more:
To learn more about The Fenway Group and how we're surviving the Boston winter visit us at:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

After Millions of Emails & Direct Mail…What Have We Learned in 2014?

We sent out a lot of direct mail and email for our clients last year. In fact, more than ever before…and that, I think, is a good thing. What makes it good? For one thing we've been at the forefront of our clients expansion into integrated marketing; by using and measuring results from cross-media (print, email, web) campaigns. Our clients have had better results. After millions and millions of emails and direct mail, hundreds of campaigns, what sets one campaign apart from another? Is there a golden goose? We are often asked what the best time of day or day of week is for email, etc.

Like most things in life there is no simple answer, but there are definite lessons to be learned.

  1. Multi-channel marketing works better than just one method only. No doubt about it, send out direct mail and emails and responses are better than just doing one alone.
  2. Integrated campaigns work even better. Think of it as a 1 - 2 combo vs. throwing some peas at the wall a couple of times. People get their information from more than one source, and motivating someone to action may require some strategic prodding.
  3. Make it personal. Add personalization to any of the mix and the results can improve dramatically. Personalization does not mean using my name, it means knowing something about me. Perhaps what I do, or where I live, or a myriad of other data.

In a recent campaign we saw open rates go from 19% to 57% with personalization. We used the client's data to speak to recipient's professional specialties; not a one size fits all, or simply using a person's name. Extraordinary results, but it demonstrates the power of knowing your audience.

So what's the key lesson?
I think the real lesson is that data is the key. Know thy customer. The more we can learn about our prospects and customers, the more we can speak to them. People want connection, even if it comes via digital means…Facebook, LinkedIn, etc are all evidence of that. The same is true in marketing. Wikipedia defines personalization as follows:
Personalization involves using technology to accommodate the differences between individuals.
 Each person is different, or at least wants to be treated that way.