VP Blog

Beyond the Magazine: 3 Ways to Engage Subscribers

We live in a digital age, but that hasn’t stopped the presses from printing magazines or from new magazines being launched. And it also means you have lots of ways to reach your print subscribers.

People are constantly looking for information, and there is a lot of it available for free on the Internet. But can you trust your source? That’s where a print magazine – and your magazine brand – shows its highest value. You are more trustworthy, partially because the information you make available is made so on paper.

But print magazines take time to be produced and make their way into the hands of anxious subscribers. You want to remain connected with your subscribers and engaged with them beyond the magazine issues, especially during lulls (the time between issues). And with so many things competing for our readers’ attention, this two-prong strategy is necessary in the modern world. Here are a few ideas by which you can remain connected with your print subscribers, which can help strengthen your magazine brand. These ideas can also be utilized to help reach prospective subscribers and encourage them to subscribe.

1. Interact on social media.

Social media provides direct and immediate access to people who are connected with your brand on a particular channel. If you have social media accounts but you don’t know which one is working for you, look at the website analytics for social media referrals, as well as the analytics often available through social media channels themselves.

Make social media posts an extension of your magazine brand: the same tone, the same type of content, etc. But now you can be extra creative and create posts and specific content that play on current events or holidays. It doesn’t need to wait a month to be seen, like a magazine. You can be timely, current, and relevant, all thanks to social media.

2. Keep in touch over email.

Communicate by sending regular (timing is at your discretion) articles or a collection of must-read articles from yourself and other sources that generate content you think your subscribers would enjoy. It keeps your brand in front of your subscribers as well as opens a line of communication for them (i.e., get in touch with us if you have any questions) to reply back. Email is also a great way to survey your readership, ask them to get involved with something (like a photo contest), and what they can expect to see in an upcoming issue (maybe with a sneak peek of one or two of the stories).

3. Send them snail mail.

We don’t mean junk mail like a promotion or a renewal notice, we mean an actual card or letter just to say hello or to give them something extra. It could be on the anniversary of their subscription, on their birthday, on their pet’s birthday (if your magazine, such as Just Labs, caters to dog owners), or because your publisher/company has reached a big milestone. Think ahead on how else you can resonate with subscribers through a printed piece. For instance, you can start collecting data on the color of their Labrador retriever and then use variable imaging so that a card or letter features their “favorite” color Lab. Collect data that will be useful for you in the short run as well as the long term.

Any chance you can get to communicate with your subscribers beyond the print issues of the magazine is one you should take; however, do so with a degree of caution. You don’t want to over-communicate and overwhelm or annoy your readers, or send them information that is not going to be of interest to them.

What can I do to get more members to renew? 

The top four reasons members lapse, and changes you can make to increase your renewal rate – and the satisfaction of your membership

For any association where someone elects to be a member – membership isn’t required for their profession – the reasons run the gamut as to why a member does not renew their membership.

To solve this and work toward increasing your renewal rate, you need to first evaluate and then take action once a problem area is identified. Some actions are easy to implement, but others will require fundamental or structural changes to how your association operates. Here are four of the main reasons  why members don’t renew, what that could mean for your association, and what you need to do to fix it.

1. The value of the association didn’t meet member expectations.

When someone is staring at a renewal notice, they first evaluate their experience. They base their decision on how they feel toward the association as well as how well the association measured up to its promises. If they had a poor interaction with a chapter or at an event, that will factor in. If they didn’t take advantage of the benefits, they may feel being a part of the association wasn’t useful. This could be as simple as a communication problem, so make an effort to communicate with members frequently and in a timely way the benefits that are available – and how to best use them. Consistently remind members of how valuable your association is for them, and provide exceptional service whenever they do engage with you.

2. Members have a difficult time justifying the cost of dues.

Parting with money for what is essentially a “luxury purchase” can be a difficult proposition. So you need to make sure that the perceived or actual financial benefit of belonging outweighs the cost of annual dues. Make sure this is true for your association. Discounts and access to premium resources (such as videos or guides) that only your association can provide are essential to have from a member perspective. You may need to evaluate what you offer and look to adding something new to help your members feel that membership is worth the investment.

If you don’t know what benefits are working for you, and which ones aren’t, then ask your members for feedback. If you know the cost of dues is a hurdle for members, based on previous feedback, then consider an installment plan option to help members spread out the cost. The frequency is up to you, but we’d recommend quarterly so that you have to do fewer transactions over the course of the year as well as ensure you have three months’ worth of dues in the bank. And there will always be some members who cite the cost of dues as the reason, no matter what you do. What you need to do is make sure it’s not the main reason for most lapsed members.

3. Members don’t have enough opportunity or communication that it’s time to renew.

A strategic, well-timed renewal series is essential. Members may not be receiving notice until after they have expired, or they only receive renewal notices by email and they get deleted or forgotten. They may only receive one or two reminders to renew. It’s best to give members multiple chances to renew. We prefer a combination of letters and emails – perhaps a more graphic piece as well – over the course of several weeks before expiration and for several weeks after

4. Members would remain active if it was within their control.

Sometimes it’s out of their hands. For instance, one enthusiast membership association we work with is comprised of owner pilots of single- and twin-engine personal aircraft. They had an exceptional renewal rate but wondered why it couldn’t be higher. By incorporating a simple survey into their renewal series that asked why a member wasn’t renewing, they learned that 90 percent of the drops were for reasons outside the members’ control – they had sold their aircraft or lost their medical and could no longer fly. In many cases, it was because the member had actually passed away. These members found value with their association and enjoyed being a part of it, but these were changes they couldn’t avoid. Therefore, they no longer needed the association.

Often this type of member wants to continue to be involved and kept up to date; however, they are often under-serviced. They don’t have a need for the association’s main benefits. For members like this, consider adding a senior, lifetime, or advocate membership level with benefits tailored for them.

If you aren’t certain as to why your members aren’t renewing, the best thing to do is ask. Survey your expired members and listen to what they have to say. This will be actionable data that you can take to your board and to your leaders. Then, work on the solutions. Your current members will benefit, and you’ll be able to return to your expired members in the future with added value.

Corporate Culture: It Needs to Be Built, Not Bought

Corporate culture matters. You want one in which everyone works together so that all can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Every business has a culture. This corporate culture is most evident when new leadership takes the helm. This is also when you’re going to see a culture shift, for better or worse.

Whenever someone new steps into a leadership position, the company culture is undoubtedly going be altered in some way. The “way we do things” may change because of the leader’s experience or ability to offer a fresh perspective.

But leaders also enter into an existing culture. Some aspects of that culture can be positive and working well, but there can also be lingering challenges that need to be overcome or repaired… and that takes time and effort because it’s not easy to change.

What does a good one look like? It typically has these seven attributes.

1. Transparency. This entails a high level of honesty from everyone in the company, no matter their position or importance. Transparency is essential among team members during the course of a project: are we on time, are we confident in what we’re doing, do we need help. This honesty extends to client relationships as well, which helps to grow friendship and respect. Leaders, likewise, should be up front about the state of the company and its future, perhaps even offering to share company finances in order help everyone understand what they are working for. This entails an open door policy, where it’s actually true.

2. Minimal to no micromanaging. Micromanaging never works. It grows anxiety and distrust. Companies with managers and leaders who trust in the expertise of their employees typically have higher employee satisfaction.

3. Performance-driven:  Employees want to know their results  It’s not about attendance.  It’s not about spending a few minutes shopping online, checking Facebook, reading an article, celebrating a co-worker’s birthday, or streaming the opening game of baseball season while we work.  It’s entirely about getting the job done, making sure clients are delighted, and making sure our team enjoys being at work with each other.


“I don’t believe leaders set the example, the culture, the tone. I believe it comes from everyone in their position, being the experts in their roles. Most important, it’s about having leaders who understand that their team members are the experts.  Confident leaders are willing to give up authority.  People enjoy responsibility if they have the authority, as well.  Responsibility without authority, however, is defeating.
—Dave Moore, President, VP Demand Creation Services


4. Results oriented. Even though procedures and responsibilities are put into place for each part of a process for each role, the overarching goal of getting it done on time and getting it done right supersedes any silos or personal conflicts. Sure there can be bottlenecks and frustrations, but the focus on the project remains steadfast. If there is a bottleneck, how can we as a team resolve this right now and for the future? Teams that do this well don’t hold up the process by blaming others around them; they are part of developing the solution.

5. Willingness to share. The success of a company is a team effort. No one person gets all the credit. A positive company culture recognizes the work of others, correcting others if there is misinformation about who “deserves” the credit. Leaders will also share the credit with their team and pass on compliments from clients so that all can share in the success. Many companies, though not required, go the extra mile and offer bonuses or gifts when least expected – sharing the wealth, even though they don’t have to.

6. Work hard, play hard. Potlucks, soup cook-offs, design contests, basketball leagues, cookouts, winter tubing – whatever it is, providing opportunities for everyone in the company to gather and share in a meal or activity together is a mark of a good company culture. It doesn’t always need to be an event hosted by the leadership. Create spaces with activities where employees can gather on their own.

7. Give back. Invite employees to get involved with community events and causes. Sponsor an event and ask employees to work it, for example. It’s not only good visibility for your company, it’s keeping life in perspective. Giving back to others will help to cultivate a sense of gratitude and happiness within people’s hearts. And for leaders, be open to opportunities employees and clients bring in front of you where you can get involved.

If your company or association’s culture is not what you want it to be, to transform it into the type of culture you want will require time to build. It takes an effort and a strong resolve to change how an office works together and plays together.

But if you cultivate this culture and help it to blossom, you’ll have happier, more dedicated co-workers who are secure in their roles and flexible enough to work with others to generate the best outcome for your clients.

Meet and Defeat the Top Two Challenges to Modern Day Marketing

Does technology run the show when it comes to modern day business marketing? Or the consumer? In our opinion, it’s neither, at least exclusively. Rather, the combination of advancing technology and the empowered consumer is what’s making the difference in how we conduct and market our business.

What is an “empowered consumer”?

An empowered consumer is one who utilizes the speed and knowledge available through technology in order to make informed decisions and purchases. This happens quickly. And if your brand doesn’t pop up on the first page of search results, have a solid referral base, or has fallen behind in digital marketing methods, then other brands – your competition – will rise above.

Consumers have the advantage of being able to compare products, opinions, etc., all thanks to a search engine. They make judgments about whether to work or buy from your company based on the appearance and message of your website. They care about what your company stands for, not what it offers as a product or service… yet they are cynical that it’s all just marketing hype and not the honest truth. In short, it’s a challenging time to be in marketing because our potential customers and clients have so many choices – and they make sure they are informed before making a decision.

How does technology come into play?

Technology, with all its capabilities and future advancements, will continue to challenge businesses and how they relate their products and services to the consumers they want to reach. Short attention spans and an overabundance of choices (search results) that technology lends the consumer can hurt the chances of getting your business noticed. The good news is, with all of the activity on tablets and smart phones, businesses can, for a price, reach a more highly-targeted audience than they have ever been able to reach before. Each of our personal information, personal interests, and personal tastes are monitored and stored. Internet browsing history leaves breadcrumbs scattered across the digital space, for each and every user. Then, as a business, we can market digitally or with more traditional printed pieces once personal information has been acquired.

So what can you do to better market your business? To use technology to your advantage, and convert targets or leads into paying consumers?

  1. Mind the signs. Ask your clients and customers about their preferences – and really listen to their answers. Institute a short questionnaire to gather valuable information in a quantitative way on a continuous basis. Monitor social media insights and website analytics to look for trends, dips, and what kinds of information or promotions generate the most engagement and attention. But don’t forget one of your biggest resources: yourself. Even though you are a marketer and a business owner, you are also a consumer who knows how the game is played. Don’t let important signs pass you by unnoticed, or worse, pass you by without your taking action.
  1. Utilize digital marketing options. Digital marketing has grown significantly over the past decade, and it will continue on that trajectory. There are many services that offer digital marketing consultation and digital marketing management tools. There are hundreds of books available on the subject, and thousands of free resources from reputable sources available on the Internet where you can find advice, strategy, and how-to tips.  However, it’s really helpful to have an in-house expert in this area to help navigate, ask the right questions, and get you on the path to success. Digital marketing includes sponsored email blasts, email display ads, pay-per-click ads, and social media advertising. Begin with the most promising avenue for success (within budget and that reaches your target audience) and branch out to others as necessary. You may reach an untapped market simply because you’re trying something new. And as always, track the results.
  1. Build a lead generation website. A well-built website will do more marketing for you than any digital or printed advertisement. Capture visitor information so that you can market to them in the future, such as to download a PDF or to sign up to receive regular email updates. Promote your website in email signatures, on social media (even by utilizing advertising), and in the office when face to face with clients. Make sure your website is intuitive, mobile friendly, straightforward, and as transparent as possible with regards to your company culture and business offerings/products.
  1. Be willing and ready to adapt. Take action. You’ve done your due diligence and have the data in hand to support any new initiatives. You’re confident in the direction you need to go. Once you recognize a need, jump on it. Strategize, test messages or designs, target your audience, track the results. You need to meet your (and your clients’) potential consumers where they want to be met, to put messages in front of them that speak to them on a seemingly individual level. This requires being able to create and track multiple digital marketing initiatives simultaneously, and being able to adapt quickly in order to maximize conversions and increase your ROI.

Client Satisfaction: Don’t Over-Promise, Over-Deliver Instead

 

All companies want repeat business and lifelong clients. We want our clients to be so impressed that they want us to do more.  None of us begin working with a client expecting to fail, yet sometimes we don’t measure up to our client’s expectations. This can cause distrust and – at times – animosity between the teams. The account can be in jeopardy, as can your business’s reputation. You never want to reach this point. So to avoid this situation, here are five tips to help ensure client satisfaction… and deliver top results.

  1. Be honest. For the sales team, selling your company as the best of the best is a daunting and complicated task. Give the client relevant solutions for what they are asking for… and nothing more. You always want to say “yes,” yet it’s equally important to say “no.” Be honest about your company’s capabilities. How about when the client is ready to work with you? Be up front about pricing and (especially) the expected timing for projects to be completed. Going over budget, going back to a client for more money, or extending an already lengthy project timeline can hurt the relationship.
  1. Get a feel for the client. Some clients don’t need very much. They let a project run at its own pace, offer minimal input, and don’t ask for much on top of what’s already being done. Some clients, however, need hand-holding and make a lot of new requests beyond the scope of the original project. This can depend on the industry of the client. A membership organization for instance may require a lot of additional support for chapters or individual members. Though you can’t know everything you’ll be encountering in a project, if more questions had been asked up front some of that could have been discovered and prepared for… and the quote, timing, and team expectations would likely have been presented or executed differently. You never want to let your client down on the job.
  1. Thoroughly understand what you are about to take on. Take a comprehensive look at what the client is asking for your company to do. Many projects, such as website refreshes and membership marketing efforts, have multiple steps if they want to be set up and executed correctly. This will take longer and there will likely be bumps along the way that will require troubleshooting. Ask team members who are experts in the types of projects your client is interested in doing… and listen. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. This also entails being up front about what project might be beyond the skill set of your in-house team. You can always offer to work with a vendor. It’s important to recognize this early. This is not to say to never push for growth or to help team members grow their skill set. A company should have a sweet spot, but it should never be satisfied with the status quo. Just know how to pick your battles. You want success.
  1. Timing is everything. The sales process can take a long time, but once the contract is signed, most clients want to move at warp speed. You already have a lot of projects to manage. How will adding a new one affect workflow and labor? Does something need to be shifted or moved around? Is your client in a tight spot and needed solutions yesterday? Know the answers, prep your team, and manage your client’s expectations regarding timing.
  1. Communicate! Don’t wait for a client to ask about something; anticipate what the client will want to know. Send reports regularly, offer quick updates via email on how a promotion or project is going. This goes a long way in making your client feel connected to your company’s team. Always be a step ahead in what the client would like to execute next. Be prepared to provide an answer, not “we’ll get back to you.” Be as prompt in your communication as possible, and work on removing bottlenecks within your company so that your client doesn’t have to wait long for an answer.

All of these will help you and your company ensure that you over-deliver instead of over-promise. However, if you misjudge the client’s needs or wants, run into challenges in the shop, the return is lower than projected, or you’re trying something new and it ends up falling flat, you could find yourself in the position of having to explain and work to regain that client’s trust. Sometimes, despite best efforts, things do not go as planned.

If you do not meet your client’s expectations…

Get everyone together. Make a new game plan. Get all the experts in the room with the client. This would look better if you go visit the client. Make sure there is a good facilitator for the conversation and someone taking notes so that details don’t get missed. Everyone needs to be honest and priorities need to be hashed out.

Offer an apology. Not just verbally, but also tangibly in the form of a discount, free item, something! It’s never a good thing to have to do this to appease your client’s discontent but it will show you are willing to try to make up for what has been lacking. It’s also a sign to your internal team that it’s time to step up the game.
 

6 Reasons Your Company Should Host a Focus Group

Plus four best focus group planning tips

Focus Group 2015Since 2009, we’ve hosted an annual focus group each summer for our foodservice clients. Many return year after year because of the valuable conversation and solutions developed during the course of the multi-day meeting. Though it’s a lot of work to host a focus group, we build in a little fun as well – and both are worth the effort. Here are six reasons why your company should consider hosting a focus group… and four essential planning tips.

  1. Your team and your clients get face time. There’s something about being in the same room together. The conversation flows more easily and more quickly. Phone and e-mail are great tools, but they aren’t personal. Chances are you have multiple members of your team working with a client, and a focus group provides the chance for the entire team – the client’s team – to spend time together in one space to discuss business… or not.
  1. You can evaluate the past year, together. We always begin our focus group by going over what happened at the previous year’s focus group, the resulting objectives, and the strides made in the creation of tools or functionality to meet those objectives. Since each client has different needs, all clients may not know about every product or service; however, their interest may be piqued enough by the conversation that it might be time for them to explore different options your company can provide. The focus group setting does the cross selling for you at some level.
  1. Your clients can discuss pain points. This is the true value of hosting a focus group. Your clients need solutions. You can provide those exact solutions based on the conversations that take place during focus group sessions. They may not be the same pain points as a year ago. In fact, we find they usually aren’t. New technology, shifts in how information is consumed, new laws, and the feedback of consumers and employees all play a role. These problems are usually felt industry-wide. Listen to what your clients have to say, and then brainstorm ideas together about what a solution would look like.
  1. Your company leaves with a set of objectives for the upcoming year. Based on the conversation, especially of pain points, your company now has a direction for the next year or several years. This gives your team a huge advantage because you can focus your labor and resources into developing solutions you know your clients need and will be willing to invest their dollars in. Those solutions, if they are helpful for your clients, by extension will be helpful and valuable for potential clients.
  1. You can potentially share development costs. It takes a lot of infrastructure to support your team, and the needs of your clients may necessitate additional training, materials, technology, and development costs. Co-development may be an option with a client, or multiple if it’s toward the same solution. This may not just be monetary but personnel resources as well.
  1. You connect with clients beyond a business level. Fun activities and exclusive outings after the work day help your team get to know the clients at a deeper level, and vice versa. In this way, friendships are developed and you grow to become a confidant. We appreciate all of our client relationships and are interested in what happens in their non-professional lives. People are social creatures, and we like to chat about non-work topics, too. It’s good for the soul and invigorates relationships, even business ones.

Focus Group 2015 2

Four Planning Tips

  1. Know your objectives. Before attendees arrive, make sure those in charge of planning have a clear agenda and a clear set of objectives to accomplish with everyone in the room. This includes accomplishing the objectives set forth to complete before the meeting commences – beta demonstrations, signs, food choices, portfolios, meeting space reservations, etc.
  1. Choose a very good facilitator. You probably can do this yourself, but don’t.  You will miss nuggets of input, and body language that you should be paying attention to.  A great facilitator can handle silence when he throws out a new subject.  Most people cannot. The facilitator is essential for moderating the conversation as well as to pick out from that conversation the new objectives for the coming year. A moderator must be objective and an expert in core discussion areas. He or she must be a good listener, a solid note taker, and have the ability to put everyone at ease so that their ideas and concerns can be heard.
  1. Get participants involved. Every year, we give each participant a number of “voting stickers.” We hang paper around the room with topics discussed the previous days (pain points). Clients are invited to place their stickers on the topic or topics they are most interested in pursuing for their company. Some ideas are so important to a client that they will place all of their votes on one project.  In this case, we invite that client to be the “champion” of that initiative, and consult with us while we develop it. Some might put two on one and three on another. The number of stickers on each paper tells you, the host, how to prioritize those topics and which solutions need to be developed the quickest.
  1. Provide a report following the focus group as quickly as possible. There’s a lot of energy during a focus group, a lot of a-ha moments. Keep the momentum going by providing a report within a few weeks, including your company’s plans on what will be tackled first. We like to personally present these reports to the clients who attended, but it could be as easy as a conference call or a nicely bound report sent through the mail, along with a handwritten thank you note.

Customizable POS Rolls Out

eDocBuilder by Aleyant Systems rolls out this week at VP Demand Creation Services as the new CPOS online design and variable data marketing solution. eDocBuilder is a cloud-based technology that gives sales executives, brokers, agents, and dealers of our foodservice, insurance, and law enforcement uniform and armor clients enhanced flexibility to customize sales and promotional pieces, both graphically and editorially.

“We were a pioneer in this technology over ten years ago.  Our old solution has not delivered the speed and cloud-based advantages of eDocBuilder,” explains Andy LePere, IT Director. “This new system is a great upgrade and enables clients to make the customized materials they need, both on traditional monitors and mobile devices. We are targeting the release of the mobile version for late 2015.”

The system produces print-ready, optimized PDFs through customizable or static web templates. Though the overall design of the collateral or direct mail is created according to each client’s specifications and needs, some pieces can be created intentionally for customization by users with graphics, calls to action, event information, contact information – basically, whatever a sales member needs to better communicate with their accounts and prospective accounts. Once a custom piece is created – or an off-the-shelf piece is ordered – the file is submitted to the digital press, produced, and shipped within one business day. Examples of CPOS items include: table tents, brochures, counter cards, menus, danglers, posters, banners and, on occasion, wearables.

“CPOS helps the sales executives and brokers of our clients co-brand their marketing efforts, which stands out from the crowd. Customizable print also gives them the opportunity to create greater marketing speed, to send these customized pieces faster,” explains LePere.

VP already has an arsenal of pre-determined sizes, finishes, and paper selections – including Forestry Stewardship paper stocks — to help save money and support the brand’s values. With pre-determined pieces, clients can “share” the die costs of those pieces, thereby keeping higher die costs at bay. But sometimes, a complete customization is needed to do the job; everything – graphics, size, stock, and finish – can be done upon request, providing additional value for clients who want their pieces to “pop” for particular marketing efforts or product launches.

 

 

VPDCS Announces Signature Breads as New Client

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Signature Breads, Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Tempe, Arizona, selected the Traverse City, Michigan-based marketing company to provide best-in-class services in support of their sales and marketing teams’ customer service initiatives.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI (September 17, 2015): VP Demand Creation Services (VPDCS) announced today it has been selected by Signature Breads, an independent, employee-owned commercial bakery, to help execute their foodservice marketing initiatives. VPDCS will support the sales and marketing executives and field sales team of Signature Breads through printing, fulfillment, and redemption services, as well as the development and implementation of a co-branded point-of-sale website.

“The Signature Breads marketing team is aligning their business with key partners who can help them create unparalleled customer service focused on foodservice marketing,” commented Dave Moore, President, VPDCS.  “We’re thrilled to have been selected by their team.”

According to Levon Kurkjian, Director of Marketing & Sales at Signature Breads, “We’ve known VP Demand Creation’s leadership reputation and innovation track record for many years. With the commitment Signature Breads has to always finding new and better ways to serve foodservice and retail customers, we needed a partner that demonstrated an unwavering commitment to exceptional service to support our various customer support and marketing initiatives. We have high expectations, and we know their standards are equal to the task.”

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VP Demand Creation Services is a world-class provider of marketing execution services, delivering speed, effectiveness, and knowledge to clients. With an extraordinary array of tools and technologies, we apply equal parts of science and creativity to generate demand for our clients’ services. For more information, visit www.vpdemandcreation.com.

Signature Breads focuses exclusively on baking bread. Their offerings include traditional French crusty breads like baguettes and dinner rolls and they specialize in sandwich carriers in numerous sizes, shapes and flavors.  They also bake niche, specialty breads like boules and carving loaves and breads that address emerging trends like ciabattas and focaccias. For more information, visit www.signaturebreads.com.

Getting Smart With: Sustainability

Every day, we work with clients who stand for more than what they do for business. They take an interest in wider causes, and engage with those causes to make a difference in our world. It’s important as a business to stand for more. VP Demand Creation Services has several sustainable use, environmentally friendly initiatives that are company standard, and we encourage our clients to participate in them, too.

We Have a Responsibility as a Company

As a longstanding printer and publisher, we understand the importance of incorporating sustainability initiatives into the running of our business to ensure that our business conduct and processes – for ourselves and our clients – will help to enrich the future.

We recycle the scrap from each of the 35 magazine titles regularly printed every year. Each machine in our facility which trims paper in any manner is attached to a “Cyclone System” which vacuums all paper scraps into a large bale (imagine a very large hay bale). Then, the scrap bale is removed from the Cyclone, weighed, and sent to a recycling facility. In 2014 alone, we recycled 345 skids of paper – 400,886 pounds!

Bales of Scrap Handled (number of skids)

  • 2014                345 (avg. 1,161 lbs. per skid)
  • 2013                317
  • 2012                369
  • 2011                328

For our foodservice clients, we offer gang printing and co-shipping initiatives, created with sustainability in mind:

  • Gang printing is combining printings – multiple jobs – of sales collateral into one job. We report “fast-moving” inventory items to our clients, and they use this report to combine jobs printing on common paper stock. This can yield a 20-30 percent savings for our clients because of the reduction in consumption of paper and printing plates.
  • Co-shipping is our approach where foodservice clients’ who utilize “common” brokers can shop on multiple websites but ship only one order. This reduces the carbon footprint, and cuts down on the number of shipping containers, packaging materials, and shipping labels used.

For all printing jobs, regardless of industry, we practice responsible material selection:

  • We are certified by SCS Global Services (SCS) to the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Chain of Custody standard. Certification covers the production and handling of printed material on paper stocks that are FSC 100%, FSC Mix, or FSC Recycled using the transfer system.
  • Bio-Renewable Content is a set of printing inks that contain 70 percent Bio-Renewable Content (BRC). BRC is soy oil, linseed oil, etc., any material originating from plants, animals, or naturally derived sources that can be replenished in the near future. This is a big increase from prior inks, which were 10 percent soy oil.
  • Our cartons are double-walled with fluting of 100 percent recycled material. The double wall helps keep the replacement rate of these cartons down since it happens less often.

Our clients adhere to a very high standard of environmental conduct through how they – and we – conduct business. We take the extra, important step of quantifying these efforts by gathering measurements on many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help clients prove their sustainability commitment and effectiveness – and certify them as Enviro-Smart Marketers. This certification is unique to VP Demand Creation Services.

We created a Sustainability Scorecard to help our customers meet the criteria. All of the above-mentioned sustainability initiatives are a part of this certification.

 

Our Clients’ Sustainability Initiatives Inspire Us

Most companies have grown aware that how they operate their business makes an impact, and their company can contribute in the world and in their communities environmentally, socially, and politically.  Our clients practice responsible marketing and fulfillment through working with us, but that’s only part of their story. They are invested in other areas as well, and the initiatives they are committed to inspire us to do more. Here are examples from a few of our clients:

High Liner Foods: North America’s largest marketer of prepared frozen seafood products is committed to delivering Responsibly Sourced Seafood to its customers. They work in collaboration with other organizations and certifying bodies to ensure this. This 2014 infographic describes some of these efforts more in detail.  High Liner also has plans for other areas of their business, such as energy efficiency, packaging, and recycling.

Hagerty: A global company, Hagerty still focuses on the community level. In Traverse City, for instance, the company participates and sponsors the annual Smart Commute Competition. “For car nuts, we’re pretty responsible about how we get to work. Our yearly Smart Commute Competition helps encourage us,” reports Hagerty.com.  Smart Commute Week is a national initiative to help encourage individuals and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and increase physical activity. Participants can bike, walk, jog, rollerblade, or carpool, all in an effort to reduce traffic flow and improve air quality. Hagerty also supports the classic car community through youth programs, the Historic Vehicle Association, car clubs, and an education program.

American Bonanza Society: The nonprofit arm of the Society, the ABS Air Safety Foundation, is a well-respected authority and advocate in General Aviation. One of their initiatives was participating in the Clean 100 Octane Coalition, of which the ABS Air Safety Foundation is a founding member, which helped fund the Coalition’s participation in the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (UAT-ARC) meetings. The purpose of this committee was “to recommend to the FAA the process by which 100LL [low lead] avgas replacement fuels should be evaluated and selected,” according to bonanza.org. These replacement fuels need to accommodate high-power piston engines such as Bonanzas. This was done successfully and was an important step toward finding an unleaded aviation fuel solution. The ABS Air Safety Foundation continues to be involved.

 

Sustainability initiativeSustainability is a Team Effort

Our team members take it upon themselves to contribute sustainability opportunities that make an impact on our company’s operations. These not only make an impact on the environment, they help streamline company processes and procedures, too, and set higher standards of environmental consciousness. Here are just three examples of employees making a difference:

  1. Ten years ago, a group of employees worked together to see whether there was an opportunity to recycle our leftover signatures instead of dumping them in the dumpster. After a thorough investigation, a solution was found and the new procedure implemented immediately. In addition to recycling the paper, we saw cost savings from our much reduced dumpster usage.
  1. Though we still use paper signatures, much of our workflow has transitioned into a digital environment and eliminated the use of paper proofs. By doing so, it was determined that our company would save several thousand dollars a year and enhance workflow efficiencies within the Art department and with clients since the turnaround time was greatly reduced. Digital proofing makes it simpler to share multiple proofs, and thereby also eliminates having to print multiple versions of a project during proofing.
  1. We also needed to be aware of how to best recycle our aluminum litho plates and Nexpress imaging cylinders after print jobs. This has long-since been a sustainability initiative of our company, but two team members determined that a local company would be a better fit for us – providing additional savings on transportation and reducing emissions.
  • Skids of Consumables Ink/Plates
  • 2014                337
  • 2013                311
  • 2012                283
  • 2011                316

We also have company policies about shutting down monitors and equipment, and all are encouraged to turn off lights when they’re not needed. And during company luncheons, plates, napkins, and cups are all recyclable. We have made sustainability a priority at VP Demand Creation Services because these efforts reduce our carbon footprint, help increase our clients’ ROI, and help streamline processes.

There are so many ways your company can get smart with sustainability. Though you probably have initiatives like this going on in your company, more can always be done. What else could your company be doing?

 

Survey: Answers to Five Popular Questions

1. Why are surveys valuable for my association?

A survey is data collection, and in today’s business climate, data is essential to better understanding your audience and what they value so that you can speak to them more effectively. Surveys also give members an opportunity to use their voice. This data should be actionable, meaning the results can provide an association with concrete information to support future initiatives or alter current ones.

2. Who should I survey?

Each group of members will offer different insight, so it’s in your association’s best interest to survey both current members and expired members. Current members can provide valuable information that is, in effect, the pulse of an association. Their responses offer insight about the state of their business or profession or area of interest, and opinions about current events and how your association can make a stronger impact.

Expired members, on the other hand, are often more critical of an association, but that criticism can be useful for making changes, especially if many have the same concerns.

3. Should I send a print or a digital survey?

Survey execution strategy depends on several factors, which should all be considered before members are contacted. It’s not a one size fits all. Here are the primary areas to consider, as well as data on how past association surveys have performed, both print and digital.

  • Your budget: Digital surveys are often preferred because they are lower cost and the response is immediate. This can be a very effective method for some associations. Hard copy surveys cost more to produce because of materials, printing, and postage; however, they tend to elicit a higher response.Sending past or current members a printed survey to their home address also relays to them that they are worth the time and money it takes to acquire their opinion.
  • Your membership demographic: For conducting a survey, you should know how your members prefer to be reached. Younger members tend to trend towards taking a survey digitally, while older members tend to prefer hard copy. Of course, the opposite can also be true for individuals within those groups.By reaching your members the way they want to be reached, you increase your likelihood for a high response. In relation to this, try to send the survey at an optimal time and not in the general member’s “season.” This is especially true for enthusiast organizations. For example, you’ll probably get a better response if you send the survey to a group of winemakers when they aren’t out harvesting their grapes.
  • Your data: Use data to support your decision on how to ask members to take a survey. Data points include:
  1. How was the response to past surveys?
  2. When was the last survey conducted?
  3. Do you have most or all street addresses for current members? Expired members?
  4. How many e-mail addresses do you have?
  5. What percentage is that of the current membership, of the expired membership?
  6. How do different types of e-mails tend to perform?

4. What kind of response do I need?

The number of responses needed in order to feel certain about particular responses to a survey depend upon how confident you want to be, what “confidence interval” you want to use, and how big of a population you begin with. For example, if you begin with 1,500 surveys sent out, you will need “X” number of surveys back in order to feel 95% certain, (+/- 5%) that you have an accurate representation of the association as a whole.

5. How often should I survey?

This is an important question. Surveying should be done with the respondent in mind. A respondent can get tired of answering surveys quickly, so it’s important to space out surveys to avoid fatigue or resentment. An alternative is to survey membership segments, so that the same individuals aren’t being contacted every time.

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