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The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

Change Requires Escape Velocity

b2ap3_thumbnail_bbutler20blog20pic202.jpgThink about change for a moment. Change is a word and a concept that often immobilizes even the most goal-oriented, determined and successful business development professionals among us.

Think of a happy circumstance you are experiencing right now or the flush of pride over some recent accomplishment. The reality is that something had to change for you to create and enjoy the new experience.

In physics, escape velocity refers to the speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field. A rocket ship leaving the surface of the earth requires about 11.2 kilometers per second (km/s) of velocity to counteract the effects of gravity. Interestingly, the further away you get from the source of gravity, the less energy is required to “pull away”.

All objects on the Earth have the same escape velocity. But, what is different is the amount of energy needed to accelerate objects of greater mass to achieve escape velocity.

In just the same way, to change any circumstance in our life, we must have sufficient thrust and constant momentum to break free of the conditions that are keeping us in their hold and not allowing us to discover something new. Just like the Earth’s gravity, we have habits and slips in our forward momentum that keep us locked in place. Just like the rocket ship, we must have some required minimum amount of acceleration to move us toward our hoped for destination.

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It's a New Year...Now What?

It's a New Year...Now What?

As 2012 comes in like a lamb, at least in the Northeast, the question is will it go out the same way? Or have we got some lion yet to come?

Forget about the resolutions, what are you going to do to make sure your roar is heard and you make your presence known in the marketplace? Building an integrated marketing communications campaign would be a great place to start! Sure it isn't as sexy as losing weight or maybe as altruistic as ending hunger or promoting world peace, but it's got one thing that those others don't: you can do it!

Any top direct marketing agency can talk about integrated marketing services or "multi-channel", or "cross-media", or whatever word or phrase you want to call it. At The Allied Group, we're uniquely positioned and qualified to build comprehensive acquisition programs. Rooted in tradition, The Allied Group has been building print campaigns for business development initiatives for over 60 years! Leveraging print with digital, social and mobile media has become our specialty.

If you truly are looking to accomplish big things in 2012 and are tired of the same old results since the economy tanked in 2008/09, we should talk. Marketing communication strategies are only as effective as your ability to get something out the door. 2012 is going to be about less talking and more doing! Are you going to be a lamb or a lion?


Make the Slow Week a "Planning" Week

This week is a coveted week for many folks. The week between Christmas and New Years is a vacation week for many - in fact, for those who are working it is usually a bit slower since many of our colleagues are not around. For many it becomes a chance to "catch up" on piles of mail, email, or other paperwork that was not done "when it was supposed to."

Looking ahead to next year (really, next week) is also a typical activity for this week. For those of us in business know that the "race for revenue" starts back up once the calendar changes to January. If your revenue for this past year hit your expectations, good for you! If your revenue was down from what you expected, maybe not so good. Either way, you will have little time to either celebrate or commiserate over your results. Don't look know but 2011 is leaving and here comes 2012!

Are you planning ahead for next year? Are you ready to surpass goals from 2011? What are the priorities for the next year?

Do you have enough "irons in the fire" to generate the sales revenue you want? Do you need one of the lead generation agencies to help you? Do you have enough business development professional services to keep your pipeline filled? What will you do to increase your sales presence next year?

Hand in hand with sales is your marketing . . . is your "homegrown" system to market your company in line with what you might get from a top direct marketing agency? Do you have enough promotional product ideas to keep your name in front of clients and prospects?

Then behind the scenes . . . how are the operations looking? Need any help with your supply chain management strategies? Is your shipping fulfillment plans ready for the next year?

Bottom line, the calendar might read this to be the last weak of 2011 but for many of us, this should be the "first" week of 2012!

What are you doing this week to plan for 2012?


What's Trending 8

What's Trending 8

Yaaahoooo! Let's get right into's "what's trending" according to Yahoo:

Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian and the entire Kardashian clan don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite the boycott efforts against them. In fact, the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star will be raking in a cool $600,000 just to host a New Year's Eve party in Las Vegas! Now that's a way to make a living!

Katy Pery. Katy Perry and Russell Brand are reportedly having 'problems' in their marriage and have been spending 'time apart'. Hmm, didn't know she was married. And I don't even know who Russell Brand is.

Packers fan's ex-boyfriend called out with a sign. A spurned Green Bay Packers fan came up with an interesting way to call out her now-ex-boyfriend - she made a sign at the Sunday night (Dec. 25) football game between the Packers and the Chicago Bears, which caught the eye of the camera man. The sign read, "My cheating ex boyfriend is watching from couch instead." I did actually see this live and it was pretty funny.

Well this "what's trending" series may seem to dip in and out of relevancy and significance. But, again, as a top direct marketing agency building and implementing marketing communication strategies for a whide array of clients in many industries, I find it helpful to have some understanding of pop culture. I will admit that this is certainly "light" stuff, but many times these topics can contribute to building a successful integrated marketing communications campaign.

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Why Won’t People Listen to Good Ideas?

Executives frequently have to persuade others to agree and act on their point of view. At times that can prove extremely difficult. Senior managers may want to include an important new initiative in the organization’s priorities for the coming year. IT executives have to agree on the most efficient way to manage company data as well as evaluate, purchase, implement and customize software that will run day to day operations.  Senior marketers are required to come up with marketing strategies to achieve company goals and evaluate plans for individual campaigns. 

In each case, the key players involved must agree. But at times that can be extremely hard to achieve. Sometimes it seems that people just won’t listen to good ideas. Researchers have carefully studied this phenomenon using controlled scientific experiments. The results may surprise you.

Why can’t they see the point?

Social psychologist Lee Ross’ research led him to conclude that people often express what he calls “naive realism.” Each person assumes that they perceive events as they really are. Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson explains that since we are sure we recognize reality, our tendency is to assume that others who are reasonable should be able to see things our way. If they don’t, we assume that they aren’t reasonable. But are we ourselves always able to see the facts clearly?

NBC news reported on a study done on “seeing the facts” in the political arena. During the 2004 presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry, Drew Westen, Director of Clinical Psychology at Emory University conducted a study using functional MRI (fMRI) equipment. This machine allows researchers to monitor blood flow to different parts of the brain, revealing how people’s minds react to various situations.  One study found, for example, that the brain area normally involved in reading did not activate when those coping with dyslexia attempted to read. Another neural region tried to do the job for which it was not equipped (like star quarterbacks Tom Brady or Drew Brees playing nose tackle).

In Dr. Westen’s study, staunch Republicans and Democrats heard contradictory statements  released by Bush or Kerry on important issues while monitored by the fMRI equipment. When hearing their own candidate’s points, supporters’ brain regions involved in reasoning and emotion lit up. They paid close attention and liked what they heard. But when listening to the opposing candidate, the reaction was quite different. "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," the researcher reported. People paid little attention to a viewpoint that contradicted their own. According to NBC, “The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say…The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.”

That’s a scary finding. And if people whose minds are made up can discount or ignore inconvenient facts in a crucial matter like national leadership, what hope do we have of winning colleagues to our point of view on company initiatives, enterprise software or marketing strategies? Fortunately, research has not only revealed human biases, but some helpful approaches for overcoming them as well. Stay tuned.

The Allied Group is a full service fulfillment and marketing communications company that provides marketing and marketing support as well as transactional document programs to companies in the insurance, benefits administration and financial services sectors.


Meatloaf Got it Wrong...continued

Retain. With retention rates at all time lows and customer loyalty harder to come by, it is important to prove your value to your customer on an on-going basis. In the “good old days”, we could get by on being just good enough. But in the 21st Century, performance is not a nice to have but a must-have in order to keep your customers for the long haul.

Picture a stool. You can be supported quite comfortably on one that has three legs. But have you ever tried to support yourself for any length of time on a stool that only has two legs? If you have great marketing that helps you find customers and a great sales effort that helps you get customers but an inadequate customer service effort that does not allow you to keep what you’ve gained, then what have you got? Or, if you have good sales production and convert most of your opportunities and good customer service and keep almost all that you earn but marketing does not drive enough opportunities to sustain your organization, what have you got? A one or two-legged stool will only get you so far.

Meatloaf was wrong. Two out of three is not enough. If you only have two pieces of the business development puzzle that work, eventually, you might not be eating anything but meatloaf for dinner.


In a Crowded Student Search Environment, Relevance Rules

As Student Search letters hit the mail, it’s important to recognize what many institutions are up against. Students may have never heard of the college that would prove to be their best choice. If they choose a better-known institution that’s not a good fit, both they and their ideal school will lose. How can worthy but less-than-famous colleges get students’ attention?

Direct mail is still the best way to reach out to students initially. In a College Board survey, 81% of students said that personal letters from colleges increased their interest. Another 75% indicated that brochures mailed to them had a similar effect. Emails came in at 61%. All should continue to be employed by many institutions.

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It's the Most Wonderful (Marketing) Time of the Year

It's the Most Wonderful (Marketing) Time of the Year

Holiday season is busy time of year . . . very busy. Holiday parties. Buying Gifts. Year-end tasks at work. Seeing relatives. There are many things that happen at the end of the year that no doubt make this a stressful time. BUT despite all the stress, we love it!
We love this time of year?? Yes, we do! I will concede the fact that now and then you run into a person who plays "Ebeneezer Scrooge" but overall people love the hustle and bustle of the season! What is it that makes us enjoy this stress? I say marketing!

This season is loaded with marketing to get us pumped up. Start with the traditional start of the holiday season: Black Friday. People used to plan shopping excursions the day after Thanksgiving; now they are planned on Thanksgiving. Check out your Sunday paper with all the advertisements; if you are strong enough to pick it up, you will see loads of ads for that "can't miss" offer at Store X. Drive by any shopping mall until December 24 at closing time and you will see plenty of evidence of the mania that is holiday season.

Does your business create a buzz even close to the holiday season? Are your marketing communications strategies gripping your clients for the entire month of December? Do you have an integrated marketing communications campaign that leaves clients waiting in your parking lot to buy more? Are your marketing and sales support personnel exhausted at the end of their workday because the sales activity was through the roof?

We might acknowledge that the buzz from holiday season is just temporary and will be over on December 26 . . .

BUT wouldn't we all like to have that excitement in our business now and then? What can your business do to help you look like your marketing was done by a top direct marketing agency?


New Technology Applications Spur Marketing and Sales Results

As today’s slow economic recovery continues, insurers look for ways to increase sales. New technologies can be applied in creative ways to do just that.


Location-Based Marketing


One example can be found in location-based marketing. This type of campaign allow companies to present information that a consumer needs in just the right place, at just the right time. The growing number of those who have just purchased homes, for instance, will need to insure them. What better time could there be to offer new homebuyers a homeowners policy than when they’ve just made their purchase? Some insurers may have arranged compensation programs for real estate agents who refer business to them.

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The Nature of Business Development

Organic business development requires a comprehensive, coordinated 3-part effort. You must have sufficient strength in each of the marketing and sales support and customer service areas of your company to attract, acquire and retain customers.

The Venus Fly Trap is nature’s equivalent of a well-run marketing and sales support and retention program. Like many plants they get fed both from gases in the air and nutrients in the soil. But it is in catching the “right” insects that will help the flytrap truly thrive rather then just exist. To be considered carnivorous, a plant must attract, capture and digest some kind of animal life.

The plant must first secrete a sweet-smelling sap that is attractive to its’ intended prey (marketing). After an insect lands on the plants’ trap it will close, but not all the way, in about one second. Insects that are too small or too large are released because they provide inadequate nutrition or are “too big to swallow”(sales qualification). Stones, nuts or other inadvertent objects are released in about twelve hours if they don’t meet the flytrap’s expectations (firing the wrong customers). If the plant finds the captive bug to its’ liking however, (the “just right” customer), the trap is shut tight never to open again until the next catch (retention).

Just so you know, successful, natural business development and local lead generation must work together in just the same way, with all three steps to build long-term loyal customers and revenue stability through an integrated marketing communications program.

Things in nature usually work very well. Design your marketing and sales support and retention process just as well to build long-term repetitive success.


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