Happy Creative & Fun 2018!

It’s January and with every January come a few new Canada Post changes.

We have sent out our annual Canada Post guide, which recaps all of the changes for the year and gives our clients quick access to current rates and sizes.  If you don’t have one but would like one please send us an email and we can send you either a soft or hard copy.

Some notable changes this year:

  • Minimum volume for machineable mail has been reduced from 500 to 400 items - this is a fantastic change and definitely helps those with smaller mailings.
  • Maximum thickness for Dimensional Mail goes up from 2.2 to 2.4 inches– this is really great for our ingenious clients who love to take advantage of the creative flexibility Canada Post provides.
  • Incentive Lettermail no longer requires an agreement – this could be my favourite change this year!
  • Neighbourhood Mail increases its size, weight and thickness – like how I feel coming back from any vacation (see our guide for exact NM details).
  • Postal Code Targeting no longer requires an agreement (non-contract rate) or the chevrons that formed part of the indicia – not to be mixed up with the highway spacing chevrons, but they were very similar in look

As Canada Post Expert Partners we are committed to helping marketers get the most out of their direct mail. As I am writing this I am flying back from vacation and when the flight crew was going through their safety demo I was doing what 99% of us do during the demo (not paying attention) when all of a sudden the TV in front of me caught my eye.  Qantas put a new spin on the old tired safety video that the flight crew synchronizes with.  The video had my full attention (hard to do) and was so creative and well done that I had to google it when I landed so I could share it with you - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSBrL74uK0c .  I share it with you not to prepare you for your next flight, although that might be handy, but to remind you that creativity is king (spoiler alert the safety video doubles as a tourism Australia advertisement).

Your direct mail or fulfillment packages need to stand out and be creative, they need to challenge the status quo just like what Qantas and other airlines have done with their safety videos.   Same old same old is safe but sometimes boring, so let 2018 be the year of creativity and fun while still getting your message to its intended recipients…..and as always we are here to help with that.

My SOULCYCLE Experience

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Last spring I read an article in Inc. Magazine about the success of SoulCycle.  I had never heard of SoulCycle but I was intrigued on how 2 woman could re-invent spinning after it had already infiltrated most gyms 10 years earlier.  I started researching the company and the more I read about them the more I became obsessed with their success.  Coincidentally, a girlfriend of mine who lives in San Francisco mentioned to me this summer that she is a  SoulCycle addict, so my obsession doubled with her testimonial.

SoulCycle charges between $28 and $34 dollars for one 45 minute class and unlimited class memberships are not available.  In New York you can pay $60 and book a day ahead of everyone else, as so many classes sell out within an hour.  So I needed to find out what do they do differently when so many full service gyms are having a tough time charging $40/month for unlimited access which includes spinning, aerobics and yoga.

As luck would have it I was going to Chicago with my husband and they just opened up a SoulCycle close to our hotel, so I signed us up for a Friday afternoon class.  Right from the first inquiry phone call to the smooth and efficient sign in process I could already see why these ladies are so successful. The lockers are in a funky communal area for both men and women and each locker is like a hotel safe where you program in 4 digits each time you come so no locks required.   I opened up the locker and there it was a stroke of brilliance, a charging station for your smart phone built right into each locker.  

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We put on our rented spinning shoes(actually free for first timers and not creepy gross like rented bowling shoes) and then walked into the dimly lit studio where a fresh towel lay on every bike. We found the bikes we signed up for and an instructor came right to us and helped measure out our bike height and showed us how to clip in. We started the class right on time, the signature grapefruit candles were lit, the lights went off, the music was cranked and we began our journey.  

The class did not disappoint, it was a full body workout that not only worked your legs but your abs and arms as well, close to the end of class you grab the free weights on the back of your bike and do some killer arms while still pedaling. When the class was done we were exhausted but exhilarated, the 45 minutes flew by and we were both a bit sad when it was over. The instructor blew out the candles, turned down the music and we did a bit of stretching, then right at 4:45pm the doors opened and outside the class were another 70 SoulCycle addicts waiting for the 5pm spin, but before they can enter a team of staff quickly sanitizes each bike and reloads the fresh towels.  

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What I love most about SoulCycle’s success is the fact that these ladies took the established business of spinning, changed it up and made it better. 

I love that they pay their instructors on a sliding scale based on average class attendance, I love their clean branding which was so well executed in their studio and most of all I love the fact the experience exceeded my expectations.

These ladies have proven to me that you can start a business with tons of players already established, hire great people, change the way business is done, listen to your clients and then reap the rewards of being an industry leader (and then maybe just maybe 9 years after launching the business file for a $100 million IPO as they just did in July).

Audrey

The unexpected blessing of a non-compete.

Never in a million years last May would I have ever thought that I would be writing a blog about my 1 year non-compete being a blessing in disguise.  But here I am one year later grateful for the agreement in my unique situation. I was pretty bitter about it up until Christmas time, it was then that I realized I was not near ready operationally last summer to service the volume of work I managed at FSA/DATA Group . I had just moved the business to a brand new facility, I was getting my feet wet as business owner and I was figuring out what we could do well and where we needed more equipment and talent to stand out in the industry.  Funny how things often have a way of working out. 

My brother Rob who was a brilliant business man and visionary never believed in non-competes, he felt that if his sales staff could service their clients better and be happier elsewhere then he wasn’t doing his job as a President and Owner. 

I love this philosophy, definitely words to live by.

I think when people jump ship to a new company it is always a risk and it takes a while to acclimatize and ensure it’s a good fit.  The last thing you want to do is rush to move your clients and their projects from company to company.  I also believe the same is for managers, before you take some of your prize winning staff with you, ensure that you are happy first.  I still don’t agree with non-compete agreements but I do think you need to take your time bringing clients and staff over to your new establishment.  

The conclusion of my non-compete has also allowed me to bring on one of the most talented sales people I know, Janice Dumphie. When I joined FSA in 1999 Janice was already there selling up a storm.  She taught me all about direct mail, call centre and fulfillment, she went on sales calls with me and tirelessly helped me with quotes and proposals.  I’m so excited to have Janice join our team on June 8th.

Audrey

The power of 25 or less…

I have a crazy rule. Well actually I have many but the one I stick to the most is to never leave work or start the day with more than 25 emails in my inbox. 

My inbox is my “to do list”, it’s actionable items that are still open.  

When clients or business associates need something they email it to you. Whether it be a question, a quote request, or job information it tends to always come in an email. How we ever survived in the business world without email is mind boggling. It has to be the fastest and most efficient way to disseminate information, but can also be a major time-sucker especially when you are trying to navigate through hundreds of non-filed emails each day.

You have two choices:  

You can let your inbox manage you or you can manage your inbox. Once an email has been read and actioned and no longer requires additional work it should go to one of two places, a named file folder or the trash.  I keep files on clients, suppliers and subfolder them appropriately. I keep a misc. file for stuff that is a bit random but too important for the trash and then, of course, a personal file for anything non business related. I even keep a file called “great emails” where I save all glowing client comments on what a fantastic job we have done for them.

When emails are organized and inboxes are managed we are way more productive, it’s like having a clean desk.  When our inbox is overflowing the likelihood of dropping the ball is much too great.

I challenge you to embrace the power of 25 or less!

Audrey

Why I want to be the “Chipotle” of Direct Marketing

Last August I wanted to have a team lunch with my employees to celebrate the success of a large complicated campaign we had just executed and to have some fun as the summer was coming to an end.  I didn’t want to do pizza or sandwiches I was looking for something unique and delicious.  A friend of mine suggested Chipotle Mexican Grill and a bucket of Corona’s, right away I thought “that sounds like a lot of fun.”  I had never eaten at a Chipotle but knew of them and had seen their “Back to the Start” viral video about sustainable farming here.

I Googled the closest location to the office which was Shops at Don Mills and immediately called and spoke with the manager on duty.  Right from the start it was a super enjoyable experience.  The manager, Nataraj Sunharam, was knowledgeable, patient and not afraid to put his 2 cents in on what I should order for the group.  We spent quite a bit of time on the phone as I micro-managed every piece of the order.  He then said “I’m going to throw in a ton of extra chips, guacamole and sauces for your group to enjoy. “ The entire ordering experience was so easy and just as we were finishing he said “I’m also going to take an additional 15% off your order as a thank you for giving us this opportunity to cater your lunch.”  

Two days later I arrived at Shops at Don Mills to pick up my order.  Not only was it ready on time but it was assembled perfectly in four beautiful brown rope handle bags, very easy for me to take back to the car in one trip.   When I got back to the office the order was perfect, nothing was missed and there were tons of little extras included along with plenty of cutlery and napkins.

I thought to myself “this is the exact experience I want my clients to have when they work with Marketing Kitchen.”   I realize executing direct mail and fulfillment campaigns with multiple splits and components may be a bit more complicated than making a killer burrito but there is no reason to not have clients walk away from every project with the same gratified feeling I had with Chipotle.  

If you have time watch the 20 minute Netflix documentary on Chipotle, or click on a few of the videos posted on their website. The little bit of research I did on the company once again showed me how important a positive culture is to the success of any business. 

Happy and fulfilled employees make for happy and fulfilled customers!

Audrey

Getting Social in 2015

Hard to believe 2015 has arrived.  I’m excited about the year ahead and I am ready to set some 2015 goals.  First on the list is to become more “social”.  And by that I mean more active in social media.  So, what better place to start than by blogging on a regular basis on my website.

 2014 was a really crazy year for me.  I quit a job that I loved to start my own business, bought the assets of Yvelo Maling Services, moved Yvelo from Scarborough to Markham, hired their amazing employees, found some more amazing employees and then topped the year off with buying my first big piece of equipment a new digital press!

 If I were to look back at the  goals I set for 2014 (see below), I have a .750 batting average, which I am thrilled with.

  • Quit my job and own my own business - check
  • Not go out of business - check
  • Work close to home - check
  • Eat healthier and workout more - carrying this one over to 2015

I did actually try to start blogging in July but my friend Heidi, who is a social media guru (@SneidiTee),said it was blah and I have to agree it was totally blah. So I deleted the posts, took her blogging advice and have decided to start fresh in 2015.  My plan is to make the blog funny, relevant, informative and with any luck each blog will contain all three. 

 But before I sign off my first blog I will let you in on my other goal for 2015.  I want to create a service model that is almost near perfect, if not perfect.  We have begun to build a system that ensures every job goes out on time, clients expectations are always managed and exceptional quality is bar none. I believe we have the right team and processes in place to do it.

 Next blog the skinny on the new Canada Post changes – the good, the bad and the ugly……

What good is having a belly if there’s no fire in it.  Wake up, drink your passion, light a match, and get to work.
— Simon Sinek.

Audrey