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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Pushing the Envelope: Talk versus E Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 24, 2016 9:59:22 AM

I was talking to my daughter the other day about something funny I saw on Facebook. Someone had posted a picture of what used to be on the TV screen when the programming stopped in the early morning hours.  Kind of looked like this!  It was accompanied by a continuous low beep that lasted until the early morning hours when the shows would start up again.  Yes kids; that really used to happen.

Now we’ve come so far since then that my 16 year old daughter didn’t see it as such a laughable relic of olden times because in 2016, her connection to television, especially the broadcast variety is tenuous at best.  Most of what she watches these days is on You Tube or Netflix or from links she picks up on social media.  Television; the fantastic gadget that tantalized my parents’ generation at the 1939 World’s Fair is now pretty much consigned by the iGens to “whatever” status.

Another story about the “good old days” that I regale her with occasionally concerns the land line telephone. Yes, my child there were obnoxious sounding busy signals which just kept going and going until you hung up. If the line was busy and you had to speak to someone, you just kept calling until you got through. And when my big sister used to speak to her friends, she had to pull the cord and walk part way down the basement stairs and close the door behind her so she had some privacy.  This maneuver didn’t deter my grandmother who used to gingerly pick up her extension upstairs and listen in while covering the mouthpiece with her hand.  

 

talking_on_the_telephone.png

These days what used to be generational changes are happening within a much smaller timeframe. In the span of the past ten years or so, e mailing, like Facebook, has become more of a middle-aged thing.  My mother used to cut out articles she wanted me to read from the newspaper and magazines and send them to me.  Now I do the same thing with my kids but via e mail.  My older kids – both in their mid-thirties will read and respond. My youngest rarely even opens them. To her, e mails are something you get from school (or your parents!) and should mostly be ignored. If you want to reach her and get a reasonably quick response, you pretty much have to text.

E mail, however, still rules in business – at least in the envelope converting and web printing business.  In fact, the sheer number of e mails I get each day has become somewhat burdensome.  Now, I’m NEVER going to complain about a customer requesting something via e mail, or a prospect for that matter.  Hearing from customers; quoting on jobs, expediting requests and orders, and providing general customer service is the lifeblood of a business. It is something we value and is certainly not a problem.

But reading, considering and responding to those e mails, especially when they require some action on our part, takes up a lot of time.  Which leads me to my point (finally!).   I think we’ve become too used to e mail to the point where we’ll generate a trail of three, four or many more about a single subject when one simple and shorter phone call would do.  Now there is something to be said for typing up a quick note and sending and moving quickly on to the next thing before having to respond. I think we get into a groove with that activity and it gives us the sense that we’re being productive and plowing forward. Trouble is, I’m afraid in many cases we’re wasting time.  Why not just give the person a call and review everything in one (hopefully short) phone call?  Speaking in real time can resolve questions that might take several e mails back and forth as in; “is THIS what you meant?”, etc. Plus an actual conversation can reinforce any type of relationship business or personal much better than trading notes.

My grandmother, who was all about saving time would approve. Of course she wouldn’t be too interested to listen in on conversations discussing the best way to print an envelope or why web presses are the best option for direct mail printing.  My sister’s conversations with her boyfriends were much more interesting!

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, envelope printing, pushing the envelope, web printing

Pushing the Envelope against a Snow Bank

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 10, 2015 3:15:00 PM

snowstorm picture

 

Do I have your attention? If you live in most of the United States outside of the west coast, Florida and, interestingly, parts of Alaska, you have just about had enough of winter this year.  I happen to be writing this from the Boston area which has been the epicenter of snow, ice dams, parking-space wars and freezing cold temperatures this year. 

 

As much as I’d like to kvetch a bit about the weather, I’ll resist the temptation. The extra hour of daylight we now have is putting me in a better mood and besides this blog is supposed to be about making and printing envelopes and web printing.  So, I’ll take advantage of the early onset of spring fever on a 50 degree day to clean out some thoughts that have been hanging around all winter.

  • Hard to believe but commercial digital printing has only been around for a little over 20 years. While there have been tremendous strides made in the technology and it’s become the standard for small quantity, quick turn printing not to mention personalized direct mail, digital still represents less than 20% of the total print market by some estimates.  How much that increases over time will be an interesting market study pitting convenience against quality.  That’s not to say that digital printing doesn’t produce excellent quality. But when held up against offset, there’s no comparison at least to my eye. When audio CDs hit the market, it wasn’t long before vinyl records were hard to find.  I think if digital printing were going to make the same inroads versus offset, it would have happened by now. 

  • A few weeks ago the Boston Globe featured an article about how the Grateful Dead were planning one final tour this summer. The fact that they are doing a concert without Jerry Garcia is odd enough. But perhaps the most interesting aspect is that they were giving hardcore fans the option to order tickets by mail before they went on sale online. According the article (sorry I couldn’t find the link) it was a huge success and there were pictures of tie-died clad office workers moving about trays of envelopes received from fans and then sending the tickets back in the mail.  Given the average age of Dead fans, along with the assumption of their, shall we say, uniqueness, it’s not hard to see how this could be a successful tactic for ensuring that the hardcore fans (presumably those who still know how to include a stamped, self-addressed reply envelope) get first crack at the seats.  Might be a nice gimmick for other summer tours.

  • Haven’t written about the Post Office in a while but since we passed Groundhog Day a month or so ago I thought I’d report that the news is basically the same as it ever was.  On the plus side, operating revenue increased over 9% which was on top of the 8% or so increase from the previous year. This was pretty much all due to increased revenue from package delivery. However, the Service incurred a net loss of over $5 billion which is roughly the same as the year before and the year before that.  And yes, the Post Office blames the deficit on the fact that they have to fund a significant portion of their retiree health care costs rather than carry them on their books as an unfunded liability. They have been assigning this blame for many years as well.   Is anyone else hearing the faint strains of “I Got You Babe” in the background?

  • Lastly, here’s to the truck drivers and package delivery personnel (yes, that includes you guys at the Post Office – you do a fine job!) who have struggled mightily over the past couple of months or so in the greater Boston area trying to make the deliveries and commitments that we and many of our customers count on. It’s been tough getting around not to mention trying to back into a loading dock or parking lot. We appreciate all you do and couldn’t run our business without you.

Happy almost spring!

 

Topics: post office problems, pushing the envelope, web printing, digital envelope printing

Wake Up and Smell the Envelopes? Not so fast

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 3, 2012 9:31:00 AM

First of all, let me wish you, dear reader, a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.  One of my takeaways from this past holiday season is how having Christmas and New Year’s Day on Sunday worked so well.  I might just start a petition to get those holidays permanently set on those days.

Of course, as nice as the late December holiday season can be on a personal level, it’s a little tough getting back into the swing business-wise; so for my first post of 2012, I offer a short, interesting tidbit that you probably haven’t considered.  

At Elite Envelope, our customer’s are a creative bunch. They are always trying to come up with new ways to present envelopes and, as an envelope manufacturer, we are very good at accommodating them in most ways. After all, “pushing the envelope beyond ordinary” is our motto.

Late last year, one of our direct mail/marketing partners asked if we could print rub and sniff ink on an envelope. This is sometimes called “scratch and sniff”. You’ve seen it in magazines; particularly those that weigh a ton and feature high fashion photography and ads for the latest fragrances to go with the couture.  

While we’d certainly heard about this technique and were fairly sure that our equipment could accommodate the special inks required for this purpose, no one at Elite Envelope had ever heard of an envelope being printed this way. So I did what I usually do when I have a mailing question; I ask John Powers who is the Mail piece Design Analyst (I would add “emeritus” to his title) at the Boston Post Office business center.

As always, John responded quickly and precisely with an excerpt from the Domestic Mail Manual:

“A fragrance advertising sample (39 USC 3001(g)), i.e., any matter normally acceptable in the mail but containing a fragrance advertising sample, is permitted in the mail only if it is sealed, wrapped, treated, or otherwise prepared in a manner reasonably designed to prevent individuals from being unknowingly or involuntarily exposed to the sample. A sample meets this requirement if it uses paper stocks with a maximum porosity of 20 Sheffield units or 172 Gurley-Hill units treated exclusively with microencapsulated oils, and if the sample is produced so that it cannot be activated except by opening a glued flap or binder or by removing an overlying ply of paper”

So there you have it: any fragrant printing must be done on something that is contained within the envelope, not on the envelope itself.  Now if anyone can give me a simple explanation of what Sheffield and Gurley-Hill units are, I’d be most obliged.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, printing and envelopes, envelope manufacturer, pushing the envelope, rub and sniff printing on envelopes

Pushing the Envelope in the Wrong Direction

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 1, 2011 11:42:00 AM

In my last post I mentioned a once proud, independent envelope company that declared bankruptcy a couple of years ago and is now owned and run by an equity company.  They have already closed numerous plants throughout the country and laid-off hundreds if not thousands.  As these things often go, the layoffs and consolidation continue for the purpose of restoring the financial health of the envelope firm thereby allowing the parent company to sell it for a handsome profit and move on to its next target.  So goes the creative destruction of the market system.

It’s easy to view this process with disdain. After all, many people’s lives are adversely affected while the cold calculus of business economics moves toward maximum efficiency.  I happen to think that it’s probably the best method for keeping a company going after poor management runs it into the ground.

What makes it worse though is the way that many companies will announce layoffs and plant closings and bad news in general.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with presenting yourself in the best possible light. We do it as individuals each day.  Sometimes it’s simple tact which causes us not to speak the whole truth to someone. There are ways of presenting facts where feelings are spared and reputations maintained while the point is made.  

However, it does a disservice to those involved both on the giving and the receiving end when corporations deliver news in the type of corporate-speak we saw in a recent announcement by the aforementioned equity company.  This is aside from the poor grammar, overuse of clichés and jargon and general lack of clarity.  I will quote a few lines and provide a reasonable translation: my comments in parentheses.

 carnival barker photo

“We are in the midst of transforming ourselves from a good company to positioning ourselves as a truly great company”.   (I guess being in the position of a truly great company is better than actually being a truly great company. This is the opening line; lots more good stuff to come. )

“A strong foundation has been created by you (who are they addressing here? The remaining employees, the public?)  that will allow us to bring innovation to our market, drive sustainable growth and create value for our customers”. (These days, no business can release a statement that doesn’t mention “sustainability” at least once.  How about this instead? “The recent layoffs and plant closings have restored the company to profitability.”)

“The foundation is our high performance culture, operating as our...team.  We must continue to build on this foundation by streamlining where it makes sense, (uh-oh),  sharing best practices ( because sharing is so nice), and driving consistency through-out (sic) the organization.”

To be continued folks. It gets worse/better depending on your point of view. As for me, I need to get back to taking care of our customers. Or should I say, “creating a sustainable growth and value proposition”?

 

 

Topics: envelope company, pushing the envelope, corporate-speak

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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