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Keep Your Type Sharp


The power of your printed piece is usually conveyed most strongly through your type. If your type is sharp, it best communicates whatever message you want to send to your audience. Here are a few tips to make sure that your type remains crisp and sharp.

First, make sure you’re using the Type tool in whatever program you’re working in. If you are sending your applications files to your printer, use the Package feature (InDesign) or Collect for Output feature (QuarkXPress) if it’s available, to send your original fonts.

Don’t inadvertently rasterize (turn into pixels) the type. This softens the type, and it loses its crispness. The stair-stepping on the left letter indicates it has been rasterized.

If want to place type you’ve created in Photoshop into a program like InDesign, save it as a Photoshop PDF file. Unlike Photoshop PSD format, this keeps the sharp edges.

If you’re creating a PDF file, be sure to embed your fonts. If you’re using an Adobe application, or using a Macintosh, this usually happens automatically. If you’re using an older version of Microsoft products, you may need to look for the option to embed fonts.

If the fonts are not embedded, they may be substituted. The original font, Stone Sans, is shown above, and the substituted font, Adobe Serif MM, is shown below.

This Trick Will Make Your Print Marketing More Effective


Personalize your print with Variable Data Printing

Marketing feels impossible in a world of infinite choices. Customers control the conversation, and even small and medium-sized businesses have to recognize and adapt to this new landscape. One thing remains constant, however, and smart marketing takes notice: everyone wants the VIP treatment. Creating relevant messages for targeted audiences is the crux of marketing, but without the proper toolkit, it can be a daunting task.

Spray and pray marketing is a waste. Sure, digital technology makes it easier to spray more and pray harder, but what’s the point? You want quality results from your marketing dollar (are you making at least $3 for every $1 you spend?) and customers don’t want to sift through junk. Maybe the answer is going old-school.

We love direct mail, and studies show that we aren’t alone. According to the USPS, 47% of Millennials happily check their mailbox each day. But they don’t want junk mail that goes into the garbage, 95% of them want the feel-good effect of getting personalized direct mail. If it appeals directly to you, it isn’t junk. Millennials are commanding a growing slice of US dollars and already control $600 billion a year in spending power. Here are some tips to get the message out to Millennials:

Personalize Your Print Marketing

Millennials value individuality. Personalization in direct mail is not a new concept, but it is an initiative that bears many unexplored possibilities. With services such as Variable Data Printing, businesses can intelligently personalize marketing with a startling amount of variables. Want to send different offers to people with blue eyes and brown eyes? Done. Want to change images on your print based on demographics? Easy. As long as there is data for it, anything can be changed with variable data.

Bridge the Gap Between Digital and Physical Channels

Of course, we’re fans of physical marketing, but we know digital marketing isn’t going anywhere. It offers ease of insight, it is nimble enough to react to changes in your market, and it is incredibly affordable. Closing the gap between digital and physical channels makes both more effective. In fact, you can bank on seeing a 7.9% lift in engagement when you bridge this gap. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Send a postcard with a coupon for items in an abandoned shopping cart
  • Send a mailer that includes only items the customer is likely to buy, based on their past buying behavior
  • Welcome kits tailored for specific customers
  • Send a gift card honoring a customer’s birthday, anniversary, etc.

Make Print Marketing Scream Quality

One thing that print does better than digital is delivering real, tangible quality. We’re paper, packaging, ink and color experts. We can tell the difference between 30# and 40# paper by sight, but even if you’re not a print expert, you know quality when you feel it. A high-end smartphone box feels expensive, well-made and flawless. Imagine the disconnect if your $1,000 smartphone came in a flimsy tissue paper box! That’s the power of print!

You don’t need the budget of a multi-billion dollar company to use personalized, targeted printing. At PFL, we use an innovative process to lower the cost of VDP so it is affordable for the rest of us. Give us a call, and we’ll help you find a solution that fits your budget, timeline, and goals.

Give us a call and see how we can bring extreme personalization to your print.


Troubleshooting Adobe Applications


A common problem in Adobe applications used for production (InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop) is when the program starts to behave strangely (for example, when panels disappear or don’t work correctly). There is a simple troubleshooting method that often solves the problem. It either involves holding down computer keys as you’re launching the program or deleting a file or folder.

Warning: You must be quick holding down the keys, and you will lose some application customizations you have made.

Here are some instructions for using this technique with each of these applications:


Quit the application. Launch InDesign and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Ctrl + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive the prompt below. Choose Yes.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for and delete the “InDesign Defaults” and “InDesign Saved Data” files.


Quit the application. Launch Illustrator and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive no prompt, and the program will open as usual.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for the “Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings” folder and delete it. Insert the version (for example, CS5) in the search string.


Quit the application. Launch Photoshop and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive the prompt below. Choose Yes.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for and delete the “Adobe Photoshop [version] Settings folder. Insert the version (for example, CS5) in the search string.


Fixing Corrupt InDesign Files


Sometimes you find an InDesign file that seems to cause problems. It could crash unexpectedly. It may be acting bizarre. Or it may just have something like a “phantom font” or a spot color that appears even though it’s really not there.
A good troubleshooting technique is to export an IDML file (in InDesign CS4, CS5 or CS5.5) or an INX file (in InDesign CS2 or CS3). These are XML files that contain all the information in the file (but not the graphics). Saving them is sort of like giving your file a deep cleaning.
In InDesign CS4, 5 or 5.5, choose File > Export. In the Format menu select InDesign Markup (IDML). Save the file.

In InDesign CS2 or CS4, choose File > Export. In the Format menu select InDesign [Version] Interchange (INX). Save the file. (The version will be the number of the previous version.)
Then re-open the file in InDesign, and see if it fixes the problem.
These formats were designed to save backward to the previous version of InDesign. But sometimes they can also get rid of hidden corruption.

Remember that these files don’t contain the graphics so to reopen them you still have to have access to the linked graphics referenced in the file.

5 Tips to Maximize Your Holiday Marketing Efforts


Holiday marketing? You may wonder why it’s a topic now, as you sip iced tea on your porch and enjoy the summer. But it is never too early to start thinking about your holiday marketing planning! No matter what kind of business you run, it is important to plan ahead for the holiday shopping season frenzy. The last thing that you want is to be left high and dry, missing out on a key promotional period while your peers are reaping the rewards. Here are some tips that will help you crush the holiday season.

1. Push catalogs out early. Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite demographic: Millennials. Millennials have tremendous buying power and discretionary income, making them a highly desirable d. They respond astonishingly well to direct mail campaigns, with 77% of millennials paying attention to direct mail advertising, 90% believing it to be reliable and 87% reporting that they like to receive direct mail, according to the DMA. Sending millennials catalogs for your products is a great to get your products in the hands of those who will buy. Check out our nifty catalog guide here for more information and inspiration.

2. Every Door Delivery. Another fantastic way of getting your message into the hands of your customers in a geographical area is to use Every Door Direct mail (EDDM). EDDM is a method of sending your direct mail collateral out on specific mail routes with the post office, allowing you to blanket a geographical area in your messaging. See Templates for EDDM® mailers here. One tried and true piece of collateral is the postcard. Whether you choose standard sizes or opt for a large version, a vibrant postcard with a strong call to action will make an impression and bring results. If you haven’t designed a postcard before, take the time to learn some of the recommendations and best practices for building a strong piece. Our EDDM® Success Kit is a great place to see examples, learn best practices and understand how to track the impact your campaign has on business.

3. Calendars: The gift that keeps on giving. Calendars are one of our favorite printed pieces. They provide a great amount of value to customers, and they allow your branding to be top of mind every day of the year. Want to increase brand engagement with your customers? Hold a photo submission contest. Any way you look at it, calendars are a sure fire win. Check out the best calendars in the game here.

4. Get clear on your goals. Recognize your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to track the success of your campaigns. It’s a crucial part of any campaign, as you need to know where your marketing dollars are going and how they attribute to revenue generated for your business. That being said, it can be confusing to know where to start when it comes to tracking direct mail campaigns. Our favorite way is to employ Variable Data Printing (VDP) to serve each customer with a specific coupon code that tracks who redeems them. Learn more about VDP here.

5. Small Business Saturdays. Small Business Saturday is quickly becoming one of the best shopping extravaganzas of the entire year, and consumers increasingly take advantage of its savings like never before. In order to maximize your efforts for this gold rush, remind your customers of the potential deals and savings they could snag while visiting your store. Remind customers of store hours, provide them with coupons and ultimately drive buying behavior. Send your flyers out to postal routes in your area with EDDM, and get ready for a surefire hit. 

We hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of these tips and tricks to make the most out of your holiday marketing efforts. Want some more ideas to make this holiday season? Give us a call at 800-930-7098. We would love to help you plan ahead for your most successful holiday season yet.

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Turn on Overprint Preview Before Printing


Adobe printing applications (InDesign and Illustrator) let you turn on a feature called Overprint Preview that can solve a number of printing problems.

Overprinting is pretty simple. When you overlay two colors like the left example below, by default the cyan circle knocks out (covers up) the yellow rectangle. If you want the colors to mix, you could select the Overprint Fill attribute on the Attributes panel and apply it to the cyan object.

Overprint Preview Example

Normally, you couldn’t view this effect on screen but if you choose View > Overprint Preview in Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator, you can see the color mixing.

Overprint Preview Solves Printing Problems

Turning on Overprint Preview also solves several printing problems:

• If you are mixing transparency effects with spot colors, it will correctly preview the effect for printing

• Choosing Overprint Preview correctly previews the effect of mixing transparency blending modes with spot-color objects

• In Illustrator, it’s possible to accidentally set white to overprint. (This could happen if you changed the color of a black overprinting object to white; the overprint attribute remains.) White in illustration and layout applications mean, “There is no ink here.” Turning on overprinting shows off this problem.

Turning on overprint all the time will may slow down your computer performance because it will turn on a high-resolution display. But it’s a good practice to use Overprint Preview as a diagnostic technique before sending a job for printing.

Learn more about correctly preparing your press ready files for printing.

Need more help with your print project? We have a ton of info on everything from design tips to marketing ideas that will help you get your project from your computer to paper. Check out PFL’s knowledge center!

Big Sky: Big Ideas 2017 – The Next Frontier in Customer Engagement


Montana technology company PFL is proud to announce the initial speaker lineup for its second annual Big Sky: Big Ideas Customer Engagement Summit. Salesforce VP of Strategic Research Peter Coffee will keynote and spearhead the event’s discussion, alongside PFL Founder and CEO Andrew Field. Additional speakers include Marketo GVP of Strategy Tawheed Kader; Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Author, The Transformational Consumer; ThriftBooks VP of Sales and Marketing Nicole Cox and Montana’s own Devin B. Holmes, Founder of Big Sky Code Academy.

To be held in Bozeman, Montana, on October 5, the event will bring local and national thought leaders together to discuss and reimagine customer engagement, the future of business and the power of technology to build a better world.

“We live in this crazy digital, mobile, social world, and have infinite channels. You can’t blast your way through it,” says PFL CEO and Founder Andrew Field. “We know mass-market is dead, or dying, and as marketers we need to find innovative ways to create customer engagement. PFL helps marketers deliver authentic and personalized customer experiences that drive engagement, and we look forward to connecting with other disruptors who recognize the power of this change.”

A Montana born-and-raised company, PFL believes there’s no place like the Mountain West to explore new ways of thinking. Big Sky: Big Ideas invites attendees to leave the beaten path and see Yellowstone National Park as few ever will — with their own backcountry guide. The park is located less than an hour from PFL’s headquarters in Livingston, Montana, and just an hour and a half from Bozeman.

“We decided the Livingston/Bozeman area was the perfect place to bring together the best minds in business and technology to create a brighter future for ourselves, our customers and our broader community,” says PFL Chief Evangelist Marne Reed.

Founded in 1996, PFL has been at the forefront of the booming Montana technology scene for more than two decades. The country’s first online printer, PFL is today a pioneer of Tactile Marketing Automation.

A private PFL Executive Forum, held in part at the PFL headquarters, will begin Thursday, October 4 and run for two days throughout the Customer Engagement Summit. At this invite-only event, PFL customers and prospects will collaborate to share best practices, tactics and a path towards the future of customer engagement.

Buy your tickets at: www.pfl.com/3q

October 5, 2017

Bozeman and Livingston, MT


Event Agenda: www.bigskybigideas.com/agenda


Choose the Best PDF Preset for Printing


Most printers understand the value of having their customers send PDF file for printing. Correctly created, a PDF is a digital master that contains all the graphics, type, and fonts that make up a document for printing. The key is in the settings you choose when you make your PDF file.

If you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, things are made much easier because there is an Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. It provides PDF presets for many print workflows, and you get the most control over the kind of PDF file the printer needs. (While it’s still possible to make a PDF by creating a PostScript file, and processing it though Acrobat Distiller, this older, more tedious process usually provides few advantages.)


In Adobe InDesign, choose File > Export > Adobe PDF or Adobe PDF (Print), depending on the version. In Adobe Illustrator, choose File > Save As > Adobe PDF (pdf). In Adobe Photoshop, choose File > Save As > Photoshop PDF.

The most important question is which of the PDF presets to choose. The best choice is typically the one that your print provider gives you. However, if they don’t specify their own choice, use one of the three PDF/X options: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4. A PDF/X file must include certain elements essential for printing, and it may prohibit certain things.

If your printer has a PostScript RIP, the best choice is usually PDF/X-1a (shown above). When you choose this preset all colors (e.g., RGB images) are converted to CMYK using the output intent defined on the Output pane (the default is US Web Coated SWOP). Fonts are all embedded. This choice also flattens all transparency. Your printer can tell you if this workflow will work for their printing process.


How to Tell if Your Small Business Marketing is Working


Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is a crucial but often confusing part of business. This is perhaps even truer for small businesses, where you likely don’t have an entire team devoted to search engine optimization or business analytics.

But small businesses can and should track how well their marketing efforts are working. Here we’ll walk you through some of the first steps you should take, key metrics to look at, as well as how to track them so you can better attribute your successes to your marketing efforts.

Set a Baseline for Marketing Metrics

It is critical to have a clear picture of where you’ve come from.

If you haven’t already, get your website hooked up to Google Analytics (learn how to get started here) so you can start easily tracking growth and regression. Set up a baseline report for:

  • Organic SEO traffic. This measures how many people are finding your site and how they’re getting there.
  • Learn how to set up conversion events – these track important actions on your site such as online purchases, filling out forms, or sharing your content on social media.

If you’re a brick and mortar operation, start tracking foot traffic, looking at your point of sales data (vendors like Square make it easy to pull reports about what you’re selling).

The point is – take your current marketing temperature, that will be your baseline for improvement.

Formulate Regular Reports

Just like it’s crucial to set your business up to be able to visualize trends in your website statistics, it’s also important to regularly write up reports on the results of your marketing efforts. Start sending your team a monthly marketing recap, which details what you worked on, as well as the results of those efforts.

How many website visitors did you have this month compared to last? How many people found your website through organic search this month? How many pages did the average person click on before exiting your site? Were those blog posts you wrote to try to rank for certain keywords found in people’s Google searches? Include screenshots or links to the graphs from Google Analytics for each metric so you and your team can easily visualize the impact. Google Analytics is loaded with tools that make it fast and – somewhat – easy to create reports.

Having a written report where you dive into not only the statistics for your business, but also interpret what you think those trends mean and why you’re seeing them, will help you and your team have a clear picture of where you’re coming from and where you should be heading to reap the most benefit from your marketing.

Focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

There are several ways to analyze whether your small business marketing efforts are working, but a few key metrics will give you a good jumping off point. Some of the most indicative are:

Website Visits. This one is pretty straight-forward. How many people are coming to check out your product or service via your website? This metric gives you a good idea of the level of interest your product or service is gaining.

Sources. Just as important as the number of website visitors, is where those visitors are coming from. How did they find you? Was it through keywords they typed into Google? If so, great job! You’re rocking your SEO efforts. Did they find you through social media? Also a good indicator of marketing success.

Be sure to create tracking links for all digital ads and sponsorships you send out, so that you can also see how many people visited your site as a result of those individual pieces.

Bounce Rate. When people land on your website, are they truly interested in your content? Is your site compelling and easy to understand so that people want to click on to another page to learn more?

If not, you might see a high bounce rate, where visitors click out of the page they landed on, without visiting any other pages. If this is happening, consider adjusting your messaging on your website to ensure it’s crystal clear and contains plenty of CTAs and other links to grab visitors and begin pushing them through the funnel.

A high bounce rate can also be a sign that you need to adjust the messaging on your marketing materials. For instance, if your ads or social media content seem to promise one thing, but your website doesn’t mention that right away on your home page, visitors will quickly grow frustrated or lose interest and exit your site. Consistent messaging is key.

Session Duration. You know that cute girl you went on a first date with last weekend? How long did you hang out for at dinner? Did she want to take a stroll with you after you ate, or was she anxious to get home?

Just like the amount of time a date wants to spend with you indicates his or her interest level, so does the amount of time prospects spend on your website. Is your content interesting and informative? Are people finding what they came for (and even better, are they finding more than they came for)? Do they click to the next blog post in the series, or are they just skimming for a few seconds and quickly exiting?

Coupling this metric with your sources metric, you can start to identify which of your marketing channels are resonating with the right people, and which could use some adjusting. You might find that your Facebook ads are getting great engagement and clicks to your website, but those people only stay on your site for a few seconds, whereas prospects that come from your tactile marketing piece are browsing for an average of six minutes, despite similar messaging on both campaigns. If that’s the case, you’ll want to adjust the amount of money you’re spending on social and consider pouring that into another, more successful source.

Assess and Adjust. Now that you have the tools set up to monitor and analyze the results of your marketing efforts, you can identify the areas where they might be falling flat. Once you do, try making small changes at first. Is your messaging just a little too long or confusing? Are your blog titles clickbait-esque and so prospects get frustrated when your content isn’t what they expected to get? Start with small changes and monitor your progress in those monthly reports.

Think Outside the Computer

As a small business, it can be tough to compete with bigger brands online that have more robust budgets and staffing. Combine that with the fact that consumers are over-loaded with digital content — yes, including your ads — and you might find that your marketing efforts aren’t delivering quite the punch you thought they would.

That’s why some of the smartest businesses are turning to direct mail, or tactile, marketing. Delivering a personal touch in the form of a physical mailer or piece of branded “swag” can leave a lasting impression your competition is missing out on.

And don’t fret. You can track the effectiveness of tactile marketing campaigns too with software like PFL’s Tactile Marketing Automation (TMA) software. Even better, you can set up your tactile marketing campaign just like a digital one, where when prospects take a certain action, a send is automatically triggered for the next piece in the campaign. See how it works here.

Creating PostScript in Mac OX Using InDesign


As I’ve described in another blog Export Adobe PDF, if you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, you’ll probably use the Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. However, people use many different workflows for print, and some of them require using older RIPs or using InDesign’s Print Booklet feature. These workflows can require creating PostScript files for various paper sizes. Using the old Adobe PDF printer when creating a PostScript file allowed you to create a page of any size. Subsequently, you could use the Adobe Distiller application, still available with all Acrobat Pro versions, to turn the PostScript file into a PDF file.

However, in newer versions of Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat X when using Mac OS X, the Adobe PDF printer has been removed, along with its PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file. Adobe says that this is because newer versions of Mac OS X (10.6 and later) have security requirements that make installing this impossible.

Here is a workaround for installing the Acrobat 9 PPD file in InDesign so you can use it to create a PostScript file:

  • Quit InDesign.
  • Navigate to /Applications/Adobe InDesign [version number]/Presets/
  • Within the Presets folder, create a folder called PPDs (the folder name is case sensitive).
  • Control-click the following link and choose Save Link As to download the Acrobat 9 PPD:

Acrobat 9 PPD

  • Place a copy of the downloaded PPD into the folder you created
  • Restart Adobe InDesign
  • Choose the printer as “Postscript file” and then PPD as “Adobe PDF 9.0” and make the Postscript file.


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