Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Production Technology Hops and Rocks

Yesterday's “Innovative Format, Inventive Techniques” workshop sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association was an eye opener. Somehow the program managed to be about creative and technology at the same time. For example, RST Marketing has just introduced “Real Pen”—new software that lets a client use any pen and many different fonts to create paragraphs of fully variable text, at half the cost of real handwriting. The guys over at Membership Cards Only have gone so green it hurts! They’ve come up with the EarthKard—a membership trinket made from corn-based materials that can affix to a paper form made from 100 percent recyclables. Both the card and the form come from all natural materials and both are compostable. And then there’s Azuna from Accelus. Azuna is a product developed in Korea that lets direct marketers apply full, crisp, clear 3-D images to anything: bookmarks, inserts, postcards, you name it. Seriously, folks, I saw production technology that you simply cannot throw away (and even if you did, it's safe!)—lots of fun and inspiration at this year’s IFIT.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Information Is the New Marketing: Better Do It Right

Information is the new advertising/marketing tool. If you're an "expert," you should be sharing what you know -- and that goes for organizations and people alike. As an editor with many years experience, I can promise you that 85 percent of the writing I see (including press releases and web content) could be improved dramatically. Ninety-five percent has punctuation and grammatical glitches that make the content confusing. Thirty percent of the articles coming across my desk expose fuzzy thinking and do the writer more harm than good. Twenty percent read so poorly that they're downright embarrassing. Meanwhile the sludge on the Internet spreads. Before you submit your next article -- or if you want to get publicity for what you know -- find a good editor. I don't mean a copy editor, either—these folks are great at cleaning up, but most "experts" need an editor who can figure out what they're trying to say and make it sparkle.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linear Landing Pages Recommended

Last week I checked into Marketing Experiments’ webinar on Landing Page Optimization. Here are a few takeaways:
1. Make sure your landing page flows in linear “story form” that customers can follow [avoid stream-of-consciousness layout].
2. Quickly answer: Where am I at? What can I do here? Why should I do it?
3. Keep the primary value you’re offering upfront and clear, clear, clear, clear.
4. A landing page is a conversation between you and the customer, so keep it vertical. In other words, don’t jump around on the page. Therefore, never put part of a linear conversation in a sidebar.
5. Animated graphics aren’t necessarily good [agreed; personally, I'm not fond of flash, except for graphic/video sites].
6. Primary principle: When they land, initiate a dialogue.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swathing the Self in Color and Contact Choices

Ethan Boldt, editor-in-chief of Inside Direct Mail, says he looks at about 1,000 pieces of direct mail every month. His publication addresses what's happening in direct mail, and it's probably the best single resource for those of us who market by postal. Ethan reported recently that, over the past six months, he’s noticed a slow growth in two areas of direct mail. First, he’s seeing more self-mailers. Cost considerations have driven some nonprofits to adopt these truncated messages, too, and most mailers make up the deficit with more color and more ways to respond. Ethan also points to increased personalization in everything from #10 packages to postcards, to oversize, in-line efforts. Conclusion: we're mailing less often, but more carefully.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marketing Metaphoria

I’ve been reading Marketing Metaphoria by Zaltman and Zaltman. The authors say, “Thought occurs largely in the form of a metaphor," and so-called “deep metaphors” underlie what people think, hear, say, and do. Our deep metaphors hang around for a long time, pretty much dictating how we perceive life, make sense of what we encounter, and make choices. The book also notes that -- when faced with a given situation -- people generally share the same two or three deep metaphors ... which means marketers who study deep metaphors pick up serious clues as to what consumers are thinking. For example ...
People typically use five to six surface metaphors per minute (whew!) in spoken conversation: “This problem is the tip of the iceberg;” “Planning for retirement is an uphill battle;” “This issue is water under the bridge.” Just below these surface metaphors, lurk metaphor themes -- and its these themes that are important to marketers.
Consider for example the following common surface metaphors: “Money runs through his fingers;” “I am drowning in debt;” “Don’t pour your money down the drain;” “The bank froze his assets.” Notice the common thread here? Liquid ... money is like a liquid.
The goal of the book isn’t to train marketers in deep metaphor research, but rather to demonstrate how deep metaphors play powerfully yet silently in the unconscious minds of consumers. Chapters 3 through 9 of the book address three specific deep metaphors: balance, transformation, and journey. Other chapters show how real companies have used an understanding of deep metaphors to address particular business issues
Interested in more fun? Listen carefully and watch for the surface metaphors friends use to relate their dreams. Very deep stuff.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Suddenly, It Could Be TRU

I ran into Mia Kim, great gal and editor of the successful blog, PopGadget.net. Turns out we've been noticing the same thing: Net Money!
Not long ago (last year?), the Net seemed to be all about information, FREE information. Now we're thinking: How do I turn a dollar? How do I get click-throughs? What's the Sense in GoogleAds?
Case in Point: CafePress now has 2.6 million stores and 200 million products (put that in your senior greeting, Wal-Mart!). This little purveyor of teeshirts, bags, mugs, wallclocks and calendars didn't even open its portals until 1999! And just yesterday they replaced a teeshirt that I ordered in the wrong size (my fault). New shirt, no charge, no shipping. "We want you to be 100% satisfied with our service," they said. "I am, I am," I thought.
Looks like the Net is a business, after all: free, yes.. but only for customers. Is THIS the New American Economy? Umpteen billion stores, all under T.R.U. -- transborder retail umbrellas? Ebay.... Amazon ... Cafe Press ... NetFlix ... TRU dat.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Too Much E-everything? E-eeek!

Lots of discussion on the net about how many is too many. In my case, the number of electronic newsletters I get each day has increased two-fold in the last four months. The majority go straight to “file.” And then there’s the social media explosion. My Linkedin updates have six categories (profile updates, connections, status, groups, recommendations, and applications). It seems like not so long ago, I never even got updates. Ryan Carson says he's got too many Twitter followers (3,000, each generating some four @replies). He can't keep up and theorizes that microblogging services break down when you have more than 100 followers. Can anybody handle all this digital input? The Economist reports on an Oxford University study that says our brains appear to limit the size of any social network we can develop. In the case of human gray matter, the max is about 148 "stable" networks (I'm tempted to sidetrack into researching what an "unstable" network might look like -- war? -- but am controlling the impulse). Does the same social network overload translate somehow to e-information, generally? Blogger Valley Wag suggests that even folks with a big built-in fan base probably won’t be able to drag their followers online for long. And there's the new "tell all transparency" ... but does that have as-yet-unseen ramifications? Junta42 features a blog from Joe Pulizzi, reporting on how one gal’s career was obliterated by today's version of backyard gossip, aka social media activity. So far, looks like the pop culture expression "too much information!" says it all.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Keep Asking for the Gift? No, Ask More Often

Philanthropy and the Economy from CCS Fundraising (downloadable at www.ccsfundraising.com) reports that confidence among professional fundraisers is at its lowest level in a decade. Some company’s stock holdings have lost 90% of their value, and many of the most aggressive philanthropists – AIG, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns – are financially troubled. Though High Net Worth Individuals (those with liquid assests of $1M+) represent only three percent of the population, 60 percent of all U.S. philanthropy comes from these few. Some wealthy folks are upping their giving (George Soros, for example), while many others are reducing support. Apparently, many large gifts to educational institutions are likely to be affected, though Georgetown got a cool $75 million on January 15. Suggested strategies? Develop an immediate short-term action plan; reaffirm your organization’s mission and impact and keep that mission front and center with donors; increase activity—more visits, more briefings, more communication; motivate development staff, administrative leadership, and trustees with reminders that philanthropy thrives in tough times; encourage trustees and volunteers to help open doors and introduce the organization to new potential supporters; consider challenge or matching gifts to stimulate giving; share the latest philanthropic information with your leadership; introduce payment flexibility and deferred giving options; and explore practical ways to diversify fundraising. Good luck.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

But Can It Make Money?

An hour ago, a friend of mine googled “Korean Taco Truck + Twitter” and reported 5,000 hits. I just googled again and got 74,100. Either there’s a lot of hot tamales out there, or something is up with this Twitter thing (see Newsweek’s report of February 28). So, if you’re among the legions out there wondering what’s useful about Twitter (aka, “Can it make money?”) consider this: At the essence, it's all been done before.

Yesterday it was…. The Good Humor Truck
Today is is … The Korean Taco Truck

For all intents and purposes, both sport bells and/or whistles to sell food. See?

Big Brother Goes Home

DMG Consulting has released Call Center At-Home Agent Best Practices, a white paper that says call center folks who work at home deliver significant cost savings, greater flexibility, a deep, diverse and qualified labor pool, and reduced staff churn for call centers. Other cited benefits include less absenteeism, increased productivity, and enhanced customer satisfaction. It’s not easy managing the unseen, says the report, which suggests detailed operating policies for at-home agents, a three-month trial for the remote location, daily communication between supervisors and at-home personnel, chat for handling most agent inquiries, remote agent participation in team meetings and training, special incentives and team building activities, and lots of online training and coaching. Data security, of course, is a concern. Premise-based call centers routinely prohibit agents access to pen and paper, for example—obviously more difficult to control at home. A growing number of companies are using unplanned site visits to monitor at-home behavior. Other centers record 100 percent of at-home agent calls and screens and/or assign a remote supervisor to live-monitor the agent. Working at home is a dream for many people—retirees, parents with children, the disabled, people in remote locations, etc.—and, thus, one solution to changing times. Expect trade-offs.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mail Biz in the Stim

Ellen Paul owns PaulandPartners, a mailshop located in the Dulles corridor of the Washington, DC, Metro area. Ellen writes for Marketing AdVents, which I edit. Her May column came accompanied by this bleak note: “Another sad commentary on the plight of the USPS. But that's all that's in the USPS news of late: Letter carriers run over and killed by their own trucks...carriers (and the public!) stealing the mail to get the prescription drugs therein... carriers hoarding so much mail that their homes catch on fire...it's funny (in a really bleak ‘film noire’ way). There's no ‘news’ in the USPS news right now. It's about survival. Even the intelligent barcode has been practically abandoned as over-hyped and too expensive to introduce in this market.” That's an insider view of The Mailing Business 2009. Who would argue?