Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Little “i” That Doesn't

Regulators are nervous about advertisers who track our movements online and then deliver targeted ads. Rob Yoegel just alerted me to the privacy “i” icon that’s supposed to appear on Internet ads designed to target. The point is to make consumers aware that the Internet ads they see online are directly related to their surfing habits.

How come I’ve never noticed this little iCon in the year it’s supposedly been in use? I surf like a maniac and I’ve never noticed the “i” in the corner of any Internet ad. Ron says he hasn’t seen it anywhere either.

I thought maybe I just hadn’t noticed. So I decided to run around the New York Times website, looking for the “i”llusive. No luck.

I tripped over to Mashable, figuring if anybody had advertising it was them. Nope. I tried TMZ for a change of pace. No “eyes” there, either.

When I first learned about the “i” from Rob – I mean while I was reading his article -- I did see the “i” on one LG Smart phone ad. Sure enough, as promised, when I clicked on the “i”con I got an explanation of the privacy policy. So, yes, I found “i” once but I never found her again. Never. Not even when I went looking. That’s spooky. Did LG know – at that very moment -- that I was actually interested in finding the ‘i” and not in the smart phone ad itself? I mean, really, did they know that? A friend of mine thinks machines are already running the world. This experience makes that seem eer“i”ly possible.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can A Sales Pitch Be A Gift?

I’m not going to tell you which company did what I’m writing about here because I actually think very highly of this enterprise. They do cutting-edge stuff in cross media marketing, their communications are first-rate, and their work looks terrific. But I think they screwed up their holiday message.

Their eCard arrived with the words “Sending you our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful Holiday and a Happy New Year.” Right below, was a green box with the words “Click Here to find out what’s in your stocking!” Also on the elegantly simple cover page were a personalized URL link and a QR code. All the right digital pieces.

Unfortunately, when I got to the landing page, this company was offering me credits against a “new Enterprise or Premium [firm name] Web account. Also, my contact info was auto-filled with “Please sign me up for your newsletter” opted in.

Otherwise, this was a lovely piece of work that even featured a video of a warm living room with a crackling fire. Gosh, guys … couldn’t you just say “Seasons Greetings!” and be done with it?

Maybe I’m off base here. Maybe this company scored big with this Holiday Pitch. I didn’t like it much, personally, but when it comes to direct marketing, results count. So, if this was your work, set me straight. Take credit, tell me that you got a great return and call me Scrooge. I’ll take the coal in my stocking and not complain.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 360 Touchpoints of Marketing

MadMen don’t “create” marketing/advertising anymore. Marketing today is a 360 Touchpoint business, with more and more people branding themselves and creating their own marketing.

360 Touchpoint Marketing involves a host of exploding trends. Here are a few.

1. Blogging. How do a lot of young mothers make buying decisions? They read the recommendations/conversations of the “mommy bloggers” because they trust the mommy bloggers more than they trust you and me.

2. Information Marketing. If you’re in business, you’re an expert. If you’re REI, you tout excellence and daring in outdoor activities -- and you give advice.

3. Being Who Your Customers Are. How does Trader Joe’s market? They speak to those customers in a thousand intimate ways. Checkout how Trader Joe’s marketing has become the Trader Joe’s soapbox.

4. Building community. If you know about it, you write about. What the heck do we think Facebook biz pages are about anyway? To find out ask Victoria’s Secret, J.C. Penney, American Egale, Kohl’s, Forever 21, and Abercrombie and Fitch. This is where brands “share” who they are and what they know. And, if any of the folks who “like” them sniff promotion, it’s a serious stink.

5. Creating buzz … as in “let them talk” … as in McRib and McDonald’s reaction to every bit of it -- the yummy and the yucky.

6. Everything else. This changes every day, of course, but consider these already-established 360 Touchpoint Marketing efforts? Podcasting, YouTube (The Wall Street Journal says you can even sell it without doing a video), slideshare, flickr, LinkedIn, and dozens and dozens and dozens more.

7. Content Curation. To understand this new and important marketing focused on “brand as expert,” Check out Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s new book Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business or check out this article by Steve Rosenbaum.

Marketers are service providers, yes. But we, too, have customers and we, too, can adopt 360 Touchpoint Marketing strategies for our own businesses. What better way to demonstrate thought leadership in our field?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Six Workhorse Print Formats Worth Suggesting (Again) To Clients

1. Postcards focused on discount-pricing are commonplace… which, in this industry, means they’re working. I’ve been receiving “coupon-ish” bi-weekly postcards from Bed, Bath and Beyond for months, like clockwork. BB&B’s version is over-sized, printed in blue ink, and looks the same every time. In general, I’m receiving postcards in every configuration from all the retailer’s in my area. The market may hit overkill on “postcards” in 2011, but so far I don’t see a slow-down. Note: The Wall Street Journal’s report on an important consumer trend – just-in-time consumption – suggests an opportunity for smart retailers who can figure out how to embrace more frequent, targeted promotions.

2. Specialty self-mailer “newspapers,” packed with information and printed on inexpensive stock and exemplified by – but never surpassed by -- Trader Joe’s The Fearless Flyer. TJ’s describes this fun read as a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine. I’ve never signed up, but I still receive their annual Thanksgiving issue, which uses humor, great copywriting, and information to persuade shopping at their store. The product isn’t personalized at all, but compared to the full-color circulars other food stores use, this one stands apart because it demonstrates how well TJ understands their pan-generation, no-frills, loyal shoppers.

3. Classic fundraising appeals. Apparently, the white-wove, #10 letter format remains a workhorse for a host of nonprofit organizations. From those same mailers, however – particularly targeted to previous donors – come the periodic, extravagant lumpy-mail offer stuffed with premiums. I’ve seen no slack in fundraising direct mail. Quite the contrary, this season my mailbox has attracted more appeals than ever.

4. “Catalogs” in fresh shapes and configurations -- thinner, and more targeted. Read more about catalog trends in TDN’s November 11 post.

5. Commercial direct mail targeted with different offers to different groups. Paul Bobnak wrote a piece for Target Marketing about the evolution of credit card offers via mail. In analyzing a series of credit offers that went out this fall, Bobnak noted the trend to targeted appeals, including women business owners and seniors.

6. Your favorite mailing plus QR Codes. Okay, this is a new twist on an old response vehicle, but QR could add a little drama to an old appeal. Mobile billings are expected to touch $4.1 billion this year, up 24 percent from last, according to Juniper Research, the UK-based telecom and mobile analyst firm, with total turnover expected to hit $12 billion by 2015.

--scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Database Will Become Something Else Altogether. But What?

Multics released the first commercial relational database management system in 1976. Soon thereafter, in the 1980s, direct marketers moved to computerize and warehouse names and addresses. Zoom forward to today. Databases have become the fundament of direct marketing, customer relationship management, and a lot of other core business initiatives. The question is: Where is this evolution going?

In particular, I'm thinking of Facebook, which is becoming an Internet of its own [or even the Internet itself, some argue], with vast quantities of personal information databased in one location. With the addition of Facebook business pages where folks actually shop from within Facebook, this "FB universe" takes on a whole new dimension of control [and, reportedly, profitability].

Should FB begin to thoroughly monetize it's database by selling its data warehouse [and how can it possibly resist the temptation?] consisting of trillions of terabytes of information (names, email addresses, photos, educational background, connections, shopping and Internet habits, photos, videos, birth dates and records of children's growth and activities, from over 500 million subscribers internationally, as of this hour) how will external databases compete? Despite a firestorm of warnings about what not to do on Facebook and the fact that we sign away our rights to everything we post there, the user base keeps growing. So ...What will happen to databases as we currently know and love them?

It's a huge question. And only imaginings of the Brave New World variety can intuit the possibilities. As I work on the April "Lists and Databases" issue of DMAW's Marketing AdVents, I wonder how many years into the future this vital element that has driven direct marketing for three decades will remain as we have come to know and love it.

Thoughts anyone?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hoku: The Masters of Electronic Bait and Switch

I got an email this morning from Hoku Unlimited in Van Nuys, CA. As an editor in the direct marketing industry, I receive all sorts of industry-related “information.” This one looked legit. It listed three questions [with partial answers] that a marketer should ask a potential list vendor. The info looked on target. Links proliferated. Links to the “full article;” links to “here;” and links to “list vendor check.”

All of the links went the same place: Nowhere.

What was the point? To get me to provide my name, email, phone, company, and a comment.

Who Is Hoku Unlimited? Nobody knows.

What am I giving Hoku? Exactly what they gave me: NOTHING.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Call It “Brands That Share.”™ Chris Brogan and Pawan Deshpande Totally Get It.

A couple of weeks ago, the AMA sponsored a webcast featuring Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, and Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire.

Titled Content Curation Is The Secret To Becoming A Thought Leader, the webcast shed light on an evolving and still fluid conversation about content marketing and content curation.

Before I present the outline of Chris and Pawan’s comments, here’s an important point. This webcast and a host of blog posts and books over the last couple of years – the number of which is growing rapidly – are exposing a new marketing initiative that will evolve into “Brands That Share.”™ I’ll be blogging about this a lot in the months ahead, but – in short – I believe that businesses large and small will move to distinguish themselves from competitors by shifting from “Brands That Promise” [traditional marketing] to “Brands That Share" [evolved marketing].

Here’s what Chris and Pawan had to say about the role of content in establishing “thought-leadership” and becoming Brands That Share®.

What Is the Role of Thought Leadership?

• influencing a SPECIFIC audience

• talking about information both INSIDE and OUTSIDE your own company. Note: If you’re only talking, you’re not a thought leader. You must also understand what are others saying.

What Are the Five Stages of the “Thought Leadership Cycle”?

• Topic identification and positioning
- follow the topic in general
- bring in 3rd party case studies and research to bear
- develop your own content, either original or extrapolated or triangulated from others’ content (for example, this blog post)
- communicate outwards about other organizations and what they are doing right

• Research – see what others are saying

• Production – producing original content (blogging, video, social media, etc.)

• Repurposing – organizing and structuring content, repurposing 3rd party content as well

• Distribution – delivering the information through appropriate channels

The Evolving Role of Content Marketing

• Marketers are struggling with providing content. They are called upon to publish white papers, blog posts, enewsletters, website content, etc. As technology evolves, marketers need to be on even more channels. Thus, the explosion of content marketing.

• Vicious cycle: more and more content demand, more and more time and resources committed to content development, more and more content created, more and more competition, more and more content created to meet more and more content demand ... etc.

• Information consumers have too many choices, so trust becomes a key factor in choosing content. For example, consumers go to Google for information because they trust that Google will produce the top 10 choices in their query. Consumers also trust Word of Mouth (in particular, a friend), so they also have begun to shift to the social channels for finding information.

• Consumers put trust in various channels, depending on the need: (Google for empirical information; The New York Times, for example, as an established, reliable source; social media for the “inside scoop.”

• Trust Development: Find the good stuff where it lies and share it, even if it’s competitors’ information.

The Blog Is Fundamental To A Thought-Leadership Strategy

• Do you have a blog? This is how webcast participants responded to that query (a “real time” survey):

-16% yes, and I’m happy with it
-30% yes, but not happy with it (amazing; 3 in 10 are not happy with their blog!)
-35% no, but are considering
-18% no, don’t know where to start

• 70 million blogs had already been tracked by technorati in 2007; the blogosphere is adding 120,000 blogs per day

How do you measure corporate blog performance? It depends.

• Brogan: Do not measure by the number of comments, or the number of hits or views. Rather, how many of your next-action steps have been taken? (e.g., how many ebooks have been ordered, how many items downloaded, etc.)

• Deshpande: the number of views is irrelevant; only “next-action” counts. Also, lead generation may not be your goal. Verne Global [see case in point, below] doesn’t even have a lead capture system; their goal is being in front of their audience every day (credibility and influence).

What Does Content Curation Involve?

• Creates “actionable” content through aggregating and gathering (curation) plus distilling
• Pulls sources from inside and outside the vertical market
• Boiling down and sharing thoughts
• More than a news resource, curators provide an original, innovative perspective around issues
Curators become a trusted, go-to source
• You create a community to which people come to meet other people. Curating content is a great way to build a roster of content that will attract people.

Content Curation As A Thought-Leadership Strategy

Cases in Point:

Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington: thought leadership as a content curator, sharing insights and her own perspectives, publishing her own original content, also sharing different points of view

Verne Global: How does “expertise” relate to an increases in business? This company established themselves as a thought-leader in a specific green space.

• They set up a site called “green data center news”
- original blog content
- pulling in outside resources, too

• They receive queries and also "inbound PR" (that is, interest from major media outlets for opinion and industry thought leadership.

• They have experienced growth in lead generation and customer interest.

• They have saved $100,000 in traditional marketing expertise.

Questions To Ask About Your Role As A Content Marketer

1. Is your brand or industry focused on a particular issue and does your company have an innovative perspective on this?

2. Do your prospects already conduct extensive research in order to perform?

3. Do you already monitor a variety of sources?

4. How does this activity tie into your marketing plan

5. How might I do content curation with limited staff?

Deshpande: It's time consuming, but with automation it can be done -- automatic identification, organization, sharing of content.
Brogan: Sometimes it can be done by hand, using Google reader, but you must bring it all in; headlines become very important here for sorting. Note: Chris subscribes to 700 blogs.
Brogan: It's a dedicated process. For me, it's a two-way street with one-hour of connecting with people to develop traction and acceptance; it's also a half-hour every day to create my own material.

6. What are the legal considerations in curating content?
• Curate content but never pirate contact
• Attribute sources

7. How Might B2B marketers deal with content curation?
• The buy-in process is different for B2B. With B2B, you need to connect with and convince multiple people in a single customer-setting, so you need more content, more variety of content, more reasons, more data, etc.
• The B2B process is more complex so all the touchpoints need to be addressed, which makes curation a natural fit.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo with gratitude to and admiration for Chris Brogan and Pawan Deshpande.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Social Media Steroids: We’ve Never Met, so Why Are You Sending Me Family Pics?

I’m not sure why I’m on Kirsten Gillibrand’s email list. I live in Virginia, not New York. Kirsten and I have never been introduced (and, yes, I am entitled to use her first name because, this morning, she used my first name first) .. as in:


I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family. It's always a special time in our house, and the boys just love to help out in the kitchen. Just had to share with you this photo of Henry, Theo and me making an apple pie from scratch -- it doesn't get much better.


Embedded in the email was the photo of her and the boys.

Kirsten ran for the Senate in New York. She won. I hope she won on her experience, intellectual merits, knowledge of politics in the Empire State, integrity, and commitment to her constituents’ interests.

This email and this photo have nothing to do with any of those things. Is this what social media means? If so, I'm anti-social.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, November 29, 2010

2011: "Brands That Share" Are Shaking the Zeitgeist

First a short story:

Even before he had heard the terms "content marketing" or "content curation," a colleague of mine intuited the value of “brand as expert.”

My friend went to a client for whom he had provided highly successful PR for years and urged them to stop generating profit for trade media. “Why not replace your PR investment with content hosted on your own site?” he suggested. “It really makes no sense to pay to have all these articles written and placed in for-profit publishing enterprises. They get paid by advertisers who want to wrap their message in your company's expertise.” The client agreed and a daily blog launched. Shortly thereafter, the project was handed off to the website developer as fodder for SEO.

I’ve urged my colleague to get a better handle on Brands That Share™ and I'd advise any marketer to do the same. To begin:

a) Read Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s new book Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. Ann is editor at the highly successful MarketingProfs and C.C. is one of social media’s earliest adopters.

b) Check out this article. Published in July by Steve Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of Magnify.Net. This article says,We're standing at the end of an era. ‘Mass Media' -- the ability to reach large segments of the population with a single message -- is essentially over. For advertisers, the need to find content in context, and to have that context be appropriate for their message and their brand is critical. So, Curation replaces Creation as the coin of the realm for advertiser-safe environments. No longer can advertisers simply default to big destination sites. The audience is too diffuse and the need to filter and organize quality crowd-created content is too critical.”

c) To further grasp the role of content in marketing, read this blog by C.C. about Zappos, a company that everyone pretty much agrees "gets it." In short, C.C. says Zappos is FULL of Content.

d) Consider this blog from Media Post discussing how people are engaging with brands via social media, namely (and I quote): The last couple months have brought a wave of data suggesting that a substantial proportion of online social network members use their profiles to engage with brands in some way -- including recommending or criticizing a product or service to other people, and engaging with the brand itself for customer service issues. In addition to confirming many of these earlier findings, the latest study, sponsored by Performics and performed by ROI Research, also found that a good number of social net users want more online offers and information from brands.” [Emphasis added]

e) Get familiar with Rohit Bhargava's Influential Marketing Blog, including posts like this on content curation (and don't pass up the comments).

Right now, the zeitgeist is chattering and the evidence is growing on multiple fronts: content marketing, content curation.....bzzzzzzzz..

p.s. Ian Greenleigh makes a plausible case against content curation .. well, at least against yakking about it. He's got a point. Better to tinker more, talk less. Thanks, Ian.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Should Print Media’s Loss Be Direct Mail’s Gain? Ya Tink?

The November/December issue of What Advertisers Think confirms that print-media buys are down. Why? It's not about the money.

The article reports that print media decision makers are, indeed, super focused on price. But wait… there’s more ...

“It’s all about the audience, both the who (composition) and the how many (reach). The pricing discussions only happen after it is determined that the magazine or national newspaper is delivering enough of the right target.”

The report goes on to note affirm that print buyers have always struggled with the best way to measure the effectiveness of print campaigns. “The lack of accurate measurement has certainly not helped print increase its allocation of advertising dollars in comparison to more measurable media.”

The right target? More measurable media? Hmmm… Might we suggest… ahem .. digital direct mail? Thank you for your support.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Six Ways To Keep Your Blog Buzzworthy

Amanda Moshier’s “How To Write A Blog Post in 30 Minutes or Less” hit home for me – and not because it has anything to do with writing a blog in a half hour.

In addition to being organized, opinionated, and authentic, Amanda makes the point that good blogging involves dogged, persistent background work. She says, “Get outside. Read the news. Go on YouTube if that’s your thing. Talk to people.”

All that connectedness doesn’t happen in 30 minutes, of course. Rather it means keeping up with industry buzz by ...

• following relevant groups on LinkedIn,

• subscribing to and scanning lots of trade and business publications,

• reading other bloggers in your field,

• keeping an eye on new developments via Twitter, and,

• my favorite, jotting down extensive notes (with links) as ideas occur.

As for staying current with pop culture? Buzzfeed makes that easier. If it’s contemporary or celebritorious (aka celebrity-focused), buzzfeed is probably featuring it. Warning: Buzzfeed videos can be very distracting. The end of the day – when work is finished – is a good time to browse this site.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Like Everything About This Company’s Website (And for Good Reason)

I ran across a company I didn’t know about this morning and – with utterly no intention of being impressed – I was struck by the innovation and fresh face The Karcher Group in Canton/Akron/Cleveland has put on their website (thanks to Josh Gordon for introducing me).

So what do we have here and what do we NOT have here?

• Don’t have: An annoying intro page that “sits there” for 10 seconds, while inviting the visitor to “skip the introduction.”
• Do have: A crackerjack landing page – entertaining, engaging, humorous, fresh, wry and lively. This page sets the pace and the rest lives up to the challenge.

• Don’t have: Small serious type and a “corporate” look.
• Do have: Big, grabby type. ( If I didn’t know better, I’d think you know a lot about direct marketing.)

• Don’t have: Any sense that somebody is trying to sell me something
• Do have: Straightforward, honest, no-guess, no-fool-you navigability.

• Don’t have: A video of the president speaking.
• Do have: Meet the Group, featuring photos of everybody who works at TKG (big photos.. yea!)

• Don’t have. An endless series of portfolio graphics with no context.
• Do have: A portfolio and client list, that is easy to view at either a glance or in-depth (visitor’s choice).

• Don’t have. A list of links to “news” releases.
• Do have. The ingenious Web News tab, where I learned about MO-vember (aka “No Shave November.”) The write-up invited me to check out TKG’s Facebook page for “some hair-raising photos!” I did and was entertained all over again. These folks also know how to set up a Facebook page that brings together a community of fun people who love what they do and are happy to invite fans.

I like it!

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I’m Going To Cell In A Handbasket

Confession: I don’t have a smart phone and I have never surfed the Web on my cell. Don't hate me. I did – about four months ago – adopt text messaging for important occasions. But very few people have my cell phone number and I almost never use my cell for business. I’m not technology-averse. Really! I'm not! I just prefer to keep my work and social lives separate. Too bad for me.

I’m in deep trouble and I know it .. which is why (pretty soon)…

I’m going to buy an 8G iPod Touch. Yes, I know it’s not a cell phone, but it IS Mobile and I do need to do this Mobile thing. Everybody in the entire world is going to a very tiny place and I have to figure out WHY.

Eric Weymueller at Zyntoprics recently asked me to take a look at My Santa Talk, his new Mobile enterprise aimed at helping children enjoy Christmas. After all Eric’s work at enabling QR, 2D Codes and SMS, plus embedding video and an interactive chat experience, all I could do was view Santa on my huge computer monitor. I’m sorry, Eric.

Thank heavens Brian Solis wrote about “The Dawn of the Social Consumer.” I couldn’t figure out Foursquare until I read what Brian wrote (okay, I didn’t try that hard to figure it out, even though all the kewl SocMed kids were telling me every … single …day which Starbucks they were hitting). Point is, these handheld Mobile devices – call them cell phones if you must – are going to become as common as credit cards. That I get. Thank you, Brian.

And then there’s the marketing thing. Dean Steinman wrote an article for the DMAW newsletter that cited five reasons Mobile marketing is a must right now: text messaging demands attention (true dat); email received on Mobile has better odds of being read (interesting ...); every email needs a Mobile counterpart; Mobile is fresh; Mobile can be broad, variable, and targeted. As a marketer myself, I know this makes sense. Thank you, Dean.

So there you have it. You may not like it (I know I don’t) but that’s the way it is. For awhile – as the world sorts out how big small has to be – I need to follow the Mobile March. If not, the industry for which I work is likely to hand me my head in a handbasket.

Happy Holidaze.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Idea for 2011. It’s Easy As Pie, But I Bet You Aren’t Doing It.

Margaret Farmakis writing for Return Path posted the question, “Is Email Sexy?” She then offered three reasons why email is sexy and three reasons why it’s not.

Margaret's article is quite good but I think one of the reasons she cited for email's allure is misleading -- namely, our ability to dialog with it.

Fact is, most of the time it's pretty difficult to dialog with email -- at least in the case of most content-rich email coming from corporate and information-delivery sources. That's a shame, because those content-rich emails are exactly the ones readers want to chat with.

In my June 29 Marketing Brillo blogpost titled “Auto Stealth: THIS Is the Top Marketing Idea of the Year,” I touted the brilliance of an email I got from Tim Pitts at Why did I love it? Because it appeared to be from Tim to me (and only me) and because it invited my input.

The bulk of the email I get comes from the webmaster (whoever the heck she is). I checked my “electronic newsletter” folder to confirm that this is true. It is. I’ve also got entities writing me who are named newsletter, workforce, social media, reply, ncreply2, support, and editorinchief (a slight improvement in that this appears to be an actual human being .. or at least an avatar).

Margaret says, “A one-way conversation is never sexy. A dialog that elicits a response definitely is. Email enables marketers to create a dialog with their subscribers, customers and prospects.”

Maybe, except "webmaster" keeps getting in the way.

Could this be a workable New Year’s Resolution for marketers -- to send customers an email they can respond to? I mean -- if under the new model -- everything else is going social, why do you suppose email is so darn .. well, one-sided?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Variable Data Printing Gets the Nod from Catalogers and A Big "About Time" from Me

Multichannel Marketing magazine has been releasing the results of its 2010 surveys. Responses from the catalog industry were particularly interesting because feedback indicates that catalogers are both sticking with print and expanding into new print formats like postcards, fliers, solo mailers, and other direct mail media.

All four MCM reports -- catalog, e-commerce, marketing, and operations/fulfillment -- are downloadable here. What intrigued me about the catalog report was the merchants’ embrace of variable data printing.

Only 28% of catalogers surveyed in early 2010 said they were using variable printing to customize catalogs, but 35% say they plan to create customized catalogs for specific customer segments in the next 12 months. Another 29% are considering it. That’s a boost from 49% using or considering VDP in 2010, to 63% saying VDP is in their plans or on their radar for the coming 12 months.

Multichannel Merchant Editor-in-Chief Melissa Dowling who authored MCM Outlook 2010, says, “This is encouraging, since variable data printing has been slow to catch on.” She adds that “Even though costs have come down significantly in recent years, most mailers feel the technology is still too expensive—particularly dur­ing the harsh recession. But then, experts say that the returns are much higher with VDP vs. a static print job, especially the more personalized a mail piece is.”

Clearly, it’s ROI. Not only does this say a lot about the growing influence of variable data printed marketing materials, it suggests to me that VDP is about to bloom outwards in other key areas which have been hesitant to adopt. That includes marketing collateral for absolute sure, but I’m also watching for tailored informational material like newsletters, conference schedules, educational curricula, possibly even municipal or county notices targeted to specific residences.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SPAM Sucks, But Hiding Is No Way To Run A Business

Recently, I had reason to contact a fellow writer. I didn’t want anything from her. Actually I wanted to do something for her. I wanted to send her a pdf of a newsletter in which she had appeared.

She was on LinkedIn, but we weren’t linked and I didn’t feel like messing with that (just like I very rarely “friend” on Facebook, I don’t link willy-ga-nilly).

This gal’s email address wasn’t on LinkedIn, of course. Her phone number was there, but I didn’t want to call her. I’m busy, too, and phone tag was unappealing on a rushed morning. Look, all I wanted to do was email something I knew she would appreciate and I was getting frustrated.

Nevertheless, I made a pilgrimage to her website. Guess what? No email contact info appeared there, either. None. I mean, I couldn’t even fill out an “info” request. So, I made a last-ditch effort. I took a stab and emailed to first I didn’t send the attachment at that point of course, fearing her spam filter would reject the email. So I just wrote and said, “Is this you?”

It was and I was able to send a follow-up email with the attachment. I went to a fair amount of effort to help out this fellow writer because I knew she was looking hard for work. Having said that, I will say this: It’s totally ridiculous.

A professional looking for clients – and she is definitely trolling – should be easy to find. I’m sorry she’s getting SPAM (join the crowd), and I understand her personal desire to avoid email onslaught. But that’s part of being in business. That’s part of what we deal with. Get over it.

Scott Ginsberg-- author of –ABLE: 35 Strategies for Increasing the Probability of Success in Business and in Life -- has worn a nametag 24/7 for the last decade. What’s his first bit of advice? Be Findable.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Direct Mail Works for This Recruiter When…

… it’s contained, targeted, and ready-to-roll when the phones ring.

Chris Taylor is vice president at Davis Advertising in Philadelphia. Awhile back, Chris posted on LinkedIn’s Direct Mail Group, commenting that "From the perspective of recruitment (help wanted) advertising, direct mail has significant advantages over other advertising media."

Chris acknowledges that direct mail has an image problem among some employers. "Our clients -- human resource professionals planning recruitment advertising campaigns -- regard direct mail as old fashioned." But Chris is still a believer. “We just launched This site actively promotes the use of direct mail to health care employers."

Chris’ endorsement intrigued me, so I checked out TalentMaps, which is quite an interesting approach to recruiting (you should take a look). Then I checked in with Chris to find out more about how his company uses direct mail to recruit.

“Our clients are primarily human resource professionals who are looking to recruit prospective employees who live within a reasonable commuting distance of their facility. We use mailing lists because no other medium reaches a higher concentration of our geo-targeted audience than direct mail. Typically, the number of recipients to a direct mail campaign is small, often less than 3,000 to 5,000."

Imagine that! “No other medium reaches a higher concentration of our geo-targeted audience than direct mail.” Who knew? (Well, okay, you knew, and you, and you, and you…)

Chris says the degree of personalization that Davis employs in the direct mail depends upon the client, budget, and recruiting situation. In my experience direct mail is the best resource for recruiting passive prospects. Generally, an employer's first attempt at recruiting/sourcing candidates is done via job boards. But job boards only reach a small percent of the overall workforce. Typically, people who are not actively looking for jobs are not visiting job boards. When job boards fail, employers look for other ways to recruit (including staffing firms).”

Chris acknowledges that successfully marketing to passive prospects is much more difficult than marketing to active job seekers. No surprise there. But the reason isn’t that direct mail doesn’t produce.

“From our perspective, the problem is that employers use the same process to capture response from ‘passive job seekers’ that they do with ‘active job seekers.' Passive prospects are not ready to be ‘candidates’ or ‘applicants'… they need a bit more persuading …. Moreover, most large employers funnel all applicants through their Web-based applicant tracking system. The process is (1) very cumbersome and (2) doesn’t have a process to handle individuals who would like to have a few questions answered before they apply.

Would an automated/trigger response system help HR departments manage incoming direct mail inquiries? I bet it would. And, yes, direct marketers can do that, too.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Political Fundraising Annoyances (and I Know It’s Not Just Me)

In the 2008 election, I was an active supporter of my political party. I gave money, volunteered, and “answered the call.” In the current election, not so much. I’m still going to vote my party, to be sure, but mostly because the other guys scare the hell outta me. In other words, it’s no longer passion for my party (actually, I’m an Independent) as much as how detestable the other side is. But I digress…

This blog post is about the naughty way my party is pursuing its fundraising. First, I’m on “I-don’t-know-how-many” call lists. “Telefund” shows-up on caller ID every day, usually twice. I get emails, too. Lots of them – from past presidents, congressional leaders, senators – even wives of politicians (no children so far, but that wouldn’t surprise me). I’m tired of it, you know?

Maybe that’s why, today, I relented and donated $25 to one of the appellants (please forgive my misuse of the word; I couldn’t resist). Within 30 seconds I had received a thank-you email (of course), and then -- lickety-split -- two additional email appeals. A minute later, a telefund call came in from a number in the same geographic region of the country that my politician represents. Coincidence? I think not.

And you know what? I don’t like it. I just did something you asked me to do and before the path to the front door was cool, you were coming back in, asking me to do something else.. and something else… and something else.

That’s bad manners. Cross media? Yes. Cross donor? Yes again. It may be good direct marketing, but, then again, maybe it isn’t. I'm a loyal customer and you made me mad. How good can it be?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 15, 2010

Six Direct Marketing Trends Likely To Go Mainstream in 2011

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the “Year Ahead” issue of Marketing AdVents published by DMAW, so I'm focused on industry trends. Six developments seem to be top of mind these days, but before I get to that, here’s a general observation based on nothing but chatter and intuition:

Things are moving out there in Direct Marketing Land. Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of company mergers and “affiliations,” especially on the production side of things. Along with that movement, there’s been a whole lotta job switching. For awhile, it was mostly people looking; lately it seems to be people finding. That’s good news. Motion is picking up, so let’s hope it’s not just a random windstorm, shakey, shakey,* Now, to the prognostications:

1. QR Code Explosion. These little roadmaps to wherever are going to the landscape next year, as marketers find ever more clever ways to use them. Put them on event promotions, business cards, marketing collateral, even p-URLs. About a year ago, Dana Oshiro suggested applying these to SWAG and self-branding, geo-based reviews and tours, ticketing and registration, and private “acts of defiance.” The construction industry has more applications, here. From the marketer’s perspective, check-out Joey Tanny’s post on Sparksheet (and don’t miss the comments). BOOM!

2. Icky Picky Mail. As postal rates go north, direct mail gets costlier, which means marketers will get more careful, targeted, relevant, creative, tested, and measured. Dave Lewis, DM guru and VP at ProList, came up with this terrific idea: Send a marketing email before you do your direct mail if you have email addresses. If a prospect clicks through to your landing page off of the email, delete them from the direct mailing. You already got their response. It’s that brand of icky picky that will make direct mail keep on keeping on. Thanks, Dave.

3. Direct Marketing and Social Media Integration. Cross media is all over the marketing Net, but strategic integration of social media into direct mail, email, pURLs, and telemarketing is less common. In fact, this study reports that 88% of social media spend is to solidify customer loyalty. But that is now and this is when. Jeffrey Stewart talked about social integration at the 2009 PODi AppForum, so the concept by no means new. However, social media nailed its place in marketing budgets this year, so integration is sure to follow in 2011 (as will positive results).

4. Email Is NOT for Everyone. I’m not saying email marketing is “dead” (though I hear there are obituaries on ice), but I am saying people really are buried in the email avalanche. Fellow blogger Leo Babauta, Zen Habits, sent a “Dear friends,” email that simply said, “I’m giving up on email. It’s just been too much, and I’ve decided I need to focus my life on creating rather than constantly answering emails.” Bottom line, three words: Opt-in only.

5. IMB Innovations. I already blogged at Digital Nirvana about my annoying and super-hyper personalized email marketing experience with Harry and David. But there’s one thing I loved. H&D sent my email the day after their catalog dropped. How did they know? Intelligent Mail barcode, of course. I’ve no doubt smart marketers will find even more intelligent ways to make this barcode shimmy.

6. Ever More Personal p-URLS. Currently, most personalized landing pages (p-URLs) feature a person’s name and maybe some stuff related to the offer that drove them to the page. What if we got really personal -- as personal as we are able to get in our digital direct mail – and then added hyper targeted links, images, and cross-sells to our customized landing page visitors? Too expensive? Hmmm… now that depends, doesn’t it. Shall we test?

p.s. *Thank you, Allstate, for GREAT copywriting and a tip of the windblown hat to Dean Winters.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Are You So Busy?

A recent email to members of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington from Executive Director Donna Tschiffely began, “We’ve entered into 2010’s fourth quarter and word is out that people are busy!”

So I’m not the only one who’s noticed that people are working hard, right? Let me add this: In my 30 years in this business, I have never seen anything like the levels of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and just plain overwork that I’m seeing around me – everywhere – today. People are busy, yes. And people are tired.

A little light reading from Ray Kurzweil explains it all to me. Everything in our world is increasingly complex, while change is accelerating. Exponentially. Here’s how that's probably affecting you.

Once upon a time -- oh, maybe, 12 years ago -- your computer's operating system remained static for several years and was easy to upgrade. Over time, though, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs started changing your operating system more frequently. Some of those changes were nightmarish, but compare that technology tango to 2010.

If you’re like most knowledge workers, today you’ve got several computers -- a few at work, a few at home, and maybe one for travel. You’ve also got cell phones, which are getting smarter every day; external devices like the iPad, Kindle or Nook; video streaming equipment hooked up to your TV; several digital cameras; various computer gaming gadgets, GPS; etc. All of these devices malfunction, need upgrading, and become obsolete – and all of it happens much faster with each passing month. Very few people can keep up. Those who do can become “addicted, as this series in the New York Times explored.

Besides our personal technology running amok, everybody else's technology has the same vulnerability. It's cumulative in a way only The Rev. Malthus could appreciate.

How are people coping? Today I got the following response when I tried to email a fellow blogger:

Dear friends,

I'm giving up on email. It's just been too much, and I've decided I need to focus my life on creating rather than constantly answering emails. I hope you understand!

If you'd like to interview me, please send an email to xxx (at) gmail with the words "interview xxx" in the subject line (or it won't get through this filter) ... and please don't abuse this or we
will no longer speak! :) In general, the best way to contact me is on Twitter: ... friends can DM me on Twitter. Close friends and family, please call me if you like. Please do NOT email me or contact me on Twitter to promote your blog, or your product or service, to review your book, to join your network, to become an affiliate, or to do a guest post. I am not accepting any of these and will not appreciate being contacted for these purposes. I no longer accept advertising on any of my sites, nor do I do link exchanges or any other types of sponsorship. I am also not accepting consulting work at this time, as I'm completely booked.

This may be the 21st century version of retiring to a mountain in Madagascar to meditate. I’m trying to figure out how to get there myself.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 1, 2010

Give Me A Break Or I'll Crack Up. Now I Know Why.

I've been reading "The Singularity Is Near" by Ray Kurzweil (published in 2005) ... ... "singularity" being that point in human history where human and non-human intelligence merge.

As Kurzweil sees it, we are in the beginning of Epoch 5, within six epochs of human history. This is the Epoch where everything accelerates exponentially. For example, as Kurzweil sees it, "We won't experience one hundred years of technological advance in the 21st century; we will witness on the order of twenty thousand years of progress."

Kurzweil's book talks about the "canonical milestones," clusters of 28 significant events in human history identified by physicist and complexity theorist Theodore Modis. He notes that two of these milestones -- order and complexity -- are growing exponentially.

I'm not sure where the "order" comes in. Everything seems chaotic to me, so I need to keep reading. But I totally understand the reality of what I've been sensing and feeling for the past 8 or 9 months: Namely, human beings are having a difficult time dealing with this acceleration of complexity milestone. In short, the pressure to "keep up" with ever faster and more complicated change is making human beings crazy.

Oh ... in researching the book, I just learned that The Singularity Is Near has been made into a movie currently traveling the indy circuits. Put me first in line for that one! This is amazing and life-altering stuff. Mind-bending, yes.. but worth ever twist and turn.

So, if that's the problem, what's the solution? My first guess is that we need to simplify and downsize (physical clutter can't help with this overwhelmed psyche, despite the assbackwards approach that a lot of people seem to be adopting via hoarding). On the other hand, we need to make technology our partner here (I mean, that's the idea, right).

I'm thinking, I'm thinking ...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If You Haven’t Tested Personalization, Why Not?

This morning, Target Marketing reported on Archive Director Paul Bobnak’s latest analysis of the expansive Who’s Mailing What archives.

Of significant interest to direct marketers is Bobnak’s finding that -- in the first six months of 2010 -- personalization of direct mail increased 19 percent over all of 2009. “Used in 35 percent of direct mail, it's more important than ever to help make mail relevant for the prospect,” Target noted.

I knew that. And you knew that. And my guess is that in the second half of 2010 even more direct marketers will confirm that. So what’s the hold up?

The first of Bobnak’s findings about direct mail trends in the first half of 2010 explains why personalization percentages aren’t even more dramatic: to wit, the finding that “Repeat mail, or controls, are up 12 percent in 2010 and now represent a full quarter of all direct mail. Reasons stretch from mailers being budget-conscious to staying with efforts that are clearly working.”

In other words, nervous mailers are entrenched in “what works” to the point they’re afraid to even test personalization. They’ve heard it works – they even believe it works – but, in this milieu of overworked staff and financially freaked CFO’s, personalized direct mail is an easy “test” to avoid.

Among the figures Bobnak uncovered, though, I'd wager that, among the 35% of “personalized” proponents you’ll find the direct marketers with the most successful results.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix and the Nature Of Truth in 2010

I saw “I’m Still Here” last weekend and came away convinced it was not a “hoax.” When I learned this morning that this film is total fabrication, I couldn’t believe it. I had gone into the theatre with an open mind and came away convinced that I had actually observed a human being having a mental breakdown. How stupid could I have been?

But here it is. Casey Affleck, director and documentarian (apparently mockumentarian) of Joaquin Phoenix’s breakdown told Roger Ebert the “real story.” It was all an acting job.

How is this possible? Does it matter? Who cares?

It is possible, it matters a great deal, and anybody in the “communication” biz had better care because this is what can happen – and maybe does far more than we imagine -- when the media, the consumers of media, and the creators of media gather.

I mean what IS real? If somebody like Joaquin Phoenix or Sacha Baron Cohen can “go into character” for long periods of time and fool everybody who’s not in on the joke – including self-promoter extraordinaire, Sean “Puff Daddy Diddy” Combs – what the heck does reality have to do with anything anymore?

If you’re in the marketing business – or if you live on Planet Earth – here are the troubling questions that Joaquin has thrown at us:

  1. Is reality TV really real, or are these folks all “acting”?
  2. Do people who star on reality TV become real (in other words, do they soon begin to believe their own nonsense?)
  3. How are politicians of the day any different from method actors, drenched in their roles? Has Sarah Palin become who she wasn’t, but now is? What does that say about a leader “we can believe in”?
  4. If the media, too, can be fooled, can we believe anything that we see or hear, or read in the media?
  5. If the media has become the distributor of stories, games, and propaganda, what do we need it for? Do we care?
  6. Does “success” merely lie in the ability to deceive for a purpose?
  7. Do consumers any longer care whether or not an event is true or if any person is really what they are representing?

There’s a lot to think about here and if this story doesn’t get our communal brain into high gear, we are indeed fiddling.

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Advice for Cross Media: Just Because We Can, Doesn’t Mean We Should.

I received an annoying email from HarryandDavid this morning. This was definitely not an accident. I didn’t like it and here’s why.

The HarryandDavid Harvest 2010 catalog showed up in my mailbox yesterday, complete with Intelligent Mail Barcode and a note to the Postmaster to deliver in the proscribed two-day window.

When the IMB data alerted the mailer that the catalog had been delivered, the email dropped. This morning’s email, clearly, was a “follow-up” to the catalog mailing. Cross-media at it’s best.

So what’s the problem? No problem at all with the system. In fact, it’s brilliant and a good reason for direct marketers to adopt the IMB now, even though its use isn’t required until May 2011.

The problem was with the creative in the email. H&D has information about me and they just couldn’t wait to let me – or anybody strolling by my computer -- see it.

The subject line was good. A message about your Harry and David account … Show me somebody who doesn’t at least look at email about their “account,” and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t have email. So, yes, I took a look.

The message told me that my “Personal Giftlist is now online” and offered me two quick links so I could “review and update” the list. The email explained that the links would lead to my “private, secure listing.” I had no intention of doing H&D’s record keeping for them, so I ignored the invite and was about to close out. But then, a bit further down, I saw my son’s name in big capital letters, along with a short description of a gift I sent him and his family four years ago.

If this was a private, secure listing, how come the meat of the data showed up in the body of the email! H&D explained they were listing names of “up to five people” to whom I had previously gifted H&D products. They were doing this for me, you see, because they didn’t want me to ever again forget to send a gift. Excuse me!?

That’s too much information. Imagine where this little email might take somebody who happened to see it, by accident or otherwise.

So, yes, direct marketing technology – especially cross media – totally rocks. But, as always, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Emails are no place for a recitation of your customer’s relationships. Before we flex our digital muscles, let’s consider “how much information is too much information” and leave the online personal stuff to Facebook.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don’t Ask A p-URL How Much She Costs. Just Buy Dinner and See What Happens.

A lively discussion about personalized URLs (p-URLs) unfolded on LinkedIn’s Direct Mail group this week. Actually, p-URLs surfaced in conjunction with a more general posting about cross-media. Things heated up when somebody asked how much other group members were charging clients “per p-URL.”

Despite some feisty back and forth, the group generally agreed that -- like the envelope, the digital printing, the mailing and postage, and the response vehicle – p-URLS are most appropriately costed as part of an entire direct marketing campaign, rather than expensed “per p-URL.” That makes a lot of sense. Exotic as they still seem to many direct marketers, p-URLS really are “just another response vehicle” to be considered.

It's no more important to know the “cost per p-URL” than it is to know the cost per email response, or the cost per incoming phone order, or even the cost per business reply card?

This number won’t inform your campaign planning or give you any particular insight. If you want to find out whether p-URLs can boost results, do a test! That way you’ll have some real information for your next campaign.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo