Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Few Things I’ve Done To Manage the Workload

Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill cites an Accenture study that found middle managers spending two hours a day searching for information, half of which turns out to be of no value (and that was three years ago!). Today, I don’t know a single direct marketer -- a single person, actually -- who isn’t overwhelmed.

The following tactics have helped me cope over the last few months:

1. File incoming email to folders. As an editor in the direct marketing field, I need to read every notable industry publication and blog. BUT, I can’t afford the distraction of messages invading my inbox. To cope, I set up filters to hide my mail before I see it. Especially useful has been my “electronic newsletters folder," which contains every e-newsletter, press release, blog or announcement related to the industry. About once a week I spend an hour inside that folder. Estimated time savings: ½-hour per day.

2. Tell everything. is a free service from Oslo, Norway, that reminds me of every must-recall detail, large or small, personal or professional. This service says it’s in beta, but I’ve never had any reminder system – human or otherwise -- that is easier or more reliable. Laytr helps keep my inbox clean, too, because I set-up alerts for stuff I need to deal with, but can't right now. Estimated time savings: I can’t even estimate because peace of mind is priceless.

3. Hit delete. No matter how much I filter my email, the SPAM comes. I used to suppress my instinct to delete. No more. Delete, delete, delete. It’s fun. Estimated time savings: 20 minutes/day.

4. Screen all phone calls. Vonage sends me an email that contains an audio file of every incoming phone message. This tells me who's called and why. Estimated time savings: 15 minutes/day.

5. Listen later. Online educational meetings and webinars are great, but they take an hour or two. Most of us can pick up the meat by registering ahead and downloading when a) we’re less busy; b) we’re in the mood to focus; c) we’re ready to take notes. Estimated time savings: 1 hour per week.

6. Contain news consumption to one online daily newspaper. The news summary allows me to scan the planetary zeitgeist first thing in the morning and/or go back later for details. Important headlines arrive as the news occurs. Estimated time savings: ½ hour per day (and YES, I miss reading -- and touching -- the full print newspaper).

7. Respect the 5x8. I have a 5x8 notebook beside my computer where I record everything … to-do, to-call, to-think-about, to-remember, to-follow-up-on, to-be-or-not-to-be. There is no question – ever. When I complete tasks, I check them off the list (very satisfying). I write down phone numbers, names, snippets of phone calls, ideas, concepts, working titles for articles, shopping lists, etc. When I have filled one page, I copy all the incompleted items to a new page and begin again. Estimated time savings: whatever I might have otherwise spent on mental health counseling.

8. Be less social. I’m not tweeting as frequently. I’m blogging fewer times per month. I visit the LinkedIn groups less often, so I cut my group memberships my 25%. My Facebook friends number 20. I did recently reactivate Quora. The information there is selective and intelligent and -- so far, unlike LinkedIn -- nobody is promoting anything. Apparently, such antisocial behavior mirrors a trend that Forrester reports: namely, that social behaviors have reached a plateau. Estimated time savings: 1 hour per day.

I sit in front of a computer most of the day. Your work life may be different. For example, if you’re on the road, I’m sure your smart phone is the essence of your work plan. If you’re moving around your office or plant, you have a different set of challenges. How are you coping?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Which Digital Tool Will Facebook Annihilate First?

Which will Facebook annihilate first? Email? Websites? Databases? Consider the facts.

Facebook is swallowing up the digital universe, fostering cozy relationships with Yahoo, Bing-aka-Microsoft, Verizon, Skype, MySpace….

Indeed, Facebook may squash websites as we’ve come to know and love them. Have you noticed that many companies now cite their Facebook presence in TV and print ads? All of corporate America is sending customers to Facebook! Even the government is inviting people to face the book (for example, the State of Maryland). How did this happen?

With the advent of Facebook messaging and email addresses early last year, some observers worried that the giant would gobble up our inboxes. Others disagreed. The jury is out, but there’s another potential takeover on the horizon. Facebook just might replace proprietary databases, becoming the largest database in human history.

And then there are the photographs. As this Public Radio International article noted, “Some believe Facebook is now the largest photo collection in the world.”

Millions seem immune to privacy invasion, as we learn to shrug off the published sharing of more and more personal information among several hundred of our very best friends in the whole wide world.

Various Facebook advances do cause brief flurries of outrage and speculation when they launch. The recent disclosure that Facebook was giving developers access to users’ addresses and mobile phone numbers caused a brouhaha. But apparently this vital part of the lives of over 500 million subscribers has, somehow, become too powerful to stop or even control.

So why write about it? Because "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty." And because, so far, I have the right to say I don't like it.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. A side note: I use Google Chrome to surf. When I attempted to check the latest subscriber statistics, the very anti-Google Facebook wouldn’t allow me to access the site. I was told “You are using an incompatible web browser. Sorry, we're not cool enough to support your browser. Please keep it real with one of the following browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer.” Smirky sons of a gun, aren't they?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Direct Mail Copywriting 101. A Dozen Tips from Top Experts

Some would argue that significantly successful copywriters are born not made. I suppose you could say the same thing for long-distance runners or sculptors. The talent is there, but the perfecting is in the practice.

Still, the rest of us can learn from these classic tactics employed by some of direct mail’s best, which have stood the test of time:

1. Know your audience. How To Write A More Effective Technical Brochure. Bob Bly

2. When writing headlines, go straight to the heart of the matter, without any attempt at cleverness. How To Write Headlines That Work. Brian Clark, Copyblogger.

3. Never “create” – know the product to the core and combine the details in new ways. Eugene Schwartz’s 8 Rules of Great Copywriting. Eugene Schwartz

4. Your reader matters most. 100 Great Copywriting Ideas from Leading Companies Around the World. Andy Maslen.

5. Tell A story. Great copywriters are great storytellers. Miguel Alvarez y Mena Brito

6. The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. Wiki Quote. David Ogilvy

7. Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read. WikiQuotes. Leo Burnett

8. Think strategically and objectively. Experiment. Meet the Masters. Martin Baier

9. People buy benefits, not features. Bob Stone’s 30 timeless Direct Marketing Principles. Bob Stone.

10. Intelligent redundancy has selling power. ProCopyTips. Dean Rieck

11. “Copywriter, you are Peter Pan, and what you’re selling is Tinker Bell. And unless that reader believes… Tinker Bell will drop dead." Copywriter magazine. Herschell Gordon Lewis.

12. “Now I spend hours on headlines—days if necessary.” Target Marketing. John Caples

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Direct Mail Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce and Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga both know that, no matter how sincere, an apology only goes so far.

Maybe that was on the mind of Neil Berman when he wrote about “Our Love Affair With Apology Emails” for a November Email Insider post.

Emailers are forgetting attachments, posting the wrong links, fudging numbers and statistics, sending to the “wrong Nancy,” delaying their response, suffering “server” issues, and generally embarrassing themselves. The preferred solution appears to be sending a blushing follow-up that only serves to draw unwanted attention to the initial error.

Loren McDonald addressed the apologetic trend back in April when she posted an article on Keys To An Effective Email Correction Process.Mistake emails are simply a fact of life for digital marketers,” Loren said. “The question isn't if, but when, how often, how severe, and ‘How will you respond?’”


I’ve no doubt that “I’m sorry” are two effective header words, particularly when delivered instantly, for free. I mean, who isn’t going to open an email full of slobbering servility. Still, I couldn’t help wondering how long a snail mail marketer would survive a similar trail of error. That’s when I realized that – unlike email – direct mail almost never has occasion to apologize.

How come?

1. A Barrier To Junk Entry. Mail that doesn’t work costs the sender dearly in dollars wasted, so mistakes can lead to termination (and I don’t mean that in a good way).

2. Quality-control Infusion. While direct mail goofs and typos can creep in (some of them quite deadly), direct mail materials pass through many hands and many stages of proofreading. (Note, the pressman himself is often proofreading.)

3. People Plus Machines. Direct mail insertions (“attachments,” in email parlance) are mechanized by regularly calibrated machines. If the direct mail package calls for lift notes, response cards, brochures, or BREs, chances are high that the attachments will be “in there.” On the other hand, email appears to eat its attachments (and often).

4. A Multi-Staged Dance. Direct mail campaigns encompass a series of steps, each requiring considerable finesse: planning, offer development, budgeting, approval, scheduling, targeting, creative, list analysis and procurement, production, mailing, testing, retesting, fulfillment, etc. Each sequence weeds out the unfit. Note: In all fairness – though not yet there -- email marketing is moving to the same sort of complex, integrated online campaign. Yea!

Admittedly, the direct mail “oops!” is not unheard of. Dan Kennedy, writing for Glazer-Kennedy’s Insiders Circle, disclosed a couple of very interesting direct mail boos-boos. In both situations, direct mailers turned a sorry situation into hot returns, proving, once again, that results are the measure.