Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friday Blog Log, and Happy New Year!

We've come up with an interesting list of links today. Thinking of the New Year, reflecting on 2007 and wondering what 2008 will bring to us...

Thought you'd all be interested in this top ten list of New Years Resolutions. Of course, all of the usual suspects appear--lose weight, get fit, etc. However, topping the list was the resolution to spend more time with friends and family. That's a good one for all of us, no?

We were also intrigued by this Christmas Day post from the Diva Marketing Blog. It talks about how the movie, Miracle on 34th Street can be compared to social marketing. From the movie we all know and love:
"The CEO of a major retail organization briefs the company's ad department. "No high pressuring and forcing the customer to take something he doesn't want. We'll be known as the helpful store. The friendly store. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profit. The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before."
Yes, the concept DOES sound familiar to the social marketing we're embracing now.

For another look on social media/marketing, check out Greg Verdino's "7 trends that defined 2007". This provides nice insight into what was significant this year in terms of social marketing, including the rise of Facebook and the less-than-stellar rise of mobile marketing.

And, finally, if you're in the mood for cleaning house, check out this post from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing: Fire 10% of your customers. It contains some pretty practical ideas about how to look at your customer base, and how to evaluate just how profitable they might be.

So, there you have it, a round-up of New Years tips for 2008 and reflections on 2007.

Happy New Year to All!

The Direction of Marketing: Some Ideas to Ponder for the New Year

Maybe it's the holidays . . . maybe it's the specific projects that we're engaged in right now . . . but I'm sensing a real change in the direct marketing landscape. Don't get me wrong, as we discussed yesterday, we're still struggling with finding the ultimate solutions for many of the same problems of the past 10 years, too. However, I sense a change in the proverbial marketing weather.

And, apparently I'm not alone in this thinking. As a matter of fact, in a recent post from James Cherkoff, Director at Collaborative Marketing in the UK, he outlines what he sees as this changing landscape. Here are Cherkoff’s thoughts: “Lots of the ideas that seemed radical a few years ago are now accepted as the norm. And many disruptive trends are now presumed to be long-term change. For instance, the idea that television must be reinvented or die is hardly worth the breath and, hey, did you know people don't like interruptive marketing? Search (aka The Database of Intentions) is now more than just a handy function but the way we organise our lives. Also, now that everyone is joined up outside of traditional institutions, it's clear that people regard peers as the purest form of accurate information.” We've definitely seen this to be the case -- particularly this year with the huge expansion and adoption of social media.

It’s not all about online-marketing though. Traditional direct marketing ideas are also being challenged. Our clients are consistently trying to improve their DM campaigns through the use of analytics and more precise targeting. While the use of intelligent analytical methods has been in place for many years now, direct marketers are getting smarter about how to apply analytics to the “right” data source to most effectively reach the most responsive audiences.

Meanwhile, database marketers are requiring more flexible database solutions to house their customer and prospect data. They are also requiring more intelligent analytical tools to better mine the data within their databases. Database solutions providers are struggling to change their paradigm of how to keep up with these needs. We've found that in working with a lot of the database marketing giants, it is difficult -- if not darn near impossible -- to come up with a streamlined database solution that our clients can quickly implement and not spend a fortune on. Interestingly enough, even those companies who have the capabilities to provide the data, the database and the analytical tools can't see clear to providing integrated solutions without breaking the client's budget. So, we're always on the lookout for a nimble and flexible provider in this industry that can meet our client needs -- and exceed our expectations. And this requirement is not going away . . . it is what the customer will continue to demand.

Finally, the idea that there is some sort of "norm" out there for a marketing strategy is just dead wrong. The only consistent factor that we've seen is that the landscape is constantly shifting. Our clients are consistently changing direction and areas of focus with the changing economy. And, this seems to be the case across industries. As we consult with our clients, it has become an exercise of starting from a blank page and crafting an idea of the strategy to go forward with -- but never carving anything in stone.

I guess the over-riding theme here is that as direct marketers, we need to possess the ability to be Gumby-like. We have to be flexible and fast. We need to be able to sense the change in the weather, and then respond to it with lightning-like speed. More than ever, being tuned in to your client's needs -- and really listening -- are the qualities that will create marketing success for us in 2008.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just How Important is Real-Time?

I remember about 5 years ago when I worked at Experian. The hot topic when we'd get together for sales meetings and to discuss what our clients (large financial services and telecom firms) needed was real-time customer interaction. We felt that if we could develop technologies and data integration techniques to enable access to up-to-the-minute customer data, our clients would be able to now fulfill their CRM dreams.

They'd be able to offer the customer the exact right product that they'd be interested in, at that specific point in time. Think of how happy the customers would be; think of the extra profits to be made.

Now, 5 years later, I see that the real-time dream hasn't really made it to reality.

Most firms still struggle to pull data from IT. If the data is only a week old, that's a good thing. Analysis is one-off and project-based. Rarely (except for web analytics) do senior managers have the ability to access up-to-the minute transaction and customer data.

I found an article that supported my opinion (that we're still pretty far away from realizing real-time) in From the article:

"A few years ago, everyone was talking about the real-time enterprise and how it was destined to be the future. The idea was that companies would be instantaneously aware of any important business events taking place so that they could respond appropriately and immediately.

But that has not happened because of both the cost and complexity of such a proposition."

The article goes on to state that the cost of implementing true real-time technology rarely justifies the new-found benefits. It outlines three areas where companies are starting to consider real-time applications:
  1. Real-time Reporting Systems--where executives will have access to timely reports so that they can make best-informed business decisions.
  2. Business Activity Monitoring--where transaction and customer behavior is monitored in real-time. A certain activity may 'trigger' an action from the firm. A classic example is in the area of risk management--when a firm sees that a customer has started paying other bills more slowly, they change the way their own collections department treats this customer. Typically, they move to a more aggressive collections strategy.
  3. Real-time Data Mining--where an agent (typically at a call center) has access to up-to-the-minute customer data so that they can offer the consumer the most appropriate product/service at the point in time that the customer calls them, or comes to them with service issues.
The article concludes with a couple of case studies of companies that implemented true real-time applications.

Lessons learned:
  • As much as we direct marketers talk the CRM story, we're still pretty far away from real-time, in most cases.
  • Where real-time technology has been proven a success, it's only because the firms that tackled the issue faced it logically and found small areas where they could reap immediate and measurable benefits, hence justifying the expense.
We'd love to hear your experiences. Do you have a story where real-time data access worked? Or, where a significant investment was made, only to have it fail?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Blog Log

Welcome to another edition of our Friday Blog Log! Here are our Links of the Week for your enjoyment!

1) Charles Green's Trust Matters: In this Trusted Advisors post, Charles discusses how "issues of the commons show up first in government, later in business, because government by default gets the un-economic propositions. But the issues are increasingly not unique to government." He goes on to state just how trust issues impact business. And if you read our post yesterday, you know that this is an area that we are so very passionate, that every now and again, it causes us to rant. This is a great post, and the comments are very thought-provoking as well.

2) Bob Sullivan's InfoGrow: In Bob's post, he reviews The Association of National Advertisers Conference, where attendees were polled on topics around sales and marketing effectiveness. Another area in which we are passionate is using analytical intelligence in your direct marketing strategy. In this study, attendees polled think that utilizing an analytical approach, along with an effective creative strategy, will be the most important difference makers in 2008. Take a look at the other interesting nuggets that came out of this poll.

3) Paul Paetz AKA The Anti-Marketer: In Paul's most recent post, he discusses "a classic example of what Christensen labels "cramming" in his discussion of disruption theory." He goes on to define this concept: "Basically, incumbents often ignore disruptions until it is too late to do anything about it, and then make valiant attempts to "cram" the disruptive innovations into their existing offering to try to forestall or block the disruption." Paul gives some past examples of cramming that definitely resonated with me. The topic is very intriguing -- and it will be interesting to see if the "cram" that he refers to (the Wall Street Journal recently added a Digg widget to the end of their online articles) proves to be successful. Very interesting reading!

4) Jim Berkowitz's CRM Mastery E-Journal: Here Jim discusses the first of 7 Deadly Claims: Superior Customer Service. Yep, another area of our passion. His comments are dead on. He talks about how making this claim without backing it up by actually having superior customer service can, yes, in fact, be quite deadly. He also discusses how you create excellent customer service by actually wowing your customers, as opposed to stating it all over the place. OK -- I promise not to get started on another rant. We think you'll really enjoy this post, too. It is filled with insightful ideas on the topic, and he's got six more deadly claims to go (actually, 2 and 3 are already waiting for us)!

5) Jaren Angerbauer's post on the Digital Marketing Blog: In this post, Jaren discusses how to effectively manage old or inactive e-mail accounts. With the increasing importance of e-mail marketing in our multi-channel marketing strategy, this post provides some great insight for our consideration.

We hope you enjoy all of these posts as much as we did! And, TGIF, by the way -- don't drink too much eggnog on this Holiday weekend!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lack of Service in Direct Marketing Industry

A forewarning--I'm grumpy today. Get ready for a rant.

It's not the holiday blues; nothing bad going on in my personal life. No. Today, my beef is with my own beloved industry, Direct Marketing, and the companies that service this industry. Is it only me, or has customer service from large corporations gone down-hill?

This week has been a doozy. One firm (not to mention any names, but it is a large consumer credit bureau) has decided to pull the rug out from under us, change sales reps midstream while we're in the midst of a large project. To make matters worse, they're throwing more contracts at us and we fear that they plan on increasing our price for data that we have already sold to the client (at the lower price). How is that the right way to treat a customer?

Here's another example: Another vendor (a huge player in the DM industry) sees RRW as a competitive threat as opposed to a client. We're spending serious money with them on behalf of our clients. Yet, we have a difficult time in getting them to deliver what they promise or even provide information that will enable us to more effectively sell their products and services. It's always a battle -- and it's the oddest thing, it makes absolutely no sense.

Overall, we see sales reps who don't seem to care about their clients (or their employers, for that matter). We see senior managers that are WAY too far away from the customer and more worried about pleasing their boss. We see that anytime we want to purchase something that is not generic, or 'off-the-shelf'--something that we need to customize, we run into problems. Employees of these large firms are apathetic; they don't want to take the time and they don't seem to want to make the sale.

Is it just us, or is this something that you're seeing out there? We'd love to hear your battles and stories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) More Important than Ever!

In this faltering economy, direct marketers need to make use of every possible strategy to gain the loyalty of their customers and prospects. As you know, we're big believers in utilizing social media as part of the overall marketing strategy. Part of participating in this brave, new world is extending your reach via Word-of-Mouth (WOM).

In a recent article from BizReport, WOM is examined and is reported as being "seriously underestimated by many communicators and often overlooked as a valuable component to a communications strategy." These are the new findings in the annual “Media, Myths and Realities” report from Ketchum and the USC Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center. The study reports that "less than a quarter (24 percent) of communicators have a word-of-mouth strategy in place." At first blush, this may not alarm you, however, when you consider that WOM is estimated to grow from $981 million in 2007 to $1 billion in 2008, with a continuing upward trend forecasted through 2011 . . . well, let's just say it may be high time to get a WOM strategy in place!

WOM is simply about looking at your prospective audience as a "public of one," as opposed to creating messages for the masses. Said differently, this means that marketers must begin to provide "relevant, meaningful and entertaining content that their audiences will feel inclined to share with others."

In this frenetic shopping season, we marketers can't help but feel the impact of advertisers and the myriad of messages aimed at us -- just like the rest of the consumers out there. And, as we examine our own actions, it is now more apparent than ever that we seek out products and services that we are interested in . . . and are becoming better and better at filtering out what is not relevant or meaningful to us. This is exactly why WOM is so important to consider right now as we communicate with our customers and prospects. As the Ketchum-USC study suggests, "Communicators must focus on speaking to individuals, not just broadcasting to the masses, when getting their messages across to this new 'public of one.'"

The net net . . . creating messaging that appears to be highly individualized, highly targeted and perfect for each one of us.

Data Collection Can Be a Customer Benefit

We write a lot about consumer privacy and how it's so very important that companies treat customer information like gold--that they guard it as carefully as they would any other important asset.

But, as a direct marketer, and one who strongly believes in the power of data and analytics, my mind tends to veer in the direction of: What can I do with this data, now that I have it? What can I up-sell my customers? How can I find more people that look exactly like my most profitable customers?

If you REALLY want to be successful, however, you need to flip the coin and start to think about what the data can do for your customer, NOT what it can do for you. (Oh boy, I'm channeling JFK--scary!)

This article from Destination CRM
, brings my point home. It talks about how Amazon now lets consumers edit their purchase history (taking out gifts, for example) to fine-tune their recommendation process. Consumers willingly do this because they have become dependent on Amazon's recs. This point underlined the power of being transparent--letting customers know what you are collecting about them, and why the data is being collected.

"Giving the data back to the customers is just the first step, however. The next is to show customers what they can do with it. This can be in the form of tools like recommendations engines that help customers better find what they are looking for."

The article provides some good ideas of how companies could use customer data to improve the consumers' shopping experience. It points out how apparel retailers, if they mined their data properly, are well-positioned to "develop recommendations systems that can suggest clothes that go with what you have, and best complement your body type." Now, that would be a tool that I could use!

Another example is Home Depot who already offers a tool that helps customers green their home. The article suggests that "with a portfolio of all the appliances you currently have in your home, Home Depot could proactively recommend new products and strategies that can help customers keep their homes green." This is another benefit to eco-conscious consumers.

I really like the thought of thinking of the customer first as you develop database strategies and data collection initiatives. I've love to hear other interesting ideas, or case studies where this was done properly. How did the customer benefit from data collection/analysis in projects you've worked on?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Case Study Monday: Responsys and Intrawest

As many of you know, the National Center for Database Marketing Conference (NCDM) was held last week in Las Vegas! For our Case Study Monday, we wanted to highlight the winners of the 2007 NCDM Database Excellence Award in MultiChannel Marketing. This year it went to Responsys and Intrawest for delivering a "winning customer experience through e-mail, direct mail and call center." That's what we call a slam dunk!

Here's their success story as outlined in Marketwire:
Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and marketing automation solutions, and Intrawest, the world leader in experiential destination resorts, announced today they have won the prestigious National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM) Database Excellence Award for outstanding achievement in the Multichannel Marketing category.

The winning "Destination Countdown Campaign" was selected for a Silver Award from hundreds of highly qualified direct marketing initiatives based on originality, customer centricity and measurable results. The groundbreaking campaign targeted resort visitors with a perfectly timed sequence of high-impact, highly individualized email and direct mail communications, and significantly boosted resort bookings and customer loyalty for Intrawest.

"Intrawest understands that great marketing involves delivering a difference at every customer touch point and across multiple channels," said Scott Olrich, Chief Marketing Officer, Responsys. "It is exceedingly rewarding to work with leading resort company Intrawest to set a new standard for sequenced multichannel communications that drive sales and positive brand sentiment. We are thrilled to share this NCDM award honor with them."

Intrawest developed the groundbreaking Destination Countdown Campaign in order to deliver the best customer experience to travelers from around the world. The company designed a triggered marketing campaign to offer lift tickets, ski schools, ski rentals and activities to customers who had made a reservation through the web site or Intrawest call center. Customers received highly targeted emails prior to the check-in date that were tailored to their individual purchase profile and familiarity with the resort. The messages included snow reports and useful information regarding weather conditions and transportation services. Post-reservation, the program sent personalized direct mail and email campaigns to ensure customers were satisfied with their resort experience and to secure return visits.

"As a leading owner and operator of North America's most exciting resort destinations, it's important that we interact with our customers in ways that work best for them," said Randy Cuff, Director, CRM Development, Intrawest. "This means that we need to leverage all the necessary channels in a way that is relevant to each customer. Responsys helps us develop smart multichannel marketing campaigns that drive huge increases in sales and customer loyalty."

Organized jointly by DIRECT Magazine and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the NCDM Database Excellence Awards are presented during this year's NCDM conference in Las Vegas, December 10-12, 2007. The awards, which are judged by leading experts in the field of database marketing, honor organizations that have demonstrated ingenuity and creativity in leveraging their marketing databases.

Kudos to both organizations for utilizing multiple channels to create a winning customer experience!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Blog Log

It's Friday again! Time for a re-cap of some of our favorite blog posts this week.

  1. Kevin Hillstrom of Mine that Data started an interesting conversation around the "It" employee--that employee who regardless of clout within a specific organization, still manages to gain respect and get things done. He brings up some interesting thoughts about how a firm can best use this type of leadership and skill-set.
  2. Since it's the season for holiday and holiday gifts, this post, Here Comes the Fruitcake, by Drew McLellan hit me as being pretty darn funny and pretty darn true. It sparked some thoughts around how corporate gifts can help contribute (or not) to that firm's brand. Something to ponder in this gift-giving season.
  3. We enjoyed this post from Elana Anderson, all about customer retention. She provides five steps to help understand retention. Since her tips were all about analytics and measurement, they are right up our alley. Good stuff!
  4. This post definitely resonated with fellow-bloggers! Ron Shevlin of Marketing ROI, put forth his blogging resolutions for next year. Others joined in--should be an interesting year! Be on the look-out for RRW video blogging--you'll be sick of seeing our faces, believe me :)
  5. And, finally, from Being Peter Kim, this post that talks about new Forrester research on the role of the CMO. "CMOs aren't seizing the opportunity to lead their organizations to customer-centricity." Hmmmm. What's even better, is that Peter provides a link to the research that you can download, for FREE!

Have a wonderful weekend. Get those cookies baked, those gifts purchased. And, stay warm!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Checklist: Direct Marketing Segmentation Ideas

As we work with our clients, it becomes more and more apparent that having an advanced segmentation game plan is important to your success. This is such an important idea that we've written a white paper on this very topic. In today's post, we wanted to give you an overview of our thought-process on this concept. In our humble opinions, if you use analytics, smart business sense and tactical/practical deployment, you'll be able to better target and sell to your customers and prospects.

Here's our Checklist for Effective Direct Marketing Segmentation:

1. It's all in the Analytics! It's important to have an analyst who not only knows statistics, but who also has an excellent grasp on real business needs and objectives. Oftentimes, we've seen our customers engage really intelligent statisticians who don't understand what the business is attempting to accomplish. This is a recipe for disaster and a lot of wasted time and money. Statistics alone don't get you a lot. Additionally, if you have to take your valuable time to figure out how to utilize them -- or force them to fit your business scenario -- it equates to a lot of lost effort and frustration.

2. Make It Actually Work. Sometimes, if you don't plan correctly, segmentation systems are too complicated to actually use. I know, logic tells us that we are too smart to allow this to happen -- but we've seen really bright people who didn't put enough forethought into how they were going to use their segmentation schemes, and were actually stymied as to how to make them work once they were delivered. Start simply -- and ensure that you've mapped out the important business factors that will drive your segmentation schemes. Ensure that you're not over-customizing or making your system overly complex because, we've seen that when this happens, the segmentation systems sit on the shelves and never get used because they are so difficult to understand and implement.

3. Now, Use Your Segmentation Schemes! Now that you've gotten the insight from your business-savvy analyst, and she's provided you with a system that is simple -- yet accurate -- it's time to have some fun! Perhaps you'll start with tweaking a couple of your creatives to better speak to those segments that are found to be most highly profitable. Look at who your customers are and figure out how to best get your message to them -- and to have them react to it in a positive way.

It's really that simple. If you put some thought into who you use and what direct marketing problem that you want to solve through the creation of a solid segmentation scheme, you are going to be able to more accurately speak to those customers and prospects with the important messages about your products or services. We've seen some great successes with our clients when we've worked with them on building intelligent segmentation schemes. This can prove to be highly profitable -- because you are marketing intelligently and using the right messaging for each customer segment.

If you'd like to read our full white paper on this subject, either comment on this post or send us an email to We'll send it over to you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Affiliate Marketing or "Kickback"?

You be the judge.

We're all familiar with affiliate/partner marketing in the financial services industry. It's especially prevalent in credit card marketing where it is a common practice for an organization to partner with a credit card provider. The credit card company offers a card "branded" with that organization and markets the personalized card to the organizations' members. Yes, the organization DOES make money from this deal.

This type of affiliate marketing is used by major universities, non-profits, professional sports teams--just about any organization that a consumer might have a strong tie to.

So, here's the question--should a similar plan be used by student loan firms? New York Attorney Andrew Cuomo certainly doesn't think so. On the heels of yesterday's news (see our blog post for our take on this), where a new student lending code of conduct was announced, comes this story from Florida.

Florida Lender to End `Kickback' Ties to Colleges

"Student Financial Services Inc., the Clearwater, Florida, student loan provider, agreed to end revenue-sharing relationships with colleges and their athletic departments, in a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Student Financial Services Inc., which does business under the name University Financial Services, will end what Cuomo called ``a kickback scheme'' with 63 schools and five sports-marketing companies.

The Florida direct marketing company paid the schools for generating loans and for the right to use school names, team names, mascots and logos to advertise directly to students, Cuomo said today in a statement."

Here's my take on this--it seems pretty slimy. If the average student truly believed that the school was behind the student loan, then Cuomo is absolutely right in stopping this activity.

I would love to hear opinions on this? Is this worse than what credit card companies have done for many years, targeting the student market with a credit card branded with their school's logo/mascot?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Direct Marketing for Financial Services

I've spent a good part of my career helping financial services companies market their loans and other products. So, I'm always on the look-out for news that impacts this industry. Two stories, today, caught my eye.

Article #1: Freeze affects mortgage DM

The article discusses how Bush's short-term plan to freeze mortgage rates will negatively impact the struggling mortgage industry. Ok, I know that there is not too much sympathy for mortgage marketers at this point, but bear with me. Here is the new issue in a nut-shell: Since the mortgage industry blow-up, many of the surviving mortgage companies changed their tactics from focusing on adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans to offering fixed-rates loans to holders of ARMs. Now that ARM rates are freezing (based on Bush's plan), they are going to have to switch gears again and some may go out of business.

And, this in an industry that has already seen huge declines. "According to Mintel Comperemedia research, the number of mortgage direct mail offers declined 62% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year." Companies like Ameriquest (who in their hey day, mailed tens of millions of direct mail pieces EACH MONTH. A decline like this naturally has impacted my fellow direct marketers, in addition to the mortgage co's. And, you know I HATE that.

Article #2: NY: New code for student lenders

This article reports on the Attorney General's push to implement a code of conduct to be followed by student loan marketers (the industry that is being most highly scrutinized in the wake of the mortgage fiasco). This one seems reasonable to me. It's all about full disclosure--ensuring that the student audience understands what they are getting into when they sign on the dotted line for a student loan.

"Under the agreement, companies would have to sign a uniform disclosure statement that would require them to list an annual percentage rate and provide students with an estimate of what their monthly payment would be and the amount they would pay for the life of the loan, the official said.

Lenders would also be prohibited from using false insignia or other devices that appear to be part of the federal government. They also won't be able to use checks, deceptive rebate offers or other gimmicks to entice students."

I truly hope that the student loan marketers out there do not need this code of conduct to guide them into doing what's right for their customers. What we've seen recently in this industry, is a new understanding that if you bring on a student as your customer, you may be a preferred financial services partner for that student for life. A life-time relationship is definitely a good thing. And, smart student lenders understand that they won't instill that type of life-long loyalty by using gimmicks or trying to cheat their customers.

And, just by seeing what's happened, and continues to happen to their mortgage cousins, it's clear that providing products that are fair to the consumer and yet still bring value to the bank are the best way to help ensure long-term stability.

That's how I feel, at least :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Case Study Monday: Manchester United

Senior Editor, Chantal Tode, of DM News brings us today's Case Study -- and it's a great one! This Case Study proves once again that when you utilize creativity within your direct mail campaigns, you will achieve excellent response and conversion rates.

Situation: As one of the most popular English football teams in the world, selling tickets isn’t an issue for Manchester United. The problem was that season ticket holders weren’t renewing until a few games into the season, delaying cash flow. In addition, the football club wanted to migrate season ticket holders over to its brand-new online ordering service, thereby reducing the significant resources dedicated to processing phone, mail and walk-in orders.

Approach: Interactive gift card publisher Serious USA Inc. helped Manchester United develop a direct mail campaign that went out to 60,000 season ticket holders in 28 countries. Approximately 50% of the mailing were mailed to names in the UK, 40% to the rest of Europe and 10% to the US. Attached to the inside of the trifold mailer was an interactive CD card which contained content such as interactive seat views letting users experience the view of the stadium from any seat in the stadium and exclusive branded wallpaper and screensavers. With one click, users were redirected to the Manchester United web site, where they could renew online. Season ticket holders who renewed by May 31 were entered into a sweepstakes.

“People are already in the computer domain when they’ve gotten the CD,” so it’s a compelling way to drive online sales, said David Brown, CEO at Serious. Plus, the exclusive content provided a way “to make sure recipients felt excited about the season and the brand,” Brown continued.

Results: Click-thru’s came from 28 different countries, with 54% of recipients clicking thru to various areas on the Web site. Over 20,000 season tickets were sold by the end of May, a month earlier than usual and 60% of these were renewed online.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Blog Log

Welcome to another Friday Blog Log! This is where we highlight some of our favorite blog posts from the week. This week, we'd like to start out with a couple of posts that made us laugh out loud (can't do the LOL thing - sorry). The cool thing about a few of these posts is that they used the best new idea in blogging -- video.

1. Robert Rosenthal's The Web 2.0 Bubble Song is Sweeping the Nation. This post is absolutely hilarious, and highlights a group of San Francisco businessmen called the Richter Scales. The song causes us to ponder if the social media bubble will actually burst -- similarly to the dotcom situation. Trust me, this one will tickle your sense of humor!

2. Sidecar's Blogger's Union Strike. This video is quite the spoof. It's very funny -- and even more hysterical are the comments attached to the video. Take a look -- and we hope you enjoy it.

3. OK, back to the good, solid Direct Marketing stuff . . . Dean Rieck's, Happiness Drives Consumer Behavior. Dean discusses how happiness is behind all that we do as marketers, as well as what we do as consumers. He also links over to the discussion of how "people power" can really enhance the effectiveness of your direct marketing efforts.

4. Ted Grigg's Fundraising -- a Respected Member of the Direct Marketing Industry. Here, Ted focuses on how the not-for-profit industry has changed their mindset on how to create long-lasting relationships with donors. . . and how this translates to for-profit direct marketing. After all, we're all humans -- and whether we're donating to our favorite charity or purchasing a holiday gift, we go through a similar thought process. Again, a very thought-provoking post.

5. Finally, to leave you with a little holiday spirit (and to highlight another video), I thought I'd highlight our friend (and fellow Laker fan) Adam Sandler and his video, The Hannukah Song. No matter what holiday you celebrate, you gotta love Adam!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Making Actual Money with Social Marketing

I'm always on the look-out for examples on how to use social marketing to add to the bottom line. How do you use social networks like Facebook or blogs to sell stuff? How can I add social marketing to my direct marketing arsenal and also prove an ROI to my clients?

Well, I was pleased as the proverbial holiday punch to find this article today:

'Tis the Season to Be Social: Five Ways to Tap Into Social Shopping

The article provides some handy lists of tips, including: 5 ways to use social marketing, 3 social shopping factors to understand and get right, 5 social shopping caveats and 5 social shopping metrics to consider. I'm not gonna list all of these tips (each group is fantastic, by the way), but I will list here their 5 ways to use social marketing to actually sell things. All of these tips leverage word-of-mouth to get products noticed and sold.

  1. They suggest that retailers participate in "newer forms of social shopping, such as StyleFeeder, Stylehive, Kaboodle, and ThisNext. At a minimum, join and monitor the activity around your products. Consider advertising on these sites and evolving affiliate marketing plays, such as Lemonade.
  2. Create or join fan groups on major social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn.
  3. Participate in the conversation through community boards or blogs to provide a conduit for customers to get product and related information and engagement. Examples include 1-800 Flowers', Stacks and Stacks' Clutter Control Freak Blog, and Sleep Number Beds' community site.
  4. Leverage customer comments and reviews on your site or through other sites and blogs, such as BizRate, Epinions, and Trusted Opinion.
  5. Provide widgets to enable customers to get your information either on a social networking site or directly on their computer. Product data feeds can be leveraged to feed into widgets, and even if your firm's data isn't formatted for this type of execution, companies like Performics can help you convert it."
Now, these are some tips I can use--tangible ideas that I can bring to my clients and show them how to maximize social media. It makes me excited to test the concept and I'm running through our client list to decide who we can bring these ideas to, first.

And, kinda off-topic, but something I found interesting and a useful tidbit for my blogger friends out there: "According to October 2007 comScore results, roughly one of every seven minutes spent online is in conversational media (social media and blogs); specifically, conversational media sites average 12.4 minutes per usage day out of the 86 minutes spent on the Internet in total."

So, yes, people ARE reading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Changing Landscape of E-Mail Marketing

During 2007, we have seen our clients integrate more e-mail marketing campaigns into their direct marketing strategy. And, we've had the opportunity to partner with leading e-mail marketing firms -- like Take5 Solutions -- who do e-mail marketing right. The rub is that there is still a lot of spam out there, and there are those companies who don't pay any attention to the whole idea of permission-based marketing. And that is the reason, my friends, that e-mail marketing still has a bad reputation. Just as with the other channels of direct marketing, when done correctly, e-mail marketing has been found to be both highly responsive and a relatively inexpensive channel.

Luckily for us, fellow blogger, CEO and founder of mobileStorm, Jared Reitzin, has recently written an article for DM News on how difficult it is to actually get your e-mail message into the desired person's Inbox. According to Reitzin, it's all about building a good e-mail marketer reputation. Doing this will ensure that your message does, indeed, reach it's destination -- and, more importantly, get read and incite a response.

Because of the problem of spam, e-mail marketers have had to become skillful at making this happen. As the article states: "According to Return Path, an e-mail performance solutions company, more than 20 percent of permission-based e-mails go undelivered. This accounts for billions of dollars in lost revenue. The rules keep changing and marketers need to adapt, or it’s going to hurt their pocket books."

So what can you do to keep up with the ISP's and their ever-changing spam protection criteria? Luckily for us, Reitzin gives us some good insight:

Below are the four most important things you need to take care of if you want to be a reputable e-mail marketer:

Complaints: Complaints logged against your campaigns are a key component to your sender reputation. Sending e-mails too often, or sending messages with irrelevant content and adding people without their knowledge, are a few ways to get in trouble. Avoid complaints by practicing permission, setting expectations and understanding your audience.

List Cleansing: It is important to have a list that has been built naturally and with the subscribers’ permission. It needs to be maintained and scrubbed for invalid e-mail addresses, dead e-mail addresses and, most important, unsubscribe requests and complaints.

Consistent List/Brand Matching: A common mistake by e-mail marketers is to assume that because you have captured an e-mail address for one brand, you have permission to e-mail them about another. You earn your reputation by keeping every brand separate and distinct from each other. Include this policy in your privacy agreements.

Relevant Messages: The days of “batch and blast” are long gone. Nowadays, it is all about making sure your intended recipients find the campaign relevant. If you are a pet supply store, don’t send dog food offers to parakeet owners. A solid e-mail marketing platform that allows you to create targets will go a long way for your reputation.

This is great counsel -- and let's be honest, none of this is that difficult. Just think about what you read and delete in your own Inbox. It's annoying to get a marketing message when you aren't interested in the subject matter. And both consumers and businesses have become very sensitive to spam. We simply don't have enough time to have to go through all of the unwanted e-mail marketing messages we get in a day. And, similarly to when the National Do-Not-Call Registry (DNC) was created and legislated, those folks who do receive your message (or in the case of DNC, the telemarketing call) are going to be a lot more likely to listen to what you have to say. With permission-based e-mail, your potential or existing customers have told you that they want hear from you about your products and services. It's a lot easier to sell something to someone who is interested than to someone who isn't.

We'd love to hear your input on how you've created successful e-mail marketing programs. If you have any success stories, please share them and we'll highlight you in an upcoming Case Study Monday!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Customer Trust is So Important...

We work so very hard to get our customers to like us, to buy from us and, ultimately, to trust us. Isn't trust really the epitome of customer loyalty?

Then you read about customer trust gone awry, as in the case of Target misusing social media. It kills me that one of the few huge corporations that actually buys into the value of communicating with customers and prospects through social networks didn't put into practice what I believe is the very essence of social networking. A little thing called Honesty.

From the Star Tribune article: Target, "the Minneapolis-based discount retailer is being outed in online blogs and discussed in college ethics classes after students allied with the company (Rounders) were told to "keep it like a secret" while singing the company's praises on the social network site"

Target gave their 'Rounders' discounts, CDs and other prizes for marketing Target products to their Facebook friends and providing the company with feedback.

Rounders were okay with this concept (heck, they loved the free SWAG!), until in one campaign, they were instructed by a Target-sponsored newsletter to "try not to let on in the Facebook group that you are a Rounder."

As you can imagine, this rubbed some kids the wrong way and (take note here) one Rounder used the Facebook forum to 'out' Target. I love the irony of using the very medium that Target was attempting to control to put out the honest story.

Lesson learned: if you are trying to generate a buzz for your product on places like Facebook, MySpace or even in the blogosphere, do it with integrity. Let your product virtues sell themselves. Manipulation will most likely backfire on you, creating the exact opposite effect of what you were trying to achieve.

Yes, Target did get some word-of-mouth. Sadly, I don't think that this is the exact kind of 'buzz' they were hoping to generate...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Case Study Monday: The Bridge Group and Eloqua

It's Case Study Monday again -- are you starting to look forward to Monday's yet? All right, call me PollyAnna, but it's always good to be able to learn from a good analysis of how to make our lives better by using proven approaches that net out in positive results. Today, we're going to look at a Case Study from The Bridge Group. Since 1998, The Bridge Group has specialized in building, evolving or validating inside sales strategies for their technology clients. Trish Bertuzzi, President of The Bridge Group, responded to my LinkedIn question about contributing Case Studies -- and we appreciate her response. The Bridge Group has a virtual plethora of really great ones -- check out their website for yourself.

This particular case study has to do with how the successful integration between your marketing and sales groups can increase your sales results. As you know, this is an area that we are passionate about. If you can enable effective communication between these two groups, we believe that you are destined for success. Without it, you are destined for a lot of frustration, inefficiency, and eventually, failure. I know, tough words. But, time and time again, we have seen really intelligent marketing groups provide targeted leads to sales -- only to have them fall through the cracks and not get worked. And, to be fair, we have seen really great sales organizations who are not happy with marketing because of their perception of low-quality leads that are being supplied to them. It's definitely a conundrum.

In addition, we think this case study points out that it is sometimes imperative to bring in an outside, unbiased perspective to help you identify those areas that may need to be improved.

Check out this case study. Again, if you have one you'd like to contribute, just let us know and we'll highlight your success story on an upcoming Monday.

Here's The Bridge Group's Success Story:

Growing Pains in Marketing & Sales
Eloqua recognizes the importance of a focused sales and marketing selling approach. So when Thor Johnson and Keith Nealon analyzed their customer base and decided they needed to prospect and sell to larger sized companies, they knew it was critical for them retool their marketing and sales strategies. To help them with this, they decided to seek the advice of an outside consulting firm for expertise and a fresh perspective.

RRW note: Again, we think this is an excellent idea! Sometimes, it is extremely difficult to get outside of your own situation and truly see specific areas for improvement because you are so closely involved in your day-to-day fire-drills. It makes a lot of sense to seek an outside perspective when this is the case. The key here is being able to identify that this is the case . . . and this is not always easy.

After numerous cold calls from The Bridge Group, Thor and Keith realized that they each had colleagues who knew of and had worked with Trish Bertuzzi, The Bridge Group’s president. After some informal reference checking on the company’s inside sales expertise, Thor found out that “Trish is a pro who knows what she’s doing and is someone that I should take seriously.” Keith’s inquiries supported Thor’s findings. “A former colleague highly recommended The Bridge Group and because of the conversations I had had with Trish, I knew they were experts in setting up inside sales models. I felt like we could benefit from their ‘lessons learned’ from past engagements so we decided to bring them in.”

RRW Note: Another great idea . . . check out the company that you are interested in bringing in. When you talk with other folks who have worked with the outside consultant that you are interested in bringing in, you will find out exactly the way that your business will be able to profit by bringing in that expertise. On the other hand, you'll also find out if you really shouldn't spend the money with that specific firm! Net-net, it's always good to ask the questions.

Zeroing In On Core Issues

The Bridge Group initially started out with an assessment of Eloqua’s current situation through a series of interviews with key executives and members from both the marketing and sales teams. According to Keith, “The Bridge Group was very responsive to our needs as far as learning our business. They reviewed how the marketing and sales teams were engaging with prospects and customers, how the teams were engaging with each other, what standards we were using, what common processes existed, and which things were working well.”

After their initial assessment, The Bridge Group created a series of recommendations and then gathered all primary players from the marketing and sales groups together for a two-day meeting with the objective of obtaining agreement on the recommended processes and tools. The meeting included Keith and Thor as well as the directors of the Demand Generation team and the newly formed Inside Sales group.

Keith described the two-day session as a very productive forum, with The Bridge Group being very well informed. “The Bridge Group brought in their observations on where we were at the time, and provided recommendations on what we needed to do to reach our objectives. They produced a comprehensive document in advance which we walked through, page by page, to make sure we were all in agreement.” According to Keith, the meeting was one of the biggest challenges of the whole engagement. “Getting us all to agree on the process steps, from the generation of the lead through to the delivery to field sales, was a challenge. We recognized that it was necessary for us to all agree on what information was needed and how the process would flow.” Keith added, “There were multiple stake-holders present so having The Bridge Group there to provide guidance and remind us of what we were trying to achieve as we debated the whys and wherefores was a great asset in this engagement.”

The Demand Generation Group: Recommendations and Results

For Thor, the recommendations of The Bridge Group were an integral part of the Demand Generation team’s ability to achieve the goal of reaching a more sophisticated prospect. “Helping us clearly describe the prospects we are looking for and learn how to find them were the greatest contributions of The Bridge Group. They recognized that Eloqua, with its current market being half way between early adopter and early majority, is going after a very specific individual as opposed to a specific kind of a company.” Thor added, “The Bridge Group helped us realize that we’re not going after an industry and a title, but an approach and an attitude. They then provided us with a road map for identifying that kind of person.”

According to Thor, the Demand Generation group has now changed the way they go after prospects, based on the recommendations of The Bridge Group. “We’ve modified our vocabulary. The tele-prospecters now have tools and processes that support reaching out to the type of customer who is likely to buy Eloqua.”

The Inside Sales Team: Recommendations and Results

One of the key deliverables of the engagement was an Inside Sales Playbook. According to Keith, “The Bridge Group provided us with everything in the Playbook that we needed in order to set the Inside Sales team up with best practices, such as techniques for outbound calling and objection handling.” As Keith explained, “It’s useful to have the Playbook because it gets new sales people up to speed more quickly. It’s also been helpful when it appears that something is not working – you can see pretty quickly what’s off because we’re engaging in a standard way.”

In addition to the Playbook’s tools, The Bridge Group was instrumental in developing processes involving how the Inside Sales team worked with the field sales force. As Keith described it, “The Bridge Group guided us on how to set up Inside Sales by working in collaboration with the field reps, with recommendations on how to hand off leads and other tactics to avoid field conflict.” According to Keith, the team model that The Bridge Group recommended is working well. “It’s just a question of building trust because you’re asking seasoned field sales people to trust inside sales people to close deals that are in their territory. But because of the conflict-free model that The Bridge Group designed for us, it’s going pretty well.”

As to the overall success of the team, Keith shared that the inside sales reps had been in place for only three months and were able to hit their quota in the first quarter of operation. “I know that The Bridge Group had a key hand in that success.”

The Bridge Group’s Expertise

Throughout the engagement, Keith and Thor recognized the value of The Bridge Group’s extensive knowledge in how to properly set up inside sales tools and processes. Thor, who already has recommended The Bridge Group to several colleagues, shared his impressions of The Bridge Group. “I see The Bridge Group as marketing-oriented selling consultants whose expertise is selling approaches. They understand how best to sell whatever it is you’re trying to sell.” He added, “It worked out nicely that they were able to help both Keith and me with their experience – they were able to help marketing craft the pitch and sales execute the pitch.”

RRW Conclusion: So, here is a case study where bringing in an outside expert really helped a customer to increase sales, while integrating the company's marketing and sales efforts. By getting these two groups into sync, they were able to more effectively distribute marketing's important leads to the various sales organizations, and, in the process make the newly launched inside sales center successful right off the bat.

All in all, a great success story!