Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New SPAM Law Considered in California

Why is it that this type of legislature starts in California? Not sure why, but it actually makes me proud to be a native California gal!

The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Bill toughening anti-spam law in works.

The article discusses the introduction of a new bill whose goal is to go beyond the Federal CAN-SPAM Act and attempt to reduce the amount of SPAM we receive in our in-boxes.
"Details are still up in the air, but the goal is to get tougher on spam, or unwanted e-mail, by prohibiting falsity and deception."
As always, there are two sides to this story. The bill's proponents and co-author Dan Balsam of DAN HATES SPAM, firmly believe that this bill will go a long way in stopping false and deceptive commercial email. They don't believe that CAN-SPAM did enough.
"Federal law has been ineffective at stopping spammers, Balsam said, in part because it prohibits individuals from suing the spammers in federal court. Instead, litigants must rely on California's current law, which does not define what's deceptive or false."

The other interesting viewpoint comes from Direct Magazine and this article, titled Not Again: Anti-Spam Bill Being Crafted in CA. I think you can get the gist of the author's (Ken Magill) viewpoint with this quote:
"Why is it that so many anti-spam activists refuse to understand that spammers are generally breaking about 142 laws every time they hit “send” already, and that a 143rd magical piece of legislation will do nothing to fix the problem that can’t already be accomplished with existing law?

It’s because they hate the Can Spam Act, that’s why. Can Spam doesn’t force marketers to get permission before they mail and it doesn’t give individuals the right to sue. You see, compulsory opt in and private lawsuits are anti-spammers’ magic cure-all for the spam problem.

The individual right to sue in e-mail-related law has already proven to do nothing but create cottage industries of zealots suing legitimate companies. Those are the only ones they can serve, after all."

So, where do we come out on this debate? As a consumer, I hate SPAM (duh!!!), but I truly do see that the SPAM filters are pretty good at determining what is and what isn't SPAM.

As a direct marketer who dabbles in email marketing, I would hate for a legitimate marketing channel to be obliterated due to prohibitive laws. In fact, I see too often that legitimate email doesn't get past the SPAM filters and that's a problem that I wish someone could solve for me.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Using Profitability to Measure Direct Marketing Campaigns

As you know, we are huge proponents of measuring the effectiveness of each and every direct marketing campaign -- and looking specifically at the profitability of all DM efforts. If you don't do this, how can you improve your programs over time to ensure that your profits continue to grow? Further, how do you prove to your leadership team (or yourself) that the costs spent on marketing are well worth the effort?

Our friends at Acxiom have just written about this very topic in their latest newsletter, and they came up with a quick and easy template that you can use for your own direct marketing efforts. We like this simple chart because there are some key takeaways to hone in on no matter what the size of your marketing organization.

Take a look at this chart:

If you were just looking at the response rate to measure the effectiveness of these three tests, you'd think (and probably promote internally) that the campaign with the offer of the free gift was the most successful. I mean, come on, a 2.5% response rate? We'll take that all day long, right?

However, when you look at a slightly bigger picture -- the conversion rate, resulting sales less all other costs -- a whole new story unfolds. And, based upon profitability, you would make an entirely different decision about which campaign was the most effective -- and by far! And, by the way, the test with the free gift offer and the highest response rate is the least profitable of the three campaigns! This picture tells a different story, no?

Granted, you may have a few more categories than this to measure, but the point is that the process can be very straight forward. It doesn't take a team of analysts and as Acxiom's newsletter points out, you can do this over lunch on a napkin!

When you measure the ROI of each campaign, you are putting yourself on a path of continuous improvement. You learn from your mistakes and you take advantage of your brilliance. From our viewpoint, there is no reason not to do this.

So, as you're considering your next DM campaign, take a few extra moments to understand the profitability. When the end of the year rolls around and you begin to look at your P&L, you'll really be glad you did this. And as budgets are scrutinized, marketing will look like a profit-center, not a cost-center. I think we can all agree that this is the desired outcome!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Case Study: Importance of B2B Lead Scoring

You know that we're huge advocates of using statistical techniques to improve marketing performance. So, when I listened to Richard Sharp, VP of Marketing for Marqui speak on the topic of lead scoring at the Innotech e-marketing conference earlier this month, I knew it would be a great session. Richard spoke about how important it is for marketing to qualify leads through an objective scoring system, prior to handing the right leads over to sales.

We couldn't agree more and we decided to highlight a Marqui client success in this Monday's Case Study. This success story comes directly from their sales literature.

Background and Client
Strangeloop Networks develops a family of network appliances designed to help businesses optimize the performance of their website or web-based application. Their business clients can then deliver new features and applications faster and at a lower cost without changes to software code or hardware infrastructure.

Strangeloop Networks was a newly launched company that needed to hit the ground running. With limited marketing staff and budget, they still had to deliver enough sales-ready leads for their team. They had to transform their website from "brochure-ware" into an active lead generation component. They also had to create lead generation campaigns that could easily plug into their existing Salesforce CRM and Google Analytics web analytics package. They wanted a more effective means of evaluating their marketing programs instead of relying on conflicting anecdotal information from their sales team.

Strangeloop selected the Marqui Marketing Automation Suite, as it included key features and guaranteed a fast implementation. The Marqui Marketing Automation Suite provided both web content management and marketing campaign tools, offering a single-vendor solution. Total implementation time including training was only a few weeks before they were able to start running their first lead generation campaign.

  • Executed campaigns 3x faster
  • Reduced budget for external contractors by $14,400 annually
  • Increased conversion rate by 10% each onth
  • Established automated workflow for managing and approving content
  • Ability to track profitability of multi-channel campaigns
All in all, sounds pretty impressive! It's great to see small businesses succeed by being clever, and by choosing the right technology.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Links of the Week!

Another week has come to an end -- so time for the weekend!

To get your weekend started, here are our favorite links this week:

Ron Shevlin's Direct Marketing Whims: Ron has a great blog -- and he is really smart and better than that, he's extremely funny. So, we love reading his posts. Our favorite post this week concerns his favorite industry -- banking -- and how two particular marketing channels (branches and online) interact to create satisfied customers. And, further, he makes the point that particular customers need to be able to interact through different channels -- depending upon their specific preferences. Bottom line: all channels are cost centers but are very important to the customer experience. Our take is that no matter what the industry, if you're utilizing all channels to better serve the customer, and taking the time to understand customer preferences, the costs incurred will be money well spent because you'll keep your customers satisfied -- and loyal to your brand.

With our celebration of Earth Day this week, here is a wonderful post from Dan Smolen's Sturdy Roots blog. Dan is a marketing recruiter, and he specializes in in hooking up environmentally conscious companies with like-minded direct marketing professionals. His post this week was a great one about the need for businesses to embrace the concept of virtual office employees -- especially those outside of sales. Both Suzanne and I have been virtual office employees for most of our professional career -- whether in corporate America or self-employed. It's definitely a good thing -- it saves time, wear-and-tear and the environment. Check out this post -- we think you'll like it. Dan gives some great ideas about how to open your mind to allowing more employees to be virtual, and how to do it most effectively.

Mobilestorm's Digital Marketing blog had a very interesting post this week on how internet video is the 21st Century Gold Rush. The post quotes the NY Times as saying: "A Florida-based producer, whose clips are on varied topics like 'how to turn a flashlight into a laser' and “how to simulate a gunshot wound,” earned more than $102,000 in a year from MetaCafe, which pays content owners according to how many views their videos garner." This is wacky -- but there is a whole revenue-generating world out there making bazillionaires with internet videos. Crazy!

Finally -- and selfishly -- take a listen to my favorite acoustic finger-style guitarist, Steve Berger. Steve also happens to be my husband who has just created a site featuring many of his original songs over the past 25 years or so. I'm pretty proud of him as you can probably tell! If any of you would like to become his fans after listening to his music, please feel free to do so (you just sign up with SoundClick as a listener, then select the "Fan+" button from Steve's page)! Take a listen to the song "Time to Live My Life," which is the story of how Steve made the difficult decision to leave his life in Corporate America to pursue his musical passions. I think that this song will resonate with many!

Have a great weekend!

Grow Your Customer Relationships

You know you're getting old when news doesn't seem like news. You've heard it before. Same old story. Can you relate?

It's certainly how I felt reading this story from DM News: Study says CMOs are failing to use CRM well.
"Marketers worldwide are under-utilizing data and analyt­ics, particularly when it comes to customer retention, according to a recent study released by the Chief Marketing Officer Council.

Only half of marketers have a strategy in place for growing key account relationships, and 45% believe CRM systems are not effective enough. Further, only 15% of companies rated them­selves extremely good or effective at integrating disparate customer data sources, and 6% of marketers reported having “excellent knowl­edge” of customer data such as demographics, psychographics or transactional history."
The article goes on to talk about how so many companies continue to be focused on new customer acquisition and fall short in developing strategies designed to retain the customer.

In today's environment of short-term gratification (we must meet sales goals THIS MONTH; we have to report favorable earnings THIS QUARTER), I tend to understand why a long-term, customer-centric strategy might fall by the wayside. Couple the need for immediate results with an ever-shrinking marketing staff and budget, and I start to wonder how any company can think strategically and look at long-term benefits.

But, here's the kicker--this way of thinking with the customer in mind is a necessity. Customers today are aware of the data and technology that is available to corporations. They see it used to their advantage in their everyday dealings (the classic example is shopping with Amazon). They expect you to know all about them. They want you to anticipate their needs. They need you to serve them the right price plan or the right mix of products. If you won't do it, you're in danger of losing that customer.

It may be time to look at your customer touch-points and make sure that you're doing all you can to keep those customers happy.

Following is a short-list of ideas that might jump-start the evaluation process:
  • Have you empowered your call center or customer service folks to really assist customers calling in with issues? Are they able to make real fixes and solve problems?
  • Do you have a handle on your customer relationships? Have you done the analysis and database work to understand exactly what products and services each customer is buying from you (or has purchased in the past)?
  • Do you have a strategy in-place to make sure that you are maximizing the profit potential from each and every customer? Do you make the right up-sell and cross-sell offers, when the customer is most likely to be shopping?
  • Conversely, do you have a strategy in place to ensure that you are not over-serving your customer? For example, are they on a price plan that is too big for their needs, hence they're paying too much? Trust me, eventually, your customer will realize that they've been paying too much for your service, and they'll leave you. To retain this customer and maximize their lifetime value, perhaps you should be pro-active and "right-size" their plan, before they do...
Luckily, we direct marketers, with our background and experience in data mining and using analytics to understand--and predict--customer behavior, are well-positioned to make a positive impact on customer marketing. Nancy and I have re-focused our direct marketing consulting practice to be centered on analytics and data. It's that important, we believe.

Perhaps it's time to become the customer advocate within your organization!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More on Telecommunications -- AT&T's Success Story

As you know, Suzanne posted yesterday about how some forward-thinking telecommunications companies are marketing themselves more aggressively to keep their customers for the long-term. While it doesn't sound like rocket science, it wasn't so long ago that this just never happened. In the past, it was simply a mind-set of try to bring on as many customers as you lose, and you'll stay even. And, as direct marketers . . . as business-people . . . we know that this is an insane approach!

At the end of her post, Suzanne posed a couple of questions about why the traditional telecommunications giants weren't mentioned in this research and asked for reader comments/opinions.

Well, today, the Washington Post reports that AT&T has just announced a 21.5% gain in the first quarter of 2008. And, this in a time of economic slowdown! The article goes on to report that "The country's largest telecommunications company earned $3.46 billion in the quarter, compared with $2.85 billion in the first quarter of 2007. Revenue rose 6 percent, to $30.74 billion." Um . . . that's "B" for Billion.

Regarding the economic slowdown, CFO Richard G. Lindner said that "apart from some 'softness' in local phone lines, there was little sign of the weakness in the U.S. economy affecting the company.

Hmmm . . . so, the biggest of the traditional telecommunications firms continues to grow in a softening economy to the tune of over 21%. The article doesn't mention AT&T's marketing efforts specifically but it does mention that the growth is definitely spurred on by AT&T Mobility.

Now, Dave from the Motley Fool has his opinion as to why AT&T is so successful. Can you say iPhone? Here are Dave's thoughts, "I see two major trends pushing the wireless-data wave along: broadband-equipped laptops and the Apple iPhone. With corporate types and "prosumers" willing to pay a premium for mobile broadband connectivity, AT&T is capturing high-margin revenue as it rolls out this service across the U.S. And the game-changing iPhone is encouraging more people to browse the Web on a mobile device and buy audio and video media -- again, at a high margin."

It'll be interesting to see if AT&T's strategy of partnering with cool technology players pays off -- as it obviously thus far with Apple. It'll also be interesting to see if due to their intelligent partnering approach if they'll need to do what the other players are doing in terms of their marketing efforts.

From what we can tell, AT&T definitely hit the number 5 key trend in marketing from yesterday's post: "Telecoms use new emerging media channels to reach early adopters." AT&T's partnership with Apple definitely is reaching the early adopters or prosumers (as our friend Dave calls them). And those folks that I've seen who have purchased the iPhone definitely use all of it's functionality -- which equates to more revenue for AT&T.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Direct Marketing for the Telecommunications Industry

This is a topic rather dear to our hearts. Nancy and I both have quite a bit of experience working with telecommunications firms and helping them develop and implement winning marketing programs.

So, when I come across an article that talks about direct marketing for this industry, I get excited (yes, I know I'm a geek). From DM News, Fierce competition among telecom marketers.

The article talks about how deregulation and new technology have made telecom a super competitive marketplace. It talks about the importance of timing and reaching that prospect just when their service plan is about to expire (a tough challenge that we know a thing or two about, by the way!).

The article cites 5 key trends in marketing for telecommunications firms:
  1. "Telecoms leverage more online channels to maximize spend." They're relying on consumers doing their own research on the Internet and building an online presence to acquire new customers.
  2. "With short contracts, timing of messages is essential."
  3. "Many programs are tied to contextual ads and paid search to drive traffic."
  4. "Companies are differentiating themselves with aggressive calls to action." In a nutshell, they're serving up great offers, many with a cost/savings focus. The article mentioned that the word "free" is used a lot in telecom advertising.
  5. "Telecoms use new emerging media channels to reach early adopters." They're using blogs and social networks as a low-cost way to get their message out to the technology community.
The article gives real examples of marketing programs for telecommunications companies. Interesting stuff.

But, here's what I found probably the most interesting about the entire article. Not one example, not one single mention was given to the traditional telecom providers. By traditional, I'm talking about those companies that used to be referred to as the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs). You know, Verizon, BellSouth, SBC, Qwest, etc. Nor, is giant AT&T mentioned. Not even once.

Those telecom marketers that ARE mentioned include: Vonage, Jajah (a provider of VOIP services), Avaya, Time Warner Telecom and Helio. Hmmm.

So, here are my questions: Do you think that the firms that I'm calling "traditional" simply don't have to put forth innovative marketing because they've locked in market-share?

Or, do you think that the landscape is changing so much that within the next few years, the majority of us will be buying our telecom from different players?

Or, ARE the traditional giants actually putting forth innovative marketing, programs and products and they're just not mentioned in this article?

I'd love to hear opinions, please!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Case Study Monday: eROI and Wacom

Welcome to another edition of Case Study Monday. This Case Study comes to us from a conference up in Portland, Oregon, that Suzanne attended last week. The conference was an e-marketing summit called Innotech. eROI was one of the many companies who presented at the conference. They are a leading e-mail and interactive agency. They presented this case study at the conference, and we found it so compelling we thought we'd share it with you. We hope you enjoy this great example of using creativity to create a community -- and how eROI helped their client, Wacom, effectively utilize social marketing.

Wacom -- Power of the Pens, Building a Community Wacom products have become such an essential tool to digital artists. The company bridges the gap between fine arts and today’s digital workflow. So much so, in fact, that even those who have never used a Wacom product know the brand by name.

For this campaign, we wanted to share that connection of experienced and new artists. We wanted to turn brand awareness into full-fledged adoption. We did this by bringing in a group of experienced artists and asking them to document their creative process, and ultimately, share some final work.

We really wanted the participants to express themselves freely, so we tried to keep
the creative brief open — restricting artists never leads to great work. The only direction we gave was in choosing artists who represented 12 different areas of expertise that we knew would produce visually interesting work: graffiti, animation, flash, poster art, illustration, photography, air brush, graphic design, apparel, motionography, toy design and Portland’s cut & paste winner (a Wacom-focused art event).

To help focus the campaign, give it consumer relevancy and create a sense of time, we formatted the campaign around a wallpaper calendar. Each artist was tasked to create a month for the calendar, using their specific talent. As predicted through our strategic selection, the body of work produced was extremely diverse, and all produced using Wacom technology.

On top of the campaign highlighting the artistic potential Wacom offers, and pushing the connection to the artist community, we wanted to help increase direct sales through Wacom’s online store. To do this, we not only shared the 12 pieces of fresh art, and the thought process behind it, but also the making of the art and the tools used. This allowed us to work the product in for each artist without seeming pushy, but rather informative and helpful.

We called it the designer toolbox, and it worked out really nicely, highlighting a wide array of products from multiple pens and pen tips, to on-screen tablets and special edition tablets. The varied products in each artist’s designer toolbox, and the soft sell they created, allowed us to send an email for 12 straight days (a non-standard practice) without losing the interest of recipients.

Instead of consumers receiving product heavy calls to action, which can feel overwhelming during the holiday email push, they were receiving interesting content with tantalizing artwork. This artwork drove to the site where the wallpaper calendar resided. Again, the marketing was very subtle with the wallpaper highlighting the art, and only allowing a small Wacom logo to reside next to the calendar in the upper right. The beauty here, is that the logo gets placed on someone’s desktop for a year-long exposure. People actually choose to look at it and become evangelists.

The site produced a real community, spurred on by a glimpse at the professional artists, their process, their work environments and, perhaps most of all, by a user-generated independent digital art gallery. Building the artist profiles in a blog allowed for the community to offer numerous comments. To wrap up the campaign, the user-generated artwork with the most votes was selected to win Wacom’s new cintiq12wX.

We took our thinking beyond this holiday campaign, with the idea of a continued community built from the ground up for Wacom’s impassioned artistic followers. Utilizing the power of Wacom’s house list, we were able to promote the campaign site to a list of over 200,000 Wacom news subscribers. This list included all opt-ins who wished to receive information from Wacom (newsletters, product updates, etc.).

To help market the campaign, we used a small PR push from Wacom’s internal team and a banner ad placed on the Wacom America home page. Marketing was limited because the concept behind the site was to have the creative community do the promotion by uploading their art and communicating to their audiences that they want to win a new Wacom product.

The hope (and these days it's a good bet), was that members of this community would have blogs or some other communication methods to help draw people to the site. That means free advertising from artists embracing the site and encouraging folks to vote for their work on their blogs and various message boards. The goal was to have the campaign be entirely organic with no internal message board or blog seeding, really making it all about the artists and the work.

At the end of the 14 day campaign, over 61,000 unique visitors from all over the world had come to the site, over 2,000 user generated images were uploaded, over 150 comments were left for the 12 Wacom artists. Wacom added over 2,000 new subscribers to their house list A success? We think so.

That’s the power of the pens!

Friday, April 18, 2008

This Week's Favorite Marketing Links

I spent the last couple of days attending Innotech's e-marketing summit in Portland (my home town). I will say, this was time very well spent. I came home with my notepad filled with good ideas that we can apply today and in the future to our blogs and businesses. Since it's Friday and time for links, I wanted to share two highlights from the tradeshow.
  1. I showed up at 7:30 am (gasp) just for yesterday's keynote by Don Tapscott, author of just-released Wikinomics. He believes that business will soon be revolutionized, and he shared a glimpse into our future where most work is done through collaboration. I, personally, am fascinated by futurists, especially those who have proven to be right on target in the past. Something tells me that Mr. Tapscott has another best-seller on his hands, AND that we'll be doing business much differently within the next few years.
  2. The other session I really enjoyed was Paul Colligan's titled: "New Media Monetization in 47 Minutes or Less". This guy practices what he preaches, and he seems darned good at it. He's built his online reputation as the leader in podcasting, which has translated into sales of his books, directories, videos, etc. His session provided lots of practical tips and real things that bloggers, podcasters and others who dabble in social media can do to be more successful. Good stuff!
Don't you love it when research comes along that is totally in-line with, and supports your beliefs? This article that reports on recent CMO Council research does just that! I think the name says it all: "Churn Happens as Marketers Don't Leverage Customer Data and Analytics." It reports on how so many large companies don't have a clear understanding of their customers and that they don't have strategies in-place to grow their customer relationships. Yikes! On the other hand, it appears that there may be more of a need for people like Nancy and I, who specialize in data and analytics (sorry for the shameless plugs!).

For those multichannel marketers out there, you may want to take advantage of Kevin Hillstrom's spreadsheet that he's offering on his Mine That Data blog. I haven't downloaded it yet, but it promises to help you calculate a "Multichannel Purchase Index" to see how you are faring with your channel strategy. Sounds interesting!

Happy Fridays to all!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Direct Marketing Blog!

Yes, that's right . . . our Direct Marketing Blog is 1-year-old today. In blog years, that's all grown up! And, we are still loving having this blog, 233 posts later. When you subtract out weekends and holidays, that means we've posted pretty much every other day in the last year. We're feeling pretty, pretty smug about that! :)

Seriously, we hope you, our valued readers have enjoyed our posts on all things direct marketing. And, we hope that we've been able to provide you with a new nugget or two as food for thought for your direct marketing strategies over the past year.

Now, down to the brass tacks . . . so, after a year of blogging are we rich, are we famous? What exactly has this blogging thing done for you? . . . you may be asking. Good question.

Well, we aren't exactly rich (except in character), but perhaps we're just-a-little-bit-famous (at least we have t-shirts from the Blogworld Expo that say we are). In reality, this blog has accomplished exactly what we wanted it to accomplish for us. It's established our foray into social media/marketing. We have over 1,000 unique visitors per month that read our blogs and many more than that who visit often. We believe we have brought our direct marketing expertise to a world-wide audience who we may not have otherwise been able to reach as a West-Coast-based-in-the-US consulting firm.

However, we believe that aside from our great readers, the next greatest benefit to us has been the partnerships that we have developed with other bloggers that are also in direct marketing -- but in complimentary spaces.

Here's a concrete example . . . we often refer to Robert Rosenthal of the Mothers of Invention Creative Agency and his Freaking Marketing blog. Robert operates a brilliant creative agency that provides his customers with out-of-the-box creative development and campaign deployment, along with a myriad of other very forward-thinking services that we simply don't offer. However, with our data and analytical services expertise, we, too, offer services that Robert doesn't offer. Together, we think we can provide a very compelling and complimentary service offering that it's tough to find in the marketplace.

Don't get me wrong, you can find other agencies and analytical firms out there and even some companies who offer it all. What I'm saying is that with our very specific expertise -- and our very different approach to direct marketing -- you can hire in some non-traditional direct marketers that will be able to provide you with solutions very different -- and we believe better and more relevant today -- than the traditional DM firms.

Our point here is that we've figured this out through authoring our respective blogs. We found Robert and Robert found us. From the purest sense, this is the beauty of Social Media . . . building communities, linking with others and creating relationships. See . . . it ain't just for the teenagers! And, by the way, isn't this what pure business strategy is all about, too? Making connections with the right people and creating value for your customers, while building profitability for your business. Yep, sounds about right.

So, yes . . . our blogging experience has been very successful from our viewpoint. As we embark on our 2nd year, we'll continue to comb the news and the industry for thought-provoking information that we hope you'll find interesting and will help you do what you do more successfully. Meanwhile, thanks for reading and commenting on our blog posts over the last year. Keep your comments coming -- we love them! And, we'd love to hear how social media has helped your business. If you have a story to share with us and our readers, please do so!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good Examples of Mobile Marketing

Call me narrow-minded. Tell me I lack imagination. But, for me, it can be hard to visualize exactly how something new will work until I see it in action. I can read about exciting new ways of doing business, but until I see real companies doing business that new way, I have a hard time believing it will work.

An example that comes to mind is social marketing. Think about how social marketing seemed so foreign only a year or so ago. Wasn't it hard to visualize how companies could benefit (or, gasp, make money) with social marketing programs? Now, marketers have definitely jumped on THAT bandwagon.

Well, I'm at about that same place when I think about mobile marketing. How will consumers embrace their phone delivering advertising? Seems like a hard sell, to me.

Don't get me wrong, I text message my friends and family all the time. I also understand how the people in Europe and Asia are light years ahead of us Americans; they definitely use their cell phones for lots more than simply making phone calls. But, the concept of integrating cell phones as a marketing channel continues to be a hard one for me to accept.

However, this article from DM News has opened my mind to the concept. It talks about how many firms are successfully using mobile marketing. Playboy, Coca Cola, Jaguar, Virgin Mobile and grocery store chain, Kroger (who offers coupons on your cell, while you're grocery shopping--wow!) are other examples of marketers using this channel.

In addition to these real-world examples, the article does a good job of explaining logistics, the opt-in process, the importance of integrating mobile marketing with other channels and discusses measurement issues. It's pretty thorough.
According to CTIA — The Wireless Associa­tion, mobile marketing has become close to a $1 billion business, with 1 billion text messages sent per day in the US and 70% penetration of mobile use in urban areas. Mobile market­ing is projected to grow from $708 million in overall revenue in 2007 to $2.2 billion in 2012, according to JupiterResearch.
In a nutshell, mobile marketing is already big business. Done correctly, it is a channel that should not be ignored. It's probably time to add it to your direct marketing tool-kit.

Now, if I can just wrap my narrow little mind around this...

Engaging the Customer in Product Design

Question: How many direct marketers does it take to target the right consumer?

Answer: Just a couple of really smart ones that understand how to take advantage of reaching the most appropriate groups in the best way during tough economic times.

Case in point: credit card marketers. American Banker magazine has reported that Citi Cards definitely sees the need to maintain one steady source of income: the "mass affluent" customer who is willing to pay for a credit card rewards program.

The magazine reports that "Terry O'Neill, executive vice president at Citi Cards, said that 80% of affluent and near-affluent consumers (which he said Citi defines as households making $100,000 or more) use social-networking and peer-review sites, such as My Space, Linked In and Flickr, to review products and to get advice on purchasing and financial decisions. He recommends issuers use such sites to invite consumers in various target groups to help test new card products for several months before issuing the cards to the general public." This is a wonderful way to use social marketing to target those who you are most interested in acquiring as customers, and getting their feedback on how you can make your product more appealing to them so that they buy it. Brilliant!

This also brings home the point we made earlier this month in our post regarding Push versus Pull marketing strategies. According to the American Banker article, "Executives also suggested that in order for marketers to break through the clutter and reach this market, they need to become more relevant and move from pushing marketing messages at the customer through traditional advertising methods to listening to customers through online communications." Citi Cards has gotten the point, and as a matter of fact "listens to its mass affluent customers by closely reading social networking communities and blogs about topics related to its rewards programs, as well as by offering online feedback opportunities and convening more traditional focus groups. "

It's great to see how traditional direct marketers are embracing social marketing and making it a part of their customer acquisition programs. By doing so, they are bringing the potential customer into the product development process and allowing them to design the product that is right for them. Citi Cards has shown that it really does make sense to hang out where your prospects like to hang out -- not to sell to them but to enlist their help in creating a more successful product. Not only are they creating more profitable customer relationships, they are building relationships with those who they hope to keep for both the short- and the long-term.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Case Study: CRM system helps non-profit organization

Today's case study illustrates how technology has saved a non-profit organization a significant amount of money, while improving the customer experience at the same time. A good story to hear in today's tough economy.

We've included the highlights in this post, but here's a link to the entire article, titled: CRM Credited by MS Society of Canada for Savings.

CDC Software, a provider of CRM and other enterprise software and services, has announced that the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has reported "record-breaking revenues and cost savings" attributed to CDC Software's Pivotal CRM.

The MS Society of Canada receives roughly 85 percent of its funding through donations and special events, but its "customers" extend well beyond the donor. The society also solicits corporations, foundations and government bodies for donations and event sponsorship.

Business Issue:

With more than 120 offices and many different systems and processes to track customer information, ranging from spreadsheets to simple databases to more robust standalone fundraising systems, the society's data was disparate and fragmented, MS officials said. Much of the customer information gathered was not maintained from year-to-year.


Centralizing MS Society's customer data into a single system for its 350 users in multiple sectors, Pivotal CRM allowed the organization to achieve a 360-degree view of each customer, which streamlined operations and marketing efforts.


Society officials say the move has reduced operational costs by more than $200,000 and reduced tax receipting cycles by 50 percent.

"The annual operating savings are easily in the six figures," says David Arbuthnot, vice president of IT, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. "Six years ago, we raised $80,000 online; this year, we'll raise over $6 million."

Well, I'm impressed! We hear a lot of talk about the importance of a 360 degree view of your customers. These numbers show that this customer insight is, indeed, important.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Great Links!

TGIF! And welcome to another edition of the Friday Blog Log. Here are some of our favorite links of the week.

Have you ever wondered what to do when your client calls you and says,"My direct mail campaign is failing miserably!" Instead of hiding under your desk, the Caslon Blog, "Worth Knowing," suggests that you dig right in and perform 3 simple steps to save the day. Here's an interesting point that we sometimes forget when we're in the middle of "life or death direct mail." It's behooves everyone to be successful -- both you and your client. This post brings up the point that it doesn't do the client any good to blame the consultant. It just makes them look like they didn't choose well. Instead, the post suggests that by being proactive, you can bring news -- good or bad-- very quickly to the client. This way you can plan together what steps to take very quickly, and how to implement a plan for immediate improvement.

There has been a lot of talk about what makes for a successful e-mail. We posted on this topic this week, as well, and discussed the importance of the from line, the subject line, and the preview pane. Dean Rieck, in his Direct Creative Blog, talks about creating compelling e-marketing campaigns from a copywriters perspective. On this post, he gives some really great advice on the copy and design elements of an e-mail message. In addition, he talks to the points of keeping the e-mail highly relevant and not too self-promotional. Make sure you don't miss this post for some excellent insight to consider for you next campaign!

We are huge fans of Becky Carroll's blog, Customers Rock! This week, she posted on how Wells Fargo has focused on wowing its customers -- then taking the next step and displaying this philosophy on the walls in the banks. Becky posts an excerpt of this philosophy from the banks website. It is really great to see a large bank take this step. This is definitely setting them apart from their competition, and I've experienced this customer focus myself when I recently switched banks and became a Wells Fargo customer. I've been very pleased with their customer service. They really consistently have gone the extra step for me. So, I know first hand that they aren't simply putting up posters. They really are practicing what they preach in the banking locations.

Finally, it looks like we may have missed out on a fun and interesting blogging event! Damn -- we hate it when that happens. There have been a plethora of posts regarding the Blogger Social '08 which was recently held in New York. I liked Servant Of Chaos, Gavin Heaton's blog post on the postmortem the best. Gavin talks about the huge sense of community that exists between bloggers -- and it's one that we experience every day. The title of the blog, "From Community to Family," sort of sums the whole thing up. Next year we're going!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Starbucks "Gets" Social Marketing

I finally did it.

I finally bit the bullet and signed up at the first, ever Starbucks venture into social media. Yes, I joined My Starbucks Idea. And, I LOVE IT!

The site has been in action for only three weeks. The entire purpose of the site is to solicit ideas from customers about how to do things better. I'm amazed at how smart and creative people are. Some ideas are no-brainers (free WI-FI!), and some are quite creative. A sampling of these ideas:
  • Free birthday drink
  • Extra shot in venti drinks (currently it's the same as grande--did you know that?)
  • Separate line for those whose order is plain ol' coffee (like me)
  • Something to cover the lid opening so that coffee doesn't spill in transit
And, here's the excellent thing--Starbucks is actually, actively acting on these ideas! They've already introduced a new type of stirrer that fits in the lid so that coffee can't seep out. And, if you've heard of their new Pikes Place blend--well, that's a mellower roast specially created for all of the folks that call Starbucks: "Starburnt".

You know, we can all learn a thing or two from Starbucks. They have jumped into social media in just exactly the right way. They put together a very nice site soliciting customer input. Then, they are showing us how they're acting on this input. They're implementing ideas in a timely fashion. Their site is interactive and fun to navigate.

Now, I know I'm a Starbucks fan and a really good customer. But, I'm taking the time out of my day to think about ways to improve their business. How cool is that for them? They've harnessed the minds of thousands (soon to be millions, I'm sure) of customers to help them evolve. What a way to keep a competitive edge.

We all know that Starbucks has a hard time living up to their stellar expectations (how can you sustain their quick growth and high profitability?). Well, I think that this website is just exactly what the doctor ordered. It fits in with the Starbucks brand and culture. They seem committed to it and they're really listening to what their customers are saying. They've used the best parts of social media and claimed it as their own.

My only question--why did they take so long to jump on the social bandwagon?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Increasing the Effectiveness of E-Marketing Campaigns

It's been a while since we've written about e-marketing -- and more specifically, the way that you construct the message. If you're one of our valuable clients or partners, you've probably noticed that we've really embraced this channel lately!

Hopefully, our messages are compelling enough to not only gain and hold your interest -- but also to make you either seek more information or contact us. So far, our results have been pretty darn good -- if we say so ourselves. Because of that, we thought that we'd share our tips for creating a compelling -- and responsive -- e-mail message. It's our responsibility as true bloggers -- and direct marketers -- to share our success stories with our favorite people -- our blog readers.

With e-mail marketing, we are all competing for the attention span of the receiver in an increasingly overcrowded landscape. So, in our humble opinion, we have to pay special attention to a few basic elements in order to take full advantage this this very effective direct marketing channel.

Your "From" address: I know it seems simple but we think this is extremely critical. It's just like anything else -- from the direct mail piece to the caller ID on our telephones -- we pay attention and respond to those who we trust and with whom we have a relationship. The From address needs to be consistent whenever you send out an e-marketing message. It creates recognition with your audience and adds credibility to your message. Research has demonstrated that not keeping the From address consistent will definitely lower your response and click-through rates.

Your "Subject" Line: Again, you'd think this would be a no-brainer . . . but some of the Subject Lines that we've seen look like they were almost made up on a whim -- or worse still, they don't have anything to do with the main message of the e-mail. Here's the thing, a well-written Subject Line can actually determine whether a person will open your message or not. Your Subject Line must be very concise and descriptive, and it must resonate with the recipient. I know it isn't easy to determine what is going to resonate with every single person on your e-mail list, however, spend some time to figure out the best Subject Line that will elicit a positive response from pretty much anyone. Your efforts here will be rewarded. Make your Subject Line a "Call-to-Action" -- again, one that is very specific and appeals to some basic emotional level of your recipients.

Your "Preview Pane" Opportunity: For those of us who are convinced that we can more effectively manage our Inbox via a Preview Pane, this is one really important piece of e-mail real estate. If you manage this space well, it will actually draw the reader into your message, making sure that they open the message and read it. We've seen some really poorly written Preview Panes -- where the e-marketer is obviously not paying attention to the pane and/or simply doesn't edit it from a previous message. This is just bad e-mail etiquette. Not only that, it causes confusion to the reader and would-be respondent! Grab that recipient's attention with a well-designed Preview Pane that features your company logo, navigation bar and offer-- right up front. This way, whether or not your recipient blocks images (as most do), your readers will see these elements in the Preview Pane as text.

We know that if you use these three elements effectively -- and well-orchestrated together -- that they will build on your overall message to create a more compelling, relevant and responsive e-marketing campaign.

We'd love to hear your experiences on how you've created e-marketing campaigns that have knocked it out of the ballpark. What else works for you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Where do you buy your music?

I remember when I was a teenager. Each Saturday morning my friends and I would walk downtown to the local music store. We'd spend hours looking through the racks of vinyl records dreaming about having enough money to buy every single album we wanted. Several hours later, we'd leave the store with a couple of 45s. And, once we got home, we'd play those 45s over and over and over. Our poor parents...

Now, while I can look back fondly on those times, I think that today's teens have it WAY better! They're exposed to so much diverse music. They can sample much for free. They can watch videos whenever they want. The easy access to music and bands is a great accomplishment of the Internet, I think.

And, there's been a lot of news about the music industry lately. I'm sure you heard last week that Apple has topped Walmart, and has become the leading seller of music in this country. See their press release for full details: iTunes Store Top Music Retailer in the US.

In only five years, i-Tunes has acquired over 50 million customers; iTunes has sold over four billion songs and features the world’s largest music catalog of over six million songs. Wow. How times have changed.

And, then, this news about MySpace competing with iTunes: MySpace music partnerships take on Apple iTunes.

Yes, MySpace wants a piece of online music sales. From the article: "According to the plan, the records labels will be posting their entire digital music catalogs to MySpace's music site, where visitors can preview and download songs. It is expected to go live later this year."

You know, this is one area where I think that using MySpace for direct music sales makes sense. Most bands already use MySpace to communicate with fans. Why not allow for music sales, while you have a captive audience of fans visiting your MySpace site?

So, why the discussion today, on this Direct Marketing Blog, about the music industry?

Well, here's the thing, I'm just fascinated by how markets evolve, and how the sales process changes accordingly. iTune becoming the biggest seller of music just shows that sales (for this industry) have moved, in large part, from a retail experience to a direct sales experience.

And, that's the trend, I think for many industries. Sales are moving closer to the customer. The Web has enabled customer-generated product research, putting the customer more in control of the information we digest.

I see direct marketing (in its purest form) becoming even more important in commerce. Knowing how to communicate with your customers in a one-on-one fashion isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, it's growing in importance, if the music example is a good barometer of how commerce continues to evolve.

All good news for us Direct Marketers!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Case Study Monday: Imago Digital

Welcome to another edition of Case Study Monday. Today, we'd like to highlight a very forward-thinking direct marketing firm, Imago Digital, a division of MMI. We were lucky enough to meet these folks at a recent trade show and subsequent plant tour last week. They are a very impressive company indeed!

The reason why we really like this company is that they are extremely customer-focused. They have refined and tweaked their capabilities over time in order to help their clients continually create success through every direct marketing campaign -- and do it as business needs continually evolve.

Here is an example of some success that they were able to create for Olympic College, a two-year public college located in Bremerton, Washington.

Business Need: Olympic College needed to increase their enrollment. They knew they needed to do it via direct marketing, but they needed a vehicle that would be faster than traditional "reply" cards, and they needed to target the specific needs of their "high-tech" audience.

Strategy: Olympic brought in the experts from Imago Digital to create a direct marketing strategy that would communicate to each prospect individually through variable data direct mail. In addition, they added a personalized url (purl) as a response channel for this highly web-savvy audience.

They utilized a blueprint that included a colorful introductory postcard that was personalized on both the front and the back, and included the purl. Once the respondent went to their web page, they landed on a "VIP Welcome Page" personalized just for them. They were then able to answer a short survey regarding their educational needs, update a personal profile, and were immediately sent a thank you email for their interest. As the follow-up emails were sent out thanking the respondent, the information was also sent out to the Olympic College sales team for an immediate sales touch.

Through this process, Olympic was able to provide the most relevant information for each prospective student while at the same time building a great -- and clean -- opted in database for their direct marketing use. You really need to visit imago's website so that you can see the entire case study with the postcard and web page views. It's very well done!

Results: Olympic College sent out 3,226 pieces to high school students. Out of that number:
  • 90 (2.79% visit rate) students visited their personalized landing pages
  • 70 (2.36% response rate) students completed the survey
  • Of the 70 respondents, 34 enrolled for classes at Olympic College!
How about the ROI?
  • The cost of the campaign was about $5,000
  • Each student who enrolled spent $5,500 on average
  • Total of $187,000 in revenues generated from this campaign
Wow! What a great success story. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Marketing Links!

Ah, another good week for bloggers!

We loved this post, titled It's the Data, Stupid from Robert Rosenthal's Freaking Marketing for two reasons: 1) It's a milestone for him--his 200th post. Congratulations, Robert! 2) He mentions RRW's new turnkey customer profiling service, and says some nice things about us, too. We really appreciate it.

Another fellow DMer, Dan Smolen, has just introduced a brand new blog, called Sturdy Roots. Dan is an executive recruiter for our industry. He had the good idea that there was a need out there for environmentally-conscious marketers to find like-minded companies to work for. Hence, he's started a blog with a focus on green marketing. It's a great idea and we personally love the fact that direct marketers ARE looking seriously at environmental concerns.

This post, called "Digital" does not equal "interactive" marketing, from the Forrester Marketing Blog got me thinking. The author relays her experience at a party she recently attended while in Shanghai. It sounded like a fabulous party, but the authors' point was that she (and the other guests) never had the opportunity to interact with the host of the party, Adidas, and in fact she kinda forgot that they were, indeed, the event sponsor. The question raised was--was this a success for Adidas? The author says: "It made me realize that "digital marketing" and "interactive marketing" are not at all the same thing." Check out the post and decide for yourself!

And, for all of you e-mail marketers out there, you'll need to visit the E-Mail Marketing Reports Blog, and specifically check out this post, loaded with tips on things you might change in your e-mail campaigns to boost results. I love how the author has backed his examples with actual numbers and very specific results. Great ideas, here!

Another week has passed (where the heck do they go???). Have a fabulous weekend!

From the House of the Mouse: Customer Experience Excellence

It's been a while since we posted on customer service excellence, and we're happy to report that this week we were able to sit in on an American Marketing Association webcast featuring Disney and Maritz Research. The webcast was entitled, "Delivering the Ultimate Experience: The Power of Connecting With Customers Through Your Front-line Employees." During the presentation, Maritz talked about how they partnered with Disney to support them in creating the ultimate customer experience at their theme parks.

Through this process, Disney created a value equation that benefits both customers and shareholders:

Leadership Excellence + Cast (their employees) Excellence + Guest Satisfaction = Financial Results and Repeat Business

To most effectively improve customer satisfaction, they first sought to really understand their customers by creating customer profiles, looking at both the demographic and psychographic attributes of their customer base. Once this was accomplished, they sought to identify their customers true needs and wants. They looked at this through an emotional response as well, to really get to the root of what their valued guests needed and wanted to experience every time they visited a Disney theme park.

They didn't stop with the customers . . . they knew that they needed to create a successful customer-centric culture from within their company. They emphasized a care philosophy that encouraged employees to treat each other as well as they treated the guests. Then, they educated all employees on the difference between their individual tasks and their overall purpose.

To explain this difference, they gave the example of a Main Street street-cleaner at the Anaheim theme park. His task was to ensure that Main Street was kept pristine throughout the day and this was a task that this employee definitely took to heart. However, his task never out-shined his purpose . . . which was the same purpose as every other Disney Cast Member: to create happiness. Therefore, this individual could be seen doing things like stopping his work to assist people who were taking pictures, and offering to snap the photo himself so that there wouldn't be a missing family member when they returned home and were looking at their vacation photos. And that's just one example. There were many other real Cast Member stories shared during the webcast where employees went above and beyond to ensure an excellent Guest experence.

The idea that everyone's purpose at Disney is to create happiness is the reason that Disneyland is truly the Happiest Place on Earth. By concentrating on both their customers and their employees, they have created an environment where people love to go with their families to happily spend their hard-earned dollars. And, most go back time and again. Remember that Disney value equation? Obviously, it's working!

For more on the importance of creating customer excellence and how the customer experience itself is one of the major tenets in the actual definition of marketing , take a look at this question and answer from earlier today.

And, next time you need a break in the action, go to the happiest place on earth for a positive attitude adjustment. Rest assured that your friends at Disney will ensure that your experience is excellent!

We love the Mouse!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The shift from Push to Pull Marketing

As direct marketers who have quite a bit of experience in developing and executing new customer acquisition campaigns, we've become pretty proficient in the art of "push" advertising. We know how to get those prospects to react to our campaigns. Yes, we can get them to open the envelope (or the e-mail) and respond.

But, that's not enough anymore.

I firmly believe that the only way that we'll be effective marketers in the future (the very near future) is if we become really good at getting our prospects to come to us. We need to become so interesting; our products need to be so great, our story so compelling that prospective buyers will seek us out as they shop for our products/services.

And, apparently, this piece of research from the DMA agrees with me. From a very interesting U Talk Marketing article:
"Published today, the DMA Participation Media Report, sponsored by Experian, explores the consumer’s actual experience of direct marketing using an innovative diary approach.

The report shows that consumers are actively getting involved in the marketing process in an attempt to filter out the information that they need marking a shift from “push” to “pull” marketing.

This increased consumer empowerment is clear when gathering information before making a purchase – the research shows that the majority of consumers prefer to be in control of how and when they gather information, rating talking to the retailer and word of mouth as being the preferred method."
It's pretty clear that consumers will trust their own research (research that they've initiated) much more than they'll trust something sent to them, regardless of how timely the offering may be.

Does this mean that "push" marketing is dead? I don't think so. However, it may be time to strategize about how you can make your prospects come to you.

Perhaps it's time to:
  • Revamp your website. Have you thought about incorporating interaction on your site? Is shopping fun? Can prospects easily find what they're looking for?
  • Consider social marketing ventures. Hang out where your prospects hang out. Participate. Don't sell. Just by being there, trust me, word about you and your products will get out.
  • Think about sponsoring a charitable or sporting event. Only do this, however, if it makes sense for your business. Does your target market participate in a particular event? If so, this type of exposure may make a lot of sense.
We'd love to hear more ideas about ways to get your prospects to seek you out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Increasing Importance of Mobile Marketing

After a few years of a lot of hype, mobile marketing is finally taking off. According to BizReport Online, mobile marketing spend will reach $19 billion (with a B) in just 4 years from now -- 2012. Just to level set, mobile marketing spend in 2007 reached just under $3 billion.

According to the article, the real growth will come from the US market due to the increasing availability of wireless phones with cheaper service plans. Also, text messaging will continue to generate the bulk of the spend due to those countries who cannot support video and display ads on their phones. Check out the response rate of text messaging ad campaigns in 2007 . . . a whopping 10%!

How can we as direct marketers integrate mobile marketing into our marketing strategies? I mean, 10% is a response rate that is too good to pass up, right?

In our opinion, it all comes back to targeting and intelligent marketing strategy. More folks have jumped on the mobility bandwagon. We know that kids and young adults are very much into messaging and that their mobile phones have become like an additional appendage. However, adults can also be accused of the same behavior. Just drive on any freeway and you can be reminded of how tied we are to our mobile phones.

When you are looking to bring mobile marketing into your direct marketing toolkit, start out with a comprehensive look at your customer base. It may be helpful to append attributes such as profession, income level, lifestyle and number of children (who will be calling their parents a zillion times per day -- and vice versa).

From this profiling exercise, you'll gain a better understanding of who may more responsive to mobile marketing. Once you've completed this profiling, you will be armed to do some intelligent testing on your customer base to determine if your scientifically-based hunches are right on. The simple beauty of testing is that it allows you to test those hunches prior to rolling out the campaign to your entire customer base. In addition, you can then look for prospects that fit your customer profile, too. This will make them much more likely to response to your mobile marketing campaigns, too. By the way, if you'd like to read more about customer profiling, take a look at our other blog that is specifically focused on analytics.

Meanwhile, we'll be keeping our eyes out for mobile marketing success stories to share with you. Keep in mind that it's all about customer preference. The more you learn about your customer base, their likes and dislikes, how they prefer to communicate with you, etc., the more targeted and precise your marketing campaigns will become. And, i think that's how you can get to that 10% response rate.

If you have any success stories to share with us on this topic, please do!