Thursday, May 14, 2009

Email Marketing to the Millenials

Understanding generational differences and what it means to marketers is a topic that continues to fascinate me.

See this article from B2B Magazine, called Marketing to Millenials. It's a concise read on how the Millenials (sometimes called Generation Y--people born before 1982) perceive email marketing, and includes tips on what works with this group. Perhaps more importantly, it provides insight into what doesn't resonate with Millenials.

The two tips that I found most interesting:
1. Create “automated relevance.” Behavioral marketing works, but when you’re marketing to Millennials, you’ve got to be faster and more precise, Wilson said. “Millennials are almost wired to block out advertising and marketing. They are capable of finding what they want when they want it, so you have to be fast and give them something relevant as soon as you see a specific ‘hand-raising’ activity,” he said.

2. Get personal about the right things. There are differences in what you’ll need to know to market to Gen X, for example, and Gen Y. For one thing, Gen Y is less likely to answer personal questions about what they buy and why, Wilson said. “I’m amazed at how often marketers ask people about the wrong things,” he said. “If you can ask questions in a genuine way, you’ll get answers, though.”

Instead of asking how Gen Y thinks about and uses your products and services, Wilson said, ask about what’s important to them instead. “Instead of asking which products are important, ask what’s important to them in the buying cycle. Is it having a personal reference? Ask how often they purchase rather than what they are purchasing.”

Good stuff!

If you'd like an overview of the five living generations, it's your lucky day :)

RRW has put together a White Paper that provides traits and differences between generations, called Generations Overview (catchy name, eh?). We'd be happy to share.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Unsolicited B2B Email - SPAM or Not?

Ever since CAN-SPAM came out, I've been struggling to answer this question:

Since unsolicited email to business-people is not prohibited by CAN-SPAM regulations, is this a viable lead-generation activity, or is it something that we direct marketers should steer clear of?

Is it SPAM, or not?

The industry seems to be handling this a few ways. Many of the leading data firms (such as Experian and Acxiom) will not append email addresses to prospect lists; they'll only append emails to customer files, citing their strict focus on consumer privacy and compliance.
And, some providers of email marketing services first send an email to their list warning recipients that they're about to receive an email from Company X. This step allows the mail recipient to opt out of a specific offer.

On the other extreme, you see news stories like this one from Direct Magazine. The story outlines how one email list company may (or may not) have stolen a list of conference attendees and is now selling the file. The accused company claims that they legitimately collected the email addresses and have every right to sell them. Hmmm. Sounds fishy to me.

So, what say you? Is unsolicited B2B email--emails to people who you don't know--something that you support? Do you have any success stories? Horror stories?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Small Businesses Concerned with Economy...

For some reason, this article really brought home today's economic reality. The article presents results of a recent survey of small businesses. Essentially, it talks about how concerned small businesses are with the state of the economy. It reiterates how the economy has had a huge impact on this sector, in particular.
The survey found that 66.4% of small business owners have been affected for
the worse by the recession -- and that a full 80% see the economic crisis as the
primary mandate for the new government.

Small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy representing 99.7% of all employer firms, and generating 60 to 80% of new jobs annually over the past decade, according to the Small Business Administration.

Perhaps this news, in particular, resonates because my small business has also been negatively impacted by these trying times. RRW has a focus on providing direct marketing solutions to financial services firms--an industry definitely hit hard by this economy. Our business has suffered.

You know what? I'm mad. I'm sad that I lost a business partner and feel for some clients who've either had their marketing budgets cut dramatically, have laid off a good portion of their staff, or (in the extreme) have gone out of business entirely.

Yet, I cannot even imagine thinking that someone out there will magically appear and throw money at RRW. As much as I'd like to, I cannot think that there my fairy godmother will show up with her magic wand and a purse full of clients with huge budgets.

So, hearing about huge companies looking for their fairy godmother in the form of our tax money simply irks me.

OK, I'll get off of my soap box and start the day. I'll get back to work and come up with a value proposition, a direct marketing idea that one of my smart clients will pay for. Isn't that the way this country works?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More US Postal Service News

I can't believe that my first blog of the new year ends up being about the US Postal Service. Gee, I guess I AM a direct marketing geek.

In November, I posted on a similar topic--ways the USPS may be able to save money through cost-savings initiatives (such as cutting out delivery days).

Today's slightly depressing postal news comes to us from National Public Radio: Postal Service Sees Less Mail In Slumping Economy. The article cites the serious decline in mail and revenues the USPS is currently experiencing.
The recession is reaching well beyond the automotive industry or the mall.

It's even hitting the U.S. Postal Service, the nation's third-largest employer. From holiday cards to credit card offers, mail volume is down. And the Postal Service is losing money.

I guess it's no surprise that companies (and even consumers) are mailing less. In the hey day of the mortgage boom, tiny mortgage companies were mailing millions of pieces a month. And the giant financial services firms were in the multi-million volumes (I remember one company, in particular, who mailed upwards of 10 million pieces each month--that's a lot of paper...).

What brought the postal decline home to me was this quote from the article:

Stephen Kearney, senior vice president of customer relations for the Postal
Service, says the drop in mail volume "accelerated throughout the year. ... Our
mail volume had its greatest decline since the Great Depression."

In the fiscal year that ended in September, mail carriers delivered 9.5 billion fewer letters and packages than the year before. Kearney says the Postal Service made aggressive cuts and still lost $2.8 billion. Fiscal year 2009, which started Oct. 1, isn't looking any better, he says.

My take on this: I do believe that direct mail will remain a viable channel for some marketers. However, I think that the trend of cutting mail volume is here to stay. Gone are the days of super-duper high volume direct mail, blanketing anyone who seems close to the target audience. DM will be used judiciously and only where it makes sense.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Case Study: Sweepstakes and Mobile Marketing

Publishers Clearing House (PCH) is one of the longest lasting direct marketers around. I don't think there's an American out there who hasn't wished and dreamed that Ed McMahan and team would show up on their doorstep with a giant check for millions of dollars. This visibility and recognition is a true testimony to Publishers Clearing House's longevity and marketing ability.

Whether you're a fan of sweepstakes or not, I don't think that anyone can argue that this direct marketing expert, PCH, has used sweepstakes successfully over the years. What's more, they've been able to expand beyond direct mail (and they were darn good at getting consumers to open their mail and interact with their piece); PCH has embraced a true multi-channel strategy.

Well, now they're jumping into Mobile Marketing, and with a vengeance. My opinion: when PCH decides to use a new channel, it's probably time for all direct marketers to take note and learn some things.

Take a look at this article from Mobile Marketer: Publishers Clearing House outlines 2009 mobile strategy
Publishers Clearing House, a longstanding sweepstakes giant using the direct mail and TV channels, is targeting a younger demographic with online and mobile initiatives.

“We are the premier sweepstakes company in the U.S., so people know who we are, but the challenge is maintaining relevance for the changing population that is using Internet and mobile applications more and more,” Alex Betancur, vice president/general manager of the PCH Online Network, Port Washingon, NY.
The article outlines PCH's strategy in developing mobile marketing apps with a focus on entertainment. It also briefly discusses their social marketing tactics. For anyone considering incorporating Mobile Marketing into their direct response mix, this article provides some nice detail.
“It will be interesting to see how it (mobile and social marketing programs) takes, because it’s a different demo, different customers that we’re targeting,” he said. “We are direct response marketers, so we test the waters, and once we get the formula right, we push advertising to make it successful.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coupons Work in this Economy

A weak economy presents challenges to all marketers. How do we do more with less? How do we sell things to people, or companies, who can’t afford them?

But sometimes, this type of economic environment presents unique opportunities for direct marketers. After all, our results are measurable. Marketing costs can be justified by clear, countable results.

This point is highlighted pretty nicely in this recent NY Times article: This Season’s Must-Have: The Humble Coupon

From the article:
The faltering economy could mean renewed interest in coupons as shoppers refocus
on the cost of the products they buy — that is, if they do actually buy anything
these days.

Coupons that offer cents off — or percents off — the price of things like groceries, clothing and restaurant meals are particularly popular when consumers need to stretch their dollars. So word that a recession began last December could bring an increase in the number of coupons offered by marketers, as well as redemption rates by consumers.

“Thrift is the new normal,” said Lance Saunders, executive vice president and head of account planning at Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, an agency owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies.

“There’s no stigma to getting anything on discount,” Mr. Saunders said. “Instead, there’s a sense of pride.”

The article goes on to discuss unique couponning strategies, from some unusual suspects (high end Lucky Jeans, for example) and more usual suspects (P&G).

It also discusses the use of new marketing channels such as mobile marketing.
New technologies are also helping to renew interest in coupons, especially
for younger consumers. There are scores of Web sites where coupons can be
obtained by clicking rather than clipping; among them are,,,,, and Many also deliver coupons by e-mail messages.

And coupons are increasingly available on cellphones and other mobile
devices from companies like Cellfire and Outalot. Among the marketers offering
mobile coupons are Arby’s, Caribou Coffee and GameStop.

An advantage of coupons delivered through new technologies is that they can
be customized and personalized, which could help make them more effective
and efficient for the sponsors.
Ah, trackable, customized and personalized—music to this direct marketer’s ears!

Another lesson learned: even if your marketing strategy has never included couponning, simply because it didn’t seem to be the right fit for your products and/or your customer-base, you may want to rethink that strategy in this economy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Should the USPS Change its Delivery Schedule?

I thoroughly enjoyed this article from DM News. It’s all about cost savings ideas for the US Postal Service, with the ultimate goal of keeping postage steady for direct marketers. The article cites two postal mail industry experts who have provided their comments on cost savings efforts.
Specifically, each expert discusses ramifications of the USPS cutting a day of mail service—cutting delivery from 6 times each week, to only 5.

Expert 1: C. Hamilton Davison, Executive director, American Cataloger Mailers' Association

Primary point
: Thinks that other options should be considered first—prior to cutting a day of mail delivery. For example, he suggests that the USPS look at closing some branches. He provides an interesting comparison of USPS facilities to McDonalds.

“Do you think McDonald's is everywhere? Well, McDonald's has 21,000 restaurants
worldwide; the USPS has 37,000 retail locations in the US alone. Isn't it
possible that we have too many post offices?”
Bottom Line: Mr. Davison recommends exploring any and all cost savings options if it means keeping the USPS competitive.

Expert 2: William Burrus, President, American Postal Workers Union

Primary point
: Mr. Burrus is adamantly opposed to a reduction of mail delivery days.
“If such a reduction leads to an increase in Priority, Registered, Certified,
FedEx, or UPS deliveries, customer costs would increase, and productivity
would decline.”
Bottom Line: He suggests that this change is too radical because it would delay mail significantly, especially in holiday schedules.
“This change would begin the process of dismantling the United States Postal
Service, which is the primary objective of those who advance this terrible

My take: I believe that the USPS needs to explore any cost-saving idea it can come up with. In this economy, every single business is exploring ways to save. The USPS shouldn’t be any different.

And, the solution clearly isn’t significant postage increases. I hate to see the direct marketing industry (which is a huge cash cow for the USPS) continually hit by rate increases that seem overwhelming and unfair. Further, taking away a day of mail delivery would not be the end of the world to most consumers who no longer rely on postal mail to receive important personal and business communication.

So, if a day must be cut to keep postal mail flowing, so be it.