Friday, September 28, 2007

Talking about Telemarketing Today

I tend to be an optimist--a believer in the goodness of humanity. I like to think that my world of direct response marketing is filled with only completely honest, innovative people who enjoy the business of targeting the right offer to the right person, and, in doing so ultimately benefit with good sales and a nice profit margin.

Of course, the world at large, the general public, typically thinks the exact opposite. We're junk mailers, awful people who fill our in-boxes with SPAM and dishonest pests who call us just when we're picking up our forks to eat dinner. Well, unfortunately, sometimes the general public is right...

See this article about what's being called the "largest telemarketing scam in a quarter century."

It's about a company called Strategia Marketing, who the FTC accuses of cheating "thousands of Americans out of tens, and perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars."

"The FTC maintains Strategia Marketing operated for several years under at least 15 different business names. Investigators say telemarketers called consumers to offer ‘free’ trial memberships in discount buyer and travel clubs and later charged consumers for a series of programs without their knowledge."

Hmmm. I guess this is a tad worse than simply annoying people when they're trying to enjoy a nice dinner.

And, then there's been lots of talk lately about how the Do Not Call is just about to hit the 5-year mark. Remember, after 5 years from your original registration, you'll have to re-register your phone number to ensure that you won't receive telemarketing calls. This is making lots of people hopping mad.

And, legislators tend to agree. There are a couple of bills recently introduced that will make DNC registration permanent. See this article for good detail.

Well, I think it goes back to this--what is good for the consumer? And, as much as I hate the fact that when my legitimate clients want to implement a telemarketing campaign, there are so few non-DNC phone numbers available, I have to agree with the proposed legislation. If someone added their phone number to the DNC and they haven't moved, or changed their phone number, why make them re-register? There's nothing that says that now, all of a sudden, they want to be telemarketing calls. Of course they don't.

Finally, when we read about the illegal scams like those reported today, telemarketing continues to get a bad rep. Which, of course, will result in more people adding their phone number to the Do Not Call Registry.

What say you--is telemarketing dead? Or, is it a viable direct marketing channel?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Harnessing Passionistas Through Digital Media

Well, thanks to our friends at Yahoo! we have a new study and a new title for a group of passionate consumers. The Yahoo! study, which was entitled"Passionistas: The New Empowered Consumers, tracked the online behavior of consumers with specific passions including health, sports, food and entertainment, and it showed that Passionistas spend significantly more time engaged in activities related to their passions than the average consumer." Hence, the name!

And it really is quite interesting. When you think about it, whenever individuals are passionate about anything, they tend to spend more time thinking and talking about whatever it is. Here are some highlights from Yahoo!'s study:

-- For every one minute a typical Internet user spends online with the same content, Passionistas spend six minutes.

-- Passionistas will visit a website related to their passion three times more than a typical user.

-- Passionistas search online for information about their passion 184 percent more than typical users and conduct more than 100 related searches related to their passion per year.

-- Passionistas heavily engage with communities of like-minded consumers who use email, text messaging, and instant messaging significantly more than typical users, and are more likely to create and share user-generated content online such as photos, blog posts or videos about their passions. Because of their intense engagement around sharing information about their passions through digital media, Passionistas are natural brand advocates and 52% more likely than typical users to recommend or influence others about brands aligning with them.

Wow! So how can direct marketers successfully find these passionate folks and make them passionate about their specific products and services? Well, Mark McLaughlin, Vice President of Audience Strategies at Yahoo! states it this way: "Marketers who build their campaigns from the start with the goal of tapping into passions are inviting consumers to get engaged and create an authentic dialogue."

In addition, the study found that timing is critical in making a connection with passionate-types of consumers. For example, noteworthy events such as "Britney Spears' appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, the beginning of the NFL season, the premier of a new TV show, or the opening of a new restaurant" get our passionate crowd going! These types of "triggers" make Passionistas excited about the topic of their passion and get them to become engaged in all sorts of sharing activities, like blogging, IM'ing, or participating in some other type of social media. In fact, Jim Kite, President of Connections Research and Analytics at MediaVest, states that, "Accessing Passionistas online also offers the ability to track this valuable group's media consumption habits, enabling brands to optimally -- and accountably -- leverage their advocacy power."

This is why we are so excited about utilizing social media/marketing channels as part of our overall marketing strategy. How better to get prospects and customers involved in what you sell than to get them to do all of the talking about it? Picture this: Consumers are online shopping, blogging, sharing links, etc., about what you offer . . . and there simply is no better advertising than word-of-mouth. It is the ultimate testimonial about the greatness and value of your product or service.

We advise you to take a look at this excellent study -- and thanks to the creative folks at Yahoo! for bringing these compelling results to us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another Data Breach...

This time it's at Ameritrade, where 6.3 million customer records were compromised. Yesterday's DM News reported: Ameritrade lost 6.3 million names from database

"TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, an online brokerage company, said one of its databases was hacked into and the personal information for more than 6.3 million customers was stolen. The company found malicious code in one of its databases."

These data breaches are happening all too often. In July, we posted about a data breach at Fidelity where a disgruntled employee stole over 2 million customer records.

Now, I do realize that it's extremely difficult to stop hackers and bad people (especially in-the-know employees). However, it's so important to the direct marketing industry that we nip this in the bud. If we intend to store customer information, we absolutely better ensure its safety. We need to invest in the right people, technology and practices to make it virtually impossible for the wrong people to access sensitive information.

If we don't do it, and do it now, I guarantee that some ambitious legislators will get involved. And, I think we all would agree that we don't need to work within more rules and legislation...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Customer Service Excellence

Often, we've spoken of the importance of bridging the gap between sales and marketing. A key outcome of accomplishing this is more highly satisfied customers. The way your company interacts with customers before, during and after the sales process is as important as any other element in your marketing strategy. In fact, some argue that it is the most important piece of your marketing strategy.

Case in point . . . in an article from Inside Retailing, author Alison Higgins-Miller talks about the "Customer Service Paradox." Higgins-Miller states that "while CRM systems and customer retention are key focuses for retailers, customer service is not yet seen as a core part of customer retention efforts. I suggest that, in light of the ongoing empowerment of consumers, customer service deserves equal billing with sales and marketing in a retailers’ priorities list." She also argues that the ability for a customer to complain -- then have that complaint resolved successfully -- creates a better customer relationship than one in which there was no complaint. In other words, the consumer was able to effectively interact with the company and experience first-hand (hopefully) great customer service. This great experience leaves a more lasting impression in the mind of the consumer and when they go to purchase again, they think of that company who demonstrated that they cared the last time around.

Excellent customer service also helps marketing and sales better position and sell more product. As Higgins-Miller discusses, "Further, in light of increasing skepticism and immunity towards sales and marketing messages, an effective customer service operation can often become an important marketing channel for an organization. For example, one retail organization emails its customers with regular hints and tips for consumer electronics products they have bought. This is not only appreciated by the customer as a useful, post-sales communication but an opportunity to cross- and up-sell relevant products and services. "

Overall, the importance of fostering a culture of excellent customer service cannot be overstated. From culture to technology to processes, a company can create excellence in customer service. You can start with the basics, and build from there. Higgins-Miller talks about six areas to consider as you look to create excellence in customer service in your business:

Define your strategy -- The first step in creating better customer service is to determine which strategy or strategies are most applicable to your business today. Some organizations start with the simplest approaches, and build from there. Others are more aggressive, using customer service as a communications channel from day one. As part of this it’s vital to listen to your customers and identify their needs, so any strategy developed is in line with their needs.
Assess your technology needs
-- Customer service departments are most effective when they are empowered by the correct technology and able to offer the customer multiple contact channels. To provide the customer insight necessary to address a customer enquiry or complaint, for example, it's vital to have a CRM system in place that captures relevant information across all these communication channels and presents this to frontline staff as useful knowledge.
Embrace customer centricity --To deliver first-class customer experiences, the whole organization must make the customer the focus of their efforts and develop new business processes that enable it to provide seamless customer experiences. These processes must often cross departmental boundaries. Marketing departments, for example may be called upon to define new customer-opportunity profiles. Companies that want to achieve top-level customer service must have the ability and commitment necessary to design and implement these innovative business processes.
Empower customers to help themselves -- Provide customers with an individual portal area where they can see all sales and logistics information, perhaps even track queries or complaints. Enable customer to opt in and out of communications from this portal and adjust their preferences. Provide customers with a dynamic knowledgebase of questions, answers, tutorials etc. where they can find answers to their questions themselves. This knowledgebase can also be used internally by frontline staff to help customers with their queries.
Engage your customers proactively
-- Don’t wait for customers to voice their concerns directly, regular proactive communications around products and service satisfaction can identify any problems before they get out of hand. Customer feedback will also help your organization to measure customer satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
Clarity of vision --It's hard to get somewhere - or lead others in the right direction - if you do not know your destination. To improve customer service, managers need to have a strong sense of how customer interaction histories can be leveraged to discover revenue opportunities.

We agree with Higgins-Miller. These are some great areas to take a look at to begin thinking about improving your own customer service arena. Certainly, after giving these six areas some thought, you will be armed with some good data to improve your customer's experiences with your company. And by engaging all areas of the company, you will change the culture of your company to one that creates excellent customer experiences.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What is Your Data Quality Gameplan?

If you are frequent readers of our blog, you know that one of the subjects that we are most passionate about is that of maximizing good data quality. Data quality can make or break your direct marketing success -- and it's been proven time and again. We are always amazed when we run into those who have not adopted this mantra -- and the resulting dollars that are wasted on marketing with dirty data. It's all about data cleanliness, my friends -- and there is simply no way to market effectively without clean, quality data.

In fact, QAS has recently posted several articles about this very subject. In their most recent post, they post some of our very favorite kind of proof -- dollars! According to the article, "Businesses across the US are expected to have increased their budgets for direct marketing as they see the potential benefits of campaigns launched on the back of effective data quality systems, according to new figures. The latest Media Business Report from Jack Myers revealed that traditional types of marketing, including direct mail, continue to be popular among businesses of all sizes. Based on current rate of growth, the group has forecast that total direct marketing budgets across the country will increase by 3.6 per cent in 2007." Now, that's music to our ears for sure!
It seems like such a simple equation-- so why doesn't everyone just do it? Well, in order to consistently clean and manage your data, it takes both a time and a financial investment. However, even with the use of very simple techniques, like widely-available, inexpensive data hygiene tools, you can distinctly improve your data quality in short order.

It is very important to fully understand what your company actually needs when you look at data quality tools. There are those firms out there that have expensive, sexy data management and integration tools that are very effective -- but only necessary in some circumstances. When beginning to look at your data and database to determine what types of data cleansing tools and techniques you need in your particular company, start with a hard look at exactly what you are trying to accomplish. If you aren't sure, bring in an expert (like us!) to help you assess your situation and wade through the many different tools and solutions that are out there in the market. It's just as important not to over-spend in this area as it is to actually bring the tools in themselves. For more of our tips on this, take a look at our Data Quality Whitepaper. We wrote this Whitepaper based upon our experiences in assisting our clients in implementing sound data quality practices. It outlines some of the pitfalls to avoid -- and these will definitely be helpful to you as you assess your own particular situation.

The good news for us direct marketing types, is that direct marketing budgets are expected to increase -- yahoo! As the article states, "In comparison, several other areas of traditional media advertising, including yellow pages, are expected to grow by less than one per cent as marketers react to poor rates of return."

We'll take our 3.6% all day long!

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Direct Marketing Resource

We've long used NextMark as part of our tool-kit. NextMark offers a service to search for mailing or e-mail lists. They compile a directory of just about any database that's out there and up for sale. You can get datacards with pricing and universe counts right off their service. The tool has saved us countless phone calls and really makes our (sometimes) job of being list brokers so much easier.

Well, today DM News published an article about NextMark's expansion of their directory. NextMark unveils directory of marketing service providers

"Users can search for marketing service providers by name, by services provided or by market specialty.

Service categories cover list/media procurement, creative, data enrichment, list preparation, direct mail production, delivery, response handling and response analysis. Vendors matching the user’s criteria are displayed on a Google map and also in an alphabetical listing."

A while ago, I posted about some other useful (and free) resources that make my day-to-day job as a direct marketer easier. Check this post out for good demographic look-up tools, ZIP code finders and other helpful tools.

In any event, this new NextMark service promises to be super useful, and best of all: "Use of the directory is free."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

CRM Alert: New CRM Blog Added to Keep us Up-to-Date

There's a new blog that is devoted specifically to all of the happenings around Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It's brought to us by the folks at, which is a fabulous website that gives direct marketers the ability to research different CRM applications, and review the different research that is being conducted in the CRM landscape. Their blog is published on a regular basis and it consists of highlights and newsworthy items specific to CRM. For those of us who keep track of these things, this is a nice resource tool to utilize as we assist our clients in building more profitable customer relationships. And, as blog aficionados, we're always happy to see well-written, information-packed blogs available for our reading pleasure.

Carolyn Healey is the creator of the company, the website and the blog, and she has some excellent experience. She is actually a microcosm of what has transpired in CRM over the last 10 years. She started out with a website dedicated to helping service and support centers effectively manage customer relationships. This was before CRM became our favorite acronym. In 2001, she launched and a year later, All of these websites focus on different areas of creating satisfied and loyal customers. This is a subject that we, too, are passionate about, and we applaud Carolyn's efforts.

Take a look at her new blog (actually, she has blogs related to all three of her websites). We think you'll enjoy her posts and insight on the goings-on within CRM.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boomers Alert: We are Technology-Savvy!

There is a new study out about the Baby Boomer Generation (one that's near and dear to me for obvious reasons), and it reports that direct marketers better not try to reach us using our parents' technology. HA! I feel like such a rebel! Apparently, we Boomers are branching out and adopting newer technology to do all kinds of things -- including shopping, researching products and services, and receiving advertising messages.

In a recent article from BizReport, author Kristina Knight reports that "Baby Boomers said they are spending less time each week reading books and newspapers than they were six months ago. At the same time, the group says they are spending more time on their computers and using their cell phones. Listening to music, watching television and using the Internet have remained at a steady consumption rate." This is important to us because the Baby Boomers are still the largest generation alive today -- and the age range is wide enough to impact lots of different purchasing decisions (generational experts put Boomers at between approximately 43 - 61 years of age).

As Knight reports, although these results aren't earth-shattering, they do point to the fact that marketers should include this group in their online advertising efforts for sure. And, mobile marketers should also take note of this trend -- there are lots of Boomers who actually use their wireless phones for more than staying in touch with the kids and grandkids. This is certainly a departure from the thinking that it's only the skate-boarding, extreme sports kids who use their mobile devices for downloading videos and music. Boomers are using these devices for email, news and driving directions.

As we've posted about before, it is really important to keep all of the six generations alive today in mind when creating your marketing strategy. And, as this study points out, we need to also keep a finger on the pulse of generational evolution and how each generation prefers to be communicated with over time. In fact, if you haven't read our Impact of Generational Attributes on Marketing white-paper already, you may want to take a look at it now.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go do some online shopping, and then text my buddy and see what she's up to. : )

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marketing Database Facilitates Customer Loyalty

There's been quite a bit of controversy lately about how to measure customer loyalty. Many large companies seem to be buying in on the premise of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), although the analytical types I listen to don't seem to have a lot of confidence in NPS. Specifically these blog posts from Marketing ROI and Profitable Marketing have some great points to make about the NPS and some alternative ideas on ways to evaluate the worth, or loyalty of a customer.

I guess, overall, I'm pretty old-fashioned and believe in letting hard numbers paint the picture of success, or failure. In short, we've got to be able to quantify (whether it's increased profits from up-sell/cross-sell programs, or a longer customer relationship or referrals) the value we get from each customer. And, then we need to weigh that against the cost it took to acquire and nurture that relationship. Sounds simple, eh? Unfortunately, it's not simple at all...

That's why I love reading about companies who seem to have gotten the equation RIGHT! Take a look at this "AdWeek" article about how the Harrah's database and loyalty program investment is paying off, in a big way.

'Total Rewards' Pays Off for Harrah's

The article cites some reasons why it's working for Harrahs:

  1. The program is easy to use and offers a variety of ways to redeem rewards. The article talks about how too many rules and too many restrictions on redemption equate to a program that people won't participate in.
  2. It offers "upward mobility". Tiers of membership are built-in, with better and better perks as people move up the chain. This lets members aspire to the next level, hence they spend more with you.
  3. Harrah's program maximizes customer communications. "Rewards members look forward to highly targeted promotions. The casino uses information from the card usage to create frequent direct-response promotions that customers would be likely to use. The response rate for such offers averages about 10 percent." As a direct marketer, this touches my heart! I'm thrilled not only with a 10% response rate, but even more so by the fact that these programs are so targeted that customers actually look forward to receiving an offer.

The article concludes with helpful tips on how to design a loyalty program that works.

Bottom-line, Harrah's has proven through hard numbers that their marketing investment (database infrastructure and loyalty program) has paid off. And, that's the kind of measurement I can believe in.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Direct Marketing Success: Integrating Your Customer Touchpoints

DM News has recently reported on the DMA's study of the catalog industry. The results of the study are that this industry, too, has embraced the thought of integrating customer relationships across all channels of marketing. It seems like an old thought -- I know we've been talking about this for years. However, talking and acting are two different things.

The whole premise behind Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is to understand and know your customer, how much business that they do with you, how they prefer to do business with you and how to treat those who spend a lot with you the right way. Most companies haven't done a great job at this -- irrespective of the dollars that they've spent on CRM technology.

The DMA's study entitled: "Multichannel Marketing in the Catalog Industry," is based on surveys completed online by 474 catalog marketers. The study also "indicates that nearly 70 percent of respondents saw an increase in multichannel sales over the prior year and 59 percent increased their catalog circulation in 2005." These are some great trends for catalogers!

Not surprisingly, the DMA study found that "multichannel marketers have learned that consumers expect to interact with one company with integrated systems that are consistent across all channels." As consumers, this seems like simple logic. If the message isn't consistent, we get confused about the offer and the value of the offering.

Here are some of the study’s other key findings:

  • Of the respondents with mail-order catalogs, 44 percent of total sales were consummated via the Web, up from 39 percent in 2005.
  • 33 percent of respondents believe that their online sales were “incremental.”
  • Respondents whose online sales are increasing reported an overall 20 percent growth rate.
  • The Web site/e-catalog was the primary marketing channel for 45 percent of respondents, followed by the paper catalog with 33 percent of responses and retailer stores with 22 percent.
  • In 2007, 82 percent of respondents plan to employ e-mail promotions, which was followed by discounts/special sales with 67 percent of responses, coupons with 38 percent and prize/sweepstakes promotions with 33 percent.

Although the study focused on catalogers, there is a lot that can be taken out of it by everyone. It is incumbent upon all of us who are responsible for direct marketing to understand that as we engage our customers through the different channels available to us (and more are being added all the time), we must first understand that our customer relationships fully -- then market to them appropriately across the channels. And, we need to focus on the message and the offer to ensure that it is consistent across channels. For more on our ideas on effective multi-channel marketing, take a look at our white paper.

Friday, September 14, 2007

MySpace for Geeks. CRM Geeks, that is...

Just in from today's "CRM Buyer": Web 2.0 Portal to Link CRM Job Seekers

Apparently, a group of CRM consultants (BPT Partners) has developed a site ( that promises to help CRM professionals with career development and advancement.

"Besides employment opportunities, it will offer career management and placement services, general industry resources, exclusive content -- Greenberg is the author of "CRM At the Speed of Light" -- and Web 2.0 tools for users."

"'s goal is to increase industry competency for the CRM professional. The integrated platform will allow CRM professionals to network with peers, much as people do on Facebook or, to develop their own content through such tools on the site as podcasts, audio files, blogs and videos and to showcase their own skills and accomplishments."

I personally applaud the effort, and I just might participate on the site. As a business professional (and I don't think I'm alone here), I've been struggling with how to use social sites like Facebook and MySpace to help build my business. I'm even having a hard time understanding how to maximize LinkedIn. Yes, I diligently grow my network. And, yes, it's fun to find people that I worked with eons ago, but other than that, I haven't figured out how these sites can impact my marketing consulting work. (As a side-note, if anyone has any suggestions on this, please do share.)

But this new site promises something extra, I think. First of all, it is targeted to a fairly narrow group of professionals. Some could argue that CRM could mean all things to all people, but it is much more focused than most social networking sites. If it is widely adopted and people start to use it to share successes, discuss technology, etc, I will definitely be participating.

And, of course, it's always great to see what jobs are out there, too :)

The site will be launched next week. I'll be one of the beta members!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Student Marketing: I Want My Video Content!

I know -- a silly spoof on Dire Straits' "I Want My MTV" -- but some compelling new studies have come out of both the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) and SurveyU. Both studies report on the fact that College Students, an increasingly important demographic segment for direct marketers, are not only viewing most of their video selections online, but are simply gobbling up video content in record numbers. In an article from BizReport on the SurveyU study, Dan Coates, co-founder of SurveyU said, "When it comes to online video, college students have advanced beyond the rest of the Internet population and are fully engaged in the complete online video lifecycle: downloading videos, rating content, posting comments, publishing video links and uploading their own videos.”

This behavior is very student-like, and for those of us who have clients that focus on the student market, we need to stand up and take notice. These students aren't just watching videos, idly whiling away the hours -- they are active participants! As the article points out, they are "sharing videos with friends, creating their own viral videos and making recommendations to others." This means that you can tap into this segment sort of like an indirect sales force. If they buy in to your message via video, they become the marketers of your products or services. This is why we are so excited about social/viral marketing -- what better way to market to your target segments than to have those who enjoy your product or service do the work for you? Plus, there are many studies that have been conducted in various industries (financial services being one of them) that prove that if you can win a person's loyalty over in their early spending/purchasing years (i.e., college based credit card programs), you've got a customer for life. This is pretty neat stuff!

For folks like CTAM, this has other important implications for the industry that they support. CTAM's study looks at things like how students make service provider decisions, what technologies are owned and used by college students, and what marketing tactics and influences resonate most with college students when selecting television, internet and phone service. For cable and telecommunications providers, it just makes sense to continue - or increase - the number of video campaigns targeted to college students.

If you're interested in reading more detail about these studies, SurveyU's complete study is available from the BizReport article link above, and CTAM's is available to purchase from their link above.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Used correctly, e-mail works

Every day I receive hundreds of e-mail at my primary, business address. Then, there's more in my Yahoo and, yikes, even more lurking in various junk/spam folders. That's why, even though I'm in this business (I actually help clients deploy e-mail campaigns), I still have a hard time in understanding how ANY e-mail campaign has a chance in hell of being successful.

But, check out these stats from a recent "Multichannel Merchant" article. "According to a recent study by the Direct Marketing Association, e-mail marketing delivers the highest return on investment of all media available to marketers. The study also projects that e-mail driven sales in the U.S. will show a compound annual growth rate of 14.9% between 2006 and 2011."

However, (and this is a big "however"), if e-mail is done wrong, it can actually harm the relationship you may have built with your customer/lead.

"Sales & marketing expert Patrick Valtin, president of M2-Tec USA and founder of one of the largest consulting company in Europe called U-Man Belgium, claims e-mail marketing is highly profitable if done correctly. The main mistake is trying to convert a prospect when embarking on e-mail marketing, he says. The direction one should take is instead is trying to attract a qualified prospect."

Mr. Valtin feels that a core group to market via the e-mail channel are those older leads who at one point expressed an interest in your service, but who have not yet converted (become your customer). "Sleeping customers" (a customer who may have bought once but hasn't yet become your loyal devotee) are another great group to communicate with e-mail.

In addition to advising e-mail marketers to 'attract' verses sell in an e-mail campaign, the article offers some other helpful tips:

"Three common mistakes in e-mail marketing are:

  • Trying to sell through the marketing e-mail. You have to cut the gradient to attract and then convert. The question is: what will motivate them to join your list?
  • Making the subject line too ambiguous; using trite phrases that are actually considered spam. What you have to watch, Valtin also warns, is "too hot or too juicy is looked upon as spam by search engine spiders."
  • Not being consistent with "from" address line. From very beginning, the from line should be consistent. Even here there is a need to have instant recognition."

But, while e-mail can be an excellent direct marketing channel, just remember that when we do it wrong, we're doing more harm than good. "When you screw up on e-mail marketing lines with prospects or customers, you get cut off and most likely don't get another chance. It's too easy to junk your e-mail address and be shut off from further communication."

Lesson learned. Keep e-mail in your tool-box. But use it correctly and remember to bring value to your customer/prospect with each campaign.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Great Thoughts from a Direct Marketing Thought Leader

International Data Group (IDG) announced last month that List Services President Deb Goldstein is retiring at the end of September. Goldstein has been with IDG for 21 years -- and has certainly seen a lot of changes in our industry over time. She also received many honors in her tenure in the industry, including one in 2005, where the Direct Marketing Association named her List Leader of the Year. In an article in BtoB Magazine, Goldstein spoke about some of the most important issues in the direct marketing industry today, including the ups and downs of the different channels available to us, and how we all are having to be more strategic as we approach the marketplace.

Her input is very interesting. She talks about how direct marketers react to changes in both regulation and in pricing across the different direct marketing channels. For example, with e-mail marketing, she states that while opt-outs are increasing, as long as you use the idea of relevancy in your e-mail campaigns, this channel remains highly responsive and cost effective. She warns that you can't be afraid to use this channel -- and that you must use it wisely.

Regarding, direct mail and postal increases, she has definitely seen a change with the last postal increase. Whereas before, people would just increase mailing prior to the increase, then decrease it for an abbreviated amount of time after the increase, this last time around, companies simply put their direct marketing budgets elsewhere -- most likely with e-mail. She thinks that this trend will continue as marketers hone their skills in effect multi-channel marketing and continue to learn how best to use e-mail marketing. However, as most agree, direct mail will continue to to be one of the main channels for most large direct marketers. As costs continue to grow, we believe that most companies will incorporate analytics into their DM campaigns to mail more intelligently.

The same can be said for the telemarketing channel. Here again, legislation has made it more difficult to flood consumers with marketing messages via the phone. Since the inception of Do-Not-Call (DNC), those firms utilizing telemarketing have had to follow this legislation to the tee or face stiff fines for failure to do so. Regarding this channel, Goldstein argues that "telemarketing is really hot these days because it can lift response by 30% either as a follow-up to e-mail or a follow-up to postal. We hear a lot of success stories about it from people who use it." Again, using this channel wisely can really allow you to enjoy great results -- particularly when you use it in concert with the other channels.

It is nice to have an expert like Goldstein re-confirm what we experience daily in consulting with our clients. There are many channels to use to reach your customers and prospects. By intelligently utilizing all of the DM channels available to you, you will increase your response rates throughout all channels -- and build long-lasting relationships with your customers. For more on our ideas around Multi-Channel Marketing Effectively, take a look at our white paper on the subject.

We wish Deb a happy and healthy retirement and we will certainly miss her pearls of wisdom on the industry!

Monday, September 10, 2007

More on Privacy

On Friday we posted about what the marketing world may look like in 2020, specifically how our privacy will be impacted. Interesting stuff...

Then today I came across this article that specifically addresses the wealth of information that consumers are voluntarily providing when they participate in social sites, like Facebook. From CNN, the article is titled: The sinister side of social networking.

The article discusses how consumers need to be especially careful about what we publish about ourselves. It gives examples of companies that are scouring the web for what they term "digital litter"--that is the personal tidbits of information that may be useful for direct marketers or thieves out to steal your identity.

The article pointed out that Facebook will soon be changing, and not in a way that will protect our privacy. "A soon to be added public search feature on Facebook will mean that user profiles can be found through search engines such as Yahoo and Google."

"What was once a cozy world between friends (you had to join Facebook before you could access such information) is now available to anyone.

Facebook hopes the move will drive more users to the site and boost advertising revenues, which analysts believe are being under-realized.

Technology expert Om Malik wrote in his blog this week: "This move transforms Facebook from being a social network to being a quasi-White Pages of the Web."

Facebook's public search feature has raised eyebrows among security experts. As users have to "opt out" of the service rather than opt in, it could mean up to 39 million profiles becoming viewable when the service goes live."

Although I normally see articles like this one as ways to frighten consumers and point the fingers at nosy direct marketers who are out to collect data on everyone, I do agree with the article that we need to understand and do all we can to protect our privacy by being careful about revealing our personal information.

And, I agree with the tips included within the article on steps you can take to safeguard your private information:

Equifax Top Tips for Using Social Network Sites:

• Don't include common verification such as your date of birth or your mothers maiden name

• Set up privacy on your profile so only close friends can view your information

• If you are going on holiday or you will be left in your home alone, don't put it on your site. This could leave you vulnerable to break ins

• Potential partners and employers are often searching names on these sites. Don't put anything on your site which could ruin your chances of a new job or boyfriend/girlfriend

• Be wary of anyone you meet on these sites. The photo may be deceptive and they may have different intentions

Seems like common sense, no? But, pretty important as data collection technology evolves and as social networking expands.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Privacy (or lack of it) in the Future

I'm a sucker for a good futurist. Isn't it fun to theorize about what our world will look like in 10, 15, 100+ years? I truly enjoy hearing expert takes on the future of marketing, the future of commerce, etc., etc.

That's why I was pleased to see this commentary on one man's vision of the future of consumer privacy. From DM News, check out this article written by Robert Gellman (a privacy consultant out of Washington DC), titled: "Looking out for data surveillance predictions for 2020."

Some of Gellman's predictions are fairly predictable--i.e.: that we'll be a cashless society and that all transactions will be electronic (he calls this a "penniless marketplace"--thought that was cute).

Other predictions are a tad more dire. For example, he predicts that every auto will be equipped with a tracking device which will, for example, not allow pedophiles to go near schools. This device will also record where we go and be able to issue tickets when we break a traffic rule... Interesting.

And, here's what he thinks about computing: "Very personalized PC. Every computer will have a static IP address. No one will be able to operate a computer without registering through a token, fingerprint or other identification device. All e-mail will be stored permanently, and records of other network activity, including searching and transactions, will also be retained. Stolen computers will be a hot black market item for criminals who will use them to avoid accountability for online actions."

And, of course, he has a take on direct marketing: "Direct marketing activities will be positively affected by the availability of more personal information. However, public aversion to spam, telephone calls and postal mail will make it harder to exploit the information by traditional means. Many free Internet services will remain free only to those who do not block ads."

I believe that the future of direct marketing will include a complete trend toward opt-in (it's already heading in that direction). Consumers, now empowered by their ability to get the information they need on their own, seek out companies to serve them. They look for what they want and then they buy what they want. It will get tougher and tougher to get consumers to respond to unsolicited marketing messages.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the future, be it marketing, privacy, whatever.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

CRM 2.0: Creating a Win-Win Scenario for Your Customers

As a company who embraces Web 2.0 applications like blogs, wikis, video, RSS, widgets, etc., as a good way to enhance communication with our valued customers -- and future customers -- we were happy to see this article on what Rick Enrico, Founder, President & CEO, Juice Media Worldwide, LLC, refers to as CRM 2.0.

Enrico argues that traditional CRM doesn't really work -- and maybe never really did work. The problem? People prefer to have a choice over how direct marketers reach them, what products/services are marketed to them, and who markets to them. The concept of CRM 2.0 takes all of this into consideration by allowing companies to "engage and involve their customer in order to create a truly collaborative customer experience that makes the customer feel as though they are an essential element in the entire business relationship." Thus, CRM 2.0 truly puts customers into the driver's seat.

This concept is becoming very widely talked about and accepted into the business community. For example, there is a very interesting CRM 2.0 wiki that has the sole purpose of creating a community which will gather insight from the brightest CRM minds to design and shape the definition of CRM 2.0. This site challenges all of us to really think about CRM as it exists today:

"Classic" CRM is no longer viable - a one dimensional corporate interaction that provides processes, services and technology to the customer facing departments - sales, marketing and customer service. It is time to recognize that there is a customer ecosystem (or is there, participants?) that provides empowered customers who are increasingly interested in making their own choices in how they interact with companies that they do business with. That means that not only does the company need to provide the goods and services, but the tools and culture to make the experience of that customer one of paramount and unparalleled value to that customer and thus to the company in return.

Both this wiki and Enrico are right on target. As direct marketers, we understand the constant challenge of attempting to reach those customers who are most interested in what we have to offer. We've learned that you can't really direct market without having a good understanding of your target market. Thus, we always integrate analytical intelligence with the best data to drive the best response for our clients. However, embracing CRM 2.0 means we have to stretch ourselves (and our clients) to do more than that. We have to help our clients engage with their customer base by becoming involved in Web 2.0 just as we have -- then integrating those tools into their overall customer relationship management platform. Think of it as another channel, or re-think your existing paradigm. This really calls for a change in mindset.

We will be noodling around good ways to start this process with our current clients. If any of you have success stories of how you've integrated CRM 2.0 into your business (or your clients' business) please comment here and share with all of us. Consider one of the success stories that Enrico relates in his article: "Sun Country Airlines was able to improve their customers’ flight experience just by getting a deeper understanding of its customers’ behavior- what they responded to and what they wanted. Sun Country monitored how prospects and customers interacted with their website, emails, PPC campaigns and landing pages as well as several offline advertising channels. They were able to track specifically which elements of their marketing campaigns were driving the revenue. By combining these analytics with their flight and reservation information, purchase history (both direct and channel) and Affinity Program, Sun Country established a series of highly effective “super campaigns” throughout multiple marketing channels. The results? An increase in overall customer satisfaction and return customers."

See, not only can it be done, it is being done. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences on this exciting new concept!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Targeting Essential to Viral Marketing

Yesterday we posted about how more and more firms are turning to social marketing, and, in fact, looking for ways to decrease e-mail marketing with social marketing tactics.

Today, we'll present the other side of the coin and remind all marketers out there that if the message isn't targeted to the right audience, the campaign will never be a success. A basic principle of direct marketing, right? Well, we all need to remember those 'basics', even when we venture into a new marketing area, such as Viral Marketing.

See this article from Viral Marketing Not As Contagious As Thought.

From the article: "When it comes to viral marketing only 15 percent of advertisers reached the goal of prompting consumers to pass along their messages for them in the past year according to a new report from JupiterResearch, "Viral Marketing: Bringing the Message to the Masses."

Even with the popularity of social media sites like MySpace and YouTube, viral marketing campaigns are consistently proving ineffective in delivering and sustaining a brand over time, mainly because of misdirected tactics."

Why do so many social campaigns fail?

The article cites a common tactic of targeting "influentials" in the hopes of sparking viral behavior. Unfortunately, all too often, the same message is presented to the same group of influentials, regardless of product/brand. Lessoned learned: just as in all other direct marketing channels, different segments respond very differently.

Social marketing experts are starting to figure out that they need to carefully target their market and then make sure that the message is spot-on. It's only when those things work together that the social marketing campaign has an iota of a chance of going viral.

An example of different behaviors that should be considered when employing a social marketing campaign: "The report found that relatively older online users are more likely than relatively younger users to forward advertising messages to friends or tell friends about ads. With young audiences showing an increased use of social sites, relatively older audiences show an increased use of email, video and should be included in viral marketing campaigns."

So, it's key to understand media and channel preferences when planning a social marketing program.

We've learned that these three things are key to social marketing campaigns:

1. Understand your target market
2. Match your message/offer to your target market
3. Understand media and channel behavior to optimize the campaign

Sound familiar? We direct marketers have the tools, the expertise and the ability to target our audience. We know how to test and how to 'tweak' offers/messages until we get the right combination. And, we're starting to get a handle on channel preferences.

Not to pat ourselves on the back, BUT...We direct marketers are ahead of the game. Let's bring our direct marketing skills to the world of social marketing. Let's show them how it's done :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Social Media: Will it Replace E-Mail?

It is becoming very apparent that e-mail marketing is firmly esconsed as an important element in our direct marketing arsenal. However, with the increasing popularity of social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, is e-mail marketing already becoming a dinosaur? Social media sites have become successful because of how they operate, letting users control their experiences, i.e., who they connect with (or not), when they choose to communicate, what information they decide that they want to see, etc.

However, e-mail is still an instrument that is used to reach out, gather information, and direct market your product or service. We think e-mail -- when done correctly -- is growing in popularity because people increasing want to be communicated with via this channel. And the younger segments (Millenials) of our population are definitely on board with this . . . just as they are the pioneers of social networking sites.

In a recent DM News article entitled, "The Impact of Social Media on E-Mail Marketing," this topic is discussed. Author Raghu Kakarala advises: "Rather than rush to the assumption that social media is killing e-mail, marketers should instead consider the principles driving interest in social media. They may discover that not only is there still a place for e-mail, but also an opportunity to leverage social media within their marketing programs." Kakarala does think that as social media becomes more mainstream, it will impact e-mail marketing: "As we increase our usage of social networks, our use of e-mail will inevitably decline, reducing the success of e-mail marketing campaigns. Marketers need to take the time to understand what sites their users are comfortable with and then evaluate marketing opportunities in those spaces."

The exciting part of this is that we have been awarded with another channel to use for direct marketing. And the beauty of social media is that it is built on the preferences of those who use the sites. What we have to do is to figure out how to best integrate this channel into our marketing mix -- and how to utilize other channels in concert with it. As Kakarala says, "This doesn’t mean e-mail is dead. Instead, marketers will be forced to think more strategically about their e-mail marketing programs, and then develop more segmented, relevant and personalized messages."