The 50 Best Marketing, Social Media, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Tips of 2014 (from Retail Online Integration Magazine)


ROI1214_Cover150rgb-largeI made the cover story!  But even if I wasn’t part of this story, these are 50 tips that will propel you to better marketing results!  A must read…

The 50 Best Marketing Tips of 2014” article from Retail Online Integration Magazine.

Check out “The 50 Best Marketing Tips of 2014″ article from Retail Online Integration Magazine. I made the cover story! I have tips 11 (customer service) and 41 (social media).

Audience Video: Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at Social Media Day Miami #SMDAYMIA #SMDAY


Our good friend Cynthia from Virtual Newsmakers shot this audience video of Jim Gilbert presenting a rather spirited version of his 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at Social Media Day Miami June 29th 2014.

Jim can present the 9 Immutable Laws to your group or business, just use the handy link below to reach out.

See Jim Gilbert Present “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing as Mashable’s Social Media Day Miami #‎SMDAYMIA‬ Tomorrow


Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago

Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago

I am speaking tomorrow in Miami at Social Media Day! 3:30. Se you there:http://lnkd.in/bXriF69 If you missed the chance to see the 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing when I presented to The Florida Direct Marketing Association, here is your chance :). See you there… ‪#‎SMDAYMIA‬

Want Gilbert Direct Marketing to Present The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing to your organization or Business?  Use the form below to contact us…

Recap: Jim Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing for the Florida Direct Marketing Association


Here is a short pictorial of Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing for the Florida Direct Marketing Association on April 17th 2014.

Want Gilbert Direct to present The 9 Immutable Laws to your group or organization?  Email Jim Gilbert, CEO at jim@gilbertdirectmarketing.com, or use the contact form below…

CBS 60 Minutes and Data Brokers Selling Your Data: What Data Marketing Is Really About


This is a few weeks old, but it still makes me angry.

The goal of marketers, and direct marketers in general is to use data to provide relevant offers to the right people at the right time. Data and databases are the tools us marketers use to ensure relevance!

Marketers have taken a big hit as the media picks up on big data and list/data brokers as the culprits in selling our information. Totally inflammatory in my opinion. And totally deflecting the subject from governmental use of data.  Check out this piece from CBS 60 Minutes on “Data Brokers selling your personal information”.

Discuss…

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-data-brokers-selling-your-personal-information/

Come see The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing in Deerfield Beach Florida April 17th


This just in.  I will be presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing in Deerfield Beach Florida April 17th.  This event is a must see for all who practice social media marketing.  For more details click here

Do you want Jim Gilbert to present The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing to your marketing team?  Use the contact form below…

 

 

Win at Social: Wrap Yourself Around An Issue and become a Social Media Marketing Thought Leader


Wrap yourself around an issue and become a social media marketing guru.

You don’t have to be a great writer to get social media attention. Just “own” another issue and you can make some hay for yourself. Its simple to do:

Step 1: Find an issue or topic you believe in, or are well versed in, and have an opinion you would like to share about the topic.

Step 2: Seek out articles about that topic.  Find them on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, etc.  Twitter is the perfect channel for this!

Step 3: Share the article, with your comments.  Simple right?

More: There are two ways to share on your topic, “for” or “against”.  Sometimes disagreeing with the article can get you even more notoriety.  I don’t shy away from being controversial.  For example, when the U.S. Post Office starts in with their annual postage rates increases, my rants railing against the stupidity of the USPS get lots of attention.  As a marketing consultant who goes against the grain and uses direct mail often for clients (Note: Direct mail is NOT dead!  Its still as viable as ever if practiced correctly), being known as champion of direct mail marketers against the post office, shows people a lot about how I could help them if hired for a direct mail campaign.

Give it a try and let me know how you did.  Post a comment below.

Want a free marketing evaluation?  Gilbert Direct Marketing’s chief expertise is finding you new marketing revenue streams you can take to the bank.  Don’t leave revenue unrealized.  Let GDM help you take that revenue off the table!

Back by popular demand at the 2014 Direct Marketing Association #dma14 Conference


I love giving back to the marketing community.  I have had a wonderful career in direct marketing and believe heavily in paying it forward.  One of the ways I love to give is to do public speaking.

I was one of the early adopters of social media (started blogging in 2006) and some even say that I helped make Facebook Pages for Business what they are today with my approach to engagement via contests and product giveaways for my clients.

Today I am thrilled to announce that the Direct Marketing Association has invited me back to speak for DMA14 in San Diego in October; once again as part of their “back by popular demand” series.  Once again I am proud to say that my presentation, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing” was one of the top 20 presentations at last years DMA Conference in Chicago.

Here is the message I just received from them:

Dear Jim,

Congratulations!

Your session, The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media, was among the top 20 sessions at DMA2013. The programming team for DMA2014 would like to extend an invitation for you to speak at DMA2014 in San Diego, October 25–30, 2014.”

And here is a picture from the event last October:

Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago

Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago

IMG_3188

I love this title from Target Marketing Magazine: “12 Social Media Questions for a Real Direct Marketer”


Note from Jim Gilbert: Two weeks ago I did a webinar, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing”, for Target Marketing Magazine for a “packed house”.  We had over 85 questions submitted during the webinar so we decided to turn the responses into a Target Marketing Article.  Here are a few of the questions, the answers can be found here.

1. How do you measure social media ROI?

2. We’re just launching a blog; what’s the best way to solicit feedback/interaction?

3. On social networks, we have a few really engaged customers who respond to posts, but overall most people are not engaged. How can we fix that?

View the additional 9 questions and their answers on the Target Marketing Website  here.

BTW, you can still see a replay of the webinar here.

Jim Gilbert, President of FDMA Givin’ it all away…


Jim Gilbert, President of FDMA Givin' it all away...

As President of the Florida Direct Marketing Association (www.fdma.org) I love to officiate over our monthly events. My favorite part of leading? Doing raffles and giveaways. Here I am giving away a $50 gift certificate to our host location Paragon Theaters.

Website Goal? 6 Tips for ALL Ecommerce Companies to Capture EVERY Visitor to Your Website…


One of the universal truths I see is a lack of understanding by many marketers, from newbie to experienced, of what their website is really for. I know, I know, marketers always say the right thing: It’s about conversion. When I look at their website and ask them what their site conversion rate is, I hear them proudly state, “I convert 2 percent, look how good I’m doing!” (And of course some marketers don’t even know what their site conversion rate is.)

Here’s a better goal: Click here to see the full article on Retail Online Integration Magazine’s site.

Want more info on Gilbert Direct Marketing, including a FREE website review?  Use the form below…

7 Must-Follow Tips from Apple’s Customer Care Playbook


So I’m sitting on a hard wooden seat in my local Apple store waiting patiently. It had been a half-hour since I was politely shown to a waiting area while the large crowd buzzed around me. Twice an Apple rep came over to apologize for my wait. Her apology felt sincere, like she actually cared that I was waiting and inconvenienced. Another point scored for Apple — sincerity.

Which is when it hit me. In any other store, I’d be cursing under my breath, impatient as heck, demanding to be served.

So why was I being patient? What I came up with is this… (click here to read more on the Retail Online Integration Magazine site)

Me (Jim Gilbert, Florida Direct Marketing Association President) discussing FDMA’s 2013 Value Prop changes


Not an official “rehearsed” promo video. This was the opening intro from last months FDMA event talking a bit about our 2013 goals, value proposition and socially driven website….

The Florida Direct Marketing Association is Florida’s premier education and networking trade organization; helping marketers enhance their careers since 1978.

More info, www.fdma.org

Help stop the internet sales tax…


Important information to act on now.  (thanks to our friends at ACMA for allowing us to share this)

Urgent Industry Alert:
CEOs, Presidents: Last Call To Make A Difference;
Contact Your Senators Monday

Dear Catalog Industry Executive:Whether you wrote last week or didn’t get a chance to yet, the Senate is scheduled to take action today. The Marketplace Fairness Act will definitely cost you money and could potentially ruin your catalog business. The industry needs all C-level executives to call to Senate offices right away. Let’s light up the lines. It will influence the result, especially if they know you – but call either way. This is our last chance to make a difference. Do not delay. For starters, please check out this editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, as it can greatly help our cause and yours when you make your calls.Click on each title below for all the important tools you’ll need:

Click here to review the details ACMA distributed in our alert from Friday
Last and not least, we are working round-the-clock coordinating industry efforts, so we need to hear from you too. Please use the following address to let us know which actions you take: action@catalogmailers.org.
Sincerely,

Hamilton Davison
President & Executive Director
American Catalog Mailers Association
www.catalogmailers.org
hdavison@catalogmailers.org

Advertising on your head? (I was quoted in this article on Huffington Post


 

No matter what you think of this method of advertising, it certainly is unique.  I was interviewed for this article about one of my former clients, DeliverLean using Mohawk Gaz to advertise their business on his head.  So what do you think of this?  Effective?  Read the article for my opinion: Click here

Mohawk Gaz image, from article in Sun Sentinel and Huffington Post

Come see The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing Live in Miami this Saturday


More info on Mashable’s Social Media Day Miami and the full schedule can be found here: http://miamisocialmedia.com/

Social media Day Miami 2012

A simple and basic social media marketing plan


This short presentation I did for one of my clients lays out the basics of how to drive engagement and action via social media channels for any company.  Want to get started in Social media marketing?  Start here…

 

The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing – Presentation from #DMA2011


On October 5th I presented The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing to a packed house at the Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference and Exhibition.  Here is the deck from that presentation.  I have some video and pictures I will clean up and post next.  Feel free to pass this presentation on.

Social Media for Non-Profit and other Marketers presentation for the Florida Direct Marketing Association


On Thursday 8/18/2011, I spoke at the Florida Direct Marketing Association’s annual Non-Profit Summit.  The subject, “Social Media for fun and Profit”.  Here is a the presentation for your review

These two presentations on Social Media made it to the homepage of slideshare.net.


I love it when a plan comes together.  On Friday and today my presentations made it up to the top of slideshare.net’s home page.  Check them out:

 

Yours Truly quoted in the USPS’s Deliver Magazine on direct mail testing for The Fresh Diet


Despite my love/hate relationship with the US Post Office I still get quoted from time to time.  Check out this quote about how I built The Fresh Diet’s direct mail program.

Blog Talk Radio interviews The Fresh Diets CEO and myself


Last week, Blog talk Radio interviewed myself and CEO Zalmi Duchman of The Fresh Diet on our social media successes.  Here is the interview in its entirety…

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/socialmediafortheceo/2011/03/18/social-media-and-the-fresh-diet-with-ceo-zalmi-duchman

Follow up: A tale of two CompUSA’s, extended warranties and the great social media bully pulpit


Two weeks ago in my blog (article here), I totally skewered CompUSA and their warranty company (found out it’s Assurant Solutions) for not doing the right thing and honoring the extended warranty I purchased for an HDTV.

Within days of publishing that article, pushing it out to my Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter connections and posting it in the Linkedin Groups I belong to, I got a call from CompUSA.

Since I was driving in the car at the time, I never did get the person’s name, so lets call him Good Corporate Samaritan, or Sam for short.  Essentially Sam wanted me to know two things:

First that the CompUSA I purchased my TV and my extended warranty from was not in business anymore and that the NEW CompUSA had nothing to do with the old one.

Secondly, he wanted me to know that he had made arrangements with their (the old CompUSA) warranty company for me to get a replacement TV.

Sam assured me that the new CompUSA would never treat a valued customer so shabbily.  In that conversation, I told Sam that I believed heavily in the power of social media as the great equalizer that can right many wrongs that bad companies perpetrate on their clients.

I also told Sam that once I received my replacement TV, I would write a follow up and let people know that I had my CompUSA’s wrong.  So for Sam and all of the employees at CompUSA, I just wanted to let you know that I did indeed receive a replacement TV on Thursday, and that the NEW CompUSA came to the rescue.

Thanks Sam!  Much appreciated!

That said, I am a very lucky guy in that I have a bully pulpit with a decent sized following to preach to.  (and thanks to all for listening by the way!!!)

Yet I have to wonder if Joe Everyman, would be as successful at getting justice from CompUSA or for that matter any company without said bully pulpit as a platform.  I guess it depends on the company really, and how customer-centric they actually are.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to further explore what it means for a company to be truly customer centric.  I have a few great case studies for you.

Before I go today let me leave you with my favorite quote and essential operating concept that drives my business practices.  The quote is from Peter Drucker and is brilliant in its elegant simplicity…

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose – to create a customer.

Companies are not in business to make things… but to make customers.”

I hope I am preaching to the choir here!  What are your thoughts?

Paid Product Warranties: Two Marketing Case Studies one good and one horror story


UPDATE: Right after this article was published, I got a call from someone at CompUSA.  They told me two things.

1. That the CompUSA I was writing about was out of business and the NEW CompUSA would never treat customers with warranty issues so shabbily.

2. That they had made arrangements for me to get a new TV for all my troubles.

I will write more in my next article, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that on Thursday i received a new TV as a replacement for the 4 years of fighting with their (well actually the OLD CompUSA’s) warranty company (Assurant Solutions).

Warranties, especially the paid variety can be a mixed bag.  Last week I had two warranty experiences that were unbelievable.

The first was a horror show.  4 years ago I bought a TV through CompUSA.  I bought their 4 year TAP (Total Assurance Protection plan, I think it was called.).  The warranty was expensive costing nearly 20% of what the TV cost.

The TV was a lemon from day one.  There was an intermittent problem with the sound.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes not.  The way the CompUSA warranty was structured, I had to jump through way too many hoops to prove the TV was a lemon.  Long story short, I was forced to have 3 separate companies come and fix the TV.  Guess what… each time the repair companies came, the sound was back on.  Two of the repair companies came in more than once; one time taking the TV back to their shop for 2 weeks while I was going on vacation to “see if they could recreate the problem”.  Nothing!  Each time I documented the case with CompUSA’s warranty division and did everything they asked for.  And each time I requested a new TV only to be told that I hadn’t met the criteria for a replacement.  I was even told there was nothing wrong with the TV as they couldn’t find a problem when the repair companies showed.

I wonder if the good folks at CompUSA get the concept of intermittent.  Each time I was called I was treated with indifference by people like they hated their jobs – people who clearly had no business dealing with the public.

3 weeks ago right after the warranty ended, the sound went out yet again.  I figured that with all the documentation, even though the warranty ended I could get a repair company out.  After all, this was and ongoing issue right?  Wrong.  Like a mantra, all I got was “I’m sorry Mr. Gilbert I cannot help you since your warranty ended”.  Finally after pleading for 15 minutes for someone to treat me like a real human being, (spoke to the supervisor too), I gave up.

So CompUSA, if you are listening, be prepared to be tweeted, yelped, facebooked and anything else I can do to let people know that you don’t stand behind your products and your people, well, suck!

On the positive side of paid warranties, there is Apple.  My 2 year old iPhone died.  Wouldn’t take a charge.  One 10 minute call to Apple Care (they made an appointment at my local apple store when they couldn’t help me fix over the phone), and a half hour in the apple store, and I walked out with a brand new iPhone.  I was treated with respect by a caring, smiling human being who honored my warranty.

So Steve Jobs if you are listening… Thank you!!!  And to CompUSA, learn!

Your company’s product guarantee policy: reducing the barriers to purchasing


Some years ago I worked for a clothing cataloger that offered a no strings attached, lifetime money back guarantee.  Occasionally we received a tattered well used article of clothing back 2-3 years later, but mostly the guarantee worked for us.  We were pioneering organic fiber fashion and as a company wanted to do everything we could in order to reduce the risk that could have a negative effect on a purchasing decision.

A good solid guarantee is an important part of the selling process.  It tells the consumer that you stand behind your products and you are truly focused on your customers needs.  Showing your guarantee prominently on your website and your catalogs makes good sense, and in my opinion should be heavily promoted as part of your offer.

Also in my opinion, and I cannot stress this enough in the age of social media, is for management to offer the best possible guarantee they can, and then back it unconditionally.

Take a look at your company’s warrantee.  Is it clear, simple and to the point?  If not then simplify it.  Make it so easy even a child can understand it.  Why?  The internet and social media are the great equalizers and simple things like upsetting a customer with a hard to understand guarantee, will wind up being tweeted, Yelped and status updated.

Florida Direct Marketing Association Presentation on Facebook


This is the latest presentation I did for the Florida Direct Marketing Association.  Entitled Facebook: Breaking the Sales and Engagement Myth, it is a case study on how The Fresh Diet builds engagement, trust and sales on their Facebook page.  We had over 100 people in attendence, once again for the 2nd time in 3 years I have lead off in January with a home run for the FDMA (every once in a while you have to pat yourself on the back right?)

BERNHART ASSOCIATES’ EMPLOYMENT Q1 SURVEY RELEASED: 2011 STARTS OFF STRONG; DIRECT MARKETING HIRING TO REBOUND


Layoffs, Hiring Freezes Hit Multi-Year Lows
Owatonna, MN, January 18, 2011—Digital and direct marketers are planning a surge in hiring this winter with agencies leading the way, according to Bernhart Associates’ Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report for the first quarter of 2011.

“I expected a bounce, but nothing like this, which is very encouraging,” said Jerry Bernhart, leading direct marketing recruiter and Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, which conducts the quarterly employment survey.  “This is the most positive quarterly improvement we’ve ever seen in the 11-year history of our quarterly survey.”

The following are key findings from Bernhart Associates’ Quarter 1 (Q1) survey:

• Fifty-two percent (52%) of companies responding to the survey said they plan to add to staff in Q1, up from 41% last quarter (Q4).

• Sixteen percent (16%) of respondents currently have a hiring freeze, down sharply from 35% in Q4.

• The percentage of companies planning layoffs in Q1 dropped to 4%, compared with 8% in Q4.

• Sixty-three percent (63%) of agencies responding to the survey plan to add staff, with none planning cutbacks and only one agency reporting a hiring freeze.

Survey results show that marketing hiring budgets are still being pinched on the client side, which are lagging the agencies and service providers in planned hiring.  But Bernhart notes that nearly one out of every two marketers still will have positions to fill in the current quarter.

“Business-to-business hiring plans outpaced business-to-consumer, and also reported fewer expected layoffs and hiring freezes,” added Bernhart.

Bernhart said that while direct marketing staffing this year may not reach the boom levels seen prior to 2008, he expects hiring to continue building momentum in 2011, noting the following key trends:

• Digital and direct marketers are revising upward their projections for 2011 as margins improve and demand picks up, creating the need for more staffing.

• The number of online digital and direct marketing-related job listings has been up sharply in the past couple months.

• Bernhart said he has seen a “dramatic” decline in the number of resumes from recently laid-off digital and direct marketers.

• Bernhart further noted that he is fielding more calls from companies asking about executive searches, adding, “you don’t see that happen unless job recovery is taking hold.”

Among those companies planning to add staff, Bernhart said digital and direct marketing openings will be across the board and at all levels.  “Usually we see a couple of job categories stand out, but this time it’s very broad-based with marketing, analytics, and sales topping the list, along with a strong showing among IT-related positions.”

Bernhart Associates’ Q1 hiring survey was emailed on January 5 and 12 to more than 11,000 senior executives, hiring managers, human resource officials, and other key participants in online and offline direct marketing.  A total of 399 organizations responded to the widely followed employment-trends survey.

According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), in 2009, marketers—commercial and nonprofit—spent $149.3 billion on direct marketing, which accounted for 54.3% of all ad expenditures in the United States.  Measured against total U.S. sales, these advertising expenditures generated approximately $1.783 trillion in incremental sales.  DMA further reported that, in 2009, there were 1.4 million direct marketing employees in the U.S.  Their collective sales efforts directly supported 8.4 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 9.9 million American jobs.

Results of past surveys can be found in the DMA’s annual Statistical Fact Book and on Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC’s website.

Companies interested in participating in the Bernhart Associates’ Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report should send an email to survey@bernhart.com with “Opt-In” in the subject line, or they can sign up directly on the front page of the Bernhart Associates’ website.

####

Download this Press Release as a PDF.

Please direct executive search inquires to jerry@bernhart.com or call 507-451-4270.

About Bernhart Associates

Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is owned by Jerry Bernhart, a
leading and nationally recognized digital and direct marketing recruiter, writer, and
speasker.  Founded in 1991, Bernhart Associates recruits for positions at all levels in
Multichannel Direct Marketing, CRM, E-Commerce, Database Marketing, Business
Development, and Marketing Analytics.  Respected as a leading authority on issues
related to digital and direct marketing recruiting, Jerry is a frequent speaker at
national marketing conferences and is often quoted by the industry news media.  Jerry
has written dozens of articles for the leading online and offline multichannel marketing
publications.

The Bernhart Associates’ Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Survey,
now in its eleventh year, has become the most widely followed employment report in
digital and direct marketing and measures employers’ hiring plans for the coming
quarter.  It is the only forward-looking employment survey of its kind in digital and direct marketing and unparalleled in size and scope.

Bernard Silverman and Affiliates, Naperville, IL, contributes research and
analysis for the Bernhart Associates’ Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing
Employment Report.  Bernie can be reached at bernie@bsilverman.com.

How to Mess Up a Perfectly Good Customer Experience


As a marketer, you should be overly concerned about how your customers experience your brand, products and customer service. I evangelize how in the internet age it’s very easy for a company to wind up getting skewered via social media.

But all isn’t the same out there. I come across businesses daily who don’t have their proverbial act together. All could really learn some lessons on how customers must be king or else.

I love to go to the movies. The local theater I go to recently underwent a complete makeover, including new, wider reclining chairs; a bar with real food and alcoholic beverages; and more. This theater already had a really great loyalty program in place: it seemed for every couple of movies I went to, I wound up with a free ticket. Very cool!

Even more cool (guilty pleasure alert), it actually used real butter on its popcorn. Oh, and free refills. And it was never too crowded like the mega-giga-multiplex in town where you need a shuttle bus a la Disney to get from the parking lot to the theater.

Enter Frank Theatres a few short months ago and the mega-giga-multiplex doesn’t look so bad. It upped the price of a movie ticket by a few bucks, made it harder than winning the lottery to get a free ticket via its points-based loyalty program and in general tortured me as a customer by making the $6 popcorn nonrefillable. Now you have to buy the $7.50 size (maybe you city folks pay that for 30 cents of corn, oil and seasonings, but down south here that’s a big jump) in order to get refills. I’m pretty sure the $6 bag and the $7.50 bucket are about the same size, so why not just charge me $1.50 for a refill and stop with the subterfuge already.

I won’t even tell you about how customers are supposed to understand how to wait in one central line for the candy counter until the next person is called without any velvet ropes or a queue. Ridiculous! Is it one line or three lines? This is for sure going to turn into a fistfight one day soon because people try to form three lines only to be told they’re cutting the line.

The kicker: I took my family to the movies last weekend knowing I’d drop close to $100 for the latest 3-D flick (an additional $3 just to use the theater’s 3-D glasses), but I couldn’t even use a $100 bill. The girl at the ticket booth told me flatly, “We don’t take that, it’s our policy.”

So by now the moral of the story should be obvious — wait for the movie to come out on cable. Wait, that’s not it.

The moral is your customers have expectations. If you meet or beat those expectations, you’ll do well in business. If you don’t, there will likely be consequences — i.e., lost sales. Your customers are creatures of habit. They like their little creature comforts. If you take them away, they tend to get upset and take their business elsewhere.

So a note to Frank Theatres: This is the internet age. Get it together or deal with some very vocal customers who like what they like. If it’s going to take over another theater, keep the customs of that theater or risk losing business (or at least go with gradual change). It’s OK to add to a better user experience. Be careful that progress isn’t taking one step forward and two steps back.

Does humor belong in business?


Folks, business is serious business!

I’ve worked for too many companies who took themselves way too seriously.  And why not be serious – its important work bringing great products to consumers, right?

Wrong!  Given the growth of social media and its ability to put a human face on your companies business, its time to have some fun.  There are so many great options for you these days to inject a little humor into your business (caveat: be real and genuine) with Facebook, Youtube, blogs, etc.

I know I have spoken about them before, but one company I work with, The Fresh Diet is ALL about fun.  Their Facebook page is constantly holding contests, many of which are designed just to be engaging and fun.

Last week we upped the ante on their fun level and created a video spoof of the show Undercover Boss for our customers and fans.  It took us a half a day of shooting and another half a day to edit it (yes we used a professional video company).  The feedback from our customers and fans on Facebook has been great.  We even plan on doing other spoof videos in the future and turning this into a regular event.

So I wanted to share it with you here.  I hope it sparks something for you that you can use with your customers and fans.

On another note, I want to wish each and every one of you a happy and safe holiday!  Speak to you soon!

How Integrating Social Media Into its Marketing Mix Brought The Fresh Diet Success


By Melissa Campanelli, from eMarketing and Commerce Magazine

Integrating social media into its marketing mix has helped drive revenue for The Fresh Diet, a gourmet diet delivery service established in 2005 that delivers freshly prepared meals and two snacks directly to its clients’ doors each day.

The Fresh Diet’s newly redesigned website makes it easy for visitors to engage in social media, which creates excitement for prospects coming to the site. “There are all kinds of chicklets on our homepage where we drive people to our social media sites and blog,” says Jim Gilbert , The Fresh Diet’s chief marketing officer and frequent eM+C contributor. “Then they can see what’s happening on our social media sites to get a sense of what their peers are saying about the company.”

What’s more, Gilbert says, “we know that once we have them on a social media site, we’re pretty good at drawing them out. We do a lot of contests and we have a lot of people who are very vocal. So we’re always doing fun and crazy contests there.”

A recent video contest The Fresh Diet launched on Facebook received 15 videos from customers that ranged from heartfelt to funny, Gilbert says. “One person who loves our cheesecake did a takeoff on ‘The Terminator,’ calling himself ‘The Cheesecakeator,’ and did a four-minute video on that.”

While social media creates excitement for The Fresh Diet, it also helps drive sales. “We know for a fact that every time we run a special on Facebook, people come out in droves and order,” Gilbert says.

Social media mix
To drive people to multiple channels, The Fresh Diet sometimes introduces a contest on Facebook designed to drive people to its blog. Or, it may use Twitter to promote its contests.

“Oftenimes, we use a combination of the three,” Gilbert says. “We drive people from the blog to Facebook, from Facebook to the blog, and Twitter to both places. We really believe that the more channels people are engaged in, the more likely they’ll be our better customers.”

The Fresh Diet also uses Facebook Ads, a tool that enables it to post display ads on targeted Facebook pages. In addition to Facebook Ads, The Fresh Diet has used paid celebrities (Lindsay Lohan, to name one) to tweet about its brand and drive people to its Facebook page. But that type of campaign can be expensive, Gilbert notes.

GrouponOpens in a new window, the deal-of-the-day website, is also part of The Fresh Diet’s marketing mix. The Fresh Diet is able to strategically select the areas that it wants to promote in — e.g., new cities where it will be offering its delivery service — via Groupon.

The Fresh Diet is in the process of creating a social media app that will allow it to push its members’ meal choices to their Facebook or Twitter streams at the appropriate times, enabling its customers’ friends and followers to get an idea of what the customers are eating.

“It will be a clickable link, so if a customer’s Facebook friends click on it, they’ll see a beautiful, full-color, professionally photographed image of the meal,” Gilbert says. “Taking it a step further, when The Fresh Diet customer’s friends or followers click on that link, the customer would get points or a reward.”

Marketing beyond social media
But The Fresh Diet doesn’t only use social media for marketing. It also sends monthly direct mailers to prospects, for example.

“We work with a top-notch list broker, RMI Direct MarketingOpens in a new window, and look for lists of people that have a certain amount of income, have proven that they’ve bought big and tall or plus-size items in the past, and are all direct mail responsive buyers,” Gilbert says.

The Fresh Diet has increased its direct mail circulation this year. “We started out mailing 50,00 to 100,000 pieces, but now we’re up to 500,000 at a clip,” Gilbert notes.

Email is also a big part of The Fresh Diet’s marketing mix. To help it acquire new customers, The Fresh Diet relies on two opt-in email lists: a referral list through Catalogs.comOpens in a new window and a list of people who are highly targeted, such as those who have gone to a specific diet company’s website and registered.

As for frequency, The Fresh Diet sends out an e-newsletter to customers and prospects at least once a month, and supplements that with an email campaign regularly. “I’d say we’re touching our customers via email on average about twice a month,” Gilbert says.

The Fresh Diet is currently in the process of creating tell-a-friend and upsell-type emails to go out once people come onboard as clients, Gilbert adds.

All of this activity has helped The Fresh Diet get more visitors to its website, social media sites and blogs. In fact, every single metric that the company measures is increasing, according to Gilbert.

“Our direct mail response rates have been going up, as are our customer retention rates,” Gilbert says. “We noticed early on this year that when we do a direct mail campaign, in a matter of days after their initial order, people literally come back and buy more. Everything seems to be firing on all cylinders.”

The Postal Direct Mail Nightmare Continues: BREAKING NEWS: USPS Appeals Exigency Rate Case


Note: this just in from our good friends at ACMA
October 22, 2010 

Special Bulletin: USPS Appeals Exigency Rate Case
 

 

Dear Catalogers, Suppliers & Others With Catalog Interests: 

While mailers were still rejoicing over the victory on the exigency rate case, the USPS filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse the widely heralded Postal Regulatory Commission decision. The Postal Regulatory Commission on Sept. 30 denied the USPS’s extraordinary request for a well-above-inflation-rate postage price increase that would have effectively nullified the Congressionally-imposed rate cap.

 

In its latest filing, the USPS requests a review of the PRC’s interpretation of the law that governs how prices are set and asks the Court to confirm it has the right to file an exigent price increase. It also seeks clarity regarding the rules governing how an exigency increase will be applied should it find itself in a similar situation in the future. According to a USPS statement on the matter, it is also reviewing other options open to it in light of the PRC ruling.
What does this mean to you? Right now, it is a little hard to say definitively. Courts have historically sided with regulators provided it can be demonstrated the regulator followed its own rules and practices in arriving at a decision. We know of no basis to conclude otherwise at this point, indicating the PRC decision should stand. However, clearly USPS execs have an approach they believe has merit, or they would not have gone to the cost and trouble of an appeal.

ACMA’s Approach
As it has all along this process, ACMA will monitor developments closely and may decide to intervene alone or with others supporting the PRC decision. Unfortunately, this development puts into question how much you should budget for the coming year. Until further information is available that suggests otherwise, we recommend sticking by earlier forecasts we gave to members, but you can be sure we will stay close to this matter and let you know when a clearer picture is available. 

Happily, ACMA has some money available from its Special Fund and general coiffeurs that give us options as to how to proceed. This is a great reason why it is in your best interests to make sure you have a properly resourced group to address unexpected developments quickly to protect your interests.

More to come…

Sincerely,

Hamilton Davison
President & Executive Director
American Catalog Mailers Association
Direct: 401-529-8183

The Direct Mail Myth Busting Continues.“preferential attitudes on trustworthiness of mail strengthened for consumer respondents in all age groups from 2008 to 2010”. Take that you naysayers!


My good friend and fellow direct marketer Evelyn Milardo posted this on Linkedin.  Some great and surprising stats about direct mail vs online here:

Young adults strongly prefer Offline to Online sources for marketing offers reveals Epsilon’s ICOM 2010 North American Research. Depending on the product category, the survey results Show 2-1 and 3-1 offline preference margin.

Six years after the launch of Facebook, North American consumers in the valued 18-34 year-old demographic prefer by a wide margin to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media platforms, according to national survey research from ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting.

Additionally, the ICOM research shows that preferential attitudes about the trustworthiness of mail strengthened for consumer respondents in all age groups from 2008 to 2010.The 2010 study of 2569 U.S. households and 2209 Canadian households focused on consumer preferences in regard to the ever-expanding array of communications channels for the delivery of marketing information, offers and promotions. Responses came from consumers ranging in age from 18 to 55 and above.

By the numbers, here are some of the key results from ICOM’s 2010 study of North American consumers’ marketing communication channel preferences –

For household and health products, the preference among 18-34 year-olds for receiving marketing information from offline sources led by mail and newspapers is 2 to 3 times greater than online sources such as social media. Examples of consumer preferences for offline versus online are:

Personal Care products – 62% offline, 22% online

Food products – 66% offline, 23% online

OTC medicines 53% offline, 22% online
Prescription medicines 45% offline, 22% online

Understandably,travel was the exception, where 18-34 year-olds preferred online to offline information by a 42% to 35% margin. However and this really BIG – Insurance and Financial Services followed the overall trend, with the 18-34 age group preferring offline sources 43% to 21% and 44% to 19%, respectively.

Stay tuned – more to come.

The Postal Rate Commission (PRC) Denies Exigent Postage Rate Increase … Big !@#$ Deal


Recently, The Postal Rate Commission denied the US Postal Service an exigent postage increase.

So, OK, now what?

So, Direct marketers aren’t getting slammed with another 5 percent-plus postage rate increase in January. Big whoop-de-doo. Postage is still the biggest expense in all my clients’ mail campaigns. And the cost of mailing vs. the risk of the unknown is still the biggest reason marketers shy away from the direct mail channel.

The second biggest reason? Well, everybody has heard the horror stories. All that money spent on killer creative, design, lists, printing, postage, and then the campaign bombs.  And then everybody talks about how the campaign bombed and direct mail sucks.

OK, so many of those direct mail campaign “bombs” forgot to follow the basic principles of the business — i.e., the 40/40/20 rule. They probably did the creative first and then figured out lists last like most companies I see do.

This kind of activity perpetuates the urban legend that direct mail doesn’t work. Well, except for a few companies. Those companies, you know, the junk mailers, the big companies with unlimited budgets who don’t care about results and just want to build their brand images… they are the ones who do well.

Now I won’t even get into the whole environmental argument of direct mail not being green. Believe what you want, but that’s a myth. The direct mail and paper industries are ultracautious to replenish the environment.

And let’s not forget about our internet marketing brethren, who have done such a wonderful job throwing direct mail under the bus, positioning it as passé or old school, while they prop themselves up as the future of direct marketing. I won’t even go there today.

Let’s face it, direct mail has a bad reputation. But that can change. Here’s how:

The smartest thing those wunderkinds at our beloved Postal Service can do is nurture the direct mail industry. Imagine what would happen if the USPS actually offered discounts for online marketers to give direct mail a chance? Now imagine the same thing happening with small and emerging businesses. How many companies would try direct mail if the risks were reduced? How many tests? How many rollouts?

And what about nurturing those retailers who still use direct mail as a major part of their marketing programs? Sure, the USPS has tested some “Summer SalesOpens in a new window,” which is a move in the right direction, but it’s time for the Postal Service to stop dipping a toe in the water and give volume mailers an opportunity to push their circulations up. Seasoned mailers know the results are there, they’ve just been beaten down by a constant barrage of postage increases.

More importantly, over time, how many direct mail pieces are needed in circulation to drive additional revenue for the post office? Some way the USPS is going to have to get itself out of the bureaucratic hole it’s dug for itself.

Hey, I’m not dreaming here. It’s a simple business model: high costs = less volume, lower costs = increased volume.

The USPS has traveled the higher-priced road before, and in the process did an amazing job of building up the internet and literally exploding the size of the online marketing community (to which it offers thanks, by the way).

Maybe now it’s time to think things through and encourage more mailers and subsequently more volume. And inevitably if they do it right, more (well, to be fair … SOME) profits.

BREAKING (GOOD) NEWS: postal-regulatory-commission-denies-exigent-rate-increases


The Postal Regulatory Commission Denied the Postal increase.  Read about it here

http://www.dmnews.com/postal-regulatory-commission-denies-exigent-rate-increases/article/180018/?DCMP=EMC-DMN_iMktingNewsDaily

We at Gilbert Direct Marketing, applaud the PRC for denying the exigent postal rate case.  As I have said before every penny direct marketers have to spend on direct mail, with it’s biggest expense already postage, we have to add 2 cents of revenue to cover the increased costs.

Despite its negative image lately, mostly fostered by environmentalists and internet marketers, direct mail remains a highly targetable and enormously profitable marketing channel.  Presently I have clients who are seeing ROI in the range of 6 to 1.

FAIL: As an online marketer I applaud the US Postal Service for it’s Exigent Rate Case. Read my letter to them


Dear Mr. Postmaster General and the honorable members of the Postal Regulatory Commission,

As an online marketer, I want to thank you. I cannot wait until you raise postage rates come January. Now some people may not agree with me, but I applaud your efforts to consistently raise postage rates.

As I was starting my business a few years ago, you announced an incredible postal rate increase — if I remember correctly, around 20 percent — that really helped my business take off. So many direct marketers, who could no longer afford to profitably mail catalogs and other direct mail, came calling. As a result, my business flourished (as did many of my comrades in the online space).

Now I hear you’re on the verge of passing something called an “exigent” rate increase, pushing postal costs up another 5 percent.

Very cool, thanks!

I also love how you got around the specific language that was designed to keep you from arbitrarily raising rates. :-)

Right now I bet many direct marketers are pretty angry with you. They’re probably feverishly calculating their profit-and-loss statements to determine how many previously profitable mailing lists aren’t going to be profitable anymore. How fortunate for me. I wonder how many new customers I can pick up come the first quarter?

And one other thing I want to mention as long as you’re reading this: You know those summer postal “sales” you’ve had the last two years? Yeah, those ones where the criteria for qualification to receive the discount are ridiculously hard for mailers to meet? Well, I really appreciate your help in disillusioning the direct marketing community. Remember, the more jaded and disillusioned it becomes, the better for my business.

That’s it for now. I hope this letter finds you all well. Keep up the good work — my business needs it!

Sincerely,
Steven M. Search

EDITORS NOTE: Some people, mostly internet marketers, are commenting on linkedin that they applaud this article – like it’s real!!!  Folks, this post is meant as pure acidic sarcasm and irony.  Its intent is to skewer the USPS, The Postmaster General and The Postal Rate Commission for their stupidity in biting the hand that feeds them, and single-handedly destroying their future earnings potential as they drive marketers out of a highly targetable and profitable channel.  I find it both humorous and horrifying that people would take this post literally.

Jim

From Politico and SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Rate hikes won’t help Postal Service!


if you are in the direct mail business, or you ship packages via the USPS (also known as The US Postal Service), read this article now from Senator Susan Collins and as published on Politico.  Click here for the story (and a definition of what Exigent Circumstances SHOULD mean to the band of thieves called Postal Rate Commission)

For a sarcastic look at what a field day our good friends at the US Postal Service are providing the internet marketing industry, click here

I find it totally inconceivable how stupid the USPS, The Postal Rate Commission and Postmaster General Potter are.  Every penny they increase postage for our direct mail campaigns means we have to get 2 cents more per piece mailed in order to be profitable.  That means profitable mailers (and lists) become marginal or worse.

Another article I wrote that addresses this issue is: How To Heal The USPS in 8 Easy Steps.

A 3,500% increase in fans/likes, engagement and sales on Facebook? (a case study)


When I first started marketing via social media, I didn’t understand Facebook. A blog was the central focus of my social media programs. I’d create a blog post and push it out via Facebook and other social media channels. And that worked well at driving traffic to my blog. As for engagement with my readers, I got some comments back, even some people interacting with each other on occasion, but nothing earth-shattering.

Over on Facebook, I had a whole bunch of content, but no interaction and not many fans. I’ve seen a ton of Facebook fan pages like that.

But about a year ago, I found the key that unlocked the Facebook engagement factor. At that time I took over the fan page of one of my clients, The Fresh Diet Opens in a new window(whom I wrote about  last week). When I began working on The Fresh Diet’s Facebook pageOpens in a new window, it had 96 fans. At first it was business at usual: Write a blog post and put it on Facebook; add The Fresh Diet’s Facebook link to emails; etc. The net result: In three months, The Fresh Diet had accumulated 300 fans.

Since January, The Fresh Diet has seen its Facebook fan base swell to over 3,500 fans. Here’s how we did it:

  1. We asked questions — sometimes controversial ones — that drew fans out.
  2. We held contests. At first these were held every few weeks, but now they’re going on almost all the time. And they’re simple: caption a picture, name a feature of The Fresh Diet’s business, etc.
  3. We also held more elaborate contests. Recently, The Fresh Diet held a video testimonial contest and was blown away by the results.
  4. I know you’ve heard this one many times by now, but The Fresh Diet spoke in a real voice. The voice of The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page is me — goofy, earnest, caring, sometimes a bit snarky and sarcastic, but always real. I call myself The Fresh Diet’s “fearless FB leader,” and they now call me by it, too.
  5. To tie items three and four together, The Fresh Diet’s fearless FB leader is known for “overgiving” contest prizes. Goofing around one day, when it was just too tough to choose between two contest winners, I named four winners. Pretty soon, I coined the phrase “overgiving”; The Fresh Diet’s Facebook fans now wait in anticipation to see how much free food I give out.
  6. Find and nurture your brand’s dominant influencers. Early on in my work with The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page, I noticed half a dozen people started to stand out. So I built a relationship with them, not as a strategy of course, but a real relationship. As brand ambassadors, these people have become the voice of The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page, too. And I find new ambassadors all the time!
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask people to do things. Promote your page, run a contest, take over for a bit. When you build real relationships with real people, not just “fans” or “likes,” they’ll walk through fire for you (because they know you’ll do the same for them).
  8. Go crazy. Last week, I asked an actress and singer to do a music video for us (we have lots of famous people on The Fresh Diet). She was totally honored and did a homemade video — even gave me a shout out in it. The Fresh Diet holds contests where people write songs about their favorite meals, or they have to rearrange the lyrics in a song or slogan to be about The Fresh Diet. Our fans love it.
  9. In my next column, I’ll continue to detail some of the ways you can build engagement and sales on Facebook.

7 ways to make the Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest Growing Companies list in a down economy like my client did


I’m not really big on self-promotion or self-congratulations — especially here in my column. However, I’m quite pleased to “admit” that one of the companies I work for has made Inc. magazine’s fastest growing companies in America listOpens in a new window.

So, what does it take to make the list? While it’s not Inc.’s criteria, I’ll tell you from my perspective what you and your company need to do to get there.

But before I do, let me tell you a bit about the company in question. The Fresh Diet Opens in a new windowwas founded in 2005 in classic entrepreneurial style — in the kitchen of CEO Zalmi Duchman with Executive Chef Yosef Schwartz . The company creates gourmet meals that are healthy, portion controlled and delicious (Chef Yos is a Cordon BleuOpens in a new window-trained chef). The meals are prepared fresh and hand-delivered to clients’ homes every day.

For this luxury (or is it?), customers dish out about $35 a day (most order a month’s worth of Fresh Diet meals at a time — about $1,100).

So, how can your company follow in The Fresh Diet’s footsteps and makeInc.’s 500 list? Here are seven ways how:

  • Identify products that create fanatics and advocates. It’s easy to go into the meal delivery business and not deliver food daily, or by hand, or buy top-quality meats and produce. But why do that? The Fresh Diet constantly strives to exceed its customers’ expectations.
  • Build a persona around your business and your people. It’s not enough to just be a business these days. With social media and peer recommendations fully in play, companies must put a face to the nameless, faceless corporate entity. Use social media as a way to connect with your customers. But don’t do it as a strategy. Connect in an honest and personal way, in a real voice. For a good example of how The Fresh Diet accomplishes this, check out its Facebook pageOpens in a new window.
  • Take risks, but calculated ones. Develop a mentality of testing — everything from marketing channels to individual campaigns. But also calculate the risks. Test small and do your math up front; big results can potentially be found in tests of all sizes. Even companies that are struggling should test. By making testing part of your culture, the rewards will outweigh the risks.
  • Empower your employees to think and act independently. The days of micromanaging employees are over. Empowered employees are more productive employees. Find great talent, then let them do their thing. OK, so sometimes they won’t do what you thought they should do, but that will be offset by things you never would have thought of.
  • Use all of your channels. I’ve seen too many companies get stuck these days by a specific kind of thinking: online retailers who only market online; direct marketers who fear advertising online; etc. Don’t fall into that trap. The Fresh Diet survives quite nicely in the online and traditional worlds, where it’s tested and rolled out many successful programs.
  • Understand that messaging needs time to develop. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither should your messaging. Going back to developing a culture of testing, your marketing message falls into a category that should be constantly tested. And even if you hit it big and have “control” messaging that works, always strive to make it better.
  • Handle customer service issues promptly, and look to resolve each issue in the customer’s favor. Know that an upset customer is a brand ambassador waiting to happen once their issue is resolved (which says much for the lack of customer centricity with other brands).
  • Guest Post: Debunking the Myth of Trees vs. Direct Mail


    Editor’s Note: This week’s post comes from Evelyn Milardo , a direct marketing consultant, whom Jim has hand-picked to serve as a guest columnist in his place this week.

    OK, direct mail has an environmental impact. Almost everyone still receives and sends mail, creating a footprint for sure. But what’s myth and what’s reality?

    In 2007, there were 212 billion pieces of mail. Of those, households received 150.9 billion pieces — or about 71 percent. The balance of the mail was received by business, government and nonprofit entities. Households also sent 21.1 billion pieces of mail, with the balance of the mail sent by nonhouseholds. In 2008, the average U.S. household received less than three pieces of direct mail per day.

    According to the USPS Household Diary Study, 16 percent of households choose not to read their mail. The vast majority (81 percent) of households read or scan the direct mail they receive. Almost all mail eventually is discarded, thus it’s vital to have recycling options available at the community level.

    Direct mail is printed communication. Thanks to sustainable forestry practices throughout North America, the amount of forested lands has grown significantly in recent years, providing for a steady, responsible supply of the fiber used to make paper. Trees are harvested and replanted on a continuing basis, with most trees harvested for paper measuring about 8 inches in diameter — it’s more cost effective and productive to use larger trees for lumber or pole production.

    Today, we have more forests in the U.S. than we did 50 years ago, and about the same as we had 100 years ago. Old-growth forests aren’t harvested to make direct mail paper, and the marketplace is beginning to certify paper that originates from sustainably forested lands. Only 14 percent of the wood harvested throughout the world each year is used for paper production. Continue reading

    How These Call Center Training Techniques Can Increase Your Call-Center Conversions


    As direct marketers, we spend a great deal of time and money developing programs to make the phone ring. But it’s the call-center agents that truly make the cash register sing.

    Therefore, I spend a great deal of time training customer service reps (CSRs) to be powerful brand advocates with the ability to make a difference with all customers. Personally, I hate calling a company and hearing some disinterested rep deal with my order in a lackluster way. It tells me the company I’m dealing with doesn’t get that the people manning the phones are the voice of the company.

    A simple CSR training program can solve the lackluster attitude and increase conversion.

    CSR’s should be trained to think on their feet rather than interacting with customers and prospects by reading a script. Of course, good call-center software with a scripted environment can be beneficial, but even the best scripting can’t beat a well-trained CSR’s instincts. It’s important to hire reps that can work this way, and then mentor and monitor them on an ongoing basis. A word of caution: Analyze call times to ensure your reps aren’t burning up phone time with the personal touch.

    CSR training programs are quite simple. You don’t need elaborate monitoring equipment. Simply use a cassette recorder and some basic monitoring equipment you can buy at Radio Shack to record CSRs’ calls for a day, then listen to the tapes. Break the reps into teams of three or four and sit in a room together and listen to the day’s calls. Teach the reps to listen actively and objectively to the calls.

    Let them coach each other on the cues and buying signals that sometimes get missed in real time. If you spot a missed buying signal, stop the tape — I encourage all of the reps in the group to stop the tape if they hear something — and role-play how the rep could’ve made a difference in converting the call.

    Set up contests during the training process for the individual CSR and training team that generates the highest conversion rates. Drill the reps on making sure to be gentle and not pushy, as it’s human nature to get more aggressive to win a contest. Stress the quality of the relationship with the customer as well as the quantity of the order.

    Using this simple technique at one company I worked with, we increased conversion rates by as much as 20 percent. Also, by fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and healthy competition, we increased the enthusiasm and morale in its call center as well.

    Train CSRs to seek out opportunities to cross-sell effectively. Let your reps know which items complement each other, and coach them on the art of cross-selling. Truth is, sometimes all it takes is a suggestion, something like, “Do you know, Ms. Jones, that we have a beautiful top that complements the shorts you’re purchasing today?”

    What Multichannel, Direct and Ecommerce Marketers Can Learn From the Way Old-School Retailers Do Business


    This week I want to tell you a story, and pay tribute to a local businessperson who recently passed away.

    I don’t live in a particularly small town (about 200,000 residents), but for the last 16 years — since I moved to Florida — I’ve been a regular patron at Howards, a local gourmet market named after its founder.

    After a brief illness, Howard passed away on July 5. I found out the next day when I walked into the market and saw the looks on the employees’ faces. One look and I knew something was very wrong. In a short period of time, I saw quite a few people weeping — both employees and patrons.

    On the TV monitor over the register a tribute was playing to the owner in a loop. I offered my condolences to some of the long-time employees, paid and left. As I walked to my car, I started to tear up, too. Now I’m not a particularly weepy person, so I found it odd that I started to cry.

    But this man, and the business he’d built, had been a part of my daily life for a long time. The store would hold classic car shows, July 4th fireworks and more in its parking lot. When there was a hurricane, Howards stayed open to keep the community going.

    I can’t tell you how many parties, BBQs, dinners, etc. my wife and I have enjoyed courtesy of the foods Howards provided.

    And almost every day for 16 years, there was Howard by the front register talking to customers and building relationships with all who entered. He knew my family by name. Even gave my son, who was seven-years-old at the time, a job application to fill out (we had fun with that!)

    So Why Am I Telling You This?
    Think about your company: Do you know your customers by name, or are you just a nameless, faceless entity that people buy product from? How about your staff. Are they, especially your customer service reps (CSRs), connected to your customers? Via how many touchpoints?

    There’s a lot to be learned from your old-school retailer. I wonder on a daily basis how to translate that to my business and clients. From trial and error, I’ve learned and hopefully taught the companies I’ve worked for how to build relationships with their clients. It used to be that people only bought “stuff” from retailers. I tell companies, “People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.”

    How Does That Translate in the E-Commerce Age?
    Simple! Make sure all of your customer touchpoints “keep it real.” Have your CSRs build relationships with your customers. Send them a surprise email special. Connect via your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. (Still don’t have these up and running? What are you waiting for?) Push your employees to the forefront. Do stories, biographies and contests revolving around them. Learn to use your website and social media efforts to project a real and personal voice. Respond immediately to complaints, issues, etc.

    I could go on here, but you get the picture. Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us how you connect and engage with your customers. Go for it!

    And Howard … RIP! You’ll be missed!

    Your Call Center is Bleeding! – Connecting the Dots of Your Customer Touchpoints, Part 2


    In part one of this series on customer touchpoints, I defined touchpoints as all the points of contact between your company and its prospects and customers. In part two, I look at one of the two main touchpoints: your call center.

    Before I start any discussion on call center and web results, I always tell clients, “Look out — what you’re about to hear may bruise your egos.” I offer that same warning to you.

    Here goes …

    No matter what company I visit, I always come away with the same thing: They’re not as efficient at converting sales as they could be. I get that knowledge the old-fashioned way: I listen to calls in the call center, and I make a number of test calls externally. I also go to a client company’s website and order a product (or attempt to, in some cases).

    First Off, the Call Center
    There are just too many missed opportunities in the call centers I evaluate. Missed buying signals, missed cues, reps not listening effectively, etc. I also see environments that are too tightly controlled and scripted, and others that are totally unscripted.

    Of course when I tell clients this, often times I get a blank stare, like, “What do you mean my call center sucks? Do you know how much effort I put into technology, people and training there?”

    And sometimes, right there, the messenger gets shot! But in truth, this does happen, and if you’re willing to spend time listening, you’ll hear it too. We reconvene here in two weeks. When we do, I’ll offer some simple call-center training techniques I’ve used to increase sales conversion rates by as much as 20 percent.

    In the mean time, please listen to your calls, make test calls to your call center and soak in as much as you can. You may be in for an eye-opening experience. This is especially true if you’re in another department or are an executive in your company.

    After the call-center training in my next post, I’ll move into web orders and how you’re missing the boat there.

    Oh, and a last point: If you don’t have a call center, you ARE missing sales. We’ll discuss that next week, too.

    Use these tips to connect the dots of your customer touchpoints, Part 1


    Direct and multichannel marketers encounter moments of truth that make or break their sales and marketing effectiveness multiple times each day. How they interact with customers, prospects — essentially all consumers — is critical to their success.

    Direct marketers touch consumers in both traditional (call center, website) and nontraditional ways (mobile, social media). Reputation management is everywhere.

    Marketing in the 21st century, with the internet and social media in play, has become even more of a challenge as direct and multichannel aren’t fully in control of all of the messaging that’s communicated to (and between) consumers regarding their brands. This is why today’s brands need to make sure that all client-facing activities are buttoned up, in sync and consistent across all channels.

    Well, at least that’s the goal to shoot for!

    Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a multipart series on how to maximize results in all selling channels and at all consumer touchpoints — from your call center to your website to your Facebook page.

    But before I get started, I want to offer you a challenge. I have some questions for you to ask yourself. I want you to become a detective in your own organization. And I don’t care if you’re the CEO or a customer service representative in a call center. Try the following:

    1. List all of the points of contact your customers and prospects interact with you in. The more specific, the better. For example, if you use landing pages for marketing campaigns, list them.
    2. Get out of your office. Go to your call center and listen to multiple customer service and sales-oriented calls. Do searches on your company name and/or products to see what your reputation is in the social mediasphere.
    3. Do a complete audit of all of the places your brand touches consumers. Note the good and the bad.
    4. Get others in your organization involved. My best suggestion to you is to get your CEO to put together a customer experience team to investigate the above. It should meet weekly to discuss its findings. Then build a plan to ensure your touchpoints are doing exactly what you want them to do — i.e., driving sales and engagement.

    Stay tuned for part two of this series in a few days. But in the meantime, go ahead and post your comments, suggestions and even fact findings below

    Gilbert Directs 6th Annual Preparedness Guide to Surviving a Disaster


    This may be the most important blog post you read this week.  As I am writing this, there’s actually a tropical disturbance brewing in the Atlantic. We’ve already suffered through earthquakes in major regions and a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus I felt it was time for my yearly guide to disaster preparation, right in time for hurricane and tornado season.

    Much like a four-letter word, disasters happen in all forms just about anywhere, without warning, at any time. So prepare your company and yourself. Here’s a disaster-readiness checklist I suggest you look over carefully. If you think you’re on top of it, compare your list to this one to ensure you have all the bases covered.

    • Have a business survival disaster plan in place. Get your department heads involved as stakeholders. Let your employees know what to do in the event of any emergency.
    • Publish a list of all emergency contact numbers for your key personnel and vendors. Include home and cell phone numbers, as well as home email addresses as alternative ways of contact if main communication channels go down. And don’t forget instant messaging and Skype addresses, as well as text messages.
    • Twitter and Facebook can be effective tools for communicating with your employees, vendors and customers during times of crisis.
    • Designate someone in your company as chief disaster planning officer.
    • Back up your computers and computer systems regularly. Then back up your backups. Most importantly, keep them off-site. I have five backup drives and all my files backed up on DVDs. There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data, and those who will lose it. I fall into the first category: Last year one of my backup drives failed with more than 750 gigabytes of data on it. Luckily, while I lost three-quarters of a terabyte of data, I had almost all of it backed up on DVDs. I’m one of the fortunate ones who lost a little, not a lot.
    • Work with your call center so it can operate if a disaster strikes. If you use an external call center, inquire about its disaster plan.
    • If your call center is on-site, consider hiring a backup call-center staff to field calls in case of emergency (this saved one my clients’ bacon a few years ago).
    • If you host your own website, have a plan in place in case you lose all power. Find out what your ISP does if it loses all electricity.
    • If your business is in a disaster-prone area, buy a generator.
    • If your business isn’t in a disaster-prone area, contact any vendors that are. Disasters, either natural or man-made, can interrupt your workflow with printers, the Postal Service or any other vendors.
    • Don’t market into disaster-impacted areas because they won’t respond. If you’ve already marketed in a disaster-impacted area, adjust your projections downward.

    Bottom line for all this, remember my motto (or is it the Boy Scout motto?): ALWAYS BE PREPARED!

    Do you have a disaster plan? Feel free to add to this list by posting a comment below.

    New content coming


    Once again folks I apologise.  I’m so busy lately that I haven’t been able to follow up on my blog.  I will have 4 new articles posted this week.  Promise!

    Jim

    Choose the right design team for your direct mail creative (a primer)


    When clients come to me with questions about starting a catalog and/or direct mail program, invariably the subject of creative development comes up. This is the question: Should it be handled by their internal creative department (despite its limited knowledge of direct development), their agency (which really knows the business) or someone else entirely?

    My answer is always this: Choose designers who specifically know the mail order market. Why? Consider the following: Catalogs/mailers accustomed to generating sales via mail/internet ordering are a very different animal from a branding vehicle. They may look similar, but companies that create mail order catalogs and direct mail know exactly how to leverage creative that not only builds their brands, but also sells product. That’s the key difference. What looks simple is actually highly specialized and technical.

    Beautiful doesn’t always sell. Direct mail design companies know how to generate sales for a couple of reasons:

    1. They understand the key drivers of stimulating response.
    2. They understand the budgetary constraints that separate mail order from brand building.

    How to Start, Who to Choose
    If you’re entering the direct mail arena for the first time, you’ll likely have a limited testing budget and no time to figure out how to build mail order creative on your own.

    A catalog-specific or direct marketing agency, especially one with specific knowledge in your category, should be a core member of your team. Start by contacting a number of these creative agencies and invite them to develop creative concepts for you. You’ll immediately see who gets your business and who doesn’t based on their comps.

    In choosing an agency, look for one that does all facets of the production process, from photography to layout and design, and even pre-press (or pre-media, as it’s often called now). That gives the agency a major stake in the process and provides you with complete accountability.

    You’ll also see a wide range of prices for building your catalog or direct mail piece. Gauge the price/performance ratio of direct marketing. Remember this as you review pricing: Every penny more your mailer costs per unit, you need to generate 2 cents more in sales. And don’t skimp on design. A good design company can help you balance this out.

    Direct mail serves a strategic purpose. Do the math up front to calculate your break-even points and projected P&Ls. Don’t get so hooked on the creative that it takes on a life of its own. Photo shoots and design are the “sexy” side of the business, but you make your money based on targeting the right product to the right market, and then building creative to speak to that market in a manner that sells.

    Thus, I implore you to remember the 40/40/20 rule. Lists and offers (merchandise) make up a combined 80 percent of the potential impact you can have on your direct marketing efforts, while creative comprises only 20 percent.

    Are you automating your emails with trigger and drip campaigns? (an overview and 3 good tips)


    Lately I’ve been working with clients on automating their marketing tasks, specifically their emails. The more I work in this channel, the more I realize how wide-open a frontier — with a huge upside — it is for cross-channel merchants.

    Most medium- to high-end email service providers (ESPs) offer some sort of automated functionality. This gives marketers the opportunity to create “set-it-and-forget-it type” campaigns.

    When you acquire a new prospect, for example, you can create a triggered drip campaign. A drip campaign involves a series of emails that are sent to prospects at pre-specified intervals, say once a week over a four-week period.  Each email is designed to either highlight a key company benefit (part of the unique selling proposition), or have a series of progressively stronger offers.

    Most ESPs have application programming interfaces available to their clients. By having your IT folks set this up, your ESP can automatically communicate with your database. In simple terms, once a prospect becomes a customer, no more drip emails are sent to them as they move to a different bucket (customer) in your email database. And once prospects become customers, they’re promoted into a different automated email series.

    You can set up campaigns for all of your customer statuses — prospects, single, multibuyers, past customers, gift purchasers, cancels and so on. The sky is the limit based on your creativity.

    Furthermore, some ESPs have pretty good list management tools available for automated and/or one-off campaigns. For example, a client of mine chose Bronto’s solution, which allows it to store 100 different customer attributes. It can then create campaigns based on whatever criteria meets its needs from Bronto’s list selection module. Want to send an email to someone whose birthday is coming up? It’s simple: Whatever data you collect from customers and prospects can all be sliced and diced within a good ESP’s system.

    Try the following three ideas for triggered email campaigns:

    • customer satisfaction surveys X number of days after a purchase;
    • tell-a-friend offers when customers becomes multibuyers; and
    • customer reactivation emails. Instead of doing a query each time you want to send a reactivation message from your internal database and uploading a new list, just create it for X number of days/months/years and the message automatically goes out.

    Of course, no new form of direct marketing should be done without testing. Test offers, creative and especially the timing of your messaging.

    You’ve worked hard, now let email marketing automation help you drive revenue! Are you automating your marketing efforts? Tell us how it’s working by posting a comment below.

    Guest post: The Direct Marketing Hiring Report shows an uptick in hiring and employment


    For this week’s post, I wanted to share this study from Bernhart Associates with you. It’s good news for once! It looks like there’s an uptick in direct marketing hiring:

    Confidence Returning to Job Market for Digital and Direct Marketers Layoffs drop to pre-recession low; employers expanding use of social networking for hiring

    Owatonna, MN, April 7, 2010 — Digital and direct marketing job seekers can expect a spring thaw in layoffs and hiring freezes, according to the latest quarterly employment report by Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC.

    “Employers are still being cautious when it comes to making hiring decisions, with half expecting no change in hiring plans for the coming quarter. However, we’re seeing more job stability, and employers continue to lift their hiring freezes,” said Jerry Bernhart , Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, a leading recruiting firm which has been conducting quarterly hiring surveys in digital and direct marketing since 2001.

    A total of 454 organizations responded to the employment trends survey between March 23 and April 7. Here are the key findings from the second quarter survey:

    • 43 percent of respondents said they’ll add to staff during the second quarter of  2010, down three points from Q1;
    • 20 percent of respondents currently have a hiring freeze, a dramatic decline from 45 percent just six months ago;
    • the percentage of companies planning layoffs in Q2 fell to 3 percent, the lowest level in three years; and
    • when asked if they plan to consider using social networking websites for hiring, 41 percent of respondents said they plan to employ them in “moderate amounts” during 2010, while only 14 percent said they won’t be using social networks at all.

    “Just a year ago, I was seeing reports indicating that hardly any companies were thinking about using social media in their recruiting,” said Bernhart.  “Our second quarter survey results show that interest in these online networks among digital and direct marketers has grown quickly and considerably, especially among agencies.”

    Bernhart said job growth in the overall digital and direct marketing industry is keeping pace with progress in overall U.S. employment. However, he pointed out that marketers are lagging behind their agency and supplier counterparts in terms of job growth.

    “Agencies have all but eliminated their hiring freezes, and only one agency responding to our most recent survey said it’s expecting layoffs during the next three months,” Bernhart said. “Hiring on the services side also remains strong, with just about half of respondents telling us they plan to hire during the current quarter. By comparison, 38 percent of marketers said they intend to add to staff.”

    Meanwhile, the B-to-C segment continues its upswing with major hiring indexes showing more positive trends compared with its B-to-B counterpart.

    According to the survey, Bernhart said sales positions would be in the greatest demand during the second quarter. “This comes as no surprise to me given the strong demand I’ve been seeing for sales reps on the recruiting side of the business,” he said. “We’ve been getting steady calls for sales-position searches since the beginning of the year.”

    Bernhart added that analytics remained high on the employment list, along with online and multichannel marketing positions.

    Bernhart also said that demand for executive search services has been steadily growing since the beginning of the year. “Inquiries are coming in on a fairly regular basis. A year ago, it was little more than a trickle.”

    Bernhart Associates’ second quarter survey was emailed to more than 9,700 senior executives and hiring managers, human resource officials, and other key participants in online and offline direct marketing.

    According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct marketing advertising expenditures as a portion of total U.S. advertising expenditures grew to 54.3 percent and generated 8.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2009. Also last year, there were 1.4 million direct marketing employees in the U.S. Their collective sales efforts directly supported 8.4 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 9.9 million U.S. jobs.

    Results of past surveys can be found in the DMA’s annual Statistical Fact Book and on Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC’s website.

    Companies interested in participating in the Bernhart Associates Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report should send an email tosurvey@bernhart.com with “Opt-In” in the subject line, or they can sign up directly on Bernhart Associates’ website.

    Sorry folks, been super busy


    Hi loyal readers.  I’ve been crazy-busy for the last few weeks.  Will be posting new articles soon.  Check back later in the week ok

    Jim

    Learn how to give to get, or… Don’t be stingy, give up the product!


    Social media has indelibly changed the way we market and brand our companies forever. To compete in the social “mediasphere” (and in general), companies must give to get (G2G). My definition of G2G is as follows:

    “The ability to provide consumers real value, rich information and even parts of a company’s ‘secret sauce’ in exchange for their patronage.”

    Perhaps the biggest G2G opportunity your company has is its product. Recently I’ve seen a few really smart companies using their product as a powerful consumer engagement tool. My experience has been that clients who have adopted G2G are having unprecedented success, even in this shaky economy.

    Consider trying the following to see if G2G could work for your business:

    1. Run pop-up specials on your social media channels. Request comments in exchange for the opportunity to win product. For example, try this on Twitter: “The first three people to answer X question successfully will win a free widget.”
    2. Ask your customers for videos, pictures and stories documenting their experiences using your products. In return, provide them with free product. A great example comes from Chipotle restaurants. It has a campaign (click here to see) encouraging customers to send in fun pictures of themselves with its product visible for an opportunity to win “free stuff.”

    Don’t be stingy here. The more products you give away, the more you draw customers and prospects to your brand.

    These are but two examples. The sky is the limit as to what kind of creativity you can come up with. Consider the benefits:

    • Your contests, pictures, videos, etc. go viral and extend your brand’s marketing reach.
    • You create goodwill for your brand. Remember, social media is the great equalizer. In a world constantly inundated with negative messages, people love to tell — and hear — a good story. Giveaways make for good stories.
    • Nothing engages consumers like a giveaway. And engaged consumers are known by another name — repeat buyers.

    Here’s my own G2G promo: The first three people who email me at jimdirect@aol.com will win a free half-hour consultation on social media and how to implement G2G in their companies.

    Ready, set, go! Good luck!

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