Blogging, it’s a give to get thing


Blogging has been a super powerful tool for me as part of my overall networking strategy. I do plenty of in person networking (as a board member of FDMA). But I much prefer the new fangled way. So here, take these steps. And Shhh, don’t tell anybody about this, ok?

1. Link your blog to your Linkedin (LI) profile page (very easy to do with WordPress)

2. Join as many Linkedin groups as you can (50 is max). Try to join groups that compliment your skills. For instance: I am a direct marketing consultant. I belong to many direct marketing groups. But, graphic designers can also recommend my services, so i belong to a graphic design group. Get the picture?

3. Use the LI “news” feature in groups to add your blog posts as news.

4. Use the discussions to add value to groups you belong to and always add your blog’s url.

5. When I started my blog, I used the Q&A function of (LI) to ask people to check out my blog and tell me what they thing.

6. Also in LI Q&A, answer questions that you have a good feel for (and always add your blog URL.

7. Back to your LI profile page. you have 3 links you can add. I have my blog, my Twitter feed and my Magazine column with links. 8. Regarding blog content, I write and post articles that add value to my intended audience. (people who could use my direct marketing agency/consulting services). Don’t post garbage or fluff.

8A. Make sure your blog has RSS and it is in a prominent position on all pages. People will subscribe your your blog.

9. Tweet your articles when you post them. use the Status feature of LI to update people on your articles.

9A. Send your posts out to your facebook connections. And join facebook groups and push out there too.

10. I also am a member of Plaxo (good for pushing articles to your connections), Biznik (can post articles there too, but without links back to your blog which pisses me off to no end)

11. Lastly, and someone else can address this. Use feeds to get your blog out there like Technorati, Delicious, etc.

Wow, I gave away the farm here. Final thought. Blogging and promoting your blog is a “give-to-get” thing. The more you give away your expertise, the more you get back.

Use Contribution-Based Marketing For True Measurement


Note from Jim: This week I bring you a guest column from fellow consultant and friend Bob Klapprodt. I’ve always found Bob’s analysis and circulation strategies to be right on the number. Enjoy!

For years, catalogers have used dollars-per-book as their main statistic for measuring catalog performance. As a tool for measuring gross or net demand, it’s held up well, allowing catalogers to compare list segments and the overall results of different catalogs.

But as every businessman knows, generating demand is only part of the puzzle.

Going a step further, calculating cost per acquisition (CPA) by incorporating catalog costs helps you understand the relationship between sales demand and the costs required to stimulate that demand. Many of the most successful catalogs use CPA as a regular way of doing business.

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CPA can do a better job of evaluating the true performance of customer results vs. prospecting results, which have a different cost structure. You can even better evaluate the use of co-op databases, which have different results and different costs. You’d expect customers to achieve a positive CPA (or “profit”) and prospects to generate a negative or true CPA.

The formula for calculating CPA is as follows: net demand – cost of goods – mailing costs / number of orders = CPA

You now have a very useful tool for differentiating performance across list segments where the mailing costs can be significantly different. This will allow you to construct a much more effective circulation plan than just using dollars per book.

Unfortunately, while a useful tool, a CPA statistic doesn’t measure everything on the cost side of the equation. You need to look at the marketing contribution to develop a measurement standard that accurately reflects the full P&L impact of the results of your circulation strategy. Marketing contribution is defined as net demand minus costs of goods minus mailing costs minus variable fulfillment costs.

By adding the costs to take and ship an order, you create a statistic which accurately reflects the true profitability of any circulation plan and all of its components. The full name of this measurement is marketing contribution to overhead and profits. When calculated correctly, you can set contribution targets for each mailing and have instant performance indicators to be compared to your financial plan. By adding this statistic to your performance spreadsheets, you can track and review the P&L monthly, weekly or even daily. This provides much needed reaction time to adjust future plans, and in a whole new set of ways.

When you realize that marketing contribution per order (MCO) can be improved by virtually anything that goes on in a catalog business, you take the marketing department to a whole new level. Along with finding that right list, you can make a substantial improvement by being proactive on the cost side. While you’re always interested in the cost of printing, the price of paper, the negotiation of list rental charges and other mailing costs, you’re now much more aware of the impact of costs involving shipping materials and delivery costs.

By using MCO as a prime measurement factor, you can turn an entire organization into a profit-conscious, cost-efficient machine. Increases in sales and decreases in costs are immediately apparent and measurable. You can even do what-if scenarios to determine the financial impact of things like using new technology or reorganizing the fulfillment center to improve efficiency. Measurement and control is the essence of cataloging. It’s even more important in today’s business climate. It’s vital that you use the right measurement statistics.

Bob Klapprodt is the CEO of Bob Klapprodt Direct, a catalog and direct marketing consulting firm. He can be reached at bobrpk@embarqmail.com.

Four Questions to Continually Ask About Your Customers, Products and Brand


You don’t have to operate any stores to always “mind the store.” For us in the catalog/direct/multichannel world, that means finding time in our 24/7, 365-days-a-year world to step back and ask ourselves a few questions. It’s not an easy task to pull back from our everyday happenings, especially in this insane and fear driven economy, but it’s still mission critical to stop and ask:

1. Are we the company our customers want us to be? 

2. Are we the company our competition envies? 

3. Are we looking around every corner to see what’s coming next? 

4. And for that matter, how can we adapt to meet the needs of the next “trend” so we can effectively contribute to our customers’ wants and needs and therefore our own EBITDA?

How to Build a Personal and Business Following on Twitter


If you’re not already familiar with it, Twitter is an interesting microblogging application that allows you to send small messages — called “tweets” — to people’s cell phones and Twitter homepages. These messages are limited to 140 characters, the maximum length of an SMS text message. 

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I’ve been using Twitter for a short time now and have built up more than 100 followers. Many followers subscribe to my Twitter feed unsolicited. 

Here are some basic Twitter tips for either building a personal following or marketing your business: 

Build a personal following:

1. Speak in your own voice. Add in your own personality and flavor. Offer insights, but keep them relevant and topical. 

2. Tweet articles of interest. I do a lot of writing, so I’m always tweeting links to my articles. If you or your company has a blog, by all means post links to it. 

3. If you see an article that you think will be useful to your followers, post that, too. Many people post random thoughts. I’m not a fan of this. Keep it on topic and true to your mission. 

4. Forward other peoples’ tweets — also known as retweeting. If you receive a tweet that warrants forwarding, do it. Add “RT” (for retweet) before the text. 

5. Add your Twitter URL (mine is http://www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect) to your e-mail signature. This will remind people to look there for updates from you. 

6. If you use LinkedIn, use its Blog Link application. This enables you to connect your LinkedIn account with your Twitter feed. Another social networking site, Plaxo, also enables you to connect with your Twitter feed. 

Market your business:

1. Call out and provide specials to your customers. Make sure these are real-time specials or offers. However, try to not be too pushy. Fit the offers and specials into the context of your customer conversation, and don’t overpromote. 

2. Link to your blog. Same concept as personal tweeting above. Stay on topic. 

3. Tweet news and information about your company and products. New products, company news, press releases, corporate milestones, testimonials and “meet-the-employee” articles are great examples of things to tweet. Anything you think will get people both familiar and, more importantly,emotionally involved with your brand. 

4. Ask questions. Twitter, like any social network, is all about conversation. Make sure you have someone who can spend time working with your followers to answer their questions. Engage your followers to provide information about how to make your company even better. And, harnessed correctly, Twitter can be an exceptional customer service tool as well. 

5. Encourage your employees to create Twitter accounts as well. This will create more than one voice for your company. Have them add their Twitter addresses to their e-mail signatures. 

6. Add Twitter badges to your Web site. This enables customers and prospects to easily follow in on the fun.

Three Ways to Cut Customer Acquisition Costs


A few weeks ago, I discussed some powerful resources for finding obscure mailing lists that may not be on the traditional list rental market. This week, let’s take these resources a step further. 

With response rates down and expenses up, now is a great time for you to look at alternative ways to acquire customers and even lower your customer acquisition costs. Again, the resources are:

* Belcaro Shop at Home (www.shopathome.com)

* Catalogs.com (www.catalogs.com)

* Greyhouse publishing (www.greyhouse.com/marketing.htm)

One other method I didn’t mention last week is through magazines that target your particular niche. You’d be surprised at how many other companies there are out there with products that have an affinity to yours and that would be open to a marketing partnership.

Here are some examples of the types of programs you can set up with other catalogers:

1. List exchanges. The most obvious way is to exchange housefile names (both offline and online). This will eliminate most of the cost of renting those names. To keep things running smoothly, once you work out your arrangement with the other list owner, you can have your list broker work this like a regular list order. Your broker will charge you a nominal fee for this, called an exchange rate.

2. Package inserts. Trading off space in outbound package inserts can be an excellent source of both leads and orders. Just like paid-package insert programs, set up tracking codes and test creative and offers. For offers, try testing a catalog request vs. a direct sale of a hybrid of each. As for finding companies to trade with, use the above-mentioned sources. Or, your list broker can help you make contact with the list owners of some of the lists you rent (ones that don’t already have a package insert program running).

3. Endorsed deals. Endorsements allow you to provide your customers with items that are complimentary to your products, thus creating goodwill. Endorsement programs can be as simple as sending out an e-mail or postcard to your customers with a recommendation, or as complex as elaborate syndication programs with revenue sharing. How you structure your deal is dependent on what you and the other marketing team can dream up.

Some other ideas include a store within a store, trading pages within your respective catalogs, or selling other marketers’ products on your Web site and vice versa. The sky’s the limit here. Other Considerations Do your due diligence on the company you’re considering partnering with. Carefully review its Web site, product offerings, customer service, etc. Make sure your potential partner company’s quality is of the same level as yours.

Also, structure these types of partnerships as any other test. Use the smallest possible circulation/sample to test the waters before rolling out.

I had a client once who thought he had a slam-dunk co-marketing program. The other company offered his company a free test of 50,000 names. After much back and forth, I convinced his company to mail only 5,000 names. Good thing. The test bombed! And by mailing one-tenth as many names in the test, his company lost far less than it could have. Two words: Be careful!

Update: the FL “do not mail” House vote scheduled for Tuesday is NOT happening


The Do Not Call bill in front of the FL House is off the schedule for now.  Thanks.  Please keep the pressure up on FL lawmakers.

Meanwhile, one of the non-government groups that offers opt out for direct mail, www.mailmovesamerica.org, has this information on their website.  I hope this clears up any misconceptions about the direct mail business you may have. (for Florida specific info click here for a fact sheet)

 

  • Do Not Mail proposals would cost American jobs.  More than 3.5 million Americans have jobs that are directly or indirectly supported by advertising mail.  Banning advertising mail would be a bad idea in good economic times, but it is a terrible idea during the economic crises currently facing the United States.
  • Do Not Mail proposals would damage the economy further.  In 2008, advertising mail contributed more than $702 billion in increased sales to the economy. 
  • Do Not Mail proposals would hurt small businesses.  More than 300,000 American small businesses rely on advertising mail to reach potential customers.  For small mom and pop shops, florists, mechanics, landscapers and corner coffee shops, advertising mail is often the only affordable and effective means of advertising available.
  • Do Not Mail proposals would hurt your postal service.  According to U.S. Postal Service estimates, a federal Do Not Mail statute could cost the postal service between $4 billion and $10 billion annually.  To make up for that lost revenue, the Postal Service would need to dramatically raise postal rates, cut jobs or cut back on services.
  • • Do Not Mail proposals would not save trees.  Nearly all paper used for advertising mail is generated from sustainably managed forests where trees are planted, harvested and re-planted solely for the use of paper and wood products.  Thanks to these forestry practices, there are more forests in the United States today than there were 50 years ago.

  • Do Not Mail proposals are unnecessary.  There are plenty of free options already available to Americans wishing to reduce their advertising mail. 
    • Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (MPS) at http://www.dmachoice.org/.
    • To reduce credit and insurance offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5OPT-OUT (888-567-8688)
    • Contact companies directly and ask to be taken off their mailing list.
  •  

    Contact Florida House Members and vote NO on Do Not Mail Legislation!!!


    At the bottom of this email are contact in the Florida House for you to make your opinion on Do Not Mail legislation heard.  The House Vote is on Tuesday!!!

    My take:

    Without preamble it would be a devastating blow to Florida’s economy, it’s many direct marketing business’s and the USPS if the Do Not Mail bill were passed.  Catalog and other direct mail companies would close, jobs would be lost and this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Think about this from the manufacturer on down, less to manufacture, less need for transportation to merchants.  Less packages shipped.  The list goes on.


    Couple that with the fact that this bill is highly visible to our entire country and you risk setting a spiraling precedent that will change the landscape of mail order companies nationwide.

    Lawmakers in Florida, and national should encourage their constituents to use the services that are already available.  This is not something that needs legislation.  
    The following organizations already have mail suppression lists.  As a direct marketer I encourage you to get on it if you do not want to receive direct mail  
    As a mailer, please use these organizations suprression files.  You don’t want to mail people who won’t respond to your offer anyway right?

    They are: 

    Furthermore, the environmental lobby is wrong.  Here are some facts from the Direct Marketing Association that you probably already know, but I wanted to refresh your memory on

    Facts About Direct Mail  

    Some people come to the DMAchoice mail preference service planning on completely stopping all the direct mail they receive, because they think that doing so will help save paper and the environment. But before you do this, here are some numbers you may find interesting.  

     

    1. Direct mail is a green way to shop. If Americans replaced two trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalog, we’d reduce our number of miles driven by 3.3 billion—a 3 billion pound reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.
    2. Mail represents only 2.4% of America’s municipal waste stream.
    3. The production of household advertising mail consumes only 0.19% of the energy used in the United States.
    4. Mail is made from a renewable resource. The vast majority of paper produced in America today comes from trees grown for that specific purpose. The forest industry ensures that the number of trees each year is increasing, so trees are not a depleting resource. In fact, forest land in the United States has increased by 5.3 million acres in the past three decades.
    5. Direct mail is critical to the economic well-being of communities, businesses and charities throughout the United States. Last year it represented more than $686 billion in sales, supporting jobs at more than 300,000 small businesses across the country.

     

    The following is a list of contacts you can reach out to….
    Committee contacts follow. Try the district office first and then the Capitol. 

     

    Trudi Williams Chair 
    850 488-2047 – Capitol 
    239 433-6775 – District 
    Trudi.williams@myfloridahouse.gov 

    Ralph Poppell Vice Chair 
    850 488-3006 – Capitol 
    321 383-5151 – District 
    Ralph.poppell@myfloridahouse.gov 

    Mary Brandenburg Minority Ranking Member and bill sponsor 
    850 488-0260 – Capitol 
    561 540-1157 – District 
    Mary.brandenburg@myfloridahouse.gov 

    Leonard Bembry 
    850 488-7870 – Capitol 
    850 973-5630 – District 
    Leonard.bembry@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Debbie Boyd 
    850 488-9835 – Capitol 
    386 454-5407 – District 
    Debbie.boyd@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Dwight Bullard 
    850 488-5430 – Capitol 
    305 234-2208 – District 
    Dwight.bullard@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Rachel Burgin 
    850 488-9910 – Capitol 
    813 740-7655 – District 
    Rachel.burgin@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Steve Crisafulli 
    850 488-4669 – Capitol 
    321 449-5111 – District 
    Steve.crisafulli@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Faye Culp 
    850 488-2770 – Capitol 
    813 272-2920 – District 
    Faye.culp@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Brad Drake 
    850 488-4726 – Capitol 
    850 892-8431 – District 
    Brad.drake@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Greg Evers 
    850 488-8188 – Capitol 
    850 983-5550 – District 
    Greg.evers@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Rich Glorioso 
    850 488-0807 – Capitol 
    813 757-9110 – District 
    Rich.glorioso@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Mia Jones 
    850 488-6893 – Capitol 
    904 924-1615 – District 
    Mia.jones@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Debbie Mayfield 
    850 488-0952 – Capitol 
    772 778-5077 – District 
    Debbie.mayfield@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Mark Pafford 
    850 488-0175 – Capitol 
    561 682-0156 – District 
    Mark.pafford@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Jimmy Patronis 
    850 488-9696 – Capitol 
    850 914-6300 – District 
    Jimmy.patronis@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Ron “Doc” Renuart 
    850 488-0001 – Capitol 
    904 270-2550 – District 
    Ronald.renuart@myfloridahouse.gov 
    Ron Schultz 
    850 488-0805 – Capitol 
    352 860-5160 – District 
    Ron.schultz@myfloridahouse.gov

    Kumbaya Now! (how we can all professionally and personally survive the economic crisis)


    Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this recessionary economy together. 

    If you’re still lucky enough to be employed, listen carefully to my message, as simplistic as it may seem: It’s time to put aside the natural rivalry, competitiveness, intraorganizational politics and just plain silliness that is everyday business life if you want to stay employed, and moreover, to keep your business from going under.

    It’s time to really look at the way the silos within your company are formed. Take them apart, and relearn how to run your business.  

    Yes, I know I’m preaching. Sorry. But you can always stop reading here (but don’t).

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    I assure you that on this day, in this economy, businesses need to adapt or die! We’re all terribly scared about the future of our careers and how it will affect our families. The more we — and when I say we, I mean employees and business owners — succumb to our fears, the more difficult it is to work together. We second-guess ourselves. We second-guess others, and most importantly, we spend a lot of time playing armchair quarterback to the decisions that are being made.

    It’s no wonder companies are going under daily. If you look carefully, you’ll see mismanagement as the big culprit. Greed. Power. Ego. We can’t run businesses this way at this time in history.

    It’s officially time for kumbaya! From this point forward, you and your colleagues must work together to fight to keep your company alive.

    Beyond newfound camaraderie, two keys to doing this are obviously increasing sales and reducing costs. If you look, I’m sure you can find many places where your company’s inefficient.

    As an employee, you already know they’re there, but fear keeps you silent, doesn’t it?

    Recently, while consulting for a company, I set up an internal group, more like a renegade operation, and named it “Operation: Unturned Stone.” The goal of this operation was to turn over every stone in the organization in search of opportunities to either reduce costs or increase sales. This required getting people together from each department in the company. And not the heads of that division either, but key managers who aren’t usually empowered to make a difference like this. 

    We put them together in a room, told them NO topic was off-limits, even pet projects their CEO might be working on, and told them to build a report on what can be done better.  

    The last part of Operation Unturned Stone is critical: C-level management must make the commitment to listen and take action. Also critical is that each member of the presenting group can feel 100 percent comfortable that there will be no consequences for what they recommend. Additionally, upper management at all companies need to address the paranoia level. Peoples’ nerves are frayed as they wait for more bad news or the axe to fall.

    The time is now for reassurance, comfort and team building. This can be accomplished relatively quickly. Along with reassurance, get your employees together. Suggest outside-of-the-office events. Create events as well. No, I’m not talking about corporate retreats. How about an ice skating night? A company picnic for no reason? Give out free movie passes; something along those lines.  

    In short, it’s your responsibility to do what it takes from any level to ensure that your staff sticks together in these troubling times. Now is not the time for every man/woman for him/herself!

    We will get through this difficult time and thrive again.

    Learn more about the dangers of Do Not Mail legislation


    For those naysayers who say direct mail should be legislated out of existence, read the FACTS here.  (here is a hint, it’s about jobs, and revenue to the economy!)

    http://www.mailmovesamerica.org/index.php

    Read the Do Not Mail bill from the Florida Senate: http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2009/House/bills/billtext/pdf/h078100.pdf

    From Senator Aronberg: http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2009/Senate/bills/billtext/pdf/s1324.pdf

    CONsultant, PROsultant, or INsultant Pt. 2, how to choose the best strategic mentor for your direct marketing business.


    Many years ago, after I was downsized from my job and I started consulting, my kids gave me a T-shirt that read, “I’m not unemployed … I’m a consultant!

    Ain’t that the truth!

    With that bit of humor I start part two of my column about finding the right direct marketing consultant for your business. (For part 1, click here.) Many budding consultants get their starts after downsizing. And in this economy, many consultancies are springing up as more and more good marketing people are let go from their jobs.  

    I’m not saying that hiring someone who was recently downsized is a bad thing. In fact, I strongly believe that in some cases you can benefit more from a consultant who has recent client-side experience than you can from a seasoned consulting vet. Think about it this way: New-to-consulting practitioners can be more about implementation than older consultants who are more adept at the theoretical side of things.  

    The counterpoint to that is seasoned consultants are used to looking at the big picture and, in many cases, have experience with a broad range of companies.

    You also should know that many consultants experience feast or famine business cycles — too many or too few clients. And yours truly is no exception. Since I started my consulting practice in 1999, I’ve been hired three times by clients to work on a full-time basis. All but once I’ve managed to keep up some sort of client roster when I’ve worked on the client side. Companies are fickle (especially here in Florida), particularly toward marketing personnel.  

    A continual diet of client-side implementation and consulting keeps me from getting out of the loop and gives me an edge.  

    So how do you pick the right consultant for your business? It’s a lot like choosing an employee: Do your due diligence as best as you can, and then roll the dice. You can look at the basics, such as who they worked for in the past, but as usual, I deliver you some food for thought beyond the basics.

    That said, here are some more tips for you to consider:

    1. If a consultant is too agreeable, he or she may be in it only for the money. Find a consultant who disagrees with you a lot. Most of the time, consultants are brought in to fix problems that exist within an organization that can’t be fixed internally. It’s a pair of fresh eyes to look things over. Consultants are like plumbers — the good ones are trained to instantly spot where the “clogs in the pipes are,” and then to fix it efficiently. You wouldn’t tell a plumber how to unclog your pipes, would you? You have to assume that you’re going to hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear and/or disagree with. Otherwise, why would you need a consultant to begin with?
        
    2. Find a consultant who’s willing to walk away if you don’t listen. Here’s a true story: I worked with a catalog company whose general manager refused to understand the way catalog marketing worked. This employee came from retail and insisted on running the company like a brand. He pumped a lot of money into the catalog, doubled the unit cost in the mail and then when his mailings weren’t profitable, tried to repeat the same mistake in his heaviest selling season.

    After repeatedly explaining the reasons for what happened, I finally gave up and said the following:

    “Mr. X, what’s your favorite sport?”
    “Football, why?”
    “Because you’re running your business like you’re on a football field, playing with a hockey stick and puck! And if you keep doing it your way, you’re going to be out of business in six months.”

    At that point, the client turned red, and steam started to come out of his ears. Within the next few weeks we mutually terminated my consulting contract. The kicker: Less than nine months later the business went belly-up.

    3. References are ludicrous. Let’s put something to bed right now. The whole concept of asking for references is about patting yourself on the back. I don’t know of one consultant or, for that matter, ANYONE who knowingly would give a prospect a BAD reference. The only value in getting references is that when something goes wrong, you can at least feel justified that you did your due diligence.

    4. If you want references, look them up on LinkedIn. There’s a “search reference” function that can help you find past employers, clients, among others. Also, see if they have a lot of recommendations on their profile pages.

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