An Important Announcement to ALL Environmentalists & Direct Mail Haters (no political correctness here)…


“No trees were killed in the sending of this email. However, a whole bunch of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.”

The above is the email signature of a friend of mine. While meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it actually makes a strong, yet entirely off base point: Electronic mail is somehow less harmful to the environment than paper-based mail.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the sending of email does kill trees (I’ll discuss this more below).

Whenever I write about direct mail here, the environmentalists come out to visit. Well, visit may not be the right word; maybe I should say they come out to hate. They must be trolling the internet looking for anything positive about direct mail to take a shot at, like drive-by haters.

So I’m going to set the record straight. And you environmentalists take note, please.

Here’s my question: Which is worse for the environment, direct mail or email? I think email, and here’s why.

  1. Every email sent generates power consumption. Think of all the routers, servers, internet service providers and PCs involved. Consider all of the big-box companies that sell and service PCs. Maybe someone out there has done the math, but I’m sure there’s a hard cost in terms of power consumption per email.
  2. Same goes for time trolling the internet looking for direct mail folks to hate on. If a computer’s on, it’s using energy.
  3. Now here’s the tricky part: Where does the energy that email and computers use come from? It’s not very clean at all, is it? Our electricity is still very much powered the dirty old way, thus the energy consumed by email and the internet isn’t very clean — something environmentalist, direct mail haters don’t really talk about; truly their dirty little secret.
  4. Most people recycle their direct mail, catalogs and newspapers because it’s the right thing to do.
  5. The paper industry — the backbone of the direct mail business — is heavily involved in reforestation (i.e., the planting of new trees to replace ones used for paper). In fact, and I hope some paper merchants will respond to this, reforestation efforts are usually at a ratio of two to one or greater.

Just to let you know, I recycle, and I believe in a future with clean energy, not because it it politically correct, or supports a particular political agenda, but because it just makes sense to do. But to say that direct mail is destroying the planet? That’s a weak and opportunistic argument. Direct mail is still one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s tool bag if done according to principles.

Got comments? Post them below.

Guest Post: Digital and Direct Marketing Hiring Plans Show Strong Rebound


Note from Jim.  Good news about direct and digital marketing hiring from Jerry Bernhart below…

What recession?

Digital and direct marketers are planning a major ramp-up in hiring this winter, according to Bernhart Associates’ latest Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report.

“All of our major indicators are showing significant improvement,” said Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC. “As far as hiring goes, digital and direct marketers are back on a growth trajectory.”

Bernhart stated that the record number of responses received for quarter one (Q1)-544 in total-now rivals other private employment surveys conducted for major occupational segments of the US economy.

Here are the key findings from the Q1 survey:

·46% of the respondents said they will add to staff during the first quarter of 2010, rebounding from 30% last quarter. The biggest hiring surge will be among suppliers, while marketers plan the least amount of new hiring.

·Companies reporting Q1 hiring freezes plunged to 26%, compared with 45% in Q4.

·The percentage of companies planning layoffs in Q1 dropped slightly to 7%. Not one agency or supplier who responded to the survey said it expected further layoffs.

·Among employers who imposed pay cuts last year, 37% said they plan to either partially or fully reinstate those reductions in 2010. Only 20% said pay cuts will remain in effect for this year, and 43% said they are unsure when salaries will be restored to previous levels.

Bernhart said that, while Q1 survey results clearly indicate that digital and direct marketing is outpacing the overall US economy in terms of recovering lost jobs, marketers continue to feel the economic strain.

“About half of the client-side marketers who participated in our first-quarter survey said they still have a hiring freeze. Hiring on the supplier side, by contrast, is on a fast track with more than 60% telling us they plan to add to head count this quarter. We haven’t seen numbers in that range for more than two years.”

On the agency side, Bernhart said 37% of survey respondents plan to add to headcount this quarter.

Bernhart said results showed that business-to-consumer (B-to-C) marketers are stepping up hiring plans slightly more than their business-to-business (B-to-B) counterparts as B-to-C recovers from deeper job cuts last year.

“Among B-to-C marketers, 50% said they’ll have positions to fill compared with 46% for B-to-B, and more B-to-B’ers still have hiring freezes compared with B-to-C,” Bernhart added. “B-to-B jobs were less impacted by the recession, so B-to-C hiring is now staging a sharper rebound.”

As to what specific positions will be in greatest demand during the current quarter, Bernhart said analytics dominated the list, both online and offline. Second on the list was Internet marketing, which was followed by sales, creative, technology, and campaign management.

“We’re seeing some newer job categories emerge,” Bernhart added. “A couple of companies will be looking for senior-level social media strategists and online video experts.”

Participants also weighed in on the challenges they face finding, compensating, and keeping their best digital and direct marketing talent. Comments and observations were received from more than 200 hiring managers at all levels across the digital and direct marketing employment spectrum, including marketers, agencies, and service providers.

Here is a summary of comments received:

On Hiring:

·Quality of applicants: Many are unemployed. The quality and skill level tends to be low with digital, healthcare, and mobile. The good ones are hunkering down where they are. Some employers said they’re challenged trying to match candidate skills with organizational needs.

·Uncertainty: Many employers are waiting for a consistent flow of new business before pulling the trigger on new hires.

·Creativity and execution: This remains a difficult combination to find.

·Temporary hires: Mixed results-some found high- quality temps, others did not.

·Rising cost of benefits: This is posing challenges for smaller digital and direct marketing employers to add to headcount.

·Multichannel skills: Demand is strong, and growing, for digital and direct marketing talent who understand DM in a cross-channel environment, knowing how consumers interact with content, and building relevant, meaningful relationships with them.

·Younger hires: Respondents reported seeing a lack of strategic insight, a lack of solid direct response testing and analysis, and seeing a sense of entitlement.

·Financial savvy: Respondents want marketers who understand how decisions impact the overall business.

·Training: Companies expect employees to work smarter and advance their knowledge, but there seemingly is a lack of industry training by competent, experienced subject matter experts to help them do that.

On Retention:

·What works: Keeping the company transparent, providing an atmosphere of collaboration, encouraging innovation, rewarding success, investing in current technology, and making the work place fun. Also, solidifying relationships with top performers, paying them top dollar, and challenging them.

·Turn-over concerns: Many companies said they are currently evaluating talent to identify and keep top performers. Employers are concerned that they will face much higher churn as the economy recovers and good talent bolts.

Bernhart Associates’ first-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 during the first two weeks of January 2010.

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

Results of past surveys can be found in the DMA 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 Bernhart Associates’ website.

Article on the power of direct mail from Wall Street Journal


In keeping with my theme that direct mail as a medium is still very much viable and alive, check out this article from The Wall Street Journal. It might have an idea or two for a promotion you could use as well.

The article is called: Firms Hold Fast to Snail Mail Marketing - Despite Prevalence of Digital Media, Entrepreneurs Find Old Fashioned Direct Mailings Still Key to Winning Customers

The ‘Death’ of Direct Mail and Catalogs


I’m not a big fan of naysayers. Your typical naysayer has a particular agenda that drives the “nay” that they’re “saying.” For instance, pure-play internet marketers do a great job of casting a shadow of impending doom on the direct mail industry.

Why? Simple: They don’t benefit from the competition!

In recent years, direct mail has been positioned as old-school, obsolete, “doesn’t work” and just plain bad. When asked, direct and non direct mailers will tell you direct mail is dead. but, It’s when non mailers get into the act that I get really worried because they are buying into the philosophy sight unseen.

I get it. Direct mailers already have a reputation as junk mailers. So while catalogers haven’t been hit as hard by the junk mail tag, in large part due to their value to shoppers as name brands, the mailing industry as a whole is threatened.

Can’t we all just get along?

Maybe not!

Every time I turn around, there’s a new name and/or affront to direct mail. First it was called push marketing. (We were being too pushy!) Then it was outbound marketing. (“They” coined the phrase “inbound marketing.”) The term I hear all the time these days that makes my blood boil is “intrusion” marketing.

Who creates these monikers?  Answer: marketers!

And while referring to direct marketers as intrusion marketers, they’ve named themselves “attraction” marketers. Let’s attract; let’s start a conversation; let’s communicate. Oh please!

Setting the record straight…

So I’d like to take this opportunity to clear things up for those who put forth the garbage that direct mail intrudes and/or is dead. Consider the following:

1. Direct mail isn’t going to die anytime soon. Direct marketers will evolve, survive and thrive. By taking advantage of personalization, variable data printing, PURLS,  and the multitude of tools online, direct mail will continue to find new ways to drive leads, sales, and increase their response rates.

2. Your goal is to be relevant. Direct marketers don’t want to mail to people who don’t want to receive their offers. And those consumers who don’t want to receive catalogs/direct mail can turn to suppression services such as Catalog Choice and the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service. All mailers should run those suppression files against their prospect lists, not their housefiles.

3. So-called “intrusion” marketers set the rules for direct marketing and internet marketing. We’ve created a medium that’s all about measurement and metrics. Direct marketers are responsible for the tools that differentiate themselves from those dot-bomb sock puppet marketers, so why are they dissing you?

4. You’d think there’s room for all types of media in today’s marketing mix. Direct marketers don’t bad-mouth pull marketing. They embrace it, use it, measure it — and if it works, roll out with it. They’re driven purely by return on investment. If it works, they love it.

5. Direct marketers have taken big hits on paper and postage rates, the economy, even anthrax in the last decade, but they continue to soldier on. The truth is, they still get response and ROI. If not, they’d stop mailing. Consumers still buy via the mail, and will continue to do so.

The bottom line: Don’t buy into the self-fulfilling prophesy that direct mail is a dead medium. It ain’t! My clients are seeing good to excellent results in the mail. Just follow the principles of direct marketing and you’ll succeed.

New Year’s Recap Part 2: 19 Direct Marketing, Call-Center and Social Media Tips of 2009


Presenting 12 more tips to help your business optimize profits this year. Direct mail marketing and analysis, call centers, e-commerce websites, and customer testimonials are all examined.

(For part 1, and tips one through seven dealing with social media, lead generation and Twitter, click here.)

Direct Mail Marketing and Analysis
8. Concentrate 40 percent of your efforts on lists. Spend an additional 40 percent on your offer. Tie it all together by allocating 20 percent to creative execution.

9. 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 catalog marketers use CPA as a regular way of doing business. CPA can do a better job of evaluating the true performance of customer results vs. prospecting results, which have different cost structures.

You can even better evaluate the use of co-op databases, which have different results and costs. You’d expect customers to achieve positive CPAs — i.e., profit — and prospects to generate negative or true CPAs. The formula for calculating CPA is as follows: (net demand – cost of goods – mailing costs) / number of orders.

10. I’m also nuts about other financial analyses, such as lifetime value, squinch (square inch for measuring catalog space usage), cash flow, balance sheets, etc. To this day, I’m amazed at how many people I work with, smart people, who still want to practice direct marketing by the seat of their pants.

Marketing just doesn’t make much sense without financial understanding. Too many direct marketing companies think they’re brands. And too many direct marketers think they “know” what their customers want and, hence, perform no analysis.

11. The chatter I hear every day is that direct mail is dead. Mostly, this is perpetuated by pure-play internet folks who believe marketing is all about “pull” rather than “push.”

12. I particularly like this passage from the DMAchoice website: “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-lb. reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.”

Call-Center Tips (From the C-Level Down)
13. Want to know what’s going on in your organization? Run, don’t walk, to your call center and spend time listening to order calls, customer service calls and other inquiries. I guarantee you’ll be enlightened and find ways to improve your product(s) and service.

14. Talk to your call-center staff — especially frontline reps. These people are the true unsung heroes in your companies, and they intimately know what’s right and wrong with your products and service.

15. Want to see your average order values, conversion rates and lifetime values go up? Bring a call center into the mix. Think about it this way: If your website converts 4 percent of visitors, even the worst of call centers will convert at least 10 percent of callers. That’s a 2.5:1 ratio, on the low end.

16. Function under the guise that great — even sometimes so-so — direct marketing will make the telephone ring, but expertise in the call center will make the cash register sing!

Your Website
17. Prominently display your phone number on your homepage and ALL pages of your site. Make it big. Make it stand out. And put it in multiple places on pages. Your prospects and customers don’t want to have to work to find you.

18. Consumers don’t have the time to spend on your site figuring out how to contact you with their simple questions. They don’t want to search your FAQs or dig around for contact info. They want answers immediately; otherwise, they don’t care how good your products are, they won’t order. Don’t lose business over this.

Getting Testimonials
19. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get testimonials from your customers. In most cases, all you have to do is ask.

New Year’s Recap: 19 Direct Marketing, Call-Center and Social Media Tips of 2009, Part 1


After a careful review of all my columns this year, I’ve come up with a list of 19 top tips for you. Implement these strategies into your planning to help prepare your business for a prosperous 2010. Happy new year!

(Part 1 contains tips one through seven, dealing with hot-button topics such as social media, lead generation and Twitter. Then check back next week for tips eight through 19, focusing on direct mail marketing and analysis, call centers, and e-commerce websites.)

Social Media
1. With social media strongly in play — whether you like it or not — marketers don’t get to choose what’s said about their brands. Control of your brand image has been passed, torch-style, from the marketing department to your customers.

2. Are you afraid of negative publicity? If so, why? Don’t you want to find out what your customers are talking about? Or what you can do to fix or improve your company? If you bury your head in the sand, the ruthless truth is your customers will bury you. Like the proverbial Chinese alphabet character for “danger” having the same meaning as “opportunity,” now is your chance to become truly customer-centric — to finally understand by listening to the internet chatter about your company.

3. I understand times are tough right now for many, but merchants need to start operating on the following premise: If you listen, they will come. Your customers are the ones who should drive your business. Social media means you have to work harder at serving your customers, but the rewards are greater customer loyalty and lifetime value.

Using Twitter
4. 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 is worth your while.

5. Ask questions. Twitter, like any social network, is all about conversation. 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. If harnessed correctly, Twitter can be an exceptional customer service tool as well.

Lead Generation
6. Catalogs.com offers in-depth descriptions of the catalogs it promotes, along with links to the catalogers’ websites, allowing for further research on a particular product, price, etc. This helps you gauge whether a catalog’s list may be a good fit for your business. Getting your catalog listed on this site will help you add new customers within your allowable cost per acquisition.

7. Catalog requests — say it loud; say it proud. Believe it or not, people still love to shop via catalog. Some people, myself included, still prefer the tactile feel of leafing through a catalog. And here’s a bonus for you: Multichannel buyers spend more money per channel.

The more channels consumers spend time in, the more engaged they are from an emotional perspective in your products and business. This yields buyers who in most cases will spend more per order and over their lifetimes. That said, why is your catalog request link not more prominently displayed? Make it big, and make it stand out so it’s easy to find

Happy New Year


Dear readers and friends,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday.

I’ll be on a much needed vacation until the 10th. When I get back, look for 3 new posts including my best direct and social media marketing tips of 2009

Regards and cheers to 2010!

Jim

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