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

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).
  • 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.

    Win a Free One hour Social Media Consultation as Part of My One Year Anniversary Celebration


    The Gilbert Direct Marketing Blog is celebrating it’s one year anniversary and my company is celebrating it’s tenth year in business.

    So here is a contest for you….

    Guess how many blog page views I have had in the last year to win.

    Winner gets a free one hour review and recommendation of either your linkedin profile, or your own social media sites.  Closest the the exact number of page views wins.  Post your answer to the comments below to win.  Contest ends 11/30/09.

    Note: Click here to see the other contest entries.  Post your answer there not here please

    How to Easily and Cost Effectively Add Video to Your Marketing Arsenal


    Note from Jim: I originally was going to have this be the last installment of the “you lost me there” series, but I seem to have gotten sidetracked.  At any rate, video is in my opinion the next big opportunity in social and direct marketing if harnessed correctly.

    How to Easily and Cost Effectively Add Video to Your Marketing Arsenal

    I recently conducted a testimonial contest for a client. I asked for all types of submissions, from written to video. Of course I was hoping for video, and boy was I rewarded. The contest winner’s video was slick, well-written, modestly well-acted and, with some tweaking and a call to action, could’ve actually been put on TV. All this came from a customer who was in love with my client’s services, had a video camera and some editing software (like Apple’s iMovie, which comes standard with all Macs), and a couple of cue cards.

    Just by putting the video up on YouTube, the company’s blog, Facebook and tweeting it on twitter, it’s gotten almost 300 views. This client isn’t a large company, so while 300 views doesn’t seem like a lot, it still counts. Lots of clients and prospects have commented on the video, too.

    This week, the contest-winning video is going to be promoted in the company’s email newsletter. Doing so should increase exposure and net the company some new clients.

    So while this may not be a mainstream example of viral video going to millions of people like the “United Breaks Guitars” video, which had 5.5 million viewers, it is a great example of the creative use of video as part of a company’s marketing strategy.

    What Can Video Do for You?
    Video is a perfect social media marketing channel for engagement. Here are some tips on WHAT to shoot:

    1. Beyond holding contests for testimonials, directly contact your best customers and ask them for video testimonials. If some of your best customers are located near your offices, then by all means go to the places of their choice and shoot some video testimonials.
    2. I love the notion of behind-the-scenes content. Before social media, a prospect’s or customer’s interaction and experience with a given company were either on its website, though its call center or in a retail store. But for the most part, corporations remained pretty much anonymous. Social media presents an enormous opportunity to humanize companies and allow customers “behind the veil” to see their personalities and corporate cultures. Shooting behind-the-scenes videos helps build companies’ personalities. One multichannel retailer I know of posts videos of its photo shoots on YouTube and Facebook. It gets tons of feedback on Facebook about this. Other behind-the-scenes action works well, too, from interviews with staff to candid videos of people doing their jobs. Even seeing staff cutting up and mugging for the camera can add value if done right.
    3. Does your product/service lend itself to demonstration? If so, video it and put in on your website. If you have a product that needs to be set up, heck, video is better than an instruction manual, right? What a great customer service opportunity using video.

    I’ll continue my examination of how video can be successfully added to your marketing mix next week with part 2 of this multipart series. In particular, I’ll offer some more ideas for ways that video can be used at your company.

    Request: If you’re an expert at video search optimization, contact me at jimdirect@aol.com. I have some questions that I’d like to include in part 2 of this series.

    Three years and 75,000 words later…


    Note from Jim. This week marks my 3 year anniversary of my column for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) magazine.  Here is the anniversary article. Hope you enjoy my favorites “best of” articles referenced.

    Three years and 75,000 words later…

    Friends and readers: With this column I hit a milestone, the three-year anniversary of my weekly column for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success). At roughly 500 words per column, I’ve written nearly 75,000 words on various aspects of direct marketing in the last three years. Wow!

    I want to thank you, my readers, for your attention and interest over the last three years. I also want to thank you for the many emails you’ve sent me behind the scenes. Your comments, kudos and even criticisms have helped this column grow (and me grow as a writer and consultant). I thank you as well for your comments on my weekly articles.

    That said, I’m rededicating myself to continuing to provide you the information, news and unique opinions on all that’s happening in direct and retail marketing in the coming years.

    But before moving forward, I wanted to take a look back at some of my more memorable columns of the past three years with some thoughts sprinkled here and there on how they relate to today’s environment.

    • My very first column was “Don’t Start a Catalog.” I wrote that catalog marketing isn’t for the faint of heart; it takes money, discipline and the willingness to lose money on acquiring customers only to be paid back in lifetime value sales, increased average orders and other factors. This still holds true today. This column presents the risks and rewards of operating a true multichannel company — with a catalog. I still believe today, even in these challenging times, that the rewards are there if you follow the rules of the business.
    • In January 2008, upon hearing that general merchandise cataloger Lillian Vernon had given the ax to workers a few days before Christmas, I wrote “Happy Holidays — You’re Fired!!!.” I usually don’t call out companies by name as a practice here, but this case was truly despicable to me. Evidently you thought so, too.
    • Focusing on the do’s and don’ts of lists, metrics and the proper use of mailing lists was the subject of this August 2007 column: “If I Only Had a List to Start My Catalog Business!”
    • If you’re a fan of my column, you know that I’ve written about customer experience a bunch. In a January 2008 column, I detailed my experience from a recent cruise in “Create Superior Customer Experiences.” I take my cues from all industries (not just multichannel). This company knows how to throw a cruise party — and treat its customers right.
    • Lastly in my trip down memory lane, in my April 2008 column, “Congrats, You Too Can Become a Gazillionaire!,” I used past experience to pose the question: What’s the next big thing going to be in direct marketing?

    Along the way I’ve written about circulation planning, customer service, increasing sales and average order sizes, managing call centers properly, and I even yelled at the folks in the C-suite more than a few times. For a full listing of all my columns, check out the All About ROI archives.

    Thanks again for reading. I know your time is limited, and I truly appreciate that you find time in your busy day to read my column. Check back next week for a look at how your company can best add low-cost video to its marketing mix.

    We’re on a mission to create the best direct marketing education forum on Linkedin


    3 weeks, 540 members strong. Join us: http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/2080726/ We have members from all area’s of direct marketing ready to share their expertise with you.  We also have international members.

    Want to know more about search, blogs, direct mail, telemarketing, lists, social media, and all direct marketing disciplines, then join us.

    If you are an expert in direct marketing, please join us too.  And our members are using this group as a great networking tool!

    Thanks, we look forward to seeing you there. http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/2080726/

    Jim Gilbert

    Guest Blogger, Kevin Hillstrom: Build and Reap the Benefits of Social Media Databases


    Jim’s note: Kevin Hillstrom and I write weekly columns for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) Magazine.  I really enjoyed his article (and perspective) this week about building social media databases.  Definitely something to implement!  Enjoy…

    It’s really hard these days to find a marketing discussion that doesn’t include the phrase “social media.” But it’s also really hard to find a case study of someone who created a social media database and then measured return on investment based on the data in that database.

    A social media database houses information about social media customer behavior. Take Twitter, for example: Every time a new user decides to follow your Twitter presence, you enter that user in your database. You enter the user name, date the user began to follow you and any biographical information about the user.

    Every time a Twitter user has something to say about your brand — positive or negative — you enter the information into your social media database. Did the user retweet one of your articles? If so, capture the user name, date it happened and action (retweet). Did the user link to one of your web pages? Capture that information with the link.

    Some people will criticize your brand. Record the user name, and categorize the nature of the criticism. Did the user say something positive? Record the user name, and categorize the compliment, recording the date this activity happened.

    Record every outbound communication, too. If you speak with a Twitter user, record the fact that you had a conversation.

    Eventually, you’ll have a robust database of every interaction you can identify. Actively search for instances where someone says something about your brand name, identifying hashtags that are related to your brand.

    Now you’re in business! Mine your social media database, identifying users who start conversations. Where possible, link these users to your customer database so you can begin to correlate purchase activity and website visitation habits with positive or negative social media sentiments.

    Some people would say that this is hard work, that they don’t have the resources to do this kind of work. I’d pick five individuals in my call center and have them enter this information into the social media database — each individual spends an hour or two each week entering data based on the parameters listed above.

    Once the data is captured, it becomes much easier to measure ROI. For some, ROI is a function of sales and profit generated. For others, the acquisition of new customers becomes important. Or maybe success is measured by the amount of positive buzz or the mitigation of negative sentiment. A social media database allows you to measure all of these aspects of your social media activities.

    Eventually, you’re going to have to prove that social media has a positive ROI, that it isn’t simply a way to connect with active and potential customers. Why not begin capturing the data today, so you can demonstrate a positive ROI in the future?

    About Kevin Hillstrom:

    Kevin Hillstrom is president of MineThatData, a database marketing consultancy. He can be reached atkevinh@minethatdata.com.

    Attention S. Florida Marketers, This months event in Ft. Lauderdale: Going Green and Getting Digital with Paper & Print


    This Month… Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Session 1 – The Truth Behind Cherries, Chocolate & Paper. The more paper you use, the better for the climate.

    Speaker: Wayne Dennis, Corporate Director of Sustainability, Mac Papers

    Learn why paper and print are the best environmentally responsible choices for marketers. Find the right shade of “Green” for your marketing efforts, how to measure your environmental impact and the best ways to communicate it to your audience.

    Session 2 – Advancements in Web to Print technology: What it means to you and your customers.

    Speaker: Gary Ritkes, Managing Director of Sales/Marketing, SproutLoud

    Discover how web to print technology is transforming traditional printing processes and empowering marketers. Find out how you can deliver one-to-one marketing messages on demand via direct mail, e-mail and the web – all from your desktop!

    Event Location: Westin Fort Lauderdale Cypress Creek

    Time: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm

    You Lost Me There, Part 4: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!!!”


    Jim’s note: Originally written for All About ROI Magazine (formerly Catalog Success)

    “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!!!

    Quick, somebody tell me what movie that line came from?

    In internet speak, “badges” are small icons with social media logos that can be put on your website to drive traffic to those same social media sites. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Places where you can extend your brand.

    In the fourth part of my “you lost me there” series, I’ll discuss the value of brand interaction, a largely intangible but very valuable asset. (For part 1, click here; for part 2, click here; and for part 3, click here.)

    By extending your brand, I mean having your customers and prospects spend more time interacting with your company. In turn, they become more engaged in your company “culture” and more likely to buy and recommend your products to others.

    We measure success today not only by cost per acquisition and lifetime value (LTV), but also by time spent interacting with your brand. While not necessarily tangible, or even easily measurable, time spent with your brand in a positive way will gain you new customers and prospects in the future. Although many people are admittedly having a difficult time quantifying social media, in today’s marketplace it’s 100 percent necessary.

    Think of it this way: The more time someone spends in your “store,” the more likely that person is to buy. Now include your store, website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed, and you have someone who’s more committed to your brand than other prospect/customer segments are. This bodes well for customer LTV, too.

    I worry less about measuring social media than I do making sure that my clients’ brands are represented in all forms of social media, and even more about getting customers and prospects alike engaged.

    So My Question to You Is This …
    Where are your stinking badges? On many multichannel and direct merchant websites, I don’t see them. This is a significant opportunity for you. At the very least you should have a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account. You also should consider using video (e.g., testimonials, product demonstrations), LinkedIn, message boards, Plaxo, Ning and more. Your key employees should be blogging and tweeting. You also should look to adopt other web technologies like online chat.

    We’re going to take a deep dive into adoption of social media over the next few weeks. If your company has a “model” website with all the social media bits in the right places, please contact me offline. I’m looking to present some case studies in the near future as well.

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 2,335 other followers