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!

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

Have sales/marketing fundamentals changed? Watch this video, decide and let me know


This is a brilliant video example of how B2B (and consumer) marketing fundamentals and selling has NOT changed over time.  Kudos!  Enjoy “the man in the chair”, and let me your thoughts?

(please note, for some reason the video takes a few seconds to load.)

You lost me there (part one, website issues that lose you business)


Last week, I gave a presentation to the Florida Direct Marketing Association titled “50 direct marketing tips, tricks and tactics to make you a superstar.” I’m going to share those tips with you over the course of the next few weeks.

Part of that presentation dealt with improving Web marketing. Right up front, I’m asking you to contribute to this article by posting your comments below. If I miss something, please add it, OK, lets make this a collaborative effort.

As a side note, I’ve spent a lot of time lately looking at multichannel and other marketers’ Web sites, and have seen tremendous opportunities for companies to capture not just orders, but prospects as well.

Many e-commerce Web sites are good at taking orders, but not so good at capturing prospects.

Thus the goal of this series, which I’m calling “You Lost Me There,” is to help you get more of the people who visit your Web site to raise their hands and request to continue the dialogue with you. You want these people in your database, as they’ve expressed some level of interest in your products.

That said, here are three tips to optimize online sales:

  1. Why is your phone number not prominently displayed on your homepage and ALL pages of your site? Make it big. Make it stand out. And put it on pages in multiple places! Your prospects and customers don’t want to have to WORK to find you.
  2. If you say you don’t want the phone number to be easy to find because you don’t have the phone staff to handle the calls, think again. Even pure-play Internet companies need to coddle their prospects and customers in this day and age; otherwise they’ll shop elsewhere. Contract with a call center, even if it’s just to take messages and pass them on. There are call centers that even allow you to pay as you go by buying blocks of time. Essentially, adding a call center doesn’t have to be as costly as you think.
  3. For crying out loud, respond to customer e-mails. Same customer service issue, different methodology. If you want to drive people to interact with you via e-mail, make your e-mail contact info stand out. And respond in a reasonable amount of time. In the second week of my direct marketing class at Miami International University, I have my students conduct an experiment: Send an e-mail to a company and see how long it takes for it to respond. Guess what — fully one quarter of the e-mails don’t get responded to. Here’s a rule of thumb for you: Return every e-mail in less than four hours. Not only the same day — four hours.

Every call and e-mail is an opportunity. Start a dialogue, and get customers ordering.

Bottom line: 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, because they won’t order. Don’t lose business over this.

Check back next week for part two of this series, when I’ll give you some more tips on how to increase ROI with your Web site. In the meantime, post your comments below.

When Disaster Strikes: Jim’s 5th Annual Preparedness Guide to Surviving a Disaster


It’s June here in South Florida — ah yes, that wonderful time of year for electrical storms, hurricanes, 100-degree temperatures and 90 percent-plus humidity.   And it’s time for me to publish my annual guide for surviving a business disaster.

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 this, I recommend you compare your list to this one to ensure you have all bases covered.

1. Have a business survival disaster plan in place. Get your department heads involved as stakeholders. Let your employees know what happens if …

2. Publish a list of all emergency contact numbers for your key personnel and vendors. Include home and cell phone numbers, and home e-mail addresses as alternative ways of contact if main communication channels go down. And don’t forget IM and SKYPE addresses, as well as text messages, as alternative means to communicate during a disaster.

3. Designate someone in your company as chief disaster planning officer.

4. Back up your computers and computer systems regularly. Then back up your backups, and keep them off-site. Personally, I have two backup drives and all my files backed up on DVDs. Remember, there are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data, and those who will lose it. I fall into the first category: Two weeks ago 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 to DVDs. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I lost a little, not a lot.

5. Work with your call center to make sure it can operate if disaster strikes. If you use an external call center, inquire about its disaster plan.

6. If your call center is on-site, consider hiring a backup call-center staff to field calls in case of emergency (this one saved my client’s bacon a few years ago).

7. If you host your own Web site, have a plan in place if the lights go out. Find out what your ISP does if it loses its electricity.

8. If your business is in a disaster-prone area, buy a generator.

9. 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 post office and all other vendors.

10. Don’t mail into disaster-impacted areas, because they won’t respond.

11. If you’ve already mailed and a disaster occurs, 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…

A Case Study in Brand Differentiation (in multichannel direct marketing)


Jim’s note: Originally written for Catalog Success Magazine.

As a long-time “big and tall shopper,” I only shop from a handful of companies. Two of these happen to be Rochester Big and Tall and Casual Male XL. While owned by the same company, both have positioned themselves to different segments of the big and tall market. Rochester sells more upscale, pricier, higher-end merchandise, while Casual Male offers more affordable apparel. In my opinion, both have done an excellent job of differentiating themselves brandwise on their Web sites and in their stores with the products they offer.

With so little to choose from as a certified “big guy,” I buy from both and am on both of their e-mail lists. This week I received e-mails from both companies, and to my amazement — and a bit of horror — they were essentially the same message and offer. Both carried the same subject line (We want you back! SAVE 20% NOW on your order), showing up in my inbox on the same day within a few hours of each other. And when you open them, you get the same offer (although Casual Male’s offer allows you to “grab” a coupon).

I assume that other big and tall folks out there got the same offer as well. So doesn’t this work directly against their branding? Am I hypersensitive to this because I’m in the business? Does this matter to the average consumer? Take a look at the e-mails for yourself below, and let me know your thoughts.

Rochester Big & Tall EmailCasual Male XL Email

4 Tips Any CEO or C-Level Exec Can Take to the Bank


(originally published by Catalog Success Magazine)

Being a C-level executive these days has to be the ultimate challenge. These execs face a ton of pressure to keep their companies above water during these turbulent times. Truly, I feel for them.  

But, in many cases, my empathy for them goes only so far. Especially when C-levels exemplify what I call “ivory tower thinking.” This kind of isolation is what President Obama tried to compensate for by keeping his BlackBerry — the ability to stay in touch with people other than his high-level handlers and advisers.  

In other words, there are many people within organizations beyond the CEOs’ top advisers that can offer advice and wisdom. Getting out of the tower is critical to the success or failure of any business right now.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer four pointers for any and every CEO and C-level exec:

  1. Want to know what’s going on in your organization? If you don’t already, run, don’t walk, to your call center and spend time listening to order calls, customer service calls and other inquiries. (I’ll devote a series to this in the near future.) I guarantee you’ll be enlightened and find ways to improve your product(s) and service.
  2. Talk to your call-center staff — especially the front-line 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.
  3. Once your eyes have been opened by listening to your customers and reps, force everybody in the company to spend a day in the call center, too. Write it into law that every manager and above must spend one day in the call center every six months — or quarterly, and force your marketing staff to listen monthly. Make it mandatory for new hires.
  4. Embrace social media. Through my own research, I’ve found that most marketers who’ve traditionally sold via catalog are behind their online-only counterparts on social media adoption. Why? Fear. If you think your call center is a great learning experience, try developing social media tools to monitor your reputation by listening to the social media chatter about your company. What you learn may be the ruthless truth about your company, products and service, and how they’re actually viewed by people who speak the truth.

Beware though, you may have to take specific actions based on what you learn. But then again, that’s the point of getting “out there.” Back in the ’80s I was a huge Tom Peters fan; he called this process, “management by wandering around.”

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.
  •  

    The most basic direct and catalog marketing fundamentals (to learn and re-learn)


    I recently had a conversation with another catalog consultant about a client proposal we’re jointly working on. The conversation worked its way to a discussion on the basic fundamentals of direct marketing. In essence, what’s the most basic fundamental of direct marketing that we need to present and our clients need to follow?

    It came down to this: the 40/40/20 rule.

    This rule states that in order to be successful in direct marketing, you must do the following:

    1. Concentrate 40 percent of your efforts on lists. That means list analysis and planning, selection, RFM, and, most importantly for catalogers, circulation.
    2. Concentrate an additional 40 percent on your offer. For catalogers, that means merchandising. That requires expert attention to detail, including but not limited to product selection, pricing, presentation and analysis. By analysis, I’m referring to square-inch analysis, the most powerful tool you can use to manage your catalog merchandising — aka “squinch.” Understanding the wants and needs of your customers is part of this function, as are the offers you make to them to stimulate response.
    3. Tie it all together by spending 20 percent of your efforts on creative execution. Literally, creative execution is only one thing: the bringing together of your list and offer/merchandising efforts in such a way that it speaks “buy now” to your customers.

    As a consultant, I almost always see this in reverse.

    If I had to quantify what I see in clients as they apply the above core competencies, it would be these three:

    1. 50 percent merchandising, with less emphasis on analysis and more on product development and presentation;
    2. 30 percent on creative. The creative (i.e., the catalog) is the brand’s calling card;
    3. and 20 percent on lists.

    In the catalog business, lists and all that circ stuff are just as important (some would even say more) than offer and creative.

    It’s easy to see how that could happen. Most catalogers are merchants first. They had a product idea and brought that to market. How they bring it to market is all about building brand image. It’s as simple as that.

    I usually get called in when there are some business issues that need addressing. Often I’m told that there’s a problem with their catalogs. To this I say, “The catalog (or direct mail piece) isn’t the problem; you’re trying to solve a marketing problem (translation: circ and merchandising analysis) with a creative (design, look, feel, brand) solution.

    At that point, I review the client’s version of the 40/40/20 rule and then the “textbook” version. There’s plenty of evidence for the proper application of the rule in the direct marketing textbooks. Absent this principle, I’ve seen some horribly ugly catalogs that are cash cows, while beautiful catalogs sink like stones.

    Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at jimdirect@aol.com. You can also follow Jim on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect. Read Jim’s personal blog at http://gilbertdirectmarketing.wordpress.com/.

    Perchance to Dream (of New Customers and Untapped Riches)


     

    Jim Gilbert

    Jim Gilbert

    Last night I had a dream…  I had a vision of many customers.  Not just any customers, but the most coveted buyers of them all…mail order buyers! 

     

    And behold, they bought often and recently, and liked to purchase many products at a time.  They loved these products so much that they would never consider returning them. They liked to purchase in a specific category – they were niche buyers.  A plentiful niche that was easily identifiable, a specific targeted market – the lowest hanging fruit from the tree!

    And I remember in my dream that I felt warm and secure knowing that these were soon to be my customers.  It was time to start my dream business and be richer than anyone can imagine.  All I needed was the right products for these perfect customers.

    But then something happened.  My dream became a nightmare!  For I had no products to offer my customers. 

    In my dream, I wracked my brain trying to find product ideas. I contacted various sources looking for products, but to no avail.  Nothing!  I asked friends and business associates alike, “do you have any products that would fit my market?”  Again nothing!  I couldn’t come up with one single product that this beautiful niche of customers would want.

    And I woke up in a cold sweat, thankful that this was just a dream, and in real life this could never happen.

    The truth is, we don’t wake up in the morning with ideas for new customer niches.  We don’t wake up saying “I think found a great list of buyers, now what can i offer them?”

    But sometimes we do wake up with ideas for new products.  

    And sometimes these new product ideas become businesses.  This is the classic entrepreneur beginning: a dream turns into a business because someone thought up a great product idea and had the moxie to take it to market.  Your classic “started around the kitchen table” story!

    In the past, I’ve stated that a marketing-based approach to direct marketing, mail order and e-retailing cares less for the specific product, than it does finding the right market (customers!) for those products.  To me, that IS about putting customers first. 

    The following is a quote I give to my direct marketing class on the first night of the semester. It’s by Peter Drucker, one of the great management gurus of our time:

    “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.”

    My personal version goes something like this (with a direct marketing context):

    The goals of every direct marketing organization are to generate new customers at the lowest possible cost per acquisition and take care of these customers to maximize customer lifetime value via repeat purchases.

    The goals of every direct marketing organization need to be exclusively focused around the above. 

    But that’s not always the case in today’s modern business world.  Many business owners and managers know their customers, but, more specifically, they know what their customers want.  The emphasis is less on understanding customers better, and more on their own intuition of what customers want.  This attitude of “I know my customers and what they want“,  makes too many assumptions.  Assumptions that don’t fit with today’s modern business practices – especially when you consider the wealth of information you can find out about your customers just by talking to them.  With the adoption of social media in the last few years, and the explosion of web 2.o, there is no excuse for not being customer-centric.  Right?

    But of course any time you have a company with more than one employee, you have politics, posturing, agenda’s and egos – which means that following the above principals can get muddied by other issues. 

    I see product-centric and politically charged organizations every day of the week stepping on their own toes and chasing their own tails!  I’ve also seen some companies with some great products fail for these very same reasons.

    Which is why I want to set a different tone for this blog and proffer the thought that the modern entrepreneurial business should be marketing-focused and, by extension, customer-driven.

    So to all catalog/multichannel/e-retail/mail order business owners out there, let me ask you this : Are you product driven?  Or customer/marketing focused?  What kind of research do you do to better understand your customers?  How do you develop new products?  Let’s get into this in future postings.  As always, please feel free to fire off a comment by using the form below, and I’ll respond.

    I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic.  What a great way to close out 2008 and welcome in 2009!

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