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!

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


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

Special Bulletin: USPS Appeals Exigency Rate Case
 

 

Dear Catalogers, Suppliers & Others With Catalog Interests: 

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

 

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

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

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

More to come…

Sincerely,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Very cool, thanks!

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
Steven M. Search

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

Jim

Guest Post: Debunking the Myth of Trees vs. Direct Mail


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

U.S. Post Office plans another Summer direct mail sale: details…


This is from the Direct Marketing Association website.

At MTAC yesterday, Tom Foti, USPS Marketing Manager described the 2010 Summer Sale. The sale will cover a 5-month period with the sale period starting July 1 thru Sept 30. June and October will be control months. A 30 percent rebate on incremental volume will be offered above a baseline. The sale is for Standard Mail letters and flats only. The customer’s baseline will equal Same Period Last Year (SPLY) numbers plus 5 percent. A downward adjustment will occur if June and October volume is below baseline. To be eligible, a customer has mailed over 360K Standard Mail pieces from July 1 thru Sept 30 2009. According to Foti, there are approximately 3,525 customers eligible or 67 percent of Standard Mail volume. Mail Service Providers are not eligible to participate.

USPS Timeline:

File notice with PRC (late Feb)

Invitation to participate mailed (early Mar)

Customers register online and certify agreement with threshold volume on-line for program participation (Mar-May)

PRC decision (mid-April)

Sale period (July through Sept)

Rebates to customer accts (Dec 2010- Jan 2011)

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.

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.

5 last minute catalog, direct mail, multichannel tactics to increase Holiday sales…


Catalogers, direct and multi-channel marketers, direct mailers, and ecommerce marketers, want to add some revenue before we say goodbye to 2009?  Try the following:

1. Add an extra mailing before the end of the year.After your (scheduled) last mailing is complete, mail one more catalog just to your hotline buyers — i.e., those who just responded to your last mailings of the year. If it’s too late to get your printer involved, grab some of your bounceback and office copy catalogs, and mail them. Even if you have to mail them First Class, you should still get great response. I’ve done this before, and it works.

2. Speaking of bouncebacks, add a special offer to your outgoing packages beyond the traditional bounceback book. This gives your customers a compelling reason to make another purchase before the holidays. It’s especially persuasive if you can target your offer to people who are on the receiving end of gifts.

3. Extend the life of an existing catalog by sending a special offer via postcard to your best buyers with a last-minute incentive. Try something like this: “Last-minute shoppers save (a percentage)” or “Last-minute offer! Get a specially priced (product here).” Postcards are quick, inexpensive, and can drive both catalog and web traffic.

4. Then, of course, there’s email. Deliver offers right up to the last possible date you can ship product for Christmas.

5. And by all means, get social. Use social media to engage your customers/prospects with contests, sales, testimonials and more. A client of mine supported Black Friday sales via Twitter, Facebook and its blog, beating last year’s numbers by a healthy margin.

If you have any additional ideas for last-minute marketing tactics, please share them with us by clicking on the link below.

I hope you had a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Speak to you next week.

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