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

5 Tips for Using LinkedIn as a Business Tool


In addition to being an exceptional tool for personal business networking, LinkedIn is also a great place to market your business. Here are five tips to help your business network grow through LinkedIn: 

1. Use the Q&A function. The Q&A function of LinkedIn is a powerful revenue-generating tool. Try using the advanced answers search to find questions specific to your company’s expertise. Don’t pitch your company’s products or services here, just give the best — or most altruistic — answer you can. The Q&A is definitely a give-to-get medium: Give freely and you’ll get back in spades. 

2. Become an expert. When a question is asked on LinkedIn, it remains open for answers for seven days. After the question closes, the asker can rate the best answer to that question. The best answerers for a given question are awarded expert status on LinkedIn. From that point on, whenever an expert answers a question, that expert gets an expert badge. People’s expert status follows them around wherever they go on the site. Since you’re representing your company, this creates expertise for it as well. 

3. Join groups. You can join as many as 50 LinkedIn groups. When you join, introduce yourself and your services. Much like Q&A, this is a give-to-get medium. 

4. Start a group. Starting a group is super easy — just a couple of clicks and you’re done. Start a group around your company’s core competencies. For example, if you’re a printer, set up a group for people to ask questions about printing. If you’re a search engine marketing company, set up a SEM for beginners group. 

5. Promote your blog. Many of you already have corporate blogs and have produced whitepapers and corporate presentations. Promote your blog in the news section of the groups you belong to. Promote whitepapers and presentations in the groups as well via the discussion function. This adds value and enhances your image. 

People always tell me they see me all over LinkedIn. I try to gain as much notoriety as possible within the LinkedIn Q&A and group functions. As a consultant, this has brought me new customers. It takes some attention and time, but when done right, it can be a wonderful source of leads and business

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!

Congrats, You Too Can Be a Gazillionaire!


Back in the late ’80s I started a publishing company that worked with Realtors to help sell its properties. My goal was to get my publication into prospects’ hands before they bought a home from another real estate firm who wasn’t one of my advertisers. To accomplish this, I came up with a ridiculously high-tech method of reaching potential buyers: I “bulk-dropped” my publication in every supermarket, restaurant and bank that would let me.

And it worked. My company prospered. My clients sold houses. I spent a lot of time teaching my clients how to track their responses on such technological devices as “tick sheets,” where you place a tick mark on the sheet whenever a response came in.

For a time, this was fun. But bulk-drop distribution isn’t the best way to reach prospects. So I racked my 20-something-year-old brain for a better method, but came up empty.

By 1991, I’d had enough. Luckily, one of my former employers was interested in buying the company, so I sold it. “Good riddance,” I said, even though the new owner offered me a standing opportunity to come back to run things.

Come 1993, I had my first proper job in direct marketing and went to New York University for its direct marketing certificate curriculum. A visitor came into my class one night and started talking about this thing called the Internet and its marketing arm, the World Wide Web — with something called a graphical interface. It’s coming, he said, and we entered into this whole speculative, theoretical conversation about direct marketing in the future.

A year later, a girl I was dating showed me the Internet. I asked her, “Where’s the three w’s?” She directed me to Yahoo.com. From what I remember, Yahoo! was a mishmash of totally unrelated links. I was more interested in learning how to instant message people who wanted to do cyber-things that I won’t mention here and laughing with my date over this.

So why the trip down memory lane? Simple! I had every tool necessary to take my publishing company to levels beyond my wildest dreams literally at my fingertips. Some days I look back and think, “If I’d only gotten the concept of the Internet and its vast search capabilities, I could’ve married real estate listings, search and Web sites together.” And become a gazillionaire in the process. In 1993, I could’ve gone back to my former company and made this a reality. If only I’d understood the Internet’s potential!

What’s amazing to me is how the Internet and search have changed everything in such a short time.

I also wonder these days what exactly I’m missing right now, much like I missed in the past. Where’s the next big profit center going to be? The next multimillion dollar idea? Are you thinking? Me too!

 

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., 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.

Other ways to reach Jim: Phone:561-302-1719.

Profitable Cataloging on CatalogSuccess.com: http://www.catalogsuccess.com/blogs/jimgilbert.bsp

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