Archive for May 28, 2010

Tips for Compelling Mail

Use your own list

Your own list of customers and prospects who know you and have previously responded to your advertisements will generate a much greater response. Update your list frequently with changed addresses.

What is in it for the reader

What excites you may not be what resonates with your audience. What’s most important to your reader isn’t your product or service; it’s how that product or service improves their life. Talk in terms of their interests to generate a higher response rate.

Personalize your message

Past customers won’t need the same message as potential clients who have never dealt with your company. The more relevant the message is for your intended audience, the better your response rate.

Get past the recycle bin

To get your direct mail piece past the shredder and into the right hands:

  • Address to a specific person, not just a job title or occupant.
  • For business mail, use a standard size envelope and make it look like personal correspondence as much as possible.
  • Also for business mail, try using language like “Requested Information Enclosed” so it looks like the addressee is expecting it.
  • Using a stamp usually increases response.

Make it easy for the recipient to respond

Many mail pieces have gone out without complete contact information. Make sure to include your phone number, website address, email address and any other way your want to interact. And if people contact you, make sure you get back to them right away.

Brand Butlers

A recent briefing from listed “Brand Butlers” as a trend to watch. This may be the time to consider ‘service as the new sales’ to provide more service and care to jaded, time-poor, pragmatic consumers. Brand Butlers can be defined as providing instant access to supporting services and tools to pragmatic, convenience-loving consumers. This is encouragement to focus on assisting consumers to make the most of their daily lives, versus the old model of selling them a lifestyle, if not identity.

Here’s why consumers are embracing these BRAND BUTLER-style services:

  • For consumers, time, convenience, control and independence are the new currencies: this need requires B2C brands to turn many of their interactions with their customers into broader services. In short: a shift from ‘broadcasting’ to assisting.
  • Relationships with brands are now more down to earth and less reverential. From individualism to eco-concerns to decreased spending power in developed economies: for consumers, the practical and pragmatic rule.
  • Yet, in uncertain times, there’s also a consumer longing for institutions that truly ‘care‘, which is more about showing empathy and providing customers with a status fix than being purely practical. This too requires brands to master more service-oriented personae.

BRAND BUTLER services equal interaction, meaning they can provide brands with valuable feedback, metrics and other learning opportunities about what interests, drives and triggers customers.

BRAND BUTLER service categories:

  1. Transparency & ‘In the know’
  2. Saving money
  3. Finding
  4. Connectivity
  5. Health, nutrition & exercise
  6. Skills & advice
  7. Eco
  8. Tools & amenities


  • Since 2006, personal care brand Charmin has been offering New Yorkers access to clean and comfortable restrooms in Times Square. The brand opens the free facilities during the festive period each year.
  • To launch Stove Top Quick Cups, Kraft Foods offered warmth and hot food samples at cold Chicago bus stops. In November 2008, Kraft began heating ten bus shelters to give consumers relief from the cold.
  • 3M’s Airport Privacy Havens aim to create peaceful zones in major American airports, giving business travelers privacy during important phone calls, and hiding their computer screens from the eyes of passers-by.

BRAND BUTLERS is about turning marketing into a service, and thus it is one of the most important branding trends currently out there. A start would be to establish the themes your brand is about, and dream up an integrated ‘suite’ of BRAND BUTLER services. Use the eight categories above (Transparency and ‘In the know’, Saving money, Finding, Connectivity, Health, Nutrition & Exercise, Skills & Advice, Eco, and Tools & Amenities).

When plotting your BRAND BUTLER, your ideas may revolve around existing customers. However, there’s a huge win in services that are open to non-customers, too.

We hope you see these posts in the same light, we want to share knowledge, tips for saving money, ways to find the resources you need, ways to connect you with the people and services, new skills and tools.

Tips for Giving Advice

What is the best way to give advice and feedback? Why do you want to get better at the art of giving good, old-fashioned advice. It is less about the quality of advice and more about the way it’s delivered. The way advice is given can inadvertently increase the receiver’s resistance to hearing it or acting on it, which is a shame, because that undoes the best of intentions. You want the advisee to come away with good advice, rather than bad feelings about the advisor. A post on BNET offered four tips on how to give advice well.

  1. There is a difference between solicited and unsolicited advice. Both are fine ways to be helpful, but remember that the unsolicited variety may not always be welcome, so the recipient might be more vulnerable to a bruised ego if you push the advice too far.
  2. Say thank you first. This applies to solicited advice. Before offering any of your wisdom, express some gratitude for being asked. After all, it’s flattering to be seen as wise and helpful. We don’t know anyone who doesn’t like being asked for advice. In fact, doing so is one of the best ways to deepen a relationship, because it’s a mutually gratifying human interaction and flattering without being obsequious.
  3. Make sure you understand the limits of the question. There’s nothing more annoying than asking for advice on one thing (like “What do I need to do to get a promotion?”) and getting advice on your marriage and your vacations plans, with a few golf tips thrown in. Stick to the subject at hand, unless somehow there’s a connection.
  4. Be confident, but not arrogant. This distinction is blurry for some. There really is a difference between coming across as authoritative (presumably the solicitor wouldn’t be seeking your advice if they didn’t think you knew your stuff) as opposed to authoritarian (using your power to compel someone to follow your advice, or being pathologically certain that you’re always right). Being authoritative can be done with humility, like saying “I’ve seen a lot of situations like this, and I’m concerned”. An authoritarian way of giving the same advice might be, “Look, you have to do this now, or I’ll do it for you.” The latter is obnoxious, off-putting, and not helpful.
  5. Give the recipient an “out”. This is related to No. 4. While there’s plenty of room for passion in the giving advice, a bit of humility also helps. You can say, for instance, that you’ve seen such-and-such approach work for yourself and for others, but it might not be for everybody. Or you can preface it with a turn of phrase like, “I’m not sure about this, but I think you could benefit from doing x, y, and z.” Or my personal favorite: “Have you considered…?”
  6. After giving advice, ask how it sounds. Often the best advice is created in an iterative way, rather than being delivered from on high. So after you’re done expounding, ask the recipient if that makes sense, or how they might feel about acting on your advice. Their reactions can help you refine it together and make it even more meaningful.
  7. Ask for follow-up. Not only does it show you care if you ask your advice-seeker to let you know how it goes, but it also conveys that you have a stake in giving good advice. Whether or not they take you up on the offer, it will leave them feeling even better about you and more confident in acting on what you’ve shared.

Giving advice is one of life’s great gifts, especially when it turns out that we were right. We are also grateful for all the good advice we’ve received over the years.

Examples of Writing for the Senses

Marcia Yudkin wrote some ideas in her weekly email “The Marketing Minute” for ways to involve the senses of readers in marketing copy. She was attracted to a magazine ad for Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic:

“You’re welcomed by warm smiles, slapping dominoes and whispering trade winds.  Here, you can share sunsets with artists and fishermen as merengue rhythms course through the streets like mountain streams.”

These sentences evoke visual, auditory and kinesthetic sensations.

Warm smiles – feel and see them

Slapping dominoes – hear and see them

Whispering trade winds – hear and feel them

Share sunsets – feel and see

Artists and fisherman – watch them

Merengue rhythms – hear and feel

Course through the streets – see the movement

Like mountain streams – see and hear

Resolve to use more vivid sensory language into your marketing copy – even if you sell something abstract, like computer security, legal compliance or increased confidence.

Evoke seeing:

An iron wall against invaders

Feds bursting into your office

Evoke hearing:

The clink of a prison cell door

The swoosh of a credit card swipe

Evoke feeling:

Your shoulders straight and tall

Are you itching to start writing yet? How can we help you engage your readers with more sensation? What about mail that can be touched and felt to deliver the sensation?

Smarter Selling

The Aberdeen Group published a report of survey results titled: “Sales Intelligence: Preparing for Smarter Selling”. They found that within Best-in-Class companies, an average 52% of sales representatives are currently achieving quota, as compared to a 26% average among Laggard organizations.

Best-in-Class companies see a 9% year-over-year reduction in time sales reps spend searching for relevant company/contact information, as compared to a 5% increase in time among Laggard performers.

Best-in-Class companies boast an average 5% year-over-year reduction in the sales cycle time, as compared to a 7% increase in sales cycle time among Laggards.

These numbers tell the story of the economy and the what a difference implementing good sales lead management and generation can do.

How can we help you find great, relevant leads?

Customer Lifetime Value

BNET recently posted an article titled, “Treat Your Customers Like Lifetime Investments”. They told the story of most retailers having a dismal year, with larger companies laying off employees and closing stores, and a smaller operations shutting down altogether. At the same time, Zane’s Cycles, a Branford, CT bicycle retailer, increased revenue 20 percent. How? Years ago, Zane’s established a service-focused company culture that keeps customers coming to the store in good economic times and bad.  “When we changed from trying to force our customers to buy what we had to creating a relationship with them based on providing them with whatever they needed, then everything changed,” CEO Chris Zane says.

The 29-year-old store sets itself apart from competitors by offering free lifetime service and parts on everything it sells, as well as 90-day price protection. Zane has tracked sales and customer data over a number of years to discover the average customer’s “lifetime value” — the gross revenue he or she will bring in over time. “The lifetime value of a customer [for me] is $12,500,” says Zane. “That gives me $5,625 of profit. My customers are valuable, so I treat them that way.”

How can you turn your customers into lifetime fans? Here are Zane’s tips:

  1. Focus on customer relationships, not one-time transactions. Discounts and sales may lure in one-time buyers, but they won’t keep them coming back. On the other hand, Zane’s policy of giving away anything that costs under a dollar helps create raving fans.
  2. Give your employees permission to do whatever it takes to keep customers satisfied — even if the customer’s request might seem unreasonable. When a customer recently complained that a new bicycle from Zane’s had made a grease mark on the back seat of her car, an employee offered to treat her to free professional detailing. “It becomes a much easier existence for our staff. There’s no worrying if you’ve made the right decision, “  Zane says. “You just do what the customer wants.”
  3. Make every customer interaction fun, informative, and positive. That’s every interaction — even when it’s clear they’re not going to open their wallets that day. Zane’s customers are treated to free coffee and soft drinks and encouraged to linger in the store.
  4. Stand by your products with service and price guarantees. In a lousy economy, that may sound like a recipe for bankruptcy, but Zane says only small numbers of people actually take advantage of the guarantees. And the pay off is customer loyalty and trust.

Have you calculated the lifetime value of your customers? Can we help you create a strategy to make your customers feel appreciated?

Business to Business Sales Leads

Marketo provided the inspiration for these tips. They propose a process for growing business to business sales leads.

1. Nurture. Lead nurturing is the process of using many channels including the mail, phone, web, email, and other channels to build relationships with qualified prospects who are not ready for sales efforts. Many leads are still in research mode, so communication and offers should provide best practices, statistics, research, etc. to help the customer frame their research.

Lead nurturing:

  • Builds relationships with prospects
  • Creates understanding of needs
  • Facilitates lead scoring

2. Frame the research. Lead nurturing is not sending a newsletter to your entire database, or calling prospects every few weeks to see if they are ready to buy yet. B2B purchases are, by their nature, complex. Buyers need help to see possibilities and issues they wouldn’t think about on their own. If you can help frame the discussion, you will be seen as a trusted advisor and thought leader. This will help buyers believe that your company understands their problems and knows how to solve them. Lead nurturing is your opportunity to demonstrate the value you can provide and to position yourself as a resource.

3. Define what makes a lead “ready”. Work with your sales team to build criteria that determine the steps prospects should take before they are ready for a sales call. Criteria could include:

  • Demographic information – Geographic location, company size, etc.
  • “Push” actions – What have you done to interact with the lead, what have you told them?
  • “Pull” actions – What has the lead done to pull information to them? What pages have they visited? Have they downloaded special information?

4. Score the lead. The prospect is in control of the buying process. Monitor their efforts to pull information and interaction to know when they’re ready to move to the next stage. Interest level should be defined not just by their words but their actions. Actions speak louder than words. Track all the actions and update scores accordingly.

5. Provide detailed information to sales when leads are determined to be “ready”. Don’t just toss the lead over and leave it up to the sales rep to create a continuous experience for the customer.

  • Let sales know what marketing activities the prospect has responded to, and indicate which product the prospect is most likely to purchase based on responses to date.
  • Create tools such as templates, qualifying questions, and call scripts to guide sales reps during their initial contact with the lead. Be sure to refer to the marketing activities they have responded to.

6. Track follow up. Work with sales to create the scoring criteria to build goodwill with them. After that, regularly analyze the leads that were determined to be sales-ready to further refine your lead scoring criteria.

  • Adjust lead score thresholds based on business conditions.
  • Make sure sales follows up with leads and reassign leads that don’t get contacted.
  • When leads aren’t closed by sales as expected, recycle them back into marketing for further nurturing.

7. Track every marketing activity. Tracking every marketing activity is critical to understanding which marketing programs work. What programs directly contributed to sales? What programs generated the highest quality leads? Which programs had the greatest influence on the sales pipeline? You need to know the impact of all the programs.

8. Understand prospects needs. As you build a relationship with your prospects, you should also be learning more about their needs. Every campaign the prospect responds to tells you about their interests. Every page they visit on your website tells you about their interests. Every link they click, and every piece of information they fill out on a form, tells you more about them. Be clever with your forms – don’t ask prospects to enter information you already know, and use the opportunity to find out something new!

9. Track all traffic and tie to new leads. Simple code on your Web pages help you track prospects, whether anonymous or known. This helps tell you which companies are interested in your products. As anonymous prospects complete forms on your website or landing pages, any previous web visits can be automatically attributed to the new lead. This is important to determine the sales readiness of new leads, since you know the entire history of the relationship with that prospect – including which campaign helped them find you in the first place.

10. Data quality standards, including de-duplication. Demographic analysis has long been a part of the sales process, and the Web makes it easier to collect this information. Certain information such as company size can help you determine the lead score. With many demand generation and lead nurturing activities running concurrently, automatic deduplication is imperative. Forms which auto-complete if the visitor is recognized not only help your prospects but can also facilitate the collection of additional information for profiling and scoring.

Seventy Six

Seventy six is a pretty big number. That is the percentage of internet users who were directly influenced to buy an item or service thanks to direct mail. This fact appeared in the March 2010 issue of Deliver Magazine and they stated the source as a Channel Preference Study from Exact Target.

Tips to Make Direct Mail Work Smarter

Direct mail remains a vital component of marketers’ programs. Direct mail is becoming more sophisticated and is capable of delivering higher results. Late last year Randy Spurrier shared his thoughts about ways to improve mail’s results in a post on IMedia Connection. Some direct marketers are transitioning away from “blast” campaigns and are moving toward highly integrated, direct mail-meets-online formats that combine relevant mailers, personal URLs (PURLs), triggered and targeted follow up communication, variable content, and more.

Creating a relevant dialogue with customers is becoming crucial today. Response rates for relevant mailers, are typically 2-4 times higher than non-relevant ones. When customized direct mail is combined with interactive elements such as PURLs, triggered follow-up, and additional relevant communications timed at just the right intervals, response rates can climb up to 10 times.

It’s fairly easy to transition from an un-targeted direct mail program to a next-generation, relevance-based one. Most marketers have all the data they need to create fully automated, relevant direct mail-meets-online programs today. The way to leverage this data painlessly is to implement technology. Solutions allow marketers to set up, run, and optimize marketing programs automatically.

Here are a few strategies to get you started.

Automate from the get-go. One-to-one marketing programs, of course, would be out of reach from a cost and time perspective if you had to manually change messaging and set delivery parameters for each individual person. To get started with there are ways to harness technology to send customized print mailers (each with a link to a PURL with relevant offers and recommendations), and then, depending on the customer’s actions, automatically send timely follow-ups all throughout the purchase process.

Get the message right. The segmentation modeling used to determine whom to mail to does not determine what to say to those people. How do you know what they want to hear? Implement rules and technology to leverage your data to guide a relevant message and individualized offer for each prospect. Use propensity-to-buy modeling and purchase analysis to identify topics of interest that will form the basis of your relevant messaging. This will be used to deliver relevant and personalized messages.

Maintain the dialogue. Guiding your customer through the purchase process at every step is key to boosting conversions, especially when it comes to considered purchases. Communicate at timed intervals with automated touches, PURLs with engaging advice and recommendations, and even outbound sales calls. Keep your marketing engine rule-based, allowing you to deliver data-driven messages and automatically “trigger” new touches based on customers’ interactive feedback.

For example, your marketing technology and rules should be able to trigger timely touches based on customer responses, inquiries, or purchases. Say you send a customized mailer with a link to a PURL to a prospect. If they don’t visit the PURL after one week, you could send a follow-up mailing. If they visit the PURL or phone the call-center but don’t close within five days, the engine would send a second follow-up print touch offering an alternative video recommendation or a more compelling promotion. The PURL could be updated to reflect the new offer or product recommendation communicated in each follow-up touch.

If you send your prospects relevant and fully-customized mailers — integrating technology — they’ll not only keep your mailer out of the recycling bin, they’ll reward your efforts by making more purchases.

More Evidence that Paper and Print Feel Better

Deliver Magazine reported on a survey conducted by Harris Interactive that found that 64 percent of employed US adults say print media is easier to read than the digital equivalent. 68 percent say that they feel more comfortable reading something on paper than on screen, suggesting that we associate things we can touch and feel as being more “real”.

How can we help you put something “real” in your customers and prospects hands so they feel more comfortable and find your communication easier to read? Direct mail is a great idea!