3 Online Recommendations for Small Business Direct Marketers

Many smaller companies who use direct mail don’t have a large staff to identify digital alternatives. This column is for the organization wondering what to do online when direct mail response is declining, costs are increasing, and inevitably, profits are shrinking. Today’s topic was triggered by

Many smaller companies who use direct mail don’t have a large staff to identify digital alternatives. This column is for the organization wondering what to do online when direct mail response is declining, costs are increasing, and inevitably, profits are shrinking. Today’s topic was triggered by a phone call from the new owner of a company we worked with a few years ago.

His challenge was typical of a lot of small business owners using direct mail: declining response rates, with lower profit, exacerbated by the fact that postage, once again, has recently gone up.

When we worked with the previous owner of this company a few years ago, we identified a more responsive direct mailing, built a new website, and got him started with a modest pay-per-click campaign. We wanted to test email, but the owner didn’t want to use email, so we didn’t. The outcome from these efforts was a combination of a better list; the capability for responders to complete a lead form on a new, search-engine-optimized website; and a PPC campaign that put them back in the black.

Fast forward about five years and direct mail response has declined yet again, while costs are up. The new owner wanted to rebrand his company with a different website. But in his attempt to save money, and having no clue what he was doing, the “new” website became a brand liability and all optimization was lost. And the pay-per-click campaign faltered because of the website switch.

So what to do? He called us for help.

In an instance like this, and in the interest of keeping a plan of action simple and as cost-effective as possible for the small business going at this alone, here are three initiatives that should be explored to keep things simple and cost-effective.

1. Website Review
Most small businesses have a website. But what is its purpose, and is it effective at achieving that? Ask someone to evaluate it for you who will understand what websites should do for a company. Get an audit. Invest the money to make it a stronger representation of your brand; create great content, videos, and don’t forget your all-important opt-in form to capture email addresses. Make sure it’s optimized for the search engines. And make sure you claim your local listing on the search engines if you’re a local company.

2. Manage Expectations if You Test Email to Prospects
Because email marketing costs less than direct mail, it’s natural to think you can divert all your efforts to email and achieve the same results. But that’s often not the case, especially when you’re prospecting and not emailing a customer list. Making email prospecting more challenging is that there is no established relationship between the marketer and recipient. This isn’t to say that email prospecting shouldn’t be used, but rather, run the numbers first to manage expectations (see “Crack the Email Prospecting Code” for more on this topic). If you’re going to use email, make sure you have a compelling, relevant landing page and opt-in form to begin nurture marketing with regular email or direct mail follow-up (more about nurture marketing in a future blog post).

3. Give Pay-Per-Click a Shot
PPC enables you to set a daily budget comfortable for you. It can be ramped up, or shut down, without a lot of cost exposure. But you need strong text copy, understand your keywords, and have a powerful landing page. There, someone who clicks will opt-in by asking for more information. You can add those individuals to your nurture marketing campaign.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a quick and affordable way to reinvent or expand your direct marketing from exclusively direct mail to cross-media online efforts, these three initiatives are a good place to start.

38 Marketing Words That Sell in Social Media

Are the words that generate response from social media and blogs different than words that work for direct mail? Or are digital marketers finally figuring out the most responsive words that direct marketing copywriters have known for generations? Whether this is new information to you, or confirms what you already knew, today’s blog is about words, and how response to specific words in the online space could strengthen your

Are the words that generate response from social media and blogs different than words that work for direct mail? Or are digital marketers finally figuring out the most responsive words that direct marketing copywriters have known for generations? Whether this is new information to you, or confirms what you already knew, today’s blog is about words, and how response to specific words in the online space could strengthen your offline marketing initiatives.

A blog post titled “A scientific guide to writing great headlines on Twitter, Facebook and your blog” got me to thinking about how their findings correspond with that of direct marketer’s experience. In that blog, Leo Widrich answers his most asked question: “How can I write great headlines for social networks and my blog?” So with credit to Widrich’s research, and other research I’ll acknowledge in a moment, let’s compare how these findings relate to direct marketing.

Twitter Words
Here are two headlines tested in Twitter, both leading to the same blog post, and each tweeted to the same audience within an hour of each other. Which do you think had higher clicks and was considered a “top tweet?”

  1. How many hours should we work every day? The science of mental strength.
  2. The origin of the 8 hour work day and why we should rethink it.

If you answered “2,” you’re right. It had double the number of clicks.

To an experienced direct marketer, this would probably come as no surprise. A specific number was used in version “2” (8 hour work day) combined with a provocative statement (why we should rethink it). Version “1” asked a question (not always the strongest way to write a headline) and used big words (science of mental strength).

A study by Dan Zarrella of Hubspot analyzed 200,000 links containing tweets and found that tweets that contained more adverbs and verbs had higher clickthroughs (1 percent to 2.5 percent higher) than noun- and adjective-heavy tweets (2 percent to 3.5 percent lower). Once again, an experienced direct marketing copywriter would probably not be at all surprised.

Finally, the study finds that when you ask for an action in social media, it increases clicks and response. Ask for a download or a retweet (retweets are three times higher when asked), and, remarkably, people will do as told. As direct marketers, we already know that a solid call-to-action is a must to generate response.

The 20 most retweetable words (some of which, by the way, could be well suited to be used in subject lines in emails):

  • you
  • twitter
  • please
  • retweet
  • post
  • blog
  • social
  • free
  • media
  • help
  • please retweet
  • great
  • social media
  • 10
  • follow
  • how to
  • top
  • blog post
  • check out
  • new blog post

Facebook Words
The news, here, is that the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true. But it’s not just any picture. The pictures that result in better click performance tell the story within the picture. In other words, the picture must be self-explanatory, more than just a graphic.

KISSmetrics says a photo with a Facebook post get 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more clickthroughs. In addition, posts with 80 characters or less get 66 percent more engagement. These are trends that I can validate, based on an assortment of text-only posts, posts with photos, and posts with videos I’ve placed for an organization’s Facebook page that I administer.

The action item for direct marketers using offline media: First, when you use a picture, the picture should be self-explanatory. Second, photos combined with shorter copy in headlines and leads can result in creating curiosity for the person to keep reading.

Blog Post Words
In “The Dark Science of Naming Your Post: Based on Study 100 Blogs,” author Iris Shoor reveals how much the post title has an impact on the number of opens. (Akin to a direct mail outer envelope teaser or a letter headline or an email subject line—should there be any surprise the words you choose make a difference?) What is credible about this research is that the author analyzed these words with a script that evaluated blogs and sorted all the posts from the most read, to the least shared. All good information for direct marketers writing direct mail or other print media.

Here are examples of words (called “let there be blood” by Shoor) appearing in blog titles that yielded high opens.

  • kill
  • fear
  • dark
  • bleeding
  • war
  • fantasy
  • dead

Negative words are more powerful for shares than an ordinary word, like No/Without/Stop. “The app you can’t live without” will go more viral than “The app which will improve your life,” Shoor states.

Confirmation for direct marketers: negative works.

And numbers work. Bigger numbers are better than smaller numbers. Despite what your grammar teacher told you, use digits rather than words. And place the number at the head of the sentence. No surprise here, to a seasoned direct mail copywriter.

And we like to learn. Preferably in five minutes. Titles that promise to teach tend to go viral.

Other words that tend to appear in viral posts:

  • smart
  • surprising
  • science
  • history
  • hacks (hacking, hackers, etc.)
  • huge/big
  • critical

Words that suppress:

  • announcing
  • wins
  • celebrates
  • grows

A couple of comparisons that seem to not make a difference: “I” versus “you.” Nor does “how to” have an effect on how viral a post will be.

What does all of this mean to direct marketers? First, I’d observe that many of these findings shouldn’t surprise an experienced direct marketer or direct mail copywriter. Maybe the online world is finally catching up to what we have tested and proven for generations.

But second, this is a reminder that what works in the online space can translate well into improving response offline, too. That’s a lesson to take to the bank.

5 Tips for Faster, More Confident, Direct Marketing Budget Decisions

As we enter the critical make-or-break fourth quarter, and you begin your 2014 direct marketing budget plans, you will likely be faced with many marketing decisions. Those decisions are usually needed quickly. But often they’re not made quickly. Whether it’s information overload from so many options, analysis paralysis or managers who are afraid to make a decision, today we explore five ways to

As we enter the critical make-or-break fourth quarter, and you begin your 2014 direct marketing budget plans, you will likely be faced with many marketing decisions. Those decisions are usually needed quickly. But often they’re not made quickly. Whether it’s information overload from so many options, analysis paralysis or managers who are afraid to make a decision, today we explore five ways to make marketing decisions quicker and more confidently.

A mere generation ago, direct marketing decisions were limited to direct mail customer file or rented lists, space ads in magazines, package inserts, direct response broadcast, and a few other media options.

Fast forward to now, and the direct marketing decision landscape has grown exponentially with online and cross-promotional media options. Every season reveals new, unexplored online opportunities. Some are fads. Some turn out to have real value.

So for your direct marketing budget planning, here are five recommendations of how to evaluate opportunities and make decisions more quickly and confidently.

1. Cost per Response
An important metric for most direct marketers is the marketing cost per response (per lead, inquiry, sale—whatever your situation). This core metric may be your most significant contributor to your decisions.

2. Allocation of Unknown Response Sources
If you’re in a situation where you have a significant number of responses for which you can’t pinpoint a specific marketing source, consider a weighted-average allocation of those responses across marketing activities. With some imagination, you should be able to calculate this on your own. (Let me know if you’d like an expansion of this concept, and perhaps we’ll do so in a future blog post.)

3. Summarize Results in a Matrix
Placing your data in a spreadsheet will put the numbers in front of you so you can see all your activity in one place. You may want the data by media type on separate spreadsheet tabs so you can see more granular data.

For example, on one tab you summarize results from direct mail (by list, or summed up by customer vs. rented lists) with cost per response. If you allocated unknown orders, be sure to include those. Another tab might concern email results that summarize opens, clicks, conversions and cost per response. Other tabs could summarize pay-per-click, social media, retargeting or whatever media you are using. Then roll up and summarize all of the media on a tab of its own. If cost per response is most important to you, then sort the data from the lowest cost per response to highest. Perhaps you have “soft data” that will be a factor in your decisions. If so, add columns to enable a written evaluation of each. Maybe your evaluation is as simple as “pluses” and “minuses” for each opportunity.

4. Parameters for Decisions
It happens all the time. With so many choices and options, and potentially several staff members wanting their piece of the budget, decisions can be contentious and slow. When that happens, everyone loses. When you establish the parameters for decision making upfront, it’s easier to slice the pie into the right proportions. More importantly, if the head of the organization or department has established those parameters in writing (avoid verbal direction to avoid future misunderstanding), staff is empowered to make more confident decisions without delay.

5. Don’t Forget Test Budgets
Know, ahead of time, how much money you can gamble in a test. You should view the money spent as having zero return so that when if it works you’re pleasantly surprised. A rule of thumb you might use is to allocate 10 percent of a total marketing budget to tests. Whether it’s a direct mail list test, or new online media, the only way you can learn if those options work for you is to test it. Remember, too, that marketing fads can fizzle quickly. The hot new opportunity of 2012—not even a full year ago—may already be a distant memory.

If you have processes, or recommendations, about how you make faster, more confident marketing decisions, please share them in the comments area below.

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

What Is ‘Omnichannel’? And Is It Different From ‘Multichannel’?

This is the year of “omnichannel” based on the amount of occurrences that I’ve heard this term. I’ve never been a fan of jargon—but I sure use it enough in some of my clients’ communications, often at their request. When I comply, I usually advise that a short explanation may be in order upon first reference to help define whatever the term is and to set a marketplace expectation. So what does “omnichannel” mean to me?

This is the year of “omnichannel” based on the amount of occurrences that I’ve heard this term.

I’ve never been a fan of jargon—but I sure use it enough in some of my clients’ communications, often at their request. When I comply, I usually advise that a short explanation may be in order upon first reference to help define whatever the term is and to set a marketplace expectation.

Often enough, analyst firms rush to fill the void too, explaining such terms as “big data,” “customer experience,” “customer engagement” and the like.

The good thing about being marketers and communicators is that we are all also consumers and business people and are able to put our own perspectives on the customer side of the equation. We all recognize we have more power now as consumers (though we’ve always had ultimate power in the wallet), and that what was once pure hit-or-miss with advertising (the consumer side of spray-and-pray) is more often, today, data-driven dialogue with the many brands we use.

So what does “omnichannel” mean to me, as a consumer?

  1. That a brand that I choose to use—and possibly have a data-based relationship with—will recognize me uniquely as a customer, no matter what the channel.
  2. That the data such brands may have about me is shared throughout the organization, so that all parts of the organization—sales, marketing, customer service, finance, in-store, Web, mobile, social, partners, service providers—can act in coordination.
  3. That I am respected as a customer and treated royally. Of course, this is about the products and services I buy and use. It is also about extending to me notice and choice about channel preferences, and possibly subject preferences, and that all data about me is secured.
  4. That I actually expect (and in some cases, demand) that brands actually use data about me to make brand messaging and content more relevant to me. If you collect or track information, please use it—wisely!
  5. That if I’m not yet a customer—that is, if I’m still a prospect—that points 3 and 4 still apply from a prospect’s perspective. I understand points 1 and 2 are about customers, but even here, some elements of prospecting require careful coordination to respect my time.

On a practical level, this “omnichannel” expectation requires brands to remove channel and function silos on the brand-side and walk the talk on customer relationship management, customer-centric marketing, customer experience, lead nurturing and other advertising and marketing processes that reflect today’s brand-customer dialogue.

It also requires that marketers invest in data governance, data quality, data-sharing technology platforms, analytics, preference centers, multivariate testing, employee and partner training and strategies to work toward this omnichannel vision, that is, from this consumer’s perspective.

Suffice to say, multichannel—interacting with customers in multiple channels—is a journey stop to omnichannel. Omnichannel is smart marketing, realized—and very hard work. As a communications professional, I’ll be attending several omnichannel learning venues this Spring to see how brands are trying to make this vision happen.

For those in the New York area:

On April 23: http://www.dmcny.org/event/2013-breakfast-series-3 (Direct Marketing Club of New York)

On May 22: http://www.dmixclub.com/CMS_Files/index.php (Direct Marketing Idea Xchange: This is an invitation-only event for qualified senior-level marketers. Please reach out to me if you would like to be invited.)

On June 10: http://www.imweek.org/ (Direct Marketing Association, in cooperation with eConsultancy)

Does Channel Even Matter Anymore? Prove It With an ECHO!

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that the consumer has gone “omnichannel” on us. As customers have taken all the power in which brands they choose to interact with, we’ve awakened to find ourselves in a world where we—the brands and the marketers behind them—need to be everywhere the customer is. Digital created a real-time, on-demand environment where communities could easily tap and share knowledge. There is a collective intelligence there that, in tandem, empowers individual customers who use it. The result has affected all channels

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that the consumer has gone “omnichannel” on us. As customers have taken all the power in which brands they choose to interact with, we’ve awakened to find ourselves in a world where we—the brands and the marketers behind them—need to be everywhere the customer is. We need to be ready on demand, easily accessed, relevant but not intrusive, poised with an offer, with an ability to listen and interact accordingly, all on top of a product or service that demonstrates value to the customer.

The shift to customer centrism—the growth of customer power—probably began before the digital age, but certainly digital was the game-changer. Digital created a real-time, on-demand environment where communities could easily tap and share knowledge. There is a collective intelligence there that, in tandem, empowers individual customers who use it. The result has affected all channels.

It’s been said that the sole purpose of a business is to create a customer and grow the value of that customer over time. (Using this same reasoning, I doubt that the sole purpose of a charity is to create a donor, but it is to show a need to create a donor, and to make that donor relationship happen and grow.)

So in this brave new world, does channel even matter? Former Direct Marketing Association Chief Executive Officer Larry Kimmel (now with hawkeye) once told direct marketers we need to be “channel-agnostic.” That is, we need to be willing to understand and accept that our prospects and customers could be anywhere, with wants and needs, so we need to be able to recognize these individuals and communicate with them with relevance and permission—and deliver value to them when and where they are ready to engage.

(By the way, relevance—always interpreted from a consumer’s perspective—trumps permission. Discuss.)

I’ve always preferred the descriptor “channel fluent” to communicate this same message. Be channel agnostic, yes, but also have the best practices know-how to deploy any channel in an all-channel mix.

So BAM! Now we have all these channels, and all this channel data to deal with, and the customer wanting brand interaction and engagement in real time, her wants and needs met, and to move on until she’s ready to interact again.

How does a chief marketing officer navigate all this … with success? How should channels be deployed in concert with each other—around the customer? What unique attributes, if any, does any single channel bring to the brand engagement mix? What successful results have been achieved? How can we learn from each other?

I believe it’s time we take a page from the consumer to establish and share collective intelligence, this time among advertisers and marketers. Enter, the DMA 2013 International ECHO Awards Competition.

Does Your Marketing Have What it Takes?
Prove It With an ECHO Entry

Since its debut in 1929, the ECHOs have evolved with direct-response advertising—in all its channels and all of direct marketing’s manifestations. Today, the ECHOs are about the world’s best data-driven marketing campaigns—with data informing both strategy and creative, and producing results. Winning campaigns in 2012 came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The winners represent today’s direct marketing—and the winners truly showcase the best in channel-fluency performance.

For 2013, Winners will be selected in 15 business categories, including three new categories in consumer products, education, and professional services, as well as automotive; business and consumer services; communications and utilities; financial products and services; information technologies; insurance; nonprofit; pharmaceutical and healthcare; product manufacturing and distribution; publishing and entertainment; retail and direct sales; and travel and hospitality/transportation.

Channels represented among the winning campaigns will cover the media landscape: alternative media, catalog, direct mail, email, mobile, print, search engine marketing, social media, telemarketing, television/video/radio, Web advertising and Web development. Entries may represent single channel success—but increasingly entries reflect integrated marketing deployments, not necessarily “omnichannel,” but moving toward this customer expectation.

This year’s call for entries is now open, under the theme “The Ultimate Team Award” (campaign credits to Quinn Fable Advertising, New York, NY). Information on the ECHOs is posted at http://dma-echo.org/index.jsp.

The deadline is May 3, so let’s get started on building 2013’s version of marketing excellence collective intelligence—to share how and when channels matter. I’ll have more to share on the ECHOs in future posts here at “Marketing Sustainably,” but get started today on proving how direct marketing matters, and matters most, in creating and engaging customers everywhere.

If You Speak, Will They Listen?

Yesterday, I was one of two speakers at a webinar hosted by Target Marketing. During our prep call earlier in the week, the host advised us that over 1,000 people had signed up to attend this free event. Now I know from past experience that only 50 percent will likely attend, but another 10 percent to 20 percent will listen to the podcast after the fact. But despite providing case studies, facts and figures based on industry best practices, the disappointing reality is that very few “attendees” will ever try to implement the lessons that I shared

Yesterday, I was one of two speakers at a webinar hosted by Target Marketing. During our prep call earlier in the week, the host advised us that over 1,000 people had signed up to attend this free event.

Now I know from past experience that only 50 percent will likely attend, but another 10 percent to 20 percent will listen to the podcast after the fact. But despite providing case studies, facts and figures based on industry best practices, the disappointing reality is that very few “attendees” will ever try to implement the lessons that I shared.

How do I know this? Because I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and have spoken at dozens of conferences and am continued to be amazed at how many companies feel the need to reinvent the wheel.

For example, when presented with a prospect’s particular marketing challenge and we recommend a fully integrated campaign solution that includes online and offline initiatives, the client says “let’s test to learn what will work best.”

Really?

I’ve been involved in testing for my entire 30+ year marketing career. And I’ve tested offers, colors, premiums, even signature lines, and those can yield very different results client to client. But here’s the one thing I don’t need to test: A fully integrated marketing campaign will outperform a single medium campaign every time. Why? Because different people consume information differently.

Some spend time online and click through banners, buttons or SEM results. Others gather information at conferences and webinars. Still others open and read email and direct mail.

Net-net, at some point, if they have a need, they will raise their hands in some way, whether they accept an inbound call from your sales rep or make a call into your call center. Perhaps they’ll visit your website and download something? Or visit your booth at a tradeshow?

The source of the “lead” will be misleading if you’re trying to measure and prove ROI, because they were exposed to your message in a number of ways and just because they finally raised their hands, you assign them to one channel and credit it with being the driver of leads. The next thing you know, you’re shifting marketing dollars to that one channel, and yet a year later you’re wondering why lead volume is down.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ll meet new prospects who say their last (single channel) marketing campaign didn’t work. Therefore the (single channel) is a waste of money.

After digging a little deeper, the prospect didn’t really know where the “list” came from, or what the “offer” was or whether the campaign ran during a hurricane which meant that no one was online searching for their particular product during that particular week.

Here’s the key takeaway: Well planned, fully integrated campaigns usually yield the highest number of leads at the lowest cost. And the key to real sales success is the follow up.

Follow up those leads with an intelligent combination of emails and phone calls based on lead value (oh yeah, don’t forget to ask two or three questions when acquiring that lead so you can score its value to the organization), and—here’s the most important part—actually follow up with emails and phone calls that demonstrate to that prospect that you understand his or her pain and have the experience and solutions that can help solve the problem. In other words, talk to them in a language they can understand.

When prospects complete an online form and complete the box that asks “Industry” by choosing “Manufacturing,” don’t contact them as if they are in healthcare. If the forms asks for “Company Size” and the respondent chooses “1 to 10,” then treat that respondent like the small business it is. Demonstrate that you understand the challenges facing small businesses in manufacturing and you’ll gain far more credibility and brand engagement.

The next time management asks you to reinvent the wheel to solve the marketing challenge, tell them you already know what to do, because you’ve done your homework.

Blog: Direct Marketing School Still in Session

The virtual show. Anyone been to one yet? I have to admit, my first real attendance to any such show was to our very own, Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk, which I helped organize. And I was sold, especially after seeing the numbers.

The virtual show. Anyone been to one yet? I have to admit, my first real attendance to any such show was to our very own, Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk, which I helped organize (check out the agenda and, if interested, attend the on-demand version). And I was sold, especially after seeing the numbers (sponsorship dollars, yes, but mostly noticing how many people registered … nearly 3,000).

The reason is simple: A virtual show is just so convenient. You can pick and choose your sessions, attend only the ones that are truly relevant for you (or view on-demand later on), chat with select others in the networking lounge (or break off into a private chat), browse the exhibit hall … all with great ease, without leaving your office. No travel, no hotel (okay, that part I kind of miss), no great local restaurants (wait, not sure if I like this suddenly), no business cards from people I’ll never see again (that’s the spirit) and, biggest thing of all, no giant wrench getting thrown into your work schedule.

In other words, it can be a highly productive day, or half-day, or even hour if you only go to one session. Meanwhile, you’re still in your own office, so you can still get your own work done.

While the need for in-person events remains (I just spoke at the DMA’s Circulation Day in New York City and made a connection with people that transcends the vitual connect, significantly), the level of learning and networking is only going to increase in future virtual conferences.