Copywriting Showstoppers and One-Two Punches

What makes a direct mail package a success? It’s usually a combination of elements. Marketers and copywriters tend (rightfully so) to spend the most time developing the big idea and writing the perfect headline and lead for a letter. But two components are often relegated to being afterthoughts.

What makes a direct mail package a success? It’s usually a combination of elements. Marketers and copywriters tend (rightfully so) to spend the most time developing the big idea and writing the perfect headline and lead for a letter. But two components are often relegated to being afterthoughts.

  • Your outer envelope should be a showstopper.
  • The order device should pack a one-two punch to close the deal.

By showstoppers on the outer envelope, I mean six to eight graphic elements, each worth about a half a second of gazing time so the recipient pauses and looks more closely at the envelope. That extra involvement of a half a second per showstopper could mean three to four seconds of additional time that gets the reader more involved and inside. Showstopper ideas include:

  • Vivid colors and design
  • Tactile texture
  • Emblems (both front and on the flap)
  • Official-looking indicia
  • Handwriting fonts (Marydale Bold is a reliable choice)
  • Strong teaser copy
  • Personalization

Then there is the order device. Now, think about yourself: when you open an envelope, what’s the first component you look at? For many, it’s the order device. But these days, it’s my observation that many direct mail packages no longer include an order device (or what’s there is weak). Perhaps it’s a belief from direct marketers that the printing expense can be saved, since most of the time a prospect is being driven to the Web to complete the transaction. But a strong order device visually communicates something to the recipient.

An order device can be powerfully positioned to command attention and close the sale. Here are a few reminders about what you should include on your order device:

  • Re-use (or modify) the killer headline you’ve created for your letter
  • State (or restate) your guarantee
  • Specify pricing and terms (the order device serves as a contract of sorts)
  • Clearly state how to order
  • Add urgency to close the deal (if you fail, the recipient sets your package aside for another time, which often never comes)

Typically, when creating a new direct mail package, I start by developing these two components. They may not initially seem as interesting to develop as other items in the total package, but they may very well be the two most important items you spend time creating.

Who Should Run for President? Effective Marketers Who Get Results!

As a marketer, how do you know that your work has made a difference in the world? It’s not whether you made an audience laugh, cry or remember the words to your jingle. It’s not because your brand name can evoke a Pavlovian response to make a purchase. For me, the most impressive result is when a smart strategy and innovative creative solution have a major impact on solving a business problem. I’m proud to report that this year’s ECHO entries were no exception.

As a marketer, how do you know that your work has made a difference in the world? It’s not whether you made an audience laugh, cry or remember the words to your jingle. It’s not because your brand name can evoke a Pavlovian response to make a purchase. While these are certainly all impressive outcomes, for me the most impressive result is when a smart strategy and innovative creative solution have a major impact on solving a business problem. And I’m proud to report that this year’s ECHO entries were no exception.

The ECHO Awards, represented by a new and beautifully designed glistening crystal statue, were handed out at a gala celebration on Monday night, complete with live band and TV-personality/stand-up comedian. But the highlight of the evening were those entries that truly impacted change – whether by driving a politician to introduce groundbreaking legislation or by disrupting an entrenched competitor. From campaigns for a little known travel destination in India to a clever recruiting campaign that sought to identify future code breakers for The U.S. Navy, the 2015 ECHO Awards were a testament to the brilliance of marketers who have honed their craft.

Even though I was honored to be this years’ ECHO Judging Chair, I was too busy administratively during the judging process to spend any time actually reading or judging entries this year. But when the dust finally settled and I was able to review all the finalist entries and partake in the discussion around who should be the Diamond Winner, I was astounded at how many times I marveled “I wish I’d thought of that!”

The judges, recruited from across the globe, were a tough bunch. While they included agency strategists, art directors, copywriters, account planners, project managers and client-side marketing pros, not one was unimpressed with the breadth and depth of the campaigns they reviewed. I saw many partake in lively discussions around the merits of an entry – and wished I could be part of that debate process.

In the end, those that were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze statues on Monday night, should know that they are among an elite few. From nearly 1,000 entries, their work stood above the rest. Their work helped a client meet a financial goal… Or improved the lives of those less fortunate… Or helped drive revenue… Or helped drive sales. Most importantly, every campaign was thoughtful, innovative, and delivered on their promise to meet the stated measurable objectives. That’s no mean feat.

And that’s certainly more than I can say for most politicians.

 

Make Me an Offer — But Set My Expectations

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

But now that brands can communicate with customers instantly via email, text, Instagram and Facebook, offer windows can be shortened to a hours. And, when positioned appropriately, can drive a quick hit of revenue.

But here’s a case of what NOT to do …

On Friday, September 4, I received an email offer from Travelocity to click the link which would reveal how much I’d save (with the promise that it would range from 10 percent — 75 percent off on hotels). Given that I travel a lot, and I often book with Travelocity, it was an offer worth my click time. Plus, the button was kind of fun with a “Surprise Me” action message.

Naturally I was disappointed when I learned I had only earned 10 percent off and with another click had deleted the email message from my desktop and my memory bank.

But two days later, on Sunday, September 6 at 6:50 pm, I received another Travelocity email. This time the subject line was “Don’t Forget to Click. Reveal. Redeem.”

Given that it was a long weekend I didn’t check my emails until Monday, Sept 7 and, since I had completely forgotten about the earlier Travelocity email (since my inbox is filled with hundreds of email exchanges a day), I clicked the link in this email too. Only this time I got the message “Sorry! The Coupon is no longer valid” with a little clock icon reinforcing that time had run out.

My first reaction was that somebody at Travelocity had screwed up. Surely any email offer was going to last more than a day or two.

First, I found the original email offer in my deleted folder and it told me the offer expired on September 7. But instead of telling me I only had a few days or 72 hours, the email just gave me a calendar date — which, at the time, seemed like the distant future.

The September 6 email also noted that the offer expired on September 7 … but it should have said “24 hours” which would have given it the sense of urgency it deserved.

Instead, this Travelocity customer had a negative experience with the brand — and all over a potential 10 percent savings.

The point is, it’s critical that you think carefully about your offers, their activation windows and how you position it in your communication. Travelocity could have created a lot more interest and excitement if their original subject line had said “72 hour sale” in it … and their follow up email had “Final 24 hours of our sale.”

Motivating your target to act is one of the many challenges facing marketers today, so if you’re going to include an offer, make sure you give it the urgency it deserves.

New Directions for B-to-B Data-driven Marketing

Okay, we’re in the maelstrom. But what is on the horizon for data-driven marketing? Here are some predictions, culled from interviews with several very bright observers who contributed to my new book, “B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results.”

For us B-to-B marketers, the world is changing about as fast as we can stand. My head spins at the speed with which new tools, applications and approaches arrive on the scene. Where does this all come from? The Internet, of course, whose impact on business buying behavior has changed the game. As a platform for communications, for selling, for just about every element of the marketing arsenal, it is forcing marketers to think more carefully about customer and prospect data.

Okay, we’re in the maelstrom. But what is on the horizon for data-driven marketing? Here are some predictions, culled from interviews with several very bright observers who contributed to my new book, B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results.

  1. More power and influence for marketing:
    The sales function has traditionally held the primary B-to-B revenue responsibility, leaving marketers with a history of frustration at their exclusion from a seat at the senior executive table. That is changing fast, as new tools and measurable communications techniques enable marketing not only to demonstrate financial results, but to take on revenue responsibility. “Salespeople are no longer the only rainmakers,” says Thad Kahlow, CEO of the digital agency BusinessOnLine. “Marketers today have serious revenue targets hanging over their heads.”
  1. B-to-C provides the inspiration:
    B-to-B marketing is rarely the leader in advancing data-driven marketing techniques. But it is adept at watching and taking up the new ideas from consumer marketers that apply to business buying, observes David Myron, editorial director at CRM magazine. One example is experiments with unstructured data, like that from social media, where consumer marketers are making headway. B-to-B marketers will likely search and analyze nuggets not only from social media but also from phone conversation content and email content, to identify buying intent, competitive interest and other actionable insights.
  1. The end of the database “build:”
    Digital marketers today are taking greater advantage of “real-time” data, delivering immediate responses to interactive behaviors between customer and marketer. Increasingly, the ability to manage such data points efficiently will make the traditional marketing database too stagnant and unresponsive to be useful. We are not there yet—the idea is still experimental. But the “always-on” future is beginning to be visible, where your storefront is always available for any kind of customer interaction.
  1. A simpler technology picture:
    Most marketing technologies claim to make marketer’s lives simpler. But at this point, marketing technology has become dizzying in its complexity. In the future, says Nitin Julka, product manager at LinkedIn, more and more of the complexity of running marketing campaigns is going to be automated, in a simpler way, so that marketers can focus on what truly matters—their target audiences, buyer’s journeys, and messaging.
  1. A sensible balance between data, insight and marketing strategy:
    “You can have all kinds of customer data, and still not understand how to communicate persuasively with customers and prospects,” notes Howard J. Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group. “Software and analytics can’t tell you the what and the why.   We need to respect and harness what the data tells us, but also put it in its place.”
  1. Data is the business:
    The appreciation among stakeholders for the importance of customer data will continue to grow. “Data isn’t something we just have stored over there,” says Frank Cutitta, CEO of the Center for Global Branding, and professor at Northeastern University. “Data is the business. Companies that understand this are ahead of their competitors.”The Internet has been with us since the early 1990s, and by now it has impacted every scrap of B-to-B marketing.   But the next stage of its evolution will be to simply go away, as a thing in itself. Digital marketing will become so mainstream that it will be called simply marketing. We will no longer make a distinction between online and offline. We will understand and interact with customer from all sides, in a seamless whole. And the data will be the enabler of that relationship.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Are CMOs Really in Charge? Should They Be?

If a CEO is responsible for overall company management and fiscal health, isn’t a CMO responsible for overall brand value and the health of their customer relationships? And if not the CMO, then who?

If a CEO is responsible for overall company management and fiscal health, isn’t a CMO responsible for overall brand value and the health of their customer relationships? And if not the CMO, then who?

Two recent blog posts hit this point home, and left me wondering if CMOs have the breadth and depth of experience, knowledge and expertise to accept responsibility for the total customer experience. Read on, and tell me what you think.

The first blog — on arstechnica.com — was titled “Best Buy has spammed me more than all of Nigeria’s princes combined.” The post from author Jon Brodkin should not only make Best Buy cringe, but generate an immediate response from Best Buy’s CMO, Greg Revelle.

It seems that during Jon’s purchase at Best Buy he unwittingly opted-in to a Best Buy email barrage. Within days, his inbox was stuffed with one or two emails a day from the ubiquitous retail store with subject lines like “4-HOUR SALE: Starts now,” “You’d be crazy to pass on this,” “Amazing deals end soon,” and “Jon, save 15% on ink and toner.”

Of course Jon did what any of us would do — he wanted it to go away so he unsubscribed. But when the emails didn’t stop, he went further: He complained on Twitter. He complained directly to Best Buy (and was told the emails would stop). But they didn’t. So he reported Best Buy to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violation of the CAN-SPAM rules.

As a marketer, my first reaction is “Why isn’t someone managing the Best Buy CRM system to create a set of rules that will ensure any single customer will NEVER receive more than X emails from us in a given week or month?”

I can’t imagine a situation where anyone would agree to that many emails from a single brand — so for all the investment Best Buy has made in technology and automated CRM systems, they’re only as good as the humans controlling those technologies. And who controls those humans? In Best Buy’s case, it should be CMO Revelle. It should be his team that manages the CRM system. It should be his staff who sets up and manages email rules. And it should be his team who monitors customer satisfaction with email — looking at open rates, clickthrough rates, conversion rates and unsubscribe rates.

The other example was a LinkedIn post by one of my colleagues, Denise Williams. Titled “Can’t control it? Don’t promise it. [Branding 101].” In it, she complained about an unnamed telecom who offered a rebate on a phone upgrade via a direct mail offer, with the OE teaser “You’re more than our customer. You’re our top priority. Thank you for choosing [our company].”

She took them up on the offer, upgraded and received her gift card/rebate. But, like most of us, forgot she had it in her wallet. So a few months later, when she finally went to activate the card, it was too late — the card had expired.

As she notes, the card act governs how long rebate cards need to be active, and she understands that, but it’s how the organization handled her when she complained that’s the real issue.
After being transferred around and around the call center and asking customer service agents who the President of the company was (they were clueless!), she finally went online, researched the Executive Team and decided to reach out to the CMO by email. Her faith in her ability to have a peer-to-peer discussion about a system failure was encapsulated in this comment: “surely the CMO would understand something this important: that the flawed promotional offer with the expired rebate left me feeling less than a customer who is ‘Top Priority.'”

But the CMO failed her by merely forwarding her inquiry to the executive resolution team — a group from whom Denise had originally tried to contact, but from whom she was shielded. Of course they saw the error in their ways and quickly credited her account the amount of the gift card.

But shame on that CMO. This is customer relationship management 101. Get your telemarketing team up to speed on your brand values. Empower them to solve problems. Teach them how to listen to the customer and help them reach a satisfactory conclusion, because it shouldn’t be this hard to get one little expired gift card reactivated or give the customer a credit.

I’m sure many CMO’s reading this will tell me that they are NOT responsible for the email CRM system, or they’re NOT responsible for the customer service team. But as a C-suite executive responsible for creating positive brand impressions that will ultimately result in sales and happy customers, shouldn’t these customer contact divisions be part of their strategic management team?

Yes, that sounds like the CMO has taken on a much bigger job, but not one that should scare people like the Best Buy’s Greg Revelle. With a BA from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard, I’m sure he’s more than capable.

10 Steps to Create a Profitable Google AdWords Campaign (From Scratch)

Creating a Google AdWords campaign is both exciting and terrifying for many business owners. AdWords has the power to change your company’s fortunes, but whether it will be for good or ill can be tough to predict. Fortunately, following a proven recipe for success can remove a great deal of the guesswork and vastly improve the chances that your campaign will be profitable.

Creating a Google AdWords campaign is both exciting and terrifying for many business owners. AdWords has the power to change your company’s fortunes, but whether it will be for good or ill can be tough to predict. Fortunately, following a proven recipe for success can remove a great deal of the guesswork and vastly improve the chances that your campaign will be profitable.

1. Verify Customer Demand
No matter how amazing your AdWords campaign is, your hard work and money will be for naught if the search volume is simply not there. Use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to check the keyword phrases for which you want to optimize. This tool lets you analyze a great deal of data, from how often a phrase is searched to how much you’ll likely pay per click to advertise on the keyword. You can also get suggestions for similar phrases.

2. Basic Math
Once you have narrowed down the keyword phrases that interest you, it is time to perform some basic math. Calculate your maximum cost per click (Max CPC) according to the following formula:Max CPC = (average profit per customer) x (1 – advertising profit margin) x (conversion rate)For example, your average profit per customer might be $200. Perhaps 1 in 100 prospects turns into a sale, and your target profit margin on advertising is 20%. Then the formula would look like this: Max CPC = ($200) x (1 – .20) x (.01) = $1.60*Note that if you are just starting out, you will need to estimate these numbers. Later, you can use historical data to calculate your real numbers.*Compare your max CPC to the estimated CPC in the Keyword Planner tool. If your max CPC is higher than the estimated CPC, you are in good shape. If it is significantly lower, then you’ll want to put off using that particular keyword phrase because it will likely be unprofitable.

3. Monitor Your Competitors’ Intelligence
KeywordSpy and SpyFu are incredibly useful tools that let you track your competitors’ historical ad data. You can see at a glance which keyword phrases your competitors are using and how well they are performing. You can also scrutinize your competitors’ ad copy to see what kinds of ads resonate with your target market, and figure out how to differentiate your company within the marketplace.

4. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
After reading through several competitors’ ads, you should have a good feel for the kind of ads you want to write. Now you need to decide how your ads will answer your prospects’ most basic question: Why should I choose you over every other option, including not making a purchase at all?Play to your strengths. What does your company do better than anyone else out there? Is it something that customers find valuable? How can you turn that strength into something that differentiates your company from everyone else’s?A great example is Domino’s 30-minute guarantee. Those ads don’t even mention taste or quality. Domino’s focused on a single aspect — fast delivery — and turned it into an empire.

5. Create an Irresistible Offer
An irresistible offer is what convinces your prospects to take the plunge. To be successful, your offer must:

  • Provide Value: The benefits must outweigh the price.
  • Appear Believable: Shoppers are skeptical, especially online. Tell them why you are running a sale or giving something away for free.
  • Reduce Risk: Provide some sort of guarantee.
  • Include a Call to Action: Tell your prospect exactly what you want him to do next, and make it crystal clear how to do that.

6. Write Compelling Ads
Each ad needs a strong 25-character or less headline that repeats the keyword phrase and convinces your prospect that you can solve a problem or fulfill a need. You also get two lines of 35 characters each to describe your USP, benefits, and call to action. Get creative, using the work you already did in the previous steps.

7. Develop Congruent Landing Pages
Rather than directing your ads to your homepage, develop a tightly tailored landing page for each ad that fulfills the promises made in the ad. The more congruent the experience, the more likely a prospect is to continue along the path towards conversion.

8. Use Conversion Tracking
Conversion tracking is the only method you have to determine which ads are generating sales. To track online conversions, just grab the tracking code from the Google AdWords tool and add it to your e-commerce receipt page or your webform thank you page. To track offline sales, invest in a separate phone number that you only use in your ads and landing pages.

9. Change Your AdWords Settings
Google’s default settings are not always in your best interest, but they are easy to change. Set the Keyword Match Type to Phrase, which displays ads when a prospect types part of your keyword phrase. Also add a list of negative keywords. When a searcher uses one of your negative keywords, your ad will not be displayed. For example, if your keyword phrase is “office space,” make “movie” a negative keyword to avoid displaying the ad to people searching for the film of the same name.

10. Optimize Your Campaign
After you enable your AdWords campaign, the next step is to optimize it based on your tracking data. Raise your bids if your keywords are profitable but you are not yet ranked No. 1. If a keyword is not profitable, lower your bids or pause that keyword. Test different versions of your ads to maximize your click through rate. Also test different variations on your landing page to determine which one maximizes conversions.

Starting an AdWords campaign is always a bit of a gamble, and there are no guarantees. But following this recipe and staying on top of your data will help increase your chances for success.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

5 Ways to Improve Your Google AdWords Quality Score

Your Google AdWords Quality Score is Google’s grade of your ad’s overall quality and usefulness. The system is designed to ensure that only the highest quality ads rise to the top, while weeding out those that are of poor quality, spammy or fraudulent. Your Quality Score affects your ad auction eligibility, cost per click, and ad positioning, so it is extremely important to earn and maintain a high score.

Your Google AdWords Quality Score is Google’s grade of your ad’s overall quality and usefulness. The system is designed to ensure that only the highest quality ads rise to the top, while weeding out those that are of poor quality, spammy or fraudulent. Your Quality Score affects your ad auction eligibility, cost per click, and ad positioning, so it is extremely important to earn and maintain a high score.

To arrive at the Quality Score, Google analyzes three key metrics: click-through rate, relevance, and landing page experience. All three are important, but by far the biggest factor in your Quality Score is your ad click-through rate so that’s where you should focus the majority of your time and effort. Here are five steps to help you continually boost your Quality Scores.

1. Create a Congruent Path
The most important step to a high Quality Score and effective advertising is to create a congruent path. By that I mean your ad copy and your landing page copy must precisely match the keyword searched. When this happens, your click-through rate will improve, your ad relevance score will improve, and you’ll create a better landing page experience. In other words, you’ll kill 3 birds with one stone!

2. Create Keyword Groupings
Organize your keywords by similar phrases, and then divide each group into subgroups and, if necessary, sub-subgroups. This ensures that each grouping is tightly focused and makes it easier to create a congruent path mentioned above.

Remember, the closer the match between your keyword, your ad, and your landing page, the higher your relevance scores will climb.

3. Write High Quality Content
For both the ad and the landing page, write clean copy that is free of spelling or grammar mistakes. Create compelling headlines. Break information into easily digested chunks. Make sure your landing page is easy to navigate, clearly explains who you are and what your business does, and provides authoritative original information. Raise your credibility by providing accurate contact information, listing details about any relevant organizations or associations of which you are a member, and explaining your professional credentials.

4. Improve Your Call to Action
Calls to action are essential in both your ad copy and your landing page copy. The call to action tells visitors what to do next, from clicking on your ad to filling out a form on your landing page. In the ad, a strong call to action entices prospects to visit your landing page, which improves the click-through rate component of your Quality Score.

On the landing page, the call to action plays two roles. It improves your conversion rate, or the number of prospects who actually make a purchase or complete a webform. It also boosts the user experience component of your Quality Score by providing clear instructions.

5. Track Your Results
Tracking your results is a vital part of any successful Google AdWords campaign. To review your Quality Scores, you need to add an additional column to your Google AdWords Keyword report. Go to the Keywords tab in Google AdWords, then click on the “Columns” button, then select “Modify columns…” to get started editing your report.

Next, click on Attributes and then click on the “Add” link to the right of “Qual. score”. Click the Apply button and now your report will display your keyword Quality Scores.

Remember that it takes time for changes to make a significant impact on either your conversion rate or your Quality Score. If you make several changes at the same time, it can be difficult to determine the individual effects of each change. Make a first attempt at following these best practices, and then wait several days to see the results. As you make later tweaks, change only one or two things at a time. A bit of patience will help you see the true results of each tweak and help you decide where to focus your efforts.

Want more Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my complete Google AdWords checklist.

New EPA Data Shows Mail Recycling Humming Along

For paper recycling trend watchers, and direct mail advocates, something happened in the latest Municipal Solid Waste Characterization data just published last month (June 2015) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. First, the actual report has been renamed “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013.” Second, discarded advertising mail and catalogs now constitute just 1.6 percent of all MSW generated – down from 1.7 percent in 2012 and 2.3 percent at its peak in 2005 (before the Great Recession and 2006 postal rate hike).

Rarely, is discarded mail collected on its own for recycling – beyond post office lobbies and undeliverable mail collected by the U.S. Postal Service. This may be a direct result of single-stream paper and paperboard recycling in municipalities where office papers, newspapers, printed materials, magazines, catalogs, discarded mail, cartons, paper packaging and other mixed paper are more often than not collected in single bins (as they are in my hometown of New York City) by residential and commercial haulers.

While we may have lost some transparency into visibility of specific types of paper that are generated, recovered, converted to energy and landfilled – direct mail is no longer its own category for recovery, recycling and landfilling – we do see trends for paper and paperboard overall – and the results are encouraging.

First, a record 34.3 percent of all municipal solid waste (MSW) generated across all categories was captured for recovery in 2013. Disposal of generated waste in landfills decreased from 89 percent in 1980 to less than 53 percent in 2013 – and total MSW generated per capita stands at 4.4 pounds per person per day, about the same as it was in 1980, and down from its 2000 peak.

Not all recovered materials are recycled – some are composted and some are converted to energy. But all recovered materials are diverted from landfills.

For newspapers/mechanical papers (which include commercial printing papers such as direct mail and catalogs), the recovery rate reported in 2013 was 67 percent. In 2009, as much as 63.4 percent of discarded advertising mail and catalog had been recovered – but since 2010 recovery data for discarded mail has been rolled into the “newspaper/mechanical papers” category. For all paper and paperboard categories, 48.7 percent was recovered, and just 1.6 percent was landfilled. So we appear to be holding our own in recovery – and keeping fiber out of the dump.

As an aside, three categories of MSW did report growth in recovery in 2013: yard trimmings, consumer electronics and food – a direct reflection of the increase in composting (both residentially and at the municipal level), as well as manufacturer take-back programs and local electronics recycling collection efforts. The EPA report also states that the U.S. Postal Service is now instituting bulk mail recycling (lobbies and undeliverable bulk business mail) and that is helping to bolster recovery figures.

What’s our takeaway as marketers?

First, print marketers need to keep pushing consumers to recycle their mail, magazines and catalogs – after they’re done with them. The Direct Marketing Association “Recycle Please” and MPA | The Association of Magazine Media “Please Recycle” are two programs that encourage consumers to keep discarded papers out of the trash.

Second, just because you are digital, doesn’t get you off the hook for recycling. In fact, the EPA has consumer electronics recycling as a top priority – and smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers and other vehicles for digital advertising need to be recaptured. The DMA offers e-recycling data on its Recycle Please Web site as well.

So keep recycling America – read, respond and recycle that direct mail!

6 Great Blogs for B-to-B Marketers

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

Here’s my list of six current faves.

The Point, by Howard J. Sewell. Howard is a seasoned lead generation pro, and a terrific writer. His blog is probably my most retweeted, as every post contains some useful nugget. Highly scanable, too, which is welcome. My recent favorite article is the amusingly titled “Sorry, But ‘How Many Touches Does it Take to Make a Sale?’ is No Longer a Valid Question.”

The Business Marketing Institute, by Eric Gagnon. Available as “Tuesday Marketing Notes,” these posts are meaty—more like book chapters than blog posts. Eric’s writing is always practical, action oriented, and a joy to read. No wonder—he’s the author of the single best book on B-to-B marketing, The Marketing Manager’s Handbook, now apparently out of print.

B2B Lead Roundtable Blog, by Brian Carroll, with additional contributors. Brian made an important point in his recent post Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing. It seems so obvious that a robust lead nurturing effort reduces the need for constant lead acquisition, but is often overlooked. His organization also manages a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion on the B2B Lead Roundtable group on LinkedIn.

Viewpoint: The Truth About Lead Generation, by Dan McDade. So refreshing, isn’t it, to cut through the hype and get to the truth? Dan’s interests are far-ranging, and he’s a master of content marketing (a blog, video chat interviews, white papers, book reviews, training videos), with no fluff. I was honored to contribute a guest post for PointClear last year.

B2BMarketingSmarts, by Susan Fantle. Susan being a first-rate B-to-B copywriter, it’s no surprise that her blog is both well written and full of insightful observations, examples, and success stories. Have a look especially at her six-step tutorial on writing great lead generation copy, beginning with her first step, which is about focusing in on the prospect’s pain point.

Matt on Marketing, by Matt Heinz, who runs a B-to-B agency in Seattle. Matt is a prolific writer, and assembles lots of helpful ideas from others, to boot. This blog is a treasure trove. What I especially like is his positioning as “sales acceleration,” which is, to my mind, where B-to-B marketing needs to be.

And what are your favorites? Do tell!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology.

Blogs: The Long and Short of It

Many marketers struggle over blog content—and that’s never more apparent than when you stare blankly at your screen, hoping for inspiration. According to WP Virtuoso, there are over 152 MILLION blogs on the Internet and a new blog is created somewhere in the world every half second. Of course that translates into a mishmash of quality content, so I’d like to suggest a blog amnesty program

Many marketers struggle over blog content—and that’s never more apparent than when you stare blankly at your screen, hoping for inspiration.

According to WP Virtuoso, there are over 152 MILLION blogs on the Internet and a new blog is created somewhere in the world every half second. Of course that translates into a mishmash of quality content, so I’d like to suggest a blog amnesty program. Let yourself (or your brand) off the hook; step back and evaluate what role your blog is playing in your marketing mix. Honestly scrutinize the content, carefully evaluate the time you invest to create that content and the value it’s adding to your brand—and then determine if it makes sense to continue.

A recent study from Curata on Content Marketing Tactics found that 71 percent of marketers plan to boost content marketing spend in 2014. That translates into even more articles, posts and blogs, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into quality posts.

How are posts evaluated? It depends on the topic and the writer.

If you are extremely knowledgeable about your area of business, and you know how to write and share helpful insights, then by all means, go for it.

For example, to stay abreast of industry best practices and the latest trends, I read a lot of marketing blogs. One of my favorites is from Seth Godin. The author of 17 books (many of them bestsellers), Seth was one of the founders of Yoyodyne, where he promoted the concept of permission marketing. He contends that the only way to spread the word about an idea is for that idea to earn buzz by being remarkable.

Sometimes his posts are long—600-plus words—and sometimes they’re extremely short—24 words!—but they’re always Seth’s point of view on a topic that represents his personal brand. And they get tweeted, shared and Facebook liked a LOT: 2,100 Facebook likes and 2,029 tweets alone for this pithy 62 word post on September 1:

Forgive yourself for not being the richest, the thinnest, the tallest, the one with the best hair. Forgive yourself for not being the most successful, the cutest or the one with the fastest time. Forgive yourself for not winning every round.

Forgive yourself for being afraid.

But don’t let yourself off the hook, never forgive yourself, for not caring or not trying.

Seth posts to his blog daily—whether it’s a long discussion on “Understanding substitutes” or a short one on “Who named the colors?”

So take a good long look at your own blog. What’s your point of view/brand voice? Why are you blogging? Does anyone care? Will anyone share?