Money Loves Speed

“Money loves speed.” This phrase has been quoted so often that it’s difficult to know who should be credited for coining it. In an “always-on” digital world, it’s a saying that reminds us that we need to encourage fast action to make a sale, and to act fast when a customer needs help. Today, I contrast the customer service of two digital companies—both household names and both who serve direct marketers—and suggest four money-attracting recommendations

“Money loves speed.” This phrase has been quoted so often that it’s difficult to know who should be credited for coining it. In an “always-on” digital world, it’s a saying that reminds us that we need to encourage fast action to make a sale, and to act fast when a customer needs help. Today, I contrast the customer service of two digital companies—both household names and both who serve direct marketers—and suggest four money-attracting recommendations.

One of the many aggravations for any customer is the inability to get fast answers from a company when help is needed. It’s especially a problem with online merchants. In the digital age, it’s too easy to hide behind an online form.

The contrast of service and responsiveness from Facebook and Google, in my experience, is significant. Both are digital mega-corporations, both provide advertising platforms for marketers, and both are tremendous resources of online metrics for direct marketers.

Facebook is a content marketer’s dream. Gain a fan following at little or no cost, share news, videos, how-to information and much more to your audience. In social media, your audience does your work of sharing and evangelizing for you. Facebook has evolved and requires “pay-to-play” if you want your fans to see your posts. In my view, it’s completely acceptable for Facebook to say that if you want your post to float toward the top of a newsfeed for a day that you’ll need to spend a few bucks.

I pay for posts often for an organization with a vibrant social media presence. The Facebook promoted post budget isn’t huge, but over a year’s time it runs into the thousands of dollars.

The rules for including an image with a promoted post allows up to 20 percent of the image to contain text. Recently, one of my promoted posts was rejected because Facebook technology image scanners thought there was more than the 20 percent amount allowed. But with the human eye, it was apparent looking at the photo and text that we were not over the allowed amount of text. Surely Facebook would reconsider, I thought. My credit card was ready to be charged.

The only way I’ve found to contact Facebook is via an online form. So I filled one out, asking them to reconsider the image for my promoted post expecting a quick response. After all, it took them only about 15 minutes to reject the ad, so surely as an “always-on” social media platform with thousands of employees, someone will respond quickly. Well, it took nearly 24 hours to get a reply to my request. They agreed with me and approved it. But by that point, the timeliness of the news item had passed and myself, and our followers, had moved on.

But then another rejection happened a few days ago. This time, a photo of sheet music didn’t fly. The culprit? Apparently treble clefs, staffs and rests. Once again the rejection was in minutes. I immediately asked Facebook to reevaluate it, thinking that my prior experience of 24 hours for a reply may have been a fluke. It wasn’t. The reply to this second request came in at 1:51 AM the next day, more than 24 hours later, with an approval. But again, the news cycle for this event had ended.

Bottom line: Facebook customer service is pokey. They are leaving advertising money on the table with an apparently cumbersome internal review process.

Contrast Facebook with Google. I manage Google Adwords for another client with a respectable budget. Google has assigned a representative to me. We talk. They rotate representatives every few months so I get different points of view and ideas. And if I need to contact Google, they offer a phone number for me to call where I can actually talk with someone in just minutes, enabling the ads to continue without delay.

Facebook repels money. Google attracts money.

Bottom line points for marketers:

  1. Give the customer options, such as phone, online forms, chat and more to contact you.
  2. Don’t hide behind an online form. Sure, a call center may be more expensive to operate, but it’s surely less expensive than losing sales.
  3. Be responsive. If you decide an online form is less expensive than a call center, fine. But then make sure you have a customer service representative available 24/7 who can quickly answer customer questions.
  4. Remove internal bureaucracy. Sometimes movement is brought to a halt because the internal process is too cumbersome.

In an “always-on” digital age, customers can be impatient. And for goodness sakes, if your business is in technology, act fast! It’s expected.

Money loves speed.

6 Factors to Align Direct Marketing Channels With Your Customers

Studies abound about which channels consumers prefer for receiving direct marketing messages. Some studies say consumers prefer direct mail. Others say it’s email. Then, there is the growing use of personalized web experience, social media, text messaging and other forms of messaging. The proliferation of devices and channels seems to be

Studies abound about which channels consumers prefer for receiving direct marketing messages. Some studies say consumers prefer direct mail. Others say it’s email. Then, there is the growing use of personalized web experience, social media, text messaging, and other forms of messaging. The proliferation of devices and channels seems to be unending.

In reality, your customers and prospects will demonstrate to you which channel they prefer, based on their actions. That’s what makes direct marketing what it is. But we are going to offer five qualitative factors, and one bottom line quantitative factor, to internally evaluate and align your message delivery strategy and channel with your customer and prospect’s preferences.

Qualitative factors for customer preference can include:

  1. Pure-play Sales Marketing vs. Content
    As customers and prospects are presented with marketing messages, do they view it as pure-play marketing (i.e., they see through it as your attempt to sell something), or as information and content that will be helpful to them? For example, publishers have succeeded for years when their messaging felt more like helpful information than a pitch to sell a subscription.
  2. Time Sensitivity
    Clearly an email can feel more time sensitive than direct mail, yet, experienced direct mail copywriters have for years been able to convey urgency in copy. But for your customers and prospects, other channels can be perceived as more time sensitive. Email, social media, telesales and even texting are channels that may feel most urgent.
  3. Shelf Life
    Email can vanish in a click. Direct mail can disappear in the trash bin (although it can be fished out of the trash). Higher production value catalogs and direct mail may be held onto longer than down-and-dirty printed packages. And higher production values (such as colors, textures, folds, tip-ons, stickers, die-cuts,and the visual impact of an 11×17 fold-out brochure) are impossible to convey in an email.
  4. How Did They Get My Name?
    Customers probably won’t be as concerned about privacy, but prospects can be much more sensitive. This can be especially the case if your offer touches on information such as health of personal finances. The trust factor is huge in prospects taking an action to pursue learning more about you, or making a purchase decision.
  5. How Do I Know You?
    Prospecting via email can be challenging to get opens and clicks. Run the numbers first (see our post on how to run the numbers). Direct mail for prospecting is getting more and more costly. Social media followers opt-in when they see you on various platforms or are referred to you by a friend. But consider that consumers often identify with social media as a personal platform, not necessarily as a place, to interact with marketing organizations. Better: Your prospect initiates the contact with you, and thus, become a lead. How do you do that? Content marketing, using those other online channels, can be a game-changer for you.

Quantitative Factors: As for quantitative factors you can use to align direct marketing to the media, there is really only one set of numbers to evaluate: Sales and cost per order (or per thousand). As an internal metric, when you evaluate your sales and cost per thousand, you can identify the ultimate metric to assess how your marketing messaging aligns with results.

Bottom line: Be aware of the studies that claim to have answers about which media channel customers prefer. But consider that you know your product better than anyone, you know the channel (or channels) that work for you, and you know your numbers. In a time when we’re awash in devices, channels, and choices, balance how you use each one so you’re aligned with how to drive cost-efficient sales.

Social Media Is a Waste of Time for B-to-B

There. I’ve said it out loud. Now let the crucifixion begin. But before you write a retaliatory remark, hear me through. While I strongly believe that B-to-B marketing strategies can leverage many different marketing channels, I don’t think social media is at the top of my “things-I-must-do-to-help-drive-my-business-forward” list. Why? Because too many brands still need to get their act together in the basics, before spending precious resources chasing their tails on platforms that will yield very little to the bottom line.

There. I’ve said it out loud. Now let the crucifixion begin. But before you write a retaliatory remark, hear me through.

While I strongly believe that B-to-B marketing strategies can leverage many different marketing channels, I don’t think social media is at the top of my “things-I-must-do-to-help-drive-my-business-forward” list. Why? Because too many brands still need to get their act together in the basics, before spending precious resources chasing their tails on platforms that will yield very little to the bottom line.

So before you write me a nasty post suggesting that I’m old and out of touch with the times, consider these basics about your B-to-B product/service:

  • Website: Yep. This is where first impressions are made, so it better be designed and organized for easy navigation. And, it better be intuitive—allowing visitors to find their way around and get to the information they’re seeking without having to fall down a rat hole or two. Is the information arranged in a logical fashion (no, not the way your company wants it, but how your target audience THINKS)? Can information be downloaded and printed without sucking my printer dry of ink? Are there high-end videos to watch that are informative, engaging and helpful? Relevant case studies to my industry? Quotes/endorsements from users? White papers that truly examine an industry issue without making self-serving claims about your company? On a scale of 1 to 10, what score would you give to your website? If it’s less than an “8,” stop spending time on social media initiatives and get your website in order first.
  • Customer Service: Have you ever called your own toll-free line or emailed your own company as a “mystery shopper?” Who answers and how quickly? How are you treated? Is it easy to get your questions answered without being transferred? What kind of follow up is in place? Many companies separate this step from the rest of their marketing efforts and it often exemplifies everything that is wrong with your organization, which no amount of social media can fix. Remember, it’s easier to sell more to an existing customer then it is to find a sell to a new prospect, so if the after-purchase experience is less than stellar, stop chasing your tail and concentrate on getting your customer service house in order.
  • Industry Presence: No matter what product or service you sell, there are probably one or more industry organizations/conferences/events that attract potential prospects. This is where many targets go seeking information and your brand needs to be part of the discussion. Attending trade shows does NOT necessarily mean plunking down cash to have a booth on the trade show floor and handing out useless promo items, although that can be helpful if done right. What it does mean is that you need to get engaged in the event. Find out how to become a speaker, or participate in a roundtable discussion. Build awareness of your brand and your knowledge about issues facing the industry and the role that your product/service plays to help solve that issue. This is the original world of social media—not an online, digital presence that has no real value unless someone “clicks” but true engagement and dialogue between two individuals where one has a pain and the other one can solve it.
  • Relationship Building: Before LinkedIn and webinars, we all attended conferences, listened to speakers, met over cocktails and exchanged business cards. We followed up, stayed in touch and reconnected when we needed help finding useful products or services. I admit that I love LinkedIn as a tool for organizing my contacts, but the Discussion Groups can be quickly taken off topic or slow to take off in any meaningful way. If you have a solid topic that is of value to your industry, hire a researcher/writer and get an article/whitepaper written. Then share it with potential prospects, post it to one of your industry sites, send it to an editor of your trade publication. Every digital outlet is begging for valuable content and you could place yourself at the top of the knowledge chain through this endeavor. And everyone likes doing business with someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Speaking of LinkedIn, if you’re in sales, you need to have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile posted. And please, use a professional picture of yourself, and not one of you and your dog or the one taken by the camera on top of your computer (which is creepy looking, by the way). When you talk about your current employer, make sure you’re using consistent language about your brand. Look to your marketing or PR department for the 25-word description you know exists. Make sure you create a thorough profile and reach out to past customers / clients for endorsements—they do get read, believe it or not.

If you can honestly say that all five of these marketing tools are optimized and working like well-oiled machines, then by all means spend your time, money and resources on Facebook pages, Pinterest sites and Tweets. If you prove their value, write me—show me the money.

How to Make a Billion: The Costs of ‘Undeliverable as Addressed’

The USPS recently shared some interesting data on the volume and cost of undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail. That tab was $1.3 billion in 2010, and that was just the cost to the Postal Service, which has to incorporate these costs into its rate-setting. All this UAA is money down the drain to the mailers—who designed, produced and labeled it and applied its postage—and to the Postal Service that has to deal with its final disposition.

The USPS recently shared some interesting data on the volume and cost of undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail.

According to the USPS, “Total UAA volume dropped from 9.3 billion pieces (4.71 percent of total mail volume) in FY 1998 to 6.9 billion pieces (4.11 percent of total mail volume) in FY 2010. (This reduction, while significant, falls far short of previous Postmaster General Jack Potter’s goal of reducing UAA mail by 50 percent by 2010.) Historically, UAA mail runs in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent of total mail volume, and the percentages of total volume vary by class of mail. Periodicals mail, for example, has a UAA percentage of about 1.5 percent, while Standard Mail usually runs about 6.75 percent. Interestingly, the volumes of UAA mail that the USPS forwards or treats as waste both experienced declines, but the volume of UAA mail that the USPS returns to sender actually increased.”

All this UAA is money down the drain to the mailers—who designed, produced and labeled it and applied its postage—and to the Postal Service that has to deal with its final disposition.

That tab was $1.3 billion in 2010, and that was just the cost to the Postal Service, which has to incorporate these costs into its rate-setting. Add to this bill the cost of 7 billion pieces that went nowhere near the intended recipient—and that’s a fortune off the bottom line. Some of this is inefficiency. Marketers in particular—primarily who use the Standard Mail category—must do a better job in data hygiene and the use of postal addressing and preparation tools.

It may be helpful, and profitable, for mailers to make sure they are undertaking every feasible effort to keep their mailing lists clean—and to avoid this hefty bill. The Direct Marketing Association has an online tool to help marketers make sure their list hygiene and data management efforts are up to par.

It’s called the Environmental Planner & Optional Policy Generator, and it’s based in part on the DMA’s “Green 15” Environmental Principles. But the green focus is dual in nature. Avoiding mail waste through proper data management also applies green—as in money—back to the bottom line! Consider these suggested activities from this planner to get back some of this billion-plus that are lost to UAA:

________________________________________________________

I. LIST HYGIENE AND DATA MANAGEMENT

Our company continually endeavors to manage data and lists in an environmentally responsible manner with a focus on reducing the amount of duplicate, unwanted and undeliverable mail [to both consumers and businesses]. To achieve our goals in this area [If applicable to the goals and/or nature of your organization, please select one or more of the following options.]:

A. We Maintain Suppression Lists

  • We maintain in-house do-not-market lists for prospects and customers who do not wish to receive future solicitations from us (as required by DMA’s Commitment to Consumer Choice).
  • We maintain a more detailed suppression file that enables customers and prospects to opt off our organization’s marketing lists on a selective basis, such as by frequency or by category.

B. We Offer Notice & Choice

  • We provide existing and prospective customers with notice of an opportunity to modify or eliminate future marketing contacts from our organization in every commercial solicitation (as required by DMA’s Commitment to Consumer Choice).
  • We provide periodic notices and opportunities for prospects to opt in or opt out of receiving future marketing contacts from our organization.
  • We provide customers incentives (such as the offer of a discount on their next purchase) for notifying us of duplicate mailings and incorrect addresses.
  • We offer customers a choice to receive communications from our organization electronically.

C. We Clean Our Lists Prior to Mailing

  • We use the Direct Marketing Association (U.S.) Mail Preference Service (MPS) monthly on all applicable consumer prospecting lists. In addition to use of MPS, we maintain clean, deliverable files by using (Please check all that apply):
    • ZIP Code correction
    • Address standardization
    • USPS National Change of Address (NCOA)
    • Other USPS products such as
      • Address Element Correction (AEC)
      • Delivery Sequence File (DSF)
      • Address Correction Requested (ACR)
    • Predictive models and RFM segmentation
    • Other: (Please specify.)
  • We use the DMA “Deceased Do Not Contact” list to eliminate names of deceased persons from mailings.
  • We use the Foreign Mail Preference Service on applicable mailings to the United Kingdom, Belgium or Germany.
  • We use the mail preference services of other foreign national direct marketing associations, where applicable.
  • We [ encourage/ require] our client mailers to use MPS.
  • We [ encourage/ require] companies and organizations that rent our list of customers to screen consumer names through MPS, and to maintain their own do-not-rent and do-not-mail in-house name suppression lists.

D. We Merge/Purge Our Data

  • We match outside lists against each other to prevent duplicates.
  • We use match definitions in merge/purge that minimize duplicates.
  • We match outside lists against other commercially available suppression files where appropriate.

E. We Test Market Offers

  • We test a sample of a list before mailing or marketing to the entire list.
  • We test different versions of advertising and marketing offers, in mail and other media, to select those offers and media combinations that receive the best response.

For more information, see DMA Environmental Resource Guide, “Mailing List Management: A Key to Waste Reduction,” pages 63-70.

________________________________________________________

Now the entirety of the UAA issue is not attributable solely to less than adequate data management, but it is likely a good portion of it is. We know the DMA Board of Directors—in adopting its first environmental public goal which in part commits to reduce UAA by 25 percent from 2009 to 2013—very much intends for marketers to avoid losing these billions down the line.

The Postal Service is working closely with mailers and, vice versa, to tackle other ways to manage UAA and to reduce its volume. Certainly, Intelligent Mail barcodes will help, with the ability to track mail whereabouts in real time as it moves through the USPS’s processing and handling. “Return to Sender” UAA is the most costly for the Postal Service to handle, because of the return handling costs—that, too, needs attention.

In the very least, marketers also should work with their mail service providers most closely to design mail pieces for postal automation compatibility, to apply proper data management practices (as indicated by DMA, for example), and—as the USPS embarks on its network consolidation effort—to track their mail most precisely through the mail stream. A billion dollars and more are in the balance.

Helpful Links:
DMA First Public Green Goal, concerning List Hygiene

DMA Environmental Planner & Optional Policy Generator

Setting Sustainability Goals: DMA Takes Industry Aim at Bottom-Line Benefits

One of the challenges for advancing sustainability in everyday business practice is that investments made toward the “triple” bottom line must indeed generate payback in three ways: financial, environmental and social. Many times, “people” (social) and “planet” (environmental) may get an obvious nod, but “profit” (financial) is difficult to articulate.

One of the challenges for advancing sustainability in everyday business practice is that investments made toward the “triple” bottom line must indeed generate payback in three ways: financial, environmental and social. Many times, “people” (social) and “planet” (environmental) may get an obvious nod, but “profit” (financial) is difficult to articulate.

As a member of the Direct Marketing Association Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility, we are focused on articulating triple-bottom-line benefits in each and all of the activities we undertake on behalf of the business. Two such Committee initiatives have been given specific recognition by the DMA Board of Directors as industry-wide sustainability goals: (1) a commitment to apply preference, data hygiene and proper postal preparation to reduce Undeliverable-as-Addressed-Advertising (UAA) mail by 25 percent by 2013 and, by doing so, generate savings approaching 1 million tons in carbon equivalents (announced July 2008); (2) a commitment to increase recycling collection rates for catalogs and direct mail, as tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to support growth of recycled paper markets (not publicly announced by DMA yet, but approved by the DMA Board at its recent October 2011 meeting).

The triple bottom-line benefits of each of these two goals are worth articulating. They include (but are not limited to):

Public Goal 1: List Hygiene & Carbon Reduction

  • Less mail waste is generated as more mail is delivered as properly addressed (financial);

  • Preferences as indicated by consumers are respected and honored (social); and,

  • Unwanted or improperly addressed mail avoids entering the municipal solid waste stream (environmental).

Public Goal 2: Increased Catalog/Direct Mail Recycling

  • The more paper fiber that is recovered for recycling, the greater supply and availability of paper and packaging made from recovered fiber thereby decreasing pricing pressure on products made with recovered fiber (financial);

  • Less hostility toward discarded mail waste, as more material is put toward subsequent, useful purpose -and recycling programs are fully supported (social); and,

  • Less discarded catalogs and direct mail are destined for landfills (environmental).

Perceptions persist that sustainability initiatives are “feel good” activities that don’t support the enterprise. In contrast, DMA and CESR will be emphasizing in 2012 that sustainability is an industry imperative that will lead to measurable, accountable benefits to our industry’s collective bottom lines—all three of them. In this blog, I will discuss in more detail some of the specific efforts being undertaken to achieve these important goals.

Helpful Links:

The Future of DM: It’s Interactive

Earlier this week, the Direct Marketing Association released a qualitative report on the future of direct marketing, concluding that it will most certainly be interactive.

More on how the report was put together in a moment. Bottom line: Customers will be in control, analytics will rule and digital marketing will increase.

Earlier this week, the Direct Marketing Association released a qualitative report on the future of direct marketing, concluding that it will most certainly be interactive.

More on how the report was put together in a moment. Bottom line: Customers will be in control, analytics will rule and digital marketing will increase.

The DMA asked more than 35 well-respected direct marketing leaders — including copywriting maven and columnist Herschell Gordon Lewis of Lewis Enterprises, Alan Moss of Google, Jeanniey Mullen of Zinio, and Akira Oka of Direct Marketing Japan — their opinions on the future of direct marketing and their industries/segments. The report provides insight into what these leaders think about the short- and long-term future of direct marketing.

Specifically, they were asked the following questions:
* Where do you think direct marketing will be in five years? Ten years?
* How should direct marketers prepare for these changes?
* How will your industry/segment change during this time?
* How is the state of our nation’s economy impacting your industry/segment?
* How do you think the election of Barack Obama will affect the direct marketing community?

The report revealed the following about the future of direct marketing in the next five to 10 years:

Customers will be in control. Technology has given consumers myriad choices, options and resources that let them find what they want and skip over what they don’t. Technology also will continue to advance, opening up great opportunities for both consumers and marketers.

Measurable and accountable marketing will increase. The health of the economy has made marketers think and rethink about where to put each dollar of their marketing budgets, according to the report. As a result, allocations will move away from traditional channels such as catalog and direct mail into digital channels, which are intrinsically more measurable.

Traditional DM will decrease; digital marketing will increase. Environmental pressures, postal rate hikes and the potential for a do-not-mail bill will result in a decrease in both direct mail and catalog volume. Digital has many advantages over traditional DM, such as its ability to track real-time measurements; create more targeted, relevant and personalized messages; and reach new generations of consumers who were born with a mouse in hand.

Many channels, one message. It’s not all bad news for direct mail and catalogs, though. Integration always has been a key component to direct marketing and will only increase in importance as the number of viable channels increases, the report says. There also will be a movement from single channel campaigns to more integrated, multichannel strategies. These campaigns have the same message across multiple channels, allowing marketers to reach more customers, who have more opportunities to respond via the channel of their choice.

While the death of direct mail will not come in 2009 — or any time in the near future — interactive marketing clearly is growing in importance. If you’re not participating in any interactive marketing programs now, it’s time you start. Your future depends on it.