Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.

Keep the CPI Postal Rate Cap Alive!

There are no guarantees when “grand” budget and funding bills make their way through Congress … there’s always a chance some horse-trading will be tacked on that undermines the interests of and harms the direct marketing community. That’s why I was more than an interested bystander when a federal budget deal was announced last week that seeks to keep the government funded without another costly shutdown

There are no guarantees when “grand” budget and funding bills make their way through Congress … there’s always a chance some horse-trading will be tacked on that undermines the interests of and harms the direct marketing community. That’s why I was more than an interested bystander when a federal budget deal was announced last week that seeks to keep the government funded without another costly shutdown.

There’s nothing in this bill (so far) that is nefarious to marketers (a vote is still needed in the Senate). In the whole of the budget bill, some fiscal conservatives are not happy—prompt spending controls have been punted, and deficit reductions have been kicked down the road, a reflection of our still-weak economy being the rationale.

But it’s also a reflection of what’s dysfunctional in Washington: A seemingly ever-present readiness and willingness to punt fiscal discipline in more matters than just the federal budget. At least the three-year pattern of budget shutdowns and debt ceilings may be diverted. At least we can hope.

Now to postal reform … which was not part of the budget bill.

We need postal reform legislation—both political parties and nearly all postal stakeholders agree on this, but there’s devil in details in a current Senate proposal to move another breakthrough piece of legislation forward.

The reason for postal reform’s urgency, however, has nothing to do with the annual rate cap on postage increases that is now part of federal law.

Yet this most precious centerpiece for ratepayers of the 2006 postal reform act—the Consumer Price Index-Urban annual rate cap on postage hikes—is dispensed in the Carper-Coburn Postal Reform Act of 2013 (S. 1486) bill now before the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee. Crucially for us, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is leading a bipartisan effort to remove from the bill Section 301 (a Section which would eliminate this rate cap for market-dominant classes, among them First-Class Mail and Standard Mail). If she is successful, the vital rate cap would be preserved. A markup for the bill overall in Committee is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (Dec. 18), so there is still time to voice support for Sen. Baldwin’s effort to amend the legislation and save the cap.

What is urgent, of course, is relief from 2006 Congressional mandates to pre-fund retiree health benefits at a magnitude that was (and still is) wholly unsustainable and has proven to be unrealistic. One might say how ironic it is to have a column praising fiscal discipline bemoan a pre-funding mandate, but this type of mandate is unprecedented, unwarranted and blind to financial facts. The CPI cap, on the other hand, has been an extremely useful tool to USPS and its customers and, arguably, an important driver of USPS management efforts to “right size” USPS infrastructure to today’s mail (and marketing) realities.

Fiscal discipline matters to the private sector, and to all U.S. citizens in our own households and our business affairs. It is shocking (to a layperson, if not Beltway insiders) that such discipline means little to too many policymakers. Price caps are a common-sense, and extremely demonstrable, method for assuring predictable increments in postage hikes which serves to aid businesses and nonprofit organizations in their marketing and media planning. Take these caps away, and we’re back to uncertainty, costs rising unchecked and diverted dollars from direct mail media spending.

Stay tuned to industry organization efforts to see postal reform through—but with the all-important CPI rate cap intact. I’m hopeful Sen. Baldwin has a great week, and so do we.

5 Reasons for ‘Why Now?’

With the lingering, precarious feelings about the state of the economy, along with plenty of concerns about the business climate in general, I find that there is always a great deal of hesitation around beginning any kind of large- or even medium-complexity project focused on data. In many instances, the general consensus from senior management and even ancillary groups outside of the marketing and data management groups is the company has been doing fine with everything just the way it is, with plenty of “If it ain’t broken we don’t need to fix it” or “Let’s focus on increasing revenue this quarter first” pushback to proposed projects.

With the lingering, precarious feelings about the state of the economy, along with plenty of concerns about the business climate in general, I find that there is always a great deal of hesitation around beginning any kind of large- or even medium-complexity project focused on data. In many instances, the general consensus from senior management and even ancillary groups outside of the marketing and data management groups is the company has been doing fine with everything just the way it is, with plenty of “If it ain’t broken we don’t need to fix it” or “Let’s focus on increasing revenue this quarter first” pushback to proposed projects.

The problem with the first is, quite simply, if corporate data has been ignored, or even just on the back burner for any length of time, it is most assuredly broken. Perhaps it is not critically broken yet, but losing clarity, focus and relevancy in keeping up with the evolving goals of the organization. Bloated with obsolete or irrelevant information and systems fragmented; lagging behind on improvements and upgrades, databases become slow, unreliable and frustrating for both the front-line users and for their management teams who are looking for answers that are surely there but, unfortunately, cannot be mined with the speed and efficiency expected. Of course, when this occurs the frustrations grow and we begin to see various business groups take what pieces of data fit their responsibilities and start building and updating the silos which eventually hamper, rather than contribute to, enterprise-wide success. There is no feedback of newer and more relevant information to the main repository; there is no coordination of contact strategy or organized tempo or voice to communication. What evolves is chaos in overlapping or possibly opposing communication from different areas of the same company. It is a sure way to spur the erosion of customer respect for your products and services, along with a vision of incompetence from prospective customers confused by who you are and where you are trying to lead them.

The problem with this is most organizations will not recognize it as a problem. The groups creating the silos and working from there are perfectly happy to have their own source of whatever data they need. No hassles with requests or production queues. They are able to report the results of their efforts in isolation so management only has to see the rosiest picture. Unfortunately—and exactly because of the isolation factor—little if any sales, lead generation, updates or contact changes ever make it back to the primary data warehouse and the remainder of the organization is not able to share in the refreshed information that will help their efforts, as well.

The cure for that, and the answer to the “Let’s wait” feedback, is for the marketing and IT leaders to jointly be prepared with a roadmap of “Why now” proposals for the value of organizational refresh and consolidation that can resonate across the enterprise.

1. Cost containment: With a single platform view of customers and prospects, with vigorous updates and enhancements from every touchpoint, campaigns are able to be streamlined, based on full knowledge of RFM. Consolidation of duplicated software and vendor charges that are being utilized across multiple silos will allow every department to free up much-needed budget space.

2. Increased Productivity: With budget room made available, allocations can be shifted to incorporate the speed and upgrade solutions within the existing resources. Increasing both throughput and volume while optimizing manpower performance and efficiency.

3. Reducing Risk: Utilizing a centralized team to oversee data operations ultimately reduces the risk and exposure caused by violations of corporate policies, governmental regulations and industry best practices. Contact preferences are able to be maintained and shared across all corporate business units on every channel.

4. Customer Journey: No responsible marketer deliberately sets out to overwhelm, annoy or even spam existing customers and prospects. Without centralized deployment and tracking, however, you will be doing exactly that, oblivious to the damage you are doing to your reputation.

5. Increased Revenue: Removing all of the risks, poor decisions and duplication of effort alone will create a much more streamlined approach to providing all of the proper and most effective strategies for finding, developing, nurturing and hopefully establishing long-lasting client relationships. Consumers, regardless if in a B-to-C or B-to-B environment, buy from companies they respect and trust. Revenue grows and is sustained just as steadily by the quality of your relationship with customers as it is by the quality of your products and services.

Healthy, professional relationships and contact strategy are the value-added-benefits you can quantify and demonstrate to even the most ardent rebels across the company. Use the data you have readily available in your system to show every business unit leader the facts. Prove to them the upside potential that a solid, professional and, most of all, highly reliable marketing automation or CRM solution can provide in boosting revenue year over year. Stealthily, but honestly turn the naysayers into advocates with clean and simple facts.

Do that, and the conversation shifts from “Why Now?” to “How Soon?”

But Your Data Is Fine, Trust Me …

Data … that great big, hairy gorilla in marketing departments all across the globe. We have Legacy Data, Subscriber Data, Third-Party Data, Business Data, Personal Data, Master Data, Sales Data, Reference Data, Privacy Data, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Now, during the last few years, the latest and greatest—Big Data and its cousin SoMoBi (SocialMobileBig) data have entered the fray enough to make everyone’s head spin.

Data … that great big, hairy gorilla in marketing departments all across the globe. We have Legacy Data, Subscriber Data, Third-Party Data, Business Data, Personal Data, Master Data, Sales Data, Reference Data, Privacy Data, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Now, during the last few years, the latest and greatest—Big Data and its cousin SoMoBi (SocialMobileBig) data have entered the fray enough to make everyone’s head spin.

No matter what you want to call it though, it just boils down to simple information. Information all you marketers crave. Information about your customer, your prospects, your products, your competitors and the trends that will steer you to hitting those numbers in the next and future fiscal quarters.

There is just so much of it, you say? No one here knows what to do with it, I hear? Every department controls a piece of it and refuses to share, is the excuse?

Maybe true. But, with a little time, effort and—of course—some of those ever-scarce budget dollars, you can create an environment where the grain can be separated from the chaff to build a healthy and robust universal silo of data which will benefit and streamline the efforts of every area of your organization efficiently and profitably.

There is no cookie-cutter data model for the business needs of every organization, despite the host of plug-and-play database tools and marketing automation processes available today. The information that makes your business research and marketing program successful is likely to be much different from what works for even your closest competitor.

At the core, your primary contact data for customers and prospects needs to be acquired and maintained as strictly as possible. My good friend, Bernice Grossman, along with fellow direct marketing legend Ruth Stevens, have a whitepaper I always refer to when providing guidance to anyone striving to establish or reorganize the variety of information that quickly begins to accumulate from different sources, in multiple disparate formats. Written as a guide for B-to-B organizations, the reasons and methodologies hold true for B-to-C. Even with the changes in data availability and the explosive growth of social data availability in the industry during the last few years, the white paper addresses the core data requirements for contact and communication.

Outside of the core basics of data needed to contact, track and segment your data pool, determining exactly what it is that gives you the edge is Priority One in deciding what else you must have available to make decisions. In every conversation or discovery session around data and database design within a CRM, the persistent desire that comes up is wanting a “full 360-degree view of my customers.” While that is possible with simply the basic contact information you have as the core of your data, along with whatever historical transactions available to provide RFM, most users expect a much deeper dive. At the more extreme illustration of designing your data around the optimal user experience, you have this infographic from Visual.ly that has been making the social media rounds. While extensive, the many comments on the sites where it has been posted point to even more data sources being needed to be all-encompassing.

If you, and your business goals, are like most, your time and budget is more likely going to place your need somewhere between the most basic and the most extravagant of these two extremes.

Discovering your own sweet spot is where the best value proposition is to create and maintain profitability for your business. That is where I hope to focus in the posts that will follow on a regular basis. I will be sharing points of interest, ideas, solutions and strategies for identifying the most accurate and efficient steps to take in planning the housing and process flow of all the data you need for success … with a dose of irreverence sprinkled in liberally along the way.

7 Email Marketing Mistakes Even Seasoned Marketers Make

Email marketing is so easy that it is tempting to use it as a set-and-forget marketing tool. Failure to optimize email marketing strategy and execution affects customer loyalty, sales and costs. Email provides a personal, one-to-one connection between customer and company. It’s a shame to lose opportunities to build relationships, increase revenue and reduce expenses by not committing the time and effort required to maximize email effectiveness.

Email marketing is so easy that it is tempting to use it as a set-and-forget marketing tool. After all, if the subscriber list is large enough, almost every send will generate revenue. Marketers dealing with constantly changing technology, platforms and channels have little time to commit to a channel that works with minimal effort.

Failure to optimize email marketing strategy and execution affects customer loyalty, sales and costs. Email provides a personal, one-to-one connection between customer and company. It’s a shame to lose opportunities to build relationships, increase revenue and reduce expenses by not committing the time and effort required to maximize email effectiveness.

Most of the mistakes made in email marketing have simple fixes with minimal costs. Here are seven common mistakes made by even the most experienced marketers:

1. Treating All Subscribers Alike
People choose to receive your emails for personal reasons. Some are trendsetters who want to see the latest and greatest items. Others are discount shoppers seeking the best deal. Nestled between the two are a variety of personalities looking for specific solutions to their problems. Failing to recognize the different types and create customized marketing messages for them speeds the email fatigue process and reduces sales opportunities.

2. Failing to Capitalize on Contact Opportunities
The email subscription process provides several opportunities to connect with people interested in knowing more about your business and products. Each step should be used to educate, entertain, and enlighten new subscribers. Poorly designed confirmation pages and welcome emails are lost opportunities.

3. Ignoring Deliverability Rules
The problem with this mistake is simple and obvious: Emails that don’t reach recipients won’t generate responses. Spam is a huge problem. According to a report by Symantec, 75 percent of global emails are spam (pdf). The tools designed to eliminate spam aren’t perfect. Encouraging subscribers to whitelist your emails increases deliverability but it doesn’t guarantee it. Ensuring that all emails follow deliverability rules improves chances that people will actually receive them.

4. Repeatedly Sending the Same Visual Email
Creating branded templates so that your emails are easily recognized is a good practice. Using the same one repeatedly isn’t. You have less than three seconds to capture the recipient’s attention before the delete button is pushed. People respond to visual information first. If all of your emails look alike, they trigger an “I’ve seen that already” response.

5. Presuming Recipients Recognize Icons and Know What You Want Them to Do
Icons are great visual add-ons, but they need a text call to action to encourage people to take the next step. People are trained from an early age to follow instructions. If you want them to connect with you on social platforms, visit your website, call your business, or get directions to your store, tell them. Icons without a call to action are tools for people who already know what they want. Icons with a call to action encourage people to do what you want.

6. Neglecting to Make Emails Mobile Friendly
According to a study by YesMail, over 41 percent of mobile device owners said that they have made either an online or in-store purchase as a direct result of an email promotion they viewed on their device. Are your emails easy to read on the small screen? Do all sections render properly for mobile devices? Some emails show a blank body when viewed on cell phones. Be sure to test your emails on Apple, Android and Blackberry devices to ensure recipients can read them.

7. Expecting HTML Emails to Automatically Convert to Readable Plain Text
The automated conversion tool provided by most email marketing services simply converts HTML to text. It does not make it readable. If your email is filled with links, the text version will look like a page of computer code instead of a message from a company that cares about customers and prospects. Always create HTML and text versions of every email to insure the message is appealing and readable for all recipients.

USPS Talks Sustainability and Its Performance Returns for 2011

The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released its fourth annual report on sustainability practices and performance. The document serves as a blueprint for any company or brand in the marketing field on how to report progress and hurdles toward improved triple-bottom line performance (financial, social and environmental, being the three bottom lines), and to illustrate the business case for doing so.

Our mantra is ‘leaner, greener, smarter, faster.’ To achieve these goals, we’re adjusting the size of our workforce and delivery network, eliminating waste, reducing energy consumption and encouraging our employees and customers to conserve. When the Postal Service is more efficient, everyone benefits.
—USPS Postmaster General & CEO Pat Donahoe, USPS 2011 Sustainability Report

The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released its fourth annual report on sustainability practices and performance. The document serves as a blueprint for any company or brand in the marketing field on how to report progress and hurdles toward improved triple-bottom line performance (financial, social and environmental, being the three bottom lines), and to illustrate the business case for doing so.

Transparency is the hallmark of sustainability reporting, just as it is for financial-only reporting. According to the report’s summary, the USPS adhered to version 3.0 of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)—”the most widely respected international reporting standard for public sustainability performance disclosure”—for the report’s structure and detail.

For marketers, the report highlights some valuable information and insights on USPS operations, and what opportunities and challenges lay ahead for direct mail. Consider these findings, quoted in first person from the report:

  • RECYCLING—Our recycling efforts had a banner year with $24 million in revenue. We recycled more than 215,000 tons of material in 2011. By using our distribution network in new ways, improving contract services and working with recycling vendors to maximize revenue through economies of scale, we are starting to see results. Strong recyclable commodity pricing during 2011 played a part in our record revenue earnings, but the real story is a long-term strategy of continuous improvement. Also, by using our existing transportation network, we avoid fees from recycling vendors who would make costly stops at each local office. In FY 2011, more than 12,000 facilities participated in the backhaul recycling program, recycling more than 215,000 tons of mixed paper, cardboard, plastic and scrap metal—and earning $24.4 million in recycling revenue. We also encourage customers to recycle by asking them to discard unwanted mail in Post Office lobby recycling bins, instead of our trash cans. Our “Read, Respond and Recycle” mail lobby campaign was launched in 2009. More than 10,000 locations now offer customers lobby mail recycling. This effort continues to reduce waste being sent to landfills.
  • FACILITY ENERGY USE—Our progress toward reducing facility energy use 30 percent by 2015 continues to exceed our annual targets despite a slight increase in facility energy use this year. Since 2003, the Postal Service has reduced total facility energy use by more than 25 percent, nearly the amount of energy used by 90,000 average U.S. households in a year. USPS also reduced energy intensity, which is energy use per square foot of building space, by 22.4 percent in the same time period.
  • CARBON ACCOUNTING SUPPORT FOR MAILERS—We have been preparing a greenhouse gas emission inventory every year since 2007, and we now offer USPS BlueEarth, our new carbon accounting service so our business customers can determine their own carbon footprint for the mailing and shipping services the Postal Service provides. Postal Service business customers are increasingly requesting information about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with USPS services. The calculator [introduced earlier in 2012] uses proprietary USPS methodology to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and takes into consideration the type of shipping or mailing product, size and weight, how it’s processed and transported and the distance the package or envelope travels. Energy awareness creates a culture of conservation at USPS.
  • RECOGNITION AMONG GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FOR GHG REDUCTIONS—We were awarded Gold status by The Climate Registry for leadership in reducing GHG emissions by more than 5 percent. Our overall target is to reduce GHG emissions 20 percent by FY 2020 using FY 2008 as a baseline. The Postal Service is among the first of the Registry’s more than 400 members and the first government agency to achieve the recognition. To report our GHG emissions, we are compliant with established protocols set forth by The Climate Registry, the International Post Corporation and under Federal Executive Order 13514 (of President Barack Obama, 2009).
  • LEADERSHIP TRAINING AT USPS INCLUDES SUSTAINABILITY’S BUSINESS CASE—The Postal Service’s leadership programs are designed to develop high-performing leaders to meet the changing needs of USPS into the future. They include a demanding curriculum offered over a six-month period, with classroom instruction and mentoring by existing and future executives on key topics in business finance, project management, leadership principles and presentation skills. The programs culminate with a business case presentation. The 2011 classes were challenged with creating a “sustainability business growth model” to improve USPS waste reduction and recycling and to develop strategies to engage employees in Green Team initiatives. The participants used their new understanding of sustainability to present a business case of their findings before an executive review panel chaired by Chief Sustainability Officer Tom Day.

Additionally the report documents transportation energy costs, as well as water use and conservation (arguably the next focused area for sustainability reporting after greenhouse gases).

Another element to postal sustainability, from a product development perspective, is the USPS’s focus on mail-back programs, working with product manufacturers and others on the creation and execution of services to return used goods (computers, printer cartridges, batteries, etc.) so they can be safely dissembled, disposed or recycled: “Postage‑paid mail envelopes are available in 1,600 Post Office lobbies. These envelopes can be used to ship small used electronics, such as cell phones, ink jet cartridges and digital cameras, to a centralized recycling center, where they’re broken down into usable parts. During 2011, customers recycled 185,000 items—about 22,000 pounds of material. Since the program began in 2008, more than a million electronic devices and printer cartridges have been kept out of landfills.”

There are skeptics—and some responders to this blog—who maintain that the Postal Service can’t afford to be chasing “go green” efforts when its financial life is on the line. Respectfully, I counter that it can’t afford not to! I commend USPS labor and management in their understanding—and leadership—in recognizing waste as a cost, and efficiency as a gain. Every postal customer should thank USPS and its green teams for this continued effort toward sustainability, in all its forms.

Here is the link to the full report: http://about.usps.com/what-we-are-doing/green/report/2011/welcome.htm

13 Things You Must Do This Year To Boost Your Biz! Part Two

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

[Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a two-part series.]

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

Today, I’m wrapping up the list with even more tips and tricks to get the most out of your marketing efforts (and marketing budget!) this year.

7. Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. If PPC is new for you, then don’t start out with the big guys like Google or Yahoo, run your “test” campaign on smaller search engines such as Bing, as well as second-tier networks, such as Adbrite, Miva and Kanoodle. In addition, you must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

8. Free Teleseminars or Webinars. These are a great way to collect names for list building, then cross-sell to those names once they’re in your sales funnel. You can use services like FreeConferenceCall.com, where it’s a toll (not toll free) call. But in my experience, if the value proposition of the subject matter is strong, people will pay that nominal fee. Promote a free teleseminar or webinar to prospects (that is not your internal list). Remember, this is for lead generation. So your goal is to give away valuable information in exchange for an email address. You can have a ‘soft sell’ at the end of the call and follow up with an email blast within 24 hours. But the most important thing is getting that name, THEN bonding with them through your editorial.

9. Free Online classified ads. Using CraigsList or similar high traffic classified sites is a great way to sell a products or get leads. The trick is ad copy that is powerful and persuasive, as well as geo-targeting—picking the right location and category to run your ad in. Hint: think of your ideal audience. Ads are free, so why not test it out.

10. Reciprocal Ad Swaps. One of the best kept secrets in the industry: Some of your best resources will be your fellow publishers. This channel often gets overlooked by marketers who don’t give it the respect it deserves. In the work I do for my clients, I spend a good portion of my time researching publishers and websites in related, synergistic industries. I look for relevant connections between their publications (print and online) and list (subscribers). Let’s say I come across a natural health e-letter that has a list of readers similar in size to one of my clients, who is a supplement manufacturer. Since many of their audience share similar interests, cross-marketing each other products (or even lead gen efforts) can be mutually rewarding. Swapping ads will save you money on lead-generation initiatives. Since you won’t be paying for access to the other publisher’s list of subscribers, you can get new customers for free. The only “cost” is an opportunity cost—allowing the other publisher to access your own list. It’s a win-win situation. This technique also opens the door to potential joint-venture opportunities for revenue sharing (sales).

11. Guest Editorials and Editorial Contributions. Another popular favorite used in the publishing industry is editorial contributions. This is where you provide quality editorial (article, interview, Q&A) to a synergistic publication and in return get a byline and/or editorial note in your article. In addition to an editorial opportunity, this is a marketing opportunity. You see, within the byline or ed. note you can include author attribution plus a back-link to your site. Some ed. notes can even be advertorial in nature, linking to a promotional landing page. Relationship networking and cultivation come into play when coordinating these, as it’s usually someone in the editorial or marketing department that spearheads such arrangements. These are great for increasing exposure to other lists, which can be beneficial for increasing market share, bonding, sales and lead generation efforts.

12. Snail Mail. Direct mail is still a consumer favorite—and another good way to get your sales message out. It can be especially effective used in conjunction with another effort, such as an email campaign. Studies indicate that 70 percent of respondents prefer receiving correspondence via mail vs. email. As with any marketing medium, though, you can end up paying a lot between production costs, list rental costs, and mail shop/postage costs. The most costly direct mail packages are magalogs and tabloids (four-color mailers that look like magazines). However, 6 x 9 postcards, tri-fold self-mailers and simple sales letters are three low-cost ways of taking advantage of this channel. Note that copywriting, list selection and geo-targeting can be crucial for direct mail success, no matter which cost-effective mail format you pick. Although 100 percent ROI (return on investment) is what you should aim for, many direct mailers these days are content with 80 percent returns. This lower figure takes into consideration the lifetime value of the names that come in from this channel, because they are typically reliable buyers in the future and snail mail address are more solid—they don’t change as often as email addresses.

13. Print Ads. This is another channel that gets a raw deal. One reason is because it can be costly. To place an ad in a high-circulation magazine or newspaper, you could shell out serious money. But you don’t need a big budget to take advantage of print ads. If you don’t have deep pockets, consider targeted newspapers and periodicals. Let’s say you’re selling an investment report. Try using the Internet to research the wealthiest cities in America. Once you get that list, look online for local newspapers in those communities. These smaller newspapers hit your target audience and offer a much cheaper ad rate than some of the larger, broad-circulation publications. You end up getting quality rather than quantity. I once paid for an ad in a local newspaper in Aspen, CO, that had a flat rate of less than $500 for a half page ad. My ROI on this effort turned out to be more than 1,000 percent. Most important rule: Know your audience. That will determine placement and price.

Measuring the Impact of Facebook on Sales

There’s been a lot of talk about Facebook’s impact on commerce from industry pundits. “Will it be retail’s next Google?” asked one report from a leading analyst’s firm. While we’re still very much in the early stages of social media marketing, one thing is certain: In a world where people are increasingly turning to others for opinions and recommendations on the things they need, social commerce, specifically Facebook commerce (f-commerce), is something worthy of additional exploration. But before we jump into the numbers and opportunities, let’s examine what’s required to build a successful f-commerce effort.

There’s been a lot of talk about Facebook’s impact on commerce from industry pundits. “Will it be retail’s next Google?” asked one report from a leading analyst’s firm. While we’re still very much in the early stages of social media marketing, one thing is certain: In a world where people are increasingly turning to others for opinions and recommendations on the things they need, social commerce, specifically Facebook commerce (f-commerce), is something worthy of additional exploration. But before we jump into the numbers and opportunities, let’s examine what’s required to build a successful f-commerce effort.

First off, I’m a believer. (So much so that I recently joined the marketing advisory board of an f-commerce provider, Milyoni.) Some of the examples below, including Warner Brother’s experimentation with Facebook as an alternative digital distribution platform, are powered by Milyoni’s technology. Having said that, f-commerce doesn’t just happen.

I believe that all successful f-commerce programs start with creating engaging conversations and communities. Trust and advocacy flourish over time, allowing brands to develop programs that harness the power of the social graph. If done well, brands have the opportunity to build a commerce platform that not only stands on its own, but ultimately supports and amplifies existing marketing and sales efforts.

If you’ve spent time building your Facebook community and implementing channel tracking for promotions, you’ve probably already witnessed the growing influence social networks are having on your overall promotional efforts. For one of my clients, Facebook is now second to email in terms of rebate form completions and conversions. That’s a testament to the power of building a highly engaged community and its impact on sales.

Now for the data. If you’re still a skeptic, consider the following:

Sales: A recent report from consulting firm Booz & Company titled Turning “Like” to “Buy” estimates social commerce sales will reach $5 billion worldwide this year, with $1 billion coming from the U.S. This is expected to grow sixfold to more than $30 billion worldwide ($15 billion in the U.S.) by 2015.

Consumer acceptance: Booz & Company reports 27 percent of consumers said they’d be willing to purchase physical goods through social networking sites.

Brand acceptance — diversified and growing:

More recently, movie studios like Warner Brothers have shaken up the industry by experimenting with Facebook as an alternative digital distribution platform by offering five movies — “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Inception,” “Life As We Know It” and “Yogi Bear” — for rental using Facebook Credits.

In fact, news of the test sent shares of Netflix tumbling by more than 6 percent or $650 milllion. Why? One, social networks offer studios a way to bypass services like Netflix, whose streaming digital influence continues to grow. Two, the ability to post comments and interact with friends opens up a host of new opportunities to not only tap into the social graph to create a unique experience, but to inform the studio and influence future development efforts.

In today’s world, brands need to be everywhere their customers are. So why not facilitate the ability to transact there as well? No doubt social commerce has arrived, but its definition will continue to evolve and expand. From traditional retail stores to an innovative digital media distribution platform, the power of Facebook as a viable social commerce platform is one of the big opportunities of the decade.

Influencing Consumer Decisions at the “Last Meter”

Forget about the last mile, it’s all about the last meter. Where the rubber meets the road. The final chance to whisper “choose me.” As marketers, you’re pros at top-of-funnel techniques like building brand awareness and generating interest and desire, which (fingers crossed) will convert into sales. But the one place where you have the least control is at the moment of decision, where consumers decide what to buy and what to bypass.

Forget about the last mile, it’s all about the last meter. Where the rubber meets the road. The final chance to whisper “choose me.” As marketers, you’re pros at top-of-funnel techniques like building brand awareness and generating interest and desire, which (fingers crossed) will convert into sales. But the one place where you have the least control is at the moment of decision, where consumers decide what to buy and what to bypass.

Are location-based apps the answer?
The latest entries to the last meter game are location-based applications. Every company, from the corner dry cleaner to the nationwide chain, has been jumping on the bandwagon. This is the godsend you’ve been hoping for — or is it?

Forrester Research provided a reality check earlier this year when it concluded that only 4 percent of U.S. online adults have used location-based apps, and only 1 percent use them regularly. Expectedly, the believers countered with stats about the unstoppable momentum of smartphone adoption and argued that the current state is not an accurate indicator of future potential. We do know who’s embracing these apps today — men ranging from 19 to 34 years old. But even if that is your target audience, there are no guarantees. And if it’s not, the road to adoption may be even longer.

What’s the ROI for your customers?
To start, you have to consider your customers’ return on investment. This universal formula applies to anything that requires a shift in behavior, and location-based apps are no exception. Let’s start with the “I.” What are you asking them to invest? In the case of apps, it’s the effort of seeking out, downloading and using the application, hopefully over and over again.

And in return, what’s the “R” that they’re getting back for their investment of time? That is, what exactly is it that you’re making better, cheaper and faster to justify the additional effort? Until recently, the sole focus had been on the gaming aspect, where virtual rewards such as mayorships and badges are earned for check-ins. But there’s a collective realization that it will take more for these apps to break out beyond being a mere novelty.

Services like Shopkick, Foursquare and Loopt are offering deals and savings, or other real-world rewards. But will their appeal extend beyond those hardcore deal seekers who will do whatever it takes to get a bargain? For most consumers, all this stuff feels like work. For them, the discounts or whatever rewards you’re doling out need to justify the effort. And if you’re not willing to give the farm away and bump up the “R” of consumer return, are there other ways to reduce the required “I” of investment?

What else should marketers be thinking about?
 Beyond apps, the conversation should embrace other innovations that are already hitting stores near you. One excellent example is Stop & Shop/Giant Food’s hand-held Scan It! device. It lets customers scan items as they’re placed into their shopping carts for faster checkout, while also proactively sending alerts of special savings throughout the store. Purchases made using Scan It! account for 13 percent of the grocer’s sales.

A bit further out are other innovations, such as radio frequency identification (RFID). Unfortunately, RFID has been battered and bruised by privacy concerns and sky-high implementation costs, but it’s still standing. Wal-Mart, one of the early adopters of RFID-tagged pallets for logistics purposes, recently announced it will implement RFID tags for individual products. Further out yet, but already in trial, are intelligent digital displays like those from NEC Corp. that use facial recognition to recommend products based on your estimated gender and age.

Maybe these won’t be the ultimate solutions. One thing they have in common is they require little to no investment on the consumer’s part; they work with the way consumers shop today and at the same time deliver additional value.

There are a lot of options out there to bridge the last meter. Just don’t forget the two critical questions: One, how hard are you making your customers work? And two, what’s in it for them?