Why ‘Adjacent Possibilities’ Are More Profitable Than Bright Shiny Objects

Identifying “adjacent possibilities” in your organization’s products and services has the potential to create something new, without the risk of chasing far-flung shiny object ideas with questionable ROI. I was recently introduced to the power of adjacent possibilities by …

Illustration of cloud network with multiple nodes and connectionsIdentifying “adjacent possibilities” in your organization’s products and services has the potential to create something new, without the risk of chasing far-flung shiny object ideas with questionable ROI. I was recently introduced to the power of adjacent possibilities by long-time friend and colleague, Nick Usborne, at an American Writers and Artists Web Intensive workshop where we were both speakers.

The premise of an adjacent possibility is that something new can be created from two existing and adjacent ideas. For example: chocolate and peanut butter. Separated for years, then combined to become a hot seller in Reece’s peanut butter cups.

Another example: laptops and smartphones. An adjacent possibility was the creation of the tablet — larger than a smartphone, but smaller than a laptop. Now tablets are everywhere.

For background about adjacent possibilities, it’s useful to quote “Finding Your Next Big (Adjacent) Idea” from the Harvard Business Review that says:

The idea of adjacent possibilities started with evolutionary biologist Stuart Kauffman, who used it to explain how such powerful biological innovations as sight and flight came into being. More recently, Steven Johnson, in “Where Good Ideas Come From,” showed that it’s also applicable to science, culture, and technology. The core of the idea: People arrive at the best new ideas when they combine prior (adjacent) ideas in new ways. Most combinations fail; a few succeed spectacularly.

Many organizations are obsessed with seeking the newest big product innovation. And that’s good. Disruptive technologies and products have power.

But a singular focus on completely new products or services, without considering adjacent possibilities of existing products, is also a risk. Why? Because a competitor may swoop in by identifying an adjacent possibility that’s been overlooked, and succeed with a new product by stealing smart.

Adjacent possibility tips that Nick suggested include:

  • Look inside your organization to see where you may have adjacent possibilities in current products where an outgrowth won’t involve a risky leap forward.
  • You don’t have to be the best at any one thing. Just be pretty good at two or three things you can combine.
  • If you don’t have two or three things to combine, connect with one or two other people (or organizations) who have adjacent skills.

In a world of adjacent possibilities, you can take the pressure off, and create big successes.

Discovering the Big Idea

What’s holding you back from creating your next breakthrough marketing campaign? It’s probably you. Why? Because instead of coming up with a new big idea that you can test, you may be just shuffling the same deck of cards. So how do you discover the big idea? Here are a few …

Content Creation IdeasWhat’s holding you back from creating your next breakthrough marketing campaign? It’s probably you. Why? Because instead of coming up with a new big idea that you can test, you may be just shuffling the same deck of cards. So how do you discover the big idea? Here are a few tips.

Copywriters and marketing professionals see a lot of copy. And it must be evaluated. The trap is in deceiving yourself that “breaking through” is simply rearranging the words from a past promo and calling it new. Fact is, this approach isn’t likely to produce a new winner.

Recently I evaluated copy from several seminar attendee copywriters where I presented a client case study and the challenge to write a subject line, headline and lead for an email promo. They only had about a day to work on it. The copywriters who had their game on were those who spun an existing message into a new idea, metaphor, perspective, or story.

That’s what I was looking for, because a new, big idea, has the power to beat a control. I believe it’s because big ideas create new memory for a prospective customer. Turned into long-term memory with a follow-up, longer-form message, the big idea has better odds of converting into a sale.

Ideas sell. Here are a few tips about how you might identify a big idea worthy of testing:

  • Interview customers — or better — interview prospective customers and ask what it will take to earn their business. Phone calls are good; focus groups can be better. Ask them why they buy. Then, ask them a follow-up “why?” to peel back the layers.
  • If you’re a marketer, you surely have data — all kinds of data ranging from demographics to behavioral information. Examine your data through a new lens to inspire yourself and imagine the possibilities for a new big idea.
  • Look at the characteristics of your best customers. You know, the Pareto Principle; often simply called the “80/20 rule.”
  • What are your competitors doing? But don’t knock them off. Steal smart, add your own twist and rise above them.

Conversations with peers and co-workers can also inspire copywriters and marketers. Ask “what if” questions. Ask “why” questions. Ask what the driving emotion is that tips a prospect into becoming a customer.

Then, let your copywriter digest the research, discussion and background materials, and take a step back with these “4 Ways to Get Creative” to let the big idea reveal itself.

Gary Hennerberg gives you the detail of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com.

Walk a Mile in Your Client’s Shoes

Agency folks love to complain about the pace of our work, the numerous bosses (AKA “clients”), the often restricted budgets, creative latitude and so on. It is human nature to bemoan the challenges we face personally, but to serve the interests of our clients we also have to factor in the obstacles our clients must, in turn, surmount.

Hipster shoesAgency folks love to complain about the pace of our work, the numerous bosses (AKA “clients”), the often restricted budgets, creative latitude and so on. It is human nature to bemoan the challenges we face personally, but to serve the interests of our clients we also have to factor in the obstacles our clients must, in turn, surmount.

The worst thing an agency partner can do is bring no ideas. The second worse thing is to present an idea, concept or approach to a client that does not fit their strategy or creates a headache disproportionate to the potential upside and opportunity. It’s the headache that often gets discounted or ignored. You’re just bad at your job if you are off strategy — but the risk-reward balancing trick is tough to achieve for anyone without a crystal ball and even tougher without the consideration of internal decision factors that the client may not explicitly divulge. This is where perceptive agency partners take a walk in their clients’ shoes.

Agencies are regularly tasked with helping their clients locate the edge that is relevant, strategic and effective for clients without pushing them over that edge. It’s the proverbial fine line that is influenced by factors well beyond those commonly found in a plan or brief. Marketers confront pressures unique to their particular environment when making difficult and finessed decisions regarding budgets, partners and opportunities. This allows them to make the best decision for their business in that space and time. It may not be the optimal decision according to a sterile predictive model but none of us live in that sterile world.

How can we factor in the real world issues that can and should influence marketing decisions?

Some Things We Can Glean From Historical Response

Have similar recommendations met with resistance or delay in the past? What was the underlying reason for that resistance? Is it likely to change or is it endemic to the organization or industry?

Industry factors like regulatory constraints should be pretty straight forward and clearly considered but companies and individuals have different appetites for risk that also need to be considered. You can moderate the tendency to play it too safe over time by building trust, gaining proof points with successful recommendations and a thorough, objective examination and presentation of your plans.

11 Profound Quotes About Marketing

One of the side effects of covering an industry of communication majors is that I often hear ideas that are utterly remarkable thrown around as if they were no big deal. Yesterday’s Content Marketing Master Class was no exception.

Robert Rose: Marketer, author, storyteller.
Robert Rose: Marketer, author, storyteller.

One of the side effects of covering an industry of communication majors is that I often hear ideas that are utterly remarkable thrown around as if they were no big deal. Yesterday’s Content Marketing Master Class (CMMC) was no exception.

CMMC is an event we help produce that stars Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute. You’ve seen both of their names mentioned around our site and magazine because they’re two of the best at content marketing.

Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Founder, Content Marketing Institute

They’re also two of the best at turning a philosophical phrase, or recognizing the genius of someone else’s. And that skill was on full display at CMMC. Here are 11 that I found to be particularly profound, and worth thinking over and unpacking after the event.

  1. The problem with ROI is we’re asked to R but we’re not given any I.
    Robert Rose
  2. We cannot extract value from our audience until we’ve built something of value for them.
    Joe Pulizzi
  3. Purpose, story, audience, process, measure.
    The content marketing strategy framework of Robert Rose
  4. We tend to look at content marketing as super-charged advertising, missing how it will change us fundamentally.
    Robert Rose
  5. Tell me how you’re going to measure me and I’ll tell you how I’m going to behave.
    Eli Goldratt, quoted by Robert Rose
  6. Dandelion content marketing: Creating one big idea that makes a lot of small assets that plant you’re seeds all over.
    Jay Baer, quoted by Joe Pulizzi
  7. If we’re creating evergreen content that yields evergreen value, we need to think of it as long-term, evergreen investment.
    Robert Rose
  8. We all build personas that look like buyers, not like audiences.
    Robert Rose
  9. Would you hire your content? Does it effectively do the job you would be hiring it to do in your marketing plan?
    Robert Rose
  10. When ___, I want ___ so I can do ___. If your content fits into that middle blank, your audience will hire it to do that job.
    Robert Rose
  11. Stories are a much more powerful way to do what marketers need to do: manipulate an audience. 
    Robert Rose

Do those give you something to think about? Let me know in the comments, and add your favorite marketing quotes for everyone else to read.

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Your Next Big Idea…

It’s peak stargazing week, with the Perseid Meteor Shower set for its best show in 20 years. Which is the perfect time to imagine what’s out there, and brush up on your brainstorming abilities. After all, finding bright ideas that stand out from others can make you a star, too.

Perseids 2012
Perseid Shower Radiant: Image shows several Perseid meteors — eight in all if you look closely for faint ones. Image courtesy of Paul Beskeen Astrophotography

It’s peak stargazing week. The Perseid Meteor Shower set for its best show in 20 years, which is the perfect time to imagine what’s out there, and brush up on your brainstorming abilities. After all, finding bright ideas that stand out from others can make you a star, too.

So where do you look? How can spot them, or spark a few of your own?

Break Out Your Telescopes

By that, I mean look at problems with a different lens. Ideally, one with a long-range view. Too often when faced with a marketing challenge, we only see what’s right in front of us. Many will fixate on small details, forgetting that most customers aren’t so focused on BRCs, Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors or the metrics of SEO. (All of which are important, but first things first! Think bigger.)

Example: A creative director colleague — Jon Harcharek — was developing a campaign for Café Bustelo. Popular among Latino Americans, the brand wanted to attract a broader audience but worried they’d compromise its “authenticity” by advertising on English-speaking stations.

Cafe Bustelo adHarcharek’s solution: Air the same ad on all networks, Hispanic or otherwise. Those watching Telemundo saw promotions in their native tongue. Anglo viewers were surprised to see a Spanish-speaking commercial break during Breaking Bad, but early adopters were curious and sought out the “new” coffee at supermarkets.

See The Possibilities

Our ancestors saw bulls, rams and scorpions in the sky. One of them probably said, “This may sound crazy, but that looks like a lion to me.”

There may have also been a department manager who said “No, they’re just dots. Get back to work.” The point is to make indirect connections, not just straight-line conclusions. Look beyond the first right answer. And during the idea-generation stage, avoid “no-it-alls” — those who say no to every imaginative thought.

Think like Aristotle: As one of the world’s first astronomers, he believed “When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.” Which inspired more great thinkers to ask “Why have we always done it that way?” It’s the elementary questions followed up by a dozen more penetrating ones that often yield results.

Whether you’re asking clients “Is this really the smartest way to spend your marketing budget” or “Why can’t this mailing look like it came from the government?” it’s okay to be dumb sometimes. Like a fox.

Kansas Tree SurveySeek other intelligent life: Give your initial idea to someone else and see where it goes. At my agency, we call that “brain-chaining” where another creative person takes ownership of a concept and builds on it. Then another “trained brain” might twist it, rearranging headlines or graphic design.

Try This Exercise

At the beginning of a brainstorm meeting, have everyone write down their first thoughts on a 3”x 5” index card. Just a sentence or simple sketch. Then collect the cards, shuffle and hand them out again. Whatever you get, your job is to make them better. Improvise. Suggest a different way to execute it.  There are NO bad ideas. Yet you’ll be surprised how many good ones happen.

The heavens are limitless, but your timeframe shouldn’t be: Like this week’s meteor showers, you only have a small moment when the stars and moons align. Brainstorms are the same way. They’re actually more productive when you give yourself a deadline.

So look up. Keep your eyes wide open, and explore while you can. Your wishes just might come true!

Data Athletes in Modern Organizations

Let’s look at the ideas, insights and strategies for becoming what I have termed a “Data Athlete.” This term has evolved during the many years I have been involved with training and developing exceptionally smart creative analysts. These professionals have a high aptitude and passion to solve big data challenges and possess the dexterity to leap from the intellectually engaging problems to the immediately actionable digital media plays that yield a high ROI. I have found smart analysts love this term—they enthusiastically consider it a badge of honor in making it to the major leagues, where they solve complex marketing problems and optimize campaigns.

Let’s look at the ideas, insights and strategies for becoming what I have termed a “Data Athlete.” This term has evolved during the many years I have been involved with training and developing exceptionally smart creative analysts. These professionals have a high aptitude and passion to solve big data challenges and possess the dexterity to leap from the intellectually engaging problems to the immediately actionable digital media plays that yield a high ROI. I have found smart analysts love this term—they enthusiastically consider it a badge of honor in making it to the major leagues, where they solve complex marketing problems and optimize campaigns.

I’m sharing all of these learnings with you, as organizations are under ever greater pressures to change in a world that only grows more digital, and in the process is generating more and more data at a blinding pace. Keeping up will require a shift in thinking about businesses, marketing and data—and of course its value, or lack thereof. This will require you and/or your team to become or be more of a Data Athlete to compete in an ever more digital world.

What is a Data Athlete?
Like any athlete, a Data Athlete is competitive. If you’re striving to become or to be more of a Data Athlete, competitiveness is important. Data Athletes compete with the norm—challenging it and outperforming it. They also challenge all assumptions, opinions and even the data they work with. Nothing’s too sacred not to inquire, challenge and test.

Most importantly, Data Athletes build brands by creating solutions based on the evidence and the impact. They seek to affect change based on the impact it will realistically have. They methodically create the future and its outcomes.

Data Athletes have that internal drive to solve and to accomplish. Contrast this with the kitschy T-shirts at the Google Developers Conference that say “data nerd” (disclosure, I have one myself). Data Athletes aren’t interested in tech for tech’s sake, or data for data’s sake.

Data Athletes Don’t Come From Traditional IT Structures
Traditional IT organizations may have staff entirely comfortable with data, having spent entire careers working with databases—building and maintaining infrastructure, building cubes, reports, integrating systems and data sources, and performing the necessary “care and feeding.” Until very recently however, traditional IT and marketing have organizationally been far apart. Bridging that gap may realistically take years in some organizations. The cultural differences between Athletes and Traditional IT aren’t trivial, and they are well-founded. IT has, for decades, been focused on stability, consistency, repeatability—command and control and gradual cautious change.

Data Athletes, on the other hand, will seek to fail and fail fast, test and learn. They require an environment that is not only tolerant of, but embraces the rigorous, ambitious development of multiple hypotheses informed by customer data, rapid testing of those hypotheses, and speedy implementation of those tests—quickly weeding out the ideas that don’t work through a data-driven system of meritocracy and speed. Gumming up that value creation process through a traditional IT process and “queue” stifles the innovation and positive change. Data Athletes often have engineering backgrounds—and have little patience, as they know the cost of slow and lumbering improvement, or lack thereof.

Not surprisingly, Data Athletes don’t come from traditional IT departments, even though many come from software engineering, front-end development, Web analytics and data science. They bring direct marketing logic and understand how brands are built. They enjoy marketing and they are creative—they challenge marketing that “can’t” be measured and improved.

So while the circa 2015 Data Athletes has a deep appreciation for traditional IT and the back office, they are different from traditional IT in critical dimensions. Data Athletes are typically driven to engage, communicate and connect with the end customer at scale, where traditional IT tends to serve corporate management and internal customers.

So, why is it so difficult to cultivate an environment that nourishes and rewards data athletes? Why are some large organizations with abundant operational reporting capabilities slow to address the evolving needs of the more digital, “big data” marketplace?

Let’s answer these questions and discuss how companies can move the ball downfield with the help of data athletes, our future organizational stars, and thinking about your level of fitness as a more “data athletic” organization.

Here are four major considerations in the era of the Data Athlete as a mission-critical team member:

1. Data Athletes Differentiate Quickly Between Reporting and Analytics
More than 90 percent of the analytics programs I’ve looked at, specifically in Web analytics, are little more than reporting programs. Visits, clicks, time on site, sales, etc. All good. All interesting, and all are short on actionability.

2. Actionability Is The Data Athlete’s Priority
Successful businesses have the habit of tracking progress over time. It’s often driven by the CFO’s office. All rhythms drive from those operational metrics: sales, units sold, turnover, etc. They have reports on top of reports. No small effort or expense is required to make those reports and answer questions based on them. These are good for business. They also can shape a culture, a culture of looking at the same things. A culture of reporting.

A “report-driven” culture isn’t all bad. Maintaining that continuity of reporting over time doesn’t, in itself, address new challenges, new consumer behaviors, the impact of Pinterest on your customer relationships, or the threat of a new intermediary who’s putting pressure on you and driving up your acquisition costs. These things affect those top-level, “operational” numbers driven by that reporting. By the time they really hit the reports hard enough, you’re already behind, which sets up “fire drills” and suffocates marketing strategy. The direction is oftentimes driven by opinions. More about that in a moment.

Reporting by definition is reactive, where analytics is really driving the creation of strategies to affect change.

3. HiPPOs Usually Aren’t Athletes.
This isn’t the “hippo” at least some of you were thinking of …

A HiPPO is the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.” You probably know from experience how often the HiPPO in the room has an opinion—and challenging it isn’t easy. Or maybe you are the “HiPPO” in the room, at times. HiPPO-dominated organizations don’t need evidence that data provides. They don’t assess the impact of decisions with data, either.

HiPPOs often come from backgrounds where data and evidence are non-existent or primitive. Their ideas are rarely tested or proven, they are qualitative and only shoot straight from the hip.

In comparing Amazon to JCPenney, Fortune described Amazon’s perspective on HiPPOs as “leaders who are so self-assured that they need neither others’ ideas nor data to affirm the correctness of their instinctual beliefs.” HiPPOs sometimes frown on using data to inform and shape a business, labeling anything that seeks to create business model scalability through the intelligent use of customer data as “analysis paralysis.”

HiPPOs miss the fact that Data Athletes don’t just gorge themselves on data, they actually loath excessive unusable data and the overhead that comes with it.

An Athlete does not believe in data for data’s sake. They know what they need, and what they can do with it.

Instead, they see the HiPPO’s experience and knowledge as a source to shape problem definition. They validate the opportunity and problem with the right data. Without strong and accurate problem definition, it’s hard for anyone to effectively choose what data matters and what can be thrown away.

If you have these smart data athletes in your organization, don’t be a HiPPO and trample them—for when you do, you miss opportunity.

If you hire smart Data Athletes, it’s a business risk to ignore them. When you do, you’re under-leveraging and you’re not learning and growing yourself.

How Does This Help a Marketer?
First, think about your own organization, your own challenges, and evaluate if you’re dominated by HiPPOs or if you’re leveraging Athletes in your organization. It’s hard to debate if you need them anymore—you do, and you will. Partner with the Athletes in your organization, and you’ll begin the process of performing at an advanced level.

In future articles, we’ll discuss more specific strategic approaches and tactical executions that can help you execute and become more of a Data Athlete and introduce this unique type of “athleticism” to your organization.

Direct Mail Design: Layout

Designing for direct mail can be broken up into three segments: layout, color/images and copy. Since this can be a real challenge, we will take on each section in depth to give you a better understanding and some ideas as well as tips to get you started on the path to a great direct mail piece. To start, let’s talk about the layout.

Designing for direct mail can be broken up into three segments: layout, color/images and copy. Since these can all be real challenges, we will take on each section in depth in separate posts to give you a better understanding and some ideas, as well as tips to get you started on the path to a great direct mail piece.

Section One: Layout
So you need to design your next direct mail campaign and are having trouble with ideas. Sometimes the best ideas in direct mail design have already been used.

The first thing you can do is look at the mail that comes to your home or business (or check out some mailpieces at WhosMailingWhat.com). Are there examples that stand out to you? There is no shame in taking a direct mail piece that you received and making it your own. Of course, sometimes the opposite is true and you get inspired by a really horrible piece.

Here are eight questions to ask yourself as you are contemplating design layout:

  1. What pieces do you like best? What about co-workers and family?
    This base will provide you with enough information and perspectives to start.
  2. Does a certain design function better than another?
    Practicality and mail ability are both big factors here. Making sure ahead of time what will work for the post office and what won’t is a real time and money saver.
  3. How were images or color used to draw your attention?
    Note each one and how you feel or interpret what they are trying to convey. Does it compliment the message or detract from it and why?
  4. What language was used to get you curious?
    Analyzing the word structure and your reaction to it is a great way to identify what your word choices should be.
  5. Was the offer compelling?
    Sometimes the offer may be compelling, but if it is not what you are interested or already have it, you will not buy it. Targeting your messaging to the correct audience is key.
  6. Were the important points and call to action organized and clear?
    This is very important, you can really learn what to do and not to do by looking at the offer you receive.
  7. What types of response mechanisms were available?
    The more the better. Include as many as you can and make sure some of them are mobile. People are using tablets and phones for most of their search and buying needs. Plus, you will benefit from instant gratification. They want it now!
  8. How can you make this piece better?
    Make a list of all the things you would change and why. Have others do the same and compare notes. You will gain insight into how your piece should look.

When designing your mail piece, are you taking all of these factors into consideration? Have you looked at your piece through the eyes of your recipient? Remember there needs to be a very strong “what’s in it for me?” for your prospects/customers.

Have someone outside of your organization look at your layout to make sure the message you are trying to convey is coming through. Direct mail is very visual and tactile; you need to capitalize on that.

Beware of Dubious Data Providers: A 9-Point Checklist

Are you hounded by email pitches offering access to all kinds of prospective business targets? I am, and I hate it. As a B-to-B marketer, I am always interested in new customer data sources, so I feel compelled to at least give them a listen. So, over time, I have come up with a nine-point assessment strategy to help marketers determine the likely legitimacy of a potential vendor, using approaches that can be replicated by anyone, at arm’s length.

Are you hounded by email pitches offering access to all kinds of prospective business targets? I am, and I hate it. As a B-to-B marketer, I am always interested in new customer data sources, so I feel compelled to at least give them a listen. But when I ask a few questions—like where their data comes from—answers come back like “A variety of sources” or “Sorry, that’s our intellectual property.” So, over time, I have come up with a nine-point assessment strategy to help marketers determine the likely legitimacy of a potential vendor, using approaches that can be replicated by anyone, at arm’s length.

Of course a lot of these emails are simply fraudulent. Early on, I stumbled upon an anonymous blog that reports on the most egregious of these emailers and connects them to unscrupulous spammers tracked by Spamhaus. It’s pretty hilarious to learn that many of these data sellers are complete fakes, sending identical emails from fake companies and fake addresses.

If you want to just delete them all as a matter of course, that’s a reasonable strategy. Myself, I’ve been throwing them in a folder called “suspicious data providers,” and every so often, I dig in to see if there’s any wheat among the chaff. And that is where this checklist was born.

I got some ideas from two colleagues who have written helpfully on this problem. Tim Slevin provides a nice 3-point assessment approach in the SLMA blog, where he recommends checking out the vendors’ physical address, researching them on LinkedIn, and asking them for a data sample so specific that you can tell whether their product is any good. All terrific ideas, which I have gladly incorporated in my approach.

Ken Magill, who writes an amusing and informative publication on email marketing, tackled this subject on behalf of one of his readers, who had unhappily prepaid for an email list that didn’t arrive. “You’re never going to see that $3000 again,” says Ken to the sucker. Ken offers a dozen or so red flags to look for when considering buying email addresses—and I have picked up some of his ideas, too. Magill wraps up his discussion with: “If you suspect you’d have trouble serving them with court papers, do not do business with them.”

So, to get to the point, here is my list of yes/no questions, which can be examined fairly easily, without any direct contact with the vendor.

  1. Do they have a website you can visit?
  2. Do they provide a physical business address?
  3. Do they have a company page on LinkedIn?
  4. Are the names of the management team provided on the website?
  5. Is there a client list on the website?
  6. Is there a testimonial on the website with a real name attached?
  7. Do they claim some kind of guaranteed level of accuracy for their data?
  8. Do they require 100 percent pre-payment?
  9. Is the sales rep using a Gmail or other email address unrelated to the company name?

For question Nos. 7, 8 and 9, a “no” is the right answer. For the first six, “yes” is what you’re looking for. I’d say that any vendor who gets more than one or two wrong answers should be avoided. Any other ideas out there?

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

Gamification: Game Playing? Or Game Changing?

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification,” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to boost response.

Two recent articles are worth noting for direct marketers. One article was about playing games. The other about gamification.

On one side of the coin, games are used to reduce stress by people who play on mobile devices. In this case, an eMarketer report said that 50 percent of mobile gamers spend up to 30 minutes daily playing games to reduce stress. Others use games to pass time.

On the other side of the coin, offices are using gamification to increase productivity, which reportedly increases stress. In office settings, gaming processes—gamification—engages users to solve problems that improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness and learning. An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The ‘Gamification’ of the Office Approaches” noted how productivity inside offices can be tracked and measured in points, fostering competitiveness and excellence.

Gaming is all around us. Millions scratch off lottery tickets or pick random numbers, and casinos are often packed.

In a few days, the biggest football game of the year—the Super Bowl—will be played with millions watching, and a lot of money wagered, as it becomes a national obsession for several days.

Let’s face it: We’re a culture who loves to play games and keep score.

For direct marketers, we can use our cultural obsession with games for a marketing advantage to increase response.

Whether you use offline direct mail with tokens or other involvement devices, or online channels, gaming techniques that are vetted as being legal, can be a good way to perk up your results.

Here are five ideas:

  1. In direct mail, if you mail your prospects or customers frequently, add a game that builds over time for purpose, more interaction and anticipation of your mailing.
  2. For any channel you’re in, use games to create customer loyalty so your buyers return again and again.
  3. In social media, check-ins and badges using mobile apps are like games, and they get your name in front of the friends of your fans.
  4. Encourage people to play a game that requires completing surveys and gives information about themselves for use in nurture marketing programs.
  5. Let your prospects and customers track their game scores, but as a direct marketer using sophisticated marketing automation software, you can turn the tables and score your customers to determine who is most likely to come back and buy again.

Finally, if you’re stumped with generating ideas, get your staff together and play games to get the ideas swirling. Ideation meetings that include games often bring out unexpected creative ideas.

Bottom line, use the principles of gamification to reinvent and re-energize your direct marketing approach. By becoming familiar with gamification techniques now, you or your staff may identify the next big sales game changer.

15 Online Video Marketing Test Ideas

If you haven’t tried video yet, consider this a nudge for you to reinvent your marketing approach and broaden your direct marketing skill set. On the subject of reinventing skills, today we announce exciting news about an evolution of this blog and how we plan to introduce you to topics that go beyond video marketing. But before we tell you about the new blog, we put our heads together and came up with a list of the top

If you haven’t tried video yet, consider this a nudge for you to reinvent your marketing approach and broaden your direct marketing skill set. On the subject of reinventing skills, today we announce exciting news about an evolution of this blog and how we plan to introduce you to topics that go beyond video marketing.

But before we tell you about the new blog, we put our heads together and came up with a list of the top 15 online video marketing initiatives that we recommend you test as we move toward the important fourth quarter sales cycle.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

This video includes ideas for video content, use of customer testimonials, product demonstrations, opt-in ideas to grow your email list, using video in social media, pay-per-click, video length, video sales letters, budgeting for video and more.

As mentioned earlier, our blog is evolving and expanding to encompass many of those oftentimes puzzling new online direct marketing opportunities.

While reinventing one’s core competencies should be an ongoing process, in recent years, the requirement to reinvent so that your skills and organization remain relevant has accelerated. So as re-inventors of our direct marketing skills, the editors of Target Marketing have encouraged us to expand the topic of our blog beyond video to include topics like:

  • Using site and search retargeting
  • Integration of customer relationship management systems
  • The analytics of social media to better understand its effectiveness for direct marketing
  • Using content for inbound marketing
  • Online competitive analysis
  • … along with additional subjects that we, as long-time direct marketers, believe you should understand and consider testing.

Starting in a couple of weeks, we begin a new blog named Reinventing Direct. We’ll discuss new ideas, how direct marketers can apply these opportunities, and break it down for you in non-threatening, practical ways so you can better understand it and reinvent your direct marketing skills. We hope you’ll follow us on our new blog, and we invite you to suggest topics in the comments area below, or use the link to the left to email your thoughts.

It’s been our pleasure to have authored Online Video Marketing Deep Dive. Thank you for being a loyal follower, and we look forward to sharing our tips with you in a couple of weeks in Reinventing Direct.