At Your Service! Really!

I had to meet a friend unexpectedly at the hospital the other day. As you would expect, my mind was racing with all sorts of “what ifs.” I was wondering where to park when I pulled into the main entrance, and several kind people positioned at the door offered to valet my car and escort me to where I needed to go. This level of service reminiscent of a fine hotel, not a hospital, pleasantly surprised me. Genuine helpfulness and sincere caring. (And, thankfully, all turned out well for my friend.)

I had to meet a friend unexpectedly at the hospital the other day. As you would expect, my mind was racing with all sorts of “what ifs.” I was wondering where to park when I pulled into the main entrance, and several kind people positioned at the door offered to valet my car and escort me to where I needed to go. This level of service reminiscent of a fine hotel, not a hospital, pleasantly surprised me. Genuine helpfulness and sincere caring. (And, thankfully, all turned out well for my friend.)

As a brand strategist and a customer of many brands, I am in tune to the many ways companies tout their customer service. If your experiences are akin to mine, actual meaningful and truly excellent service still seems to be a rarity. Customer service gets lots of talk time (the one true brand differentiator!) these days, but is it time to double check and see if your brand is paying more than lip service to this important customer-centric activity?

Do you know if your service level is actually accomplishing what matters most to your customers? Would customers consider it a concierge experience? Take a peek at these examples and see how a few companies pay more than lip service to this important function:

Focus: Target Audience
Bed Bath & Beyond knows that the back-to-school season is almost akin to Christmas-in-August for its brand. With thousands of new freshmen heading to campuses nationwide in need of all things dorm related, Bed Bath & Beyond has truly gone beyond in creating an amazingly useful college-prepping brand experience. The website is chockfull of helpful advice about pertinent things top-of-mind for new college students. Take a peek at the topics covered in their online College Checklist:

  • Storing Your Stuff
  • Making Your Bed Better
  • Climate Control
  • An Inspiring Work Area
  • Resolving Technical Difficulties
  • Keeping Your Room Clean
  • Doing Laundry
  • Surviving a Shared Bathroom

After perusing both a printed checklist, a succinct magalog and an online version, students can enter their colleges in the company’s website and see if there are convenient Bed Bath & Beyond locations near their dorms so they don’t have to haul all this new merchandise from home. This concierge-esque brand takes it even a step further and has prepared lists of what the specific colleges and universities have already provided, what they want students to bring and what is not allowed. There’s even a college registry available, all set for family members who may want to gift the new freshmen upon high school graduation with these dorm life must haves.

And, once those students are settled in and living their particular collegiate lives, Bed Bath & Beyond continues to develop its student relationships with a “Grade My Space” program described as follows:

Grade My Space is a new interactive site where you’ll get an inside look at college living spaces and residence halls. Students connect and share ideas, designs, comments and provide the inside scoop on campus living and more.

How might your brand borrow brilliantly from Bed Bath & Beyond and put this usefulness in action for one of your specific customer segments?

Focus: Product Category
Target’s “guest-centric” brand attitude has always hit the bull’s eye, but the company is building on this experience in one particular category in a more nuanced way across 300 of its stores—Beauty. According to a recent press release:

Participating stores are staffed with a Target Beauty Concierge, a highly-trained, brand agnostic beauty enthusiast who is available to answer guests’ questions in-store. Serving as a trusted expert, the Beauty Concierge provides guests with personalized, detailed and unbiased information about beauty and personal care products offered at Target and acts as a knowledgeable source of advice in what can sometimes be an intimidating department. Beauty Concierges are located in the beauty aisles at Target wearing a distinct black apron. No appointment is necessary.

In addition to Target doing this with beauty, Lands End has done this with swimwear … a troublesome category for many women. Might there be a department or category within your brand that customers would welcome some one-on-one consultation? How might you enhance your service level in a key product category to generate not only more sales, but a more customer-centric experience?

Company-Wide Focus
Nordstrom has long wowed its customers with service that goes the extra mile. Today, its website reminds customers that unlike some other department stores, working with Nordstrom personal stylists is “fast, fun, free and zero pressure!” They’ll even prep your dressing room for you in advance of your visit.

“We’ll be there the whole time to offer new suggestions and honest advice—even if you are only looking to research, not to buy.” My girlfriend utilized this service in helping outfit her son, a new college graduate preparing for an international job opportunity. Not only was the time saved important, but now this stylist has all his measurements and style/color preferences recorded to make future shopping needs a breeze.

Office supply multichanneler, Staples, also is promising a company-wide concierge experience to back up its brand promise of “EASY”! Under its “Need Help?” tab is a listing for Product Concierge. Here’s what Staples says:

Can’t find what you’re looking for? We’re here to help! If you need help tracking down an item, we’ll search for it for you-even if it’s something we don’t currently have on our site. Tell us a bit more about the product and we’ll do our best to find it. There’s no obligation to buy.

Might your brand be able to promote this kind of across-the-board expectation? If not, what might have to change to do so?

Truly serving your customers concierge-style takes a full commitment from each and every brand ambassador within your company. It requires active listening and keen observation. It requires a servant heart and a willingness to sweat the small stuff to provide an excellent and memorable experience that will not only delight your customers once but keep them coming back for more … and raving about your brand to others.

USPS ‘Green Teams’ Net $58 Million – If Only Government Postal Policymakers Were So Innovative

Amid the doom and gloom of overall postal finances—where members of Congress and the White House probably have more to do with the current woes of the U.S. Postal Service than all the email in the world—came a timely press announcement from the USPS’s sustainability officer. Posted Feb. 24, I include the full text of the press release here, followed by some commentary: Green Teams Help Postal Service Save Millions

The Postal Service recycled 215,000 tons of material, which saved $14 million in landfill fees and yielded $24 million in new revenue. Employee lean green teams were key to helping the Postal Service achieve the savings and revenue, part of which included more than a $20 million decrease in supplies spending from the previous year.
—USPS Press Release (February 24, 2012)

Amid the doom and gloom of overall postal finances—where members of Congress and the White House probably have more to do with the current woes of the U.S. Postal Service than all the email in the world—came a timely press announcement from the USPS’s sustainability officer.

Posted Feb. 24, I include the full text of the press release here, followed by some commentary:


Green Teams Help Postal Service Save Millions

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Postal Service saved more than $34 million and generated $24 million in 2011 by reducing energy, water, consumables, petroleum fuel use and solid waste to landfills, conservation efforts encouraged by the Go Green Forever stamps. The Postal Service recycled 215,000 tons of material, which saved $14 million in landfill fees and yielded $24 million in new revenue. Employee lean green teams were key to helping the Postal Service achieve the savings and revenue, part of which included more than a $20 million decrease in supplies spending from the previous year.

“Across the country, postal employees are participating in more than 400 lean green teams. Motivated by our sustainability call to action, ‘leaner, greener, faster, smarter,’ they are producing significant results in energy reduction and resource conservation,” said Thomas G. Day, Chief Sustainability Officer.

Lean green teams are another way the Postal Service fosters a culture of conservation, and builds on the agency’s long history of environmental and socially responsible leadership. The teams help identify and implement low- and no-cost sustainable practices to help the Postal Service meet the following goals by 2015:

— Reduce facility energy use by 30 percent,

— Reduce water use by 10 percent,

— Reduce petroleum fuel use by 20 percent, and

— Reduce solid waste by 50 percent.

According to Day, the Postal Service plans to deploy lean green teams nationwide in 2012 to help achieve these goals.

“With more than 32,000 facilities, a presence in every community, and the largest civilian fleet in the nation, we know how important our efforts are to make a positive impact on the environment,” Day added. “Our lean green teams are an important part of our conservation culture, and the effort to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The Postal Service buys sustainable materials and works to reduce the amount of supplies it purchases. The agency first developed a “buy green” policy more than 13 years ago, and has a goal to reduce spending on consumables 30 percent by 2020. Additionally, the Postal Service is working to increase the percentage of environmentally preferable products it buys by 50 percent by 2015. Environmentally preferable products are bio-based, contain recycled material, are eco-labeled and are energy and water efficient.

In its shipping supplies, the Postal Service uses post-consumer recycled content materials, which are diverted from the waste stream, benefiting the environment and helping customers go green.

The Postal Service has won numerous environmental honors, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WasteWise Partner of the Year award in 2010 and 2011, the EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities award in 2011 and the Climate Registry Gold award in 2011.

USPS is the first federal agency to publicly report its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and receive third-party verification of the results. For more information about the Postal Service’s sustainability initiatives and the Go Green Forever stamps, visit usps.com/green and the usps green newsroom.

USPS participates in the International Post Corporation’s Environmental Measurement and Monitoring System, the global postal industry’s program to reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent by 2020 based on an FY 2008 baseline.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $65 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500. In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

SOURCE U.S. Postal Service

Thank you very much Thomas Day and thank you to each member of the 400 lean green teams at USPS.

Further, the $58 million in bottom-line gains were an improvement over the $27 million in such benefits reported by USPS a year ago. That’s more than double the financial improvement.

As a blueprint for other businesses, many with “green teams” of their own, this USPS announcement offers item-by-item suggested areas of operation companies might focus on to accrue bottom-line gains: facility energy use, water use, fuel use and solid waste generation and diversion.

Perhaps too many business leaders and marketing practitioners still equate sustainability initiatives with “do-good, feel-good” activities that are nonetheless costly or associated with premiums. They best start thinking otherwise. The more quickly brands can leverage green teams for operational gain, and incorporate sustainability as the next great wave of business cost-savings and innovation, the better off their bottom lines will be.

USPS is proving to all of us that there is a “lean” in “green,” and that waste and inefficiencies are cost centers that must be managed. The environmental gains that are driven by such successful management are numerous, and very well may engender good will among employees and customers. Nothing wrong—and everything right—with that, particularly when the financial bottom line benefits are so demonstrable.

Some skeptics might still say, with billions in deficits, USPS cost-savings announcements tied to sustainability are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I believe, however, that USPS management does have a business-like approach to fixing its finances in a digital age, has put forth a credible path to do so, and Congress and The White House need to be facilitating these decisions instead of standing in the way.

Unfortunately, Congress and The White House happen to be two U.S. institutions that are very challenged by balancing budgets.

The Congressional cry of “not in my backyard” over post office closures is part of that symptom, particularly when the USPS has proposed many retail outlet alternatives that are more convenient to citizens, and far less costly to postal ratepayers. The recent Congressional moratorium until May 15 toward consolidation of mail processing facilities is another cog in the cost-savings wheel. Meanwhile, the White House just can’t seem to let go of forcing through a 2010 “exigency” postal rate increase (in its current, proposed federal budget) that, in effect, undermines the entire rationale and integrity of indexed rate caps built into the 2006 postal reform law.

Perhaps there needs to be “lean green teams” at work inside the policymaking offices of Congress and the White House, too. Certainly, sustainability concepts—environmental, social and financial—could work to extraordinary effect inside government, just as it’s doing in forward-thinking businesses everywhere, and trying to do with great success inside the U.S. Postal Service.

Helpful Links:
USPS Press Release covering Green Teams in 2011

USPS Press Release covering Green Teams in 2010

Beware Publicity Hounds

Two stories about publicity hounds smacked me in the face and got me to wondering what would happen if an employee or associate of mine got into the business of self-promotion for the sake of self-promotion to the detriment of the company or society.

My private electronic archive of news stories contains nearly 50,000 items, indexed and cross-indexed, going back five years when I started my e-zine, BusinessCommon
Sense.com.

The point of the e-zine is to take current news stories and connect dots that trace back to the reader’s business, career and life.

Such was the case today when two stories about publicity hounds smacked me in the face and got me to wondering what would happen if an employee or associate of mine got into the business of self-promotion for the sake of self-promotion to the detriment of the company or society. The two publicity hounds:

Kristin Davis, Candidate for Governor of New York
I first became aware of Eliot Spitzer’s blonde, buxom madam when she was ranked #1 in New York Magazine‘s story titled “The Greatest Tarts in New York History (An Illustrated Guide).”

The lede: “New York’s latest famous tart is most likely destined to be a footnote to the Eliot Spitzer scandal. . .”

Davis is not a footnote. She’s announced for Governor of New York, and somehow I am on her fershlugginer e-mail list, even though I moved out of New York State in 1970.

Today’s press release irritated the hell out of me on two counts:

* Davis “called for the repeal of the pension of any public official who resign their office in disgrace to face legal charges. Davis held a press conference outside former Governor Spitzer’s apartment at 985 Fifth Ave.” The press release continued:

“Why should we pay a billionaire who disgraced his office and his State?” asked Davis who served four months on Rikers Island after being convicted of promoting prostitution and before becoming a women’s rights advocate. Davis did four months in prison while Spitzer was not indicted or charged with a crime.

Suddenly the thing became all about her, rather than saving money for the citizens of New York.

* Re-read the mangled syntax: “. . .called for the repeal of the pension of any public official who resign their office in disgrace to face legal charges.”

-“. . . any public official who resign their office. . .” (should be “resigns”)

-“their office in disgrace” (a single public official does not resign “their” office. It should be “his” office-or “his or her office.” Personally I despise “his or her” and would simply use “from office.”)

Desirée Rogers, White House Social Secretary
The story in today’s New York Times that caught my eye was Peter Baker’s piece titled “Obama Social Secretary Ran Into Sharp Elbows.” It described the internal White House struggles of an unhappy Desirée Rogers, a long-time buddy of the Obamas, who became social secretary, screwed up big time, was fired and whined that her side of the story “had been lost in the swirl of hearings, backbiting and paparazzi-like coverage.”

I knew two prior White House social secretaries: Letitia (Tish) Baldrige (Jacqueline Kennedy) and Mary Jane McCaffrey (Mamie Eisenhower)—both classy, extraordinarily efficient and wonderfully hospitable people who did their jobs to perfection by staying in the background and allowing POTUS and FLOTUS to shine.

I first became aware of Desirée Rogers from the 3,700-word story in the April 30, 2009 issue of the glossy Wall Street Journal magazine, WSJ. How could anyone not be aware of this stunning woman staring out at you from the cover wearing a black designer dress, her ringless left hand placed front and center on her shapely knee and a come-hither look that said, “Hey, guys, I’m not married.”

Rogers positioned herself as “Brand Obama” and hobnobbed in the fashion world, where she was frequently photographed in borrowed outfits and six-figure jewelry.

I was frankly bothered by her. Whatever anybody thinks about this new president and his wife, it cannot be denied that they hit the ground running and are working their butts off, while this smoky bimbo was upstaging them.

When the Obamas threw their first state dinner, Desirée Rogers failed to set up a secure screening operation and attended the affair as a guest.

The eyebrows of TV viewers were raised when a glam couple sashayed hand-in-hand past the assembled press corps—he in de rigueur black tie, she in a stunning diaphanous red and gold sari-like outfit—where they paused for photographs and then beetled off for the pre-dinner reception.

Most of our raised eyebrows were for the drop-dead gorgeous blonde, but the eyebrows of a few media insiders shot up to their hairlines when they recognized Tareq and Michaele Salahi, a couple of crazed publicity hounds and world-class phonies from Virginia horse country.

The following morning, the two people in charge of the affair, Desirée Rogers and Secret Service chief Mark Sullivan, discovered they had been made to look like chumps by an outrageous pair of rapscallions.

Rogers, Sullivan and the Salahis were invited to testify before a House Homeland Security subcommittee. The White House, in violation of its promised transparency, exercised the old separation-of-powers ruse and Rogers failed to show. The Salahis also were no-shows.

That left an abject and humiliated Mark Sullivan to take the fall and be subjected to withering examination by the members of congress. “It’s the Secret Service’s job to take a bullet for the president,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), “but not the president’s staff.”

It was really O.K., the committee was assured by Sullivan, because the couple had passed through a metal scanner that would have detected the presence of non-plastic firearms. “I’m confident that there was no threat to the president,” Sullivan reiterated many times in many ways.

However, the caper had a sinister side when it was pointed out that the couple could have emptied their pockets and purse of anthrax, killing 337 of the most important people in the world—including the president and the next two people in line to succeed him, Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

This would have elevated the president pro tem of the senate, 92-year-old Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, to the presidency of the United States.

Some takeaways to consider:

* Don’t change the subject of a press release and turn it into a vehicle for personal redemption.

* Get someone who knows the English language to go over the spelling, syntax and punctuation of all documents released to the public, so you don’t look like an incompetent jerk.

* If you find publicity hounds on staff that are getting too big for their knickers—and are becoming the face and brand of your company—don’t wait for a screw up or real damage. Assemble a paper trail and can them.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Two Signs That ‘Traditional’ and ‘Social’ Online Marketing Are Becoming One

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

The first was the announcement that Omniture and Facebook have joined forces to provide online marketers with solutions to optimize Facebook as a marketing channel. The partnership builds on the Facebook analytics and Facebook application analytics capabilities Omniture announced last year.

This alliance is designed to help companies integrate Facebook as a marketing channel and connect to relevant conversations with the site’s 400 million active users.

Initially, “the two companies will focus on the most fundamental needs of online marketers today: the ability to automate Facebook media buying and access analytics that measure customer engagement on Facebook,” according to an Omniture press release.

The solution, for example, will enable advertisers to buy media and track media on Facebook through Omniture tools such as SearchCenter Plus. It will also enable them to generate reports designed to understand ad effectiveness of Facebook pages and other Facebook applications.

The two companies will continue to expand their partnership as marketers increasingly use Facebook to optimize visitor acquisition, conversion and retention, Omniture said.

The next announcement came from email marketing provider ExactTarget, which announced this week that it has acquired CoTweet, a web-based collaboration platform that allows companies to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors, track conversations, assign roles and create follow-up tasks.

The acquisition will enable ExactTarget to offer marketers a solution for managing communications across all interactive marketing channels, including social media, email and mobile.

A key reason for the acquisition was because ExactTarget was finding that while “organizations are moving quickly to try to capture the potential of social, they’re also discovering that it’s siloed and not integrated effectively with other forms of digital communications,” said Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press release. “By combining the power of ExactTarget and CoTweet, we can provide businesses with a complete solution to tie together all forms of interactive communications and drive deeper customer engagement online.”

I’ll bet there’ll be more announcements like these to come in 2010, as digital marketing software and service providers really begin to understand the impact social media is having on consumers and marketers alike.

Social Networking, Meet 3-D Shopping

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Here’s how it works: After going to the site and downloading the free mall software that’s required, you enter a virtual 3-D shopping mall that looks very realistic. Once in the mall, you can create avatars or personas to represent yourself, interact with other shoppers and view storefronts.

Here’s what really got my attention: Some big retailers are partnering with the site. A quick look at the website’s advertiser directory shows hundreds of retailers — from familiar ones like Apple, Best Buy and Foot Locker to less well-known online retailers such as PrankPlace, Preschoolians and ShopIrish — advertising their wares on the site.

The website offers retailers a number of ways to woo customers to shop, including the following:
∗ offer coupons;
∗ salesbots (or pop-up ads) and virtual salespeople in front of their stores promoting merchandise and specials; and
∗ storefront signage, mall carts, billboards and information kiosks promoting the same.

Special events like seminars, concerts, guest appearances and contests are held on the main stage in the mall atrium.

VirtualEShopping.com also offers social networking features. An “I Want It/I Got It” section allows shoppers to share images and links of their favorite items with friends. Other features include a special dates section that makes it easier for friends to remember gift-giving occasions; a shopping tips chat function; and a section to share favorite stores. The site also grabs a snapshot of a shopper’s mall persona to represent each user in the social networking section. Registered users can invite friends to meet them in the mall at a prearranged day and time.

VirtualEShopping.com appeals to many demographics: Gen Xers who like to socialize in malls; moms with young children who can’t shop during store hours but who like to shop with friends; and even tech-types who prefer a more robust interface.

Hey, maybe I’m partial to these virtual worlds since we’ve had some very successful virtual trade shows here at eM+C. (In fact, to register for the on-demand version of our most recent, All About eMail, click here. It’ll be up and running until Feb. 16.) But really, VirtualEShopping.com is cool. Check it out.

Is Microsoft’s Live Search Cashback Service Good for Advertisers?

By now, you probably have all heard about Microsoft Corp.’s new service, Microsoft Live Search cashback.
In case you haven’t, the service will offer ad-funded cash rebates to customers who find and purchase products.

According to a Microsoft press release, “the Live Search cashback product portfolio includes more than 10 million product offers from more than 700 merchants, including more than 13 of the top 40 U.S. retailers.”

By now, you probably have all heard about Microsoft Corp.’s new service, Microsoft Live Search cashback.
In case you haven’t, the service will offer ad-funded cash rebates to customers who find and purchase products.

According to a Microsoft press release, “the Live Search cashback product portfolio includes more than 10 million product offers from more than 700 merchants, including more than 13 of the top 40 U.S. retailers.”

Live Search cashback, according to Microsoft, “helps merchants maximize their advertising investments and drive more sales by providing consumers with an added incentive to buy — a cash rebate. Participating merchants choose to pay Microsoft a [cost-per-acquisition] fee each time a customer completes a sale through Live Search cashback. The fee is a percentage of the retail price, and when that transaction is complete, Microsoft returns that fee to the consumer in the form of a cash rebate.”

However, the current cost-per-click model charges advertisers for every click on a sponsored link associated with certain keywords, whether or not the potential customer makes a purchase.

But, not to worry, according to Microsoft: In the press release, the software behemoth said the CPA model gives advertisers a more precise return on their advertising investment, and is currently being deployed on a relatively limited basis.
“The CPC and CPA search advertising models represent the most targeted advertising approaches available today, but there is still room for improvement,” the company said.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know by posting a comment.

Vendors in the Interactive Marketing Space React Positively to New FTC CAN–SPAM Rules

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

(1) an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;

(2) the definition of “sender” was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements;

(3) a “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under U.S. Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address”; and

4) a definition of the term “person” was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM’s obligations are not limited to natural persons.

Quinn Jalli, Chief Privacy Officer for online marketing firm Datran Media said he believes that legitimate marketers will embrace the new regulations, as they significantly reduce the complexity of complying with the law in a joint-marketing scenario.

“The FTC’s position is well in line with the prevailing philosophy in the industry, and the new regulations align the law with common-sense expectations,” he said. “[The new regulations] are a win for marketers and consumers alike.”

In a press release, Matt Wise, CEO of Q Interactive, an interactive marketing services provider, also announced support for the FTC’s revised definition of e-mail “sender”.

“Since CAN-SPAM’s inception, there has been pervasive confusion in the marketplace over responsibility for including opt-out links in e-mail, which has led to inconsistent execution of the unsubscribe process, increased risk of unsubscribe list abuse, additional and unnecessary costs for advertisers, and an overall reduction in the efficiency of the medium,” Wise said in the release.

Q Interactive said that under the revised ruling, companies advertising with e-mail can now designate a single e-mail “sender” responsible for adhering to the rules of CAN-SPAM, which include having the “sender’s name in the e-mail “from line” and providing a working opt-out link and physical address.

The FTC’s revised “sender” definition, Wise said “eliminates the confusion and frustration over multiple opt-out links for consumers and makes it as easy as possible for them to unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails, which, in essence, is the primary purpose of the CAN-SPAM Act.”

DM Hiring Down

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

But in my inbox this morning, I was greeted with a real clunker: According to a press release from Berhart Associates Executive Search, continued layoffs and more hiring freezes appear to be on the horizon for direct marketers this spring.

According to the latest Bernhart Associates employment survey, 54 percent of the companies responding said they will be filling new positions during the current spring quarter, down from 58 percent last quarter. The percentage of companies that have imposed a hiring freeze jumped to 19 percent, compared with 13 percent last quarter and more than double the rate just six months ago. Planned layoffs remained unchanged at 12 percent.

A total of 129 companies responded to the random survey that waa e-mailed the week of April 1.

Jerry Bernhart, owner of the Owatonna, Minn.-based search firm that conducted the survey insists, however, that there is some good news in all of this.

“If you look at what’s going on now and compare it with what happened during the last downturn in 2001-2002, things are still holding up better on the jobs front,” said Bernhart, in the release. “All of our indicators were weaker back then. Direct marketers this time around are turning more to hiring freezes and doing what they can to avoid significant cutbacks in staff. They know that when things turn around, talent will be more difficult to come-by.”

Even in the current environment, said Bernhart, many companies are still having a
challenging time finding qualified candidates for certain positions. “Nearly
three-quarters of those responding said they are having some degree of difficulty filling
openings,” said Bernhart. “For the most part, these jobs are more specialized lower to mid-level positions, or they are in geographic locations where the available direct marketing labor pool is relatively small.”

When asked what positions will be in greatest demand during the coming three months,
Bernhart said sales dominated the list. “This is similar to what we saw during the last downturn. Many companies apparently believe that a good way to weather an economic downturn is to increase the effectiveness of their sales force, and that’s exactly what
many of them are doing.” Bernhart said analytics was a close second, followed by account managers.

So, I guess there is still some hope, I guess.