How to Integrate Direct Mail With Social Media

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media?

With social media an integral part of people’s daily lives, integrating it together with your direct mail can really help drive response. Have you considered adding social media? This will take considerable time and effort to plan correctly, so be ready to work hard. Is it worth it? Check out the case studies below and then decide.

Before you start, think about why you are considering integration. What are your goals? This gives you a guide post on what you need and how to create the campaign.

Let’s look at a couple of awesome examples of campaigns to give you some good ideas:

1. Chick-fil-A (Full Case study click here): They had two objectives — get a customer database and increase store traffic. The direct mail campaign gained unprecedented exposure with viral sharing. Five thousand plastic postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 14,124, a 279.8 percent response on their direct mail campaign.

2. Stein Mart (Full Case study click here): The objective was to increase store redemption through a referral program. This direct mail campaign gained national exposure with viral sharing. Twenty thousand postcards were sent out, and due to the integration of social sharing, the campaign gained a total response of 30,068, a 150.58 percent response on the direct mail campaign.

As you can see, social sharing can really give your direct mail momentum. Take the time to learn from the great ones before you start your journey. When you have a plan and strategy in place you will start off in a better position to generate great results. So how can you get started?

  • Objectives: Carefully define your objectives. The only way to get what you want is to plan for it.
  • Market: Who is your best target market? Identify and target them carefully.
  • Design: You will need to do your normal direct mail design, but then also design for the landing page and social media.
  • Offer: Your offer should be the same for both direct mail and social media. (Remember to incentivize sharing with specials for those who do)
  • Capture: What information are you going to capture in order for people to get the offer? (Remember that in order to reward those who share your offer you need to know their social media accounts)
  • Tasks: You will need to assign who is in charge of what. This will take social media monitoring software too so be aware of that.

Instead of creating the whole wheel again, use the case studies as a guide. You know it works, just tailor the plan to your needs. Your focus always needs to be on what will drive response from your target market. Will you have coupons, free giveaways or something else? Your offer is extremely important. In order to get traction not only for direct mail but also for social media you need to grab attention with and irresistible offer.

Formula for success: Take your current direct mail that is working well, create landing pages for people to visit, ask them to provide information that you want on the pages and to share it with others to get your offer. That is basically it, although there are a lot of details to fill in along the way. Do you think that these results can only be achieved by food and clothing stores? That is just not true. This formula can work for all types of businesses including nonprofits. Are you ready to get started?

What Is Social Selling and Where Do I Start?

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process. Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process.

Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and discover: What is social selling and how are sellers generating more leads, faster? What is the process your sales team should be applying?

Social Selling Is a System
Let’s grip the wheel, firmly. Revolutions bring about change that make things easier or better. Has social media made your life easier lately? Are you getting more leads and closing them faster?

I rest my case!

Effective social selling is a system. Systems are not sexy.

A system is a repeatable process with a predictable outcome. Input goes in, certain things happen and out pops a result.

Social Prospecting: New but not Complex
The prospecting piece of social selling is mostly about:

  1. Getting buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turning response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

If anything is new about this process it’s the role direct response marketing techniques play. For example, social media copywriting is catching on.

The process today’s best social sellers are using generates leads faster by helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via short-form social content)
  • realize they just found part of it (using longer-form content) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Engagement and Trust Are not the Goals
Will you agree with me that engagement is not your sellers’ goal? Engagement is the beginning of a process. It’s a chance for front line reps and dealers to create response—and deeper conversation about a transaction.

If not, engagement is a chronic waste of your reps’ and dealers’ time.

I know “experts” insist that being trusted is a strategy. But it’s not.

It is the output of a successful prospecting strategy!

Increased trust is a sign your sellers are applying the process effectively. It’s not a goal!

As a small B-to-B business owner myself, I know what gets you paid. It’s not engagement. It’s not your image or personal brand.

You or your boss measures performance based on leads.

So let’s keep your social prospecting approach practical: Attention, engagement and a simple, repeatable way to create response more often. These are the components of an effective social selling system.

Why You Don’t Need a Social Selling Strategy

“What’s your social selling strategy?” I hear it all the time.
“You need one,” the experts insist.

But I say no, in most cases. Here’s why: Listen to what the experts say. Pay attention to what they say goes into a social selling strategy. Hint: It’s nothing new!

Yet we keep hearing “experts” claim listening is a new idea—or how we must get trusted to earn the sale.

So I give you permission to fire your social selling consultant or sales person if this is the best they can do.

What’s Your Telephone Strategy?
Not convinced? Consider how we don’t have B-to-B telephone strategies for prospecting. We have systems, approaches to applying the tool effectively. What defines our success in tele-prospecting?

Listening to customers? Nope. That’s the entry fee.

Trust? Nope. That’s the outcome we desire.

Success when dialing-for-dollars is based on if your system works—or not.

“You didn’t need a telephone strategy when the telephone was invented,” says sales productivity coach Philippe le Baron of LB4G Consulting.

“You learned how to use the new tool … to reach out to people you could never have dreamed of reaching … and get a face-to-face meeting with the ones who qualified.”

Today, tele-prospecting success has little to do with phone technology. It has everything to do with your telephone speaking technique—your conversational system.

Just the same, you don’t need a social media strategy today. You need a practical, repeatable process to increase sellers’ effectiveness (productivity) and make their output more predictable … using social media platforms.

Systems work for you. You don’t work for systems!

So don’t let gurus trick you into feeling like a laggard. Don’t let me catch you throwing money at sales trainers claiming buyers are fundamentally revolutionizing the way they buy. Focus on ways to:

  1. Get buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turn response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

Good luck. Let me know how I can help!

How to Tell if Your Storytelling Strategy Is a Dud

What do potential and existing customers care about more in your business: Your culture, history of your company, how funny or “human” you are, or your ability to solve problems in innovative ways that help them create distinctive market position and grow? Reality check: Your clients rarely base decisions on starting or continuing to do business based on your corporate culture, attitude, style or personality.

What do potential and existing customers care about more in your business: Your culture, history of your company, how funny or “human” you are, or your ability to solve problems in innovative ways that help them create distinctive market position and grow?

Customers Care Less About Your Story
Reality check: Your clients rarely base decisions on starting or continuing to do business based on your corporate culture, attitude, style or personality.

They care more about their own problems or goals.

That’s why smart B-to-B marketers are asking themselves a tough new question in 2013-to make sure their storytelling strategies actually drive sales.

“If customers make purchase decisions based on how well we solve problems for clients, why is our social media strategy focused on stories and image?”

Connect Stories to Your Selling Process
Telling prospects “I can solve your problem” through a story is weak as compared to the other three-part option:

  1. Getting their attention with a good story;
  2. helping them make better decisions, learn a new skill, avoid dangerous risks and;
  3. doing this in ways that build confidence in themselves, trust in your brand and result in a sales lead.

In my own experience, success starts happening more when I resist telling prospects all about my company’s “unique story,” or those of my clients’.

Instead, I’m connecting my stories to a simple process, a nurturing program. The more I’m promising prospective customers a cure for an expressed pain, and taking them on a journey toward the remedy, the more they’re identifying themselves as leads and transacting with me.

The difference is distinct: Telling disconnected stories that create images versus proving you’re worth consideration by creating micro-successes with prospects. This is the way to start leading prospects toward (or away from) the larger solutions we’re selling.

Here’s How to Get Started
Let’s say you’re using LinkedIn for sales prospecting. When participating in LinkedIn group discussions ask yourself, “How can I get prospects to take an action based on what I know they want?”

Think of a shortcut, a smarter way of achieving a goal or avoiding a risk you can share. Solve a problem for them. But do it in a way that provokes an action-gets readers to more deeply explore the thought you just provoked.

In return you’ll earn a chance at getting their permission to take them on a journey to a better place … to continue a very focused, purpose-driven digital conversation that ultimately you can relate to whatever it is you sell.

If you do this, you’ll have a much easier way figuring out how to create a social media sales strategy that creates sales for you! You’ll be generating B-to-B leads with social media more effectively.

The ‘A’ Word—Learn It, Love It, Live It!

I attended a seminar earlier in January held by the Direct Marketing Club of New York titled “Annual Outlook: What to Expect in Direct & Digital Marketing in 2012.” The main speaker at the event was Bruce Biegel, managing director at the Winterberry Group, a strategic consulting firm that focuses on advertising and marketing.

I attended a seminar earlier in January held by the Direct Marketing Club of New York titled “Annual Outlook: What to Expect in Direct & Digital Marketing in 2012.” The main speaker at the event was Bruce Biegel, managing director at the Winterberry Group, a strategic consulting firm that focuses on advertising and marketing.

For those of you who have never before attended an event where Biegel presents, I highly recommend attending one if you get a chance. He’s a highly engaging speaker with many interesting insights gleaned from years of experience in the field, and backed by the research and analytics of the Winterberry Group.

The focus of the presentation was a review of the marketing and advertising world of 2011, along with some predictions for 2012. According to Biegel, 2011 was the year in which many firms intensified their focus on reporting and analytics tools. For 2012, he predicted many marketers will finally begin to pursue true multichannel integration across their firms, driven by data, analytics and the quest for cross-channel attribution. He touched on the term attribution repeatedly, referring to it as the “Holy Grail” of multichannel marketing.

In a marketing sense, I define attribution—or the “A-word” for the purposes of this blog post—as the act of determining what marketing channel or budget was responsible for generating a particular action: be it a click, lead, order, etc. As a direct marketer, I just love this word. And you should, too. Attribution is where the rubber meets the road. Attribution is what separates the men from the boys, the measurable from the immeasurable, direct response from … well, branding. Not to disparage brand marketing, but I think I can speak for most—if not all—colleagues in the industry when I say that demonstrable attribution is really what has always separated direct response marketing from branding—analytics that essentially give us the ability to calculate the actual ROI of every precious marketing dollar we spend. Enough said.

But, let’s face it, there’s a dirty little secret in the direct response community that those outside of it might not necessarily be aware of. The fact is that attribution has not been all it’s cracked up to be over the past 10 years—and a far cry from an exact science, to say the least. We have the Internet to thank for that. To elaborate, let’s take a moment and turn back the clock around 15 to 20 years, and think back to a time in which the Web did not play such a prominent role in our lives. Back then, most direct response marketing was done via direct mail, catalogs and inserts, as well as DRTV. In this relatively simplistic world, customers could only really place orders using the return mailer or by calling a toll-free number. That was it. Since each piece was stamped with a keycode, attribution was as easy as: “Could you please tell me the five-digit code on the bottom right-hand corner of the order form” … and we knew with certainty why the sale originated.

Then along came the Web—and, with it, an entirely new channel for consumers to interact with their brands. And this is when things got confusing. Let’s say, for example, a consumer received a postcard or catalog from a company. In place of calling the toll-free number, he could instead go to Google and search for the website, find it, locate the products he’s interested in and place an order. Now who gets the credit for the sale? The direct mail team? The search engine marketing team? The catalog team? The email team? All of them? None of them? The fact is, there was really no scientific way to tell for sure. The gears of attribution broke down, creating a vast gray area of uncertainty where the worlds of traditional and new media converged. This was the direct marketer’s dirty little secret in the age of Web 1.0.

To deal with this mess, new techniques and technologies invariably emerged to bring some order to the chaos. Before long, many marketers turned to the concept of campaign-specific landing pages to send their cross-media (or cross-channel) customers to. At least this bypassed the regular website and kept and sales or leads it made in one bucket, separate from the home page and other Web traffic. This was a huge improvement.

Then other technologies like personalized URLs, or PURLS, entered the mix. Gimmicks aside, PURLs work because they are a tool for attribution—not because they give someone a link made out of their name. Sure, giving someone a personalized link is nice … but that’s only window dressing and obfuscates the real value of this cross-media technology. PURLs help marketers attribute activity to the direct mail channel. That’s it in a nutshell. Now of course, there are additional benefits, such as improved Web traffic rates resulting from personalized content, and higher website conversion rates due to a simplified workflow on a landing page that’s been optimized for this purpose alone. But the real value of this technology is attribution—and don’t ever let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Similarly, across other channels useful cross-media technologies emerged like QR Codes, which really solve in mobile the same issue marketers face on desktop Web browsers—namely, the inability to properly track and attribute cross-media actions resulting from their offline campaigns. When push comes to shove, sending individuals to purpose-built, mobile-optimized landing pages, personalized or not, enables precise tracking and measurement, not to mention a better overall user experience and, presumably, a higher conversion rate, too.

Looking forward, the next stage in attribution will most certainly need to deal with the advent of Web 2.0 and the world of social media. Seeing as firms are now making investments in social media strategy, CMOs are going to want to attach some kind of ROI calculation to the mix. Now, of course, you could pretty easily argue that it’s absurd to try to assign any type of ROI to social media in the first place. In that vein, Scott Stratten has a great blog post called “Things We Should Ask The ROI Question About Before Social Media” on UnMarketing that does just that pretty convincingly. But that’s an argument for another time and place. Regardless of whether you feel it’s a smart policy, I think it’s safe to say that where the marketing dollars go, pressure will ultimately follow to show value (ROI).

At the same time, regardless of what dollars are being spent and how these expenditures make CFOs hyperventilate, social media can and do generate sales for organizations. This is an indisputable fact and should not be up for debate anymore. What is in question is the ability of firms to track what happens in social media and attribute the activity to this emerging channel. As we speak, we’re starting to see the introduction of the first generation of effective tools (SocialCRM) that track social media interactions among pools of prospects or leads, and make them available to marketing teams for actionable analysis and follow up. Very cool stuff. But, of course, social media data are only one piece of a much larger puzzle, named “Big Data.” I briefly touched on Big Data in a previous post titled “Deciphering Big Data Is Key to Understanding Buyer’s Journey.”

Actually, on that note, I think this is a good place for me to call it a day. Not only am I running out of space for this post, but that last thought will make a great segue to my next post, which will address the amazing transformation that is taking place within many firms as they deal with the endless volumes of unstructured data (Big Data) they are tracking and storing every day. This wholesale repurposing aims not only to make sense out of this trove of data, but also to break down the walls separating the various silos where the data are stored, such as CRM/SocialCRM platforms, social media websites, marketing automation tools, email software, Web servers and more. Stay tuned next time for more on this topic.

Until then, I welcome any questions, comments or feedback.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!