Blog Activity

  • Thinking Outside the Box with Content Marketing

    Issue: 

    2013, May

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool direct marketer, so this is going to sound like heresy.  I propose to champion an indirect method of marketing and selling, namely content marketing.  You’re probably thinking, “What, no call to action?” or “Where’s the ROI for indirect marketing?”

    But let’s take a close look at content marketing. To an email marketer, content marketing actually makes a lot of sense.  In fact, compelling and engaging content and content-based offers are methods that are very effective in convincing your audience to act.

    So, what is content marketing? 

    Content marketing is the technique of creating, curating and distributing relevant and valuable information to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and well-understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

    If I haven’t grabbed you yet, notice that the definition is all about targeted marketing to drive profitable actions.  That’s not so far afield of direct marketing!

    I’ll address content creation in a moment, but let me first explain content curation.  This aspect of content marketing allows a company to cull ideas available from a myriad of sources, decide on the most important resources, and package the information with the company’s point of view in mind.  As an example, if I wanted to position my company as an expert in direct marketing, I’d research credible sources, select authoritative information and then put my own spin on why direct marketing is valuable.  I would also be careful to credit my sources.

    Why should you care about content marketing?

    Content marketing allows you to reach your target audiences in new and different ways, among them:

    •       Content marketing helps you attract additional audiences, by building trust and credibility. Lots of people don’t want to be hit over the head with a heavy hammer these days.  Traditional marketing communications may not work with this kind of prospect.  

    •       You’ll drive more traffic to your website.  Search engines are increasingly tweaking their algorithms to give sites credit for credible content.

    •       Content marketing addresses your sales funnel in engaging ways, by providing the right message to the right people at the right time.

    How to become an effective content marketer

    Every company has content.  You probably have as blog posts, videos, presentations, photos, webinars, marketing collateral, press releases, industry articles and white papers already in hand. 

    Here are the top ten content marketing vehicles.  I’ll bet you are already using at least half of these already.  Consider testing even more.

    1.       Social media—a great way to get your content shared and to get your audience engaged.

    2.       E-newsletters—a perfect vehicle to build and deepen relationships with those who want to hear from you.

    3.       Articles on your website.  Well-written articles let you address issues, trends and topics of interest to targeted audiences.

    4.       Press releases and clips.   Today, your audience of influencers is no longer just journalists. You need to be cultivating anyone online who accesses search engines, RSS feeds or social media for information on a topic of interest.

    5.       Blog posts.  A blog offers an easy way to present short chunks of frequently refreshed web content.

    6.       Videos.  Video is hot!  Possibly the most powerful vehicle for engaging customers and prospects. 

    7.       Print magazines and catalogs.  Direct marketers have been in the business of providing content for years.

    8.       Infographics—which present complex information quickly and clearly.  A perfect opportunity for content curation.

    9.       White papers.  Used primarily by B-to-B marketers, white papers deliver thought leadership on a topic of interest.  They can also present research, provide product usage tips, or highlight a particular product or service.

    10.   Webinars, webcasts and podcasts—which give marketers the opportunity to capture attention and present products and services.  When archived, their influence grows with time. 

    I am going to assume you do have content already available in your company.  Now it’s time to re-purpose or re-package your content for a minimum of three marketing channels.  Content marketing is about leveraging information so that your audience may find you on social media, on your site, from search engines or via links from external sites.  So take up the challenge.  This stuff is really direct marketing!

    Author: 

    Reggie Brady

    Reggie Brady is president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a direct and email marketing consultancy.  Reach her at 203-838-8138 or reggie@reggiebrady.com

  • Driving Multichannel Marketing Through Online Preferences

    Issue: 

    2012, March

    Customers’ channel preferences are changing left and right – and it’s more important than ever to know which channel your customer is paying attention to and using.

    Whether selling to consumers or to businesses, leveraging an online preference center is an effective best practice used by savvy marketers to deliver strategic communications and engage customers. Essentially, it is a place where the customer shakes hands with a brand.

    Maintaining Productive Online Preference Centers

    Here are six considerations to keep in mind when operating Online Preference Centers:

    1. Give Customers a True Choice in Their Communications. The first step in creating a preference center strategy is identifying the channels a marketer can support and finding out if those channels can be integrated at the database level. Channels may include all the traditional media, but it is important to consider social and mobile, too. Use the preference center to confirm preferred address and contact details for data accuracy.

      The next choice is one of frequency (ie, monthly, or maximum number of messages per week). In the past, the frequency of customer marketing communications often was determined by budget, occasionally determined by result optimization and often determined by the needs of multiple groups within an organization (a marketer only has one list of customers, and that list might be accessed by many people, resulting in too-frequent communications). Some channels, such as mobile, require frequency expectations – and a preference center can help enable the customer to provide their own frequency of communications.

      Finally, customers should be able to choose their content. Marketers may want to consider groupings of content (ie, sports or entertainment) as well as types of content, such as offers, events or new-product launches.

      Another aspect of the preference center is the “save” of the opt-out. When customers click on the opt-out link, the preference center can offer alternatives to the customer, such as less-frequent communications and the availability of different channels or different content. This allows a customer to opt down or to change content preferences.
       
    2. Enable Multichannel Marketing. Most marketers today communicate with customers across several different channels. Many understand that campaigns and corporate content should vary by channel, particularly in today’s environment where email, social and mobile communications are often managed by different teams. But, good marketers also know that campaigns must be carefully coordinated across different communication types. Remember that we all have our own version of what multichannel means to us. Putting the customer in charge of his or her own multichannel experience will mean better relevancy and results.
       
    3. Learn About and Understand Customers. Marketers can obtain a multitude of useful information about consumers through information provided in an online preference center. At the very minimum, asking for an email address, mobile phone numbers for text opt-in or a physical address for fulfillment is essential in improving data quality.

      Beyond those imperatives, there’s an opportunity to ask for information that will enhance the customer’s relationship and the flow of future communications. For example, consider offering dynamic surveys and polls to gain information about customers that can result in improved offers and communications. Leverage the fact that a brand recognizes its customer, and all of the behaviors associated with a preference profile can be tracked to best serve the customer.
       
    4. Engage With the Customer. The term “engagement” is often overused today, but it is one of the best reasons to consider an online preference center as the basis of many programs that produce dialogue and create value.

      Customers can create their profile to opt in or out of programs, but they might also register products, obtain warrantee information, store gift information for friends and family or participate in an online community at the center. Provide reasons for customers to come to the preference center – and to return repeatedly.
       
    5. Improve Loyalty and Retention. Creating a place where customers can directly communicate with a brand is a key aspect of customer retention and loyalty. Even if the marketer is not ready to implement a loyalty program, he or she can leverage a preference center to encourage customers’ continued interaction with the brand. Consider offering highly targeted coupons (customers’ IDs and data allow a marketer to be smart about coupons) or bringing in a local element by providing details about the nearest retail location. This private, customized brand gateway offers a great opportunity for customer retention and repeat purchases.

      Brands that offer loyalty programs can refine the preference center as customers access loyalty program benefits. Consider temporary card printing, viewing reward information or point balances, checking progress toward rewards or viewing previous purchases. These functions work within the preference center context to increase customer visits and interaction.
       
    6. Keep It Simple for the Customer.The preference center can provide corporate-level communications or give single brands the ability to communicate with customers within a corporate framework. A preference center provides value regardless of brand situation and increases value as customer preferences and data are applied more frequently. But, it is important to remember the customer experience across brands in order to ease any potential frustrations because of internal roadblocks. If a marketer has multiple brands, it should consider brand-specific preference centers that are integrated with other company brands.

    A Valuable Resource – in Both Directions

    Online preference centers provide customers the ability to tell marketers what they want – and allow marketers to save money by only providing communications in the chosen channels, and determine the

    best return on channel combinations. Ultimately, greater message relevance means better results.

    Author: 

    Jeanette Kocsis
    Jeanette Kocsis's picture

    Jeannette Kocsis, senior vice president, digital marketing, oversees client digital strategy and media programs at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.  Jeannette is responsible for integration of new media, including social and mobile, into client offerings.  Reach her at jeannette_kocsis@harte-hanks.com.

  • A Case for Analog in a Digital World

    Issue: 

    2012, June

    True, the world has gone digital. But that doesn’t mean customers no longer want to hold a catalog in their hands!  Here’s another compelling argument for integration; specifically, keeping print, and tried-and-true DM techniques, a part of your marketing mix.

    I believe that most direct marketers will find the following to be a reasonable modern definition of our profession: Direct marketing is “the monetization of data in a privacy- compliant manner.”  My argument for the continued use of analog direct marketing techniques follows from this premise.  (It’s still the data, stupid!)

    I grew up in an analog world.  I remember shared telephone “party lines” and black-and-white TV.  As a direct marketer, I remember an era before PCs, when a mail order was really an order placed though the mail.  

    Today, most of the articles in print and online are about the importance of having a “social media strategy.”  That is the world of direct marketing in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

    But I will argue that direct marketers who ignore print and the tried-and-true techniques like recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) analyses are leaving money on the table.  Consumers who buy direct have shifted how they buy (more online and less by phone or mail), but not what they buy.  And they still want to have a trusted relationship with companies and buy products and services that are relevant to their own unique lives.

    Print and RFM still work

    Direct marketing has always been about monetizing data by targeting customer preferences.  RFM still works – digitally and in print.  Case in point: I mailed a small catalog, with an equally small circulation (30,000) this past fall.  The response rate was off the charts.  And the results were as predicted by our RFM analysis: The most dollars came in from the most recent buyers, followed by the multi-buyers and finally customers with the largest prior purchases.  The catalog, with fully loaded costs, generated a

    handsome profit.  True, more customers ordered online than in the prior year, but I am certain that, without ensuring those customers had a catalog in-hand, the total profit would have been less. 

    Why?  The slim-jim sized book, with a compelling cover, got the attention of a ready buyer increasingly deluged with online offers.  The catalog stood out from the crowd as something concrete the customer could hold in his or her hand.

    For that reason, I am of the opinion that adding mail offers to your marketing mix can actually get your products or services more attention these days.

    Should you add print to your mix?  Test it and see.

    Should every direct marketer be in print today?  Probably not; however, I would argue that most should – and you will never know whether you should mail until you simply test it.

    And that doesn’t have to cost you too much.  Printers are creating more ways to make ink-on-paper competitive with other ways to reach customers.  Co-mailing alone has made it possible to put more catalogs in the mail profitably.

    Finally, here’s a strong argument for testing a print run: Even Amazon and Google – who are no-doubt the most successful of the pure-play digital marketers – are testing print.

    Multi-channel becomes omnichannel

    The most successful direct marketers understand that you must meet your current and prospective customers where they are.  And there are customers who still prefer to view products and services in print, even if their preferred ordering vehicle is online.  There are buyers who would prefer to speak with a live, knowledgeable customer service representative before placing an order, and finally, there are still people who will send in a mail order.  We must not ignore these individual preferences!

    I am a big champion of social media, and agree that direct marketers who ignore that important vehicle do so at their peril.  However, I’m also convinced that ignoring traditional direct marketing practices will result in lost profits.

    Consider expanding your multichannel marketing to embrace some tried-and-true direct mail practices.  The results could surprise you – in a very good way. 

    Author: 

    Robert Allen
    Robert Allen's picture

    Bob Allen is President/CEO of the WindhamFoundation (www.windham-foundation.org),based in Grafton, Vermont.  The foundation has two operating businesses: The Grafton Inn and The Grafton Village Cheese Company.   Bob retired in 2005 after 25 years at The Vermont Country Store.  In 2010, he served as Interim CEO of the Direct Marketing Association in New York.  Reach him at bob.allen@windham-foundation.org.

  • Integrated Digital/Direct Marketing Offers Life Beyond Direct Mail

    Issue: 

    2012, June

    The bad news: The digital marketing landscapeis fickle, changing almost daily.  The good news: Direct marketers, trainedto focus on the customer, are uniquely qualifiedto meet the digital challenge.  Here are a few tips for creating integrated direct/digital marketing campaigns like a DM pro.

    Back in 2004, I attended a conference on digital printing and had an epiphany that my team’s livelihood (as well as my own) as a print production agency was vulnerable.  Traditional marketers were just beginning to come to grips with the idea that the Internet was changing everything.  Then and there, I developed a philosophy of “adapt or perish.”

    How we ‘went digital’

    Our agency added marketing-strategy and creative services – first through outside partners, and later through additions to our staff.  We bought shares in a Web development company to help us with all

    the coding that the building of Web applications requires.  The transition is ongoing, but if nothing else, those moves have given our agency an opportunity to thrive.  Did I have an exact idea of what our results would be?  No way.  And I still don’t.  However, I’m happy to tell you that you do not need to have all the answers before you begin your own transition to digital. The best thing you can do is take your first steps – and keep going. 

    What the heck is an integrated marketing campaign?

    Since our transition, we have accomplished a number of fully integrated marketing campaigns.  From my experience, they are like snowflakes: No two are exactly alike.  Any number of channels might be used – but there is no set number.  Fully digital campaigns (ie, those without a broadcast, nonelectronic outdoor, or mail component, etc.) are wonderfully measurable (something we direct marketers live and breathe every day) and often quite involved.

    Like any good direct marketers, we always begin by establishing what we will be measuring at the end of the campaign.  How do we drive customers to the various digital outlets – such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook?  We sometimes use blog posts to drive SEO; we often use SEM to help us understand what to do in SEO; and we create campaign landing pages or (on occasion) personalized URLs (pURLS) to offer visitors a planned Web experience when they answer a survey, enter a contest or watch a video created especially for the campaign.

    Based on what we’re learning in our ongoing transition to digital, here are three survival tips to take to heart:

    Embrace mobile. The mobile aspect of marketing is taking center stage – as smartphone users keep their devices within grabbing distance at all times.  The great thing about working in the mobile space is that we are as experienced (or inexperienced!) as all the other firms out there!  Marketers know that user experiences in mobile (and tablets, too) have to be different than those on a desktop or laptop.  Direct marketers are extremely well-suited to help clients achieve success in the mobile space, based on their trained focus on the customer.

    Look outside borders for brand-new opportunities – and start now!  We just launched our first integrated marketing campaign for China’s giant search engine Alibaba.com.  I felt it took forever, but I am told that getting there in less than 2 years was a “real accomplishment.”  The point here is that a change in direction takes time to achieve – but you can do it!

    Our campaign for Alibaba.com integrates infographics, surveys, sweepstakes, events, social media, and whitepaper content we’ve created on their behalf.  We’ve used email, display advertising and social

    media to generate interest and excitement.  But I gained agreement from our client from the start that their objectives were aligned with good, old-fashioned direct marketing principles.

    Alibaba.com is doing little or no brand advertising.  They have a really cool platform that few Americans are aware of – and that is the marketing challenge.  We’ve planned video creation with distribution via social media for a future campaign.  And we’re rolling. (Quite a step forward for a print production agency!)

    When you get to a fork in the road – take it.  (Sorry. I couldn’t resist a little Yogi Berra reference.)  The proverbial bottom line is this: In order to make headway in direct/digital marketing, you need to dive in all the way without knowing how deep is the ocean.  Since you already know how to swim (you have the best training around – as a direct marketer), just keep the shoreline in sight, and your focus on the customer.  That way, your company is bound to expand its marketing horizons.

    Author: 

    Mark Kolier
    Mark Kolier's picture

    Mark Kolier is the founder and president of CGSM, Inc. (www.cgsm.com), and is responsible for overseeing the strategic evolution ofthe company into a full-service marketing organization.  Reach him at 203-563-9233 or markk@cgsm.com.

  • Two Vital Issues Affecting Direct/Digital Marketers – and How to Take Action

    Issue: 

    2012, June

    Although direct/digital marketers continually navigate marketing challenges online and offline, two major issues loom that could undermine the very nature of doing business.  Here’s a breakdown of their possible impact – and tips for what you can do right now to help.

    For decades, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has been supporting the marketing community on critical legislative issues, securing many recent wins, including:

    • Standing up for marketers in the face of proposed privacy legislation, including calls for a federal “Do Not Track” registry
    • Beginning enforcement to ensure industry compliance with the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising
    • Successfully fighting an attempt to raise postage by 10 times the rate of inflation 

    But this is only the beginning. The challenges we still face include two major ongoing issues:

    Data privacy

    Privacy legislation is one of the hottest topics among politicians. Senators Kerry and McCain have introduced a privacy bill in the Senate, as have Reps. Stearns, Rush, and Speier in the House. DMA is at the forefront of the fight to ensure that any proposed legislation protects the growth of the Internet, protects the information that fuels it (and offline direct marketing), and ensures that the marketing innovation that drives the US economy continues.

    Self-regulation is the most effective way to respond to privacy issues related to marketing and advertising. For this reason, DMA partnered with other associations to launch the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising, which gives consumers a better understanding of and greater control over ads that are customized based on their online behavior.

    The Program calls for interest-based ads to include an “Advertising Option Icon” that links consumers to information about online behavioral advertising and allows them to make choices about the interest-based ads they receive.

    What you can do

    • Make sure your organization is leading the way in complying with the Self-Regulatory Program. Learn everything you need to know at AboutAds.info.
    • Periodically check DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, which provide generally accepted principles of conduct, and are the basis for DMA’s self-regulatory program.  To access the Guidelines, which are constantly updated to reflect innovations and new best-practices employed by the marketing community, visit dmaresponsibility.org/guidelines.
    • Access DMA’s educational opportunities.  We have launched a new, comprehensive course and certification for marketers who use, access, and live in the world of data and information.  Upon completion of The Institute for Marketing Data Governance and Certification, attendees will be armed with the most current information and guidelines on marketing data governance.  To register, and for more information, visit dmaeducation.org and click on DM Essentials.

    Postal Reform

    DMA for years has supported downsizing and streamlining the Postal Service to render its day-to-day operations more cost-effective.  On April 25, the Senate voted 62 to 37 in favor of passing the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S.1789). The Senate took a very important step in passing this bill.  Without postal reform legislation like S. 1789, the USPS will continue to lose $30 million a day.  Your organizations – both for-profit and nonprofit – need meaningful postal reform NOW.

    On May 9, the USPS announced a new plan for retaining retail postal operations and reducing costs in rural America.  The plan would keep existing post offices open, but modify their retail window hours to

    match customer use. DMA supports creation of the plan.

    What you can do

    • If your Senators took the important step of supporting postal reform, please thank them for their important votes.  Go to the DMA Action Center at dmaaction.org and click on “Tell the Senate You’re Glad They Passed Postal Reform.”

    On these vital issues, as well as a wide range of policy and political issues affecting the direct marketing community, DMA’s Government Affairs team constantly works to ensure that marketers’ interests are

    advanced and protected. To find out more about their work, go to dmaaction.org or email government@the-dma.org.

    Author: 

    Linda Woolley
    Linda Woolley's picture

    Linda A.Woolley is the acting president and CEO of the Direct Marketing Association.  DMA today represents nearly 2,500 companies in the US and 48 other nations, including a majority of the Fortune 100 companies.  Prior to becoming president and CEO, Woolley served as DMA’s executive vice president of Washington Operations. In this role, she was responsible for strategically managing DMA’s global advocacy, legislative, and political efforts, as well as DMA’s Nonprofit Federation, Internet Alliance, and Mail Moves America coalition.  She was also responsible for overseeing DMA’s corporate and social responsibility. Through Woolley’s leadership, DMA was a founding member of the Digital Advertising Alliance, a self-regulatory program that provides notice and choice to consumers about online behavioral advertising.  Reach her at lwoolley@the-dma.org.

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