Cover Story: 35 Top Tips of 2012

The year's best and brightest ideas from Target Marketing's direct marketing experts

12. Personalization increases response rates. Caslon’s “Response Rate Report,” which compared results of generic versus personalized campaigns for six vertical markets, found that personalized campaigns for insurance and financial services companies averaged returns of 10.8 percent, versus 2 percent for nonpersonalized campaigns. Results among retailers were even more dramatic—19.9 percent versus 1.9 percent. Today’s variable data printing and electronic media make personalization easy and relatively inexpensive.
David Lowndes, Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services

“5 Practices of Successful Multichannel Marketers,” June 15

Direct Mail
3. Direct marketers are finally able to understand the integration of offline and online … We see much more integration internally at organizations of offline and online efforts. And that’s allowing marketers to truly understand that direct mail, despite its expense, is still one of the most powerful mediums in driving online traffic. … There’s an ability for the first time to marry your offline efforts with your online efforts where you can begin to serve up targeted ads to who you’re mailing.
Susan Rappaport, ALC

“The Top 50 Mailers of 2012,” September

14. What are you willing to pay for a new customer? Before you spend any more money on advertising, you need to know this number. … If I were to bring a busload of customers to your business—fully loaded with 64 passengers, and every one of them was prequalified, ready to buy your product or service with cash, checks and credit cards in their pockets—how much would you be willing to pay me for each of those customers? $10, $100, $1,000? Or how about $10,000? Any one of those answers would be right depending on your business model. You need to know your number.
Keith Goodman, Modern Postcard

“11 Questions That Make Direct Mail Pay for Itself,” Jan. 18

15. All this [undeliverable as addressed mail] is money down the drain to the mailers—who designed, produced and labeled it and applied its postage—and to the Postal Service that has to deal with its final disposition. That tab was $1.3 billion in 2010, and that was just the cost to the Postal Service, which has to incorporate these costs into its rate-setting. Add to this bill the cost of 7 billion pieces that went nowhere near the intended recipient—and that’s a fortune off the bottom line. Some of this is inefficiency. Marketers in particular—primarily who use the Standard Mail category—must do a better job in data hygiene and the use of postal addressing and preparation tools.
Chet Dalzell, independent consultant

“How to Make a Billion: The Costs of ‘Undeliverable as Addressed’,” April 30

6. Give inactives an offer that really captures their attention. If you regularly offer discounts of up to 15 percent, provide this group with a spectacular offer. If you are on the services side, provide your best content that may not be regularly available on your site.
Reggie Brady, Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions

“Are They Listening?” April

17. HP only collects so much information in the [HP Email At Work e-newsletter] registration forms: usually just name, email address and opt-in. This keeps conversion rates on the registration forms high—about 37 percent … compared with 10 percent for older forms that asked many questions. Our perspective is that we ask as few questions as possible, and then try and use other means to learn more, because every time you ask an additional question, your conversion rate’s going to go down.
Daryl Nielson, HP

“HP’s Email at Work,” May

18. Email design is not about landing in inboxes on a single device. Smart brands are calibrated for multi-platform response on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Corresponding direct marketing campaigns are too often static and unable to travel with consumers across platforms.
Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa, PixInk Design

“Email Designs That Break the Rules for Response,” Jan. 16

19. You’ll succeed as an email marketer if you develop a strategy to speak to distinct groups within your list. The first two places to start are your registration forms and your preference center. These provide you with the ability to capture data and content interests from your list.
Reggie Brady, Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions

“Back to School,” October

0. When marketers first become familiar with QR Codes, they often rush too quickly to incorporate them. They’ll skip over fundamentals, such as, “Why would my audience want to scan this?” Rather than just slapping a QR Code on your printed materials, develop a reason why you should have one. Will it make it easier for your audience to access a map or directions? Will it make it easier for people to contact your company or make a purchase?
John Foley, Grow Socially

“4 Tips to Get Your QR Codes Scanned,” Feb. 27

21. [When designing email for mobile devices,] do not program using style sheets, Java script or lengthy coding. Create the HTML using a text editor such as Notepad and save the file as .html. … Using old-school, basic HTML coding and tables helps avoid spam filters and ensures the email renders correctly across multiple platforms.
Christina Galbornetti, V12 Group

“10 Email Design Best Practices for a Mobile World,” April 9

22. Only use mobile if it adds value. Is mobile the best solution? I love mobile, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not always the answer. Too many businesses get caught using mobile for mobile’s sake. Make sure your mobile strategy solves a problem, ultimately adding value to your customer’s life.
Greg Hickman,

“11 Rules For Mobile Marketing Success,” Oct. 8

3. How can we, as individual marketers, make things better [regarding cookies]? Let’s start with this to-do list:

  • Marketers can start by clearly communicating to sites about the cookies we place or allow others to place and why they are placed, so the website can share this information with consumers.
  • We can collect and use only the data we need for as long as we need it.
  • If we share consumer data, we should say so.
  • Where we have contact with consumers, we should tell consumers how to exercise their choices in data collection and use. This includes working with websites to pass the information along to consumers.
  • If we allow others to place cookies or collect data through our relationships with websites, we should make this clear to the website.

Gwenn Freeman, KBM Group
“Cookie Monster or Customer Delight?” July

Production and Sustainability
Including sustainability elements in the request for proposal (RFP) is a good way to research, track and compare how preferable options are integrated into materials, facilities and handling. … A responsible RFP looks beyond price, quality, availability and functionality—all of which remains critically important—and considers other factors in procurement decisions, including environmental and social aspects. … Your RFP should ask whether the vendor’s organization has a written environmental policy. Is the organization focused on continual environmental performance improvement, as evidenced by commitment to a certified environmental management system like ISO 14001:2004?
Meta Brophy, Consumer Reports; Monica Garvey, Verso Paper Corp.; and Joe Muehlbach, Quad Graphics

“Asking the Right Questions,” January

5. There’s no magic “keyphrase density” bullet. In fact, even Google says that’s a myth. There’s no secret way to spin the content, no magical word count and no sneaky way to drive links. The SEO copywriting rules, in fact, are pretty simple—and these ideas stood the test of time (even before Google was a search engine):

  • Know your reader/customer persona, and use a “voice” that they’ll engage with and appreciate;
  • Provide useful information;
  • Know how people are searching for what you have to offer;
  • Create unique, clickable titles and meta descriptions;
  • Understand how your customers search—and what keyphrases they use throughout the buy cycle;
  • If you’re writing to sell, use benefit statements throughout your copy; and
  • Sprinkle keyphrases throughout your content, but never sacrifice your article’s readability for key-phrase usage.

Heather Lloyd-Martin, SuccessWorks
“Sexy and You Know It,” October

26. It’s horribly painful work trying to find all the places where your name, address and phone number are incorrect, but … there are no shortcuts.
Darren Shaw, Whitespark

“4 SMB Local SEO Tips,” August

Social Media
7. Simply saying, “I heard you,” goes a long way when dealing with complaints in social media.
Heather Oldani, McDonald’s
“Social Etiquette,” February

28. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. … The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical, yet popular, recommendations we often hear).
Jeff Molander, Molander & Associates

“How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy,” July 20

29. Creating an integrated campaign that captures email addresses via social media requires some planning, but it’s economical and effective. Facebook is currently the best platform because of its functionality, but there are options for the others, too. To plan a successful strategy, only ask for the minimum information needed to add people to your marketing cycle. The less information required, the more people will opt in. Test different levels of requirements to find the one that works best. …
Debra Ellis, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

“Friendly Prospects,” April

30. Two Words of Advice, Mark Zuckerberg: Hire Professionals. I realize that in the world of social media and blogging, the mantra is for everything to be free. However, with a promotion this serious … you do not want to put it into the hands of chatty, well-meaning bloggers who have never asked for an order in their lives.
Denny Hatch, direct marketing consultant and author

“Saving Facebook,” May 29

Human Resources
1. The people make the company. I really think any marketer can sell anything at any time. It’s, “Do you have the right people. Do you have the right mix? The right talents? The right skills? And the passion, really, to be successful?”
Marisa Anne Edmund, Edmund Optics

“Direct Marketer of the Year,” October

2. An experienced direct marketer knows the length of a direct mail letter is dictated by how long it takes to close the sale, generate the lead or get the contribution. Not surprisingly, there are those who believe a video should never be longer than 30 seconds or a minute. For those who bark “keep it short,” we suggest that you should replace those words with “keep it tight.”
Gary Hennerberg, Hennerberg Group, Inc
“How Long Should A Video Be?” Oct. 17

Web Design
The fact that someone dislikes bright colors doesn’t help us as researchers to assess the emotional impact of an interface or how it aligns with intended brand attributes. Therefore, we must create tests that try to structure participant feedback, and remove some of the subjectivity that accompanies their varying tastes.
Cristin Siegel, Designkitchen

“Conceptual Thinking,” February

34. Generally, when it comes to landing pages, less is more. Essentially, keeping visitors focused on the key message is the name of the game. This means eliminating all extraneous details not directly related to the campaign at hand. Links to other pages? Delete them. Fancy and distracting design? Change it. Lots of extra content about your firm? Gone.
Rio Longacre, Capgemini Consulting

“6 Steps to Building the Perfect Landing Page,” June 20

35. Less choice is better. Users get stuck when given too many choices. People tend to want more information than they can actually process, and we need to find a sweet spot for how much to offer.
Barbara Luciani, Designkitchen

“Human by Design,” May

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  • Bill Loeber

    I ran across a great book recently that changed my whole view of "how to persuade". The book is "Pitch Anything" by Oren Klaff. Although he focuses on presentations and face-to-face pitches, the same principles apply to marketing messaging designed to persuade or convince (is there any other kind of marketing messaging?). I won’t spoil the read for you all but the main point is to first get past the brain’s "gate-keeper" which is the reptilian fight-or-flight brain. If you can’t get past that, then all the logic and spreadsheets in the world will not work. The reptilian brain fears and rejects new ideas that it is not familiar with, so the trick is to find the emotional hooks to bypass it, then bring on the numbers. I use it all the time now and it works like a charm to move people from one state of thinking (skeptical) to intrigued and available for your message.

  • davidchev

    I like this one: #14, "What are you willing to pay for a new customer?…"