Book Club: Enter the Blogosphere

If you just said to yourself, “the blogo-what?” then “Naked Conversations: How blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel (Wiley, $24.95) might be a book you need to read. The title speaks volumes about the authors’ hypothesis: Blogging is an efficient, credible tool that allows companies and customers to interact in an honest, unfiltered—i.e. naked—way. Scoble and Israel back up this contention with more than 50 case studies, starting with a look at how Microsoft used employee blogging to replace its evil empire reputation with a more human face. Sprinkled throughout are tips, advice, lots of background

Do-it-yourself Support

Let’s consider two scenarios: In the first one, which takes place in the Stone Age, a customer has a problem with your widget. She dials your toll-free number on her stone phone, and the call center rep (who’s wearing a loincloth because it’s casual Friday) spends valuable time walking the customer through the process of hooking up the widget. In the second scenario, you have a customer who has a problem with your widget. She surfs over to your Web site and clicks on the FAQ section located in a prominent place on your home-page. The first few FAQs in the list are the most

E-commerce Link: Mutual Benefit, Revisited

In my June 2006 column, “Mutual Benefit,” I introduced the concept of online cooperative marketing partnerships. This is an arrangement between two non-competitive companies to actively promote each other’s products and services to their customer bases. These partnerships offer a great opportunity to grow your customer file and strengthen your brand for very little money out of pocket. Now, let’s look at six steps to get a cooperative marketing partnership deal started. Step #1: Compile the assets you have to barter with. Every company communicates with its customers differently. Take a step back and look at your organization. What customer touchpoints can you leverage for these efforts?

Famous Last Words: What Are They Thinking?

For years, I’ve run a small ad in this publication offering a free critique of an ad or a direct mail package. Obviously, the purpose is to troll for clients. At this juncture in my life—with a twice a week e-zine (www.businesscommonsense.com), this monthly column and a curious promotional vehicle called List Insider—I’m not interested in taking on new clients. But the ad continues to run. The reason: I love to see what people are doing. When someone sends me a piece for critique, I don’t say whether it is good or bad, nor do I say whether or not I like it.

Insert Media Buying Guide: Committed to Its Roots

While it may not have the star quality of more in-vogue direct marketing channels, for Southampton, Pa.-based garden tool marketer Mantis, insert media is something to get excited about. “It’s still a very important part of our media mix,” says Steve LePera, Mantis’ director of sales and marketing for mail order. Although LePera admits DRTV has become the company’s largest lead generation source, “there still has to be a base of what I call direct mail prospects driven by more traditional methods like package inserts … to our overall program,” he explains. The company participates in a wide range of programs, from Valpak to

Insert Media Buying Guide: Cultivate Good Relationships

Both package insert program (PIP) owners and mailers stand to gain if a program is successful. Carle Place, N.Y.-based gift retailer 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. sends out approximately 2.5 million package insert envelopes per year across its collection of brands, which includes flagship 1-800-FLOWERS.COM as well as Plough & Hearth, HearthSong, Magic Cabin Dolls, The Popcorn Factory, GreatFood.com and Cheryl&Co. Jill Eastman Vidal, director of third party marketing for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc., spoke with Target Marketing about how program owners and mailers can optimize their mutual relationship for maximum ROI. Target Marketing: How can a program owner offer more value to mailers participating in its programs? Jill Eastman Vidal:

Insert Media Buying Guide: Know Today’s Insert Media Terrain

It’s the start of fall, and many of us have just returned from vacation. The demands of our industry may be far from center stage. However, this is a time when many companies are solidifying their plans for the coming year, and understanding the issues that are shaping the insert media landscape is a crucial part of this planning process. Here are a few trends and challenges to consider as you prepare to tackle the holiday season and beyond. Trend: Catalog Blow-ins Increasingly, catalogers are opening up their mailings to include insert blow-ins. For instance, in the last year, we’ve seen an addition of approximately 46

Keeping Down the Cost of Delivery

Challenge: Decrease cost and improve efficiency of delivery options Solution: Adopt a new postal delivery system for packages of one pound or less Result: Operational improvements and approximately 35 percent net savings on overall delivery expenses Cost-efficient, timely product delivery is at the heart of any successful mailer’s operation. Empi-Compex Technologies, a division of orthopedic device marketer Encore Medical, is no exception. The New Brighton, Minn.-based pain management and rehabilitation products marketer wanted to lower the cost of shipping its medical devices, particularly those weighing one pound or less. These lighter weight products make up approximately 42 percent of all packages sent by the company, and more

List Roundtable: How can direct marketers boost their list rental revenue?

John Papalia, president/CEO, Statlistics The biggest key to list rental revenue growth is managing all your opportunities. Are you developing out-of-market business with tiered pricing strategies? Are you using all available database opportunities, both public and private? Are you promoting your file … using a comprehensive marketing plan specifically tailored to your list(s) and market? Is your file represented at the major industry trade shows, and are meetings being booked at these shows to obtain new business? Further analysis of your file would include selections. Are there additional selects that could be added through data enhancements? For example, small businesses are a growing area. Do you

Optimizing Paid SEM? Think Strategically

How do you get the most out of your paid search engine marketing (SEM) budget? Rather than purely focus on getting a top position at any cost, Kevin Lee, executive chairman and co-founder of Rockville Centre, N.Y.-based search engine marketing consultancy Did-it Search Marketing, recommends relying on the right mix of analytics and a well thought-out strategy. Presenting at DM Days New York Conference & Expo earlier this summer, Lee set out the following tactics that can make your paid search engine efforts more effective: 1. Base SEM success metrics on the business realities of your operation. Factor in your cost per order; cost per

The Top 50 Mailers

Target Marketing blended mailing history from the Who's Mailing What! Archive with list activity from full-service list and data firm American List Counsel to develop a proprietary compilation of the top users of direct mail in the United States. Included in this Top 50 listing are some of the industry's most venerable members, such as Readers Digest Association, Time Inc., American Express, Highlights for Children and AARP. And a number of these firms have practically built their businesses on the backs of direct mail packages; I'm talking about Boardroom Inc., Rodale Inc., AOL and International Masters Publishers. Particularly gratifying is the fact that the owner