Archive for 'Internet'

Direct Mail Personalization

An interesting article I found while browsing Ezinearticles.com earlier:

A colleague who does work for a nonprofit organization contacted me asking if I could do research on the success rate of personalized direct mail letters (Dear Joe) versus generically addressed letters (Dear Friend). Surprisingly, I didn’t find as many statistics as expected, but I found information stating that personalized letters outperform generic letters.

The Digital Printing Council conducted a survey and the results showed “tailored direct mail pieces increase response rates by more than 500 percent over a basic, non-personalized piece.”

Gotmarketing reports that “personalizing an email marketing campaign can improve response rates by 45 percent.” This one defines customized content and the customer’s purchase history as personalization.

ClickZ shares data from a study that “found personalization was the most important factor when contributors determine which charity or fundraising direct mail they open at 62 percent.” Second place? Timing at 59 percent.

It may cost more to personalize the campaign, but the response rate more than makes up the difference than taking the cheap, generic route. When I see mail addressed to “Resident,” I promptly throw it in the trash or recycling pile.

More resouces: “Personalized donor letters always outperform generic ‘Dear Friend’ appeals. Donors deserve ‘special’ treatment and appeals should reinforce the positive relationship you’ve already established.” From FundClass.

Mal Warwick & Associates, Inc. learned “personal attention makes a big difference. The old cliche is true: people give money to people, not organizations. The more personal the contact, the more effective your fundraising will be.”

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl’s notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn’t wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

Obviously, you can learn a ton more about personalization by downloading SMB’s free report entitled “The Personalization Precept” right now by visiting http://personalizationprecept.com.

I’m in the process of working out an outline for an Internet Marketing Teleseminar Series that I’d appreciate getting some feedback.  Included with this particular entry today is a 3 minute podcast that goes over the program.  If you don’t have three minutes to listen in on the podcast, here’s an overview of some of the topics we’re kicking around:

  1. Article writing / content generation
  2. PPC advertising
  3. Affiliate programs
  4. Blogging / Podcasting
  5. Search Engine Optimization
  6. Social Media Optimization
  7. E-mail marketing
  8. Direct / personalized marketing
  9. List building
  10. Live event marketing
  11. Co-registration techniques
  12. Researching and segmenting your market

If you can, listen in on the podcast as it goes into a little more.  It’s quicker to speak than to type. 😉

I’d really appreciate your feedback and input on this – is it a good idea?  What would you pay for something like this?  Have any guests you’d recommend to include in the mix?  Let me hear from you.

Zing Social Media Overview Seminar Review

Yesterday (April 23, 2008), we hosted a very small group to discuss “10 Ways to Increase Sales from Social Media” at Zing’s offices in Louisville. For those that didn’t get the opportunity to attend, here’s a summarization of what all was discussed.

We started off the discussion with a quick round robin to see who all used various social media sites in some of the different categories. Included in the mix were sites such as LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Scribd, HubPages, Squidoo, EzineArticles, and WordPress (blogs). Our small group had mixed reactions to the sites mentioned whether they had heard of them or not. A lot of the sites were unheard of before our chat today so it’s fair to say that those sites aren’t being utilized yet by all of our attendees.

We had interesting debates throughout, but one thing stuck out to me that is both encouraging and puzzling all at once–a lot of people are very unaware of what is out there from a new media, web 2.0, on-line social aspect, but they realize it’s becoming more of a necessity for businesses to get involved. It’s no longer a novelty or kids’ playground anymore. Once you see large corporations investing major dollars on internet marketing and new media interests, the rules of the game change quickly. Usually new technologies in business follow a progression like this:

  1. Younger generations test out something because it has that “cool” factor and it’s new
  2. Solo entrepreneurs start to dabble thinking it might give them an edge and allow them to compete with larger competitors
  3. Small and medium businesses begin to realize that the solo entrepreneurs are onto something and begin to jump into the pool
  4. Finally, corporations see this wave of activity and understand the technology has matured enough to begin to invest substantial resources

Once the corporations are involved, it’s no longer a phenomenon or cool technology–it’s a full fledged strategy and set of tactics to make money. They may not have it mastered when they first enter the fray, but it won’t take them long to figure out how to capitalize.

So why is all of this happening so fast these days that some companies feel as though they’re getting left behind unless they act soon? Today’s consumer is tuned out to traditional advertising and media so it’s forcing the marketplace to become more creative in their approach, and that’s where social media comes into play. Believe it or not, there are still quite a few business executives out there that are reluctant to enter the social media space, and their reasonings vary greatly. Some of it is a generation gap, and some of it is a mindset that isn’t quite as “inclusive” by nature as a lot of us that are more comfortable with social media and sharing our lives publicly. I’m personally old enough to understand the apprehension from the “traditionalists” yet young enough to get the fascination with so many avenues for self expression.

All of that being said, there is no magic bullet where social media is concerned, but there are business applications for just about every sect of social media that need to be understood before making a decision to implement a strategy for one’s company. My recommendations for social media success, from a business perspective, to the group today were:

  1. Commit to a social media strategy or don’t bother
  2. Be yourself (hiding behind a pseudo-name isn’t going to win you points over the long haul)
  3. Transparency rules because people can sense a phony very quickly
  4. Be consistent
  5. Understand the time involvement–this isn’t like traditional advertising where you pay for a block of time or space and the returns are predictable. It may take a year for a social media strategy to begin to pay dividends, but those dividends could be huge. Can you afford to a) wait that long? or b) miss out on a great opportunity by passing on social media?
  6. Don’t try to sell–as mentioned above, people are tuned out to traditional advertising methods so showing up on a social media site trying to pitch your product or service isn’t going to be well received. It’s just like walking into a party where you know a couple of people–you wouldn’t barge into the middle of a group you didn’t know and immediately start trying to sell them something would you? I’d hope not. If you would, please skip my parties. 😉
  7. Follow the golden rule–give to receive and remember, it’s not about you first.
  8. Add value–become a resource or educate somehow if at all possible. Eventually people will notice and take action accordingly.

Finally, I’d summarize the overall message I was trying to convey to the group today as it’s all about an inclusive vs. an exclusive mindset. Traditional ways and methodologies versus new age and progressive strategies. We’ve gone from a business model of doing things FOR our clients to doing things WITH our clients. The firms which view things in that legacy view of “for” instead of “with” might find things a little rocky one day as we travel further down the path.

The rules of marketing have definitely changed, but have you changed with them? Either way, I’d like to hear your take.

Social Media Club Louisville: Meeting 3 Review

The SMC of Louisville met last evening (April 15, 2008) at The Fox & Hound. It was a very large group, and everyone seemingly had an excellent time although the actual presentation was hampered a bit by the loud music in the adjoining rooms. That’s no-one’s fault, and it didn’t negatively impact my experience one iota. Then again, bars are more of my element anyway. 😉

General Overview

Jason Falls played the role of “MC” for the event, and he started the evening with an excellent point–there is a lot of Social Media and Internet talent right here in Louisville, KY. The ‘Ville sometimes gets a bad rep from other locales as being backwards, country, redneck, hillbilly, etc., but there is a LOT of Internet talent in the River City, and a lot of people are stepping out and really leveraging social media in a big way. I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s opening statements. Next time you’re chatting with someone “in the know,” ask them to list the best people they’ve come across for doing something online, and chances are you might hear of someone from Louisville mentioned in the top 10.

Joining Jason on the “panel” for the evening were: Rob May of BusinessPundit fame, Chris Pearson, and Michelle Jones. All are very influential in their space and extremely talented. Each person shared their experience of how they came to blog and join the social media landscape along with some keys to success from their perspective.

Rob’s main takeaway for the evening could be summed up with Jim Rome’s radio show tagline for callers–“Have a Take and Don’t Suck!” Rob encouraged everyone attending to get involved online by being different. He said the key is to share personal experiences, controversy and/or strong opinions, or something that provides value to the reader. There are far too many “me, too” blogs and websites out there, and standing out requires being unique while contributing value. I concur with Rob’s core message for the evening.

Chris Pearson spoke next about getting people involved and engaging with you. If no one is contributing to your efforts with comments, links, or reviews, you’re essentially yelling into the wind where no one is listening. When you write or create online content, Chris contends, make it engaging and encourage participation through feedback or SOMETHING. Again, an excellent point.

No offense to Michelle, but it was most difficult for me to hear her (I was in the back of the room) so my notes are rather hazy. I did gather that she’s very passionate about Louisville, and that’s what propelled her to do something online in the first place. I believe one of her keys was to seek out something you’re passionate about and run with it because the passion will guide you in the right direction. (Michelle, I welcome your correction if I mis-heard you). She also encouraged the audience to give comments and feedback to get it. Another great point–a lot of bloggers or content creators think that if they create a great piece of content that floods of traffic will come flying in, and it doesn’t quite work that way. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way on several occasions, and I’m still wrestling with it.

Keys to Success

Jason then added more informative nuggets including:

  • Network regularly with someone that has a large following; eventually their followings’ curiosity will get the best of them, and they’ll check you out.
  • Try to network with your on-line contacts off-line, too. This can be extremely powerful!
  • Spread others’ messages to your following–“sneeze” their takes and opinions; this is in-line with the give to get philosophy; if you find something worth sharing, share it!
  • Have realistic expectations when you attempt to leverage social media for your business; don’t expect to enter the social media universe with the unrealistic expectation of generating a flood of business in short order–it takes time to build relationships off-line, and on-line is no different. This was one of my favorite points of the night because I’ve had similar conversations with potential clients, and they look at me like I have three heads when I say “your social media initiative ROI likely won’t be very good for awhile, but it could really pack a punch down the road.” Those aren’t popular words with executives, but they’re realistic if nothing else. Glad to hear Jason reiterate the point to the group although I’m guessing this particular audience already “gets it.” It’s their bosses that may not understand yet, and they need to hear this if they have aspirations of on-line/social media success.

Monetizing Social Media

The panel went on to discuss ways to make money with social media which was very interesting. Rob suggested building a valuable site (high PageRank, lots of visitors, a mini-community, etc.) before trying to leverage it as a profit center.

Some other takeaways:

  • Run your social media (blogging in particular) initiatives like a business–you have to invest resources just as you would a new division of your company. This is no different. I concur wholeheartedly, and I believe this is where a lot of companies miss the boat. They believe in the field of dreams approach and don’t understand that a consistent effort is what it’ll take to become successful online within the social media world.
  • Overall, there was a repeated theme amongst the panel of find those with a following and work to appeal to them. Do your homework and make sure it’s relevant. Also, make sure your style and overall approach meshes with the people you’re trying to appeal to. For example, it makes little sense to pitch PC related products to passionate Apple users.
  • Give to get was another popular theme amongst the panel, and that’s a great approach regardless of the business endeavor.
  • Be consistent with your frequency, tonality, and general message.
  • Be transparent and genuine–don’t hide behind anonymous handles or names or try to pretend to be something you’re not. People on-line can sniff out a fake rapidly, and the repercussions could be very damaging and costly. Word travels at light speed on-line, and you don’t want to draw the wrath of an upset and motivated community.

Off-line Socialization

Among the people I met for the first time:

  • Sarah Sapora of corecubed who moved here from Las Vegas and is excited to be involved with core and Louisville in general. Sarah was making her maiden voyage into the SMC so please welcome Sarah!
  • Stephen Harmon of HarmonWeddings.com–Stephen is a wedding photographer that also does business related photography.
  • Susan Gosselin of Gosselin Communications–Susan is involved in Public Relations and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with potential and existing clients.
  • Ed Bennett who is a freelance copywriter and used to work for the Courier Journal for several years. Ed and I had several great conversations about social media, the apparent direction of the CJ compared with the days of old, events from Louisville’s past including the tornadoes of 1974 (I was only 3 years old yet remember the day vividly believe it or not), and we freely admitted to each other that neither of us is comfortable in front of a camera so writing is a much better outlet for us.

Personal Experience & Summary

Overall, this was a great evening and event. I had a lot of fun, met some very neat “new” people (they’re technically not new just new to me), and learned something. The beer was very good and the staff at Fox & Hound was attentive, friendly and attractive which never hurts.If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I hope you make it to the next meeting. This is a growing community that is taking on a personality of its own. If you were there, I encourage you to share your thoughts on anything you’ve read here or anything I may have missed.

Random Business Musings and Ponderings

Ever had one of those days where you question whether you’ve made wise business choices lately? Today has been one of those days, but I’m afraid the answers I uncover over the next few weeks aren’t going to be to my liking. I know I violated my own gut instincts with one decision in particular, and I’m kicking myself for it pretty hard right now.

If you’re in a business venture with others, is it clear to everyone involved whether the business could succeed without you or not? If the business could succeed without you, why do you continue to hang around in a decision making capacity? Why should your partners listen to you if the organization could survive without you?

If you bring nothing unique to the mix, and someone else is primarily responsible for the success of the organization, why not do the right thing and get out of the way by taking on a diminished role? It doesn’t mean you have to leave completely, but move aside to let the others grow the business. Chances are you’re not helping; you’re in the way! I’m just sayin’.

Is the generation gap between Boomers and Generation X THAT wide?

Is new media good for business or bad?

How much do you engage in social media for your business? How’s it working out for you?

Are there any business “secrets” anymore? What about new ideas?

Why is there such reluctance from the older generations to embrace new media and accept the fact that the new rules of journalism are vastly different from the good old days? There are newspapers and television outlets that struggle with this mightily, and my suspicion is those outlets are run by elder statesmen. Time to wake up, people! Or get out of the way to let the younger generation take the organization to the next level. I’m just pointing out the elephant in the room that everyone wants to ignore. Don’t shoot the messenger!

If you could start any new business today, what would it be? What would be your first step?

Am I crazy to think $1 million isn’t that much money and shouldn’t be that hard for a business to generate?

Do you know of a sharp Internet marketer that is looking to be a part of a startup? How about a copywriter? If you do, please send them my way.

When starting a new venture, what’s the first hire you make?

Enough ramblings and ponderings for now . . . would love to get your take on any or all of this.

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