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October 2008

Ten Tips for Winning In a Bad Economy

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Unless you have been hiding in a cave somewhere, you have heard that the US economy is doing poorly. Housing starts are down, the value of the dollar is down, car sales are down, real estate is down, retail is down, gas prices are up, food prices are up, bankruptcies are up and the sky is falling. What is a person to do?

1 - Don’t Drink the Cool Aid

The news is sensationalized and fear sells. Things are rarely as good as they seem and things are rarely as bad as they seem. If you allow yourself to give in to the news you will determine your destiny. When people tell me about the bad economy I tell them I have chosen not to participate.

2 - You can’t cut your way to a profit

Expense management is done at all times not just in bad markets. Cutting expenses in bad times is a misnomer. You set your good and bad habits in good markets not bad. Be selectively extravagant and prudently frugal. I have never seen a business survive and thrive a down market by trying to cut expenses as their long term strategy.

3 - Don’t cut your life line

Some of the easiest variable expenses to cut out are advertising and marketing. That also takes a bad situation and makes it worse. When your business drops and you take action to stop the flow even more, you are doomed. Be smarter with your marketing and adopt direct response methods that can be tracked and measured but don’t cut marketing because it’s the easiest cut.

4 - Dance with who bought you

The past and present customers are the life blood of any business. These customers are also the most over looked and underutilized asset in ALL businesses. Everyone gives lip service to their glorious love of their customers but what are you really doing to create and nurture the relationship. Do you have a relationship building program that creates over fifty positive customer contacts per year? You can have all the BDC’s and CRM’s you want and that does not mean you are creating personalized based marketing that creates relationships. The people who have done business with you already like and trust you and will most likely do business again and bring others if they are appreciated, rewarded and yes asked. NOBODY does a good enough job with their customers. There is gold in them thar hills.

5 - Make the bad news good

Use all the bad news and the fear and negative emotions associated with it to your advantage. Use the headlines in your marketing and advertising and become the solution provider, I.E 7 Tips for Winning in a bad economy.

6 - Stop Boring Me to Death

If I get another one size fits all, looks the same mailer for an event sale I think I will puke. Be creative and use trash can mailers, wallet mailers and other dimensional mail. Stop trying to get the lowest cost per piece and concentrate on the highest ROI for your mailings and other marketing. Boring does not sell in any media format.

7 - Go back to the basics

Everything is basics. Instead of cutting your education, double your education efforts. If the market is really that bad then you should have tons of time to educate yourself and your team. If your opportunities are fewer then you must maximize each customer contact. TLC - Think like a customer. Examine your process from a customer’s point of view and ask yourself what creates heartburn for those customers.

8 - Super-size it

You can impact your bottom line immediately by increasing either transaction size or the gross margin. In my entire career I have never found a business that cannot increase their transaction size and margins. Stop accepting fate as a commodity and differentiate yourself, your product and business and ask for more money. You can do this through add-ons, bundling, value-added presentations and better process for asking for and negotiating money. Do want fries with that and do you want the large popcorn for 25 cents more are not accidental questions.

9 - Create Multiple Enticing Campaigns

If your customers buy one product or service from you then they will buy more. The average automobile dealership only retains 19% of their customers from sales to service. That number is business suicide. Sending a one time mailing for a discount oil change does not constitute a continuity program. With a continuity program any business can mover from that 19% figure to 50% and more. When you create a continuity program you will insulate your business from bad economies in the future because you will be less dependent on conquest customers.

10 - Speed of the Boss, Speed of the Crew

As the leader thinks and acts, the team shall too. If the leaders of your business talk bad economies and bad markets the team will believe it. What are your leaders doing right now? Don’t major in the minor. Spend every minute of the day in the pursuit of things that will create customers and incomes now and in the future. Just last week I had a dealer tell me that he was waiting for this bad market to turn around before he did anything with this business. My reply was, “how is that working for you?” If the leader does not believe, don’t expect the troops to.

by Mark Tewart

Intelligent Content 2009

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Join us for

Intelligent Content 2009!


We've chosen our presenters and we're delighted to let you know who they are!

Keynote Speakers

Our Keynote speakers are Salim Ismail of Confabb (formerly of Yahoo), and Bob Boiko of Metatorial Services (and author of The Content Management Bible).
In his keynote address, Intelligent Content Salim will be talking about emerging trends with internet content and how context and increasing structure inherent in the content, allow us to consider the content 'intelligent'.
In his keynote address Where are the Smarts in Information Management? Bob will be discussing where the intelligence lies within your Information Management system, and how you can manage information in an intelligent manner.

Conference Speakers

Our regular conference speakers represent a wide variety of companies across many industries, both in terms of size and outlook. From giants such as Microsoft, McDonald's and Symantec Corp, to smaller companies with specific needs, there's sure to be something here that interests you.
Our speakers include:
Scott Abel, Principal, The Content Wrangler, Inc.
Anthony Allen, Director, Digial Media, American Society for Training and Development
Lisa Armstrong, Media Asset Specialist, Mayo Clinic
Stephen E. Arnold, President, Arnold IT
Bob Boiko, Principal, Metatorial Services
Mira Bossowska, Data Architect, Cengage Learning
Connie Ciskowski, Sales Enablement IA, Nortel
Joe Gollner, Vice President, Enterprise Solutions Stilo International
Salim Ismail, Chairman, Confabb
Steve Lange, Worldwide Training, Learning & Development, McDonald's
Michael Lauruhn, Member, Taxonomy Strategies LLC
Robert Lee, Information Development Manager, Symantec Corp.
Wendy Lewis, Senior Data Analyst, Cengage Learning
Rhonda Medefesser, Corporate IA Leader, Nortel
James D. Michelson, Principal, JFM Concepts
Marcia Morante, President, KCurve, Inc.
Kelley Myers, Lead Content Project Manager, Microsoft Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group
Derek Olson, Vice President, Foraker Design
Natasja Paulssen, Partner, Ordina
Wendi Pohs, Chief Technology Officer, InfoClear Consulting


Register early and Save!

Register early (before December 15th) and take advantage of our Early Bird discount. Until December 15th, the conference pass is $895USD, while after December 15th, the passes become $1095USD, so you save $200 by booking early!

What is Intelligent Content?

Yesterday's content was static, hard to find, and difficult to manipulate. Today we're not restricted by the technology, format, or use. Today we create, manage and deliver content in a more intelligent manner. In fact, the content itself must be almost 'intelligent'. Intelligent Content is content which is:

  • discoverable
  • automatically reconfigurable
  • semantically aware
  • adaptable
  • collaborative
  • rich

Come and join us for two days of exciting speakers at the beautiful Parker Palm Springs Hotel in Palm Springs California.
Le Parker Méridien Palm Springs gate
Le Parker Méridien Palm Springs
4200 East Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92264
Reservations: (760) 770-5000

Lifting Response Rates with Timely, Relevant, and Personalized Communication

For a marketing campaign to succeed you need to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. In other words, you need solid segmentation practices, ways to personalize each communication with each prospect and customer, and methods to monitor and improve each piece of marketing communication that leaves your organization.

The good news is personalization is in its relative infancy even though the concepts and theories have been around for awhile. In the past, a lack of shared data access, limited printing technologies, and scarce expertise made it cost prohibitive to implement truly personalized marketing campaigns. A lot of that has changed, but personalized marketing is still growing in popularity and adoption.

For instance, David Daniels of Jupiter Research stated that "only 4% of marketers personalized messages. Of the marketers who do personalize, 76% use five data points or less in the personalization process." With all the data at a business' disposal, the time has come to start leveraging that data in the form of increased revenue and market share.

The Case for Personalization

If your goal is to exponentially grow your business, there can be little argument that personalization can play a large role.

For instance, personalization has been shown to increase order frequency by nearly 50% and order value by almost 1/4. Those are two of the three primary ways to effectively grow a business (the other being acquiring more customers). Furthermore, the rate at which people respond is improved by 36% and the time it takes them to respond is improved by a little over 1/3. All of this leads to increased overall profitability of 31.6% as a result of personalization. In and of itself, this is a strong enough argument for incorporating personalization into your marketing efforts, but there are more benefits to experience.

Benefits of Personalization

  • Reach the ideal customer
  • Break through the clutter
  • Capitalize on cross-sell and up-sell opportunities
  • Create company and brand "ambassadors"
  • Engages & prepares prospects to buy
  • Rescues inactive customers
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Creates loyalty

Boost response Rates with Enhanced Personalization and Relevancy

Untitled Document To more than double typical direct mail response rates, personalize each mail piece as much as possible. New printing technology enables you to print small lots of direct mail tailored to each recipient. With variable images and content, you can dramatically enhance the personalization and relevancy of each individual mail piece--to drive much higher response rates. Display a personalized URL on each mail piece when the objective of your mail piece is to capture a profile on your website. Personalized landing pages with pre-filled forms make it much easier for the responder to submit a profile resulting in significantly higher profile capture rates. Although personalization of direct mail does increase the cost per piece, the increased response rates almost always justifies the added expense. The same level of personalization should be applied to email. Because email is electronic, it's much easier and cost effective to dynamically assemble relevant content. Getting a prospect's opt-in (or permission to communicate via email) on the website landing page enables you to cultivate the prospect much more cost effectively. But be careful to always send timely, personalized and relevant information...not doing this will most certainly result in opt-outs that shut down this very effective marketing avenue. by Jeff Kostermans

Talk to a Person, Not to a Market

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The technology of the Web has caused a shift away from speaking to a market toward speaking to a specific customer. You now have more ability than ever before to market one-on-one instead of mass advertising. To engage in a personal conversation with individuals rather than shouting messages at them. In print, this translates as something called VDP.

In general terms, it’s talking to the customer in his or her own language. Using this technique, you produce customized mailings that are different for each customer, featuring only what he or she is interested in, rather than producing the same mailer for everyone. The technique is made possible by short-run color digital printing and database integration.

An important tool for improving your customer relationships, this kind of personalized communication will be required to meet customer expectations in the future.

By Matt Harlow • October 14, 2008

Leverage all Types of Communications

You can take advantage of VDP in a variety of ways:

  • Newsletters — You can pick the cover story based on the customer’s information. A newsletter from a pet store to the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier puppy might feature a story on caring for dogs during summer, with a photo of a Jack Russell. Even better, it could feature a cover article on caring for puppies.
  • Direct mail — A Ford owner could receive an offer from Ford for an oil change at his local dealer and feature a photo of his model car, in the color he bought. Or his favorite grocery store can send him coupons for products he enjoys based on his purchase history as recorded by swiping his customer loyalty card.
  • Magazines — You can print literally dozens of different versions of the same magazine featuring articles and ads specific to your target. For example, a farming magazine could print one version for corn growers, one for pig farmers, one for vineyards, etc.
  • Special offers — If you know what a target owns, you may know what she will likely buy next. If she bought a small SUV several years ago, you may send her a special offer on purchasing a larger SUV.
  • Dealer support — Send materials showing customers who their local dealers are. You can also let dealers create their own letterhead, business cards, ads, slick books, etc. Dealers can also use variable technology to create masters used for printing their own materials. Customer orders/requests — Customers can request printed materials that will contain exactly what they asked for. Send a customer forms already filled in with his contact information, simplifying the process of completing the forms and increasing return rates. Then send him a personalized binder containing information on just the services he bought, with a personalized welcome letter.

By Matt Harlow • October 14, 2008

Make an Impact Your Customers Can't Ignore

VDP allows you to cut through the clutter of mass marketing and capture a customer’s interest immediately. It’s much more effective and valuable than typical fliers or a “shotgun mailing” that is generic and typically thrown away.

It connects you to your customers in a meaningful way. It boosts retention and response to your message and drives new and cross-sales efforts. The end result is a greatly improved customer experience, greater brand integrity, higher customer retention and new revenue.

By Matt Harlow • October 14, 2008

Five Inexpensive Direct Mail Tools to Generate Sales Leads Fast

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There are many new ways to generate sales leads today, but direct mail remains one of the most powerful lead-generation tools.

Even successful online businesses are discovering that direct mail is essential for growth, since newer marketing tactics, such as SEO, social media, and email marketing, often have limitations because of the rapidly changing rules and technical issues involved.

While a mailer isn't as sexy as a viral video and it's not a hot topic at conferences, it's the most reliable way to reach people at home or at work. Its reach is wider and deeper than any other medium's. Plus, there are few restrictions on format and no message filtering or blacklisting headaches that plague email marketing.

Isn't direct mail expensive? It can be. But don't think that you have to create big, flashy mailers. In fact, when your goal is to generate sales leads, simpler, cheaper formats often work better. That's because the purpose of a lead-generating mailer is not to tell the whole story but to say just enough to get people to ask for more information.

Here are five basic direct mail tools that you can use to generate sales leads quickly and inexpensively.

1. Sales Letter

The letter is one of the simplest and most effective direct-mail tools available. It won't win any design awards, but if written well it's one of the few types of advertising that people will actually read all the way through.

To generate sales leads with a letter, you generally want to offer something free, such as a brochure, sample, demo, evaluation, or information kit. There's no need to get fancy when writing your letter. Keep it simple. Identify a problem, present your solution, and offer to send your freebie. Doing so allows interested prospects to identify themselves and gives you or your sales people a "foot in the door."

The simplest letter mailing includes a one- or two-page letter and a reply card in an envelope. You can enclose anything else you like, but remember that your goal is to get people to ask for more information, not to close the sale immediately. Less is more.

2. Postcard

Yes, simple postcards are a terrific way to generate leads. They're easy to print and as cheap as mail gets. If you're a small business, you can even print postcards through a variety of online printers and apply stamps and address labels by hand.

To get the cheaper postcard rate, the minimum size of any postcard you can send in the US mail is 3.5" x 5", and the maximum size is 4.25" x 6". You can certainly create larger postcards, and many businesses do. You simply have to pay more postage. Larger sizes give you more room for your message and photos or graphics. Just be sure to talk to your printer first to determine the most efficient size for printing so you get the most for your money.

Postcards are particularly good for generating a quick phone call or for driving people to your Web site. Since cards are small and offer little room for copy, your product or service should be familiar and easy to understand. Your offer should be simple and direct. People don't read postcards as much as they glance at them.

Your phone number or Web address should be big and bold so people can't miss it. If you're driving people to a retail store, make sure to give clear directions and a simple map if you have room. Telling people what you want them to do and how to do it is the best way to maximize response.

3. Flyer

You want simple and cheap? Print up a flyer on ordinary paper, fold it, affix a mailing label and a stamp, and throw it in the mail. This kind of guerrilla tactic is dirt cheap and can produce fantastic results for all kinds of businesses.

It's particularly good for small, local businesses (or businesses that want to appear small). Unless you're selling Mercedes sedans or Rolex watches, no one expects you to do fancy mailings anyway. In fact, in a pile of over-designed ad mail, a simple flyer from a local business stands out. People are subjected to so many clever ads, they develop "ad blindness." To get people to notice you, just mail them ugly flyers that don't look like ordinary advertising.

When you're mailing a flyer, you should fold it in thirds (called a "roll fold") and affix a tab to hold it closed so it can survive the journey. You will put your main message on the inside with teasers and your mailing information on the outside. And be sure to design the flyer so that when you read the address, the folded side is on the bottom and the tab is on the top. Most printers, even small ones, should know this.

4. Invitation

When you see the word "invitation," you probably think of small cards with heavy paper and elegant printing asking you to a wedding or formal dinner. But invitations can take almost any form. They're simply a way of presenting an offer that feels personal and important.

You can certainly go the expensive route if you have an expensive product or service. But you can invite people to an event with any of the formats above: a letter, postcard, or flyer. Just start the headline with the words "You are invited to..." then tell people what the event is.

You can invite people to an open house, special sale, party for your best customers, product demonstration, informational presentation, or anything that requires getting people to a particular location. The key is to make people feel that they are special and not everyone is being invited. Once they get there, your sales people can go to work.

5. Special Delivery

FedEx and other quick delivery services are far more expensive than regular mail, but this is a technique for a special "wish list" of your best prospects. If you have 100 key people you want as customers, spending the money to overnight a brochure or information kit may well be worth the investment.

This mailer is guaranteed to get opened. Who can resist opening a FedEx package? Inside, you should include a personal letter explaining who you are and what you are offering. You might send a sample with a note that says, "Here's a small sample of our product. If you'd like to see the real thing, call me and I'll have one shipped to you." Or you could enclose a disk with a video presentation or a white paper with detailed information about how others have used your product.

Once again, don't try to fancy it up. You are sending a message to a highly select group of people, so it should look like you've done it personally. This isn't advertising, it's a personal contact from you to them.

* * *

No matter what direct mail tool you use to generate leads, remember to follow up quickly once you get the lead. Hot leads cool off quickly. Ideally, you should respond to people within a week, two weeks maximum.

Give your leads to the salespeople and make sure they understand what was offered so they can follow up with a phone call.

Almost every day a new marketing technology or technique is developed. But good-old-fashioned direct mail hasn't lost any of its power for generating leads.

Dean Rieck is a direct mail copywriter. He publishes Rieck's Response Letter ( and the Direct Creative Blog (

PURLs a Tool, not an answer...

Printers purchasing PURL-delivering software, thinking that canned programs will automatically generate higher response rates, misunderstand the nature of PURLs. PURLs are not "1:1 printing in a box" or an alternative to 1:1 printing. They are subset of 1:1 printing, and all of the same rules apply.

One of the fundamental misunderstandings in today's marketplace has to do with PURLs, and it is here that the expertise becomes critical. There have been an increasing number of stories of failed PURL campaigns, and marketers want to know why, and whether or not these campaigns can be trusted.

The failing comes in assuming that PURLs, in themselves, will draw responses simply because they are PURLs. The challenge is reminiscent of the early days of 1:1 printing, when it was assumed that recipients would respond to a 1:1 campaign simply because the text and graphics were database-driven.

In reality, before recipients will even access their PURLs, the pitch must catch their attention. This must be followed by a sufficient incentive for the recipient to log in. This requires all of the clever marketing skills of any 1:1 campaign. As an incentive, "Hi, John. Come find out about our services." (and, yes, 1:1 printers and their customers are sending out campaigns with this pitch) is only incrementally different from that in a static mailer or print advertisement, and it will be about as effective. Yet, too many 1:1 print providers are relying on the PURL itself—not the marketing pitch—to boost response, and then wondering why the campaign tanked.

Increase Trade Show Prospects with Direct Mail

You exhibit at trade shows to be seen, meet your customers and if you are lucky walk away with a couple of decent prospects. Unfortunately, this is the status quo and many companies are either just fine with their results or have a difficult time breaking free from the routine. What many do not realize is that it is much easier to change than you think, with a dash of creativity and a little planning up front you can put yourself at the top of the list as the booth show attendee’s want to see.

It all starts well before the trade show begins, the correct pre-planning will map out your road to trade show success. To start, you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What market is the show’s main focus?
  • Is there a theme for the show?
  • Are you featuring a new product or product line?
  • Do you have any off-site functions planned?

Once these questions have been answered you can begin to develop your own theme to present at the show.With a theme in place you can now begin the process of developing your overall trade show experience.

Arguably, the most successful but least used (at least effectively) marketing technique is the pre-show mailer. While quite common to send an email or two about your presence at an upcoming show, this does little to entice or capture your customers and prospects attention. An effective pre-show mailer will incorporate at least one of the following marketing methods:

  • Lumpy Mail – a mailing that contains an item that can be felt from the outside
  • Mystery Marketing – a piece that needs to be revealed to discover or learn the message involved
  • Treasure Map Marketing – a series of hints, clues or directions is given through single or multiple mailings leading the receiver on a learning journey with a goal or prize at the end

Using any one of these tactics will ensure the invitation to your booth will not only be read but will have a better than 50% chance of attaining your end result. The remaining goals of increased sales and bringing in new clients will depend on your follow up with the initial invitation and your follow thru once the recipient gets to your booth.

Just by sending a unique mailer you will already be ahead of 80% of your competition but you can expand upon this lead with additional attention. The best place to begin is with an e-mail alerting both your clients and prospects that you will have a booth at the show and to look for something “special” coming in the mail. This will act as your teaser e-mail; the less you put in this the better chance it will be read. The teaser email should be sent two weeks before the show and at least three days before sending the lumpy or mystery mail. As a side note, Monday tends to be the worst day to send indirect emails like this, save it for Tuesday or Wednesday.

Once the teaser e-mail has been sent it is time to get ready to send out your mail piece that was designed around your theme. Remember when putting together your mailing to place some thought on the delivery method. Many times how something is presented is remembered more than the actual piece inside. You will want to time the reception of the mailer based on the address of each recipient, the farther it has to go of course the earlier it will need to be sent.