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November 2009

October 2009

The Worst Email Campaign Ever

As a marketer, I realize how hard it is to get IT and IS to support your efforts and how customer information is likely to be a tangled mess of legacy systems and data silos.

Heads up!  Customers don’t care!

Internecine struggles over turf and a firm’s innate inability to know about its own business and customer base is no excuse to cause alienation.

Mercedes Benz USA should win the award for producing the worst email campaign ever.  It wasn’t just that the design was poorly done and the artwork came through horribly pixilated on IE 8 in Outlook.  It wasn’t that most of the content was not relevant to the model of car our family has in the garage and it wasn’t even that disclaimers outweighed content by two to one.

What makes this tragic marketing effort the worst email ever sent is that there was no call to action.  Despite the horrid construction of the offer, the pitch was still compelling.  But alas, there were no links, no phone numbers, and no way to make a purchase.  There was not even a note to contact your local dealer.

But wait, there’s more.  When you go to the company’s website ( there is no search bar and the product line being offered in the email does not appear in the site map or anywhere else on the web that I could find after extensive effort to do so.  My local dealer, when called about the offer, had no idea what it was!

Lessons learned:

  1. The first step in any marketing plan is to have good data before you do anything else. This is especially true if you have detailed records like a car company or bank. Your customers don’t care about data silos, turf wars, and legal tangles like HIPPA. They pay you and they expect you to know who they are. Period. There is no excuse to not know your customer. Big firms are the worst at this. It is paramount for marketers not to send content to customers that is not relevant – it just confirms the notion that you don’t care. Never offer your customers accessories for a car they don’t own or an invitation to apply for a credit card that they already have. The best course of action is to kill the campaign if you can’t get the data.
  2. Assure that your offer always has a clear call to action. Make sure that the ways to purchase the product or service offered are very clear. There is nothing more frustrating than it not being able to find out how to take the next step.
  3. Always include a customer service number or email for support – if you can not support your offer, why are you putting it out there? Companies routinely squander good will by providing bad customer experiences. Every customer touch is equally important and should be treated as such.
  4. Be certain your fulfillment channel knows that you are making an offer and what the offer is – before you hit send. There is no excuse not to coordinate efforts no matter how big the firm. Send less if necessary, but send right.

These sound like common sense things to do, but consumer firms as diverse as Mercedes Benz, Bank of America, and Sprint routinely send out marketing communications that have no relevance to the recipient or even worse, contain offers which the recipient doesn’t even qualify for. 

Your customers will remember the insults when it comes time to renew the relationship.

The jack of all trades is a master of none

There has been a lot of chatter lately about completely integrated marketing platforms that handle production and marketing in one neat bundle.  One vendor claims a “holy grail, ” assuming, of course, you don’t ask the system to do too much…

While certain marketing technologies (PURLs, emails, landing pages, SMS-text, unique phone tracking, etc.) can certainly be lumped together in one provider, the assertion that one platform can provide an entire cross marketing and production solution requires more investigation.

Consider solutions that utilize a provider model that can plug into and utilize a variety of services rather than rely on monolithic or single technology providers with legacy code and systems.  That way, it doesn’t matter what the next “twitter” will be and you won’t be stuck.

Cross Media – the new “Extreme”

Every few years there seems to be a great idea that gets co-opted as a catch phrase by bad marketers looking to make an average product or service somehow remarkable.  Most recently the word was extreme.  After the success of a youth oriented series of sporting events, everything from business forms, mini-golf and snack chips was referred to as extreme, xtreme, or XTREME !!!!  Extreme business forms?  Seriously?

The latest word to be drafted into the pantheon of hucksters looking to peddle one particular solution or another is cross media. 

What Cross Media Marketing is: A method of using multiple channels to provide a unified marketing message that features a call to action on all of the channels employed to drive respondents to a single data collection point in order to start a two way conversation.

What Cross Media Marketing is NOT: Anything else.

Marketers have been issuing the same message on multiple channels since the inception of mass marketing.  Coordinated TV, radio, and print ads are nothing new.  What makes a campaign become cross media or cross channel is how the responses are funneled into a single data collection point, either systematically or manually, to generate a dialogue with the prospect.  The dialogue is the key feature.  Marketers need to gather information from their clients and use that information to generate the follow on communications – regardless of channel. Any channel or medium can be employed.  Anything else is just advertising.  

And finally, to the folks at that consumer electronics giant spending millions:  Posting a video online and in downtown Tokyo does not qualify as cross media marketing no matter how much you say it does.  It’s just a video…

Printing Industries Association of Arizona (PIAZ) Partners with VDP Web® for Personalized URLs (PURL ) and offers Special Member Discounts


The Printing Industries Association of Arizona, serving Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado and JFM Concepts are proud to announce the addition of online and on-demand PURLs as part of their member group buying power platform.  Members are now able to launch sophisticated PURL campaigns without annual license fees, contracts, minimums or set up charges and they can take advantage of significant discounts.

Indianapolis, IN  October 2 2009 – The Printing Industries Association of Arizona has partnered with JFM Concepts to offer the VDP Web® online PURL software as a service at a significant discount to members.  Commercial printers seeking to offer PURL campaigns have been burdened by long term contracts, minimums, high setup and license fees, software and design limitations, and heavy training requirements.  These providers can now offer the most versatile PURL campaigns on the market using the VDP Web® Online service without these limitations at a significant discount. A free fourteen day trial is available to members at

Founded in 1990, PIAZ was established to serve the printing community and to provide a forum in which members could grow and profit. Today, they serve that community by presenting opportunities for education and group buying power, as well as local activities for our members to gather and exchange information.  VDP Web is now a powerful part of that mission.  VDP Web is specifically designed to support commercial printers.  Reseller and Enterprise accounts can easily setup an unlimited number of clients as sub-accounts with permissions-based access.  Enterprise accounts include a fully brandable interface at no additional charge. Using a simple form, anyone can customize the interface with a logo, contact information and even assign a vanity URL for client access.  Enterprise accounts also enjoy a powerful Web Services API and complimentary PURLs for self promotion.

VDP Web Online is the ideal tool for printers to use as the centerpiece of cross media efforts and has all of the features needed to build and manage complete campaigns.  PURLs, personalized landing pages with surveys and opt-ins, email, SMS Text, unique 800# tracking, and world class reporting are all available using simple, web based tools.  Users can create landing pages with variable text, images, links, video and sound. There are no workflows or templates to limit design or functionality.  Easy to use content wizards allow users to rapidly build and deploy fully functional micro sites while still allowing maximum design control.  Use PURLs in both print and email direct marketing to help drive response and provide detailed tracking for documented Return on Investment (ROI).

A free fourteen day trial is available to members at:

About PIAZ
PIAZ is an affiliate of the Printing Industries of America. With over 12,000 members worldwide, the Printing Industries of America is the world's largest graphic arts trade association representing an industry with more than 1.2 million employees. Located in Sewickley, PA, The organization serves the interest of its member companies and along with its affiliates delivers products and services that enhance the growth, efficiency and profitability of its members and the industry through advocacy, education research and technical information.

Cross Media & Integrated Marketing Budgets Rising?

Although the numbers are not out yet, the consensus between JFM and our widespread customer base is that marketing dollars are flowing again.  Both in North America and abroad, inquiries to direct marketers for many types of cross media marketing programs are on the rise.  In our mind, there are three reasons for the sudden increase.

1. Executive teams that have been hording cash in the face of the liquidity crisis have begun to loosen the purse strings.  Although we are by no means out of the woods and liquidity remains a major issue for many businesses, sitting tight, especially in the face of competitor activity, is not a viable long term strategy.  Considering that the meaning of “long term” is now often measured in a few quarters rather than years, the shift is almost inevitable.

2. Sales pipelines have emptied and new leads are required to keep sales coming in the door.  The decrease in traffic to web sites, call centers, and brick & mortar locations needs both direct marketing and advertising to overcome the drop.

3. Even though overall marketing budgets may have decreased dramatically, the cash earmarked for cross media applications has stayed constant or grown as an absolute figure.  As executives loosen the purse strings these programs have received a disproportionately large share of the available funds.

Marketing service providers that incorporate multiple cross media channels in their product mix, including email, PURLs, variable data print, dimensional mail, and more have seen a large increase in both inquiries and sales.  It is not too late to enter into these markets by partnering with a firm capable of providing more than just the back end technology for cross media, but also the marketing expertise to make campaigns successful.