Print vs Email – Leverage both for a compelling ROI

The most important facet of any direct marketing campaign, whether it be print or online, is getting the reader to open it up. Now I’m not talking about bills and statements. These fall under a completely different category and the rules are changing daily as to how they are used for marketing purposes. What I’m talking about is good, old-fashioned direct mail.

When it comes to email marketing, you must have a compelling subject line. When it comes to print, you have to get the envelope opened. But then what? You’ve either gone to all the trouble of crafting the perfect subject line, one that is not blacklisted, has just the right amount of words, and is compelling and catchy, even on a smartphone. Or you’ve designed a stellar envelope, with an engaging creative element that grabs attention and entices the recipient to open it and see what’s inside.

Once you’ve captured someone’s attention you need a reaction. You need them to ACT. But how? Are you sending your prospect to a PURL (their own personalized webpage)? Do you want them to contact you via email or phone? Are they downloading content? Are they signing up for an event? Are they participating in a contest? Are they scanning a QR code or filling out a form?

The choices are endless but the objectives are the same: Generate interest and turn a prospect into an opportunity.

There are people out there who will say that print is dead. There are also people out there who will profess that people’s inboxes are saturated and messages are being lost and ignored.

I agree with both statements. And, to that point, I believe that there is a place for both tactics in your direct marketing arsenal.

Clearly there are pros and cons for each. First off, email is relatively cheap. There are no printing costs, no postage costs, it is very simple to test a variety of messages and measuring results is almost instantaneous. Plus, you can schedule your email down to the minute and day that it is sent. On the other hand, print is tangible, so you can touch it and hold it.  It is relatively simple to cultivate an address database since you don’t need personal email addresses, and it has staying power. There are endless varieties of envelopes, colours, sizes, and formats at your disposal and most printers are only too happy to work with you to develop the optimal printed piece. However, in many cases print can be cost-prohibitive, time consuming, and nearly impossible to track open rates.  So why use print?

Because it works. When executed properly, print is the perfect complement to email. Is it the be-all and end-all? Of course not. But as I mentioned, people’s inboxes are inundated with offers, newsletters, spam, contests, jokes, etc. It’s getting more and more difficult to cut through the noise. But print, that’s different. I’ve run simultaneous campaigns, where the creative, the messaging, and the call-to-action were identical between print and email. And you know what? The response to the print campaign was significantly higher to that of the email.

Yes it was in a colourful envelope and mailed during the holiday season, when folks are expecting to receive mail. But I ran the same campaign again, when it wasn’t the holidays, and it still outperformed its email counterpart.

Results vary between industries, geographies and target audience, and you need to be diligent with your testing and tracking. But if you’re not using print as one of your direct marketing tactics, you could very well be undermining your efforts and missing out on opportunities.

Putting your signature to work for you

Companies today have a lot on their plate, from the skittish economy, to the ever-changing landscape of social media “must have” trends. It’s difficult to keep up, let alone get ahead, whether you are a small business or large enterprise organization. And each company has its own unique set of needs and challenges.

There is, however, one thing that we have in common. And that is our email signature.

One of the first things a company invests in is its stationery, particularly business cards. One of the last things, unfortunately, is ensuring a consistent, compelling, and brand-centric email signature.

Think about it. When was the last time you changed your signature? Are you still using the default setting on your smartphone? Compare that to the last time you sent out an email campaign, or tweaked your website.

If you’re nodding your head and realizing that you have an untapped resource at your fingertips, you are not alone. But before you jump the gun, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Ensure that you are using the most current and appropriate company logo and/or tagline. If you have a marketing department they can help you with that. Make sure to hyperlink it back to your company’s website.
  2. Lead with the most important information: name, title, phone number, website
  3. Add newsworthy items, such as upcoming events, recent press releases, awards, etc. by using a hyperlink.
  4. Does your company have a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile? Be sure to include them. One caveat: DO NOT link to your own personal social media pages. You are representing your company, not yourself. Save those for your own personal emails.
  5. Don’t include large images….these can often take a long time to download and annoy the recipient on the other end
  6. Check your signature settings in your email client (i.e. Outlook). I often use the full “kitchen sink” email for new messages only. But for replies or forwards, I create a simplified version, with no logo, but with links to the website, etc.
  7. Finally, as is the case with all things, TEST, TEST, TEST. You’d be amazed at the weird line breaks, funky images, and oddities that can occur when you cut-and-paste text into an email signature field.

Once you get the hang of having a branded signature, you’ll realize the reach and potential. You can customize it with departmental promotions. You can tailor it to link to landing pages. You can drive open rates for content such as whitepapers or webinars. The opportunities are endless. What are you waiting for?

How do IT Professionals use Social Media?

I’ve been tasked with an interesting project. Truthfully, it’s not all that different from what I’ve done the last 5 years but, what is interesting, is my initial reaction. I actually said “I don’t think social media will work”! Can you imagine that?

I have been preaching the benefits of using social media since I attended my first #MESHmarketing conference in 2006. I didn’t know much about it. I didn’t blog. But I got it. I knew that I was bearing witness to a changing tide in Marketing.

So I began to learn. I attended online Social Media summits. I started following key influencers. I got a Twitter account and began to tread the waters. I installed Tweetdeck and learned ways to leverage hashtags and lists. And I began to implement a social media program at the company where I worked.

And I learned. And I’m still learning.

Social Media is a strange beast. In its simplest form, it is merely one more tactic in a marketer’s toolbox. But it is rarely looked upon in its simplest form. Because it has become very personal.

Social Media is about community. Social Media puts you smack in the middle of everything. It enables you to communicate with peers, express your opinion, research products, socialize globally with like-minded individuals and yes, even follow celebrities.

But for many businesses, especially public companies, Social Media is daunting. It is a new territory of criticisms, unhappy customers, and an arena where you can’t control the content.

Social Media represents a new era. An era where, instead of giving people the information you want to receive, you must learn to share the information they want to get. The whole sense of community is a foreign concept, and not one easily embraced.

But the tides are shifting and businesses are starting to realize the value. Not all businesses, mind you, but many more B2B organizations are incorporating Social Media into their marketing mix than they were 5 years ago.

But there is one group of individuals who, in my opinion, are still not convinced. And if you’re a B2B marketer in the tech space (of which I am one), then you may find yourself wondering what to do next?

You see, most IT professionals and developpers scoff at the notion of Social Media. There. I said it. They hate it. They see no value in it. They don’t “do twitter”. If they use Facebook at all, it’s for purely personal reasons. Same for LinkedIn.

So I ask you, as marketers, how do you include these individuals in your community? How can you reach out to them and share your carefully-crafted IT content? You know, the whitepapers that you struggled to ensure don’t smell like marketing collateral. The webinars you know they would attend if they knew about them.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some very smart people over the years. And as far as I know, their “social media”, their “community”, consists of forums and groups. Yes, the same communities that they’ve participated in for years. Long before social media was the cool new buzzword. But I wonder if that is beginning to change. Are IT people starting to embrace traditional social media venues? Are they on twitter? If so, what hashtags are they using? #ITpro and #ITprofessional seemed to be fairly active, but there wasn’t a lot of meat behind the tweets.

We are all trying to reach this elusive group. And they know it. My question is, is this why they stay away? I certainly hope not. Because that would be unfortunate.

If you’re an IT Professional who is embracing social media please share your thoughts. And if you’re not, please tell me why.

When did Marketing become a TV show?

I know, I know….I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Believe me, I have many posts written. In my head. But yet I never made it to the computer. Something always came up.

I can blame the fact that I lost my job in the spring, or the fact that I’ve been busy with kids and school and holidays and birthdays and looking for a new job. And all would be true. But here I am!!

And on that note I bring you today’s post.

I was going to write about the LEAD (you know….marketing’s 4-letter word). Then I was going to write about how you need a Fedex degree in order to fill out their forms. And I suppose one day I will get around to those topics. But for today, I want to focus on a trend I have noticed recently. A trend that, in my mind, has married the marketing world to the TV world. A world where executives are quick to make decisions without considering all options. A world where a show is axed after 2 episodes. A world where instant gratification supercedes tried and true marketing techniques (such as AB testing) for knee-jerk reactions to poor results.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for “going with your gut”. I am a firm believer that playing it safe and successful marketing do not go hand in hand. But, more importantly, I believe that marketing is about learning. It is about figuring out what works and what doesnt. And then tweaking your program for optimum results. I know that what works in Canada doesn’t work in Europe (and vice versa). That Canadians will accept American spelling but not vice versa. I know that, for some programs, a short form is more successful than a long form and, as a result, you have to sacrifice some of the information you collect.

I’m not trying to be arrogant. I KNOW these things because I’ve tested them. Not always intentionally, mind you, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the facts.

The facts are that marketing takes time. Sure, you can crank out programs at the drop of a dime. You can create email campaigns that generate hundreds of “leads” (yeah…this goes back to the 4-letter word topic). You can go to tradeshows and make a huge splash. You can create the best press release and get tons of exposure.

But then what?

You see, in my opinion, it’s what you do next that matters. Because for every successful email campaign, there is a flop. For every amazing webinar, there is the one where only 3 people actually dialed in. And for every great ad-word campaign there is one with tons of hits, but no click-throughs.

But then what?

If you’re a good marketer you will look at the results of ALL your programs. Figure out what worked. Try to replicate it. Does it work again? Great! Do it again. But don’t abandon what failed! Maybe you sent out an email campaign on a religious holiday that you hadn’t considered. Or maybe your offer/call-to-action (CTA) wasn’t compelling. Or maybe it was simply too long. Or too short.

If you work with a company that’s been around for the last 10 years or so, remember that a lot has changed! Google, Twitter, Linked-In, SEO, keywords, blogging…the landscape has changed. That campaign you ran 5 years ago that was a huge success? Try it again. But also try the campaign that bombed.

The results might just surprise you.

Don’t fall victim to the “ratings war”. Give yourself, and your team, permission to learn.

Want me to answer the phone? Read on

Call it cold-calling; call it telemarketing; call it sales; telesales; call it lead nurturing. At the end of the day one thing remains common: you want to connect with the person at the other end of the line and sell them something.

Now I’m in a unique position as a marketing professional. Not only do I have the pleasure of working with “inside sales” and developing programs, scripts, etc., I also have the pleasure of receiving many of these “cold calls”. And although I am not the typical persona to whom my company markets, I still feel a kinship, heck even empathy, for those folks who are on the other end of the line/email when it seemingly appears out of the blue.

I have made it a personal rule over the years that if I don’t recognize the incoming phone number, it goes to voice mail. If I do happen to pick up the phone, in a momentary lapse of judgement, you’d better be on the ball. I can promise you, no matter what time it is, I DON’T have a few minutes to spare right now. Offer to book a time and send me some information in advance.

If you REALLY want to talk to me then I need to see the value in it. How will you make my job easier, my day better or my campaigns more successful? Know who you’re talking to, both from a business perspective and a persona perspective. Understand my challenges and offer a differentiating alternative.

On the other hand, I do tend to sympathize more than others, since I too am measured on the success of outbound marketing and lead conversion. This means that yes, I may fill out your survey, I might listen to your pitch, I will review (skim) the material you send me and I will probably visit your website.

I’m sure everyone has their own checklist of sorts, but here is my list of do’s and don’ts if you’re trying to elicit a response from me:

  1. Do speak slowly and clearly. Spell you name and/or company name if you have to. And for goodness sakes don’t whiz through your phone number!
  2. Do tell me why you’re calling.
  3. Do send me a proper calendar invite when I agree to a call. Make sure your contact details are included should I need to reschedule.
  4. Do spell-check your email and any attachments you send me.
  5. Do have a compelling subject line for your email and make sure the 1st paragraph supports it.
  6. Do make sure you know my name and the name of my company. I understand that Xenos may have been “different”, but Actuate is not a difficult name.  Yet I’ve heard it called Activate, Acutate, and even Acutane. C’mon people!
  7. Don’t leave a voice mail that says you want to discuss an “opportunity” without giving me some clue as to what it’s about.
  8. Don’t leave your whole pitch in a voice mail. If 10 seconds has passed and you’re still droning on, I will hang up.
  9. Don’t tell me you have done work with IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Apparently everyone has. It doesn’t differentiate you.

What’s on your list?