Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

Count Von Count’s Guide To Marketing

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

In an undisclosed location, a wrinkly old tuxedo clad man in his underground bunker turns away from his technologically impossible command center and with a twinkle in his eye cackles to the heavens, “MORE MAIL! WE MUST SEND THEM MORE MAIL! BWAHAHAHAHA!”

That is probably the likely Hollywood perception most people have about how advertising mail gets to their door. The reality is much different. Most marketers aren’t interested in spending money to reach you if there isn’t any potential opportunity for you to buy. Even with a decline of twenty percent in mail volumes over the last five years, direct mail is still an effective method of reaching customers, and during the holiday season, most people do expect to see a spike in the amount of direct mail they receive.

However, sometimes there’s a real head scratcher of a campaign.

Since the first day of November, someone who hasn’t lived in our house for at least a decade, my wife, and I have all received the following mail from a single retail organization:

One Fall Sales Catalogue
Three $10 off In-Store Offers
Three Oversized Postcards
Two Black Friday Sneak Peek Offers

For those fans of Count Von Count it’s, “One! Two! Nine! Nine pieces of mail in fourteen days!” That’s a LOT of “pennies” if you get my meaning.

I suspect that the individual who doesn’t live with us (unless we have a secret room that I don’t know about which would be super cool!), is either a store card holder or former good customer based on the offers she has been receiving, while my wife and I are coming from a consumer list rental.

If you are curious as to why we’d be getting all these pieces, it’s probably not coming from an underground lair, but rather a company not thinking through the data aspects of their direct mail process. In other words, having good data is as important to the return on investment of a marketing campaign as a good offer and festive creative design.

One way to save money is to make sure you aren’t sending multiple copies of the same offer to one house through a process called duplicate elimination. When removing duplicates from a data file or set of files you really have three options. You can eliminate duplicates per person (first name, last name and address), by household, (last name and address) or simply by address. As you might guess, those different levels of matching will provide different results. In this instance, if our mysterious retail organization is even doing duplicate elimination between files, they are likely using per person or household matching. Since my wife and I have different last names and our secretive stranger has a different surname too, those two match levels would not identify us as duplicate records ensuring that we get each piece of mail multiple times.

Any organization doing direct mail needs to consider if they really want to send multiple mail pieces with the same offer to the same address. Sometimes I’m sure it makes sense, but in this instance it’s just annoying. It’s also expensive. Even at an average of fifty cents a piece for printing and postage, the retailer spent seven dollars to send us these nine pieces when they should have sent us only three. If they made the same mistake with only 20,000 households nationally, that’s $110,000 spent to inundate us with extra mail. That’s enough to make any bean counter looking at the bottom line cringe. An organization can spend all the time in the world creating the perfect offer but if they don’t do their due diligence managing their data, they are wasting money and decreasing their return on investment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a couple of names at my address on some beer mailing lists.

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Rebranding Minnesota

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Since moving to Minnesota, I’ve argued that the winters here are actually easier to handle than those on the north shore of Lake Erie. Chilly, windy, gray and wet makes it hard to get outside from November to April in Cleveland, while in Minnesota it is cold, really cold, but generally it’s sunny and you don’t actually have to pack an entire fleet of huskies to ensure you arrive at work safely. We get outside in Minnesota in the winter and play festive outdoor games like broomball, while in Cleveland the winter pastimes are complaining about the Browns and writing “Wash Me!” on grimy and salted car windows. If my wife offered, I’d move back to Cleveland in a heartbeat, but if I have to be a transplant, Minnesota is better than a whole lot of places I could live.

Having come from a town in need of a serious rebranding (seriously people, do you really have to ask me about all of our sports heartbreak or a river fire from nearly fifty years ago the first time you meet me?), it was actually with great interest that I read Wendy Lee’s article Minnesota tourism seeks image makeover in the Star Tribune. Lee writes:

“The North Star State is boring. Unsophisticated. Downright old-fashioned. And that assessment comes from residents in neighboring Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska. In places farther away such as Dallas, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the perception gets even worse.”

Nebraska finds us boring; if that isn’t a marketing wake-up call I don’t know what is. I think the words people might use to describe us are “quaint” when they don’t necessarily mean charming, or “antiquated” as if the entire state was an episode of Prairie Home Companion come alive. We have mullets and play hockey, and even if we aren’t originally from here, have an aunt and uncle named Ole and Lena who sit at the ready with a steaming plate of hotdish, lutefisk and some linguistic misadventures.

But just as the rivers in Wisconsin don’t run yellow with cheese, we know that is not really Minnesota. From great hiking and camping, to an excellent music scene, great neighborhood bars and restaurants, to the best event in the history of humankind—the Minnesota State Fair—the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota have a lot to offer people.

The real challenge is to capture the essence of the state in a few words, or a website or a thirty second commercial and to promote that as a unified image. According to Lee, not only does the state have to deal with negative perceptions about the weather, but it also has a fragmented marketing message.

Living in-state, it would be challenging for me to discuss the impact of out-of-state marketing, but I can take a look at the Explore Minnesota website, Facebook page and Twitter account. While their website is an excellent front for the face for the state of Minnesota, I think their Facebook and Twitter accounts are more geared toward people who already live here. While that isn’t problematic on its face, if you are looking to bring people in from other states, you probably don’t want to tweet on Wednesday events that are taking place on Friday—no matter how cool they are. You just aren’t going to get those folks from Chicago or elsewhere to come on over for a Friday arts cruise in Bemidji. That being said, both accounts appear to do a very good job of interacting with individuals and have attracted a nice following with 21,519 followers on Facebook and another 3574 on Twitter. For a state, the cross-channel marketing of traditional advertising combined with the accessibility of social media may be the perfect fit to encourage tourism to the state.

I can see the campaign now, “Minnesota, we even have computers.”

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go be slightly above average with the rest of my fellow Minnesotans.

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Penguins in Sweaters

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

According to Google Analytics, the hits to my blogs have been steadily declining over the last few posts, and I’m not sure why. It could be my content–maybe my articles have been written poorly. Or it could be the subject matter. In a cyber world inundated with blogs and authors pounding out character after character on direct marketing and social media, maybe there’s just too much noise. There could be a myriad of reasons why. Ultimately, there is a random confluence of things that have limited my readership.

In marketing, the general mantra is to go with what works until it stops working, and then try something new–or go back to basics. With the advent of the internet, this means that photos of cats with adorable captions is the go-to to drive blog traffic. But my lovely wife sent me something much more meaningful yesterday, PENGUINS IN SWEATERS. Yes, that’s right. Penguins in sweaters! No pants of course, because that would violate the laws of cartoon biology. Now unfortunately, you just can’t find Creative Commons licensed photos of penguins in sweaters these days like you used to, so I’ll just have to share a couple of links.

Here’s the interesting thing about penguins in sweaters. It isn’t some Halloween pet torture passed down from the Inquisition to today. Instead, it serves as a useful enhancement for the tuxedo wearing birds that are the victims of oil spills. Many of the links included today describe the problem in-depth, but here’s a little background. When you get crude oil from a spill on the feathers of a penguin it displaces the natural oils on their feathers. The natural oil helps to keep them warm and provides waterproofing. Also, penguins clean their feathers with their beaks meaning they ingest the oil and, as we all remember from that kid in third grade who would eat anything, crude oil is bad for you. The sweaters keep the penguins warm and prevent them from eating the oil until they are rehabilitated and can be released back into the wild.

Now, this story has popped up several times over the last decade as oil-spill troubles affect the region around Australia and New Zealand. For some adorably compelling reason, people feel they must continue to knit penguin sweaters. They’ve knitted so many that the Tasmanian Conservation Trust has collected 15,000 sweaters to be included in their oil spill response kits. With that many sweaters available the little penguins (Eudyptula minor for those scoring in Latin) could probably be renamed the Dr. Cliff Huxtable penguins.

However, the backlog of mini-sweaters helps out only one small area. With the current oil spill off the coast of Tauranga, the most populous city on the northern island of New Zealand, there is a need for penguin sweaters somewhere other than Tasmania. Knitters and penguin lovers all over the globe are able to spread the word via social media that 1,300 birds have been killed by the 300 tons of oil that have already washed up on the beaches, and provide a simple call to action (well it’s a simple call to action if you can knit). For example, a friend of my wife’s came across the Skeinz blog referenced above, she posted it to Facebook, my wife read it, forwarded it to me and now I’m sharing it with you since my typing is only slightly better than my knitting.

What does this have to do with marketing, social media or blogging? Probably not much other than on the internet, a blog about penguins in sweaters will always trump the next article about Facebook or email marketing. To put it another way, old fashioned ideas, such as knitting, doesn’t necessarily mean old fashioned marketing. Even if the vehicle for communicating your message has changed, it doesn’t mean you have to redefine the message.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put this tracksuit on a polar bear.

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It’s Just a Haircut, Not a Commitment

Monday, October 10th, 2011

How many clubs do you belong to? I’m not talking about the health clubs to which you pay a monthly fee so you can feel guilty for not attending, nor do I mean book clubs or even beer or cheese of the month clubs (Christmas is coming in case someone wants to get me a gift). I’m talking about marketing clubs. I don’t know about you but I have a giant box filled with cards for Frequent Flyers, car rentals, grocery stores, pet stores, bookstores, wholesale shopping and a myriad of other bits of plastic that are supposed to give me volume discounts and rewards. If future generations learn how to convert plastic back to oil, my club memberships could probably fuel my car for a year. Most likely the next club I will join will be a club club which will manage my club and rewards cards. With the advent of following brands on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, I don’t think I really need more inclusivity when it comes to interacting with brands. I hardly spend enough time talking to my wife, why do I need even more communication with my brands?

This leads me to yesterday’s adventure. One of my least favorite things to do in this world is spending thirty to forty-five minutes getting my haircut. I’m not a huge fan of being forced to make small talk while a stranger contorts my head into awkward positions ensuring he or she doesn’t lop off a cosmetic, yet important, piece of my ear. Honestly, the only time I get motivated to get my haircut is when someone looks at the mullet emerging from the back of my head and confuses me for an out of shape hockey player. I just want to get in and out and get back on with my day.

I went to a new place yesterday based on the assumption that since it was geared toward men, with TV’s showing football and everything, that I’d be done with the process in ten minutes. I was wrong. I spent those ten minutes providing all of my personal information including my cat’s favorite beverage (coffee) so they could enter it into their customer database. Then another five minutes explaining how I wanted my hair trimmed because “just like it is, but a lot shorter” was clearly not enough instruction. Honestly, I am still not convinced that a “number four” is a thing and or what it represents. I’m guessing this is just an inside joke for those in the hair industry. Then I turned down a free upgrade to the expensive package as a first time customer, not because hot steamed towels don’t sound absolutely wonderful, but really I just came in for a trim.

Finally, I’m on my way out the door but I wasn’t able to leave just yet. My name was already written on a special club membership soon-to-be-recycled piece of paper with one visit already ticked off. There was another slip of paper with an upgrade to the deluxe package because I turned down the hot towels and other stuff this time, ANOTHER piece of paper eight foot long to get a discount on my next haircut by answering a survey, and finally my receipt. I walked out of the place with an adequate haircut and a wad of papers that made me look like an attorney who had just dropped all his briefs.

Who doesn’t like getting discounts? But with everything in life there’s a balance between time and effort. So I can save three bucks by doing a phone survey? No thanks. I somehow have to manage a little slip of paper so I can get a sticker every time I get a haircut? Unlikely to happen. Join your email list? Maybe, but I suspect you’ll send me too many emails and not think about when it would be appropriate to reach me.

Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but as I look at my hairline I suspect the only hair club I’m likely to join in my life is the Hair Club for Men. Possibly I’m wrong, and there’s a great market for haircut rewards, but the only discount I’m really working toward is one that gives me a break based on how much hair is left on my head.

I don’t need a relationship with the national chain that cuts my hair; I need an inexpensive and quick hair cutting solution.

So to get back to the point, marketing programs should be easy to manage for the consumer and the business and targeted to what your customers want. Any business can set up rewards, but frequency and value are important to keep at the forefront of the program. And please don’t make me carry or have to remember another card, it is becoming too much to manage.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go find a barber shop run by some monks who have taken a vow of silence.

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Someone Blogged about Direct Mail *Gasp*

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

“It just makes cents to save a few bucks.” A quick Google search tells me no one has said this before, but I find it hard to believe a pun this good has been passed up. Anyway, you don’t have to get an A in accounting to know that the two ways to increase your profit is either sell more, or spend less while generating the same revenue. It’s important to spend your sales and marketing money wisely to get the best return on your investment. Despite what you may have heard from social media or electronic marketers telling you that direct mail has little value, getting something in the mail is still a great way to reach prospects or introduce existing customers to new services. Or, if you are Delta Airlines and American Express, introduce current customers to services they already have.

Yes, I said that correctly.

It seems that about every six weeks, I get a really shiny fancy-pants offer in the mail co-signed by bigwig marketers from Delta and Amex about all the benefits of signing up for the Delta SkyMiles American Express card. It’s a great offer, provides plenty of features, and, as Rick Vaughn in Major League says, “it keeps us from getting shut out at our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.” I’d be all for getting this card, except I already have one. It’s been nearly two years since the wife signed us up and we use the card religiously at all of those restaurant-type places.

But Joel, why don’t you just drop it in the recycling bin and be quiet about it? Because direct mail can be expensive and sending out pieces to people who already have your product doesn’t make good business sense.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that between design, printing, materials, labor, and postage that it costs about one dollar to mail each piece (maybe that’s a little high or low, but it makes the math easier). If they send out 250,000 pieces, and even if 5% are people who already have the card, they’re wasting $12,500 per mailing. If they mail eight times a year their marketing departments are spending $100,000 to reach customers that already have their product. Maybe the lifetime value of an American Express customer more than makes up for those marketing losses, but I’m guessing no company gets to that level of success by wasting $100,000 annually without trying to fix the problem.

Since my wife doesn’t get the same offers, my guess is that American Express and Delta match two files. One is the universe of people with SkyMiles numbers and the other is a file of SkyMiles numbers that are associated with an Amex card. Any records that don’t match and reach a credit score threshold get a mailer. However, this process fails to recognize joint-card accounts like my wife and I enjoy. Given the annual fee associated with this card, I’m assuming that many households similarly have joint cardholders. Given this fact, it would probably be much more effective for them to do their matching at the address level rather than at the name or SkyMiles level, which they are presently doing. Soliciting present joint-account holders is very unlikely to lead to new customers.

As with many examples, it’s easy to shrug off the “big company problem.” But if you are a small non-profit and have a correspondingly small marketing budget, you probably don’t want to waste a penny of your marketing dollars sending multiple mailers to one household. There are many ways to look at your customer list and determine the most effective way to reach the people you want, and it’s significantly cheaper to scrub your list for duplicates than it is to send them mail.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go call a guy about trademarking that “cents” intro.

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Why Am I So Hungry?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The more I read from the social media experts, the more I realize that no one really understands what they are talking about. One day it’s about likes and retweets, the next it’s about having the perfect ratio of comments, links and replies, then it’s all about the quality of the content, or, worse, the quantity of content. Gurus are going to tell you when to post and how to post, but it’s not really going to work. It’s like going to an all–you-can-eat buffet and learning it’s filled with 18,000 different brands of diet food. Sure it probably won’t kill you but honestly you are still going to go looking for glazed donut flavored ice cream the minute you leave the restaurant.

I recently had a friend ask me why she thought her jewelry company’s Facebook page has around three hundred followers while her competition has many thousands more. Interestingly, her company is getting 30,000 hits to its website monthly, but that isn’t translating to Facebook numbers. Before I even started writing this piece, I forewarned her there isn’t a magic potion or silver bullet to getting Facebook fans and anyone who is promising to sell you a silver bullet is probably a freshly shaved werewolf. That being said there are probably a few things related to expectations that need to be considered as well as time and money related issues.

1. Are you getting a return on your investment?

The number one thing anyone working with social media struggles with is the ability to quantify the return on their marketing efforts. In the B2B space, this means determining whether you are generating leads using social media, and in the consumer space this means are you getting sales? Anyone that says social media is only for product branding is trying to sell you on their ability to get a job in marketing without being able to sell anything. At the end of the day, selling your products or services is the only reason to use social media for business. Engagement is nice, but so is having a car. However, a car on blocks in the front yard doesn’t get you to work. There are a lot of links on my friend’s website leading to the company’s online store, but this isn’t enough. The first thing I would do is generate either a Facebook-only promo code or a product link that is Facebook specific to see if Facebook posts are generating sales. From this they can get a sense to see if the social media marketing efforts are having any impact and understand if it’s worth the time they are putting into Facebook.

2. Is Facebook really a competition?

I didn’t spend hours agonizing about the choice of following the Summit Brewing Company or the Surly Brewing Company on Twitter and Facebook. I followed them both because I wanted to. I didn’t think to myself, “wow, I just followed one brewery and I’m exhausted, I guess I’m done with that market segment on social media.” Just because your competition has more followers than you doesn’t mean they are capturing your potential followers, or more importantly, customers. Sure they may have 7000 more likes than you, but if both of you have 200 actual social media customers then at the end you are even with them.

3. Are you trying to build a community or a launching pad?

In this instance, the Facebook page in question has the same format for nearly every post: a wall photo of a piece of jewelry, an interesting comment about the piece with the price, and a link back to the sale website. If your intent is to get people to like and stay on your Facebook page, don’t immediately give them a reason to leave your page. Similarly to a restaurant without tables (I’m writing this after lunch so I’m as baffled as you are by all the food metaphors), you aren’t going to make any extra beverage sales by sending your customers away to eat a slice of pizza on the street. If you want a community, you’ll need a different tack than just posting your specials—that being said, if you are already getting a return on your investment then maybe your strategy is working.

4. Give people a reason to click

My friend’s organization included links to Facebook with every email and likes for everything on the website. However, if there isn’t a compelling reason to like or click through people aren’t going to do it. Just because you have set up a page and plastered an icon everywhere doesn’t mean people are actually going to click. In other words, just because Bravo has another cake-cooking competition, doesn’t mean I’m going to watch. I need a reason to watch. I might think those cakes are delicious, but I have no motivation to tell anyone about it. Give your audience a reason to like something and they will. I don’t have a magical solution for this one, but think about what marketing techniques work for you today and apply those strategies.

The net is, when it comes to social media marketing, a competitor isn’t necessarily the best yardstick to see if you are doing things correctly. With so little real understanding of how to navigate the social media space successfully (beyond historically successful marketing techniques) it’s probably better for an organization to look to case studies and examples of successful social media campaigns and emulate those with your own organization’s unique spin.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I apparently need to go hit the vending machine for an afternoon treat.

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Will Facebook Match My Socks Too?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

I’m sure there are plenty of people that are still too upset about Facebook format changes from three years ago, to be particularly upset about yesterday’s changes. It’s fascinating to read or hear the backlash each time Facebook changes their layout. When we have beautiful fall weather, we need something to complain about, so I guess it gets to be Facebook. I suspect if there was an Amazon review of Facebook it would be “3 Stars, nice product but changes too often and won’t stop my mom from replying to my posts.”

Generally speaking, Facebook is one of the few companies releasing new features that work, rather than features that don’t work to replace features that never did work from the previous version. There are a few interesting things that have changed with this release and just like everyone else in America with access to a blog, I feel the need to tell you about it at this very moment.

The first thing is their promotion of lists in importance and helping us to formulate them. This is reasonable since I would probably never get around to categorizing my 500+ friends. To be honest, I have fewer socks than that and if it wasn’t for my wife, I’d probably never categorize them in pairs either. Facebook relied on the basic methods of blood (family), time (my Hiram College list) and space (people that are near Saint Paul). None of which are actually that useful to me and I suspect it’s the same for others. I don’t think we structure our social media generated virtual world in the same way we structure our interactions in the real world. Interestingly, my wife was added to a Family Group of a friend whom we’ve hung out with once since her wedding a few years ago. The only buggy thing I can speculate about the algorithms is that her first name starts with a J and last name starts with an I, so Facebook assumed she’s related to me, and that makes her related to my wife? Although the other JI and I aren’t friends at the time of this writing (request sent, I swear).

I’d rather Facebook did content based suggestions to help me organize my social life.

My Facebook Content Lists would be:

1. Posts Only Baby Photos
2. Copies and Pastes Religious/Political Talking Points
3. Serial Farmville Updater
4. Passive Aggressive Vague Post Writers
5. I Won’t Ever Read Your Blog Again
6. People Who Treat Their Relationship Status like a Light Switch

So yeah, there’s that.

The only other things I’d like to comment on are the idea of Top News Stories being related to how long it’s been since your last login is a great idea. Although, for me it’s still littered with people from Twitter and their cross-posted content—that’s a function of them being more prolific and engaged “sharers” than most of my physical world friends. Finally, the only thing I really despise about the new layout is the real time ticker in the upper right hand of the layout. I’ve yet to find something interesting in there AND it’s locked to the screen giving it the feel of a really creepy clown picture with overly painted eyes following me around the room. I just don’t like it and hopefully will get so used to it that I actually won’t notice it anymore.

Like any organization marketing to consumers or businesses, Facebook should connect with its users, and find out what they like, need, and suggest before making serious changes to their product. Just because they think it’s good, doesn’t mean their customers do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go worry about much more important things than Facebook’s new layout.

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Ten Things I Think I Think I Think

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I was perusing the social media thinkers on the wide-wide-world-of-web and learned that I’ve been blogging all wrong. My rambling stories that take at least eighteen hours to get to the point are not the way to engage readers (I know right!). I need to use little words, short sentences, small ideas, and lists. We must have lists! Lists are shareable. Long-winded stories are what you tell over a beer while everyone at the table furtively hides their stifled yawns. Let’s make everything easily consumable, requiring minimal thought and be so bland that it will be forgotten tomorrow when we read the next vanilla article on the same topic. I’m going to give this a try.

Here’s my list and it doesn’t have anything at all do to with my introduction.

1. While short daily blog posts are certainly one way to engage your audience, it isn’t the only way. Please stop telling us that it is. It’s clear that many people, regardless of the industry, feel the need to write something daily and their quality of work suffers significantly. I’d like to think I have a decent idea weekly, a good idea once a month and a great idea rarely—all those bad ideas I have each day, I don’t need to share.

2. Use the medium in question or don’t bother. If your organization’s Twitter strategy is only to send people to Facebook or your blog, then you are missing the point. Tailor your message to the tool you are using and stop asking us to go three different places to get some information.

3. Direct Mail is still a great way to reach your customers. However, if you’d like people to drop a couple of grand on some computer gear, you might want to make sure that letter arrives more than six hours before the deal expires. I’m guessing people like to think about these things before pulling the trigger. Direct Mail requires a lot more planning than simply emailing out today’s deals. Think through your offer before you slap on a stamp.

4. Three social media gurus walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” The three ignore him, just talk to each other for an hour, and call the night a successful engagement.

5. If you blog about the value of using Twitter and the only people who read it already use Twitter, did you really have a point? I understand pandering to your base audience, but if you want to be influential, you need to influence people beyond getting some folks to nod in agreement.

6. I still really like Google+. It’s so quiet and peaceful there because no one is using it.

7. I love Peter Shankman’s article I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You. Any human being who includes this sentence, “BAD WRITING IS KILLING AMERICA,” is a hero in my book.

8. Hyperbole has become mundane. Bump the excitement down a notch and give us more analysis and less hype.

9. Social Media gives you the opportunity to develop your “Personal Brand.” However, this doesn’t mean you are required to link all of your accounts to work, although you certainly can. But remember it is called Social Media and not Work Media.

10. I really don’t believe your organization is out of business if you don’t email me EVERY SINGLE DAY (unless your company is named Borders). How about giving me (your customer) an option to get daily, weekly, monthly, or holiday-only emails? It’s not that I don’t want you to market to me; it’s that I don’t want you to market to me so much.

Whew! Apparently I can’t even write a short article using lists.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be busy thinking about how to turn this list up to eleven.

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Targeting the Right Nuts

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Is anything harder than feigning excitement at the horrible media recommendation from a friend or family member? “Bob, I have to tell you, I LOVED that documentary on the feeding habits of squirrels in the greater Nome, Alaska metro area. The director really captured the angst of those squirrels trying to select just the right winter nut to bury.”

The worst part isn’t really hurting their feelings though, is it? It’s the realization that they are going to continue to provide you with bad entertainment suggestions until your life ends, or you unfriend them on Facebook—whichever comes first. The point is the more you get to know about someone, the better you should be able to tailor your message to fit their needs. If Bob really knew me, he’d probably have suggested some new science-fiction movie with laser guns and sword-wielding cats. The same is true of marketing. So for purposes of getting to the point, why don’t we call Bob, LinkedIn and “The Squirrels of Greater Nome,” the email I received this morning.

After I woke up, I rolled out of bed like a freshly minted zombie, grabbed my coffee and checked email on my trusty Blackberry like I do every morning. There were a few things from Twitter, a personal email or two and another email from LinkedIn. The subject of the email from LinkedIn was “Joel, recommended internships for you.” Beyond the lack of appropriate capitalization in the subject, I was completely baffled as to why I received this email. I quickly realized my cobwebs were caused by my late night at school and I got the email because I have my current Master’s program listed on LinkedIn.

That makes sense, but then why am I compelled to blog about this? Well, I’ve provided enough personal and professional information to LinkedIn that I should never have received this needless email. This is particularly true given that the internship leads they sent me were so far outside my area of interests that even Zig Ziglar couldn’t sell me on them.

The quickest way they could have prevented emailing me was to include an age range select on the campaign file. I’m thirty-seven and highly unlikely to be interested in a low paying, or more likely, unpaid internship. Since I supplied LinkedIn my exact birth date, the least they could do is use it in conjunction with their marketing materials to me—also, why didn’t they send me a birthday card? Scratch that, too creepy. I also have a long work history posted on the site, another reason I should have been excluded.

Let’s take a look at some of these great internships in the email:

Long Term Intern-Marketing & Social Media Planner, Symantec, Istanbul – So LinkedIn marketing thinks I might be interested in moving to Istanbul (not Constantinople) for a part-time job?

Marketing Intern, L’Oréal – Russian Federation – No offense to L’Oréal, but until they have their own branded donuts like Glamour magazine, I’m not interested. Also, my Russian is just a tad rusty and by rusty I mean one semester at Kent State thirteen years ago.

Gucci Group Fall Internships – IT/MIS and Finance, Gucci – Greater New York City Area – Okay, so we are in the right country now, but my only experience in high fashion is looking at the same Coach purse with my wife in five different cities before she purchased it. I will give LinkedIn credit since it is actually an MIS position, matching my Master’s program.

Public Relations / Corporate Communications Intern, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – Greater New York City Area – Jackpot! If anyone has watched me cook Hot Pockets in the microwave and garnish the plate artistically with Cheetos, you’d know I am ready to pack up and go work for Martha Stewart.

To be fair, LinkedIn has no real idea about my personal feelings on the fashion industry and they’d have nothing to suppress in relation to those internship suggestions. However, I have the feeling that someone in the marketing department said to the data keepers, “Send this email out to everyone with a graduation date in the future, they’re all going to love this feature!” Had they taken the time to be a tad more discerning, they might have tightened the target audience to people who are just about to complete an undergraduate degree or in a graduate program that started within a year or two of finishing undergrad.

Just because in-house email marketing is inexpensive doesn’t mean your should throw everything against the wall just to see what sticks. It’s important to properly target your audience and market to the right people, otherwise you risk your audience not just deleting an email as irrelevant, but opting out of your service, or blocking you as spam. Once a potential customer opts out or flags you as spam you lose the opportunity to email them again, so it makes sense to keep your messages relevant to your audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ship a package of acorns to Nome, Alaska.

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The Great Minnesota Tweet Together

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I’ve got my PTO request slip in my hand and I’m trembling with excitement as I look forward to the start of next week’s Minnesota State Fair. I grew up over two hours from the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, so my experience with fairs until I moved to the Twin Cities was relegated to some smaller fairs comprised of terrible cover bands, undercooked elephant ears and eight despondent goats going through the motions of being goat-like until they could head out to happy hour. Honestly, I’d like to think all my fair experiences before the Minnesota State Fair were kind of like training camp to prepare me for the awesomeness of hundreds of meat products on a stick, giant tractors taken straight from Gulliver’s Travels and real bands reuniting as they try to reclaim their moment in the sun from their one hit song back in 1976. It’s so close I can smell the excitement—or maybe someone just burned some food in the toaster oven in the office kitchen. I don’t know.

The Minnesota State Fair is known as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” and according to my in-depth research on Wikipedia, it is the third largest state fair in the US. You’d think that an event that seems to set new daily attendance records every year AND has a 90 pound butter sculpture of the head of the newly selected “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” wouldn’t use social media to connect with the 1.7 million people that attended in 2010, but they do. After @MeetingBoy and my wife, @MinnStateFair was one of the first accounts I followed on Twitter. With over 250,000 likes on Facebook and almost another 10,000 on Twitter, the Fair is doing an excellent job of communicating with people attending, running contests, and most importantly, promoting the organizations and events at the Fair.

I’ll admit I don’t engage with the Fair on Facebook, but I do on Twitter. For anyone looking to leverage Twitter for business purposes, I highly recommend checking out their Twitter account. Not only do they push updates and information, but they actively engage people on the platform. Be it replies to people tweeting about the Fair, sharing links to fairground maps, answering random questions, or just making me hungry for new food offerings from vendors, the people behind the @MinnStateFair account do a fantastic job of building a community and engaging it with worthwhile content. While I am quite sure a significant amount of effort is happening in the background to manage the social media interaction for the fair, I think you’ll agree that it’s time well spent. I know it sure beats all the businesses that start a Twitter account, send out three links a day, and call it a social media marketing program.

There are a lot of “gurus” out there that will tell you how to do social media for businesses, organizations and non-profits. They’ll inundate you with an avalanche of advice and even more snake oil. But rarely will they give you a positive example of an organization that isn’t a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. More likely, they will enhance the negative related to a bad social media event and just say “good social media practice is not doing this.” In this instance, the Minnesota State Fair Twitter account is a great example of how to do social media right within a professional context and their page is worth a read, if not a follow.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have at least 30 jokes to write about the Fair for my personal Twitter account and at least 25 of those can’t be about the Miracle of Birth Center.

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