Jim Gilbert and the Florida Direct Marketing Association are pleased to announce…


January 15th FDMA Meeting Info

From: The Florida Direct Marketing Association | December 31, 2008

The FDMA is pleased to announce its January 15th event:

Business Networking in the 21st Century

Come join us for lunch January 15th for an informative session on how to build your personal brand using web 2.0 online techniques with Jim Gilbert, CEO of Gilbert Direct Marketing. In a world where the average  tenure in a position is just over 2 years, it’s been said that building your personal rolodex is just as important to your career as excelling at your job. During this must-attend luncheon, you will learn how to use Linkedin and other networking sites to your fullest advantage.
Location: Westin Hotel Fort Lauderdale (I-95 & Cypress Creek exit)

Time: 11:30am – 1:30pm (Networking and Registration from 11:30am – 12:00 pm)

Members $37, Non-Members $47. Admission includes plated lunch.

For additional details clink on “Register” below to read what specific take-away strategies you will learn. 

Click here to register

Read more at The Florida Direct Marketing Association http://www.fdma.org

Perchance to Dream (of New Customers and Untapped Riches)


Jim Gilbert

Jim Gilbert

Last night I had a dream…  I had a vision of many customers.  Not just any customers, but the most coveted buyers of them all…mail order buyers! 


And behold, they bought often and recently, and liked to purchase many products at a time.  They loved these products so much that they would never consider returning them. They liked to purchase in a specific category – they were niche buyers.  A plentiful niche that was easily identifiable, a specific targeted market – the lowest hanging fruit from the tree!

And I remember in my dream that I felt warm and secure knowing that these were soon to be my customers.  It was time to start my dream business and be richer than anyone can imagine.  All I needed was the right products for these perfect customers.

But then something happened.  My dream became a nightmare!  For I had no products to offer my customers. 

In my dream, I wracked my brain trying to find product ideas. I contacted various sources looking for products, but to no avail.  Nothing!  I asked friends and business associates alike, “do you have any products that would fit my market?”  Again nothing!  I couldn’t come up with one single product that this beautiful niche of customers would want.

And I woke up in a cold sweat, thankful that this was just a dream, and in real life this could never happen.

The truth is, we don’t wake up in the morning with ideas for new customer niches.  We don’t wake up saying “I think found a great list of buyers, now what can i offer them?”

But sometimes we do wake up with ideas for new products.  

And sometimes these new product ideas become businesses.  This is the classic entrepreneur beginning: a dream turns into a business because someone thought up a great product idea and had the moxie to take it to market.  Your classic “started around the kitchen table” story!

In the past, I’ve stated that a marketing-based approach to direct marketing, mail order and e-retailing cares less for the specific product, than it does finding the right market (customers!) for those products.  To me, that IS about putting customers first. 

The following is a quote I give to my direct marketing class on the first night of the semester. It’s by Peter Drucker, one of the great management gurus of our time:

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.  Companies are not in business to make things, but to make customers.”

My personal version goes something like this (with a direct marketing context):

The goals of every direct marketing organization are to generate new customers at the lowest possible cost per acquisition and take care of these customers to maximize customer lifetime value via repeat purchases.

The goals of every direct marketing organization need to be exclusively focused around the above. 

But that’s not always the case in today’s modern business world.  Many business owners and managers know their customers, but, more specifically, they know what their customers want.  The emphasis is less on understanding customers better, and more on their own intuition of what customers want.  This attitude of “I know my customers and what they want“,  makes too many assumptions.  Assumptions that don’t fit with today’s modern business practices – especially when you consider the wealth of information you can find out about your customers just by talking to them.  With the adoption of social media in the last few years, and the explosion of web 2.o, there is no excuse for not being customer-centric.  Right?

But of course any time you have a company with more than one employee, you have politics, posturing, agenda’s and egos – which means that following the above principals can get muddied by other issues. 

I see product-centric and politically charged organizations every day of the week stepping on their own toes and chasing their own tails!  I’ve also seen some companies with some great products fail for these very same reasons.

Which is why I want to set a different tone for this blog and proffer the thought that the modern entrepreneurial business should be marketing-focused and, by extension, customer-driven.

So to all catalog/multichannel/e-retail/mail order business owners out there, let me ask you this : Are you product driven?  Or customer/marketing focused?  What kind of research do you do to better understand your customers?  How do you develop new products?  Let’s get into this in future postings.  As always, please feel free to fire off a comment by using the form below, and I’ll respond.

I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic.  What a great way to close out 2008 and welcome in 2009!

“Bailout” is the new, “free”!


Bailout offer

Bailout offer

This just in: According to 2 independent sources, Forestry and Saturn Research, the word “bailout” has overtaken “free” as the most used marketing term.  


According to Saturn Research, “The term FREE, for many years reigned supreme as the most important response compelling tool a marketer could use.  But no longer!   Now that the word “bailout has entered our national lexicon it has been used to the point of beating out it’s competition on an order of 2:1 this holiday season.”

This author has to agree.  I’ve seen bailout offers for carpet companies and others.  In fact, yesterday I saw a dry cleaners with a bailout offer!

Of course Forestry and Saturn also offered the following… “Happy Holidays from Jim Gilbert and Gilbert Direct!!!”

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!  Enjoy.  

I may add a few posts between now and the new year so use that RSS feed function.  Otherwise, I’ll speak to you next year.  And thanks for your support.  In the last 5 weeks I’ve been publishing this blog, you have made it a success beyond my wildest dreams.

UPDATE: So I’m reading my emails this morning and I get an email that  I thought said, “have a merry Xmas and a PREPOSTEROUS new year” .  This was before  my coffee kicked in, but it’s growing on me.


NCDM 2008 Recap: The Key Concepts All direct Marketers Must Know!

Having attended many of the sessions and keynotes at the 2008 National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM) conference in Kissimmee, Fla., last week, I came away with three key points that proved to be the overriding themes of the three-day event.
1. Know me and be relevant. During the first day’s keynote speech, Tom Boyles, SVP of global customer managed relationships for the Walt Disney Co., posited that relevance isn’t enough anymore. Disney achieves true one-to-one communication by connecting and engaging its customers and prospects emotionally to its products.
To achieve this, Disney’s taken its databases and developed what it calls a “real-time automated decision engine,” which drives its campaigns and all contact between its customers (who are called “guests”) and its staff and brand.
Disney strives for, and achieves, a high level of personalization in its marketing messages and customers’ experiences by collecting data at basically any and all contact points. It then uses that data to create specialized to-dos, maps, DVDs, welcome mailers and other things relevant to past behavior in sync with the actual life stages of its guests.


Let me know you enjoyed this article, or feel free to add something I have missed.  Go ahead, post a comment below

2. Engagement is the new black.
If there were a single concept to rise to the top this year, it would be the idea of engagement. As with Disney, all companies to some extent try to use their data to effectively engage their prospects and customers better.
Additionally, many companies now embrace blogs; viral campaigns; and other social media outlets such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook more than ever before. Some are succeeding, but it became clear that this emerging “technology” has some pitfalls — negative comments resulting in brand degradation to name one — along with benefits.
One thing is certain: While it’s possible to track ROI for social media through clicks, visits and even downstream orders, the measurement of engagement (and engagement itself) is something that hasn’t been mastered yet.
In essence, social media became a “player” this year.
3. Triggered campaigns offer the promise of one-to-one communication. In a case study session hosted by Bernice Grossman, principal consultant and founder of the database marketing consulting firm DMRS Group, three database marketing companies were given the challenge of how to send the “right response to the right person at the right time,” using modern campaign management “best-in-breed” solutions.
The companies — Alterian, smartFOCUS and Unica — showed, in real time while logged into their applications, the ease of use in developing triggered campaigns to both prospects and customers in a sort of “set it and forget it” manner. The triggered campaigns were based upon names on the file meeting certain criteria on a rolling basis (e.g., the last six months) in underperforming segments.
Each company in the “showdown” was given a dummy database that included contact and transactional information, along with gender and date of birth. From there the companies showed the audience how they used their solutions to create segmented, multiwave campaigns including birthday cards, offers and automated thank-you e-mails. The takeaway from this session was all about ease of use.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at jimdirect@aol.com You can also follow Jim on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect.

Why you must always be networking – and Linkedin is the key (part 3)

So you want to be a power networker? In this economy, you need to cultivate as many positive connections as you can. 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve discussed the networking site LinkedIn and how it can be an enormous benefit in helping you expand your sphere of influence. 

This week, in the last of this series (for part 1, click here, and for part 2, click here), I detail how you can use your LinkedIn homepage to its fullest advantage; think of it as a résumé on steroids. 

First, let me start by saying that your homepage is infinitely searchable, both by LinkedIn’s internal search engine (which has recently been upgraded to “super” strength) and the major search engines. Make sure all of your relevant previous positions, titles and duties/job descriptions are visible on your homepage if searched. Your “summary” also should contain searchable keywords. Same goes for your “interests” and education. 

Next, add some Web site links to your homepage. You can link up to three outside Web sites. My homepage has links to my Web site and my personal blog. Don’t just accept the default titles for the headings, either. You can add specifics. For example, instead of using the default title, “my blog,” I’ve listed, “Gilbert Direct Marketing Blog,” an easy tweak from the “edit my profile” tab.

While on the subject of blogs, LinkedIn has added some great new features in the past few months. One gives you the ability to have a WordPress blog link directly to your homepage. Other new applications include:

  • the ability to add and share files within your network;
  • a tool to upload presentations to further promote your work (portfolio, whitepapers, etc.);
  • Amazon.com reading lists to recommend books to your network; and
  • the opportunity to let your network know your travel plans and meet up with people in the area at the same time via TripIt.com.

I’m having a great deal of fun and success using the WordPress blog application. In less than a month, I’ve had 2,000 hits on my blog thanks to LinkedIn. The blog took me minutes to set up and about 30 seconds to add to my LinkedIn homepage. Of course, you need some content; mine is specific to direct marketing. 

From there, I started using the “questions” feature to ask for help promoting the blog. Many people visited the blog, left comments and offered great suggestions. I did the same thing in the groups I belong to. Now every time I add a new article, it automatically appears on LinkedIn. Also, when I publish a new article (about twice a week), I post a link to the “news” section for my groups. (FYI, my blog address is https://gilbertdirectmarketing.wordpress.com/; don’t forget to leave a comment.)

Lastly, underneath the search bar on the top right of each page is a “search for references” link. This is a great tool to use to get background info on people you work with. Want to know the real scoop about someone you’re about to hire or the new boss that just hired you? Use that tool, and make some discreet inquiries.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line at jimdirect@aol.com.

Make sure you check out my column next week, when I’ll provide coverage for Catalog Success of this week’s NCDM conference in Orlando, Fla.

Why you must always be networking – and Linkedin is the key (part 2)

If you aren’t in full networking mode in this economy, let this week’s column be a call to action for you.

(For more about why, see last week’s column.)

These days, I’m always networking. I’m on MySpace and Facebook, and have just started to play around with Twitter and other less known networking sites.  Even Plaxo has gotten into the social and business networking game.

But I find LinkedIn to be the best networking tool to use by far. Most LinkedIn users already know how to link to other people in and out of their networks. I wrote about the beginner stuff about a year ago.

That said, there are LinkedIn users and then there are LinkedIn players.

Let’s talk more about how to go from being merely listed on LinkedIn to being a networking “player,” which has helped me get job inquiries, plus writing and consulting gigs.

Follow these steps to help grow your career:

1. Update your profile often. Every time you update your profile, that info gets sent to your connections. Also, update your “status” often, as this gets transmitted as well. You always want to be visible to other people in your network. Updates keep you in front of them.

2. Ask questions. Use the question function of LinkedIn, because it’s a great tool to get your name in front of other LinkedIn users. Some quick tips: Always try to ask thoughtful and relevant questions. Ask questions that’ll generate a lot of response, and give plenty of background info for why you’re asking the questions. When people respond to your questions, always send thank-you e-mails to them.

And, if appropriate, you may want to send them connection requests. When your questions close, go back and use the site’s rating system to pick the best answers. When you “best” people, they earn expertise. That shows up on their profiles and adds credibility, too.

3. Answer questions. Same as above. You can earn expert status, and your answers help other LinkedIn users solve their problems. And don’t forget to add a URL to your answer to help support your position.

4. Join groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. Once you join a group, announce to it who you are; what you do; and provide a link to your profile, blog or Web site. You also can post and answer discussions within groups. Get involved, and watch your network and sphere of influence grow.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week, where I’ll provide some cool power-user tips. I’ll also reveal how to build a “super-profile.”

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at jimdirect@aol.com.

Happy Holidays… You’re fired!

Last year for Catalog Success Magazine, I wrote a scathing attack on downsizing after reading about Lillian Vernon letting go of 100 employees a mere five days before Christmas.   And without any warning!  And not just seasonal employees either!

Could there be a more despicable act?

Now with our economy on the brink, massive layoffs are being, uh, for lack of a better term, executed. Unemployment is at 6.5%, and experts and pundits alike are predicting that 1st quarter of 2009, will be even worse.

Therefore, I republish the article here because it’s point is even more valid today than last year. In fact, I know plenty of people who have just lost their jobs, and I find this to be a fitting tribute to those who fell (or more appropriately were pushed) onto their swords at the worst possible time of year.

Here goes…

Now, I’m not against making a profit, but as a direct marketer and direct marketing consultant, I always seek ways to reduce costs rather than cutting staff — a last resort to me — to meet profit goals.  Was it really going to kill a multimillion-dollar enterprise’s profits to keep 100 employees, who probably busted their collective butts to help Vernon make its holiday sales numbers, just a few more weeks?

Somebody is waaay out of line here!  I know today we live in a pressure-cooker environment, doing business at light speed. Holiday season in retail and mail order, from September on, is intense.  But come on, give people a break here.  Did Vernon’s management really need to do this?

Many people already find the holiday season stressful, while traditionally it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year;” a paradox of the times we live in.  The last thing someone needs is the ax to fall on them during that time.

My solution to holiday downsizings…

There should be some sort of moratorium on firings the last two months of the year.  Let’s extend that out into the third week of January just to be safe.  Add that to our list of best practices.

Rant over!  Anybody think I could possibly be off base?  Let me know.

Speak to you next week. Got comments? Post them below!  In the mean time, here is another article I wrote on downsizing as the road more easily traveled,

Here is another called downsizing is for sissies

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can e-mail him at jimdirect@aol.com.