Dying to Get Your Offer (aka: dead men still get mail)

Despite the economy, I still get a lot of mail these days.*  And so does my father.  The problem is, my father passed away six months ago.  His mail now comes to my house, where he gets many great special offers, and a ton of fundraising mailers.

A few months ago, he even got a fundraising offer from the hospital where he passed. That’s the definition of irony, right? And while I miss my Dad terribly, as an accountant he was a frugal, count-your-pennies kind of person who would approved of this article.

Another kind of “do not mail” database:

Don’t mailers know they’re wasting money? Direct mail costs enough these days. So much so that it doesn’t make sense to mail someone who can be easily suppressed from a mailing list.

Introducing the Deceased Suppression File :
Are you aware that there’s something called a deceased file to suppress against? Most mailing houses and service bureaus can easily run your mailing list up against this file before you mail.

I was curious about how many direct and multichannel marketers actually add this to their merge/purge processes before mailings, so I asked Gary Sierzchulski, senior account executive at the service bureau Donnelley Marketing for his take:

Our deceased file is compiled through information received from the Social Security Administration and is updated monthly. We see virtually all our clients use it on their housefiles once a year; some more often depending on their customers’ demographics. About half our clients use it within the merge itself against rental records.

“Because the deceased suppression is done at an individual level, we see that about a third of our clients still mail to households flagged as deceased, because other members of the household still purchase or the household is still active.

When I asked Gary about the accuracy of the file, he stated that it’s about 90 percent accurate and added the following: “Every once in the while we get a call from someone who says they’re not dead. It’s due to the misinformation sent to us from the S.S. Administration. That’s why we now use another independent source to verify or provide us with additional names.”

Donnelley Marketing also uses a proprietary source for additional hits or verification of the data, and we’ve noticed incremental gains in counts.

What struck me here is that only half of Donnelley’s clients use it within the merge/purge process. Of course this depends on mailing frequency, but if you’re doing merges more than a month apart (depending on updating schedule), the additional cost of adding this suppression to the merge will be outweighed by the savings in printing and postage spent on people who have passed on. Make sense?

* The reason I added the asterisk above is simple: Now is a great time to mail. There’s less clutter in the mailbox, and less clutter means less competition for your offer. Over the next few weeks, I’ll delve into the economy and how it relates to some self-fulfilling prophecies surrounding the direct mail business.

Please note: your comments, criticisms, kudo’s always appreciated.  And if you disagree, please call me out, start a duel if you want.  Go ahead.  Comment away…

Guest Article: 10 Tips for Looking HOT on Internet Marketing Video by Jessica Kizorek

Note from Jim: I found another great voice in the social media world and asked her to guest for my blog.  Jessica Kizorek did a great presentation for us on cost effective internet video last week at the Florida Direct Marketing Association.  This is an extension of that presentation (and also a great follow up to my internet video series part 1, part 2) ….

Preparing to be in front of a camera soon?  Follow these ten tips or risk looking like a loser on video.

1. Look Me in the Eye

With the advent of the webcam, people are way more interested in looking at themselves perform in the video preview window than actually making eye contact with the person watching the video.  Look into the camera.  Straight into the lens.  Don’t wander with those eyes…you have to be 10 times as engaging through online video to keep people from wandering off your page.  Stare them down.  Lock them in like a bomber pilot locks in on his target.

2. Be in the Spot Light

If your face is going to be the centerpiece of the video, make sure that it’s got the most light on it.  People’s eyes will wander towards the light, so if there’s a bright window with little kids riding tricycles behind you…that’s what people will be watching.  Viewers are like horses.  Put blinders on them and tell their brain what they should focus on.  Illuminate the key elements of the frame, whether that’s your face, a product or a logo.  Place a smaller light to the opposite side (and a little behind) so that you have dimension and pop out from the background.

3. Speak Up

Computer stereos are notoriously insufficient when it comes to pumping up the volume.  Most people think that the visual element is the most important when it comes to video, and underestimate the power audio has in communicating the message.  Video is 50% visual, and 50% auditory.  Use an external microphone whenever possible, or get close to the camera if it’s a cheap-o.  Speak up, or else people will get frustrated when you make them struggle to hear what’s going on.  When they can’t hear, they say “@*#% It.”

4. Think in Threes

Try and narrow your message down to three key ideas.  Three ideas that you’ll communicate if you forget everything else.  This keeps it simple, and helps you remember what you were saying if you go blank.  The more simple your schpeel, the more relaxed you’ll be.  Especially if the video is an interview or back and forth exchange.

5. Get Busy with the Mirror

Once you’ve got your three points identified, stand in front of the mirror.  You can do it naked or with clothes on.  Look yourself in the eye and let loose.  Practice delivering your talk until you’re confident and relaxed.  You may know what you’re talking about, but you have to convince yourself of that.  After a while you’ll stop worrying what you look like and what other people will think. The more you practice in the mirror, the greater chance you have of looking like a natural once the camera’s red light comes on.  If not, you’ll spend your energy second guessing yourself and looking like a stiff.

6. Up Close and Personal

Get closer.  Closer.  A little closer… Don’t be afraid to get close to the camera.  Internet video players are pretty small, so don’t want to get lost on the wall paper in the background.

7. Befriend the Camera Girl

If you’re doing a professional shoot, chances are the camera girl knows more than you do about looking good on video. Ask her advice, and let her set up the scene.  Listen to her coaching and suggestions.  Ask to see the set through her monitor or LCD screen so you know which parts of you are in the frame.  If she asks you to repeat a line or change your shirt, do it.  She has your best interests at heart, and wants just as much for you to look good on video.

8. Wear Video Friendly Fashion

Be careful what you wear on camera.  Red sometimes bleeds on television.  Black and white can create too much contrast and throw off exposure, making your face too dark or too bright if you’re using a webcam or camera without manual controls.  Avoid stripes, crazy patterns and sparkles, as the can cause noise or pixilation when the video is compressed for the Internet.  You may not notice that you’re shirt is wrinkled or dirty, but the camera will.  So make sure your clothes are freshly laundered or else be filled with regret once you see the play back.

9. Don’t Sweat it

Nothing will make you more nervous than sweat beads forming on your upper lip.  Make sure the room you’ll be shooting in is cool so you don’t start to worry about whether you’re armpit sweat will show on camera.  Give yourself one less thing to think about.  Heat will make you uncomfortable, and the camera lens will catch that.

10. Act Like You Own the Joint

This may be the wrong way to word it, but seriously.  You don’t want to come across arrogant, bit get pumped before you sit down.  Stroke your own ego a little.  You’ve got what it takes. 250,000 people may see it on YouTube, but it’s only video.

About Jessica Kizorek

Jessica Kizorek is a keynote speaker, Internet video expert and the respected author of three books on the subject of video marketing and the Internet. Jessica Kizorek has made it her mission to keep marketers in the loop with her keynote speeches and seminars on the latest in online video, online branding, consumer marketing trends, plus how social media marketing can be a valuable channel within integrated marketing campaigns.

Jessica has produced video content on all seven continents and was nominated as one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for her passion in documenting the impact of humanitarian efforts around the globe. Jessica Kizorek has been invited to deliver keynote speeches about online video, video marketing and Internet fundraising for many corporate meetings, trade associations, national conferences and non-profit groups.

Since graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Colorado, Jessica Kizorek’s company (The Viral Pulse – www.TheViralPulse.com) has produced video and digital media for clients such as Bacardi, Hyatt Hotels and Moet Hennessy.

As an adjunct professor at the prestigious Miami Ad School, Jessica Kizorek has also been published as an expert in the online video marketing field by industry journals such as The American Association of Advertising Agencies, MediaPost and iMedia Connection.

Jessica Kizorek, The Viral Pulse

www.TheViralPulse.com,  www.JessicaKizorek.com

jessicakizorek@jessicakizorek.com,  Cell:  630.835.4811

Kudos, an open letter (and a warning) to the USPS Postmaster General (spread this around)

Over the years I’ve been super vocal about my dislike for the U.S. Postal Service and its less-than-forward-thinking bureaucracy. When it slammed direct marketers with a 20 percent postal increase back in 2007, I went (pun intended) postal on it in my Catalog Success Magazine Column.

Earlier this year after it announced its summer postage sale, I was optimistic. But once I looked at the fine print (i.e., how much you had to mail to qualify), I was critical then, too.

I try to be fair in the offering of my opinions.

Therefore, I have to applaud the USPS for its announcement last week that there would not be a postal rate increase in 2010 for dominant classes.

For those of you not aware yet, last week the Postmaster General sent out a memo announcing no 2010 rate increase, which has spread around the internet faster than a scandalous YouTube video goes viral. That memo can be reviewed here.

I know, I know: Postal rates are already ridiculously and restrictively high, but at least mailers can build their 2010 mail plans without having to cut circ from marginal lists and housefile segments.

But along with my kudos to our Postmaster and the USPS, I also want to put them on notice.  Here goes:

Dear Mr. Postmaster General,
You’ve started a trend here. Between the postal summer sale and now this offer to keep postal rates stable in 2010, catalog and direct mailers believe that you may actually be interested in working to our benefit. We look forward to the next postal sale, and hope that the USPS opens it up to smaller mailers to take advantage of. We truly hope that you’ll continue to stop thinking like a bureaucracy and encourage more mail volume with innovative special offers and such.

But we’re also wary. Direct marketers are wary because the USPS holds a great deal of power and leverage over us. The last substantial postal rate increase nearly put us under with rate increases of 20 percent-plus. What was the USPS thinking? That move single-handedly drove more and more mailers into the online world. If we were to do the math, we believe the increase in postage actually caused your revenues to go down due to less mail in the mailstream.

Remember this Mr. Postmaster General: Every penny more it costs us to mail means we need to generate about two cents more per catalog and direct mail piece mailed just to breakeven. In this economy, we need every opportunity we can get to mail profitably. We’re struggling to stay alive and keep our workers employed and our customers satisfied.

Keep up the good work, Mr. Postmaster. Please continue this trend.

The Direct Mail Industry

As to you, my loyal readers, I encourage you to send your letters to the Postmaster General (or just copy mine and send it). Make your voice heard! Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Reach the Postmaster General at the following:

The Honorable John E. Potter
Postmaster General

U.S. Postal Service

475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW

Washington, DC 20260-0010

Email: pmgceo@usps.gov

Speak to you next week, when I’ll discuss a tactic to help you reduce mail costs by doing a specific suppression on your housefile and list rentals.

Orignally published in All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) Magazine.

BREAKING NEWS: US Postal Service makes a bold statement: No 2010 postal increases!

Note from Jim: The USPS may have finally learned the lesson that higher postal prices drive down direct mail volume – resulting in lowered not increased revenues.

To Postal Service Customers:

Many of you have expressed concerns regarding mailing costs for 2010. The tough economic climate has presented significant challenges to all of us and pessimistic speculation has suggested that postal prices could increase by as much as 10 percent.

As we begin a new fiscal year and as many of you, our business clients, are preparing your 2010 operating budgets, we want to end all speculation.

The Postal Service will not increase prices for market dominant products in calendar year 2010.

Simply stated, there will not be a price increase for market dominant products including First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, periodicals, and single-piece Parcel Post. There will be no exigent price increase for these products.

This is the right decision at the right time for the right reason. Promoting the value of mail and encouraging its continued use is essential for jobs, the economy, and the future of both the Postal Service and the mailing industry.

While increasing prices might have generated revenue for the Postal Service in the short term, the long term effect could drive additional mail out of the system. We want mailers to continue to invest in mail to grow their business, communicate with valued customers, and maintain a strong presence in the marketplace. Changes in pricing for our competitive products—Priority Mail, Express Mail, Parcel Select, and most international products—are under consideration. We expect to announce a decision in November.

We are committed to working with customers to find ways to grow the mail through innovative incentives like the Summer Sale and contract pricing. Mail is the most effective means of communication and advertising and we will continue to work together to increase the value of the mail. Mail is a smart investment for the future.

John E. Potter

BERNHART SURVEY: Digital & direct marketing employment outlook shows improvement for 4th quarter 2009


30% Plan to Hire in Q4 While 45% Plan to Freeze Hiring

Owatonna, MN, October 13, 2009 –With the drumbeat of layoffs diminishing only faintly, the latest Bernhart Associates Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report shows digital and direct marketers are poised in the current fourth quarter (Q4) to add to payrolls for the third consecutive quarter.

“Clearly, it remains a difficult job market in the digital and direct marketing industry, but the overall trend is definitely moving in an encouraging, positive direction,” said Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, a leading digital and direct marketing recruiter who has been issuing quarterly direct marketing employment reports since 2001.

With 352 companies responding to a survey that was in the field from September 28 through October 12, here are the key findings: Continue reading

Easy, Cost Effective Internet Video Part 2 – Video search optimization and a bonus content tip

This week I continue my primer on internet video and how it can benefit your company. Picking up where I left off, here are some more opportunities to use video on your website.

(To read part 1 of this series, click here.)

One of the reasons infomercials are so successful is their demonstration factor. People love to see things in action. If you have a product that lends itself to demonstration, put it online. For example, say you sell radio-controlled cars; show them in action. If yours is a multichannel clothing company, model your line via video. These are just two of countless examples. Think about your products and what you can shoot.

Video Options
With today’s high-quality video cameras that shoot in high definition at 1080i, you don’t need to spend a ton of money for quality video. You can go high definition for less than $1,000. Of course, depending on your capabilities and budgets, you may want to bring in professionals. You have many choices available to you at any budget.

The key is to have a solid strategy and script in place before any shoot takes place, even with your camcorder. As for postproduction and editing, again, you can choose to do it yourself or go to a professional editing company.

Video Promotions
Once your video’s shot and edited, create your own channel on YouTube, and promote your videos on your website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter and more. Create even more videos by asking your customers to video themselves using your products, and distribute those videos via the same channels. Better yet, as I said last week regarding testimonials, hold a video contest asking your customers to show themselves using your products. Remember, social media is about engagement.

The Search Engine Factor
Online video can also drive search engine results. Since I’m by no means a search expert, I reached out to Khrysti Nazzaro, director of optimized services at the search engine marketing firm MoreVisibility, for some advice. Here are her thoughts on online video:

Online video has many possible benefits for companies, she says. From informational content, demonstrations and testimonials to self-spoofs, general humor and link bait, adding video to your site can draw traffic and business. Videos can be powerful tools for ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) if your site’s pages are well-optimized for them.

Consider creating a custom-designed YouTube channel, uploading your videos there with keyword-rich titles and descriptive content, and embedding them on relevant pages of your site. YouTube videos appear with great frequency in Google’s universal search results. Make sure your channel is well-branded and displays your domain prominently so those who find your video content via search can trace it back to your company’s site.

You can also submit a “Video Sitemap” via Google Webmaster Tools for video content that lives on your website. This will assist Google in identifying all of the URLs on your site that have videos, and thus increase your potential for getting more video content listed in universal search results.

To demonstrate clear keyword relevance for video content, include targeted keywords in tags, file and page tittles, and any available descriptive or on-page content. Transcripts of videos featured on the page may also help the content rank in the SERPs.

So, are you using video online? Let us know by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to include links to your videos. Speak to you next week.

Guest Post: Social media – Peeling past the hyperbole to learn valuable lessons by Carol Worthington-Levy

Note to readers: I asked Carol Worthington-Levy to submit a guest article to me because she has a unique voice.  To me the first two paragraphs alone are worth the price of admission!  Enjoy!


I had the pleasure of running a social media session at our LENSER client Summit last week. One of the primary reasons I wanted to run this social media session was because of all the garbage that’s out there about it. Not a week goes by when I don’t see some article about a ‘successful’ social media campaign – only to realize upon reading the article that their measurement of ‘success’ was that the thing actually launched.

On whose scale is that either measurable or successful?  D’oh! It’s smoke and mirrors – our own industry’s media falling into the same tepid pool as the bigger media has, by expanding stories into big headlines that exaggerate, but don’t really state the truth. While I have respect for what our media is up against, I don’t respect their not culling through PR releases to find out what the real truth is before printing it.

Social Media is a mixed bag among our LENSER partners, because it’s feared that clients will waste inordinate amounts of time (time = money) on campaigns that don’t pay off. We don’t want this to turn into the ‘dot com boom syndrome’ (DCBS) where people start pouring money into it without measurement. When Dell, who made $61B in 2009, pours money into this, even a million dollars is like a baby flea on a St. Bernard’s back. When most clients pour hours and hours of labor into it, this makes social media financially dangerous territory if not carefully monitored.

The presentation included Glenda Ervin, of Lehman’s Hardware – one of the nation’s most successful small to midsized businesses. This company sells non-electric tools and products – everything from wood stoves to hand churning ice cream makers – and everything for the farm and the home. This is real ‘off the grid’ stuff, and they’re incredible at finding quality and providing amazing customer service. Lehman’s is on Facebook and Twitter, and of course this was a great story because it seems so ‘counter’ to what you would believe an ‘off the grid’ customer would be using.

However, these media connect customers and enthusiasts to other like minded individuals, and to the Lehman family who still owns and run Lehman’s. They use it to ask their customers about what they’d like to see in the catalog, what buying choices they should offer, and how their products are being used. As people email in answers, the testimonials also roll in! This is manna from heaven in the marketing world. Customers as evangelists sell more product than one could ever imagine.

Another of our presenters was Scott Wentzell, of Thos. Moser, a high end creator and purveyor of handmade solid wood furniture, based up in Maine. Thos. Moser uses Facebook and Twitter to connect a network together that includes fans of beautiful furniture, interior designers, customers and more – and the conversation keeps these people engaged and sharing their values – plus they can share links to presentations by and about the founder Tom and his son David who is the talented designer of all current lines. This connection capability is an extraordinary plus for social media – people want to know the founder and the family, just as they do with Lehman’s.

Our third presenter was Jennifer Levanduski of VWR Science education. Now this was very different indeed, as a large group of her customers are educators and scientists – and they aren’t networking in Twitter or Facebook. Their venues are dominated by the educators and scientists markets – including Physics blogs, forums for Physics teachers and more. These are old platforms that most of us have never even heard of – but in their industry, this is the place to go.

Additional bits in the session included some resources for measuring Twitter for response and outcome, tips on keeping entries in Facebook and Twitter interesting, and more.

The most valuable lessons of the session may well have been these:

  1. Choose your platform based on where your people are going, not on where you just assume they go.
  2. Choose a limited number of platforms. There are hundreds out there, but only one or two are right for you, and you can only maintain a few if you’re as short on time as most of us are. Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s worse to stop one of them once you’ve started, than to never start it at all.
  3. Limit how much time is spent – that means time budgeting and sticking with it. Social media can be huge sink hole of time.
  4. Keep it interesting. If adding video really adds value – products in use or an expansion of culture, think about it. If you can share and access goodies that are out there already to support your brand and your culture, do it. And never, ever let the same thing show up again and again, or you’re bound to bore your customers and they’ll opt out.
  5. Measure as much and as often as you can. There are measuring tools and you can set up your own tests with specific product to create opportunities to measure.
  6. Write thoughtfully and efficiently. At Lehman’s, they write most of a week’s facebook entries and tweets over the course of about 2 to 3 hours on a Saturday morning. This is not rocket science folks – it’s sharing news and cultural goodies that your market wants to see and will share with others. And it’s certainly not going to keep their attention if you discuss inane stuff that doesn’t move them.

Carol Worthington-Levy

Partner, Creative Services, LENSER

Carol Worthington-Levy is an 8-time DMA Echo Award winner in three categories: direct mail, catalog and digital media (web and email). She’ll be teaching the DMA post-conference session on Creative Strategy, in San Diego this October. Sign up for the FREE monthly LENSER e-newsletter at http://www.lenser.com/enewsletter.html