How to Spread Exponential Customer Goodwill

Last week I sent out an email for a client to its recent past customers. The email’s goal was to reactivate those customers, and the copy was written as a message from the company’s CEO.

At the bottom of the email in a P.S., I added the opportunity for these customers to let the brand know why they weren’t ordering from it anymore.

So the email was sent, and the responses came back to me. There were some complaints that were easy fixes and others where people were upset with the company.

My philosophy on this situation is simple: Customer complaints are customer advocates waiting to happen. That’s right. Once you resolve a customer’s complaint — in a way that he feels like you care — you have a good shot at retaining that customer for life.

And here’s another interesting outcome from this email campaign: Many of the customers who received the email responded with thank-yous to the CEO for taking the time to ask why they left.

It’s amazing how a little customer care from a typical nameless, faceless corporate entity changes peoples’ attitudes and perceptions of a company. And when the CEO gets involved, the goodwill level goes up exponentially.

I missed the TV show “Undercover Boss” after last week’s Super Bowl (it’s on my DVR; I’ll review it after I watch), but I think its message applies here. The general premise of the show is just how much a CEO can learn about his/her company, customers and employees just by getting involved.

To me it’s a no-brainer. My CEO philosophy was formed a long time ago, thanks to Tom Peters (he’s my mentor, even if he doesn’t know me) and his principle of management by wandering around. In other words, get out of the corner office — i.e., ivory tower — and get involved with your “X” (fill it in, folks).

But enough about CEOs. The feedback the company received at the behest of the CEO’s email was handed out to the senior customer service team. Systematically, all complaints are being resolved.

Now I want to ask you something: Do you think these customers, with their newly acquired “warm fuzzies” about the company, will tell their friends? Absolutely! And they’ll likely do it via social media channels, too. I call that spreading exponential good will.

U.S. Post Office plans another Summer direct mail sale: details…

This is from the Direct Marketing Association website.

At MTAC yesterday, Tom Foti, USPS Marketing Manager described the 2010 Summer Sale. The sale will cover a 5-month period with the sale period starting July 1 thru Sept 30. June and October will be control months. A 30 percent rebate on incremental volume will be offered above a baseline. The sale is for Standard Mail letters and flats only. The customer’s baseline will equal Same Period Last Year (SPLY) numbers plus 5 percent. A downward adjustment will occur if June and October volume is below baseline. To be eligible, a customer has mailed over 360K Standard Mail pieces from July 1 thru Sept 30 2009. According to Foti, there are approximately 3,525 customers eligible or 67 percent of Standard Mail volume. Mail Service Providers are not eligible to participate.

USPS Timeline:

File notice with PRC (late Feb)

Invitation to participate mailed (early Mar)

Customers register online and certify agreement with threshold volume on-line for program participation (Mar-May)

PRC decision (mid-April)

Sale period (July through Sept)

Rebates to customer accts (Dec 2010- Jan 2011)

Thanks for coming to my presentation at WordCamp Miami

Update: The slides from my WordCamp Miami Presentation are up here:

Update 2: The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing presentationI promised is available here:

Thanks to all of you who attended my session at WordCamp Miami, I want to offer a hearty thank you for your listening and support.  Speaking in front of an audience is collaborative experience and much like a musician, the speaker feeds off of the audiences energy.  For lack of a better term, you guys felt great!

Post your comments below for a copy of “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing”.

Jim Gilbert Presenting at WordCamp Miami 2010

Jim Gilbert Presenting at WordCamp Miami 2010

Blog as your marketing center - The Engagement Cycle

Blog as your marketing center - The Engagement Cycle

Guest Post: “What Not To Mail.” 6 Reasons to choose a letter package over a self-mailer.

Dear readers: These days it seems that the go-to direct mail piece is the self mailer.  In this guest post by Marjorie Bicknell, she addresses 6 reasons you should consider ALL of your options.

The television show, “What Not To Wear,” offers women simple rules that create attractive outfits for individuals who don’t have a clue how they should dress.

If only there were a television show called, “What Not To Mail.”  It would offer marketers simple rules for creating effective direct mail that enhanced their ROI. And like “What Not to Wear,” it would demonstrate that a single solution – no matter how popular – may not be the right solution for every problem.

Take the self-mailer. As a format, it has a lot going for it. It’s a quick read. It’s colorful. It stands out in the mail. It’s often inexpensive. But all these advantages don’t necessarily make it the go-to piece for every direct mail solicitation.

A whole cottage industry has grown up around printing self-mailers for small businesses, making many individuals believe that a self-mailer – and I include postcards in this category – is the most effective format they can choose. But in side-by-side tests, direct marketers have found that letter packages in a #10 envelope continually beat self-mailers.

Here’s why:

  1. A letter in an envelope is “real” mail. Self-mailers are attention-getting, but they also announce themselves as “junk mail,” making it easier to throw them away. Because a #10 envelope is the standard business size, it automatically feels more important to the prospect. It also allows you to tease a prospect to look inside, which makes them more commtteed to reading your message.
  2. A letter is still the most effect tool a direct marketer has. In his article, The 12 Most Common Direct Mail Mistakes…And How to Avoid Them, copywriting guru Robert Bly lists not including a letter as “Mistake Number 3.” He says, “The sales letter – not the outer envelope, the brochure, or even the reply form – is the most important part of your direct-mail package. A package with a letter will nearly always out pull a postcard, a self-mailer, or a brochure or ad reprint mailed without a letter.”
  3. A letter package offers privacy. Think about it – have you ever received a credit card or insurance solicitation in a self-mailer format? That’s because these solicitations can carry personal information that the prospect may not want to be revealed. When writing direct mail for weight loss companies like Jenny Craig and NutriSystem I quickly learned that – despite the photograph of the newly slim individual on the front – self-mailers bombed. Why? Because prospects were upset that people could see we thought they “needed” a diet.
  1. A letter package gives you room to tell your story. Self-mailers have limited space, so you are forced to write in headlines and use graphics to get your message across.  That makes them an excellent choice when the message is simple, the offer is compelling and the product is eye-catching. But sometimes you need both time and space to tell your story … and an envelope lets you tuck in additional pieces that allow you to approach the prospect in different ways and make a more complicated pitch.
  2. A letter package is more personal. Yes,digital printing allows you to change the photograph, the headlines, the body copy, and even the name on the product itself to target the individual, but the very nature of a self-mailer – a billboard in the mail – fights any attempt to make it feel like a one-to-one communication. Letters by their very nature are personal, even when the only personalization used is in the address and salutation. Take the time to personalize the letter further and the letter becomes even more effective.
  3. A letter package can be more economical than a self-mailer – and provide a higher ROI. A collectible company once asked me to test against a #10 control with a self-mailer. The self-mailer – which did an excellent job of showcasing the product : beat the #10 package by 60%. But the self-mailer cost 36 cents to print … and the #10 pacakge just 16 cents. So we took the copy and art from the self-mailer and adapted it to a #10 format and tested it against both the self-mailer and the old control. The #10 format beat the self-mailer by 40% – and the old control by 100%. Best of all, the cost of printing the new package was just 18 cents, so we not only increased response, we also maximiaed ROI.

So next time a client reflexively insists that he or she wants a self-mailer, point out to them that – as attractive as the format may be – self-mailers may not always be as effective as a plain old direct mail letter kit.

About Marjorie:

Marjorie Bicknell is a freelance copywriter and creative consultant. She runs Bicknell Creative a virtual creative services boutique that brings together experienced talent to create direct marketing that consistently beats controls. She is the winner of over 30 marketing awards including an Echo and 16 PDMA Benjamin Franklin Awards. Contact her at

Winter Weather Affecting USPS Facilities and Direct Mail Delivery

From my friend Eric Schmidt at Quebecor/WorldColor…

Winter Weather Affecting USPS Facilities and Delivery
February 8, 2010
Worldcolor Logistics NEWS FLASH – Issue #264

Significant snowstorms across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
regions have caused some delays and even closures for the USPS. These
delays have effected the distribution of mail, newsstand and newspaper
deliveries and the storms aren’t over yet. Accumulations between tomorrow
and Wednesday are estimated at 4 to 12 inches across the above noted
regions. Below are the areas currently effected:

Memphis, TN
A winter storm warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. CT this afternoon.

Cincinnati, Ohio
Due to severe weather conditions on Feb. 6, the Postal Service has
suspended delivery and collection operations for the following offices:
* Darke County Post Offices: Ansonia, Arcanum, Bradford, Burkettsville,
Gettysburg, Greenville, Hollansburg, New Madison, North Star, Osgood,
Palestine, Pittsburg, Rossburg, Versailles, Yorkshire.
* Findlay Post Office (45840).
* ZIP Code 453: Brookville, Casstown, Christainsburg, Conover, Eldorado,
Fletcher, Houston, Lewisburg, Russia, West Manchester.

Local Postal Operations in Orthern Virginia were suspended Saturday Feb. 6.
Affected postal operations in the ZIP Code areas beginning with 201,
220-223, 224-225, 226, and 227 in Northern Virginia area.
In Richmond, Post Offices, stations and branches closed retail operations
and suspended mail delivery and collections of mail from boxes on Saturday,
February 6, 2010.
This suspension affected postal services in the ZIP Code areas beginning
with 224, 225, 228, 229 and 244.

Due to the winter snow storm blanketing the Baltimore metopolitan area, the
Postal Service suspended all services including retail operations, mail
delivery and collections on Feb. 6.
The suspension affected ZIP Code areas beginning 210 through 219 in
Baltimore, MD, and the northern and western portions of Maryland.

Worldcolor Logistics (WCL) will continue to monitor the situation and
implement the best course of action to mitigate the effects of this severe
winter weather.  WCL will provide additional updates should elongated
delays become likely.

For more information regarding Worldcolor Logistics or for access to past
news publications, visit our Web site at

Why Direct Marketers Hate Beer Commercials and Branding

I’m going to take some heat for this next statement: I’m not a big football fan. OK, I said it!

I grew up playing and watching hockey, and never really “got” football.

But usually I love the Super Bowl. Actually, I should say that I usually love the Super Bowl’s commercials. They’re usually clever, funny and make my annual trip to my friend’s Super Bowl party much better.

But I’m not really sure what happened this year. Ninety percent of the commercials were just plain stupid, other than Brett Favre’s spot for Hyundai, Volkswagen’s punch buggy ad and the Letterman/Oprah/Leno commercial for CBS’ “Late Show.” And I loved the sheer perfection of Google’s spot. It told a story and made you feel it.

Seeing Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing football was funny, but I have no idea the following morning what was being sold in the ad. All in all, this year’s trend seemed to be men in underwear and condescending beer spots.

If You Build it (Brand it), Will They Come?

I’ve also never been a big branding guy. I’ve always believed that branding is something you do while you’re stimulating orders and leads via direct marketing. To me, making someone laugh while watching a commercial doesn’t exactly cause new customer acquisition. You do that with great offers, calls to action, superior guarantees and, of course, products that measure up to and exceed expectations.

Direct marketing is immediate, purposeful, in your face and compels you to take action. It’s not about creating a funny TV spot and the eventual purchase of a product based on message recall. Direct marketing is about measurability.

And while I admit that general branding agencies are getting better at using direct marketing principles, it’s not enough. Just slapping a URL on a TV commercial doesn’t make it direct marketing.

Take Names and Kick Butt … A Prescription for Commercial AdAgencies

Here are four ways that I would’ve rewritten the scripts of all the commercials I saw (and a select few actually did this):

1. Drive people online for more info (or to a Chevy Chase video to continue the brand interaction.  Remember time interacting with a brand means more brand loyalty).

2. Get prospects to raise their hands and take action — i.e., identify themselves as wanting to continue interacting with your brand.

3. Build a database of these prospects, and do something creative or make them an offer, etc.

4. Start a contest to drive prospects to your Facebook page or your blog.

In short, don’t just create ads for a later response (you hope) and/or message retention and brand recall. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come … or even remember. Create commercials that build brand engagement and stimulate action.

Communication 2010: The “smartphone stoop”, multitasking and a cautionary note

The other day it really kicked in for me at just how good I have gotten at multitasking.  I’m not sure how I feel about it though.

I was sitting at my desk working, crunching some numbers in Excel.  At the same time, I was watching tweets pop up on TweetDeck (retweeting ones that I like, of course) and instant messaging a client on AIM, when the phone rang. So I take the phone call, start talking and a text message pops up on my phone. All the while I’m checking my emails.  Good thing Facebook wasn’t open, or I would probably be getting IM’s from there too.

And my wife tells me I’m horrible at multitasking!

Consider… These days I sit in meetings and never get to look someone in the eyes. Why? People are always looking down at their BlackBerrys and iPhones. Let’s call it “the smartphone stoop.”

Consider… The other night my wife, 10-year-old son and I jump in bed to watch TV. Two minutes later, I look over and my wife’s on her BlackBerry, my son is on his DSi and I’m responding to an email on my iPhone. The picture of the modern family, I guess.

I can’t believe how much has changed in the way we communicate. Ten years ago I didn’t carry a cell phone. Now, I have a whole office in my pocket!

It’s bad enough that my office follows me into my car and bedroom, but it even follows me into the bathroom! (Sorry, let those calls and texts go to voice mail.)

Sometimes I wish none of this technology ever existed. Our world moves too fast. Heck, I move too fast for the 49 year old dinosaur brain I came with.  I’m not one of these kids who never knew a world without a celly, (as they call them), or a computer (Hey I’m a Mac).  My brain has RAM that came from an IBM Selectric.

Everything we do today on high (ludicrous) speed (and sometimes on autopilot) has an effect. Mistakes happen with all this multitasking.

And sometimes those mistakes play themselves out with your employees, bosses, clients and customers. Other times mistakes — seemingly harmless at the time — wind up on the internet, being reviewed millions of times on social media sites.

Sorry about the rant.  But the other realization I had is that business never actually ends.  Some of my clients who are younger than me, I’m pretty sure do not sleep.  I wind up working some nights until 1AM or better.  In fact I work longer hours now than I did when I was in my 20’s.

Lack of sleep.  Is there an app for that?  OK rant over.  Back to business.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog, direct marketing and social media agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at You can email him, follow him on Twitter at