Back by popular demand at the 2014 Direct Marketing Association #dma14 Conference

I love giving back to the marketing community.  I have had a wonderful career in direct marketing and believe heavily in paying it forward.  One of the ways I love to give is to do public speaking.

I was one of the early adopters of social media (started blogging in 2006) and some even say that I helped make Facebook Pages for Business what they are today with my approach to engagement via contests and product giveaways for my clients.

Today I am thrilled to announce that the Direct Marketing Association has invited me back to speak for DMA14 in San Diego in October; once again as part of their “back by popular demand” series.  Once again I am proud to say that my presentation, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing” was one of the top 20 presentations at last years DMA Conference in Chicago.

Here is the message I just received from them:

Dear Jim,


Your session, The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media, was among the top 20 sessions at DMA2013. The programming team for DMA2014 would like to extend an invitation for you to speak at DMA2014 in San Diego, October 25–30, 2014.”

And here is a picture from the event last October:

Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago

Jim Gilbert Presenting The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing at #DMA13 in Chicago


A farewell to 2009, long live 2009!

Dear friends and readers,

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a happy and healthy holiday season, and a great new year.

Personally, I’m glad that 2009 is coming to a rapid close. As the saying goes, “May you live in interesting times.” This year was certainly interesting. In fact, I can’t recall being bored for one minute in 2009. Instead, I was challenged to do my best for my company and clients. While I don’t like to admit this publicly, I actually enjoyed this last year.  And sure it was hard work, but it was totally fulfilling.  My blog took off (much to my amazement), I got to do some great lectures for the Florida DMA (became a board member there too), started two linkedin groups that took off, and in general made money for my clients in a “hard” year.

While I stayed glued to CNBC and the markets, I stayed positive in the first half of the year.  I think the economy may be coming back, but in truth it’s just a guess (I’m no expert) and wouldn’t be surprised if there was a major correction in early 2010.

But I digress.  I feel lucky.  I feel thankful.  And I wish the same for you!  May 2010 be your greatest year ever!

Us marketers will be presented with many challenges as they enter 2010, but many opportunities as well. I look forward to reporting and providing my opinions on opportunities for you as direct marketers to take to the bank in 2010.

50 best multichannel direct marketing tips of 2009 (from All About ROI Magazine)

The November issue of All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) Magazine is on the newsstands (if they even exist anymore).  This months cover story is 50 Best Tips of 2009 to drive direct marketing ROI.

Two of the tips, #4 and #15 are from me.  Irregardless of that fact, the other 48 tips for direct and multichannel marketers cover everything from channel integration to search to social media and are right on the money.

Add this to your must read list!

Check out the article here.

Three years and 75,000 words later…

Note from Jim. This week marks my 3 year anniversary of my column for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) magazine.  Here is the anniversary article. Hope you enjoy my favorites “best of” articles referenced.

Three years and 75,000 words later…

Friends and readers: With this column I hit a milestone, the three-year anniversary of my weekly column for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success). At roughly 500 words per column, I’ve written nearly 75,000 words on various aspects of direct marketing in the last three years. Wow!

I want to thank you, my readers, for your attention and interest over the last three years. I also want to thank you for the many emails you’ve sent me behind the scenes. Your comments, kudos and even criticisms have helped this column grow (and me grow as a writer and consultant). I thank you as well for your comments on my weekly articles.

That said, I’m rededicating myself to continuing to provide you the information, news and unique opinions on all that’s happening in direct and retail marketing in the coming years.

But before moving forward, I wanted to take a look back at some of my more memorable columns of the past three years with some thoughts sprinkled here and there on how they relate to today’s environment.

  • My very first column was “Don’t Start a Catalog.” I wrote that catalog marketing isn’t for the faint of heart; it takes money, discipline and the willingness to lose money on acquiring customers only to be paid back in lifetime value sales, increased average orders and other factors. This still holds true today. This column presents the risks and rewards of operating a true multichannel company — with a catalog. I still believe today, even in these challenging times, that the rewards are there if you follow the rules of the business.
  • In January 2008, upon hearing that general merchandise cataloger Lillian Vernon had given the ax to workers a few days before Christmas, I wrote “Happy Holidays — You’re Fired!!!.” I usually don’t call out companies by name as a practice here, but this case was truly despicable to me. Evidently you thought so, too.
  • Focusing on the do’s and don’ts of lists, metrics and the proper use of mailing lists was the subject of this August 2007 column: “If I Only Had a List to Start My Catalog Business!”
  • If you’re a fan of my column, you know that I’ve written about customer experience a bunch. In a January 2008 column, I detailed my experience from a recent cruise in “Create Superior Customer Experiences.” I take my cues from all industries (not just multichannel). This company knows how to throw a cruise party — and treat its customers right.
  • Lastly in my trip down memory lane, in my April 2008 column, “Congrats, You Too Can Become a Gazillionaire!,” I used past experience to pose the question: What’s the next big thing going to be in direct marketing?

Along the way I’ve written about circulation planning, customer service, increasing sales and average order sizes, managing call centers properly, and I even yelled at the folks in the C-suite more than a few times. For a full listing of all my columns, check out the All About ROI archives.

Thanks again for reading. I know your time is limited, and I truly appreciate that you find time in your busy day to read my column. Check back next week for a look at how your company can best add low-cost video to its marketing mix.

We’re on a mission to create the best direct marketing education forum on Linkedin

3 weeks, 540 members strong. Join us: We have members from all area’s of direct marketing ready to share their expertise with you.  We also have international members.

Want to know more about search, blogs, direct mail, telemarketing, lists, social media, and all direct marketing disciplines, then join us.

If you are an expert in direct marketing, please join us too.  And our members are using this group as a great networking tool!

Thanks, we look forward to seeing you there.

Jim Gilbert

You lost me there part 5 – Your call center is bleeding!

I recently had the opportunity to do some work with a company that had a pretty decent DRTV campaign running. I say decent because it had a good product and the DRTV campaign’s production values were excellent. But the product was complicated and lent itself to a complex offer that a two-minute spot couldn’t fully explain. The spot generated much interest and strong call volume, which would suggest that the campaign was a winner, right?

Until those calls hit the call center.

What do you get when you mix a complicated product offer with call-center staff that doesn’t have the training (or sales acumen) to convert? A company that’s bleeding potential customers in the call center. In essence, a lower than what should be call-to-order ratio, with a giant chasm between the prospect’s understanding of the offer and the customer service rep’s (CSR) ability to close the sale.

(For part 1 of this series, click here; part 2, here; part 3, here; and part 4, here.)

The Great Call-Center Disconnect:
Companies need to function under the guise that great — even sometimes so-so — direct marketing will make the telephone ring, but expertise in the call center will make the cash register sing! Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating your call center’s effectiveness:

  • How’s your call-to-order ratio?
  • Is there blood in your call center?
  • Can you convert more inquiries to sales?
  • Are your CSRs properly trained?

My Biggest Pet Peeve (and One for You to Ponder)
Ask yourself this question: With the millions of dollars companies spend on inventory, marketing, and general and administrative expenses, why are the people on the phones the least educated and, most importantly, lowest paid employees in the company? These are the people on the front lines of your business every day. Every penny of spend filters through either the call center or your website.

Forget sales conversion for a moment. What about contact capture?

What are you doing to ensure that every call that comes into your call center becomes an opportunity? Are your CSRs doing all they can to entice callers who aren’t ready to buy into giving out their information and blessing to continue the sales dialogue? Some examples include the following:

  1. Are you offering callers who don’t buy some sort of company literature — brochures, catalogs via regular mail, PDFs via email?
  2. How about an email newsletter opt-in? If they don’t buy, this is a perfect opt-in point.

Handling Missed Opportunities
There are many ways to capture consumers’ contact info in your call center. But be sure to also look at missed opportunities to convert more sales.

  1. Are you downselling a less expensive product or a different, yet related, product?
  2. How much time do you spend listening to your reps on the phone? I’m often shocked by how little time call-center management spends on listening. I’m less shocked that marketing and merchandising people don’t listen to calls. And when was the last time someone from the C-suite listened?
  3. How much time do you spend training your reps?

I’ll continue this series next week with some simple, yet effective, call-center training techniques that’ll help you convert more sales.

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 or read his blog

Guest Blogger, Kevin Hillstrom: Build and Reap the Benefits of Social Media Databases

Jim’s note: Kevin Hillstrom and I write weekly columns for All About ROI (formerly Catalog Success) Magazine.  I really enjoyed his article (and perspective) this week about building social media databases.  Definitely something to implement!  Enjoy…

It’s really hard these days to find a marketing discussion that doesn’t include the phrase “social media.” But it’s also really hard to find a case study of someone who created a social media database and then measured return on investment based on the data in that database.

A social media database houses information about social media customer behavior. Take Twitter, for example: Every time a new user decides to follow your Twitter presence, you enter that user in your database. You enter the user name, date the user began to follow you and any biographical information about the user.

Every time a Twitter user has something to say about your brand — positive or negative — you enter the information into your social media database. Did the user retweet one of your articles? If so, capture the user name, date it happened and action (retweet). Did the user link to one of your web pages? Capture that information with the link.

Some people will criticize your brand. Record the user name, and categorize the nature of the criticism. Did the user say something positive? Record the user name, and categorize the compliment, recording the date this activity happened.

Record every outbound communication, too. If you speak with a Twitter user, record the fact that you had a conversation.

Eventually, you’ll have a robust database of every interaction you can identify. Actively search for instances where someone says something about your brand name, identifying hashtags that are related to your brand.

Now you’re in business! Mine your social media database, identifying users who start conversations. Where possible, link these users to your customer database so you can begin to correlate purchase activity and website visitation habits with positive or negative social media sentiments.

Some people would say that this is hard work, that they don’t have the resources to do this kind of work. I’d pick five individuals in my call center and have them enter this information into the social media database — each individual spends an hour or two each week entering data based on the parameters listed above.

Once the data is captured, it becomes much easier to measure ROI. For some, ROI is a function of sales and profit generated. For others, the acquisition of new customers becomes important. Or maybe success is measured by the amount of positive buzz or the mitigation of negative sentiment. A social media database allows you to measure all of these aspects of your social media activities.

Eventually, you’re going to have to prove that social media has a positive ROI, that it isn’t simply a way to connect with active and potential customers. Why not begin capturing the data today, so you can demonstrate a positive ROI in the future?

About Kevin Hillstrom:

Kevin Hillstrom is president of MineThatData, a database marketing consultancy. He can be reached

Some good news about direct marketing employment. From the Bernhart Associates quarterly employment report.

Note from Jim: I’m encouraged by these direct marketing employment numbers.  I thought you might like to see them, so I asked Bernhart Associates for permission to post for you.


Bernhart Survey: Recession Easing Its Grip on Direct Marketing Employment

Owatonna, MN, July 13, 2009- Hundreds of direct marketers, agencies and service providers are offering some new glimmers of hope for direct marketing job seekers, according to the latest Bernhart Associates employment update.

“It appears the direct marketing job market is scraping the bottom,” said Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, a leading direct marketing recruiter who has been issuing quarterly direct marketing employment reports since 2001. “This is the first quarter in two years in which the hiring index is showing improvement, and planned layoffs are continuing their trend lower,” said Bernhart.

According to the survey, 20% of the respondents said they will be adding to staff during the current summer quarter, up from 16% in the spring.   Layoffs declined for the third quarter in a row, with 8% planning to reduce staff compared with 13% last quarter and 20% at the start of 2009.   The number of companies reporting hiring freezes held steady at 30%.

The hiring freeze figure was even higher for agencies, with 44% reporting that they’re holding the line on hiring.

Bernhart said responses to the hiring freeze question underscores the prevailing mood of uncertainty.  “We always ask when they plan to lift their hiring freezes, and the vast majority said they expected those freezes to remain in place through the rest of 2009,” said Bernhart.

Bernhart noted that business-to-business direct marketers are faring better overall in the key employment indicators compared with their business-to-consumer counterparts.

For example, when asked if they plan to reduce staff 13% of business-to-consumer direct marketers said they expect further layoffs this summer compared with 9% amongbusiness-to-business respondents.

Despite the uptick in the survey’s overall results, Bernhart foresees no significant comeback in direct marketing hiring until at least 2010.

“You can’t stage a recovery with only one in five direct marketers planning to hire, and one-third of the others holding on to hiring freezes with no plans to lift them until at least the end of the year.  In my conversations with senior level executives, there is no consistent level of optimism in the current economic environment for them to jump into the employment market.   I’m also seeing that same caution in executive search.  Companies are telling us they’re thinking about making staffing changes, but they are slow to pull the trigger.”

Despite the abundance of job seekers, the survey also shows that filling open direct marketing positions is not always an easy task.  When asked if they were experiencing difficulty hiring new talent, 42% said it was either “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to fill certain positions.

When asked what specific positions will be in greatest demand this summer, Bernhart said the list of job categories named was across the board including analytics, sales, creative, technical and marketing.  “There was lots of mention of analytics from agencies, service providers and marketers,” said Bernhart.

A record 402 companies responded to the random survey which was emailed the week of June 22.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, marketers – commercial and nonprofit – spent $176.9 billion on direct marketing in 2008, which accounted for 52.1 percent of all ad expenditures in the United States.  Measured against total US sales, these advertising expenditures generated approximately $2.057 trillion in incremental sales. Last year, direct marketing accounted for approximately 10 percent of total US gross domestic product.  Also, there are today 1.6 million direct marketing employees in the US.   Their collective sales efforts directly support 9.3 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 10.9 million US jobs.

Results of past surveys can be found in the DMA’s Statistical Fact Book and on the website of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC.

Companies interested in participating in the Bernhart Associates Quarterly Direct Marketing Employment Report should send an email to with “Opt-In” in the subject line, or they can sign up directly on the Bernhart Associates website.

About Bernhart Associates:

Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is owned by Jerry Bernhart, a leading and nationally recognized direct marketing recruiter, writer and speaker focusing on senior level Multichannel Direct Marketing, CRM, ECommerce, Database Marketing, Business Development and Quantitative Analysis positions.  Jerry has been a leading direct marketing recruiter since 1990, and specializes in direct marketing positions, online and offline, at all levels.  The Bernhart Associates Employment Survey, now in its eighth year, has become the most widely followed employment report in direct marketing.  In February, Bernhart Associates partnered with the Direct Marketing Association in providing exclusive analysis for the DMA’s 2009 Employment Outlook Report, a comprehensive study of trends in hiring and employee retention in direct marketing and available for sale at the DMA Bookstore.  Viewed as a leading authority on issues related to direct marketing recruiting, Jerry is a frequent speaker at national direct marketing conferences and is often quoted by the direct marketing news media. Jerry has written dozens of articles for all leading online and offline direct marketing publications and conducts a widely followed employment survey for EM+C covering internet marketing and ecommerce.

Attention S. Florida Marketers, This months event in Ft. Lauderdale: Going Green and Getting Digital with Paper & Print

This Month… Thursday, July 16, 2009

Session 1 – The Truth Behind Cherries, Chocolate & Paper. The more paper you use, the better for the climate.

Speaker: Wayne Dennis, Corporate Director of Sustainability, Mac Papers

Learn why paper and print are the best environmentally responsible choices for marketers. Find the right shade of “Green” for your marketing efforts, how to measure your environmental impact and the best ways to communicate it to your audience.

Session 2 – Advancements in Web to Print technology: What it means to you and your customers.

Speaker: Gary Ritkes, Managing Director of Sales/Marketing, SproutLoud

Discover how web to print technology is transforming traditional printing processes and empowering marketers. Find out how you can deliver one-to-one marketing messages on demand via direct mail, e-mail and the web – all from your desktop!

Event Location: Westin Fort Lauderdale Cypress Creek

Time: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm