10 Ways to Reduce Direct Marketing Costs, Save Your Company and Look Like a Superstar!

While our economy is showing some signs of life, still most people I know are freaked out, totally stressed; and terrified of losing their jobs, homes and more.

It has been tough out there for direct and multichannel marketers.

But all isn’t bad. I swear!

There’s an amazing opportunity in all of this chaos to streamline your business, strip away the dead wood in your budgets and be a rock star in your company.

Here are 10 steps to help you get started:

1. It’s time to renegotiate everything. Start with your key area’s of business — printing, mailing, lists, creative, prepress (oops, I meant premedia).

2. Do a print review. Have your printer bid against other printers. I did this for a turnaround I worked on and was able to reduce printing costs by 20 percent. (Seems my predecessor was asleep at the wheel.)

3. Tweak your catalog’s trim size or basis weight. You may find some cost savings there.

4. Co-mail! This can reduce your postage costs.

5. Take advantage of destination-entry discounts. (Ask your printer about what this and co-mailing entail, and what you can save. Or e-mail me and I’ll explain.)

6. List brokers are offering discounts and test pricing for mail files. Ask and you shall receive.

7. Look for more list exchanges. These can be had for run charges, a fraction of the rental fee.

8. Use the co-op databases, such as I-Behavior, Abacus and NextAction. They’ll model your customers and rent you prospect names for less than list rentals.

9. Do your matchbacks. Make sure you’re analyzing your mailings the best and most accurate way possible.

10. Run NCOALink, merge/purge and other list hygiene products before each mailing. I had a client who had the same name on his database six times. Waste of money! You only need one instance of a name to mail it. Find yourself a great service bureau to steer you to savings.

In two weeks I’ll give you 10 more ways to save money and reach superstar status. In the meantime, if you need any clarifications on these or any other ways to save money, let me know and I’ll work your answer into my next column.

Hang in there!

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.

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

3 weeks, 540 members strong. Join us: http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/2080726/ 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. http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/2080726/

Jim Gilbert

You lost me there part 3 (losing customers in the call center)

In part 3 of this series (Jim’s note: originally written for All About ROI Magazine, formerly Catalog Success), I’ll continue to recap a presentation I gave a few weeks ago to the Florida Direct Marketing Association titled “The Second Half: 50 Tips, Tricks and Tactics to Make You a Direct Marketing Superstar.”

In particular, this week I examine the value of the call center.

I’ve engaged in debates before with multichannel marketers who don’t believe they need a call center. I spoke briefly about this in part one of this series, but I believe it warrants mention again.

If you believe — and many of the purest of pure-play Internet marketers do — that you don’t need a call center, think again. I’ve seen this debate lost over and over again. People still want, and sometimes need, a human voice to help with their orders, especially if you offer products that are complicated and/or higher in cost.

It’s not that difficult to add a call center these days. And as I’ve said before, there are even call-center companies that allow you to buy blocks of time. Other call-center companies charge a flat fee per call or per sale.

Want to see your average order values, conversion rates and lifetime values go up? Bring a call center into the mix. Think about it this way: If your Web site converts 4 percent of visitors, even the worst of call centers will convert at least 10 percent of callers. That’s a 2.5:1 ratio, on the low end.

If you want to create your own internal call center because you think you can do it better, you may be right, but you might want to enlist the help of a good call-center/operations consultant to get set up correctly. The good news: These days there are many software as a service products that can get you set up quickly and efficiently.

So back to what I said in week one of this series — make it easy for people to contact you. Promote your phone number and you’ll see excellent results.

Next week I’ll discuss more ways multichannel companies can capture customers with some tips and techniques designed for your call center.

Have a comment? Want to add something? Disagree with me and want to start a duel? Post it below. Speak to you next week.

A client vendor negotiations video that’s LOL funny (see if you’re guilty of any of these)

This is a good one.  A hysterical video on client vendor relationships and payments.  I don’t know about you but I may be guilty of some of these tactics.  Thanks to the videographers for calling us out.  

Got a favorite client/vendor horror story? Post it in the comments section.

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!

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.