Does humor belong in business?

Folks, business is serious business!

I’ve worked for too many companies who took themselves way too seriously.  And why not be serious – its important work bringing great products to consumers, right?

Wrong!  Given the growth of social media and its ability to put a human face on your companies business, its time to have some fun.  There are so many great options for you these days to inject a little humor into your business (caveat: be real and genuine) with Facebook, Youtube, blogs, etc.

I know I have spoken about them before, but one company I work with, The Fresh Diet is ALL about fun.  Their Facebook page is constantly holding contests, many of which are designed just to be engaging and fun.

Last week we upped the ante on their fun level and created a video spoof of the show Undercover Boss for our customers and fans.  It took us a half a day of shooting and another half a day to edit it (yes we used a professional video company).  The feedback from our customers and fans on Facebook has been great.  We even plan on doing other spoof videos in the future and turning this into a regular event.

So I wanted to share it with you here.  I hope it sparks something for you that you can use with your customers and fans.

On another note, I want to wish each and every one of you a happy and safe holiday!  Speak to you soon!

How to Easily and Cost Effectively Add Video to Your Marketing Arsenal

Note from Jim: I originally was going to have this be the last installment of the “you lost me there” series, but I seem to have gotten sidetracked.  At any rate, video is in my opinion the next big opportunity in social and direct marketing if harnessed correctly.

How to Easily and Cost Effectively Add Video to Your Marketing Arsenal

I recently conducted a testimonial contest for a client. I asked for all types of submissions, from written to video. Of course I was hoping for video, and boy was I rewarded. The contest winner’s video was slick, well-written, modestly well-acted and, with some tweaking and a call to action, could’ve actually been put on TV. All this came from a customer who was in love with my client’s services, had a video camera and some editing software (like Apple’s iMovie, which comes standard with all Macs), and a couple of cue cards.

Just by putting the video up on YouTube, the company’s blog, Facebook and tweeting it on twitter, it’s gotten almost 300 views. This client isn’t a large company, so while 300 views doesn’t seem like a lot, it still counts. Lots of clients and prospects have commented on the video, too.

This week, the contest-winning video is going to be promoted in the company’s email newsletter. Doing so should increase exposure and net the company some new clients.

So while this may not be a mainstream example of viral video going to millions of people like the “United Breaks Guitars” video, which had 5.5 million viewers, it is a great example of the creative use of video as part of a company’s marketing strategy.

What Can Video Do for You?
Video is a perfect social media marketing channel for engagement. Here are some tips on WHAT to shoot:

  1. Beyond holding contests for testimonials, directly contact your best customers and ask them for video testimonials. If some of your best customers are located near your offices, then by all means go to the places of their choice and shoot some video testimonials.
  2. I love the notion of behind-the-scenes content. Before social media, a prospect’s or customer’s interaction and experience with a given company were either on its website, though its call center or in a retail store. But for the most part, corporations remained pretty much anonymous. Social media presents an enormous opportunity to humanize companies and allow customers “behind the veil” to see their personalities and corporate cultures. Shooting behind-the-scenes videos helps build companies’ personalities. One multichannel retailer I know of posts videos of its photo shoots on YouTube and Facebook. It gets tons of feedback on Facebook about this. Other behind-the-scenes action works well, too, from interviews with staff to candid videos of people doing their jobs. Even seeing staff cutting up and mugging for the camera can add value if done right.
  3. Does your product/service lend itself to demonstration? If so, video it and put in on your website. If you have a product that needs to be set up, heck, video is better than an instruction manual, right? What a great customer service opportunity using video.

I’ll continue my examination of how video can be successfully added to your marketing mix next week with part 2 of this multipart series. In particular, I’ll offer some more ideas for ways that video can be used at your company.

Request: If you’re an expert at video search optimization, contact me at I have some questions that I’d like to include in part 2 of this series.

Social Media Rules (of engagement) To Live By

Over in the linkedin group I manage, (Direct Marketing Questions & Answers), we’ve been having a discussion on the zig vs. zag nature of direct marketing and social media.

In essence, the theory is this: with everybody zigging towards social media these days, does that leave a giant hole (translation: opportunity) for traditional direct marketing to be used to engage customers and prospects?    It’s been a spirited discussion so far.  And I firmly believe that traditional direct marketing (integrated with the web) presents such an opportunity in a zigzag market.

My personal bottom line is that social media marketing is just one of the tools in my kit bag, and should be used (tested and rolled out) as part of the direct marketing mix.  So I use it all.

But no discussion of social media these days should be done without a basic understanding of it’s strategic vs. tactical use.

I see many companies using social media tactically, without thinking through the strategy.  The truth is, anyone can post a video, start tweeting or blogging, etc., and many companies have jumped on this bandwagon as a tactic.  However, much like direct mail or any other direct marketing discipline, the tactical use of social media can have little or no results at all, thus giving the marketer the erroneous impression that social media doesn’t work.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, we tried direct mail (or insert medium here) and it doesn’t work.  Some of these people when further queried will admit to not following the rules… the first of which is define the strategy, the list, the offer, etc.   And with some of these business owners if they are willing to learn how to do direct mail right, their next attempt will have better, if not profitable results.

There are many places in which to find the rules of direct mail, or traditional direct marketing.  But when it comes to social media, the rules of engagement are a bit vague.

Beyond strategy – the common sense rules of engagement:

So I have been studying social media marketing for the last year.  Practicing it strategically, and analyzing my results.  And I have also been looking for a good quality set of rules to live by.  Today thanks to Twitter I found some published by Intel for their employees and their contractors.  These are a good place to start.

Note from Jim:  Article originally written by me for eMarketing & Commerce Magazine (eM+C):

Customer service now!!! The convergence of customer service and social media (and a moral)

In my last column, I cautioned readers about social media and the negative effect it can have on online reputation management. Here’s a quick recap: The key to a positive reputation is to look at every possible customer and prospect touchpoint and make sure it’s buttoned up tight. Every interaction, every touchpoint needs to be quality-driven, otherwise your brand is going to take a social media beating.

There’s just too much prime opportunity online — e.g.,  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. — for brands to get dinged when they screw up. In the few weeks I’ve been back from vacation, I’ve been thinking about this as I go about my day-to-day dealings with companies.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve gotten dinged: once by a salesman and once by a so-called customer service rep (CSR). But helping to restore my faith in our industry, I also recently had a fantastic customer service experience as well.

But first the negative:

  • I have a TV that for the last year has had sound problems. The sound intermittently stops working. With the TV under warranty, I called CompUSA’s warranty company to remedy the problem. It sent someone out who couldn’t find the problem. After another unsuccessful attempt to fix the problem, I again called the warranty company to get a new TV. The CSR told me there was nothing she could do except send out a third company to look at my TV. I calmly explained to her the facts of the case. She calmly explained that there’s nothing she can do. So I asked for her supervisor. The supervisor gave me the same speech — same language, same dull, disinterested, flat demeanor. Like robots, only less interesting. By then I realized that the company is just going to run out the clock on the warranty instead of giving me a new TV. The moral of this story: Some companies teach their frontline people to hold the line, not help customers.
  • I recently paid a visit to my local Honda dealership to trade in my son’s car. This will be my third lease with this dealership. The salesman I normally use is busy, so he puts me in the capable hands of “Bill.” I tell Bill that I want the special that was advertised on the dealership’s website because it’s the lowest-priced car it sells. Let the games begin. I know how it works, but I never let car salespeople play. Bill makes three attempts to get me into a more expensive car by asking if I want this or want that on the car. I remind him for the third time that I only want the least expensive car the dealership sells of that model. You know, the one listed on its website. Bill responds to me with the following: “You want the lowest price in that model, OK, but don’t you want a car with air conditioning?” (F.Y.I., I live in Florida.) He says this with actual contempt. One minute later, he’s back waiting for another customer to annoy. The moral of this story: I’d have fired this salesman on the spot if it was my dealership. You cannot risk offending any customers, much less repeat customers.

And the positive:

  • One word: Apple! I had to call its customer service department multiple times in the last few weeks with questions before installing its latest operating system. Each time I was greeted by a helpful human who worked with me patiently in a relaxed manner to get my issue resolved. Apple even offered to send me (for free, no less) operating system disks. (Mine were lost, hence the call.) I swear, it was like talking to the Apple guy from the TV commercials. Great job, Apple! You “get” customer service.

I don’t know about you, but every time I have to call a company’s customer service department I get a bit nervous in advance. Most of the time I know I’m going to be treated poorly by poorly trained, poorly managed people who are totally indifferent to me and my plight.

This message is for all of the C-suite people who read my column: Go to your call center now! Listen to your CSRs’ interactions; then do something about them. People are talking about you whether you like it or not. Positive or negative — it’s your choice.

Social Media and the United Breaks Guitars Video – A Cautionary Tale for ALL marketers

With more than 5.3 million people having already watched it, Dave Carroll’s  “United Breaks Guitars” video has become an internet social media phenomenon.  I first saw the video posted on Facebook by a friend.

For the last year I’ve been saying — screaming actually — that companies better have their acts together, otherwise they’re sitting ducks in this new age of customer centricity. If your customer service, products and brand image aren’t all buttoned up, you risk getting skewered on the internet, i.e., the people’s media.

The video I’m referring to is really amazing to see. Here’s the story behind it: United Airline’s baggage handlers break a passenger’s guitar, and the next thing you know 5.3 million people hear about it in a catchy, four-minute ditty on YouTube. Viralocity at its finest (and scariest).

The song has gone so mainstream that you can now buy it on iTunes. For just 99 cents, you too can help spread negative publicity about an airline. I hate to admit it, but I actually feel sorry for United. Well, to a point anyway.

As a marketer and consultant, I’ve seen every variation of apathetic customer service and crappy products sold by spin and hype alone. As a 30-year student of marketing and advertising — and, of course, firsthand experience — I’ve witnessed brands whose positionings were so far divergent from their actual customer experiences that you have to wonder what the C-level execs were thinking when they were sold hook, line and sinker on some overzealous, over-researched agencies’ campaigns. I can just hear it now: “Well, our market research says that if you … ”

But none of that scares me more than the internet and social media, and their power to kill your brand dead with a song, tweet, Facebook status update, blog post, thumbs down, etc.

You should be terrified, too. If you’re reading this column, let it be a call to action for you. Let my words galvanize you into looking into how your customers and prospects experience  — I’ll say it again — your customer service, products and brand image. I know I sound preachy, but how would you like a song written and gone viral about your company?

I strongly urge you to get together with your key staff members to pick apart every one of your company’s touchpoints to ensure every contact in every touchpoint is handled in a pristine manner.

To close out my sermon for the week, I want to leave you with a personal recollection from my early days in direct marketing. In the ’80s I was selling direct marketing media, and to hone my craft I read a book called “How to Sell Anything to Anybody,” written by a car salesman named Joe Girard. Girard had this rule, the rule of 250, which basically stated that any person you come into contact with knew and could influence 250 other people — positively or negatively. That one rule both terrified and inspired me. Here it is expressed mathematically: 1:250.

Thanks to social media, Joe’s rule has expanded just a little, I’d say. Take the United Airlines case, for instance, and do the math. It’s 1:5,322,806.

Oh, and by the way, check out the sequel to “United Breaks Guitars” here. It takes square aim at United’s policies and people who refused to pay for the guitar to be fixed. It’s already climbing the charts.

5 Pointers for Out-of-Work Direct Marketers (or ones who just want to hedge their bets)

Note from Jim: Originally published in All About ROI Magazine (formerly Catalog Success) Filling my virtual shoes this week while I’m on vacation is Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, and author of the Direct Marketing Employment Outlook Survey.

For those of you actively looking for employment, let me offer a few things you can do to help you get that extra edge. This may not all be new to you, but these key points are worth repeating.

1. Make sure your resume screams, “I can add value!” I still see way too many resumes that are long on titles and descriptions, but short on specific accomplishments and achievements. That always amazes me. Metrics are an integral part of the direct marketing process, yet many marketers’ resumes often neglect to include what really matters most — quantifiable results. If you don’t brag on your resume, no one else is going to do it for you.

Be very specific, quantify where possible and use some choice action verbs to describe what you achieved. Companies have already taken steps to slash costs, so think more about what you’ve done to contribute to revenue growth, such as acquiring and keeping new customers; new products; new market segments; how you’ve helped improve recency, frequency and monetary value; and so on. Don’t forget to make your resume keyword-friendly. Use terms that are specific to your job or career objectives, and use them often. Continue reading

FDMA Annual Summit a Success!

We had over 90 attendees at the FDMA annual summit.  Here is a sample of what we saw, Jeff Yaniga’s powerpoint presentation on Using Twitter For Business.  Great stuff!  Enjoy and have a great weekend.twitterjeff










Here is Karen Talavera’s presentation on Beyond Integration: Welcome to Marketing Fusion.  











Here is Peter Leshaw’s Presentation on Understanding social media, social networking and social marketing


Peter Leshaw's presentation click here to view

Peter Leshaw's presentation click here to view

Kumbaya Now! (how we can all professionally and personally survive the economic crisis)

Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this recessionary economy together. 

If you’re still lucky enough to be employed, listen carefully to my message, as simplistic as it may seem: It’s time to put aside the natural rivalry, competitiveness, intraorganizational politics and just plain silliness that is everyday business life if you want to stay employed, and moreover, to keep your business from going under.

It’s time to really look at the way the silos within your company are formed. Take them apart, and relearn how to run your business.  

Yes, I know I’m preaching. Sorry. But you can always stop reading here (but don’t).


I assure you that on this day, in this economy, businesses need to adapt or die! We’re all terribly scared about the future of our careers and how it will affect our families. The more we — and when I say we, I mean employees and business owners — succumb to our fears, the more difficult it is to work together. We second-guess ourselves. We second-guess others, and most importantly, we spend a lot of time playing armchair quarterback to the decisions that are being made.

It’s no wonder companies are going under daily. If you look carefully, you’ll see mismanagement as the big culprit. Greed. Power. Ego. We can’t run businesses this way at this time in history.

It’s officially time for kumbaya! From this point forward, you and your colleagues must work together to fight to keep your company alive.

Beyond newfound camaraderie, two keys to doing this are obviously increasing sales and reducing costs. If you look, I’m sure you can find many places where your company’s inefficient.

As an employee, you already know they’re there, but fear keeps you silent, doesn’t it?

Recently, while consulting for a company, I set up an internal group, more like a renegade operation, and named it “Operation: Unturned Stone.” The goal of this operation was to turn over every stone in the organization in search of opportunities to either reduce costs or increase sales. This required getting people together from each department in the company. And not the heads of that division either, but key managers who aren’t usually empowered to make a difference like this. 

We put them together in a room, told them NO topic was off-limits, even pet projects their CEO might be working on, and told them to build a report on what can be done better.  

The last part of Operation Unturned Stone is critical: C-level management must make the commitment to listen and take action. Also critical is that each member of the presenting group can feel 100 percent comfortable that there will be no consequences for what they recommend. Additionally, upper management at all companies need to address the paranoia level. Peoples’ nerves are frayed as they wait for more bad news or the axe to fall.

The time is now for reassurance, comfort and team building. This can be accomplished relatively quickly. Along with reassurance, get your employees together. Suggest outside-of-the-office events. Create events as well. No, I’m not talking about corporate retreats. How about an ice skating night? A company picnic for no reason? Give out free movie passes; something along those lines.  

In short, it’s your responsibility to do what it takes from any level to ensure that your staff sticks together in these troubling times. Now is not the time for every man/woman for him/herself!

We will get through this difficult time and thrive again.

5 Tips for Using LinkedIn as a Business Tool

In addition to being an exceptional tool for personal business networking, LinkedIn is also a great place to market your business. Here are five tips to help your business network grow through LinkedIn: 

1. Use the Q&A function. The Q&A function of LinkedIn is a powerful revenue-generating tool. Try using the advanced answers search to find questions specific to your company’s expertise. Don’t pitch your company’s products or services here, just give the best — or most altruistic — answer you can. The Q&A is definitely a give-to-get medium: Give freely and you’ll get back in spades. 

2. Become an expert. When a question is asked on LinkedIn, it remains open for answers for seven days. After the question closes, the asker can rate the best answer to that question. The best answerers for a given question are awarded expert status on LinkedIn. From that point on, whenever an expert answers a question, that expert gets an expert badge. People’s expert status follows them around wherever they go on the site. Since you’re representing your company, this creates expertise for it as well. 

3. Join groups. You can join as many as 50 LinkedIn groups. When you join, introduce yourself and your services. Much like Q&A, this is a give-to-get medium. 

4. Start a group. Starting a group is super easy — just a couple of clicks and you’re done. Start a group around your company’s core competencies. For example, if you’re a printer, set up a group for people to ask questions about printing. If you’re a search engine marketing company, set up a SEM for beginners group. 

5. Promote your blog. Many of you already have corporate blogs and have produced whitepapers and corporate presentations. Promote your blog in the news section of the groups you belong to. Promote whitepapers and presentations in the groups as well via the discussion function. This adds value and enhances your image. 

People always tell me they see me all over LinkedIn. I try to gain as much notoriety as possible within the LinkedIn Q&A and group functions. As a consultant, this has brought me new customers. It takes some attention and time, but when done right, it can be a wonderful source of leads and business