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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Direct Marketing Tips and Best Practices: Session One

The NMOA sent out a request to all types of direct marketing experts to submit their best tips and practices. This is the first series of the replies. Headings in this article include: Copywriting, Direct Mail, E-Commerce, SEO and Social Media, General Direct Marketing. If you find these helpful, please share with a friend.


From: BuzzBee Company (Copywriting)

Copywriting Best Practices
When you're writing for a busy audience, you have a short amount of time and often a small amount of space to demonstrate your value and accomplish the goals of your message.

1. Short, Sweet, and Professional is Key. Read through the copy--can you relay the same message in fewer words? Does your copy provide substantive, actionable information?

2. Get to the Point Up Front. Unlike a novel or a good joke, your copy shouldn't be a mystery or hold out on the punch-line until the end. What are you trying to accomplish with your copy? Be sure to cut to the chase up front, so that audience sticks with it.

3. Think about your audience. When writing for a global audience, it is important to remember that some of your readers may have learned English as a second language. Certain terms, slang, and jargon may be confusing or portray an alternate meaning than what was intended.

SEO Best Practices
1. Always add alt text to images: An image can say a thousand words to the viewer, but to a computer searching your site, it's just pixels. Say more with your images by including alt text describing the content of the image.
2. Structure and format your code: If your webpage copy is formatted with numerous levels of headers and page copy, including , , ...and a search engine is better able to understand the content and importance of your site.
3. Keep people up to date with a blog: A blog hosted on your own domain is a great tool to make small, but meaningful updates to your site. It's a venue to share ideas, exciting news and a chance to position you and your company as a thought-leader in the industry.

Bio: BuzzBee is a strategic marketing consulting firm that helps guide companies in their efforts to take innovative technology products and services to market. www.buzzbee.biz

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From: Joy Gendusa (Direct Mail)

Direct Mail Postcard Marketing:
1. Benefits, benefits, benefits! One of the biggest errors people make in advertising is stating features, rather than benefits. People want to know "what's in it for me?" For example, a dentist should list "Saturday and Evening Appointments" - that will get attention.

2. The more you repeatedly and consistently mail to your list, the better response rate you see. I recommend mailing at least 3-5 times to the same list. Ideally, every two weeks. There is no envelope to open, so your message is more likely to be read (even if they throw it away!).

3. Only promote one main product, service or message on your postcard. Too many ideas create confusion and it's too much effort for the reader to figure out what you want them to do. If you are a landscaper promoting to "winterize your yard" make that the main message on the front and bullet point other services you may offer on back. Also, always tie in your offer to the main promotion.

Bio: Joy Gendusa is an entrepreneur, business owner, author and established speaker and philanthropist. She founded PostcardMania in 1998 with nothing but a phone and a computer and zero investment capital. By 2008, company revenues reached nearly $19 million. Visit www.postcardmania.com.

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From: Sherri May (Direct Mail Campaign)

When putting together your direct mail campaign you must:
1. Target: Know who your most profitable customers are, identify their attributes and prospect against those attributes to ensure you're mailing to folks most likely to respond profitably.

2. Integrate: Don't assume all of your prospects prefer the same kind of communication. Give prospects many ways to interact with, and buy from, you.

3. Less is more: Write tight. Stick to your most important messages and invite the reader to your website for more detail. A mailer crammed with information is scary and usually finds its way to the recycle bin!

Bio: Sherri May is an award-winning strategist, marketer and member of American Marketing Association, Sherri May began Sherri May & Co. in 1997 after a 20-year corporate career. Reach her at sherri@sherrimayco.com.

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From: Philippa Gamse (E-Commerce, SEO, and Social Media)

1. Beware of experts who report from silos: If you hire an SEO company, then they're going to tell you that you're #1 in the search engines for your chosen keywords, and your traffic is through the roof! That's what you hired them for. This may be true, but you must put this in context of whether you're pursuing the right keywords and getting qualified traffic for your business needs. How long do visitors spend at your site? What are your conversion rates? How do your landing pages perform? Often, SEO companies don't have access to, or properly analyze this information, so it's crucial to ensure that you have this data too in order to evaluate the ROI on your SEO campaigns.

2. Qualify your traffic: It's really important to consider how you sell, when you want people to contact you, etc. Most of us would say that we have a better chance of selling if we can actually talk to the prospect, but it's important not to spend time on people who can't buy from us. I recently met a CEO who's website was attracting tons of search traffic, but their call to action was to fill in a quote request form, and there was no detail of their minimum order amount. Their sales dept was spending 25% of their time telling people to go away - that's expensive!

3. Don't be seduced by big numbers: In all of my experience, very few companies (especially SME's who are my target clients) are deriving actionable intelligence from their analytics. Most of them don't go further than looking at the dashboard - and if the number is bigger than last time, they assume things are good. This isn't true - in fact, sometimes, bigger numbers can be a sign of problems. I've reviewed over 5,000 websites, and 95% of them were leaving money on the table, sometimes a lot of it, and their owner usually had no idea! Use the analytics to look for places where you're leaking revenue, losing sales opportunities, or wasting money on ineffective promotions.

Bio: Philippa Gamse is a web & social media strategy consultant and speaker, with a focus on small and medium-sized businesses. Selected as the sole expert for the Fall 2009 cover story on effective Web strategies of UPS "Compass" magazine which has a circulation of 1 million business customers. www.WebsitesThatWin.com Twitter: @pgamse

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From: Joe Erfe (SEO)

Whether you manage a small-midsized business or just starting up, understanding what the overall goals are for campaigns should always be addressed. Whether you're trying to generate more leads or you're trying to create some brand awareness, understanding SEO basics for your site can help increases your presence on search engines. With SEO, you're always trying to improve you're rankings on search engines. So it's important that you want to get a lot of targeted traffic. You want to make sure that your website/landing pages are relevant, and you want to make sure you track and analyze your data. Here are easy steps to incorporate SEO strategies with your business:

1. Make sure you research your keyword. Search engines, especially Google disclose the volume of searches. For a free tool, use Google's Keyword Tool. It provides users with data of how many searches are done monthly for any keyword.

2. A good rule of thumb when starting your SEO goals is to have the proper landing page associated with your keyword. Make sure that you properly organize your site so that it's easier to eventually track and analyze data. Search engines and humans both like easy to read URLs, make sure that rather than having a string of letters and numbers, you incorporate your keyword with the landing page URL. So instead of domain.com/gusl123hKOLe34?.html, make sure that you have domain.com/keyword. Make sure you have relevant content on your site tied to your keyword as well. If you're selling "Halloween costumes" the landing page title, content/copy should be about "Halloween costumes" and not random products.

3. Add an analytics tracking tool for your site. Omniture and Google Analytics are some of the best web analytics tools around. I highly recommend Google Analytics for start-ups to medium sized companies; it's free and very user friendly. Having an analytics tool can help track and measure site visits. Once you compile information from your web analytics tool, you should be able to find out what the key drivers are for your main keyword. Using the Halloween costumes example, let's say that your store was in California and that your campaign targeted the whole state. With a web analytics software tool, you can then find out where the site visitors are coming from. Are the visits coming from San Francisco? Or are the bulk of the visits coming from Los Angeles? If so, with the right targeting, you can then create new extremely focused SEO campaigns based on the data you've gathered, and you'll be able target longer stringed keywords (long tail keywords). Just make sure you have targeted landing pages for those as well, ie. Domain.com/halloween-costumes-los-angeles.

Bio: Joe Erfe is the Vice President of Silverback Strategies, one of the leading Online Marketing Firms specializing in SEO Management, Pay Per Click Management, Web Design/Development, and Social Media Marketing (Facebook Advertising Management, YouTube Advertising Management). www.silverbackstrategies.com

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From: Samir Soriano (SEO and Social Media)

1. Grab the customer's email address at the beginning of the checkout process. Send follow-up emails if the customer abandons the shopping cart.

2. Ad retargeting is another great way to stay in front of those who abandon their shopping cart. This serves ads specifically to people who have abandoned their shopping cart. The ads can be seen almost
anywhere on the web.

3. Make the checkout process painless and simple. Put a step timeline that highlights how far along the customer is to checking out. Also, make each call-to-action unmissable.

SEO
1. Backlinks are the best way to build your page rank. Spending the time to build relationships and write guest posts is definitely worth it.

2. Meta keywords don't work anymore, so don't waste your time.

3. Wordpress is NOT SEO friendly. Spend a little time to research some of the SEO plugins that are offered on Wordpress.

Social Media
1. Once your brand has an active presence on any social presence, it's important that your brand stays active. There's nothing worse than staying silent for two weeks - it makes your brand look like a ghost town.

2. Use retargeted ads to encourage the visitors to your website to Like you on Facebook. From there, you can use a different retargeting campaign to activate those users across and into your other marketing and sales channels. Facebook fans tend to be more active with brands than the people who simply just visit the brand's website.

3. Engage with your audience and continuously find ways to improve your product.

Bio: Samir Soriano is the Director of Marketing at ReTargeter. He was previously a marketing coordinator at Sportsvite, and has a lot of hands-on experience with many top-of-funnel marketing tactics and their complements.

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From: Christian Arno (Global Translation)

1. Be wary of dialectal differences
When translating your website for a specific target market, it's important to remember that even if various countries share a common tongue, the dialects may be different - and this should be reflected in your text. For example, if you're selling computers to Latin American countries, the word for 'computer' is _computadora_, but in Spain the word is _ordenador_. There are many other examples from across the various Spanish, French, Portuguese and even English dialects of the world.

2. Multilingual SEO: Don't translate keywords
The one golden rule of multilingual SEO is NEVER translate your keywords directly from English. Even a professional, native-speaking translator won't know what keywords people use to search for products/services locally - so even a correct, dictionary translation of a term might be well off the mark. For example, 'l'assurance automobile' is a correct translation of 'car insurance' in French. But in checking Google's keyword tool in France, it soon become clear that people tend to use variations of the term to actually search for car insurance, such as 'assurance auto' or 'assurance voiture'.

And the same is true across all languages - people may use abbreviations, acronyms or synonyms to search for products and services online, so you have to incorporate properly researched keywords into your website for each language/dialect.

3. Domain names
If you want to rank highly on local search engines around the world e.g. Google.fr, Google.de, Google.ca, ideally you'll need a locally hosted top-level domain WITHIN each country. So if you have mycompany.com for the US, then you'd want mycompany.fr, mycompany.de, mycompany.ca for specific countries. This is because search engines use this information in its search algorithm, to ensure searches deliver as local results as possible. It's important to note that the website should be HOSTED in the target country too, as search engines also know the location of a server and uses this information to compile search results.

Bio: Christian Arno is founder and Director of Lingo24, a global translation company that specializes in website localization_. It has 140 employees across three continents, and a network of 4,000 translators. Its projected turnover for 2010 is $7m USD.

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From: Dale Furtwengler (General Direct Marketing)

The key to any effective marketing message is to make the customer the hero of the message. All too often companies' marketing messages talk about what they do instead of what the customer is going to get. If you want to get prospects to call, talk about them and what they're going to get and provide your contact info. Don't tell them anything about your company. They'll love you because you're demonstrating an interest in them. They'll also have their curiosity piqued and want to know more about you and what you have to offer.

Bio: Dale Furtwengler helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. He's the author of the internationally-acclaimed book, Pricing for Profit. pricingforprofitbook.com

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From: Leslie Linevksy (Catalogs and Customer Service)

1. Answer your phones with impeccable customer service and real smiles - just because you are doing business on the internet, it is imperative that you do not loose touch with the human element in negotiating, client relationships and customer retention.

2. Get rid of automated answering machines. They are too impersonal.

3. Constantly tweak your website. Make sure that it is functioning correctly. Periodically TEST your shopping cart all the way through complete order processing.

4. Invite 5 strangers for a short focus group to evaluate how well your website explains your company and what you are selling (product or service.) At Catalogs.com, we do periodic focus groups (we offer $50 plus lunch!) and always get great participants. A focus group lets you list to an average consumer who is not already immersed in your business. You get fresh ideas, a different take and can identify areas of confusion.

5. The old proverb is SO true: you must spend money to make money. Identify a realistic marketing budget and stick to it. Tweaking based on ROI is important, but hold fast to your budget so that you can continue to bring in new customers.

6. Don't forget to email existing customers frequently to stay in touch and remind them who you are.

Bio: Leslie Linevksy is co-founder of Catalogs.com, a premier shopping portal with more than 650 niche and brand name retailers in 35 categories, and 950,000 online visitors each month. She holds an MBA in international business from University of Miami with over 20 years experience in direct marketing, cataloging and online retail. www.catalogs.com Twitter @leslielinevksy

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