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January 2011 archive

Snail Mail Marketing: Is It Worth It?

In a marketing age where everyone wants to reach their customers faster and on a more personal level, is snail mail marketing (forgive me, but the banal term is the most relevant) still a good marketing channel? Some people will tell you that with design costs, printing expenses, list rentals, constantly changing postal requirements and an ever-increasing postage rate, direct mail is just not worth it. I think they’re wrong.

What it comes down to is evaluating your company’s core business and deciding the best strategy. ASPE is a training company. We train professionals in business analysis, project management, marketing, IT, financial investment and more to help them gain certifications, become more efficient and knowledgeable and advance their careers. People want detail if they’re going to pay $1,000+ for a course. Better yet, their employers want justification on why they should shell out money for training.

The next logical question is: How do we reach them? Of course we have an integrated marketing mix; it would be irresponsible for any company not to. Historically direct mail was our bread and butter, and now we’ve integrated it with the electronic side of email, Twitter, search engine optimization, pay per click campaigns and more. Sure, it’s cheap and easy for customers to print out an email or webpage and physically have it in front of them, but first they have to find our company, go to our website, find the right course and then they have their information. A brochure has all the information they want about a class delivered to them (of course you have to profile correctly to get it to that person, but that’s a whole other ballgame).

So, when the question and shock comes, and people say, “You spend HOW MUCH on direct mail?!?” and my answer is that on a busy week, the postage alone is more than my salary, why do we continue to invest in it when the electronic channels are working so well? Here you go:

  • 28% of our registrations in 2010 were directly linked to a direct mail piece compared to the 10% from emails
  • In our business, if 2 of every 1,000 people who receive a brochure register for a class, we break even or make a profit
  • Direct mail is an easy channel to track; you just have to figure out how: “Thanks for signing up for a class. How’d you hear about us?…A brochure, great! Do you mind telling me the code listed next to the mailing label?…Thanks.”
  • You can’t put 8 pages of details and outline in an email and make it look good
  • Extra runoffs make for great collateral for our sales team
  • Even if the intended recipient is no longer at a company, chances are their replacement/superior/coworkers will still be there and look at it
  • You can guarantee the recipient will see the same images you see. Different email providers, software programs and browsers display things differently
  • Shelf life: How long do you keep an email in your inbox? Now how long do you keep a catalog or magazine around the office?

So before you decide to eliminate or significantly cut back your direct mail campaigns, or start one up, think about what your message is, how you want potential customers to view it, and the way you’re going to measure the ROI. Sure, our competitors in the training business have cut back and typically the only mail they send is an annual or bi-annual catalog. GREAT! That means the brochures we send to a potential student could be the only training information lying on their desk. With less in the mail, your piece can have greater impact.

The Real ROI of Social Media

There’s a wealth of tools available to help businesses navigate the rapidly growing terrain of social media marketing. Before opening the toolbox, in order to make the strongest impact, it’s important to first take a holistic view of the power behind social media strategy.

Here are some key considerations:

1. The goal of a social media campaign is to generate interest in your brand. The selling will follow organically.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook give businesses a non-intrusive method to distribute information about their products and bolster credibility in the marketplace by sharing information related to their industry. Demonstration of this subject-matter expertise, in turn, can pique consumer interest, leading to an exploration of the products and services of the information sharer.

Although we’ve been calculating ROI since the day we sold our first cup of lemonade from the neighborhood cul-de-sac, in the social media space, what’s equally as important is ROC (Return on Conversation).  Social media is a breeding ground for opportunities to generate interest from and engage in conversations with potential clients.

2) You can’t put a price tag on positive conversations about your brand.

Every conversation is an opportunity to build trust and credibility – the pillars of brand loyalty – with potential clients. Nearly all of us carry a giant megaphone in our pockets (literally) ready to share our perspectives on a particular service or product. Mobile technology allows us to instantly share our experiences, both positive and negative, and gives us immediate access to information that influences our buying decisions.


Before making a purchase, we check message boards, read reviews and request feedback using Facebook or Twitter. If a friend or trusted contact speaks highly of a company or product, we’re more inclined to buy. Research is everywhere; just a few taps on a touch screen or mouse clicks away.

That’s the true power of social media: everyone has a voice.

Now that we understand ROC and its potential to help generate brand loyalty (i.e. recurring revenue streams), it’s just about time to open the toolbox.  Before you do, here’s one last consideration.

3. Invest the time to craft a compelling social media strategy.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every business. So it’s important to develop a baseline of knowledge about the strategies and tools available to help measure success and maximize your reach.

To learn how to implement an effective social media campaign tailored to your business, check out our Internet Marketing Implementation program for more information.


Sit Back and Get Uncomfortable

For eight months I was an intern for ASPE’s marketing department, and recently, I transitioned to my new, full-time role as a marketing specialist. Now that graduation is over and finals are behind me, I’ve had some time to reflect on this transition from intern to professional, and I believe my insights could be useful to individuals in all different stages of their career.

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t graduate a marketer. Defining your target market, understanding the meaning of acronyms such as CRM and knowing the format of a marketing plan are all great skills, but are only minnows in the vast sea of marketing knowledge, if you will.  This field is always a step ahead of the game and constantly evolves. In order to be successful, you must evolve too.

With that being said, I’ve created a list of habits every current and future marketer should learn to nurture:

1. Independent study

I’m not talking about going to the library and checking out every boring book you can find about marketing.  What I am talking about is following blogs to find out what other marketers think and do, staying on top of technological trends, keeping a journal of marketing related thoughts and ideas, and picking the brains of “gurus” around you.

2. Have a voice

If you always go along with what you’re told, you’ll never get further than where you are.  Don’t ever stop challenging yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you are afraid of making mistakes, then marketing is not the field for you.

3. Immerse yourself

Marketing is not one of those jobs you can just leave at the office – it’s a lifestyle.  There’s an entire “underground” culture of marketers sharing and learning from one another.  Find a social media club to join or go to an SEO group meeting.  Don’t miss out on all these opportunities to “experience” marketing.

You may be saying “I don’t like to go to those group meetings,” or “I don’t feel comfortable disagreeing with my boss.” But marketing isn’t about being comfortable; it’s about trying new things and testing your limits. If you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, then it’s time to do something different and try something new. So sit back, buckle up, and get uncomfortable.

Why Your Homepage is Obsolete

What is the first thing most people plan and design when creating, building, or redesigning their website? Their Homepage. Many will emphatically tell you, “This is the first thing people will see when they come to your site!”


In the early days of the internet (I’ll  classify this as back when people had HTML websites, used scrolling GIFS, used the term ‘Surfing the Web,’ and capitalized the ‘i’ in Internet), I would have agreed with these people that your homepage was vital to helping your web traffic get to the page they were looking for.

What people fail to recognize is that, in those days, we did not know how to get to content or websites unless someone told us the URL. If you wanted to find a book, you went to and looked around their site to see if you could find them. You might get lucky…or you might not.

This is not true anymore. Today, you simply jump on your search engine of choice and do a quick search. In less than a minute, you’ll have millions of websites put in front of you that sell or have content around that very specific book/product.

Search engines have made your homepage obsolete. For the majority of us, the traffic to our homepage is mostly past customers or people who are already aware of our products/services in some capacity. Very few of the visitors coming to that page are completely green.

The majority of the people coming to your site today are entering on pages one or two levels deep – their landing page. They have done some sort of search that has brought them to a page with relevant content. They are not coming to your homepage. I’ll say that again…They Are NOT Coming to Your Homepage!

Why You Need 100 Homepages

Landing pages today do the job that our homepages did 5-10 years ago. You should be developing a ‘homepage’ for each type of customer coming to your site. You may have a page specifically for your selection of fiction ( and you may have a page built specifically for people searching for Harry Potter ( Each one of these customers is looking for different content/products. Although there may be some overlap, each page should be treated as its own homepage for that specific content. The more customer types you have, the more homepages you need.

This may seem like a daunting task, but by looking at your web analytics data you can see how people are getting to your site. You can see exactly what they searched, and start building pages relevant for the largest segments of your traffic. Slowly work down the list to create pages for more and more specific customers/topics.

The New Role of Your Homepage

While search engines may have made homepages of old obsolete, your homepage still has a very vital function. The role of the homepage is no longer to tell people about who you are and what you do. It is now the starting point for people who in some capacity know about you and your business, they just don’t know the specific page for the information they are looking for.

The new role of the homepage is to help those people get to the information they are looking for as fast as possible. These people have gotten to your site by typing in your URL or by doing some form of branded keyword search (aka…Googling barnes and noble). These same people may also be looking for the latest Harry Potter book, so your design and navigation must tell them how to find that information…and fast. Lucky for you, you’ve already built a homepage for your Harry Potter customer-type that you can send them to (funny how that works out).

Evaluating Your Site

Look at your site, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What search terms are bringing the most traffic to my site?
  • How much do these people know about me and my products/services?
  • What pages are these people starting on?
  • What content/products/services are these people looking for?
  • Do these pages provide that content?
  • Are they getting enough information on those pages to make a purchasing decision right now?
  • Is their overall experience positive enough for them to make a purchasing decision right now?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, or requires the individual to seek other pages in order to get what they need, make any necessary adjustments and watch your analytics data to figure out your next steps.

Monitoring Your Brand Through Social Media and Internet Marketing

We’ve all been there. You’re having a great time at a social event until you realize, to your horror, you’re stuck in the corner having a conversation with that guy…the guy who talks incessantly about himself and admires the sound of his own voice. His shameless self-promotion is almost (but not quite) as irritating as his ability to stonewall you into silence the moment you try to interject.

Do not, under any circumstances, let that guy near your brand.

Monitoring your brand online is paramount to the success of your business’s marketing strategy and potential growth. But vigilant monitoring hinges on one’s ability to listen, not add to the noise. Listening is key.

Why Monitoring Matters

Social media and the Internet provide you with a gateway into the minds of existing and potential customers, industry thought leaders and your competitors. They’re all talking, and they’ll continue to talk, whether or not you’re listening.

If you choose to listen, this is what you may hear:

  • Insights about your brand
  • Discussions about trending topics in your industry
  • Perspectives about competing brands

You can use this information to:

  • Optimize your service offerings to meet the continuously changing needs of consumers
  • Detect industry trends to take a proactive approach in developing new strategies
  • Capitalize on the gaps in your competitors’ service to win new business

Listening is the first step to monitoring your brand. The next step, and perhaps equally as important, is determining when it’s appropriate to join in the conversation.

Maybe you remember the Domino’s YouTube video disaster from 2009. Two Domino’s employees posted a repulsive video in which a worker defiles ingredients during food preparation. Domino’s learned of the video and fired the employees responsible, but they decided not to act aggressively in hopes that the situation would settle itself quietly.

Within a mere 36 hours, the video—containing an employee sticking cheese up his nose before placing it on a sandwich—went viral via outlets like Twitter. Customers were outraged, repulsed and vowed to never order from Domino’s again. As the New York Times said, “Social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises.”

The company removed the video and issued a statement of apology, but the damage was done: consumer ratings plummeted.

Domino’s brand equity was severely damaged because of one YouTube video and the company’s decision to remain silent. During this PR nightmare, Domino’s finally set up a Twitter account in an effort to connect with customers and rebuild trust.

This is a compelling, albeit unfortunate, example other businesses can learn from. Domino’s missed multiple opportunities to listen and react, thus causing near irreparable damage to their brand.

Tools of the Trade

There are a number of Internet and social media aggregators that make monitoring your brand a scalable task. Their purpose is to track definable terms (i.e. keywords) as they appear on the web, giving you the opportunity to provide quick, appropriate responses to what’s being said about our brand.

Here are four of the most powerful monitoring tools.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is widely known as one of the best free tools for monitoring web content. Simply enter a search term, set a few preferences, and you’ll be notified via email any time Google indexes content containing your keywords.

Social Mention

Similar to Google Alerts, except designed specifically for social media, Social Mention is a free search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from outlets like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg and FriendFeed, to name a few. You can further target your analyses by monitoring blogs, videos and even bookmarks. When any of your keywords are mentioned across these platforms, you’ll be notified via email.


Addictomatic is another monitoring tool that is relatively simple to use. Just enter a keyword to generate a page that lists any mentions of your keyword across the Internet. After your search, personalize the results dashboard and then bookmark the page, which allows you to easily refer back to it anytime.


HootSuite is a robust social media management tool connecting you to multiple social media platforms from one location. It’s also uniquely structured to track conversations across all of these networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, WordPress and FourSqaure. By using the Keyword Tracking tool, you can maintain a running list of user-generated, keyword-specific content across each platform.

Even with these tools, monitoring your online brand is no simple task. It’s often difficult to determine when to engage in a conversation and which monitoring tools will best meet the needs of your business.

To learn more about monitoring your brand, take our Internet Marketing Implementation course.