Operational E-Mail: Discover True One-to-One Communication
February 19, 2008

With the sophistication of Web 2.0 generation e-commerce systems, I’m seeing more and more creative uses of e-mail. I’m thinking about individual, tailored e-mails generated by your e-commerce or order-management system rather than the bulk e-mails sent out as part of marketing campaigns. They’re sometimes called “operational e-mails.”
You never have a better time to cement your relationship with a customer, and generate an additional sale, than when you have a relevant e-mail (or phone call) that results from a customer action. Here are some examples … and some ideas.
* Order confirmation e-mails. Recognize first-time buyers and returning customers, and try a “15-minute

Test Private Customer Sales
December 18, 2007

Like you, I receive many mail offers that just don’t grab my attention. If it looks like a “mass mailing,” I don’t perceive it to be relevant. In this age of variable printing and personalization, there’s really no excuse not to be testing various personalized offers. One such proven offer is the private customer sale.
This involves digging into your customer file to find what products your customers have bought in the recent past, or what products they’re likely to buy based on past buying behavior. With this information, you’re able to send a personally addressed mail piece (letter, postcard, catalog, etc.) offering

How to Avoid the Dreaded ‘Delete’ Key
December 4, 2007

Each morning as I open my e-mail, I sit with my index finger perched on the delete key. I suspect I’m like many others. Today’s e-mail environment has trained us all to be “vicious deleting machines.” We scan every sender and subject line looking for someone we recognize or something of value, and if we don’t find it ... zap, it’s gone. How long do we take to scan and delete what we don’t recognize? I take about one second, maybe less. It helps that I get lots of training each morning — I’m relentless. The volume of unwanted e-mails is now so high

Are You Asking for a Referral When Taking an Online Order?
November 6, 2007

When we make really good offers to customers or prospects and they buy, that’s the moment to ask for a referral. After all, they want their friends and business associates to get the same great offer they just got, right? Below is an example from www.photostamps.com, which has a great idea and offer. Please scroll down, click on the postage-stamp-size image and note how the marketer makes it so easy for me to give it a referral e-mail address or two. The only thing that’s missing is the ability for responders to upload their personal distribution list.
The better you make your

Are Your Mailings Irrelevant or Just Plain Stale?
October 30, 2007

Lately I’ve noticed I’ve been getting repeat mailings from large B-to-B office suppliers — and they all look the same. It probably doesn’t help that Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax have similar corporate colors. They all seem stuck in their “10 percent or $10 off” offer, or some version of it. To make matters even more boring, the mailings always seem to be in one of two or three standard formats. You know the ones: large postcards, #10 solo or folded flyer.
You look at them and say, “Oh, that again,” and toss it. It got me thinking about the opportunity we

Which Portion of Your E-commerce Marketing Efforts Should You Outsource?
October 23, 2007

I see a dilemma growing in our industry. It involves balancing which e-commerce functions should be kept in-house vs. those that should be outsourced.
Before we answer that question, a little historical perspective is in order. First, take note that five years ago, most of us thought e-commerce was a lot less complicated than it’s turned out to be. Right? That said, the next five years will bring increasing levels of complexity in e-commerce.
I also want to point out that most B-to-B companies I know have gone through several e-commerce employees/teams and/or organizational structures. As the function has evolved, we’ve struggled to

Beat or Meet Your Sales Forecasts by Year’s End, Part 3
October 9, 2007

One thing you can do to generate additional revenue between now and the end of the year is to make use of a postcard. We talked previously in this series about using postcards before and after a catalog drop to enhance your catalog’s offerings and increase revenue. We also talked about finding room in your mail schedule to drop an additional catalog.
Now, here’s another way to use a postcard.
Instead of an extra catalog, do a postcard mailing to select groups of customers. Determine what part of your customers and/or prospects would respond to a postcard. Consider mailing to older customers who

Six Low-cost ‘E-ways’ to Meet or Beat Your 2007 Plan By Year’s End
September 25, 2007

The last I checked our last reader poll asking catalogers whether their sales were meeting, beating or missing projections, it looked somewhat encouraging. When asked if at this point of the year multichannel marketers were on plan with original forecasts for the year, 59 percent of our readers said they were either on plan or ahead. Even better news showed that none of you were missing its numbers badly.
There are still 41 percent of you, however, who are slightly below plan, so let’s see what we can do to move those numbers up by the end of the year. Here are six tips

Don’t Overlook the B-to-B Market in Canada
September 25, 2007

Hailing from Toronto, I enjoy keeping a close eye on my homeland. Each summer I return for my annual family vacation. When I do, I always check the B-to-B direct marketing pulse of the country.
That said, I begin by asking you to look in your customer file to see how much business you’re doing in Canada. When you look, don’t forget also to look at Burlington, Vt., Buffalo, N.Y., and Bellingham, Wash., three border cities heavily influenced by Canadian purchases. (Many Canadian businesses have delivery/mail pick-up and drop-off services in those areas.)
In recent years, the Canadian dollar has strengthened (currently, it’s virtually

What ‘High School Musical’ Taught Me About Direct Marketing
August 21, 2007

By now, most of you know that the Disney Channel juggernaut “High School Musical,” is perhaps the most powerful brand in America right now. Witness the premiere on Aug. 17 of the highly anticipated sequel, “High School Musical 2,” which whipped America’s “tweeners” (kids ages 6 to 14) into a frenzy — and their parents into buying action.
As of this writing, the sequel’s soundtrack has taken over the No. 1 position on iTunes. And of course, my 7-year-old had to have his soundtrack immediately after the movie aired. That means that for the next few months there will be only one CD playing