Nurses: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

Nurses are a very popular audience for a wide variety of marketing offers.  Our database has nearly 5.6 million state licensed nurses with dozens of specialties and 400+ demographic & lifestyle selects available, making the targeting possibilities endless.  Not to mention all the CNAs, CRNAs, and NPs!

What is the difference between all the Nurse types, and what options are available to target your perfect audience?  I’m here to answer your burning questions!

Nurse Types

CNAs: Certified Nursing Assistants, also referred to as Certified Nursing Aides, Nurse Aides, or State Tested Nurse Aides (STNA), they provide the most basic care to patients.  This is an entry-level nursing position and requires the least amount of training.

LPNs/LVNs: Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) are actually the same thing, which is why we select them both when one is requested.  The only difference is location – California and Texas refer to them as LVNs, while the rest of the US calls them LPNs.  They assist doctors and higher level nurses in caring for patients, and may oversee CNAs.

RNs: Registered Nurses provide care for patients and may supervise lower-level nurses.  They have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and may get further training in a specific specialty.

APNs/APRNs: Advanced Practice Nurses (APN) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) provide the same type of care as RNs, but have more authority when it comes to making decisions.  They have a higher level of education, with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at a minimum.

CRNAs: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses who administer anesthesia services, similar to anesthesiologists, in hospitals, surgical centers, dentists’ offices, etc.  They have a graduate level education and can work autonomously.

NPs: Nurse Practitioners are classified as mid-level practitioners and have earned at least a Master’s degree and additional specialized training.  They can prescribe medication, including controlled substances, without physician supervision.

Nurse Specialties

CNAs do not have specialties.  However, LPNs, LVNs, and RNs can be selected by several specialties, including Critical Care, Emergency, Geriatrics, Operating Room, Pediatrics, and Public Health.

Advanced Practice Nurses include clinical nurse specialists, CRNAs, midwives, and nurse practitioners, all of which can be selected.

Nurse Practitioners can specialize in many of the same things as a medical doctor, so we have over 100 specialties available to select from, including Cardiology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Oncology, Pediatrics, Sports Medicine, and more.

Location

The vast majority of the CNAs, LPN/LVNs, and RNs in our database are at home address, so we generally cannot select their work setting, except for School Nurses.  And we can select Traveling Nurses – these nurses travel to different locations throughout the country when there is a temporary need for their services.

We can select Nurse Practitioners at their home or work address, and specifically target if they work in private practice, a hospital, or clinic location.

Demographics / Lifestyles

Depending on your offer, you may want to target nurses based on their age, gender, language spoken, income, ethnicity, mail order buying habits, home ownership, marital status, number of children, or hobbies.  All of these options are available – just let us know what you’re looking for!

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Testing, Testing … 1, 2, 3 …

We are asked all the time about the best day/time to send an email campaign, why a campaign got the results it did, if certain elements should be included in a blast, etc.  We are happy to give guidance based on our experience, but when it comes down to it – our opinion doesn’t matter.  Only the opinion of your audience matters.

How to find out what your audience thinks?  Test, test, and test some more.  A/B testing is great for figuring out which part of your campaign your target audience responds best to.

You might think your email campaign looks great, the copy is exactly what you want to say, there’s an obvious call-to-action, and the timing works best for your schedule.  So if your results aren’t what you were expecting, you’re left scratching your head … perhaps you change a few things around and send another blast.  But that’s really just another shot in the dark.

Get into your audience’s head by doing an A/B test.  The best way to measure the results is to change one thing per campaign.  It can be hard to know what to change, especially when you’re sure your design is perfect as it is, so here are a few ideas of some differences you can test:

  • Headline – Change the wording, the color, the size, or break it up into a heading and sub-heading.
  • Images – Use a different image (test images with and without people), remove an image, add one, or put them in a different places.
  • Call-to-Action – If you have a “click here” type button, add another one higher up in the design, or make it bigger, change to a contrasting color, or change the wording – make it more descriptive.
  • Text – Break up the text into smaller paragraphs, use bullet points, change the font style/size, or change the text to focus on a different aspect of your service/product.
  • Timing – Send at different times of the day or different days of the week.
  • Layout – Change a multi-column design to a one-column layout or vice versa.
  • Subject Line – Change the wording or add the person’s first name.
  • Add an element – Put in a couple testimonials, PS at the bottom, or personalization.

For it to be a true A/B split test, only one element should change for a single campaign – that way, when you see the difference in response, you know exactly what to keep for the next one.  If you change more than one thing, you won’t know what worked, and that defeats the whole purpose of testing.

And be sure when you send the second (and third, fourth, etc) campaign, do another A/B split to test something else!

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Timing Is Everything

This time of year, most American marketers are hyper aware of timing their promotions just right.  For example, any mailings that don’t involve a Black Friday sale in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving have a high chance of getting lost among the flood of sales promotions.

However, it’s important to be aware of timing all year round.  So often, marketing departments set up campaigns based on when a product launches, a budget is approved, or other internal milestones.  Those are certainly valid times to send a promotion, but it’s important to know your audience and consult an outside calendar before hitting send.

If you’re sending a promotion to teachers, other government employees, or bankers, keep in mind the additional days that their institution is typically closed, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January), Washington’s Birthday / Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February), Columbus Day (second Monday in October), and Veterans Day (November 11th).  Just like all other holidays, if the promotion isn’t somehow related to the holiday, it’s likely best to wait until after the holiday passes.

And then there are holidays that are a big deal for people of certain religions (Ramadan, Lent, Yom Kippur, Vesak, Pioneer Day, etc.) that might be overlooked if you’re focused only on internal timing.  If you’ve selected an audience based on religion, or if you’re mailing to a profession or region that’s primarily a certain faith, do a little searching to determine if your target date for the promotion is during a time where a large portion of the audience’s attention will be directed elsewhere.  Some religious holidays don’t allow for electronics to be used or for businesses to be open, so people will be coming back to a huge inbox after their festivities – all the more reason to let a few days pass after the holiday before sending your email blast.

Of course, just about every day is some sort of holiday to someone, somewhere.  They don’t all need to be avoided … and some are just begging to be embraced.  (Like today is Pickle Day?!  I totally missed my opportunity to devote an entire blog post to pickles … I’ll make up for it next year!)

So when scheduling your next campaign, remember to take a peek at a holiday calendar before setting the deadline in stone to be sure your promotion has an equal chance of being seen by everyone on your list.

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Physician Mailing Lists Demystified

There are so many options with our Doctors files that it can feel overwhelming if you’re not exactly sure what all the terms mean, or why you’d want one select over another, or why you have to make so many choices in the first place.  So I’ve put together this handy reference to guide you through the available selects the next time you want to send a mailing to doctors and need to make some decisions on how to target them effectively:

There’s No Place Like Home … or the Office …
Deciding on the address type is the first step when selecting doctors.  Since we have many of the same doctors at office address and home address, there is duplication between the two databases, which is why we always select an address type.

Our Doctors at Office database is the most comprehensive option, with over 1.7 million records that are coded with specialties, office size, and all the other office-related selects.

However, depending on what you’re promoting, it may make more sense to reach them away from the office.  Our Doctors at Home database has fewer records, but this is the best choice if you want to select by age, gender, or any of those demographic/lifestyle type selects.

Want to send your mail piece to the doctors’ homes, but still want to target them by certain specialties and/or office-related selects – that’s what our Doctors at Home by Specialty database is for.  This is the perfect marriage of the above databases.

Last note on addresses – if it doesn’t matter which address type your mail piece goes to, we can dedupe the lists to maximize the number of doctors you reach.  For example, we can select doctors at home and the balance of records at their office address.

You Want Specialties?  We Got Specialties.
We have over 150 doctor specialties.  Many of them often make sense to select together – for example, we have 6 oncology specialties, 6 orthopedic specialties, 31 surgery-related specialties, and 15 pediatric specialties.  Be sure to let us know if you want all related specialties or if you only want a specific sub-specialty.

The most common specialty grouping is “Primary Care Physicians.”  It’s actually no longer in vogue for physicians to be coded as Primary Care or even General Practitioners – instead, they are typically coded as Family Practitioners or Internal Medicine, so by default we select all four of those specialties when PCPs are requested.  And sometimes people have Pediatricians, Ob-Gyns, and Geriatricians in mind as well when referring to PCPs.  So to ease any confusion, when you request PCPs, let us know if you are thinking of the four main PCP types, or all specialties that could be considered primary care.

It’s also good to know that most doctors have a primary and secondary specialty.  By default, we select doctors that have the requested specialty as either their primary or secondary.  Please let us know if you only want doctors whose primary specialty is the one you are requesting.

Just What Kind of Doctor Are You?
Unless specified otherwise, we select MDs (Doctors of Medicine) and DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) for physician requests.  They are very similar, but DOs tend to have a more “whole person” approach to medicine.  If you want to limit your mailing to a certain degree type, be sure to let us know.

Students and Residents and Fellows, Oh My!
There are many steps to becoming a practicing physician.  We can select Medical Students who are at the first phase of the journey.  After graduating medical school, many doctors decide to to get 2 – 7 years of additional training in their specialty through a residency program, at which point they are referred to as Resident Physicians.  And then there are the really hardcore doctors who go on to even more training if they’ve chosen a certain sub-specialty that requires it – they are called Fellows while in the fellowship program.

Size Doesn’t Matter … Except When It Does.
If you’re looking to target a certain office size, there are two ways we can determine the size you’re looking for:

  • The Office Size is the number of medical professionals (Doctors, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners) in the office.
  • The Employee Size is the number of all employees (including Nurses, administrative staff, etc) in the office.

For example, if you’re looking for group practices, we’ll use Office Size to get practices with more than 2 practitioners.  But if what you really want is practices with large support staffs, we’ll use a large Employee Size.

So What Am I … Chopped Liver?
While Office Managers are not included in the Office Size total, they are of course an important part of any physician’s practice and sometimes they’re the best target for your mailing.  We can provide the Office Managers’ names along with the Doctors on a mailing list, or just the Office Managers alone.

Where Did Everybody Go?
Let’s say you want to select offices with more than 4 doctors, but you don’t want so many that hospitals are included.  Or perhaps you only want doctors that work in clinics.  We are able to select (or omit) doctors who work in hospitals, clinics, universities/teaching hospitals, or for the government.

Looking to mail to doctors in specific hospitals, clinics, etc?  We can target specific institution names.

We can also select doctors who are affiliated with hospitals – meaning, they have their own practice, but also have privileges to examine and treat patients at a hospital.

Well Now, Isn’t That Special?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, time to give our premium selects their 15 seconds of fame.  We can help you target practices by their daily patient volume, the type of EMR (electronic medical record) software used, number of locations, and the types of insurance they accept (including Medicaid/Medicare).  We can also select the year doctors graduated or how many years they’ve been practicing.

Let’s Get Personal.
Want to segment your doctor mailing list by gender, age, household income, ethnicity, marital status, hobbies (golf, anyone?), purchasing habits, investments, or favorite color?  We can do any or all of those … except one.  I’ll let you guess which one.  (Here’s a hint: mine is orange.)

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?
That’s pretty much all the available selects, but if you’re looking for something I didn’t mention above, let us know – there’s a chance we can find a way to target it.

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Read Twice. Print Once.

No one usually tries to procrastinate, but deadlines have a nasty habit of creeping up on you while you’re doing a million other just-as-important things.  Next thing you know, you’re rushing to get a marketing piece finished and to the printer as fast as possible.  You give the design a good hard look, maybe you ask a co-worker to give it a look too, and then pass it along to the printer, happy to have it off your desk.

Unfortunately, this is how typos are born.  Some typos are funny, and some are subtle enough that many folks don’t even notice them at first glance:

Others can be expensive.  Most aren’t going to be millions of dollars expensive, like “the most expensive hyphen in history” … but it’s not unheard of for a small typo to cost a company thousands of dollars.

However, regardless of the money that’s paid out of pocket, there’s another cost.  There’s lost trust with the audience.  You don’t want your company or product to be the butt of a joke.  And you don’t want to lose even an ounce of your audience’s trust – they have so many options to choose from, that ounce could be the tipping point that sends them elsewhere.

This applies to printed advertising, such as posters, newspaper ads, and brochures, as well as digital advertising, such as banner ads, newsletters, and email campaigns.  When the typo is made in an email, the typo can cause it to be flagged as spam, generate fewer click-throughs, or worse – increase unsubscribes.

So how does one avoid typos?  The person who has written the copy is usually too close to it to proof objectively.  So here are some copy proofing tricks that can help:

  1. Do not wait until the last minute to proofread.  If possible, let the project sit untouched overnight and then review it with fresh eyes the following day.
  2. Don’t just hand it over to the guy sitting in the cube next to you to look over.  Have it reviewed by many eyes – from as many different places as possible.  Everyone brings a different perspective to the table – the guy from accounting might catch that the copy includes an urban slang phrase that no one wants associated with the product.  Bonus points if you happen to know someone who fits the target audience that can review it from the perspective you really want.
  3. Read it backwards.  It’s awkward and takes longer, but my mother, who edited copy every day for at least 4 decades, swore by this technique for catching spelling errors.
  4. Read it out loud.  Your brain will scan some words when reading, but when you read it aloud, you are forcing your brain to really see the words.  Even better if you aren’t talking to an empty room, but grab someone to listen – while you’re focusing on how the individual words sound, they’ll catch how the whole thing sounds when put together.
  5. Have a child read it (assuming the copy is G rated).  Even if some of the words are a little above their reading level, you’ll find errors while they sound out unfamiliar ones (and you might discover you’ve assumed too high of a reading level and need to use words that everyone will quickly understand).
  6. Dial all phone numbers in the copy.  You’ve seen your phone number so many times, you might not catch if two digits have been transposed.  This works best if you can hand the copy to someone else to dial the numbers they see, but if you do it yourself, be sure to force yourself to dial the numbers exactly as they are shown.
  7. If it’s printed copy, type out every URL from it into your browser (don’t allow your browser to auto-fill while you’re typing – be sure you type each web address exactly as it appears in the copy).  If it’s an email, click every single link – including the ones that don’t look like links (for example, your logo should always be clickable, even if it’s not obvious).  Extra credit if you do this exercise with multiple browsers and devices (PCs, Apple computers, and smartphones) – you’re not just checking that the URL is correct in the copy, you’re also making sure the landing page displays properly.
  8. Is there a word or phrase that’s bugging you?  Perhaps the words are all spelled correctly, so there are no red squigglies, but the more you say the phrase the more odd it sounds.  Or you aren’t sure if a word is supposed to be hyphenated.  Don’t assume it’s right because that’s how you’ve always spelled it or said it.  Google is your friend.  Take two seconds and do a quick search – if you can’t find the phrase, chances are you’re the only person who thinks it’s witty or you’ve misunderstood it when others have said it – either way, probably best to replace that part of the copy.

While some mistakes might slip through the cracks no matter what you do, using these techniques should help you avoid doing anything too embarrassing … like inviting satan to a Christmas sale.

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Get Out The Vote Effectively

It seems like we’re always at some stage in an election cycle somewhere in America – the beginning of a governor’s race, the middle of an incumbent mayor’s race, the last push in a midterm election, and so on.

Right now there are political mailings, meet-the-candidate parties, strategic planning meetings, get-out-the-vote phone calls, and more happening or being planned for races around the country.  Most of the activity is for the election happening in a couple weeks, but some things are already taking place for next year’s elections.

Of course, fundraising is the backbone of any campaign … and funds are always limited.  So it’s important to spend those campaign dollars wisely!  Don’t waste time or money mailing to or calling uninterested people.  Target the voters most likely to support your candidate – and, even better – those who will donate to the cause.

So how do you target voters effectively …?

Know your geography. Be sure the audience’s location matches the candidate’s area.  Of course it’s easy to select a state for a governor’s race or a city for a mayor’s race.  US Congressional Districts, State Senate Districts, and State House Districts can be a little trickier, especially shortly after the census and the districts have been gerrymandered … errr … re-drawn – but we can select those!  Other types of areas, like school districts, aren’t loaded into count systems, so be aware that kind of area will probably need to be hand-drawn or selected by zip codes, so be prepared with a map.

Don’t just stick to party lines. Sure, it’s easy to select Democrats or Republicans, but consider if the candidate might appeal to undeclared voters as well.  Perhaps there’s a major issue that’s driving the campaign that would appeal most to women, minorities, gun owners, single parents, millennials, religious households, Spanish speakers, environmentalists, etc.  There are so many topics these days that are the deciding factor for many voters – if your candidate has a strong position, be sure to let the demographic it will resonate most with know it!

Target deep pockets. The goal of every campaign promotion – second only to getting elected – is to raise money.  Be sure you’re targeting the people with income to spare on a campaign they believe in.  That can mean selecting folks with a high income, high net worth, or people who have donated to a political campaign before.

Know the rules before you call. Is your campaign message prerecorded or automated in some way?  While political campaigns can call any phone number, including those on the do-not-call list, there are rules that apply specifically to cell phones – you cannot make robocalls, use autodialing, or send text messages to cell phones.  So if your calls will be automated, be sure to rent landline phones.

You’ve got the idea – now go raise money & get your candidate elected!

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Your Direct Marketing Campaign Goals: It’s the Brain, Stupid!

The digital versus physical advertising debate has been going on in one manner or another for a couple decades now.  Digital marketing isn’t going away.  But, the death of direct mail at the hands of digital* , which has been reported since about 20 minutes after Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corp sent out that first “spam” message on ARPAnet back in 1978, is more than a little overblown.

*Lest we forget:  Telemarketing, and fax promos were also supposed to have triggered the demise of direct mail.  It’s like a marketers version of Clue (“It was Professor Plum … in the Library … with the junk fax!!!”) except, Direct Mail didn’t get the message and failed to present itself as the game’s corpse.

Since we’ re taking a trip down Memory Lane … those of us … umm … of a certain age likely remember hearing about the “War Room” slogan of the 1992 Clinton campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid”.

That mantra was their internal* reminder to stay on message and not get distracted by other stuff. The economy was, to them, the central issue of 1992 and they did all they could within their powers to never deviate from the message. Sure, other stuff happened along the way (and this is a marketing blog, not a political or historical blog, so, let’s not get ourselves bogged down in the details of a messy 24-month campaign, either), but, whenever possible, they shifted the focus back to the economy.

*No, they did not go out on the campaign trail and call voters “stupid”.

Whatever one thinks about politics, the ’90s, the Arkansas Razorbacks, or President Clinton himself, it’s hard to argue with their campaign goal, which was, in short, to get their candidate elected. They chose their message, they stayed on message, and their guy got elected. That’s a successful campaign.

You may be asking, “But, Tim, what does a political campaign that wrapped up during the final season of The Golden Girls have to do with my direct marketing campaign goals today?”

I’m glad you asked!

Most marketers have one goal:  Sell their stuff.

That’s pretty straight-forward, right?  Pretty simple (but, not easy) concept.  It can take a number of forms … non-profits typically want people to make donations, banks want people to come to them for loans and keep their money with them, colleges want students to take classes with them, surgical supply companies want people to buy their surgical supplies, and so on.  In each of these cases, their marketing, advertising, and sales have to motivate a prospect to become some manner of buyer.  A buyer has to decide to make the purchase (or donation, etc.).

Where does that decision take place?

While some may have answered “at the office” or “in the kitchen” … Awesome Direct Marketers know the correct answer:  In the brain.

Over the years we have offered a thought or five on why postal mail works.  But, hey … don’t take my word for it.  Take the word of … science!  And, we’re not talking plain ol’ science, here … we’re talking neuroscience!

Temple University conducted a study for the USPS in 2015 and the findings* indicated Digital ads were processed more quickly, but, the Print ads had longer engagement with viewers, and a week later the viewers remembered more and had a stronger emotional response to the print ads.  Meanwhile a prior study found paper activated the ventral striatum area of the brain more than digital media.  That’s important because activity in this small brain structure had the highest correlation with advertising effectiveness.  In a nutshell, the physical mail piece hits your brain with power that is not nearly as strong as when you are merely looking at words on a screen.  That tactile response matters.

*Here’s a nice summary.

I am not saying Digital is wrong or dying or the equivalent of tossing your marketing budget into a wood chipper.  I am saying if you are working with a limited budget, or if you are marketing for new client acquisition, then you may want to strongly consider making Print part of the mix.

Finally, here are a couple visuals for you.

First, a person viewing a digital ad:

"I digested the information quickly, but ..." *yawwwwwn*

Now, someone handling a Print ad:

"Wow! Look at this interesting and engaging advertising!!!"

Which reaction do you want?

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3 Reasons Emails Suck

We’ve all gotten promotional emails where we’ve wondered why the company bothered sending it – we can’t hit delete fast enough.  Those emails suck, but the people sending them didn’t realize it.  You can avoid the same mistakes by recognizing what makes emails suck.

1. There is no text.

Your designer created the layout in Photoshop, saved it as one .jpg, loaded it up into HTML and called it a day.  I’m sure it looks lovely.  However, many people’s email clients have images turned off automatically – especially from senders they don’t recognize – so they won’t see the lovely image unless they click a button to download it … and without any text compelling them to see what the image is, they won’t click that button.

Or perhaps they do get images, but they’re checking email on their phone and don’t have the best connection (been known to happen a time or two, especially up here in the mountains of NH).  If your one image takes a long time to load and there’s no text giving them a reason to wait it out, it’ll be trashed quickly.

As an added bonus, that kind of email is more likely to get caught in spam filters, since one-big-image emails are frowned upon in the spam filter world.

So how to avoid this suckage?  Make sure there is a good balance of actual text and images.  And by text, don’t just include words in the image.  I mean the kind of plain text that is visible when there are no images loaded in.

2. It gets lost among every other email that arrives at 9am.

Sure, arriving in the recipient’s inbox first thing in the morning sounds like a great idea … to everyone.  When 20+ emails arrive all at once, it’s unlikely the recipient will spend time looking at any of them unless they’re expecting something specific.  Delaying until 10am might help a little, but not much – that’s when the next wave typically comes flooding into inboxes.

The timing would suck less if you sent it at an odd time – say 11:30 … or get really crazy and send at 2:13.  The odder the time, the less likely the recipient’s inbox is getting flooded and the more likely they will have some time to check it out.

3. There is no place to click.

What do you want the recipient to do?  Yes, it would be wonderful if they contacted you right away, but most people aren’t going to pick up the phone and call you after seeing one email.  And they are probably hesitant to email you directly at that point too.  If they are interested, they want more information – and they expect to get that information online.

But don’t just throw a big red button into your email that says, “Click here.”  Tease them a little.   Let them know there’s more information on the other side of that link.

Make sure your website (or, even better, a landing page specific to that blast) is set up to answer the questions they may have.  And, of course, it should lead them to the next step of contacting you.

 

So those are my top three reasons … what do you think makes emails suck?

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Five New Year’s Resolutions

Here comes an explosion of resolutions! Ahhh!!! Oooh!!!

New Year’s Resolutions are a funny thing.  The general consensus is everyone makes them (if, by, everyone we mean “45% of Americans“) and no one keeps them (24% say they never succeed … which means … 76% are at least having some success, though, only 8% say they are fully successful in their resolutioning*).

*Resolutioning is not a word, but, really, it ought to be.

I’m reasonably confident you’ve heard the biggies lose weight/exercise, quit smoking, spend more time with family, learn something new* … y’know, the usual suspects.

*I don’t mean to brag, but, in 2014 I learned how to correctly roll a burrito.  My breakfast burritos are to die for and now they don’t spill all over the place.

Since this is business/marketing blog I thought it better, though, to talk about business/marketing resolutions.  It also seems to make sense to tell you my resolutions rather than be presumptuous about exactly what you should be resolutioning*.

*There it is again!  I like my new word.

Without further ado … my resolutions and some thoughts:

1) Get a New Year’s Resolution blog published in time for New Year’s Eve the first week of January. Most successful people are already their own worst critics.  Early in my professional life, I had a big (I mean B-I-G) screw-up and my boss, understandably, was not pleased; but, all things considered, he went pretty easy on me.  Why?  He told me there was nothing he could say to me that was worse than what he suspected I was already saying to myself.  Lesson learned: things are going to happen.  Delays will arise.  Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good enough!  Publishing this in February is a lost cause.  Publishing it for the first couple business days of the year?  It works.  Let your resolutions work for you.

2) Advertise more. You’ve heard the story about the shoemaker’s children going barefoot?  Yeah.  We fall victim to this syndrome from time-to-time.  We know direct marketing works.  We preach direct mail.  We have many, many clients who successfully use our data to conduct successful direct marketing campaigns … long-time, regular customers, even!  So, we’re going to advertise more this year.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in taking care of business we forget to take care of our (professional) selves*.

*Sometimes we forget to take care of our self-selves, too, but, that’s a topic for someone else’s blog post about personal New Year’s Resolutions.  Again, pretty sure you’ve seen a couple this week already.

3) Add one word to the English language. Check!  (Take a moment to appreciate the victories!  Will “resolutioning” be added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year?  Not likely, but, hey, I can’t do it all … just my part.)

4) Blog more. You may think I am typing this ironically.  No.  Really, I mean it.  Our marketing maven, Amy, insists blogging is part of the ingredients and incantation (“Eye of newt; toe of frog; new, fresh, relevant blog posts) that go into the witch’s brew of making our website show up well in searches.  I am a numbers guy.  I like baseball.  I like baseball statistics.  I am a direct marketer.  I like direct marketing statistics.  I like to measure … this many times on base divided by this many times at-bat … that’s on-base percentage and that starts to tell me something … not everything … but … something useful.  This many responses divided by that many mail-pieces sent … and that starts to tell me something useful, too.  I like that.  Blogging does help keep the website keep fresh.  That helps search.  How much?  Was it the updated datacards or was it the blog post?   I’m not exactly sure.  But, I am sure I like seeing our website generate new leads on a daily basis … so, a blogging I go!

5) Be open to new ideas. This is a subjective one.  I spent years being very resistant to email marketing … and I still believe direct mail is the most cost-effective form of new client acquisition.  But, like it or not, email marketing is happening.  Our clients want to do it.  I will still recommend mail as a first answer, but, of course, I will help the client follow their goals and programs.  I do not want to become the best buggy-whip manufacturer in town.  I want my clients to succeed (and, by extension, I want this company to succeed).  Time flies and the world changes.  Stick to your convictions.  Be open to new stuff.

There you go!  New Year … here we come!

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When Your Great Idea Is Dead as a Doornail

Stave Five: Where Ebenezer learns to test before rolling out

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I saw this cartoon last December on Facebook.  I am a big fan of A Christmas Carol (I read it almost every year) and I thought this cartoon was brilliant.  Brilliant, as in, one of the two or three wittiest things I saw last year.  Do I have an official list?  No, I do not.  Do I keep an informal mental list?  Um … maybe I shouldn’t admit to that.  But, as you may be gathering, I usually kinda do.  You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, I thought it was brilliant.

This being the early 21st century I did the next natural thing and I shared it on Facebook.  My friends will LOVE IT, I thought!  (It was, after all … brilliant!)

Later that day I was back goofing around on Facebook and … and … and … how could it be?  No one had “liked” it.  I mean, yeah, my mother liked it, but, sheesh … Ma likes just about everything I post.

You may recall last December was also the premiere of the long awaited, long anticipated, long feared-that-it-might-stink-as-badly-as-the-prequels new Star Wars movie.  I saw an amusing meme and I shared it.  It was not a brilliant meme.  It was marginally witty.  It made me smile … and that was good enough.  I shared it.  It was this:

See? It's cute, right? Brilliant? Nah ...

Because the readers of The Completely Interesting Direct Marketing Blog are also brilliant, you, dear reader, can see where this is going.  This one, along with the 15 bizmillion other Star Wars’ related anti-spoiler memes posted, received all kinds of hits.  My nerd-tastic friends loved it.  Meanwhile, back at my brilliant Ghost of Christmas Future Imperfect Conditional cartoon … crickets.  And Ma.

And this, my dear web-based friends, brings us to marketing.  Specifically, testing.  Please test.  Please, please, please test.  Please test even when you know you have a really good idea.  Please test even when you know your concept and creative is brilliant.  Please test even when you couldn’t imagine your offer being anything other than impossible to ignore.  Moreover, know your audience.  I thought I knew my audience.  The response was, if you’ll forgive me, as dead as a door-nail.  I was wrong.  (Well, I mean, they were wrong not to see the cartoon’s brilliance, but, all it cost me was about 30 seconds and not the thousands of dollars not knowing your audience can cost in a direct marketing campaign.)  You may have a great idea … but, it’s only great in direct marketing terms if your audience responds.

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