Is the “www” needed?

Your question: Should you put “www.” in front of your dotcom name, when marketing or is it safe to say when doing a direct marketing campaign that you can just put the .com on the end like: mybusinessname.com instead.

Our answer: This is only my personal opinion–but, hey–you asked! 

In print, I would definitely include the www, if the URL is not part of the body copy.  In other words, if you include the web address as an element in the creative (think about how a logo is used), I would include the www.

If, however, you’re talking about the url in the body of your copy, it may not be necessary.  Example:  Visit RRWConsulting.com if you’re looking for help analyzing your direct marketing programs.

Hmmm.  Even in this case, I would probably include the www.

The other thing to think about is your audience and your brand recognition.  Younger customers may be more web-savvy and definitely won’t need the www. 

Consider, too, how popular your brand is.  Expedia will never need to use the http://www.  But, then think of the millions they’ve spent on building recognition of Expedia.com.

One thing–it’s definitely, always unnecessary to include the www in any broadcast medium (radio/tv/video).

Would love to hear more opinions on this!  Published studies would be great, too.

October 28, 2009 at 12:24 am 1 comment

Marketing to Relatives of Deceased People

Your question:  Is it illegal to send a letter to the family of a deceased individual?  Namely, can I send a direct mail solicitation to the family members of a deceased person?

Our answer:  While I’m certainly no legal expert, I do not believe that it is illegal to send direct mail solicitations to the family of someone deceased.

With that said, and without knowing the details of your offer, it could be taken as predatory–taking advantage of someone when they’re at their lowest. Of course, if you are offering something of true value, I could be way off here.

For more insight, check out this article about reactions to marketing to deceased people (hence the family receives the marketing piece). While a tad old, I believe it’s still relevant.

I probably don’t have to stress enough to you that you should be very careful with your messaging and offer. People do not want to believe that marketers know too much about them. Consumers, in general, believe that ‘big brother’ gets involved in every aspect of their personal life, and they hate to see more evidence of this.

So, for example, I would not reference the fact that you are aware that someone close to your mail recipient recently passed away. Keep your piece generic and do not point out how you targeted your list/audience. Normally, I’m all for personalizing the message, but here the creepy factor comes in and, in my opinion, outweighs any benefits of personalization.

Here’s what I do know about marketing to deceased people. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) maintains a file of deceased people. Relatives of deceased people may register the deceased individual’s name, address and email address to be used for suppression purposes (take these names off of marketing lists).

All DMA members are required to eliminate these individuals from their prospecting campaigns. The service is also available to non-members of DMA so that all marketers may take advantage of this service to eliminate names. More info on this service can be found here.

Hopefully, this information is helpful. I welcome any comments from people who may know more about the legality of this issue.

April 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

Mail Delivery Timing

Your question: How long would it take a standard letter to reach Heiskell, TN from Farmington, MO?

Our answer: This answer comes to us from mailing expert Jerry Snyder of Transcontinental Direct, one of the country’s leading direct mail production facilities.

First Class mail should take between 1-3 days.  Standard Class (Bulk) depends on how big and dense the mail is. Dense means that you are saturating any given area, such as mailing to every single home in a given county. For larger, very dense mailings the mailer would have taken the mail to the local Sectional Center Facility (SCF) or Bulk Mail Center (BMC) and it would take 2 days for trucking and then 3-5 days for the post office.  If it was a very small mailing that was entered into the local TN post office it could take 1-2 weeks.

So, although it’s pretty tough to pinpoint an exact time, hopefully these guidelines will help you estimate delivery times.  The US Postal Service is another great resource for these types of questions:  www.usps.com.

Please let us know if we can answer anything else. Good luck with your mailing!

March 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm 5 comments

Cruise Passenger Demographics

Your question:  From what state and between what age are clients more open to buy any type of cruises?

Our answer:  I found a great source of demographic data from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) website.

 “Cruisers tend to be older (median of 47) than average respondents (44), with higher household incomes ($78,000 vs. $71,000), and higher levels of educational attainment (65% college grad vs. 58%; 24% post-graduate vs. 18%). Both groups are predominantly married (83% cruisers vs. 82% total). Consistent with their older age, cruisers are more likely to be retired (19%) than those in the total representative sample (13%).”

A-1 Discount Cruises   had a slightly different take on the age demographic:

“Approximately 50% of the prospects for cruises come from the 25-39 age group followed by the 40-59 group at about 39% and the 60 plus age group at 11%.  Actual guests taking cruises tell a somewhat different story. The 25-39 age group are taking about 29% of the cruises.  The 40-59 group take about 36% of the cruises while the 60 plus group take approximately 35% of cruises.”

I thought you might also be interested in this article about the changes in cruisers demographics. In a nutshell–cruisers are getting younger.

And, I found a great blog, Cruise Diva, on this topic, too.

Finally, in regards to which states cruisers are more likely to live in, check out this bit of research, again from CLIA: 

http://www.cruising.org/press/overview2008/printPDF.cfm.

This pdf provides quite a few tables that show where cruisers live, including a state by state break-out.

Hopefully, this information paints the complete picture of cruisers.  I welcome additional insight from other experts out there!

February 26, 2009 at 10:55 pm 5 comments

US Postal Service: Address Change Info

Your question:  How can i obtain the forwarding address that a person provides the United States Postal Service when they move? I am quite certain this is avaiable, because I see companys track me to new addresses, despite having not offered the new address directly, only told the Post office to forward mail to a new address. In addition to marketers, it seems creditors can find you when you move also.  I am the later, with a judgement against a dead beat tenant. I tried going to the local post office and asking for their forwarding address, but the ditz behind the counter thought it was “private”. Thank you for your reply!!!

Our Answer: You’re absolutely correct in thinking that the United States Postal Service (USPS) does make address change information available to marketers and other companies (including creditors) for list updating purposes. 

The service is called National Change of Address (NCOA). Essentially, a handful (about 20) of large data processing firms have been licensed to process consumer and business lists against the USPS file of address changes, to identify if any of their customers or prospects have filed a change of address.

Essentially, rather than having the USPS forward mail, the data processors identify consumers and businesses who have moved, allowing direct mailers to update their records and send the direct mail to the new address.

This all comes at a fee, of course, and the USPS receives revenue from the licensed service bureaus.  Likewise, the service bureaus charge the mailers for the updated addresses.  The USPS also realizes cost savings because it’s quite costly to manually forward mail.

The process is also highly regulated.  For example, mailers are prohibited against building ‘new mover’ type lists using USPS data.  And, most important to you, perhaps, the NCOA service is only offered for mass mailers–companies that are trying to update a large list of customers or prospects.

You cannot go directly to the USPS and, as an individual, request and receive someone’s new address. Sadly, the ‘ditz’ at the USPS was correct–mover data is not something that the USPS makes available to regular people…

Sorry for the bad news–good luck collecting your debt. And, if anyone out there has any other ideas, please comment.

February 20, 2009 at 10:28 pm 5 comments

Email to a Prospect List–OK or Not?

Your question : We own a list of email addresses that were legally “harvested” (using telemarketing and manually going to websites, etc. No spiders were used to electronically capture email addressess).

We are thinking of doing an email blast with this NOT opt-in list.

If we follow the CAN SPAM regulations, will we be considered SPAM (by prospective clients – possibly), but more importantly, will we be considered SPAMMERS by the FCC or are we just being smart B2B marketers?

Our communique is designed to open the lines of communications, showcase our capabilities and valuable offerings. We give a free demonstration of an e-learning product worth $35.00 as information currency (we give you something in return for registering).

In your expert opinion, are we OK to send the B2B email blast?

Our Answer:  Yes, I do believe that you are OK to send this email. As you mention, you are complying with CAN-SPAM regulations. For those who are interested in a quick review, here are the seven requirements:

The Seven Requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act

  1. There must be a clear and conspicuous remove function available to the recipient for 30 days after the email was sent. This is also known as an “Opt Out” function. You want to ensure that you’ve given your client the option of receiving or choosing not to receive emails from you.
  2. You’ll need to develop and enforce an unsubscribe or opt out process. This will have to be accomplished both technically, as well as within your e-mail marketing pieces. You’ll need to check to ensure that you are technically prepared to manage and maintain customer “opt-out” suppression lists. And you’ll need to ensure that you have the ability to communicate back to the client in the required timeframes that you’ve received their requests and will place them on your suppression list so that they no longer receive correspondence with you.
  3. You must be able to implement opt-out requests within 10 business days. Opt-outs must be communicated to all customer contact points within your company, added to your suppression lists, and communicated back to the client within this 10 business day requirement.
  4. You must be able to provide a valid physical postal address of the sender so that potential clients or prospects can mail you their request for opting out. The law requires just a postal address. However, it is important to note that the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) requires a physical address, i.e. cannot be a PO Box.
  5. The CAN-SPAM Act requires that you clearly “label” your email as an advertisement. This is not required for those who have already opted in to receive information from your company. This requirement is for those non-opted-in clients and for all prospect emailing campaigns. You can use the “reasonableness” test here . . . in other words, would the average person consider this e-mail to be an advertisement? If so, you’re probably fine. There is no hard law that you have to actually use the word “advertisement” in your subject line.
  6. You must use a valid sender or header information. We’ve all received those illegal messages from Spammers and seen the creative ways that they’ve tried to combat Spam programs by using words in the sender and subject lines that have nothing to do with the “weight loss” or “body part enhancement” message that the e-mail contains. The CAN-SPAM Act requires that both of these fields are not misleading or false in any way.
  7. You must use valid subject information. As referenced in number 6, the Subject line must reflect the intent of the e-mail message and not be misleading in any way.

So, assuming that you’ve complied with the above, I see no reason why you shouldn’t send your email.  You’ve even gone a step further and made sure that there is a valid benefit to your prospects.  That should boost response, too.

Now, there are many email marketers and consumers at-large who might disagree with me and say that unless someone has expressly given you permission to email them, that you should not put them on your list.

My opinion is that if you have targeted your market correctly, and if your offer is strong and compelling to your audience, then you should be okay.  If you are providing real value, then I would move forward with the campaign.

And, let’s face it–you’ll know soon enough (by the number of unsubscribes and the people who positively respond) if this was the right thing to do.  Please come back and let us know how the campaign went. 

Best of luck to you!

January 27, 2009 at 5:56 am 3 comments

How to be successful in sales

Your Question: My question is connected with an example.

A U.S. heavy equipment manufacturer operating in London has been using Americans as salespeople. The company feels that it could reduce its costs hiring and training nationals as salespeople. What are the advantages and disadvantages to using Americans versus nationals selling abroad?

Our Answer: With many years of sales experience, representing complex database marketing solutions to large businesses, I have some pretty strong opinions on your question.

In sales, no matter what the product being sold, it’s key to remember that people still buy from people they like, trust and can connect with.  The best, most effective salesperson is the person who puts themselves in the shoes of their buyer.  The effective salesperson takes the time to get a thorough understanding of their clients’ motivations.  They learn their clients’ business; they understand their corporate pressures; they have a handle on what their client must do to be considered successful.

This deep understanding, of course, then allows the effective salesperson to tailor their message and their solution to meet those needs.  Going the extra mile and doing the research means that the salesperson will not have to ‘push’ their product at the client.  Instead, they’ll be bringing in solutions that offer a true benefit to the client.  Over time, the client will gain an appreciation of this ‘style’ and the salesperson will, most likely, be blessed with a good, long-lasting profitable customer relationship.

OK, so how does this rant relate to your question today?

Well, it’s my belief that the closer a salesperson is to a client, in terms of tangible and not so tangible things, the more effective they’ll be at building a close, lasting relationship–the kind described above.  It might be as simple as the school you went to, the sports you follow, the things you like to eat–this type of common ground starts to create a bond between people, and certainly between salesperson and client.

So, I have to weigh in on the side of hiring salespeople from the same country as the people they’ll be selling to.  Product knowledge is easy to obtain, through training and the right sales materials. But, if salesperson and client have similar backgrounds and can relate to each other immediately, you’re one step closer to building the relationship and making the sale.  If hiring nationals saves your firm money, then that’s another key benefit.

Perhaps you test the waters first by filling your next few sales spots with nationals.  Let them benefit from learning from their American peers and see, longterm, if my theory of sharing common ground equates to success.

Good luck!

December 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm 16 comments

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