Archive for May, 2008

The Naked Truth About Naked Conversation

May 30th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Social media evangelists are in love with Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk because these networks enable continuous “naked” conversations.

Robert Scoble, I believe, has stated that his goal is to have at least one naked conversation a day.

When I started in the corporate world in the late 1970s, we too had naked conversations — in the cafeteria, at the coffee machine, and at the bar after work.

But if we spent too much time having conversations during working hours, the boss would break us up … and send us back to our desks, to do the work we were being paid to do.

That’s good advice: if you are spending endless hours reading posts, comments, and messages online, those are hours you are not spending on the tasks for which you are paid a salary — or in the case of the self-employed, on billable work.

Naked conversation advocates will tell me that, without these never-ending online gossip sessions, they would not be able to keep their finger on the pulse of the marketplace.

I disagree, and suggest these alternatives:

* Become a people watcher. Observe them in restaurants, stores, and at the bowling alley.
* Read a daily newspaper.
* Watch TV news and listen to talk radio.
* Talk with the person sitting next to you at the lunch counter or standing next to you in line at the bank.
* Read the Letters to the Editor in your industry trade publications.

If your only exposure is to people who are as obsessed with blogs, Twitter, and Facebook as you are, I would argue that you are talking with a limited (albeit large) cross section of the marketplace, and in a limited (online only) way.

My suggestions above allow you to participate in the conversation during your free time, not your work time. As a result, you get more work done … and make more money.

Yes, social media gives you more of a voice than the newspaper or radio. But in conversation, you always learn more when you listen than when you talk.

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Category: General | 15 Comments »

What Works Best in B2B: Direct Mail or E-Mail?

May 28th, 2008 by Bob Bly

What works best in b-to-b lead generation — direct mail or e-mail marketing?

If you’re like most people, you said “e-mail.”

But Russell Kern, CEO of his own direct marketing agency, disagrees.

In an article published in BtoB’s 2008 Lead Generation Guide, Kern cites the following results from his campaign data:

>> Prospects responding to direct mail are 10% to 20% more likely to convert to a marketing-qualified lead than their online counterparts.

>> Qualified leads generated via direct mail cost 5% to 15% less than online.

>> Field sales reps are 7% to 15% more likely to work with a DM-generated lead than an online lead.

So are all the B2B marketers who tell me “direct mail doesn’t work” bonkers?

Or is Kern making this stuff up?

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Category: General | 18 Comments »

What’s Wrong with Social Networking Junkies?

May 28th, 2008 by Bob Bly

In a 5/27/08 comment on Robert Scoble’s blog (http://scobelizer), Gary Wisniewski eloquently sums up my beef with social networking junkies, blogging evangelists, and technology snobs.

“Somehow, social media ‘tools’ have spawned a religion,” writes Gary.

“It?s no longer good enough to look at a tool and assess it?s purpose and suitability. No, you have to believe that it is ‘the answer.’ You have to believe that being an early adopter somehow imbues participants with insight which reaches beyond the specifics of a tool?s utility and into the very fabric of social quality.”

He goes on to imply that the social networking and high-tech evangelists consider anyone who does not drink their Kool-Aid a dinosaur.

“No longer are tools ‘suitable for some and not for others’ but instead there are ‘new exciting tools’ and ‘outmoded tools.’Tech tools have become the varsity badges of the winning team these days.”

This is especially true as it applied to new technology tools in marketing. If you use Twitter or Facebook, you are cool and hip and “in touch” with the market.

If you use e-mail marketing, landing pages, or direct mail, you are out of touch and closed off to the all-important “conversation” — even if these old-school media are generating millions of dollars in sales for you.

I love Gary’s concluding thought:

“Maybe some of those who use Twitter are the ones who don?t get it. Maybe they have never done anything which required six months of silence and uninterrupted concentration. The tech culture of absorb, regurgitate, and mash-up has its value. But, let?s not make it the only answer.”

Am I right in applauding Gary and praising him for getting it right?

Or is he another crabby, old school, dead-tree-media luddite who, like me, will never “get it” In the eyes of the new media hipsters?

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Category: General | 34 Comments »

Facebook is for Kiddies, Right?

May 23rd, 2008 by Bob Bly

In another breathless Fast Company column about social media and high-tech toys, Robert Scoble got excited about some gizmo that made it easier for him to access Facebook.

I e-mailed him and asked him, in all sincerity, why he — given that he is an adult — or anyone else long out of diapers would care about Facebook?

According to an article in eM+C (6/08, p. 17), 87% of U.S. Facebook users are age 30 or younger.

Honestly, I would have expected the statistic to be that 100% of Facebook users are age 20 or under.

I cannot for the life of me understand why any rational adult — aside from pedophiles looking to set up their next felony encounter, or bored, unemployed young adults living in their parents’ basement — would spend one second on Facebook.

I hope Scoble will clear this up for me. But if not, and you use Facebook, can you?

I just don’t see the appeal or value.

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Category: General | 42 Comments »

Dead Meat Marketing

May 21st, 2008 by Bob Bly

The other day I got a direct mail package from Omaha Steaks.

A bold teaser on the outer envelope loudly announced they were having a MID-YEAR CLEARANCE SALE!

Now maybe it’s just me, but a clearance sale on meat seems to conjure the wrong mental image — a warehouse full of pieces of dusty old unsold meat that Omaha Steaks is trying to unload.

I’m not saying it’s accurate, but that’s the mental image I get when I see “MEAT” and “CLEARANCE SALE” combined in a promotion.

Do you agree with me that Omaha Steaks could have found a better label for their discount promotion than “CLEARANCE SALE”?

For example, “PREFERRED CUSTOMER DISCOUNT TO CELEBRATE SPRING” OR “BARBECUE SEASON BLOW-OUT STEAK SALE”?

Or am I just way off base here?

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Category: General | 15 Comments »

A Legend in His Own Mind

May 19th, 2008 by Bob Bly

The June 2008 issue of Fast Company features a cover story on ad agency Crispin Porter and the much-talked-about Apple campaign “PC vs. Mac.”

On the cover is a photo of the agency’s creative honcho, Alex Bogusky, doing his best to look smug, self-assured, and ultra-cool.

The article praises the creativity of Bogusky and company on their ad programs for anti-smoking (“raw, awarding-winning”), Burger King (turning its King character into an “unlikely icon”), Orville Redenbacher, and others.

The article, which starts on page 64, goes on and on about how innovative and revolutionary and cool Bogusky’s campaigns are.

But I had to read to page 70 before I found any specific numbers on sales results — which said that sales of VW, whose ad campaigns are created by Crispin Porter, have fallen 6%.

Alex Bogusky and Crispin Porter are all about branding, of course. Clients, consumers, and the ad industry may love their work, talk about it, and give it awards.

But can anyone demonstrate that Bogusky can move product, whether cars or PCs, out of the showroom and off the shelves?

If not, I have no problem with that, but then why would Fast Company put his smug mug on the cover and write a hero worshipping article treating him as a marketing genius … when the only proof of such is purely subjective?

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Category: General | 23 Comments »

Do You Charge So Much Your Customers Complain?

May 6th, 2008 by Bob Bly

An article in Circulation Management (5/08, p. 12) states: “Your subscribers should be complaining about their subscription price. If they’re not, then you’re not charging enough.”

I get the logic of this: if your customers accept your pricing too readily, it indicates that they would be willing to pay more — and therefore, you should price your product or service accordingly.

But I’m not sure I agree with it, because it sounds like making your prices so high that customers find them a burden, and are unhappy paying them, is a good idea.

Do we really want our customers complaining about our prices? Should we in fact always charge the maximum price we can get away with for everything we sell?

Internet marketer Fred Gleeck has a rule for pricing information products: the price should be low enough that if you multiply it by 10, the product would still be worth buying at that multiple.

Therefore, a product with a value of $1,000 should cost no more than $100.

I’m more comfortable with Fred’s pricing guideline than Circulation Management’s advice on pricing so high that customers complain.

Fred’s rule ensures that customers always get more than their money’s worth.

Circulation Management’s rule ensures that they barely or rarely get their money’s worth.

Which do you think is better?

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Category: General | 10 Comments »

In Direct Marketing, is Ignorance Bliss?

May 5th, 2008 by Bob Bly

In today’s issue of BtoB (5/5/08, p. 24), American Business Media — an association for business publishers — ran a full-page ad with this headline:

“In the Harsh Conditions of the Business World, the Neophyte Quickly Learns There is No Camouflage for Lack of Knowledge.”

I wish it were true, but it seems to me that in direct marketing, lack of knowledge is not much of an impediment for aspiring executives today.

Every day, I hear from neophyte direct marketers who, it is revealed within the first 2 minutes of our phone conversation, are totally lacking in any knowledge of direct marketing fundamentals.

For example, one B2B marcom manager I talked to didn’t know what a list broker is or what I meant by a list “select.” Another had never heard of RFM (recency, frequency, monetary).

Yet they have managed to rise to relatively high levels, which means either that the BOSS doen’t care that the employee is ignorant of DM fundamentals — or (shudder) that the boss doesn’t know them, either.

Even worse: many of these relative DM neophytes express little curiosity about or interest in learning the rules of direct marketing — even those that are actively using it.

They often hint to me that the Internet has changed all the rules (David Meerman Scott has written a book to that effect, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”) — and therefore things like statistical test validity, A/B splits, response rates, sales leads, and copywriting no longer matter or apply.

Are they right? Wrong? Or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle?

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Category: General | 6 Comments »