Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ideas from a Graduate Admissions Marketing Conference

I recently attended the Stamats Graduate Admissions Marketing Conference as one of their Corporate Sponsors. This was an enlightening conference that was filled with tips, techniques and ideas for targeting, reaching and communicating with graduate program prospects. Some of the most important ideas that I heard revolved around Web Analytics and the need for better, consistent tracking of your website, e-mails and social media.

HiPPO's - What are they and how do you deal with them?

One of the first items that struck me was the term HiPPO. NO, not a African animal, but a HiPPO is defined as the Highest Paid Person's Opinion. What this means is that when putting marketing plans together, the HiPPO will wield their power, not from knowledge but from their position of power. Whether it be the President, a Board member, a Dean, all of these people will influence your marketing decisions based on their perceptions, not based on fact. The most effective way to deflect a HiPPO is to develop quality analytics. Facts ALWAYS will take the power away from any detractor or power pusher since your facts trump anyone's opinion.

Hits - No, not the Soprano's or Elton John

This was an interesting topic. We always hear about how many "hits" your website has. Yet, most of us don't realize just what a "hit" is. Basically, if you have a home page with 14 graphics and text in it, when a visitor arrives, each picture will download. Suddenly you have 14 hits, yet, only one visitor. If 5 people visit you will then have 70 "hits". Not exactly what you wanted to know. You think your doing great, but, only had, in reality 5 visitors.

When tracking website performance look at VISITORS, not hits. How many visitors did you have, how long did they stay on your website? What pages did they navigate to or did they abandon the site immediately. These are the telling statistics that you need to understand in order to build a case against your resident HiPPO's.

Lifetime Value of a Student

This was an interesting topic. I have used Lifetime Value of a Customer for many years with my retail and non-profit clients. Whenever I attempted to apply this idea to higher education I arrived at the conclusion that the lifetime value was while they are in school. Once they graduate, there is no value to a student. Boy, was I wrong! In reality while your student is attending your school, they have a great deal of value. But on graduation, that value changes from active student to Alumni. They join as an alumni, contribute to annual campaigns (I do this myself to the University of Minnesota), they create bequests and corporate giving programs. All events that can be quantified, evaluated and used to determine the true lifetime value of a student.

Google Analytics

There is nothing more powerful than being able to see results as they happen on the web. You send out an e-mail campaign, you will see a jump in web results. Send out Direct Mail, see a spike in visitors. You will see where people are coming from, or where they are going. You can determine if people are spending time on your website, only to abandon it when something isn't there or doesn't work. We have a local Community College with many broken links. My wife has been looking into this school, yet, whenever she tries to find more information she tends to find a broken link. Analytics can help you identify these problems but they require you to actively look at what is going on with your site.

Remember, knowledge is power. The more facts you can bring to the table, the more effective you will be in deflecting your HiPPO's and that Dean who feels his course with 5 students should be on the home page. Google Analytics has become easier to use, and much more effective in what it tracks. Take a few minutes to learn how to make it work. I know I will be doing that for MY firm.

I have other thoughts and they will follow shortly. These are some of the key ideas that I observed over the 2 day conference. If you have any questions or need any information about how Market Mapping plus can help you effectively reach YOUR target audience, just let me know.

Write me at, or call 616-956-7129.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Working a tradeshow when you are a company of one.

Working a Trade Show by yourself
Exhibiting at a trade show can be a huge investment for your company, or a complete waste of money and time. And, for a company of one, working a trade show is tricky at best. Long hours, the feeling that you can't "leave the booth" even for a second to eat, go to the bathroom or even wander around to see what other exhibitors are doing makes for many conflicts in most exhibitor's minds.

If you have people working the booth with you, you know your booth is always manned and ready. Alone, if you're not in the booth, you will always wonder if you are "missing" the most important contact of the show. So, how do you handle exhibiting at a trade show and working the booth by yourself?

I recently sponsored a conference on Adult Education. There are trade shows for Admissions all the time, but most focus on the Admissions Counselor, NOT the Directors, Vice Presidents and Marketing staff at a school. This show was recommended to me by a client, her one sales point was "these are the decision makers who are attending, people who do what I do". The most important thing to remember is pick a show that focuses on those attendees that actually BUY your products and services.

Make sure that you create a display that focuses on what the audience wants. There is nothing worse than setting up a display, putting items on the display that features ALL of your products or services, only to have people walk by because they think you don't have what they want/need. Make sure that 100% of your display focuses on what THEY want to buy, not what YOU want to sell.

Giving away free items are just that, give a ways. They are an expense item plain and simple. When was the last time you took a stress relief ball from a conference and actually used it? A pen? Of course we take pens, but, do we ever look to see where it came from until it runs out of ink? Giving away items doesn't serve any real purpose other than to give away your hard earned money. You would be better off giving everyone a quarter if they stop by, certainly more memorable!

So, all of that said, how do you go about working a trade show by yourself?

First, look at the schedule and ALWAYS be at the booth during breaks, between meetings and during exhibitor time. NEVER miss these times since that is when the most traffic will be walking through the aisles.

Second, don't sit in a chair, in the back of the booth or anywhere that makes you look inaccessible. Always stand out front, engaging people as they walk by, glancing at name tags and looking for anything that may help you determine if they are a good prospect or not.

Third, have more business cards than you think you will ever use. If for some reason, you forget your cards, (and yes, it has happened to me) have someone, express mail them to you or deliver them to you. This is your lifeblood and only required handout you really need.

Fourth, meet your booth mates. People on either side of your booth or across the aisle. They may pitch in if you have to run out for any reason. Explain to them about your company and a small amount of information about what you do. That way, if they see someone stop by your booth and you're not there, they can suggest that the person return in 10 minutes and they can suggest that the attendee take a business card. Anything that shows the attendee that you planned to be away and took steps to cover your absence in even a small way will help.
Finally, eating can be difficult. I know that eating in a booth is typically forbidden. But to be honest, if I need to eat, and it's a choice between being in my booth where I can talk to prospects who wander by, or head out to get a meal, I will ALWAYS eat in my booth. Place the food discretely behind the display, and only eat when there are no prospects in your area. Make sure if someone comes in while you're eating, you put away the food immediately and attend to their needs.

As for success? My last trade show I attended earned me 10 new clients, paid for itself in total with the first four orders and was wildly successful.

Working a tradeshow is not easy when you're by yourself, but it can be done, and quite successfully!

This article was published in the Spring issue of Focus on Small Business published by the Small Business Association of Michigan.

For more information regarding effective campaign development for postal or email campaigns, write, or call 616-956-7129.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why use direct mail in an age of electronic communication?

I get this question frequently from clients. Why print, pay postage and a mailing list when I can get an e-mail list or join a social networking site and reach people less expensively? The reality of life is, unless you have a strong brand, or name that is easily recognized, new forms of marketing (e-mail, social networking, twitter) are difficult to use until you reach an effective "economy of scale" with your lists. You still need to find a way to drive people to your website, read your tweets, or go to your social networking site and that method is typically direct mail.

Why you may be asking use direct mail? In reality direct mail is the most effective method of reaching a highly targeted audience with a highly targeted message. Let's look at the facts.

In the past, we used to do saturation mailings at relatively low cost. You sent your message to everyone to get the lowest postage possible, and hoping that at least a few of the people you mailed may be interested in what you were selling.

Today, saturation mailing is typically wasted mail. Postage costs have increased to a point where it's no longer cost effective to mail everyone. That fact coupled with the increase of data that is directly related to lifestyle interests, you will find that you can focus your message to a much smaller market segment and lower your costs, while at the same time, increasing response rates.

Here is how to view direct mail.

The Mail Piece

This is the key element to direct mail. They get something they can hold, review, put on the refrigerator and keep if they like. It can contain a call to action either driving them to your website, to become a fan of your social networking or listen to your tweets. Remember, there is no delete button for direct mail. Even mail that has been thrown away can be retrieved if you havn't taken out the trash yet. Typically once you hit delete it's gone.

The List

This is the most important part of the use of direct mail. The ability to HIGHLY TARGET your message to people who are MOST interested in what you are selling. Say for example, you are a sporting good store and want to focus on spring water related products that you sell. Let's also say you have a market area that serves Kent County Michigan. What is the true effect of targeting?

We can evaluate your products and determine that people who are into watersports are a key market segment, also, families with children, people who are into boating/swiming and water skiing are also key market segments. So let's see what the effect of targeting can be:

All available households 207,963

Add income $30,000+ 131,466

Add Water Sports interest 66,022

Add Grand Children 3,565

As you can see, narrowing your focus helps you weed out those people who are not interested in what you are selling. You could also narrow the focus using age, tighten income a bit and children present in the home. The number of ways to slice and dice your market are endless. And, with each drop in quantity, your printing/postage and list rental costs will go down.

You can measure your response.

Yes, I know, click throughs measure just that, click throughs. Was it a mistake that they clicked? An automated click? They meant to delete but clicked through? You have no idea. With direct mail, if keycoded properly (and EVERYONE should keycode their mail pieces and offers) you can track not only who is redeeming your mailing, but WHO is responding. A keycode should track each demographic segment used to generate the list. That way, you can see if one segment is responding in greater numbers than another. For example, say you selected age, income and children present in the home. A code of BD3 could represent an age range of 25 - 34, income of $30,000 - $39,999 and 3 children present in the home. This is VALUABLE information for you to use in further refining future campaigns. Direct mail can help you evaluate an offer or offers. For example, you mail 3000 postcards, one with one set of copy and offers on the card, the other with a different offer. Track response by market segment and see which responds best! Future campaigns will become more effective with that type of testing. Remember, direct mail is like real estate. In real estate it's location, location, location. Direct mail's mantra is test test test.


Sure you can personalize your e-mail. If I had a dime for every e-mail I get addressed to Sheila, Bob, Mary or some other name I'd be rich today. Direct mail lists are accurate. They are updated (or should be updated) on a regular basis. Personalization can be the head of household, spouse or some other name depending on where the list is coming from. A personalized message (used along with variable printing) can be a VERY effective way of targeting and getting the message across. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and by using a name, you are creating a tie with your company that says "I know who you are!"

Remember, direct mail is not dead. You simply have to become more effective in how you use direct mail. Use direct mail to build your e-mail database, drive people to your website and to send your offer to people who actually WANT to purchase what you have to sell.

If you have more questions or would like to discuss a recruitment campaign for your school write me an email at, or call 616-956-7129.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Using Multiple Lists to Improve Response

I was looking through some past orders and came across a client in Detroit who I felt best understood exactly what it meant to use multiple lists to develop an effective direct mail campaign. In a nutshell, what this means is rather than using only one, or two lists, a business or non-profit should look at their prospects from different perspectives. Here is how it works.

You are planning on purchasing 50,000 prospect names for a mailing. Rather than purchasing one list with 50,000 names, purchase 5 lists with 10,000 names each, or 10 lists at 5,000 names. When it comes time to pull all of these lists together there should, of course, be the same name in different places. For example, if you're a sporting goods store, and purchase a list of golfers who responded to a survey and golfers who subscribe to Golf Digest magazine, you may find the same name on both lists. Typically, businesses don't think about this, and throw the duplicates away. However, these duplicate names are 1000% more valuable to you than the master list. WHY? A multi-hit file identifies those people who have a stronger interest in a topic or area than most others. If you appear on 4 related golfing publications, you MUST be an avid golfer.

So, the question then becomes what to do with the multi-hit file? Basically these are names you have purchased and have the right to use. If a name appears on 3 lists, you can mail them up to three times if you like with no penalty from the list owner.

Next, key code EVERYTHING!!!!!!!! This way, when people respond, ask for the code on the mailer, or have them bring it into your store and track who is responding. You will find that in many cases one list will draw a higher response and have a higher ROI (Return on Investment) than another list. Track this information, and when purchasing new lists, use those lists with a higher response rate first and at a higher quantity than last time. You will find that your response rates will increase and your ROI will go up as well.

Finally, evaluate what you're offering them. If you are promoting a $10 item on average, did you know you can likely increase your gross sales by 50% by increasing the average item cost to $15? People respond to what you ask them to. Don't be a scrooge when trying to attract and sell new prospects on your businesses products or services.

In a nutshell this is how it works.

  1. Purchase multiple lists
  2. Merge/Purge these lists against each other
  3. Create a "multi-hit file" to capture duplicates between files
  4. Mail the master lists using a key code to track list source
  5. Mail the multi-hits and compare response rates with the original mailing
  6. Future mailing quantities should be adjusted based on which of the multiple lists performed best and which one's under performed.

Market Mapping plus LLC can help set up a program to track performance and teach you how to effectively increase response rates and your Return On Investment for your direct mail program.

If you need to learn more about tracking response and learning which source is most effective in generating leads give David a call at 616-956-7129 or write me at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Increasing response using the 40-40-20 rule

In days gone by, businesses sent out a direct mail piece to everyone in their area. It was called a saturation mailing and is still done today in some circumstances. The problem is, a saturation mailing is just that. EVERYONE in your area with no regard to their actual interest or ability to buy what you are selling are sent your direct mail offer. In those days a 1 - 2 % response rate was expected and most of the time and effort in putting the mailing together was focused on the direct mail piece itself.

Well, times have changed. Typical response rates have dropped to .1 to .3% for untargeted direct mail. The increase in direct mail competition is high as you can see in your mailbox each day. So, with costs going up and response rates going down, what can you do to become more effective in your direct mail program? Like in real estate, direct mail has two key mantra's...FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS and TEST TEST TEST. What do these mean?

Basically, Focus centers on the shift from a design mentality (what it looks like) to an offer being sent to the RIGHT market segment. This is where the 40-40-20 rule comes in. You need to focus your attention on the following items:

40% of your time and effort should center on the offer, or what you are asking your prospective customer to do.

40% of your time and effort should center on the list, or who you are inviting to purchase from you.

20% of your time and effort should be spent on the design. What it looks like is much less important today than it was years ago simply because people look at the offer and who sent it rather than what it looks like.

As an example, I recently got a mailing to invest in a high dollar gold investment. The letter specifically states "...being a part of this exclusive high income group...." to which I asked myself...hmmmm, what high income? This firm purchased a list without really focusing on who they are sending it to and if the person actually meets the criterion they are looking for. Maybe the company was wrong in their selection criterion or maybe their list broker made the mistake. Regardless of the error, I should NEVER have gotten this letter. I don't remotely qualify for anything they are selling. Another direct mail piece in the trash! Wasted postage, printing and list costs.

What should you do then to become more effective?

First, look at what you're selling from your customer's perspective. In a retail world, ask where customers are from (zip code maybe?). Look them over. Are they older? younger? Affluent looking? There are keys you can see with customers that will help you better identify who you need to find. The list is important and even the kind of store you are will dictate who you want to reach. If you're selling wood working tools, you need someone into home improvements/wood working...not a woman into clothing. Define WHO you want to reach, who is your best customer and then find a list that matches that specific demographic.

Second, create a compelling offer. The use of Free, Save, Limited Time Offer, are just a few that have been effective in the past. The offer should identify why your prospect wants or needs what your selling. Copy should strike an emotional chord in their mind since an emotional image can be very powerful. Focus on the benefits of buying from you, versus your competitors. Finally and this is the most important point, remember, you need to be compelling to get them to buy!

Third, the design. Yes, I am not telling you that a quality graphic designer is unnecessary, or that you should send out a boring text only mail piece. But, make sure that what you are mailing looks attractive to who you are sending it to, AND that it incorporates some key elements. Those elements are:
  • Keycode area to effectively track who is receiving the mailing so when they use the mailing to buy, you know EXACTLY what group of people or list this came from.

  • Include images/copy that either addresses their interest in your product/services OR reflects past purchases that they have made with your company. Variable data printing was another of my blogs and can help you better understand the effectiveness of this technique.

  • Don't overwhelm the prospect with too much information. Pick one or two items that they may be interested in, and sell those. If you have a sale going on, focus on a few items that they may want and have them bring the coupon in with them for the discount.
ALWAYS have a call to action! Come in today to receive your discount. Limited quantity available. Limited time offer. Those are a few ways of getting people to respond in a timely manner.

Finally, direct mail, as with all advertising media is not an end all and be all for advertising. It can be highly personalized, targeted and can put YOUR company's products and services in front of a key prospect who is looking or interested in what you are selling. More is less in this day and age. The time when you sent out 5000 direct mail pieces and made money are over Today less is more. Send 500 to KEY prospects and if done correctly you will find your response rates are up, expense is down and your break even point is more easily reached! Once you have them as a customer, the lifetime value of a customer comes into effect, another blog!

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact me at or visit our website at