Anne Holland

Preliminary Email Marketing Survey Results: 1,585 Sherpa Readers Respond So Far

October 10th, 2005

Last Friday afternoon, Sherpa’s Research Director Stefan Tornquist sent our readers a quick invite to take a two-page Q&A for our 2005 Email Benchmark Study.

So far 1,585 of you have responded — thanks! — and Stefan’s already greedily eyeing the data. He wants to close the questionnaire ASAP to begin his analysis (you know what research guys are like), but I begged him for a reprieve until this Wednesday 9am ET so as many as you as possible can be included.

You’ve got just under 48 hours left, if you haven’t already clicked on the questionnaire link here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=439431380030

Next, we’ll send you a complimentary Executive Summary of the results — including a new charts you can use for your budgeting and forecasting for 2006. In the meantime, I nipped into the database to look over numbers so far (don’t tell Stefan) and spotted one alarming trend:

-> 66% of respondents say they don’t remove inactive names from their lists… ever.

An inactive name is someone who signed up for your email, and then after a while stopped opening it and stopped clicking on links. Their address is still good, so you’re not getting bounces. You’re just not getting any indications whatsoever that that person is remotely interested in your mailings.

This concerns me tremendously.

Why? Because studies show the vast majority of people don’t unsubscribe from lists they don’t want to be on anymore. They delete instead. Then, after a while, many begin to think of that unwanted sender as a spammer…. From that point it’s a short hop potentially being reported as such to their ISP.

Result: both your brand and your deliverability may suffer.

How long should you leave an inactive name on your list before yanking? Well, first you might try a re-activation campaign or questionnaire designed to figure out which names still like getting your mail even though they ultra-rarely act on it.

Also, if you can, run some analytics to see how many of past inactive names were in a “lull” for a while but then snapped back into action. Do some readers open once every three months, or once every six? Or perhaps just every holiday season?

Depending on your content, consider segmenting these names for less frequent mailings than your regular file gets. Or just dump them altogether after awhile — for safety’s sake.

Anyway, we’ll send you a far more extensive Executive Summary of the Study results in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you’ve got just under 48 hours to be included: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=768441380066

Anne Holland

Royal Caribbean's Interactive Cruise Planner Email Campaign Features a Stealable Idea for All Marketers

October 3rd, 2005

As reviewed in the new book ‘The Breakaway Brand: The Secrets Behind 50 of the World’s Most Successful Brands,’ Royal Caribbean’s interactive cruise planner is one of the coolest landing pages of 2005.

But does a cool landing page really convince more email recipients to book cruises?

I called up Sherpa reader Michal Suarez, who is Royal Caribbean’s Interactive Marketing Account Exec, to get the true inside story on this email campaign. Here are my notes, plus a link to the creative so you can see for yourself.

January is the “infamous wave season” for cruise marketers because you need to launch eye-opening campaigns to get people into the consideration cycle for a vacation they’ll actually take as long as 6-9 months later on.

So, January emails have to be *really* high impact to get that sustained interest going.

This year’s campaign featured extremely simple creative — only 19 words of copy, a logo image and the image of a “leather cruise planner.” (I suspect super-clean email creative, with no extraneous words or images, can be far more powerful than typical cluttered emails.)

The landing page featured the planner, now opened up, with handwritten notes, cards, and funky hotlinks to click on. We did a Case Study on a similar campaign from the San Francisco Convention & Visitor’s Center, and their results were astonishing.

My favorite part of Royal Caribbean’s landing page: loads of response devices in a stable area at the bottom of the screen. You could respond in your choice of phone, email, tell a friend, search and “hot deals” click link.

Results? According to Michal, the campaign was a big hit overall. Plus:

– The average visitor spent 2 1/2 minutes on the landing page. (Yes, that’s long for this type of campaign.)

-> Most popular sections were the “hot deals” and watching the video. Michal suspects the video viewers were more in the cruise-newbie demographic who wanted education more than ticket offers.

-> Of viral options, send a friend a postcard won out over ‘tell-a-friend’ but Michal says she’s glad she offered both because both had their fans.

-> Consumers who initially join the list when responding to sweeps offers for cruises tend to be extremely good prospects for cruises. This runs very much contrary to almost every other industry’s experiences and even startles Michal’s team.

Best stealable idea

Instead of running the campaign once and then retiring it, Michal added it into her email opt-in welcome series for the rest of 2005. New opt-ins get a standard text-only message via autoresponder within minutes of sign-up. Then seven days later, they automatically get the HTML email with the interactive planner hotlink.

It’s a great idea — hit prospects with your highest-impact campaign of the year at a time when in their own personal sales cycle they are more likely to be extremely interested in you. Here’s a link to Royal Caribbean’s creative samples: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/royalcar/study.html (Open access)

BTW: That San Francisco story is here: http://library.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2545

Sponsor: Complimentary Pass to Sherpa’s Search Marketing Teleconference
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sign up here to get your comp pass to MarketingSherpa’s annual Search Teleconference on Oct 11th.

Hear Anne Holland & Stefan Tornquist present the latest SEM statistics, budgeting data, and study results. Includes 12-page PowerPoint presentation.

Note: Comp seats are limited: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/semresults2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Internet Users Increasingly Fed Up with Registration Forms: Data & Suggested Solutions

September 26th, 2005

It’s not often that you find teens and their parents agreeing on nuances of Web surfing. But indicators I’ve been watching for a few years now reveal that everyone in all age groups and most industries are absolutely fed up with filling out forms online for complimentary offers (sweeps, white papers, etc.).

No, they do not want to give you their email. Or their phone. Or their name and address. No thank you not very much indeed!

breatheinteractive Media Director Erin Greenwald noticed this trend emerging in the teens and young adult category 18 months ago when she told me, “Younger people are very reluctant to give data. People are just frustrated with spam, and this is a demographic that’s online a lot. They’re constantly being bombarded with forms and profiles to fill out.”

This summer open source software firm Red Hat tested removing the registration forms in front of its white papers. Director of Marketing Communications Chris Grams told me, “We found, in our estimation, it makes more sense to open it up in most cases. If we do not put a capture form in front of it, let’s say we’ll get 1,000 people to view it. If we put a capture form there, we’ll get 50 people to view.”

Some marketers wonder if they can beat the anti-form trend by “adding value” to the offer. Example: to entice email newsletter sign-ups, offer a complimentary eBook as a bonus. However, as The Motley Fool told me they discovered in tests earlier this year, the extra offer can actually depress responses. (With the bonus offer they got a 2.99% sign-up rate versus 4.50% sign-up without it.)

Fact #1. Typing contact info is a boring pain everyone can live without

We’ve done multiple case studies showing, if you pre-fill a form so prospects don’t have to type their name and address, your conversion rates will double plus responders will be cool with answering a few more qualifying questions. (Of course this only works for prospects who will not be disconcerted by seeing their info pre-populating a form from you.)

Fact #2. It’s about control

By registering, consumers are giving the marketer control over them again. They are no longer quite as in charge of what information they see, and when. With forms, the paradigm of Web surfing has switched so the marketer is in the driver’s seat to some degree — and consumers don’t like it.

Typical data: ThomasNet’s Industrial Purchasing Barometer study released in August revealed “industrial buyers are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of privacy they are experiencing online.”

Although 90% of industrial buyers shop online, they are increasing demanding “anonymity when they search for products online, and in many cases, that desire for anonymity is not being respected,” ThomasNet noted.

– 77% of respondents have a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” philosophy online

– 56% of respondents do not want vendors to contact them until they have made the initial contact

– 81% of respondents said they would not return, or would be unlikely to return, to a website that reveals their identities to suppliers

– 21% do not want to be contacted at all

Does this mean I’m saying that you should remove all registration forms and cease offering newsletters, etc.? No, that’s silly. However, I am saying that perhaps marketers have to relax a little on the registration front.

Are, indeed, registrations so incredibly valuable to you that you are willing to forgo the brand-building power of simply placing high-quality content openly on the Web where it can be seen by prospects who want to see it?

We’ve all acknowledged an ad that’s viewed but not clicked on still has power to influence the marketplace. Plus, we all know the evangelist impact of consumers and bloggers telling the world about great content they’ve discovered. (More than 60% of white paper downloaders pass copies to colleagues.)

Perhaps, for some campaigns, it’s enough to have gotten the highest quality message out to a broad swath of your marketplace, instead of limiting yourself to the 3%-6% of people who are willing to fill out a form in response.

Anne Holland

Lead Generation Campaign Landing Pages: Avoiding 4 Past Mistakes

September 19th, 2005

Every fall to promote MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation Summits, we post a landing page to generate leads.

Last year we offered a PDF, ‘Top 10 B-to-B Lead Generation Marketing Mistakes.’ (Link below.) The campaign landing page got roughly a 60%+ conversion rate; in other words 60% of page visitors filled out their name and email for a copy of the Mistakes report.

This is vastly above average, so I was psyched.

However — embarrassing but true — later in the year research for our Landing Page Handbook revealed we’d made four mistakes on the Mistakes offer landing page:

Mistake #1. Image not clickable

Web surfers frequently click on stuff that’s not actually clickable in hopes that it will be. In particular, research shows people click on images. If nothing happens when they click on your image, prospects may think your site is broken or bad and you miss a marketing opportunity.

Mistake #2. No copy under image

Eyetracking reports show visitors are extremely likely to read copy that’s immediately under images. Makes sense, we’ve all been trained by print media to expect captions under pictures. So if you have an image online that’s not captioned, again you’re wasting a marketing opportunity.

Mistake #3. Radio button vs check buttons

When you use radio buttons for an interactive form where one answer is pre-checked, you run the risk that people will submit that answer without making sure it’s the right one for them.

In our case, about 30% of the people who submitted our little form asking for the Mistakes report mistakenly left the pre-checked button on an option they didn’t want. Whups.

Mistake #4. Forward slash URL

Most marketers create landing page hotlinks for campaigns by using their regular URL plus a forward slash with the campaign name. Example: MarketingSherpa.com/Mistakes

The problem is most people (a) know they can get to a Web page by going to a dot com without bothering with the extra bit after the forward slash and (b) are lazy typists. Which meant last year thousands of visitors went straight to our home page looking for a link to special offer instead of typing in the extra bit after the forward slash to get there directly.

This impedes your campaign tracking abilities and conversions overall.

So, this year I vowed to create the Perfect Landing Page for our all-new Summit promo, this time for the Top 10 Sales Lead Hell Cartoons.

OK, so it’s not perfect. But at least I avoided the mistakes from last year. The image is clickable. There’s a lovely caption. None of the interactive buttons are pre-checked. Plus, no one will get lost on our regular home page looking for the promo link because the promo features a “vanity” URL www.SalesLeadHell.com.

The campaign launched three weeks ago and so far conversions are running at about 68%. Wahoo!

(Yes, I know it’s not remotely a perfect a/b test, because it’s a year later and of course our offer is different, but I’m dancing in my office anyway.)

Got suggestions for how either landing pages could be improved further? Let us know at feedback@marketingsherpa.com. Thanks very much.

Attempt #1. Old landing page for Mistakes Report offer: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/mistakes

Atttempt #2. New landing page for Top 10 Cartoons offer: http://www.salesleadhell.com

Anne Holland

The Surprising Truth About PDFs & Audio Downloads

September 12th, 2005

Fact: Ads we run for our Sherpa Guides get 23.3% more clicks, with no discernable change in conversion, when we put the word “New” in the headline.

This combined with the boffo success of the Web might make you think new things invariably perform better than old ones. Not so.

Our Web department shocked me to the core a few weeks ago when they reported that roughly 30% of all of our customers who purchase PDF-versions of reports from us *never* click on their PDF download links.

I asked Sharon Hamner who heads customer service if she had any idea why someone who just paid for a Guide wouldn’t want to open and read it. “We have PDF customers who call a few weeks later to complain they haven’t gotten their copy in the mail,” she said. “I don’t think they always understand what ordering a PDF versus printed copy means.”

PDFs may not be that new, but they are new enough that some executives in corporate America are still confused by them. So, now we’ve begun automatically shipping a printed copy with most Sherpa Guide PDF orders, even though it costs us more, to make sure customers are happy.

We asked Paul Dunay who heads marketing for a division of BearingPoint about this PDF versus print problem when we interviewed him for a Case Study on his new podcasting tactics. (See link below for that story.)

He said he noticed that PDFs of white papers don’t always get downloaded even when prospects have registered for them. So nine months ago he launched a big new marketing program: snail mailing printed copies of white papers. Reportedly prospects are delighted.

Audio downloads and podcasts seem to be in a similar situation. Some consumers embrace them wholeheartedly. But you can’t discontinue older-formats and only feature MP3s.

Example: A Case Study on WIE.org we published this summer revealed a landing page for educated 40-somethings got 59% clicks on PDF links versus 16% clicks on audio download links.

Another example: This week’s Case Study on Simply Audiobooks (see below) reveals the company’s big new launch for fall 2005 is offering cassette tapes in addition to CDs. What about audio downloads? VP Marketing Sanjay Singhal told us they’re holding off on those because study results show there’s nine times more demand for cassettes now.

How weird is that? A super-hot Internet company is launching into the cassette marketplace because it’s more profitable than audio downloads.

Reality is, newer technology doesn’t always win the ballgame.

Useful links related to this blog

MarketingSherpa’s BearingPoint Case Study on marketing via podcasts http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3070 (Open access until 9/17/2005)

MarketingSherpa’s WIE.org Case Study: http://library.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3053

ContentBiz Case Study on Simply Audiobooks: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3071 (Open access until 9/18/2005)

 

Anne Holland

MarketingSherpa's Hurricane Katrina Resources Page for Marketing, Advertising, & PR Professionals

September 8th, 2005

Yes, we’ll post new helpful items and hotlinks as we find them. Got input or info we’re missing? Please contact us immediately at feedback@marketingsherpa.com so we can update this resource page for the community. Thank you.

For Market Research Professionals
For Media Companies, Online Publishers, & Subscription Sites
For Association Marketing Executives
For Trade Show Professionals
For Hospitality & Travel Industry Marketers
For Email Marketers & Email Service Providers
For Direct Postal Mail Marketers
For Telemarketers
For PR Professionals
For Advertising Professionals Online & Offline
More resources

For Market Research Professionals

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) have launched a Researcher-to-Researcher Relief Assistance Blog. The following is straight from their site:

“Many marketing researchers located in the South have been severely affected by this tragic storm. This Blog will be used as an exchange system where all research professionals can list what they are in need of and/or what they can provide one another.

For example, some items that researchers in the affected areas may be in need of are: -Additional office space for temporary use -Computers -Phone line usage -Support on active studies or retrieving data from the Internet http://www.mra-net.org/

For Media Companies, Online Publishers, & Subscription Sites

Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge contacted us with a call for help, “We are housing WWL-TV Channel 4 in our studios and know that the two PBS stations in New Orleans are shut down for at least the next 6 months. All the workers at the TV stations — both commercial and public — are displaced and don’t have places to live.” They are hoping fellow media professionals will set up a jobs and housing board to help out. (If you do let us know and we’ll post a link here.)

You can also donate to the Louisiana PBS at http://www.lpb.org and contact Development Director Lisa Stansbury at (225) 767-4466.

If you publish a Web site supported in part or whole from AdSense revenues, you can join the folks at ReliefSense (not a part of Google, but yes Google has ok-ed the idea) who are pledging to donate their AdSense revenues for Sept 12th to Katrina relief efforts. More info at: http://www.reliefsense.com/

If you are a podcaster, you can get audio PSAs for podcasts below the menu bar at http://podcastdesign.com

The blogging community is gathering info for relief efforts at: http://truthlaidbear.com/katrinarelief.php

MediaSpan/FMW just announced they are offering free website hosting and FTP server access to any Gulf-area media property whose current site has been short-circuited due to the recent disaster. More info contact MediaSpan Online Services CTO Mike Gibbs at 949-369-5900 x209 or mgibbs@firstmediaworks.com.

MediaSpan/FMW are also offering radio stations nationwide a free Web application to securely send funds to the Red Cross Hurricane relief effort, while tracking and managing local donations. Get the code from Mike who’se email is in the item above.

If you are publishing via email, please see the section of this page for emailers.

If you run an ad-based Web site, see the Ad Council’s link for PSAs at the very end of this Resources page.

If you are running a subscription site, you may want to follow ASAE’s lead (see below) and automatically extend subs for members in affected areas for six months. Let’s face it, they may not be able to access or pay credit card bills for a while. You may take a short-term loss, but see a long-term gain.

If you handle circulation for a print magazine both the BPA and ABC audit bureaus have reportedly said they will not count distribution to affected areas … which means some folks will miss rate base. Sorry.

For Association Marketing Executives

A spokesperson for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) told us they’ve taken the following three steps:

1. ASAE has automatically extended by 6 months the membership of any member in an affected area

2. ASAE staff is collecting contributions for relief and ASAE will match all contributions

3. They have sent an email to their membership containing a list of reputable organizations to whom to donate http://www.asaenet.org/

For Trade Show Professionals

The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau issued an update September 7th stating:

“All city-wide conventions are cancelled through December 1. There will be an announcement Tuesday Sept 13 regarding the status of future meetings in December through March. Additional assessments will be made during the next two weeks when we are out of search and rescue mode. Contact the following staff in Washington and Chicago:

Donna Karl 630-357-3480 Peggy Hagaman: 847-236-0200 JoAnne Hunsicker: 703-379-2233 ”

The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) have set up two efforts:

#1. They’ve set up a relief fund to help individuals in the trade show industry

#2. They’ve put together a list of 19 scheduled trade shows coming up in New Orleans in Sept/Oct and will be updating as info is available as to what the organizers are doing (moving, rescheduling, etc) http://www.tsea.org

For Hospitality & Travel Industry Marketers

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) have launched a new section in their online resource center with info for marketers in the field. Registration is required, but access will be free for the next 30 days: http://www.hsmaieconnect.org/index.html

They have also announced their next few month’s already scheduled events will do double-duty as fundraisers, and the association will kick in a $25,000 donation to relief efforts.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has launched a Hurricane Help page on its site where members in need of assistance can have their requests posted. Members who can and are willing to provide services, whatever they might be, are asked to contact ASTA with their offer and multiple contact information (phone, mobile, e-mail). http://www.astanet.com/hurricanehelp/

Also, ASTA members in need of or offering help are asked to contact ASTA at hurricanehelp@astahq.com or by calling 1-800-ASK-ASTA. Please be prepared to be specific in your request and have contact information ready. ASTA will be sending regular alerts to members with the most recent postings.

For Email Marketers & Email Service Providers

Potentially millions of email addresses have been affected by Katrina.

Email users may not have access to regular email for days or weeks. Their mailboxes may quickly fill and start sending mailers auto-bounce messages. This means emailers’ list management systems could unsubscribe those names automatically due to deliverability concerns. It also means mailers’ open and click result reports will show anomalies.

We asked if major email services such as AOL and Earthlink could create a special bounce code for those areas, but apparently that’s not possible due to their privacy policies.

If you have an integrated database, and can identify which of your email opt-ins are in the affected regions, you should use USPS zip guidelines to segment your files.

If you have opt-ins without any real-world address attached, we recommend you ask your database manager if there are IP addresses attached to each opt-in. (Any reputable ESP or email list management program should have been collecting that data.) You can then use IP addresses to segment names by geography for many names.

Once you’ve segmented out affected names, you’ll want to mail those names cautiously, and watch your reports. Some users may turn to the Internet and their email accounts as a communication lifeline. Others may not access accounts for weeks.

If a name in the affected area is not opening and/or clicking for a certain period of time (depending on your frequency), we strongly suggest you put that name on hiatus for a while.

— New note: The Information Refinery is making its 6,000-record email (and 190,000 postal lists) for the area within a 500-mile radius of New Orleans available indefinitely and free of charge to all nonprofit organizations, government agencies and other humanitarian groups. The lists are selectable by type of business and include builders, remodelers, contractors, architects and engineers. Email campaigns will be sent at no cost from the Information Refinery servers on behalf of the organizations. Contact: 800-529-9020; http://www.inforefinery.com.

For Direct Postal Mail Marketers

The USPS posts a list of zip codes that all mailers should suppress against during weather-related emergencies: http://www.usps.com/communications/news/serviceupdates.htm?

Many postal list rental firms are waiving suppression charges for the Gulf Coast areas for now, including Rubin Response, 21st Century Marketing, American List Council, Datagence, and MKTG Services.

For Telemarketers

Louisiana proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005 issued Aug 26th, says no telemarketing calls can be made to Louisiana numbers until Monday Sept 26th 2005. Only exception — calls by the Red Cross.

For PR Professionals

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is using its member list to work in tandem with the Red Cross in a program called Power of Two (which initially launched after 9/11). More info at: http://www.prsa.org/_News/main/katrina.asp

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is also hosting a blog for members to detail information about Katrina. http://www.iabc.com/

The Sonoma CA chapter of the American Red Cross has issued a call for volunteer PR pros to help them with relief-related efforts. Contact Ellen Maremont Silver, direct line (707) 577-7632.

For Advertising Professionals Online & Offline

Tha Ad Council has launched a service to get out PSAs for disaster relief. Several ad organizations are supporting this – including IAB.net for online. http://www.adcouncil.org

You can pick up Red Cross banner ads for the relief effort here: http://www.redcross.org/psa/bannerorder/all/

Search marketers from several different firms have pooled resources and budgets to create campaigns to drive traffic to charitable sites. More info at http://www.semcares.com

We’ve also called the AAAA and the AAF but they don’t have any details yet on separate programs or resources they’ll be launching.

More Resources:

Craig’s List is one of the best places for displaced folks to find free housing: http://neworleans.craigslist.org/hhh/

MarketingSherpa reader Tinu Abayomipaul is collecting and indexing all the relief resources she can find every four hours at her Blog. More info: http://freetraffictip.com/old/2005_09_01_index.php

13 Experts’ Tips on Marketing in Wartime – Copywriting, Media Buying, B-to-B , Branding & PR http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2299

Anne Holland

How to Create a Podcast Audio Logo (Part II)

August 29th, 2005

As you may recall, MarketingSherpa’s launching a podcast for you this fall, and I’ve contracted a audio logo specialist Michael Whalen to create our intro music-snippet. (See link below to my first podcasting info column.)

If you’re considering testing a podcast, too (seems like nearly everyone in the Net cognoscenti is, although we don’t have results data quite yet on effectiveness), I’ll keep you updated here on our progress.

First step: Develop an audio logo creative brief

Just like any other campaign, you need to hand your creative team a brief that guides them on your brand identity and goal. I’ve found these are always far harder to write than one might expect. You need brand perspective to do a half-decent job, and being client-side, my perspective is perhaps warped. (Reason why market research firms and ad agencies’ services are critical in today’s world even if you’ve got a full creative team in-house.)

Anyway, here’s the creative brief questionaire form Michael asked me to fill out so he can determine what MarketingSherpa’s brand “sounds” like.

If you need an audio logo for your own podcast (or tv/radio ads) maybe you’ll find it useful, too.

1) How is your company perceived in the marketplace? (big, small, cool, traditional, fun, forward thinking, etc.)

2) How do YOU perceive your company? Is it the same as your answer to #1?

3) Do you think your audio ID should support or work against this impression(s)?

4) Who is your “typical” audience member or customer? (demographically, sense of their tastes, etc.)

5) Should the audio ID appeal to your audience’s taste or should it only support your company’s image? (see Question #1)

6) How will your podcast be formatted? (length of program, how many “chapters,” music for top, middle and end)

7) Should your audio ID be a new composition or do you want to use an existing piece of music? (Warning; existing music = $$$)

8) If you want an original composition, should the music be thematic (think 20th Century Fox logo) or environmental? (Imagine Entertainment)

9) Whom at your company will be decision makers in this process? Will your audience help (voting, etc.)?

10) Do you have a budget for this audio ID? (budgets can range from zilch — barter or trade — to tens of thousands)

By the way, in case you missed it, here’s my first column in this series, which includes a link to Michael’s site and info for podcasting newbies:

‘The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting’ http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3049 (Open access)

Anne Holland

Press Releases vs Blogs: 5 Ways to Catch Reporters' Attention in the Internet Age

August 22nd, 2005

Before the Internet, press releases were very important sources for the press. I knew many journalists who spent most of their days reading, reacting to (and sometimes rewriting) them.

But now that releases are available directly to the public via Net news portals (Yahoo News, Google News, etc.), I strongly suspect most journalists have stopped religiously reading PR. After all, a good reporter’s job is to dig up news and insights that the public doesn’t already have at their fingertips.

So, last week when I was in a meeting with Bob Evans, CMP Media’s Editorial Director and Senior VP, I asked him point-blank, “Do reporters read press releases anymore?”

“In some cases releases can still be helpful for short quick online news items,” he told me. “But mostly, if everyone’s got it on Google News, what’s the point? I may use a phone number or a stat for a bigger story, but press releases are not the response devices they used to be.”

How do you catch reporters’ attention in the Internet age? Here are five suggestions Bob and I discussed.

#1. Blogs

If you’re pitching a trend story (which Bob says many journalists love), try including links to several independent blogs to back up your assertions. Helps prove you didn’t invent the trend just to get your CEO quoted, and there’s some genuine audience interest in the topic. Also better than citing a direct competitor’s story (few journalists get ahead by writing me-too stuff).

You can also use an internally produced company blog to garner some press attention. Bob said, “It could function as effectively or more effectively than a press release right now. However, canned contrived, controlled messages will draw very little interest.”

Bob strongly recommends you allow and actively encourage interactive blog replies. If a reporter sees an active — non-edited — discussion attached to blog posts, they’re much more likely to respond. Best postings would be from your marketplace.

#2. Trade show meetings

Online news deadlines mean reporters don’t have time anymore for convivial dinners and hour-long briefings with your company execs at the show. Bob suggests three new tactics:

– 1/2 hour breakfast meetings before the day’s deadlines hit.

– 30-45 minute “walk the floor together” invites. Your CEO walks the show floor with the reporter (who has to anyway) pointing out trends, etc.

– Work your party (harder). Position a press greeter at your party doorway and have the greeter personally lead incoming journalists to various execs they should meet. Reporters may only have 30 minutes or less per party — don’t waste their time making them mingle on their own.

#3. Customer stories

Bob says the reason why many clients turn down “Would you let us do a case study on you?” requests is that companies aren’t marketing the idea from the client’s perspective.

His suggestion: Explain to your client how the story could help their PR efforts by positioning them as a leader. Reassure them it won’t take too much time, and no secrets will be given away that could hurt them.

Another idea: position a series of less in-depth client interviews for a trend story. Perhaps several clients are using your product or service in an unexpected way that’s not been covered in the press.

#4. New and underexposed executives

In bigger companies, the PR department is often more of a gatekeeper, the “NO” department, than a story-enabler.

Bob suggests that whenever you have to say “no” to a CEO interview, try offering a substitute. Perhaps there’s a new exec on board, or someone who’s fascinating but underexposed.

#5. Ads

Neither Bob nor I would ever suggest there should be a quid pro quo between ads and media coverage. However, reporters surf the Web just as much (or often much more) than your typical prospects. The more they are exposed to your ads, the more likely they are to keep your brand at the top of their mind. After all, they are humans.

That means increased press coverage may be one of the extra add-on benefits from an ad campaign. How can you measure it? That’s one to ask your PR department.

Anne Holland

Generational Marketing Terminology Shift: What does DM mean to you?

August 15th, 2005

What does the term “Direct Mail” mean to you? Increasingly I’ve found that if I’m talking to a marketer aged under 35, they assume it means a campaign delivered via email.

This redefinition of a very old term is so prevalent, that I’ve learned to add the word “postal” or “snail” when discussing direct mail in our research interviews.

So, if I ask, “How is your direct mail program performing these days?” chances are the marketer will start talking about email. Instead I have to say, “How is your direct postal mail program performing?” And often I have to predicate that with, “Do you do any postal mail campaigns?” Sadly many marketers reply, “Oh no, only email.”

Why is it sad? Because endless reams of research show relying on a single media to reach your prospects and customers is bad marketing. The Internet and email are wonderful, grand, fine. But, I’m increasingly having to remind folks, they are not the only ball game out there.

Some prospects and customers won’t respond to email or Web campaigns. Either they’re too hard to reach that way (think email filters and rising PPC costs), or it’s just not their preferred method of receiving and/or responding to offers.

The old question in DM 101 camp used to be “How many response channels should I put on my reply cards?” (Answer: Every single one you can so you include all prospects’ fave methods of communication – mail, fax, phone, etc.)

The new question in DM 101 camp should be, “How many channels should I get my message out in?”

If you can only afford email alone for part of your list, then rely on it only for your least profitable names (plus perhaps those names that are proven repeated email responders). If a name on your house files has high potential ROI, invest in multiple media to reach them.

What should DM stand for? Direct Marketing of course, in as media agnostic a manner as possible.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166 Or call 877-895-1717 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting

August 8th, 2005

Like just about every other online publisher out there, we’re considering launching a podcast. (A podcast is a sort of audio blog – an Internet radio show that listeners can tune in to from their computers or download to their iPods. Link to more info below.)

I’ve been super-itchy to launch a Sherpa podcast since last winter … but aside from our already insane schedule growing Sherpa, I’ve held back because we don’t have an audio logo yet.

An audio logo (AKA ‘sound identity’ or ‘sound logo’) is that little bit of music that you hear at the start of a TV show, or branded radio show, or even a brand jingle played in advertisements. In just a few seconds, the listener hears the personality of the brand. And, since it’s audio, your musical logo can actually have greater marketplace impact than any graphic logo ever does. Audio has more of a *gut* impact than many visuals do.

I started researching audio logo makers and discovered there are some firms who create sound identities for big consumer packaged goods companies. They run focus groups, do loads of research and you’ll end up paying tens of thousands for a tidbit of sound. But it’s higher impact than another tidbit of sound would be.

However, there wasn’t anyone out there who created tidbits for wanna-be podcasters who need an audio logo to start and end podcasts with. So I called my friends at Audible.com who are iPod sound experts and asked them to recommend a few composers.

Enter Michael Whalen. He’s an independent film score composer who’s worked a lot for PBS and National Geographic. I loved the clips on his site. So, I bugged him — would he consider starting a podcasting logo division for folks like me with reasonable (aka limited) budgets? Definitely yes! Michael has launched it. You’ll find a link to his new podcasting logos site below.

Over the next 60 days I’ll bring you notes on the whole process of how we’ll go about creating the podcast and companion audio logo. Plus you’ll get to vote on which logo you like the best.

I’m so excited!

BTW: No, I’m not getting any sort of kickback for mentioning Michael. I’m just honestly enthusiastic and thought you’d be, too.

Six useful links related to this blog

Michael Whalen’s new Podcasting Logos site: http://podcastinglogos.com

About Michael Whalen: http://www.michaelwhalen.com

Podcast inventor Adam Curry’s site for podcasting wanna-bes: http://www.ipodder.org

American Music Center’s ‘On Hold’ program inspired by famed sound logo creator Eric Siday: http://www.amc.net/grants/Siday

MarketingSherpa Article: 7 Marketing Tips for Podcasts, Blog Ads, and RSS Feeds http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3042 (Open access until Aug 11)

Anne’s second column on this topic: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3064 (Open access)

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166 Or call 877-895-1717 ~~~~~~~~~~~~