Slogging and Blogging Through the Bad Times

blogging through the bad times

This is not the blog post I had intended for the first post of 2018. This is not a blog post I EVER intended to write. But in the spirit of keeping it real, of giving you behind-the-scenes access, and of hopefully inspiring you with this message, here it is.

2018 so far has not been the stellar opening to a new year that it could’ve been. It’s been bitter cold. So cold, in fact, that my trusty Volkswagon Rabbit refused to hop on New Year’s Day. Her battery had died over the weekend. Two short days of sitting out there in the driveway in the nasty cold had dissipated her will to go on. Thankfully, my neighbor had a battery charger that allowed me to revive her enough to get to the auto parts store in town. Then, more bad news. Just like health care for humans, health care for Rabbits has skyrocketed. Her new battery is going to cost over $200! I know where the first extra $200 is going this year. Oh, and I awoke New Year’s morning to find the ice and snow had pulled the rain gutter off the front of my house. Only half of it or so, leaving it dangling right in front of the double windows. It’s still there, as no one will come out in the bitter cold to fix it, even if I knew who to call.

Then came 2 January. It dawned bright and sunny. The Rabbit was back on her paws, umm tires, and things seemed to be looking up. Until 10am, when my son called “Hey Mom!” in THAT voice. You know, the one reserved for REALLY BAD STUFF. I entered the room to find him pointing at our Max the Cat. He was bleeding from his face. Apparently, cats can get dental abscesses that can just burst through the skin. The vet won’t even see him till next week, after it quits draining and heals a bit. Anyone who has ever tried to give medical attention to a squirming, squalling, growling, pissed off 12 pound tom cat knows how the rest of my day pretty much went.

Nothing, though, of the first two days of the year could prepare for or compare to the next day, 3 January. The day started rough, with a sick cat and little sleep, but then came the news in the afternoon that the dear sweet daughter of a dear sweet friend had suddenly died. She was a bold, beautiful, sassy teenager who had her own sense of fashion, style, and taking life by the horns. The world is a whole lot less sparkly and bright without Finn in it.

So, that brings us to today. Blog post day. My head hurts. My heart hurts. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to take a bath, read a book, eat some chocolate, or do all three at once. ANYTHING but sit down at the keyboard and pound out a blog post.

So why do it? Because I should. Because I need to. Because some semblance of normalcy is necessary. Because it’s good for me AND you. And because Finn. Her life motto was “Be yourself”.

I see so many blogs, so many businesses, suffer when the owners hit bad times. Hard times. There’s this mindset that ONLY the GOOD stuff can be written about. That ONLY wins to be celebrated can be public knowledge.  That to share the dark stuff, the sad stuff, the bad crap that happens somehow makes you a bad business person.

I call bull…t. Absolute bull…t. Business, whether B2B or B2C, is all conducted by and for humans. It’s all about people. It’s all helping other humans solve their problems. Which in my book means business is based on problems. We ALL have problems. And sometimes, like now, the problems seem daunting and seemingly have nothing to do with business, and everything to do with us as humans. And since humans run business, it has everything to do with that, too.

It’s time for the business world to get real. To stop being phony. To let the rest of us in your bad days, your tough times. Show us your slog through the muck Life throws at you. Why? So we can learn from your journey. So we can feel better about our own trips through the cesspits of Life and business and this we call being human.

As the Greek philosopher said, “No one is wise by choice.” We gain wisdom and strength by working through the bad times. We learn what we can do. We learn what we are CAPABLE of doing. And when we can learn that from others without having to go through something ourselves, we can become wiser and more capable still.

So let’s be real this year. Let’s be honest with ourselves and others. And let’s hope 2018 is one of peace, joy, and prosperity for all of us. And for being ourselves.

 

You’ve Got Mail, Direct Mail, That Is

direct mail

Let’s talk about something that’s considered a bit old-fashioned and unsexy in today’s marketing world – direct mail. You know, the sales letter, the postcard, the flyer, that lands in your mailbox. Since the advent of the internet, direct mail usage has gone down, but it has never gone away. Many online companies have never considered it a viable part of their marketing plan. And to that, all I can ask is WHY?

Why aren’t you using it? It still works. It still reaches customers and prospects. And it works better than email or Facebook ads or a slew of other digital marketing stuff at certain things. So, why aren’t you hitting them in the mailbox instead of, or as well as, the inbox?

For those of you who are answering that you find direct mail efforts uncool or too expensive or too ineffective, let’s look at some cold, hard facts and figures surrounding direct mail, especially as to how it stacks up against every ecomm and B2B’s favorite darling, email marketing.

Response Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Response rate is one of the major KPIs all you digital dudes and dudettes watch like a hawk. How many folks opened my ad? How many folks responded to it in some way? YOU can’t make sales if THEY are turned off, right? and it’s only junk mail if it doesn’t interest them, correct?

Email has a dismal response rate of .12% according to the Direct Marketing Association. And that’s an average. Letter sized mail gets a response rate of 3.5%, according to the latest surveys. It’s probably because more than 3/4 of all direct mail recipients respond to an ad or offer almost immediately, while less than half of email readers do.

Usage Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Everybody and their brother (and possibly even the lazy brother-in-law) in the digital world is using email for marketing, prospecting, and customer relations. Think I’m exaggerating? Last year, 74 TRILLION (yes, with a T) emails were sent out. That’s a hellava lot of emails hitting inboxes, folks.

Let’s compare that with 13 Billion letters. Not quite nearly as many, now is it? What this tells me is that there’s a lot less noise coming into my mailbox than my inbox. A lot fewer businesses are communicating with me through good old fashioned mail with a stamp on it instead of a time stamp. Which leads me to my next point…

Customer Reception – Direct Mail vs. Email

There are so many emails being sent, one recent survey found 70% of the folks asked thought they received too many emails every day. And over half of email list unsubscribers cite too many emails as their reason for opting out of lists they’d once happily opted into.

This plays out in a number of ways for direct mail:

  • it generates 10% more leads than email
  • it makes the majority of the readers feel “special” or “personal”, while they find email impersonal and not as professional
  • direct mail makes the receiver think of the sender as reliable, believable, and more trustworthy than email senders
  • direct mail is 10 to 20% more likely to convert a prospect to a customer

Customer Retention – Direct Mail vs. Email

Ever see an ad or open an email and then quickly move on to the next one, or the next task on your to-do list? You’re not alone. The average lifespan of an email is about 2 seconds. We open, read, dump it in the trash file, and go on with our day. Less than half of email readers can recall the brand or even the offer within an hour of reading the message. Email just doesn’t stick with them.

Direct mail, however, has a different story. A piece of mail has a typical lifespan of 17 days. That’s nearly three weeks! Now, it may just be lying about on the sideboard or desk, but it’s there. They see it as they pass by, stumble across it when they are tidying up. They are being reminded of you and your message every so often. Also, perhaps because of the relative novelty of direct mail offers or the more personal, “special” emotions generated by it, nearly three-fourths of your letter receivers can recall the offer AND the brand an hour after reading about it. Direct mail makes an impression, and it’s a favorable one.

Don’t Be So Hasty to Dump Email, However

All this good news about direct mail may have you deciding to abandon your email marketing efforts. And as much as I like the numbers and all, I have to say that would be a bad idea. Why? Because consumers – both B2C AND B2B – prefer a COMBINATION of direct mail and email together.

They go together like coffee and donuts, apparently. There are some instances where direct  mail is preferred – brochures, catalogs, welcome packs, bills and statements, and loyalty rewards. And still others – order confirmation and followup, company news and updates, complaints and customer service issues, and reminders for both payments and special offers – that customers prefer to receive via their inbox.

Nearly half of those surveyed declared that they prefer a mix of both direct mail AND email. And over half admitted that they like to browse a REAL catalog, then go online to make their purchase. In fact, customers spend an average of 25% MORE when offered a printed, mailed catalog and an online buying experience combined. Want to increase sales? Send them something they can hold in their hands, while letting them order from your website.

So What’s it All About?

My point is two-fold, actually…

First, if you AREN’T using direct mail, you’re missing out. You’re leaving a valuable marketing asset untouched, unused, and leaving money on the table because of it. If all you do is send emails, it’s time to add some snail mail to the marketing mix.

Second, direct mail DOES have a valuable and viable place in today’s marketing world, even for digital companies. Just because you aren’t a brick and mortar store built in Grandpa’s day does not mean you can’t generate sales and business using direct mail. And just because you’re on the cutting edge of technology doesn’t automatically disqualify you from the stamp-and-envelope crowd. I mean, if it’s good enough for Google, who uses direct mail on a routine basis, shouldn’t you at least consider it?

I’m adding direct mail to my own marketing mix starting in January. I’ll keep you posted as to what happens. And who knows? Maybe you’ll see a letter from lil ol Bloomers Marketing in YOUR letter bpx some day.

If you plan to use  some direct mail, or would like to discuss this topic further, drop a comment on this post. Let me know what you’re up to, and how it works out.

Till next time!