Take A Really Tiny Page From Urban Outfitters

As I was in Urban Outfitters yesterday buying some fridge magnets I didn’t really need (c’mon, they were those iPhone button magnets, how could I resist?), I was waiting for my receipt and found that instead of providing a paper receipt, they took down my e-mail address. I’d get the receipt e-mailed to me.

A little move but actually quite brilliant when you think about it. They now captured my e-mail address and had a new way to connect with someone who had clearly shopped at the store. As long as they don’t bombard me with daily messages, it’s a smart maneuver on their part.

Not to mention it’s environmentally friendly. If we did away with all paper receipts and did them all electronically, we’d save a few more trees for sure.

Whether yours is a retail environment or not, consider how you can convert from paper receipts to electronic receipts to connect with them. It might be a more natural way to market to people vs. hitting them up to open a card/account that demands more of the money they just spent with you already.

What’s not to like here? Have some simple ways like this that you set the table for a relationship online with customers during their buying transactions in an offline setting that you’d like to share?

1st Gen E-mail Is Over – Does Your Marketing Reflect It?

“Wait – what do you mean? Are you saying e-mail is going away? No way does e-mail go away. Everyone uses e-mail.”

I figure that’s the response I’d get from a headline like the one above. But e-mail marketing in its 1st generation form should be history. E-mail in its next generation form is where we should be thinking and how we should be acting in our marketing efforts already. Right now.

Why? Spammers and Yammer.

1) Spammers are ruining e-mail as we know it for the good marketers who have valuable messages the recipient can benefit from. The filters of unsolicited mail will only get stronger so we have to make our messaging more simple to identify with, customized as well as equipped with subscription and link mechanisms so people can continue the relationship if they so choose.

2) People won’t need internal e-mail as much with services that enable them to communicate in real-time formats like Yammer. The speed of how we connect within the company is ramping up quickly. In this internal context, regular e-mail with its lag time and ability to clog in boxes looks like a dinosaur.

Knowing this, what do we do as marketers? First, we relax. Second, we adapt to this development by equipping our e-mails and e-newsletters with springboards. In other words, we stop doing e-mail that doesn’t give people anywhere to logically go from there. Otherwise what you’re sending out there is a lot like the direct mail issue I mentioned earlier. No links to more info? No landing page or blog? No place to channel the conversation further toward an appointment and hopefully a sale? No ways to become a Fan, Follower or Connection from there? No pictures they can share or video they can watch?

Then I don’t get it.

Closing a customer when the e-mail starts and ends with that message is hard to do. Even if you’re designing it as something to be read in 60 seconds or less, you’re doing so with the intent that the person subscribe to get more of those e-tidbits. Yet, strangely, some things get sent out without them.

We should incorporate RSS Feeds into our content, giving people the ability to subscribe to us or providing even the option to choose certain sections of content that’s relevant to their world. And while we have e-mail and people use it, we need e-mail subscription sign-ups. It means we have to be more visible than ever before when it comes to producing great blogs, great videos, great e-books, great social interactions that aren’t just about how we’re having 3 for 1 Bud Light Specials tonight.

If we’re going to do e-mail, let’s do e-mail that respects the person’s time by getting in and out of the person’s life in a reasonable period. If they want to spend more time than that with us, they’ll Like, Follow, Connect, Subscribe and Download. The first interaction should not be a company’s life story nor should next steps be just about only a phone call or e-mail. That’s done as far as I’m concerned.

If all this sounds like it’s only going to get harder for you as a marketer, well, you’re right. But I see this as a good thing. People still crave answers to their challenges as much as they ever did. We just have to get smarter and more sophisticated how we pave the road from them back to our solution. We can’t blast away at them with nothing but ads that have virtually no response mechanisms or only “old school” methods like dialing a phone number. We have to create online and offline channels that enable them to learn more about us and understand our offerings – on their terms.

TV adapted. Radio adapted. Newspapers and magazines tried to adapt but aren’t doing a bang-up job of it. Now it’s direct mail and e-mail’s turn at bat.

The way we market through the mail, both in direct and electronic form, needs to change. Or it won’t matter how many days the Postal Service trims from its schedule because we won’t be effective or appreciated in any of them.

How has your brand been adapting? Or have you not yet? 

The mail system is changing forever. Not just on Saturdays.

It’s time we wish the first generation of direct mail and e-mail a happy retirement to Del Boca Vista. I recall stories of when ol’ direct made the eyes of David Ogilvy twinkle with glee. Or when e-mail came on the scene, a hot, young upstart in the electronic world.

But like all things, there’s a new generation of direct mail and e-mail taking over and doing things differently. A generation of mail made for new technologies. Therefore the people receiving their messages demand more. The people using them for marketing purposes had better demand more of themselves in how they create, strategize and measure.

Let me explain. The ways we use mail has worked well for some period of time but like anything else, they are evolving.

Younger generations such as Millennials are embracing alternative communication methods through social media and internal project management tools to get information and send information beyond the standard send-and-receive e-mail systems. They also are responding to those offline techniques that incorporate online communication for continuing the conversation and relationship. I hardly think the generations that follow them are going to revert back the other way. We’re only going to get more electronic, more segmented, more fast and more personalized.

Marketers have the choice of evolving with this development or not at their own disappointment, if not their own peril.

Bottom line: Your message will not be nearly as effective if you ignore the ways to inject more technological applications into that direct mail or e-mail while adding inbound marketing mechanisms into your efforts.

We have to act as if direct mail in its most traditional form of “here’s our message, call this phone number if you’re interested” is irrelevant right now in terms of the call to action. We have to act as if spammers are ruining the quality of e-mail communication by the day.

It doesn’t mean mail is over. It means old direct mail and e-mail marketing messages are over.

Farewell to Direct Mail Marketing as We Know It

Let’s pick up the bugle and play “TAPS” for traditional direct mail as we’ve known it – a static piece like a postcard that merely asks your recipient to call or e-mail you without leading them anywhere else isn’t working hard enough. Even before the U.S. Postal Service decides to trim a day or more from its schedule, you should be re-evaluating conventional direct mail – not whether or not to use it necessarily but how you will inject a much-needed online component into that DM.

Direct mail with no online component such as a landing page or QR Code to scan or code to enter when they get to a website for a discount/prize….is probably going to get about a 1% response rate at best. So if you want to send out some general postcard to promote your business and get awareness, it’s your dollar. But expect no less than 99 out of 100 people to pitch it in that format. It’s good to at least have that expectation so that you’re not surprised (and if you are pleasantly surprised, that’s gravy). If you want better than that, the next generation is about driving the recipient to a personalized URL. You should be doing that right now if you’re using direct mail. Do you want a static piece that provides a response at best of awareness without likely action or do you want a piece that potentially drives the person online to take action and possibly even find long-term connectivity through a social network?

In the second half of this topic in my next post, I’ll talk about why you should bid adieu to the first generation of e-mail marketing right now too.