June 14, 2017

By The Belardi/Ostroy Team

We continue to expand based on the needs of our clients. Direct marketing and new customer acquisition will always be at our core, but here are some of the additional ways we are engaged with clients today.

  • Merchandise analysis & strategy
  • Investment due-diligence
  • Market research
  • Email marketing optimization
  • Long-range planning
  • Digital acquisition strategy
  • Integrated acquisition planning
  • File-growth planning
  • Social marketing strategy
  • Competitive set analysis
  • Logo design and brand guidelines for new retailers
  • Online / DM integration
  • Content strategy
  • Outsourced marketing
  • Board meeting preparation
  • Staff training / coaching
  • Ecommerce site benchmarking
  • Mail / digital file Integration
  • Creative services
  • New business / channel launches
  • Database business requirements
  • RFP preparation / management / oversight
  • Digital data monetization

June 8, 2017

By Polly Wong

This is a friendly reminder that we live in an oversaturated world where your target customer can buy almost anything and get it tomorrow, typically with free shipping and hefty discounts. We often find ourselves talking about the importance of brand voice and story-telling. Why we should buy from one brand vs. another. The concept of having a ‘unique selling proposition’ has been around a long time, but with myriad choices it’s become almost mission-critical. I say almost because I’m not sure unique product alone is enough. In today’s world, it is virtually impossible to have something truly unique. Why buy hoodie X vs hoodie Y? If they both have the same tech features, and they look the same and cost the same, then how do we decide? Is it who gives us the bigger discount in the end? Or who is making it in America instead of overseas? Some industry experts would argue that not only does your product need to be unique, but your approach has to be disruptive.

Here are a few questions you should ask to make sure you can compete:

  • Do you know what motivates your customers’ behaviors and buying decisions?
  • Do you know why they buy from you vs. your competitors?
  • When was the last time you actually spoke to your active customers? Your lapsed customers?
  • Does your team believe in your brand? Are they customers too?
  • Are you relying on shipping income to support your business instead of product sales growth?
  • What have you done as a company that is truly new this year?
  • When was the last time you tried something major and failed? Is your organization afraid of change?
  • Do you track the competition daily or at least weekly?
  • What percentage of your budget is spent on product development or customer research?

The always-critical holiday season will be here before we know it. But there’s still time to make an impact, and thinking through these essential questions is a great start. Happy to help, as always.

What is Lead Generation?

June 1, 2017

By Rob Santangelo

The common business definition of lead generation is: “the action or process of identifying and cultivating potential customers for a business’s products or services.” But is that really all it is?

I define the overall quest for new clients in a much broader sense, viewing this process as one not merely focused on identifying “qualified” and/or “targeted” prospects.  Given the advances in technology and the evolution into many different sales and distribution channels, I’ve found more success in identifying any opportunity to build a connection or begin a conversation with marketers even remotely involved in my industry. Rather than obsessing over trying to find the most ‘traditional’ leads in the quickest manner, I prefer building a vast, diverse network of ‘folks I constantly talk with’ who ultimately can yield the best ROI. I often chat with someone who others might write off as ‘unqualified,’ yet they may introduce me to a friend or colleague that proves to be an invaluable contact.

The key to excelling at lead generation is persistence. The job requires certain personality traits including confidence, creativity, conviction, resourcefulness and downright doggedness. Shy? Unimaginative? A procrastinator? Then new business development is probably not for you.  Being successful at lead generation also requires a keen sense of how to navigate the internet; tapping personal relationships; and being fully present. It’s also critical to set aggressive goals and push the limits of what is customarily “achievable.”

Being highly self-motivated is extremely important. I pump myself up with my own little mantra: “When in doubt, talk to someone.” That means constantly picking up the phone, sending a text message or emailing someone. Even chatting up my B/O colleagues. I view everything and everyone as a possible path to a viable business contact and sale. But to me it’s also fun. I love people. I love the sales process. I love to engage. There’s nothing fake or phony here. Just a pure interest in learning about people, what they do and seeing if there’s an opportunity to help each other. I don’t think of myself as a salesperson. I don’t sell. I communicate and relate. The rest often falls into place organically.

Lastly, where to find the best leads can be the difference between success and failure. Networking events provide an unparalleled opportunity to meet someone face-to-face, build a relationship and learn about their goals and needs. Select advertising and promotion—from prospect companies as well as our own—can generate interest and contacts and trigger incredible opportunities. And social media can be a tremendous asset in creating new relationships as well as keeping on top of the folks currently in the orbit.

But most of all? Be different, but always be you.

Why Vertical Lists Are Still Important for Acquisition

May 30, 2017

By Kevin McCahill

In recent years, marketers have focused their attention and budgets on targeted co-op models as a means of improving response with donor prospects. The most common assumption is that it’s easier to order an additional segment from a co-op database than to place 5-10 vertical list orders for the same quantity of vertical names. Understandably, this could be an attractive options given decreasing resources and time constraints in the typical lean marketing department.

Next to mailing one’s house file, a vertical list exchange is the most cost-effective data source available, as they may provide valuable competitive insights. Firstly, exchanging with competitors provides 4-10 week advance marketing intelligence in terms of mail dates, creative and special offers. Next, prospecting to responsive new individual list sources can help better identify what type of donors you should be targeting. For example, an animal rights organization receiving a lot of usage from environmental mailers might consider targeting like-minded donors.

This brings us to vertical rentals. Some marketers may choose marginal performing lists/segments to reach circulation goals or because they may be $.02-$.05 less per name than other more targeted verticals. However, more highly targeted rental lists may allow non-profits to creatively tap buyers that are not overly mailed by the competition in the co-ops and are more aligned with their best donors. When fundraisers spend $.60-$1.00 per piece (including postage/paper), another $.05 spent on a quality vertical list could provide an appreciable lift to both initial response and subsequent value.

When evaluating results, keep in mind that there are more pieces to the puzzle than just list performance, all of which can contribute to declining response. This includes creative and copy. Donors are more likely to respond to a meaningful message of how their donation is making a difference as opposed to merely receiving premium packages. It is beneficial to test the same vertical list with different packaging to see if response improves before removing it from circulation.

Even though a mailer may be denied an exchange or rental by an organization, they can still get access to that particular non-profit’s names if it participates in a co-op database and therefore has no control over what packaging is being mailed.

One other major benefit to maximizing opportunities with verticals is on the other side of the ledger: renting one’s donor list to other non-profits generates appreciable incremental income that can be re-invested into donor acquisition.

May 23, 2017

By Polly Wong

Growing up my mom always told me I could make a choice each day to have a good day or a bad day. That it’s our choice to stay positive. In my role as a strategic marketing consultant, that advice is more relevant now than ever as I see a daily barrage of negative headlines such as “The Internet is Broken” and “Retail is Dying.” The NY Times wrote this week: “People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant.”

Encouraging? Hardly.  At our recent annual client summit in Napa I opened with a message challenging all this negativity about our industry. Specialty retailing is booming, especially for new brands with unique product and/or a unique position. Furthermore, online retailers are investing heavily in brick-and-mortar because consumers still value the traditional store experience. And, as clients’ Spring results are starting to be reported, we see strength across categories and price-points. We can question whether this is truly due to rising consumer confidence or just retail therapy! Regardless, the evolution and growth is real.

To be sure, we all face challenges every day. Our CEO, Andy Ostroy, recently told me, “Without optimism we have nothing. It’s the difference between success and failure. Happiness and misery.” We have used the term “cautiously optimistic many times in the past when asked about consumer confidence or sales forecasts. But the challenge is in balancing all this bad news with the good. In providing you with meaningful data, we’ve partnered with peers like Epsilon to provide annual sales curves for major categories, and we are proactively researching topics including differences in shopping preferences for each generation and key learning points from holiday ‘16. But I agree with Andy…if we are not optimistic, we have nothing. So, let’s be optimistic, create positive energy and harness it all into our future successes together!