No resolutions of your own? Try these

By the time you read this, I'll have already broken all my personal New Year's resolutions and probably will be well on my way to breaking many of my professional ones. So rather than dwell on mine, I thought it might...

By the time you read this, I’ll have already broken all my personal New Year’s resolutions and probably will be well on my way to breaking many of my professional ones. So rather than dwell on mine, I thought it might be more worthwhile to consider some resolutions that I hope other business people will make – and keep.

Lexicographers. I dearly wish that one of them, or even a spelling-guru wannabe, will promise to proclaim how certain Internet words should be spelled. I’m talking about e-mail versus email, online versus on-line, offline versus off-line, E-commerce when it starts a sentence versus e-Commerce. Enquiring minds want to know.

Those who are ‘initially’ impressed. I prefer direct mail letters that greet me with a ‘Dear Mr. Knight’ if the signator and I have never done business together, but I’ll certainly put up with the more familiar ‘Dear Bob’ in most cases. However, no letter writer has ever convinced me that they’re really writing me one-on-one when their salutation has been ‘Dear B. Knight’ or, as happened in at least one case, ‘Dear B.’ And I’m sure it’s not just me. O.J. Simpson notwithstanding, I simply can’t believe that any direct mail recipient feels warm and fuzzy toward a sender when the former is addressed by their initial(s).

So my hope for this New Year is that, when direct mail folks don’t know the name or the sex of their intended targets, they resolve to drop the initial-personalization in favour of a simple ‘Dear Friend’ or something similarly generic – for everyone except maybe The Juicer himself.

Junk faxers. I understand that acquiring customers is important for any business. So when I get genuine junk mail delivered, I don’t get upset. Why should I? It doesn’t cost me anything and if it doesn’t interest me, I just throw it into the recycling box – or write a column about it. Same with spam. I’m never thrilled to find junk e-mails cluttering my in-box but, hey, there’s no need to get perturbed – just hit delete.

But junk faxes? Different kettle of bad fish. After all, junk faxes occupy our fax machine when it could be receiving an important communication from a client or supplier. They wear out the moving parts of our machine. They use up our ink and they use up our paper.

This year, as usual, I’m wishing against hope that either junk faxing becomes criminalized or the perpetrators take up some more positive activity – like telescamming. At least their prey are guilty of something – blind greed – unlike innocent victims of junk faxes.

The integration-challenged. Surely by now everyone is aware of the benefits of putting forward a common creative front when advertising in different media (altered to some degree, of course, to address the unique requirements of each medium). So where are the flyers that emulate the wit and charm of the advertiser’s creative in other media? What’s with this old-school, nothing-but-price-an-item creative with virtually every flyer that lands on my doorstep?

My fervent hope is that retailers this year will resolve to, at least on occasion, put out a flyer that concentrates on the store’s real strength – its personality – rather than its me-too price list.

Web site creators. Three hopes for those involved in creating Web sites:

(1) That more of them come to the conclusion that visitors don’t go to a site to be entertained – people turn on TV for that or read a novel – but rather to be informed.

(2) That someone who doesn’t know the advertiser from Adam should test-navigate the site and then report back on what works and what doesn’t work.

(3) That anyone involved in putting up Web sites or putting out e-mail campaigns test them on both PCs and Macs, recognizing that what looks great on one type of computer might not make the translation to the other. (Yes, Mac users may only constitute about 10% of the computer-using universe, but why throw out a tenth of your possible audience before you even begin?)

The DM-uninitiated. May those advertisers and agencies who have yet to discover that direct marketing is a strategy, and not a mere tactic, resolve to follow their more profitable brethren who have learned it pays to bring in the DM folks at a promotional campaign’s planning stage. And may those DMers promise to recognize the importance of branding when weaving their measurable-marketing magic.

The uninitiated of the Web. As with the DM-uninitiated, may these folks realize that most Internet activities are action-oriented. Accordingly, direct marketing strategies and tactics work better than general advertising methods in the majority of cases.

Marketers of all stripes. Admittedly, it’s sexier and more fun to create new traffic-generating promotional programs than it is to fulfill the desires of respondents. But you don’t make money on the front end; it’s the back end that pays the bills.

May advertisers in 2001 promise to host Web sites that bear some creative resemblance to the advertising that brought visitors to the site in the first place. May marketers commit to hiring call centre operators with a personality that’s as cheery as the ads that enticed people to call. And may they all declare that they will include a heart-felt thank-you note along with every order of goods they send out, and not just a cold copy of the invoice.

The Canadian government. My hope is that, this year, the feds will resolve to find better ways to spend taxpayers’ money than on 20-page, full-colour brochures that get sent via unaddressed mail to millions of Canadians even though the content is of interest only to a tiny fraction of the recipients.

I’m referring to their booklet ‘Important Information for all Canadians about Responsible Firearm Ownership,’ which was dropped this fall. It’s tempted me to make a new resolution myself – to write a booklet entitled ‘Important information for all Canadians about Irresponsible Government Ad Spending.’

Readers of my column. I hope you resolve, if you’re going to be in Vancouver on Feb. 20, to take in my presentation on e-mail marketing at BC Direct Marketing Day. But whether you can make it or not, I hope that more of you will give me a call when putting together a new direct marketing or integrated marketing program (it’s been great working with companies and agencies who follow my monthly scribbles). And I certainly hope you’ll resolve to keep e-mailing me your comments about this column – pro or con.

And, finally, have a terrific 2001.

Because Bob Knight works in all media, he rants about them all. And, no, he has not made a resolution to change his ways during the coming year. You can e-mail (or email) him at b_knight@telus.net or catch him in action at BC Direct Marketing Day, Feb. 20 in Vancouver.