Opening Doors Blog

The Responsive Design Revolution: Are You on Board?

Monday, October 23, 2017


When you think about the habits of most people accessing information online, you likely have a picture in your mind of someone looking at a mobile device. From checking email to catching up on social media, the mobile device has become the first-look portal. So if your website isn’t responsive you could be missing out on visitors.

As marketers, we spend a lot of time and effort getting the message out about products or services. Just about every message we deploy – if done right – will lead the end user to a specific website. Every piece of direct mail includes a web address, email newsletters contain links, as do social media posts. 


Your Consumers are always on the go. Can your website keep up? 

Some business owners make the mistake of thinking site visitors are determined enough to go to their laptop or desktop to view the content they need. Well, sure they are. But will they actually do it? Probably not. There are so many companies fighting for the attention online, and within every industry sector. But even if the consumer is in dire need of what you or your website offers, in today’s digital distraction age, they’ll probably forget.

...and the responsive design revolution has begun. 


The Good News

Building a responsive website is easier and more affordable than ever. The do it yourself (DIY) website platforms (i.e. Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.) all have responsive design built right in. For those looking for a bit more flexibility or functionality from working with a developer, WordPress also integrates responsive design through the Bootstrap framework.


How About the User Experience? 

Not only does responsive design allow users to get to the information they need quickly and in a visually appealing way, it allows you to control the experience. Your responsive version of your website can be an abridged version – including only pertinent information and minimal design elements. That’s right, you’re not just optimizing for device but also optimizing the overall experience.

If your website isn’t already responsive, it’s probably time for a tune-up. Please visit your local Small Business Development Center for resources on this topic.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!


Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, the team at The Contrino Group can help you in all facets of communication. From acquisition and retention strategies, to segmentation, formats and touch strategies – we’ve done it all and have some great success stories to share. 

Is it Time to “Get Real” About your Partnership?

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Are you a partner in your business, or searching for that perfect co-founder to complement your skill set? Whether you’re running the family business with your spouse or just starting to kick around startup ideas with a friend from college, it’s only a matter of time before relationship issues start to creep into your work life. It’s all fun and games until real money is on the line, and difficult decisions have to be made. Suddenly, that carefree attitude you used to love in your friend now seems irresponsible or even lazy. Alternatively, that ambition and drive you once admired has now turned your partner into a micro-manager and you find yourself making snide comments or worse, saying nothing but seething inside. 

Relationship issues will surface in just about any business partnership. Like marriage, business partnerships take work and maintenance. Some thoughtful planning at the outset and strategic tools for fine-tuning can go a long way toward setting the tone for a successful partnership and making your work feel fulfilling again.  


Opposites attract, or do they? 

One frustrating truth about both marriages and business partnerships is that the secret to success will be different for everyone. We humans are complicated creatures. Some of us thrive with a partner who is our opposite personality-wise. Co-founders William Hanna and Joseph Barbera of the Hanna-Barbera animation empire illustrate this point. Their 60-plus year partnership brought us Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, the Flintstones and the Smurfs, making use of their complementary skill sets. Barbera has always been the gag writer and sketch artist, complimented by Hanna’s gift for timing, story construction, and recruiting top artists. They made major business decisions together, alternating the title of president between them each year. But their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Hanna was a an all-American family man and Eagle Scout who loved the outdoors and avoided the spotlight, while Barbera was a creature of his New York City upbringing who thrived in the Hollywood social scene. Their divergent interests meant they rarely talked outside of work, but they almost never argued and often referenced their perfect understanding of and respect for each other.  

On the other end of the spectrum, new research suggests that opposites don’t really attract after all, in a variety of relationship types, and the truth is that the human tendency is to seek out those whose personalities are very much like our own.


What’s the Secret to a Successful Business Partnership? Talk it out.

So if there’s no universal formula to determine what makes a successful partnership, what can partners do to ensure they are each other’s best co-pilot on the journey? We recommend that potential partners, or even partners who are already in business together, work through a series of questions to clarify whether their goals for the business are similar, whether their roles are clearly defined and complementary, whether they can work through money issues together, whether they can carve out complementary areas of control, if they are able to engage in constructive communication, and whether they have complementary values and life and work styles. We’ll be leading an SBDC workshop for partners on October 25 at 9:30 a.m., where we will be introducing and working through these questions. 

The major takeaway from answering the questions has less to do with the actual responses, and more to do with the overall sense, at the conclusion of the exercises, that each partner gets for the other’s integrity and ability to communicate. The latest research, as well as our own anecdotal observations, suggests that these are the most defining features of what makes for a successful partnership. 


What does Google say? 

Google did its own research to try and determine what qualities made for the most successful teams. It turns out that while successful teams could look very different from each other, the common elements were:
  • In successful teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’  
  • The good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they demonstrated empathy by intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.  In other words, the high-functioning teams exhibited “psychological safety,” a sense of confidence that speaking up would not be met with embarrassment, rejection, or punishment.  

The Perks of Partnership

Despite the depressing statistics for both marriage and business partner failure rates, there are compelling reasons to partner up. Sharing the burdens of running a business and having the support of a teammate can be invaluable.  For extra assurance that the team you’re building is likely to be a success, we recommend starting with an honest conversation about your goals, roles, money, control, communication, values, and life and work styles, to determine for yourself whether your team exhibits the fundamental qualities that contribute to successful teams. Tap into how the conversations make you feel, and if you feel energized and supported, your partnership is more likely to succeed. 



This content was provided by Chuck Hunker and Jaime Roth, co-founders of True Connect LLC.  They are committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve their highest vision by working together amicably and effectively. As co-founders and business partners, we understand the benefits and challenges of implementing a vision together. 

Have Your Met Your Cyber Security Requirements?

Monday, October 09, 2017


December 31st is fast approaching and so is the deadline for the Defense Department’s cybersecurity requirements for all government contractors and subcontractors. 


For those who are not aware, in 2001, the federal government started the process for protecting classified information when stored or shared by electronic means. If contractors maintain a government IT system or simply store information, they must meet the standards set by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) or Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). In recent years, these requirements have undergone many changes from terminology to technical requirements. Despite simplified revisions, interpreting cyber security requirements can be a bit confusing. 


Who are the players in cybersecurity?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was given the responsibility of establishing standards for government and contractor IT systems.  In June 2015, NIST issued THIS DOCUMENT  highlighting 101 standards. 
  • Contractors will have to comply with the cybersecurity regime set forth by FAR Subpart 4.19 (Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems).
  • DoD (Department of Defense) contractors will also have to comply with cybersecurity and cloud storage requirements in DFARS Subpart 204.73 and 239.76. If you only use non-FAR agreements in working with DoD, you are not yet compliant. These same requirements apply to all contract and agreements (e.g., grants, other transaction authority agreements, CRADAs, and SBIRs).

What’s the difference between FAR and DFARS?

The two regimes have many similarities, but also many differences to consider. While the FAR applies to all federal agencies, it only requires 17 of the NIST  standards. The DFARS only applies to DoD contractors and requires all 101 NIST standards to be implemented by Dec 31, 2017. To obtain contracts, DoD contractors and subcontractors will need to become certified under all requirements. To understand how the government and prime contractors will assess compliance, you can review guidance material issued by the DoD HERE


What happens if you’re not compliant? 

Like other government requirements, there are potentially negative consequences to accepting a contract and certifying compliance if you do not meet the requirements. As such, a checklist or other similar procedure with a focus on behaviors is also highly recommended.


What’s the difference between FAR and DFARS? See the table below: 

 

FAR 4.19/52.204-21

DFARS 204.73/252.204-7012

Applicability

All Agencies

DoD Only

All contracts except COTS

All contracts except COTS

Federal Contract Information means information, not intended for public release, that is provided by or generated for the Government under a contract to develop or deliver a product or service to the Government, but not including information provided by the Government to the public (such as that on public websites) or simple transactional information, such as that necessary to process payments. “Information” means any communication or representation of knowledge such as facts, data, or opinions in any medium or form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, or audiovisual (Committee on National Security Systems Instruction (CNSSI) 4009).

Covered Defense Information

a. Excludes classified

b. Provided by DoD or collected, developed, received, transmitted, used or stored in support of performance of the contract

c. Is controlled technical information, critical information, export controlled, or any other information, marked or otherwise identified in the contract that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls

Focused on Systems

Focused on Information

Effective Date

Now (no Safe Harbor)

December 31, 2017

Requirements

15/17 of NIST 800-171

All 110 of NIST 800-171

Marking

No requirement for government to mark

Marked or otherwise indicate if Covered Defense Information

Reporting

No explicit reporting requirement

Mandatory – 72 hours, DoD

Subcontractors report / provide incident number to prime

Certification

No explicit certification Requirements

Required by 252.204-7008

Subcontract

Mandatory if subcontractor “may have Federal contract information residing in or transiting through its information system”

Mandatory for “subcontracts, or similar contractual instruments, for operationally critical support, or for which subcontract performance will involve covered defense information, including subcontracts for commercial items, without alteration, except to identify the parties”

No guidance for how to assess or monitor

Prime is responsible for cyber enforcement

Prime - determine if Subcontractor can comply, Request deviations

Subcontractors must notify Primes if unable to comply


If you haven’t yet implemented or started the process to create a compliant system, it’s time to get started! Contact your local SBDC and PTAC offices to get connected with someone who can help in this process. 




Karri Palmetier brings more than two decades of experience in government contracting and aerospace and defense industries. She started her career as a U.S. Air Force judge advocatwhere she supported major defense programs, base operational contracting, and international and joint war operations. Karri gained additional breadth working in a major D.C. law firm on a variety of government contracting matters. Her extensive background in working for and with the U.S. Government (Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, the Intelligence Community, and NASA) gives her a unique perspective, helping companies understand the underlying policies and rationale for the government position

4 Ways to Create Value-Added Performance Reviews

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


The needs of the modern workforce have evolved. Has your performance review process done the same?

Many companies are holding onto traditional performance reviews because they think it adds value to their organization, even though in most cases research shows otherwise. Studies show that employees want development, motivation and recognition that will help them grow and benefit their companies. Incorporating these actions into the performance management process could equally benefit both the organization and their employees.

Whether you are reevaluating your current process, or thinking about implementing a new performance review process, consider these four tips: 

1) Define your objective - What is your intention or ultimate outcome you are trying to achieve. For example:
  • Are you seeking a method to differentiate performance and reward individual employee efforts through merit pay? 
  • Are you looking for a consistent method to provide employees with performance feedback? 
The answer to these questions would result in two very different performance review systems. The first would likely include a rating system that would differentiate employee’s performance outcomes, while the latter may simply be a structured format in which to provide feedback and doesn’t include a performance rating.

2) Determine frequency

The complexity of the process should help inform the frequency. Going through a rating process is time consuming and only realistic once or twice per year. However, we know that a modern workforce wants performance feedback much more frequently than that. Consider mid-cycle performance checkpoints that ensure employees are tracking towards their goals.

3) Keep it simple

Don’t over-complicate the process so much that it’s cumbersome for managers (and thus a deterrent) and confusing for employees. Stay true to your objectives and desired outcomes.

4) Make it meaningful

BambooHR reports that 4% of respondents feel that performance reviews motivate and engage employees. Instead, employees reported they prefer to be motivated through the following techniques:

Open and informal conversations
Getting raises
One-on-one’s geared more toward career path
Managers listening to their ideas and using them
Receiving more employee recognition

Incorporating these outcomes into your performance review process can be a win-win for all!





Article provided by Reagan Freed, Solvere HR Consulting

Reagan Freed is an accomplished HR executive with extensive experience supporting small, mid and large businesses develop people strategies that support organizational goals. Her experience ranges across a wide variety of industries including engineering, construction, telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO).

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize  your organizational capacity and profitability through your most valuable asset - you employees. Learn more at www.solverehr.com.




Will participation in social media really benefit your business?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017



The short answer is yes. But HOW you choose to approach your social efforts will definitely affect your success. From Facebook and LinkedIn, to Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pintrest – every platform has a niche audience and set of features that can assist you in delivering the right message to the right audience.

Getting Started

Before you begin any social media activity, it’s important to determine goals and a content strategy. Perhaps you’re developing a long-term campaign, or maybe just adding a short-term campaign to compliment your longer-term efforts. Regardless, it’s important to identify which platforms will make the most sense to help reach these goals and what type of content will yield the most success. Even more importantly, make sure you establish quantifiable, attainable goals. For example:

Have x number of social media mentions in a week
Increase Facebook likes by x
Increase LinkedIn followers by x
Have x number of people fill out our contact form in a month
Have x number of people download our content piece each week
A x increase in traffic from social media networks over 3 months

Understanding Your Audience

In order to set these goals, you’ll need to learn what is important to your audience. Unfortunately, most people are not going to be as passionate about the product you’re selling or the service you are offering as you are. However, they may be passionate about the results of your product/service or interested in how your product/service helps them. If you create content that illustrates what is actually important to your audience, you will find success. You can do this by digging into what your audience is talking about, discovering what content they regularly share, how often, and with whom. With this information you will be able to create a content piece that sincerely speaks to your audience.

Creating Interesting and Useful Content

Knowing your audience is key to developing content that will either educate or entertain. Though educational content is often very successful, sometimes people want to consume content about something that excites them, but won’t necessarily teach them something new. 
Content that entertains an audience can often create more engagement on social media. Everyone loves to laugh or smile every once in awhile! If you can elicit genuine emotion, the likelihood of them sharing your content is increased.

The key to developing engaging, shareable content is making sure there is a genuine interest. For example, if you send dog treat recipes to cat owners, the likelihood of engagement is really low. But if you create a video showcasing leash obedience training techniques to new dog owners, you’ll have a much higher probability of engagement. 

Make it Easy to Share

Social media platforms make it easy for your content to be shared. You should be aware of how these features work and optimize your content for this purpose. 
However, one key element for success is to have your content originate from a domain your own, like your company website or a blog. This way people can visit this location and share it in manner that works best for them. For example, if your blog has a social sharing toolbar – they can easily click this icon from within your domain and share it with their friends. In other words, don’t make your audience work to share your content – make it as easy as possible.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.






Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, the team at The Contrino Group can help you in all facets of communication. From acquisition and retention strategies, to segmentation, formats and touch strategies – we’ve done it all and have some great success stories to share. 

Lead Generation

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How important is lead generation to the success of your company?

Creating a successful lead generation plan can seem like a daunting task. But, continued success for most companies requires developing a sales funnel. And the key is to convert as many prospects as possible in the sales funnel into leads.

There are a number of opportunities to add prospects to the sales funnel. In fact, every time someone from your company comes in contact with a prospect, there should be a mechanism to capture their information. Whether someone is coming to your website for the first time, people you meet at trade shows, calls to the main line, etc., every name should be captured.  

Now, it’s easy to get lost figuring out how to start, what to do first and how to keep it going. According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from 60 - 90% of the way through the buying journey before they ever reach out to a company. With so much access to information on the Internet, buyers may delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves. All the more reason it’s important to create a successful lead generation program.

Before you begin, you’ll need to answer these five questions:

  1. Is my database “Lead Gen” ready? Make sure your database is clean, updated and includes, at a minimum, a physical mailing address, email address and phone number for each prospect.

  1. Is my list of prospects large enough? Knowing response rates are typically 5% or less, if you only have 1000 names then you can only expect 50 people to read your marketing materials on average. Converting those 50 people may only yield five or less leads you can pass on to sales. So, look to expand your database through data capture on your website, trade shows, events and other opportunities your company is engaged in.

  1. Do I have a flow of consistent data into the database? Each and every time your sales team in in contact with a prospect something new is learned. Be sure your sales reps are helping you by providing data with all your required fields, and other relevant information.

  1. Do I have buy-in from management? When setting out to develop any marketing program it’s critical to have alignment throughout the organization with regard to vision and action plan. This will undoubtedly lead to the success or failure of your campaign.

  1. Is the sales team on board with your marketing plan? The strategic alignment of the sales and marketing teams will increase efficiency and qualified leads. The sooner you get sales involved in the lead gen process, the more successful it will be.   

Generating a higher rate of sales-ready leads through a lead generation program is essential for today’s marketers. Take one step at a time and make sure you have enough time to successfully implement by building a communication schedule for your campaign.

Based on a three month long buying cycle your communication schedule could look something like this:

     Day 1 - Introductory email

     Day 10 - Email offering new content/related to website activity

     Day 15 - Personal email

     Day 28 - Email whitepaper

     Day 45 - Call from sales rep to ‘check in’

     Day 60 - Email promoting educational series

     Day 75 - Personal email/product demo

     Day 85 - Schedule in-person meeting

     Day 90 - Sales proposal via email

                                                                                                                            

Note: the communication becomes more frequent as the buying cycle progresses… This is based on the behavior of the individual in the campaign. There will be multiple paths an individual could take based on what they do/download. Test the effects of frequency with multiple campaigns – testing is often confined to email subject lines and content, but also testing frequency and timing can optimize your results dramatically.

Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.

Is it Time to Revamp Your Website?

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Maybe you’re new to the industry and have just gotten your first customers, or maybe you’ve been around and have a well-established customer base. No matter where you are on the road to business growth, your website plays a pivotal role in establishing the image of your company. So, how do you know if it’s time to revisit your website design? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a website redesign:


  1. Is it clear what you do?

When you type your URL into your browser and your website comes up, what do you see? Your home page should include your logo and at least some photos of your company at work. You also need to include a short, jargon-free description of what you do. Consider including a chart or other graphics to illustrate your services.


  1. Is your interface user-friendly?

Can a 10-year-old navigate your website? The most user-friendly interfaces utilize easy navigation tools like a clearly visible menu and hyperlinked photos. Think about the easiest websites you have used: how does your website compare? If you would need to give detailed instructions to a fifth grader about how to use your website, it’s time for a redesign.


  1. Do your customers know where to look?

Send an anonymous survey to all your customers via email and ask them what they think of the website. If the feedback is generally good, you probably don’t need a redesign. However, you should reconsider your website layout if there are signs of confusion, frustration, or distaste with the interface. Note: surveymonkey.com is a great resource for creating free, anonymous surveys.


  1. What do your analytics tell you?

Analytics are an infinitely valuable resource. Pay attention to how long people are spending on your website and how many visits turn into sales. If a significant number of people aren’t spending at least a minute on your website and even less of those visits turn into sales, it’s time to change your website.


Your website is the backbone of your company, and if your customers don’t like your website, it can have a damaging effect on business. Make sure your website is good enough for your customers by analyzing the interface to make it the most user-friendly experience possible. It’s also important to make sure you know how to make edits on your website. If you have an employee or outside person who works on your website, ask them for tips on how to fix basic things. It’s important that the back end of your website is as user-friendly for you as the front end is for your customers.


Can I Use Unpaid Interns to Supplement My Workforce?

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

It’s a complicated question, but more often than not the answer is NO.

Well-structured internship programs benefit both interns and employers. By participating in these valuable on-the-job learning opportunities, interns augment their work experience, hone important work skills, and develop their career goals. In turn, internships give employers access to a pool of motivated individuals who bring fresh thinking and innovation to their workplaces.

Interns are generally students or recent graduates who work on a full- or part-time basis and perform work for an employer that is relevant to their degree program. Internships in the “for-profit” private sector are most often viewed as an “employee” and subject to minimum wage requirements under the FLSA.

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships may do so without compensation. Refer to Internships and the FLSA to determine if your intern program may meet the definition of a trainee program.

Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

What about unpaid co-ops?

Cooperative education, commonly known as a "co-op", is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience provides academic credit for structured job experience.

Cooperative learning falls under the umbrella of work-integrated learning (alongside internships, service learning and clinical placements) but is distinct as it alternates a school term with a work term in a structured manner, involves a partnership between the academic institution and the employer, and generally is both paid and intended to advance the education of the student.

Unpaid co-op arrangements may be possible if the program meets the above FLSA definition of a “trainee program.” The work must be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience versus performing productive work that benefits the employer.

Similar to internships, unpaid co-ops in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

Can someone ‘volunteer’ their time to work for my company?

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the criteria for a volunteer. According to the DOL, an unpaid volunteer is: an “individual who performs hours of service….for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”

To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the DOL considers a number of factors. No single factor is determinative. The factors include:

  • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

A volunteer position is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and safely exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the final two questions.

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the above criteria, and therefore should carefully consider the legal ramifications of using an unpaid “volunteer” that may in fact meet the definition of an employee. Misclassification of an employee can give rise to a variety of liabilities.

FINAL THOUGHTS: When in doubt, always pay minimum wage!


Reagan Freed is an accomplished HR executive with extensive experience supporting small, mid- and large businesses develop people strategies that support organizational goals. Her experience ranges across a wide variety of industries including engineering, construction, telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO).

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees. Learn more at www.solverehr.com.




Marketing: Enhancing Your Outreach List

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Your marketing results can only be as good as your outreach list.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, creative will only affect about 20% of your response rate. The other 80% will be a combination of your list quality and a compelling offer.

Who’s on your list?

There’s no question that the best list is a list you’ve grown organically. From past and current customers, to prospects that have requested more information – these are people who have shown an interest in your product or service. And as a general rule, you should always treat them well. Keep in touch, but don’t bother them. Keep their interest by letting them know they are important to you. Special offers and insider information, etc. can be very powerful depending on your business model.  

Of course, there’s always a need to build a list fast to get your message out. Maybe you’re a new company with no customers at all. Maybe you want to expand to a new part of town where you’ve never marketed before. Well, the good news is that you can rent a compiled list from a list broker. The bad news is they may not be expecting your message.

Compiled lists are typically taken from directories, phone books and motor vehicle records, etc. The most common is a geographic list (i.e. all the residents within a 5 mile radius of your business). But you can also select basic demographics (age, sex, income, etc.). For example, you could select homeowners within 10 miles of your office, ages 40 to 60 with a household income (HHI) of $80,000 a year or more.

Finding a good list is a complicated process, so it’s recommended you find a good list broker who has all of the information for finding the best list for your needs. Bring your list broker into the process early to help define your audience.  Provide the broker with your audience requirements, such as demographics, standard industrial classification (SIC) codes, HHI, etc. And be sure to budget enough time to receive your recommendations and to place the order. 

Keep in mind that list brokers are typically paid by the list owner – so there is no additional fee to you. And because you are renting the list – typically for a one-time use, although multiple-use is available for an additional fee – you’ll want to make sure you have set up ways to capture information. Give recipients many ways to give you their information so that you can begin to build an organic list for future messaging.

Most importantly, no matter where you get your list – make sure you speak directly to your target. If it’s a previous customer, let them know you appreciate their business. If it’s someone who happens to live in the right geographical area, let them know you’re in the neighborhood. By addressing the relationship (or lack thereof) in your messaging, you will be providing a good clue as to why they are receiving your message.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, having a well-directed and well-planned outreach list is vital to successful marketing efforts.


Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.

What Makes An Effective Newsletter

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Newsletters are a great way to increase awareness of your business among your customer base or business partners. However, not all newsletters are inherently great. In order to have a decent open rate (percentage of recipients who actually opened the newsletter email), you need to have great content, but that can be tough. Thinking of new content every month takes a lot of creativity and time. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Product release: If your company just released a new product, announce it. Make sure to include pictures and specs of the product as well as release dates and where to find it.


  • Industry news: If there was a big industry change that will affect your business, write a couple paragraphs about it in the newsletter. Explain what the change is and exactly how it will affect your business, if at all.


  • FAQs: If there is a certain question that you keep getting asked about your organization, the newsletter is a great place to address it. You can even make it a permanent section and just answer a new question every month.


  • An editorial by an industry expert: If there is an opinionated manager or leader in your company, have them write an editorial about something in the industry. An editorial should express an opinion, but have plenty of facts to back it up. A good editorial also addresses some possible arguments against the opinion being presented.


  • A letter from the founder/president/CEO: If your company just experienced some growth or expansion, have an executive write a letter thanking the audience for their business. If your company recently suffered a crisis or a setback, an executive can address that and make an official statement as well.


  • Event announcements: If your organization will be attending a tradeshow or hosting an event, include summaries of what you’ll be doing there as well as the dates. Making your customers/clients/partners/employees aware of what’s going on is a great way to get your audience more involved.


  • Blog posts: If your company has a blog page, sharing a popular blog post from the last month or quarter (depending on newsletter frequency) is a great way to fill up space and get more visits to your website


  • An anniversary: If your business recently celebrated a milestone, share it with your audience. An excited tone can make your audience excited for you, too.


There are tons of content topics you can include in your newsletter. If creativity is your thing, have fun thinking of new and inventive ideas. Just remember to always include photos and graphics to keep your newsletters visually engaging, and have fun with it. We hope these tips help spur your business success!



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