An Interview with Cerida Corporation’s Jeanne Lambert

Recognizing the critical need for teleprofessionals who could focus on driving the entire sales cycle — from marketing to sales to customer development — Jeanne Lambert founded Cerida Corp. (formerly TeleSales, Inc.) in 1993. As President and CEO, she has built up an impressive client list that includes IBM PartnerWorld, Cisco Systems, and Texas Instruments. Here, Lambert shares her insights on customer service, CRM and what she’s learned recently about branding.

SAM: Define expert customer service.

JL: We refer to our expertise as Customer Development as opposed to pure customer service. … Our emphasis … is to focus on up-selling, cross-selling and other revenue opportunities. … We consider ourselves sales cycle experts, going from the objective that a marketing side of the organization is trying to target, qualify, educate — moving through to sales and further education — and closing business by going back to your existing customers to sell, and up-sell while they’re going through that customer service center.

SAM: From the client perspective, the benefit to up-selling and cross-selling is obvious, but in terms of the customers, how would you define an excellent experience?

JL: … First [make] sure that customer service is easily accessed, and gives you all kinds of channels, so that as a customer, you select how you want to be serviced. The choices in the market today are about the customer.

[Also critical is] the sophistication of the customer service experience … Do not send me a blanket e-mail response that says “thank you for your request, we will be processing that” and then take credit in the market for having a fast response! You didn’t answer my question, you just acknowledged the fact that I sent you one.

SAM: What else is important?

JL: … You don’t have to go through this “could you hold, I need to get my supervisor to talk to you about this.” We learn good quality customer service and we go over those things with clients first, so that as we’re going through training with our clients, we’re aligned with them.

SAM: So you try to be proactive?

JL: [If there are problems with a product] we work with them on an answer level. … very quickly we are able to train the agents so that they can deal with those as soon as a customer calls and complains … Usually you disarm the issue … when you’re on top of it.

SAM: That makes a lot of sense. What about your company’s marketing strategy? Prior to this you were working under a different name, why the change to Cerida?

JL: …We were getting feedback … that our name [“Telesales”] was deceiving and limiting in its perception in the market. … I’m Irish. … I found this site that had Irish goddesses: Cerid, the Irish Goddess who imparted knowledge and intelligence to humans. … It’s that thing that I think describes what we as a company are trying to do.

SAM: Now will the essence of the name be part of the branding that you’re doing?

JL: Absolutely. …. It’s … right under our logo. “Our name, Cerida, is derived from the name of the Celtic goddess Ceridwen, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. We carry this name because it symbolizes what we do best, apply business knowledge and sales wisdom at any (and every) point in the contact sales cycle.”

SAM: It’s perfect. In your field, especially, there are a lot of company names that are either confusing or nonsensical.

JL: … I just started to really understand and I’m learning every day and reading a bunch of books on what the word branding means. That was a foreign concept to me. My background is mostly sales and now that I’m now getting involved in marketing and understanding more about it and the concept of branding is everybody’s responsibility in the company. I never really understood that before.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in September 2001.

SAM talks to Donald Baird about the America’s Schools Program

Talk about a win-win proposition. Who wouldn’t want to associate their brand with something as wholesome and all-American as helping to bring textbooks, art, music and sports to their children’s schools? Aussie Olympian Donald Baird, Founder and CEO of the International School Licensing Corporation, has devoted over twenty years of his life to developing revenue generating programs for schools, school districts and athletics. As any good coach will tell you, one key to success is having a great game plan.

With that in mind, Baird has been laying the groundwork for the America’s Schools Program since 1984, developing partnerships with school boards and schools districts throughout the United States. The hardest part is over — 14 states representing 80 percent of the country’s population have signed on to the program. SAM caught up with Baird recently, as he was about to launch his pitch to the Fortune 500.

SAM: To a marketer, the America’s Schools program appeals on a few different levels. You have the partnership marketing where you’re sharing the expense and the promotional efforts with a lot of different companies, and, the philanthropic aspect is still a bit unusual.

DB: It is unusual. We’re putting the entire educational family under this one identifiable mark. [the America’s Schools logo] … We’re not one of the 30,000 companies trying to get a foothold in education, we’re working with education for education.

SAM: How?

DB: We are … developing what is going to be the biggest, most powerful marketing vehicle this country has ever seen. … a system that will enable national advertising dollars to affect the well being of a local school. Every school is going to be treated exactly the same. The money is distributed to each individual school based on population.

… I did not want to stand in front of a major corporation unless I could explicitly tell them that we have the school systems signed on. We met in Tennessee and 14 states, representing 80 percent of the country’s population, convened [to establish] the America’s Schools National Business and Licensing Board. Eventually it will be structured from all 50 states.

SAM: It sounds like a tremendously ambitious program.

DB: It is. If you can envision something it can happen. … All you have to do here is basically just have a half a million people believe in one thing. That’s all.

SAM: Now that you’ve conquered the schools, what about marketing this to corporate America?

DB: We are at a point where we can sit down and present the program with all the confidence in the world. The first company that’s going to see [our presentation] is Coca Cola. We have to show corporations that I am going to change what I do on a national basis. One of the challenges we had with each individual state, was that they had to sign a contract of a minimum of 12 years, some of the contracts are as long as 26 years. The reason for that is to show solidarity.

SAM: That makes sense.

DB: … a minimum of 50 cents on every dollar had to go back to the local school districts. That’s before any money went to any of the bodies that were helping to put this together. We’re looking for corporate partners, not sponsors — people … that are going to be impacted by a corporate relationship with the educational system.

SAM: With Coca Cola, do you have a certain percentage in mind that you’re asking for these partnerships?

DB: What it’s going to be is a minimum. We spoke to people [on the boards of] five Fortune 500 companies … and asked them hypothetically … would you, for the exclusive relationship with this program on a nationwide basis, be interested in the program, how would you go about getting involved with it, and the third thing, which is would you be turned off by the fact that it would be 25 million up front annual fee. In every case they said they would be excited.

SAM: Are you going to be doing any kind of promotional campaign, besides having signage in the schools?

DB: We have a deal with Viacom [who owns a number of media companies, including CBS and MTV] …Where there’s available billboard space, they are giving us the space. They want to work with us and help make this work.

By the fifth year, in our budget, we will be spending 50 million in advertising alone, that’s all funded by the individual corporations. … Our objective is to make this symbol more recognizable than the Olympic rings and Nike put together — in one-eighth of the time it took them to establish themselves.

SAM: And what’s the timetable that you’re looking at for the core group of partners?

DB: By September/October we’re hoping to put in two to three. Within 2 years we hope to have 12 put together.

SAM: Have the school boards given you any kind of guidance in terms of the types of corporations?

DB: No tobacco, nothing religious, no alcohol, all the typical things. The final list of companies has come from that national board … already pre-approved.

SAM: Is it meant to be a non-profit model?

DB: No, it’s not. Anyway, that’s what I keep telling my investors. It’s gonna take some time. If you’re talking 25 million and you’ve got 12 companies, you’re basically talking about 300 million in annual revenues that are going to be created. Obviously we have a certain threshold or a certain dollar amount that we’ve got to make in order to be profitable in order to make it work.

… 76% of the entire country said that if price and quality are equal, they will buy something that supports a cause over buying something from a competitor — if it’s for a cause that they can relate to. Their family is the most important cause …

SAM: That’s absolutely true.

DB: If we can positively affect the hearts and minds of these people, their pocketbooks will follow, just out of natural human instinct. We’re gonna hit the hearts and minds of everybody in this country. It’s gonna be unbelievable, unlike anything that anyone’s ever done before. It’s gonna be like a virus across this entire country.

SAM: The part that’s going to be of the most interest to our readers is the corporate angle, that’s still evolving. Our readers are going to be most interested in how that whole arrangement will work.

DB: They’re gonna pay money to have a relationship with us, and we’re gonna be directing every check that comes out of it to the schools. The education system … it is the airport of life. Everybody has to go through school.

SAM: What was your inspiration for coming up with this program in the first place?

DB: Frustration. … There is absolutely no reason why a girl or boy should be deprived of a full education for the lack of money. The money exists. … That’s the inspiration. If I can imagine it, it can be done. And luckily enough there are some great people out there who feel the same. Our board of directors rivals any Fortune 500 company in this country.

If we do this right, when they write the book of the history of marketing and sales and advertising, I think there’s gonna be at least a paragraph on the America’s Schools Program.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in July 2001.

Tradeshow Case Study: Inova’s Graffiti Wall

The Challenge: Maltbie and Associates ( has been in the tradeshow exhibit industry for 40 years, but they are better known for their museum exhibits. At the recent Exhibitor Show they launched a new name for the tradeshow division — Inova Exhibit Projects — and a new tag line — inspiration, invention and innovation.

The Solution: Low-tech creativity and high-touch interactivity combined to make Inova shine. “If you offer people an activity, you get a lot more time to qualify them as a lead, and people are a lot more receptive to interacting with booth personnel,” says George Mayer, VP of Maltbie’s Inova Division. Wanting to do something a “little out of the norm” Mayer’s team came up with the graffiti wall, “hoping people would be inspired, to share … their own creativity.”

“We had a sense that the graffiti wall would play well with this audience. They’re there to have fun, and to learn. We wanted something that would set the Inova Booth apart. We also had to contend with the fact that we had a 10′ x 20′ space, and some of our competitors had 20′ or 30′ by 40′ spaces,” says Mayer. Adds VP Walt Rich, “225 people wrote on our wall.” “By day three we were running out of space,” says Mayer.

“The concept was really a group effort, done in house by a design staff of five. It included a new logo, collateral, [a direct mail] invitation. A lot of the ideas came from the sales staff,” says Rich. “We were very happy with the results. We couldn’t have done any better than this,” reports Mayer.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in July 2001.

Case Study: Contempo Design’s Employee Newsletter

How do you keep in-house communication lines open when your company grows from 50 to 450 employees in seven different locations? Contempo Design ( needed to meet the internal challenges of evolving from a single product line of exhibits to a supplier of retail/financial environments, specialty interiors, events and labor management. One tool: an employee newsletter to market the company’s brand and philosophy internally.

” We looked at doing it on the web or via e-mail, but … the shop guys don’t have e-mail and we wanted them to use the newsletter, not just the salespeople,” said Chris Kappes, Contempo’s VP Corporate Marketing & Communications.

The resulting newsletter, with its second edition recently released, is a nice mixture of company information, such as employee interviews, and reports on new business and awards; communication from upper management, for example, a “state of the union” from company president Rob Shaw, and thoughts on the company brand from Kappes; as well as industry information, like interviews with editors from Exhibitor Magazine and B to B.

“Newsletters work best when there are a bunch of different offices,” said Rebecca Hayne, Director of Public Relations for Alexander & Walsh, the firm that works on content development for Contempo’s newsletters, among others. “Not only do they keep the rumors down, but they help to unite the office and avoid the game of telephone.”

As an added benefit, Kappes reports that the newsletter, designed by ZGraphics, Ltd., has been so well received they are planning to “give it more of a consumer spin” and use it as a promotional piece for clients. That’s the kind of killing two birds with one stone (or print job) strategy to make any marketer want to give it a whirl.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in July 2001.

Case Study: Interliant’s Sales Incentive Program

The Challenge: Every morning, Travis Lupo, Web Hosting Sales Manager for Interliant, an ASP with offices through the U.S. and Europe, meets with his 25-member Atlanta-based sales team. Daily updates and friendly competition are an important part of his motivation strategy, but Interliant’s internal platform for sales reporting was being transitioned and he couldn’t get daily updated results for the sales reps.

The Solution: A sales incentive program developed in conjunction with Salesdriver provided Interliant with a cost-effective, efficient, web-based solution.

“We provide real-time feedback for sales managers,” says Dan Berger, Salesdriver’s CEO and President. “Right now the Internet is the most powerful change agent in the $23 billion annual incentives market.”

Lupo agrees. “Being web-based … it’s more efficient … you have to do a lot less manually as far as rolling it out to your people, and the results are up there on Salesdriver on an automated basis. … less strain for management.”

Salesdriver’s innovative on-line sales contest service allowed Interliant to build their program for free, and launch it with the click of a button. The bill came when the “DriverDollars” were cashed in by winning salespeople at the end of the contest — the ultimate “pay for performance.”

“Trips and electronics are what incent our employees the most,” says Lupo. “We’ve been using Salesdriver for almost a year now.” The results? “It’s kind of hard to quantify, but our numbers have definitely grown exponentially and the sales force and efficiency in the organization have boosted our revenue … I would say this has definitely positively impacted our revenue.”

Originally published in SAM Magazine in July 2001.

Hallmark’s Biggest Ever Mother’s Day Promotion

The Point: An inside look at the world’s biggest greeting card company’s “biggest-ever” promotion.

Hallmark’s ( research confirmed what every son or daughter intuitively knows about their Mom: The most important thing you can do for her on Mother’s Day is to let her know how much you value and appreciate her. But how do you translate that into a marketing campaign? SAM recently spoke with David Smith, director of integrated marketing communications for Hallmark. Here’s what he had to say:

SAM: Can you tell our readers a little bit about the origins of the “One in a Million Mom Campaign?”

DS: When we did our research and when we talked to consumers, they felt that the single most important thing about Mother’s Day is simply to let Mom know that she’s valued and appreciated. It’s really kind of a back-to-the-basics approach. Mom does so many things and has all her many different roles … the most important thing we can do for her on Mother’s Day is to let her know how much we value her and how much we appreciate her.

SAM: Sounds good.

DS: Yeah. It really is good. It comes back to the very simple, fundamental truth that Mom really is this unbelievable die-bolt to the family. There are times where she may be taken for granted, so, especially on this one day, let’s be sure to let her know how much we really do appreciate her. This really led us down the path of the whole theme or idea we came up with of “One in a Million Moms,” [and] how priceless Mom is.

Giving Mom a Hallmark card on Mother’s Day, obviously, is part of letting her know that she is valued. But what we decided to do — and this is the first time we’ve ever done this — is to create a game tied into Mother’s Day where one Mom is going to be rewarded with a million dollars simply because somebody has given her the right Hallmark Mother’s Day card. So with one card, that looks just like any other cards that are already out there, someone is going to buy that card [and win a million dollars]. We will run a commercial on the day after Mother’s Day — during “the Today Show” — and on that commercial we will show what the winning code is, … and that Mom’s going to win a million dollars.

SAM: Great. And will you know where that card is going to be shipped, just in case that person didn’t watch “the Today Show” commercial?

DS: There are a lot of security measures put into the planning of this. Somebody does know where that card was placed. It wasn’t even going to be shipped; it was going to be placed into a card display in a store. We know for sure that it’s in a display, and since with our Mother’s Day cards we sell most of the ones that are put out there, there’s a very, very good chance that somebody will purchase this card.

SAM: Other than the television ad on the day after Mother’s Day, what else are you doing to let people know about this?

DS: Starting April 23, we have national TV running all the way up through Mother’s Day. We have a couple different ads that are going to run. One is about the million-dollar card game, and the second game that we’re also doing for Mother’s Day is for a specially marked box of Hallmark chocolates that you can purchase for $3.99 when you buy three cards. In this box of chocolates, everyone is guaranteed at least of winning a prize. The grand prize is $50,000. There’s also a Hawaiian vacation, cash, and then phone cards. Everybody will win at least a ten-minute phone card. So, we have two different commercials that will run throughout the season: one about the card game and one about the chocolate.

SAM: Wait, are they purchasing three Mother’s Day cards? That’s a lot of Moms.

DS: It can be any Hallmark card. We imagine most of them will be Mother’s Day cards, but we didn’t want to exclude people that had other needs during the season. We are also doing an essay contest where consumers can write in about why their Mom is one in a million and we’ll judge those entries and come up with a winner, and that winning Mom will win a million dollars. So we’re giving away a million dollars to two different winners as well as all the prizes with the chocolate.

SAM: Have you used games before? Is this a new kind of marketing approach for you?

DS: We have used games but nowhere near this extensively and not to this magnitude. It is part of a new strategy. In the beginning of the holiday time period last year was really when we first launched our integrated marketing strategy. We’ll do four major events each year. We are going to vary the promotional tactic between these events simply to keep them fresh and to keep things working for the consumer. While we did an integrated event at Valentine’s Day also, it didn’t really have games included. Mother’s Day is the first integrated effort that’s really driven by games.

Of course, we don’t know what the response will be. We’ve done considerable testing with this contest, and we’ve found consumers just love it. We really feel that it’s a great thing and the right thing for Hallmark to do.

SAM: In terms of promoting the game, you’re promoting it with television. I’m assuming you’re doing some print.

DS: We’re doing both TV and radio. Through our Gold Crown card, which has millions of households, we’ll do direct mail to get the word out to our Gold Crown members. [Editor’s Note: The Gold Crown card is a frequent buyers program.] There will be some PR around this to develop and create awareness. If you’re ever in our stores or in our departments, you’ll see all of the POP that we do. We make sure that when they see it on TV, they also see it at retail.

SAM: Is there a Web component to your promotions for this?

DS: Yes, there is. When you go to, you’ll be able to see all the details. You also can enter your Mom to the write-in-and-win contest, through

SAM: Well, it sounds like a very fun promotion.

DS: We think it’s going to be great. We really think it will catch the consumer’s attention because it is very different for Hallmark. It’s really tied back into that great basic principle: Be sure on Mother’s Day you really let your Mom know that you do appreciate and value what she does.

SAM: In your advertising for something like this, do you target certain ads or certain promotions to any particular demographics, or is it more of a general consumer kind of approach?

DS: Traditionally, it’s always been very female-focused. We have with the integrated program skewed some of our buying toward a younger Mom. We’re really trying to focus in on young Moms with kids that are under 12. We’re not doing that at the expense of other Moms; we’re just saying that with these programs we are more inclusive of the younger Moms as well.

Originally published in SAM Magazine

Niche Marketing (Re)defined

Conventional marketing wisdom — from the 80/20 rule to any kind of ROI analysis — tells us that focusing on a target market is necessary for achieving success. “We sort of use the bed of nails theory of niche marketing,” says Pattie Garrahy, CEO of PGR Media (, the strategic marketing, media planning and buying agency for companies such as Tommy Hilfinger, Hathaway and Keds. “It’s a painful theory,” jokes Garrahy. “If you try to be all things to all people, you can’t succeed. You can’t feel the nails. However, if you lie on one nail, you can really feel that one nail. You need to focus to create success.

But where to focus becomes a challenge. “The challenge in choosing the best target markets comes from two directions. First the target market needs to be narrow enough to allow us to efficiently market, to get the most bang for our buck. At the same time, it needs to be large enough to have sufficient sales potential to support the company, reports ClickZ’s ( Cliff Allen, coauthor of One-to-One Web Marketing (ISBN: 0471404004). ” Many companies, in an attempt to appeal to a large audience — thinking that doing so will increase revenue and profits –dilute their marketing message. Selecting a narrower target market allows a company to focus marketing communications on specific customer needs. As a result prospective customers have more confidence that the company understands their needs; that confidence, in turn leads to a closer relationship and increased loyalty,” continues Allen.

There are, of course, many ways to define a niche market, but the experts agree that focusing on a narrow target remains the key ingredient to finding your best markets.

Focus on Product Applications

NASA has been marketing commercial technology since the early 1960s, however according to Michael Weingarten, Director of Marketing for the Commercial Technology Program, “up until recently it was kind of a passive marketing program.” All that changed with a direct response program launched in mid-January. Developed in conjunction with Kern Direct (, the campaign is about bringing NASA technologies down to earth, and capturing the attention of the business world.

It All Starts With Research

Research is the first layer of a niche marketing program. As Garrahy describes it, “target intelligence work” is about identifying and defining your target customers and then using that information to develop a messaging and media plan that appeals to them based on their purchasing motivators. The targets for NASA’s direct response campaign were “the industries where NASA’s research would be considered cutting edge” according to Weingarten. “We used external lists of R & D Managers and Presidents and new Product Developers from a wide range of vertical industries that NASA services,” says Russell Kern, president of Kern Direct.

Let a Niche Emerge From a Product Line Extension

Research was also a key component in the formation of Gettyworks (, a new line extension from Getty Images ( The original company is a large supplier of photography and commercial illustrations to professional graphic designers, while the spin-off is a B-to-B venture aimed at enabling businesses to produce professional looking materials in-house. According to Kim Freeman, Vice President of Getty Images, “the decision to form and market Gettyworks came about because we noticed a trend in the market.” The research backed up their findings, and a new product was born.

Find an Emerging Niche for a Leading Edge Product

“Technology was enabling an increasing number of users to take advantage of the graphics products that are out there,” says Freeman. “There’s about 30 million businesses on the internet today — 45% of the people we talked to believe they do more of their own business materials than they did just one year ago, and about half of them believe they’re gonna do more in the next year. There seems to be a real opportunity in the market.”

An opportunity in the market was also a motivator for NASA. “Most people don’t even know that technology is available,” says Kern. “What we’ve done is create a direct response lead generation campaign to help let people know that if they want to develop new products or new ideas, there are resources available to them.”

Both NASA’s direct mail campaign and Gettyworks’ initial marketing efforts were aimed at driving traffic to their websites. This will continue to be a trend, predicts Don Eperson, CEO and Founder of Hook Media (, an interactive media planning and buying firm. “We firmly believe that as advertisers continue to grow more comfortable with the media and as the media grows up a little bit, you will see that shift to a higher percentage of total advertising budgets going to online. There are just simply too many people that are using the computer all the time to get their media.

Use Multiple Forms of Media and Promotion Channels

Whatever the core audience that you’ve determined for your product, the marketing plan should derive from the unique characteristics of that market. In targeting teens, for example, Garrahy says that based on their research, they will select “the most highly used or consumed media form, probably something like an MTV and certain vertical titles and certain radio stations in certain markets and geography. We put those pieces together and form plans that are certainly media based but they also include everything from promotions at point of sale through those channels. In today’s world there’s also usually a very strong online piece.”

In the case of NASA, one of the key tools is a magazine called “Spinoff” which features successfully commercialized NASA technology.

“Another marketing strategy is to use education — workshops and seminars — to tell the business community about the 25,000 different technologies that NASA has developed over the years” says Weingarten.

Whether the niche you’ve targeted is demographic, geographic or psychographic, your best markets will emerge if you focus on your product applications, do your research, and stay on top of emerging trends. Whether your niche market develops as an outgrowth of your core business or as a product line extension, flexible, multi-channel marketing strategies are your ultimate keys to success.

Originally published in SAM Magazine in May 2001.