What Online Marketers Don’t Want You to Know About Direct Mail

All Freelance Writing has a post today by Chris Bilbey asking, “Is direct marketing dead or alive?” Internet marketing is so big now, does direct mail still work?
Kaunas-Phone Booth
Chris decided to find out whether direct mail still worked.  He sent out 2,000 postcards to local businesses. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but he’s already gotten nine reply calls, six emails and three brand-new clients.

And, it’s still early.

Does direct mail work?

Yes, it does. It even sometimes sneaks into a phone booth, spins around really fast, and emerges (in a burst of light and pixels) as… internet marketing. Shhh, don’t tell.

Direct marketing is really internet marketing’s secret identity. It works the same way.  The principles are the same.  Find an audience.  Create products or services to help them.  Tell them about it.  Rinse and repeat. The only difference is that you’re writing a postcard that sells (instead of an email).

And direct mail won’t eat your computer.

Refine the results

Now that Chris has some data, he can review his results and refine future campaigns to get even better results.  Maybe he got a better response from a particular type of business. Or, his results might have been stronger from companies that are within 5 miles away.  Or, he might try a different headline.

Have you tested direct mail? Sent any postcards?  What happened?

Act Now and Ban Yellow Highlighting Forever!

no_highlighterEver seen one of those sites with a really long sales page?

You know the kind, the ones with big, urgent headlines (Act Now, Or You’ll Regret It for the Rest of Your Natural Life). They’ve got big, red headlines, and lots of yellow highlighter.

They’re what we call “Direct Marketing Ugly” – urgent, in-your-face stuff that screams and jumps up and down, begging for attention.

It’s still used because it still works. However, if you’d prefer something a bit more low-key, try engaging your visitors instead.

Get people involved.  Ask them to submit stuff, biggest challenge, or offer a free analysis, or review.  Build trust by asking for opinions.

Is Direct Mail Boring?

image of bored woman“Do I have to use direct mail? It’s sooo boring and old-fashioned. Can’t we just send electronic media kits with case studies and company info?”

This question came from a company in London that wants to break into the US market.

Unfortunately, the target audience (reporters) isn’t likely to care about company background information and case studies. Neither will her potential customers. Reporters want a story that will get them column inches. Prospects want to know what you can to for them.

Never, ever, ever plan a strategy based on what YOU think is old-fashioned, or interesting, or cutting-edge: do what will appeal to YOUR AUDIENCE. It’s NOT about you. It’s about what they think. You may think that sending beautifully designed electronic press kits will get you coverage. The press will think it’s spam.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/riotjane/2216996071/ riot jane

Get Record-Setting Results in a Recession

bubblesThe Greater Westchester Region of Hadassah (an organization that funds medical research to find cures for cancer, MS, and other diseases) had a problem. The economy was tanking and their annual gala was coming up. They count on that money to fund programs, events, and research throughout the year.

They were concerned about the down economy, so they came up with recession proof marketing strategies that worked in spite of the down economy.

Change the focus of your writing

Every year, the organization sent out two sets of letters to promote their gala event. One went out to members, volunteers, and previous donors. The other went to local businesses, asking them to buy ads in the journal program that accompanies the event or pay for event sponsorships.

Normally, these letters are written by volunteer staff. This year, they decided to have the letters written by a professional copywriter (yours truly).

The original donor letter thanked people for their generosity (good), but then went straight to what the organization wanted to get and to do (rather than what the donor would get).

The second letter (to potential advertisers) talked about the organization’s long experience, its expertise, and its fundraising goals.

All good things, but not likely to make a connection with someone reading it. The letter also assumed that people knew about Hadassah, had positive feelings about the organization, and were predisposed to place an ad in the program.

I rewrote the letters to focus less on the organization and the work they do, and more on making a connection between the reader and the organization.

Tell a story

The new donor letter started with a story: “Picture a teenager, suddenly confined to a wheelchair because of a genetic disease that caused her to shake and twitch uncontrollably.” It then goes on to describe how the doctors at Hadassah helped her — she was walking two weeks later.

Original Gala Donor Letter

New Gala Donor Letter

The letter soliciting ads for the event program was changed to a flier (since it was really a handout, rather than a letter) with the headline: Miracles Performed Daily: Support Hadassah’s research to cure Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s. It goes on to describe why people should give (the teenager story), where the gift goes, and how to contribute.

Original Gala Ad Solicitation Letter

New Gala Ad Solicitation Letter

Free marketing: engage your audience: and their friends

Hadassah recognized the need to broaden its donor base and decided to honor people who’d made significant contributions (in time and effort) to the broader community in addition to those who already supported the organization. The honorees were delighted, and invited their friends and business associates. It was a free marketing strategy that brought more people and more donors to the event.

Make it fun!

There was a silent auction including: a spot in the pit at a Daytona race; a private plane ride, with lunch, roundtrip to Nantucket from New York; and a brunch basket with bagels, cream cheese, and home made gravlax. Plus, “gambling” (proceeds to the charity), and a mystery balloon pop. Buy a balloon for $50, and get a prize worth up to $100.

I promised not to share the details of how much money they raised, but it was the most successful event the region has ever run.

Photo: gaeten lee

Which Marketing List is the Best?

list search results

I just did a quick search on Google for marketing lists and got back 147,000,000 links!
There are lists for everything: poultry farmers, IT managers, even caulking system buyers. With all those possibilities, how do you find the right one? Look at the price? The size of the list? And does it matter?

Why is the list important?

The list accounts for 40% of your return. The wrong list will wreck your response rate, and the right one will start the money rolling in. A list of poultry farmers would be a great target for a new kind of incubator, but IT managers would toss it right in the trash.

Plan ahead

  • Check your budget (how much do you have to spend on lists, printing, mailing)
  • How many people do you need to reach to get the results you want (based on past mailings if you have them)
  • What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for leads or do you want sales?
  • What will you offer?
  • Who is your target audience?

First, check your ideal customer profile. This will considerably narrow down the selection of lists. If you want IT managers of Fortune 500 companies, you can ignore lists of yoga practitioners, racetrack operators, or new homeowners.

Types of lists

Physical lists/email lists

There are several different kinds of lists (compiled, subscriber, email, and mail order buyers). Each mailing list has a data card (like a biography), that gives you all the vital statistics about the list: how big it is, titles of the people on it, average order size, etc.). Match up the information against your current customers.

Online “lists”

A list doesn’t have to be a physical file or spreadsheet. It can be Facebook users, Fox News web site visitors, or people who click on your AdWords ad. Each has its own demographics, interests, and problems. The people visiting Fox News are likely to have different opinions, for instance, than those heading to MSNBC.

Whether it’s made out of paper or pixels, the most productive list will be one with people who fit your ideal customer profile and who have already responded to offers similar to yours. If you’re promoting an IT meeting, you’ll want people who have attended related events.

List pricing

If someone promises 1,000,000 names or visitors for $10, run (don’t walk) as fast as you can. The information will be useless. These are likely to be names that have been stolen, scraped, or obtained by subterfuge.  Don’t use them!

Legitimate list prices are calculated in $ per thousand names offline and CPM (cost per thousand views) online. Ask for click-through rates, and find out what other kinds of businesses and ads have been successful.

Choose, not by absolute price, but by the best fit with your target market. If you’re looking for new businesses, a list of recent architecture grads won’t help you, but a list from your local town hall of newly registered business names will.

Got questions about choosing a list? Ask them here.