Direct mail marketing do’s and don’ts

March 7, 2011

I’ve always been a fan of direct mail, especially 3-D direct mail.  It’s pretty tough for someone to ignore a package addressed to them.  Assuming you’re mailing to the right audience — it can be very effective.

I get a fair amount of 3-D direct mail related to the blog and my agency McLellan Marketing Group.  So I thought we could examine two recent efforts and glean some do’s and don’ts.

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A party in a box!

The first mailing came in a huge box and as you can see, it was this metal wash basin, filled with microbrew beers and some snacks.   All it needed was some ice and we were ready to go.

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My own personalized mini trash can!

The second mailing came in a smaller box and the box itself was part of the message.  Inside the box was a small novelty trash can and a personalized message adhered to the inside lid.  Inside the trash can was the sales letter. (The teaser copy on the lid directed me to open the trash can.)

Let’s dig into the do’s and don’ts and see how these two efforts fared.

The Do’s:

Address it to the right person: Spell their name correctly and be sure you use the right “version” of their name.   My full name is Andrew but no one calls me that.  I know that you don’t have a clue who I am if the label says Andrew McLellan instead of Drew McLellan.

Tie what’s in the package to your message:  Don’t just send me something random.  Help me remember who you are and what you are selling by making the 3-D gift part of the message.

Give me the next step: Once I open the package, it’s my move.  So what do you want me to do?  Visit a website, send in a bounce back card, call you or wait for you to call me?

The Don’ts:

Don’t do a one and done: No matter how clever your mailing is, remember that in  marketing, frequency still matters.   So plan a series (you can mix flat and 3-D mailing to keep the budget in line) or tie the 3-D mailing to some other efforts (e-mail, calls, or even mass media).

Put yourself on the list: Unless you are assembling each package by hand, make sure you are on the recipient list.  You want to see how it looks from the receiver’s point of view.  Did the box get all dinged up?  Was everything still in place or had the contents gotten jumbled in transit?  Was everything that was supposed to be in the package included?

Don’t let the coy thing play out too far: Teaser campaigns can be a lot of fun.  But, they only work if you pay off the tease pretty quickly.  Odds are you’ve invested a fair amount of money in this campaign.  So don’t waste it by not being clear about who it’s from and what should happen next.

So let’s go back and grade our two examples.  The beer basin was addressed correctly, but that’s the only Do it got right.  There was no message included in the box.  I have no idea who it was from or what they wanted me to do next.  Which is a real shame, because I am sure it cost a pretty penny.

On the Don’t list — obviously the coy thing, if the anonymity was intentional, was played out way too long.  It’s been a couple weeks and I still haven’t heard another word.  Which also means, at this point, it’s a one and done.  So while it was an awesome mailing — memorable and something I will remember, it didn’t do much from a direct mail point of view.

On the flip side, the simple trash can mailing, which was clearly less expensive and a little more home grown, got all of the Do’s and Don’ts right.  The message and next steps were very clear.  I’ve already received an e-mail follow up and the mailing came through with everything in place.

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to create an effective 3-D mailing campaign.  Far better to do it simply but well.  (And if you send me the beer — please let me know so I can say thank you!)

How about you — what’s the most memorable 3-D direct mail piece you ever received?

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Visual creativity

March 2, 2011

Last week, we talked about how we keep our brains firing and stay creative.  Many people offered the tip of reading and absorbing other people’s smart work.  That goes for design work as well — whether you are a writer or artist.

One of the best examples of outdoor creative is this brilliant outdoor campaign. Along the “outdoor” theme…here are some very clever and compelling visuals applied to public spaces/buildings.

Spark any ideas?

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Coop’s Paints/Nationwide Insurance
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AllState Insurance
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Anando Milk

If you enjoyed these…check out all 20 of them by clicking here.

Hat tip to Mike Colwell for sharing this link with me.

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5 ways to stay creative

February 25, 2011

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How do you stay creative?

You write.  You design.  And most likely, you do it on command.  There’s no waiting for a muse.  You have a deadline.

As we talk more and more about content marketing and the power of using our expertise to impact search engines and woo potential clients — we have to write even more!

So how do you stay fresh?  How do you create when you don’t feel particularly creative?  I’m going to share a few of my favorite techniques but I am hoping you’ll jump into the comments section with your own tricks of the trade.

Read: I try to keep my brain well fed.  I read/skim about 100 different blogs a day, try to read a book a week and check out several newspaper websites every day.  Surprisingly, this doesn’t take as long as it sounds — my iPad has apps that collect and coordinate it all so I just have to quickly flip through and see what catches my eye. (I read these smart people, you should too!)

Write/Design every day: I try to stay limber by never putting down my proverbial pencil.  Sometimes I am at it for hours and other days, maybe only 30 minutes.  Even if it’s just answering e-mails to friends — I rarely take a day off.

Tunes: There’s something about music that fuels me.  It’s an energy that I can channel into my writing.  I’ve discovered that I turn to different styles of music depending on what I’m writing and if I need a boost or need help staying focused.

Fresh air: When I am really stuck, I head outside.  (Unless it’s ugly hot) The crispness of the air and just stopping to close my eyes and inhale deeply refreshes and calms me when I’m feeling jittery about a deadline or am stuck in some way.

Partake in witty banter: One of the best parts of the Internet for me is that there are playmates available 24/7.  I can hop on Twitter or Facebook and find someone smart to chat with.  Smart people bring out the best in my thinking, writing and outlook.

Your turn.  How do you stay creative on demand?

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Learn why we unthink

February 9, 2011

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When I finished reading the galley for Harry Beckwith’s latest book, Unthinking, I shot him an e-mail that said:

“Unthinking is a fantastic read.  Your other books gave readers the what and sometimes the how — this book provides the why.  It’s a perfect companion to your earlier works.  What I love most about it is that you follow your own advice — you delight and surprise readers from beginning to end.  Storytelling at it’s best!”

As you know, Harry Beckwith is a part of my trifecta of the best business writers I’ve ever read (along with Steve Farber & Joe Calloway) and his new book may be his best.  In it, he explores how our mind and experiences “play tricks” on our buying decisions.

Through his brilliant, understated storytelling, Harry shows us what’s behind our consumer behavior and…of course as marketers, how we can use those insights to better connect with and serve our customers.  Here are some examples of the stories/lessons you’ll enjoy.

  • What do Howard Hughes and 50 Cent have in common, and what do they tell us about Americans and our desires?
  • Why did Sean Connery stop wearing a toupee, and what does this tell us about American customers for any product?
  • What one thing did the Beatles, Malcolm Gladwell and Nike all notice about Americans that helped them win us over?
  • Which uniquely American traits may explain the plights of Krispy Kreme, Ford, and GM, and the risks faced by Starbuck’s?
  • Why, after every other plea failed, did “Click It or Ticket” get people to buy the idea of fastening their seat belts?

Harry would argue that the answers to these questions can be found in our childhood, our culture and from our eye’s view.  Drawing from dozens of disciplines, always enlightening Harry Beckwith answers these questions with some surprising, even startling, truths and discoveries about what motivates us.

This is really a must read for anyone who deals with customers. (As are all of his earlier works if you haven’t already read them).  Buy it by clicking here.  (Amazon affiliate link)

You can also enjoy Harry’s foray into blogging at Psychology Today.

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How much should I spend on marketing?

October 11, 2007

Budget This is probably one of the most asked questions of marketing agencies and consultants.  If you google the phrase, there are almost 17 million results.  Guess it’s on peoples’ minds, eh?

I think one of the reasons why it’s on everyone’s mind is because there is no magic answer.  Before we get into the methods of determining a right answer, let’s be very clear about these two points:

The exact amount matters less than having an amount.  In other words, having and tracking a marketing budget, even if your initial number is off, is much more important than getting the number exactly right.

You can have the right budget and spend it on the wrong things.  A marketing plan should always be tied to a strategic marketing budget.

Now, let’s tackle the question.  Here are some of the more effective ways to set a marketing budget:

Percentage of gross sales/revenue:

This is probably the simplest method.  Most experts recommend somewhere in the range of 2-8% of gross sales.  McKinsey & Company is often quoted at 5%.

Most small businesses (less than $5 million gross revenue) should shoot for at least 7-8%.


Many industries have their own standard.  For example:

  • Consumer package goods:  Up to 50% of projected net sales to launch a new product
  • Industrial B-to-B:  1% of gross sales
  • Retail:  4-10% of net revenues
  • Banks/Credit Unions:  2-5% of assets
  • Law firms:  1-4% of gross revenues
  • Pharmaceuticals:  Up to 20% of net sales
  • Hospitals:  1% of net revenues

Lifetime value of customer:

The idea is simple.  You identify how much profit (on average) you make during the lifetime of that customer relationship and determine how much you are willing to invest per customer acquisition.  If you choose this method be very careful that your numbers are accurate.

Goals/Plan driven:

The thinking behind this method is really a blend of some of the others.  Identify measurable goals (# of new clients, % of revenue increase, etc) and then determine your sales equation.

For example:  For every 100 prospects approached, you get 25 initial meetings.  From those 25 meetings, you can expect to get 12 invitations to present a proposal.  From 12 proposals, you will score 4 new clients.  If your goal is 20 new clients, you now know that you need to approach 500 qualified prospects.  You build your marketing plan to accomplish that and assign the costs accordingly.

Again, this method requires very accurate numbers to make the equations viable.

So what do you think?  Which method do you currently use?  If you don’t have a marketing budget, which method do you think would serve you best?

kick it on Iowa Newz

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