Reinforcing Your Value with Postcards

May 19, 2010

Last month I had professional headshots taken at diSogno Photography for use on my website, in membership directories and for bylined articles.

This week I received a postcard from the photographer. He used my images as the art on the face and included a thank you on the back. This was a fantastic use of the medium and the properties he had.

Placing my photo on the card immediately captured my attention and made me read it but using the image he had created further reinforced his value and our relationship.

He actually used SendOutCards for production, which doesn’t work for all but proved to be a great platform for his purpose.

This approach could easily be transferred to any business who creates images for their client — graphic designer, illustrator, even architects or perhaps a dentist or orthodontist to who takes before and after glamour shots.


Miscalculating the ROI of Social Media

May 7, 2010

In Ed Schipul’s Personal Brand Era presentation to the PRSA Georgia crowd yesterday, he cited stats about the of success of small business owner Gary V’s venture into social media marketing as highlighted in popular Social Media ROI: Socialnomics video. The issue I discussed with Schipul afterwards is how the example perpetuates the idea that social media is free. Here’s the mathematical flaw:

$15,000 in Direct Mail = 200 new customers

$7500 for a billboard = 300 new customers

$0 on Twitter = 1800 new customers

Wow! Who wouldn’t jump to twitter with that math? But we have to recalculate the costs here to find the dose of reality.

While $15,000 probably includes design, production, list rental and postage not to mention possible test marketing efforts, it is still a lot, especially if the value of a new client is only $25/each. 

$7500 for a billboard could be a one month rental in a prime area or design, skins and a multi-month rental in a lower rent market (I currently have a client spending just $500/mo for a board in a suburban market). New customer value at that same $25 and you’re breaking even.

1800 new customers with no cost? 18000 of those $25 clients is a fabulous return. But wait a minute.

How did you get the content on twitter? Who wrote it? How many tweets were involved? What did you tweet? Where did your tweets send them? To a website where you had to develop content? Who recorded or wrote that content? What was the cost of the person monitoring your tweets or tweetdeck? What was the cost of the developer creating landing pages for your tweets? And for the copywriter writing your content?

The idea that social media is free is a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors proposal. Social Media has great potential to promote your company, especially with the right offer and to the right audience. But don’t kid yourself into thinking it is free. Budget and plan for it accordingly and you will reap far greater ROI than if you treat it as a “free” medium. And remember, sometimes direct mail and outdoor still have a place in your mix.


When Direct Mail Can Still be More Effective than Email

January 22, 2010

The WSJ made an excellent point in a piece posted last week about the continued importance of direct mail in the marketing mix of the average small business owner. The article goes on to cite examples of real small businesses who after briefly succumbing to the lure of saving money by cutting their partnership with the USPS, quickly re-instated their previously successful direct mail campaign.

Email sounds great on paper but for most small business, email lists are still an obstacle. They don’t have them and can’t afford to rent them or they can’t find one that matches their target demographics. But they’ve bought into the idea that dmail and postage is too expensive when email is cheap (or free) and so they reign in their dmail budget and do little or nothing in the email space.

Direct mail still deserves a place in your marketing plan though perhaps with a smaller part of your budget.

Gone are the days when dropping generic letters or cards to thousands of rented names each month makes sense. In their place small biz marketers are finding that customized communications to a smaller and more targeted list are not only more effective but can help them stand out. Don’t get discouraged because you don’t read “junk mail.” You are not your client and if your communication looks like junk, then you’re doing it wrong.

A personalized package with customized info sent priority mail to your target will stand out. A hand written note on company notecards will get their attention. A humorous postcard with an exaggerated graphic may be just the reminder they need to keep your name and your business top of mind. Complement the sales calls, emails and other tools in your marketing mix with a good dmail piece and reap the rewards ignored by your thrifty competitors.


Respecting the Opt Out List

August 31, 2009

In honor of the death of John Jay Daly, former president of the Direct Marketing Association and  founder of the program that allows consumers to opt out of direct mail marketing campaigns, I thought it be valuable to revisit the topic of email and direct mail marketing preferences.

The most prevalent misinformation about e-mailing lists is that they are readily available and cheap. When businesses started abandoning dmail in favor of email, most of them argued that it would be much cheaper and wondered why anyone would still rely on the USPS. Aside from an entire sideline conversation about the way consumers like to receive their communications, the important point to make here was that because of list compilation guidelines and user preference obligations established by the US CAN SPAM legislation, email lists are not easily available and certainly aren’t cheap.

The direct marketing industry learned long ago that it had to respect the rights of recipients and that is when the opt-out programs began. You may not notice but at the bottom or on the back of nearly every direct mail solicitation you receive from a major firm is an option to Opt-Out of future mailings. You can do this by mailing a request to the address provided. You can thank John Jay Daly for this.

Fast forward 35 years and you find the DMA wrestling with the same privacy issues and email. With that discussion along came CAN SPAM legislation. But the Email rules are much tougher, requiring that recipients OPT IN the first time and that mailers provide an Opt Out method every time. It is precisely these rules that make high quality, reliable email marketing lists tough to come by and expensive to mail. This isn’t to say that they aren’t available. You can rent them but you can’t bank the records. And it doesn’t work like direct mail programs where you license the list and it is delivered to your bonded mail house. With rental email lists, the list stays with the list owner and you pay not only for the use of the list but to have them deliver your communications to the list they own.

Suddenly, email marketing isn’t necessarily cheaper than direct mail marketing.

As frustrating as this may be to marketers, it isn’t entirely a bad thing. Think of it like the no soliciting sign in businesses or perhaps in your neighborhood. By giving notice to vendors that you aren’t interested in their solicitations should save them $$ (assuming they read).

As professional marketers we see this as a way to deliver much more targeted messages only to those people who are truly interested, thereby increasing the deliverability of our marketing programs and ultimately the ROI (fewer mailed pieces, even at a higher per piece cost, are much more valuable if we reach more prospects and have less waste).


Make Marketing More Affordable with These Cost-Cutting Ideas

March 6, 2009

Yesterday I overheard the 6AM broadcaster on NPR talking about what the venture capitalists would be looking for at the business show going on in San Francisco this week. The point he drove home, no big surprise, was that strategist who were coming up with ways to businesses do more with less would be the ones most likely to get funded. This is a common mantra among many service providers, especially among those in the IT industry. But if you had to actually detail HOW you help your clients do more with less, could you do it? Take 5 minutes and come up with 3 ideas. Now what do you get?

This is a conversation we have regularly with clients, in our efforts to help them figure out how to get more from their marketing budget. Our answer typically revolves around looking for as many possible different ways to re-purpose content so that the cost of a single project is spread out over multiple deliverables. Here’s my list:

1. Press Releases used to be just for press but the truth is that your customers, partners and investors want to read them, too. After you pitch a release and put on the wire, don’t forget to place it on your website. Next consider linking to it from your monthly newsletter. Print out a few copies and place them on the receptionist desk (if you have foot traffic in your office), print out a few more copies and hand them to sales reps (if they are likely to become foot traffic someplace else) then consider emailing a copy to the prospect you spoke with yesterday, the guy who won’t take your call and your banker (it is always good to elevate your self-worth with your banker).

2. Don’t limit the recipients of your postcard to the folks on the mailing list that you just rented. Seed your list with customers, too. Carry them in your briefcase or purse when you go to meetings this week and hand them out INSTEAD OF business cards. Get a PDF version of the card and share with your sales force. Show them how to add it as a thumbnail to their autosignature.

3. Newsletters should live all month long. Whether you email them or direct mail them, don’t assume that because we’ve passed the first of the month that they are no longer newsworthy. Keep hard copies in an acrylic display in your conference room. Add the current issue to your press kit. Upload the articles individually to your on-line knowledgebase. Post them in an archive to your on-line newsroom.

More ideas coming later. It’s lunch time now so I’m going to practice these ideas on the folks at my lunch meeting.


Improving the Response Rate on Direct Mail Campaigns

January 10, 2009

The nuerosciencemarketing blog among others are very excited about the results of a marketing effort documented in Robert Cialdini’s Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.  The point of the study was that personalization works. To test their theory, a survey was mailed under the cover of three separate letters:

1) A laser personalized printed letter.
2) A laser personalized printed letter with a handwritten message written in the margin, at top or bottom.
3) A laser persoanlized printed letter with a handwritten message written on a Post-It note that was attached to the letter.

So which configuration would compel you most to complete the survey? I bet you’re not surprised to find that: Read the rest of this entry »


Death of Me or the Tri-Fold Brochure

May 21, 2008

It happened again. I got another call about a tri-fold brochure. Wasn’t her fault. She told me that her printer recommended it. Darn that printer. He should know better.

Unless you absolutely have to have something to mail in a #10 envelope or need something that fits into an acrylic display next to your register or in your trade show booth, I can’t conceive of any good reason to ever make a tri-fold brochure.

They are unattractive, difficult to design for and confusing for prospects to read. Read the rest of this entry »