One sentence can make or break a campaign

As we’ve discussed before, I still believe that well written direct mail works when it is done properly because I see the results. While much of it is “junk”, there are folks out there producing high-producing mail pieces. What do I mean by “high-producing”? I mean mail that survives a trip from the PO Box or the mail box to the kitchen table, then gets opened, then gets read, then prompts the recipient to take action.

If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, fix it, or stop doing it unless you’re willing to fix it. Many have taken the second option, believing that it no longer works.

Each of those steps must be successful for a piece to be high-producing. Otherwise, the piece gets tossed at the post office, or on the way home, or on the way from the street-side mailbox to the house, and so on. Even if it does make it to the kitchen table, it has to meet the smell test to get opened, and then again to get read and so on.

About that one sentence

That one sentence occurs in your mail piece multiple times. Anything that appears on the face of a mail piece can be the one sentence that either provokes someone to keep the mail or toss it. This same cycle occurs for the face of the mail piece, the back of the envelope, the headline and salutation on the letter inside, and every sentence thereafter.

Too many mail pieces (and emails) ignore this simple progression. It’s a conversation. If you’re standing in front of someone talking with them to both understand what their needs are and help them understand how you can help them, you’re doing the same thing. If you say something that breaks the trust you’re building with the prospect / client you’re speaking with, the conversation is effectively over – which is the equivalent of your mail piece going into the trash.

Remember, your email or your mail piece is no more than a proxy for you standing there. It needs to be in your voice, while reflecting your perspective and expertise. I find that reading these things aloud before sending helps me write them in my voice. When I read something written in a way that doesn’t sound like my voice, it feels terribly obvious as soon as I say it out loud.

Do your emails sound like your voice? Do the things you put in the mail sound like your voice? Sounding like you, i.e.: using the words and sentence structure you use is the easy part. It’s crucial to convey your message with your personal credibility and desire to help the client. Perfect it one sentence at a time.

What about the one sentence that can break it?

There’s always a risk that a mail piece will go down in flames at any point between the PO Box / mailbox and the kitchen table. The aforementioned smell test isn’t a one time thing – it has to be passed at every step of the way.

The one sentence that can break it and make all the effort and expense of sending that piece is the one that destroys your credibility.

I received a letter like this last week. Someone tried to be clever on the face of the envelope and trick the reader into opening the envelope. While it probably worked on some people, it will destroy the credibility of the sender with many other readers. At best, that piece will go straight to the trash, which is how I handled it. With others, it could create some blowback to the organization who mailed it. With some, it could make that organization all but dead to the reader.

You obviously don’t want any of these things to happen. It may seem like a waste to spend a couple of paragraphs to remind you of this possibility, and I simply do so to make it clear that every step in the process of reviewing, opening and reading the mail is an opportunity to both provoke interest and lose it.

These same challenges affect your email pieces, blog posts and any other materials you place in front of clients. In fact, the same can be said for a face to face conversation you have with a client or prospect.

A Letter from Georgia

We almost didn’t open it, thinking it was junk mail.

Why would the University of Georgia send us mail way out here in Montana?

We aren’t alumni. Our kids don’t go there, nor do we have prospective students considering the school.

The letter was addressed to “The Riffey Family” (printed, not hand-addressed), which may have subconsciously given it a chance it normally wouldn’t have received.

The postage applied was pre-sorted metering like that from a postage machine. Result: It looked like any other junk mail with the exception of the “family” thing.

The letter made it home from the Post Office only because I thought it might be something related to my wife’s doctoral studies, even though she had never mentioned UGA to me.

Blondie

Months ago, we had to put Blondie (our 11 year old Golden Retriever mix) to sleep.

She was suffering from painful arthritis and surgery to repair tendons hadn’t helped her escape a life that had become much like walking on broken glass. Our oldest son came home for the weekend because he wanted to be with her. They hadn’t even charged us for the euthanasia, probably because we’d spent so much on Blondie’s care with them.

The letter was about Blondie. It came from the development (fundraising) office at the University of Georgia Veterinary School.

A letter that almost didn’t make it home. A letter that almost didn’t get opened.

A letter said that our vet, Dr. Mark Lawson from Glacier Animal Hospital, had made a donation to the vet school in Blondie’s memory.

Think hard about your mail

Imagine if we hadn’t known that our vet had made that donation…all because the envelope carrying that notification letter looked “too junky”.

Think hard about your mail.

It does no good to spend time and money sending mail if it never makes it home from the post office. It isn’t just about paper costs, printing, postage costs and the speed of slapping on pre-printed labels.

Everything ON the envelope requires thought because someone, somewhere HAS to decide to open it…and if they don’t, you just wasted time, money and an opportunity. Perhaps more.

Everything IN the envelope requires thought. You might have one shot to make an impression and/or provoke an action.

If you don’t send mail to people, keep in mind that the same considerations apply to anything else you put in front of customers and prospects. If it looks like junk, it might get treated that way.

P.S.

Would you take your dogs anywhere else? What a nice gesture. Wow.

Learn, unlearn, relearn.

Chameleon's eye
Creative Commons License photo credit: kaibara87

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” â?? Alvin Toffler

Are you doing the same things in the same ways that you did when *everything* worked?

If so, is that still working for you? If it is, great.

If it isn’t, you can be stubborn and wait out the marketplace to see if things come back to those Business-Can-Do-No-Wrong days of the “mid-noughts”.

You could also be stubborn and blame the whole thing on your state government and/or Washington. If you do, I’ve no doubt that you also gave them full credit for the unbridled business growth you had in 2005-2007.

Or, you could take things into your own hands to the extent that you can.

In Your Hands

For example, if you run a medical facility like an eye clinic or a dental office whose lower tier/checkup services are paid for via insurance and you have patients whose records indicate their services are insured, do you send them a reminder postcard on the anniversary of their last insured service?

I’ll bet many of you do. The postcard probably says something like “Your annual appointment is due. Call us.”

How’s the response to that postcard?

If it isn’t so hot, have you tried different cards to different people?

Don’t feel bad if you do. Learn, unlearn, relearn – remember?

Message to market match

If you send different cards to different demographic groups (such as single, male, female, married, older, younger, etc), you’re doing what direct marketers call “message to market match”.

Direct marketing folks gave it a name for a reason – it’s substantially more effective than “mail everyone on the planet the exact same postcard”.

That means that your message to a particular group of people is customized for them. Their needs. Their wants. Their view of the world, generally speaking.

Do you send the same card to single men, single women, married couples in their 30s, retired couples, “middle aged” couples with kids, single moms, etc?

A single man might see a “Time for your annual appointment” card with a couple of kids and a dog on it and just pitch it.

Likewise, a married couple in their thirties might see a card with a white-haired couple on it and do the same.

Return on Investment

You might wonder if this is worth the effort.

Here’s how you can test it without spending a ton of money.

Go back and look at last month’s (or last quarter’s) postcard mailings. I’m assuming you can figure out who you mailed since you mailed them in the first place.

The next time you mail that group of people, send half of the female clients a postcard that is designed for a woman.

You can decide what that means in your market, but I don’t mean “Just make it pink with flowers.”

Send the other half of the women your standard card.

Measure the performance of each card.

Over time, continue to do any of those things that produce a better response than what you were used to. As response and ROI improves, keep testing two versions of your cards and see how they work.

The one that’s currently producing the best results is called the “control”.  Keep trying to beat it.

This strategy can be applied to your phone scripts, your emails, your Facebook page, your tweets on Twitter, your Yellow Pages ad, your newspaper / radio / TV ads and so on.

Insurance-paid services aren’t a requirement to do this sort of thing. I’ve yet to see a business that can’t benefit from this and do so without being annoying to their clientele.

Make it happen

I don’t remember who originally said this, but someone once said “There are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.”

Relearning how to make the phone ring is no one’s responsibility but yours. I think that’s a good thing.

Be the one who makes things happen. It has a way of keeping you from being the one who wonders what happened.

Work *this* hard

In her continuing quest for transparency (among other things), Hildy asked for examples of emails that had produced tangible fundraising results.

She didn’t get much.

In fact, I don’t think she got any with proven results.

This all started a few weeks ago when she asked about doing a traditional year end fundraising campaign. Hildy and I have known each other for a long while, and she asked me to lay it on the line, which I did here.

An excerpt of my response to her request:

People spend a ton of time crafting direct mail (as they should) but seems like they spend almost no time crafting email to the same person. The cost-to-send isnt the issue, regardless of the media.

What would be in an email youâ??d like to get? What would make YOU stop what you are doing right now and write a big check? Or for that matter, a small check?

What would make you forward a fundraising email to your daughter, your business partner or myself?

The real point of this has little to do with Hildy’s request…and everything to do with your attempts to grow your business.

Do you have exactly what they want? Exactly what they need?

For fans of whatever you sell, whatever you do…is what you offer so perfect for the expert (or enthusiast) that they’d tell their fellow experts / enthusiasts about what you do or sell?

If not…why is that?

That’s how hard you need to be working these days.

Without customers, there ain’t no business, Joe.

pancakebunny06Since January 2005, I’ve been spent a lot of time explaining how Business is Personal.

When I started this journey way back then, I named the blog “Pancake Bunny“.

I called it that as a result of a customer service interaction where a company’s CEO told a customer that their message made no sense and then included the pancake bunny in their reply (click here to see the original pancake bunny).

It struck me that I had work to do.

Not solely because of the bunny remark, but because of a pervasive antagonistic attitude toward customers – especially by many in tech-related industries (remember, Ive been in the software biz since 1982).

Nine Hundred Eighty Five

Nine hundred and eighty four times I have posted here in order to teach this one important lesson. This one is number 985.

I’ve shared little anecdotes here and there, stories, admonitions, an occasional rant or two – whatever it takes to make you and your staff attract, sell, talk to, think about and work with your customers as if they are real people.

Like your grandma. Imagine that.

That lady you were snarky with on the phone this morning is probably someone’s grandma, or mom or something. Would you talk that way if she were in front of you? Hopefully you aren’t the snarky one in the first place and that was intended for someone else cuz you’d never do that.

Progress

I know that in many cases I am preaching to the choir, but I also know that many people have related personally to a story here and it has changed their business. They have finally seen how treating their clientele like a friend, a partner, a family member – changes their business.

Others have finally figured out that hiding from their customers, treating them poorly (if they treat them at all) and thinking “Damn, if those customers didn’t keep interrupting me I’d get some REAL work done” is not how business is done.

Instead, it’s how your “Dear Valued Customer” becomes someone else’s.

If you haven’t gotten that yet, today might be your lucky day.

Enter Mister Butts

Earlier today I got an email from a Twitter acquaintance named Rick Butts. He’s one of those internet marketer types (and he just winced when he read that – sorry Rick).

EXCEPT, he isn’t like many of them. He’s a regular guy who gets the Business is Personal thing.

If after reading Rick’s email, you don’t understand why you simply have to treat someone who is viewing your blog, your newsletter, walking into your store, calling you on the phone, or tweeting you *like your grandmother*, then I suggest going back to post #1 and read a few posts a day.

I can’t help but think it’ll help.

Here’s Rick’s email. Enjoy.

I Am Joeâ??s Email List – An Open Letter To Internet Marketers

Hi,

I am Joeâ??s email list.

Joe calls me his list, his peeps, and sometimes just â??the list.â?

But, I am not a list, really, I am not a crowd, or an audience. I am not â??everyone out thereâ? as they teach new broadcasters to say.

I am me.

One single person with hopes, dreams, stresses and fears.

In many ways I am just like you – the way you describe yourself in your hungry years before you went to that life changing event, read the book, and started making money online.

I get email from you Joe.

I canâ??t remember for sure, but I think I â??joinedâ? one day when you offered a free report or video and I had to put my email address in – and confirm – in order to see it.

In my inbox, Joe, your email looks just like the personal emails I get from my daughter or son, and sometimes, sadly, from my ex.

Now that youâ??ve been sending me email – as well as some of your â??good friendsâ? – I have begun to be able to see in a glance that they are just offers, sometimes disguised as important messages, sometimes blatantly, not.

Whenever I see the word â??thisâ? in your subject lines, like – â??this wonâ??t last longâ? – or â??have you seen this?â? I know itâ??s an offer.

Since the Product Launch Formula I and especially II – Iâ??m amazed at how many times per month I am literally inundated with emails from so many people all about the same exciting product.

They arrive over multiple days, culminating in a bonus orgy that is just overwhelming.

I read a clever post in a forum once, that â??the bonuses are so comprehensive, it makes me wonder what is covered in the course, that is not already covered in the bonuses!â?

That made me laugh.

Iâ??m writing you today, to share something important about myself – and I hope youâ??ll take the time to consider my feelings, ok?

I have to get off of some of these lists.

The volume of email and the distraction of chasing the offers is just crippling my time, my focus, and my ability to get things done.

When Rick Butts asked his readers to consider unsubscribing from the people who sent you Stompernet Launch offers IF they had not provided any useful content in the last month – he really got me thinking.

Then Ed Dale made a video saying, basically, that no one is holding a gun to your head and that if you wanted to stop getting offers – stop bitching – and just unsubscribe.

But hereâ??s the deal. Iâ??d LIKE to learn from you Joe – and to be able to know that being on â??your listâ? is valuable to me, my business, and my future.

So, please donâ??t think me a big whiner, Iâ??m a customer, and hereâ??s what I respectfully request:

1. Slow down the frequency of mailing to me, Joe.

Do not email me every day – thatâ??s just way too much now.

2. Donâ??t mail me offers all the time.

Iâ??m reading a lot more RSS feeds from bloggers who are putting out great content. If you are using Feedburner or Feedblitz or Aweberâ??s blog notification service that mails me when you update your blog – then, cool. Iâ??m good with that.

3. If you do mail me an offer PLEASE donâ??t cut and paste the pre-written one from the creator of the product.

Do you know how stupid that makes you look to me? And, how insulting it is to get them from multiple people?

4. Try giving me some TRUTHINESS in your communiques to me.

If you are really making money in the non-marketing-to-Internet-marketers, then tell me some useful tips that are working for you. No, you donâ??t need to tell me your market niche but hey, every once in a while how about your show me how valuable I am to you buy sharing one of those SECRETS?

5. Show me some stuff that made less than $1,000,000.00.

Iâ??d be immensely interested in real world examples of success I can get my head around. Iâ??m never going to build a big list of â??biz-opâ? peeps and hammer them with a big JV launch. Show me how I can make $500 a week – then be able to replace my income and quit my skank job.

6. Stop bragging about your zero-gravity dives and how you are spending my money in outrageous ways.

Trust me, this is a lot more fun for you, then it is for me to read about it. You may excuse it as â??inspirationalâ? but I dontâ?? even think that works in MLM anymore. It just annoys me. A little â??high lifeâ? goes a long way and Iâ??m more impressed by how Internet marketing lets you enjoy your family.

7. Please, please, please, for the love of God, stop participating in these dreadful launches!

Let me believe you are successful enough without having to bend over and schlup me and the rest of my list mates through your embarrassing attempt to get me to â??buy from youâ? and help you win a contest.

The reason Rick Butts wrote about the 12 Biggest Whores, without naming anyone, is that we have all watched the emergence of about that many well known marketers who cross-promote each others stuff so regularly it is hard to imagine that they do anything else.

I think that gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of things that would make getting email from you valuable again – and persuade me not to unsubscribe from you forever.

Final thoughtâ?¦

The blowback from the â??unsubscribeâ? and â??launch fatigueâ? has been to accuse me and my list mates, the little people, of being whiners.

And while there is no shortage of whiners in the world, I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart – I am pleading with you to not dismiss me so easily.

What most of us really want is for you to provide us with value, treat us like a long term relationship, and we will, certainly reward you for helping us get to the next level.

Now back to check my email, I think thereâ??s a Traffic Secrets 2.0 launch today?

Sincerely,

Joe’s List

Selling Santa with postcards

Four Cowboys
Creative Commons License photo credit: anyjazz65

Last week we talked about the direct mail letter that was used to secure donations of cash, in-kind items for the auction and to attract people to attend – as well as what could have been improved in the letter.

I left a few things out of the discussion at the time, so lets get back to them.

We started with some small but focused lists and I want to discuss how those were used so that you can think about the various customer groups you have in your business.

Two of the lists we had came from the organization who was the primary recipient of our fundraising efforts. They had a list of donors and supporters as well as a list of families receiving services at the two closest locations to our town. One of the locations is in our town, the other is 14 miles away so I only used the families who were local for the mailing.

I sent the same postcard to both lists because all I really wanted from them was attendance. The donors of this organization do not need to be confused by my sending them a plea letter asking for donations on behalf of an organization they already support.

If I had done that, the natural response would have been “Why is org A asking for donations for org B when I already give to org B?” I just want them to show up, buy a ticket and bid on the auction.

The families were a different story – I could have asked them for help – but knowing the demographics of the group, I really just wanted them to buy a ticket, eat and visit with Santa. We wanted them to learn that Rotary was helping their family, not just asking them for $. The best way to make that happen was to get them to the event.

As a result, I sent the same postcard to both lists. I used Click2Mail.com, primarily because they had the turnaround time I needed, plus the price was quite good for an oversized glossy 4 color postcard.

I uploaded my PDF and address list, it cleaned them and I paid. Over and done with in short order and I didn’t even have to lick a stamp.

You might be asking why a postcard? Why didn’t I hand address *these*?

I used a postcard because it doesn’t have to be opened and my message was relatively short.

I didn’t hand address them and mail them myself because postcards are open by design. I don’t have to work to get them opened, instead I can concentrate my effort on making them effective. I couldn’t do that with the donation letter because the message needed to be longer and required a donation form.

Almost forgot… The postcards were timed to arrive within 48 hours of the event.

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/SellingSantaWithPostcards.mp3]

Help! What’s wrong with my mailing?

Yesterday we talked about the details about the envelope and letter we sent to request Brunch with Santa donations and to sell tickets.

There were (in my opinion) a lot of things right with it. BUT…what was wrong with it?

Keep in mind it is perfectly normal to find things that are wrong with a mailing you just dropped at the post office. There’s a big lesson there: We didn’t wait to mail it until it was perfect. You just can’t do that.

If you wait until your campaign is perfect, you’ll never mail it because it’ll never be perfect. It’s like waiting until the perfect time to have a baby – there’s no such thing.

That said, there is always room for improvement. Maybe there’s a better way to state it rather than “what’s wrong?” is “How can I make the envelope and the letter even better?”

Slice em and dice em

One thing that I advise customers (and readers) to do is segment your mailing. Some might look at the letter sent to chamber members and think that I did – but that really isn’t the case.

The people on this particular mailing list fall into a couple of distinct groups: blue collar services (construction, auto body, auto repair, custom logging, trucking), white collar services (attorneys, accountants, bankers, computer consultants, real estate sales, graphic artists), hospitality businesses (restaurants, caterers, hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns) and traditional retailers (clothing, food, auto parts, tires, coffee, etc).

What changes would segmentation bring?

If I broke that list down into the four segments I mentioned, it would allow me to make several important changes. I didn’t do so this year simply because of time pressure.

For blue collar service businesses: I would likely use slightly different verbiage that is more in tune with their businesses and would have made a more specific ask. Like the others below, the ask would be for items or services that are most likely to get the business a new customer. In their language, specific to their needs.

For white collar service businesses: I’d use some different verbiage, a different ask – more specific to the services they offer and keeping in mind that I want a donation that helps them get a new customer – and some slightly different psychology. Again, the language used would be in tune with these kinds of businesses.

For the hospitality businesses: Again, specific language to their business. In fact, I would likely split this group into food-related and non-food-related because of the differences in what I would like to get in donations, differences in industry language and COGS. For the food biz, I’m trying to create an opportunity for them to make an impression that brings new customers to their restaurant or catering service. That happened this year as well – I didn’t simply ask for a donation. I offered them an opportunity to promote their business with the best they could bring to the table. Positioning is important.

Other thoughts

I would like to have a bit more automation in place to deal with generating specific responses, logging auction assets and so forth. I’ll be working on that throughout 2009. While that automation will be somewhat specific to the Brunch, it is designed to work with any campaign – and with multiple media. It might become a system that you can buy.

A blue collar vs white collar mental image

Speaking of blue collar and white collar services, I’m reminded of an interesting way that Ford Automotive’s Social Media guy Scott Monty described the difference between white collar workers and blue collar workers: “people who shower *before* they go to work” and “people who shower *after* they go to work”. Paints a pretty clear picture, doesn’t it? You can follow Scott on Twitter.

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/WhatsWrongWithMyMailing.mp3]

*The* most important thing about your letter

Sad Letter
Creative Commons License photo credit: jilly~bean

Yesterday, we started a discussion about the promotion of an event here in town.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the mail pieces that went out to promote the Brunch.

Don’t worry, this series isn’t all about direct mail. We’ll also be talking about video, email, postcards, newspaper, press releases, PSAs, radio and TV.

That’s right. Every single one of those media were used to promote the event. While I didn’t use all of my arrows (with good reason), I did use just about everything in the quiver. Different types of media reach different people.

There are so many ways to consume news these days – you’d better be using every means possible to get the attention of your prospects.

Of course, you will be measuring the response from them, so you’ll know which are worth the expense IF there is an expense.

One of the most important mail pieces that went out was sent to business owners here in town (and a few in neighboring towns). I wanted to concentrate on our little town because the benefit is being received here. It makes for a tougher sale to folks from other towns unless you have a relationship with them. More on that later.

But will they open it?

The most important thing about the letter is making sure that the envelope gets opened.

If it isn’t opened, it was a waste of time and money. If it isn’t opened, the letter inside doesn’t get a chance to go to work selling the event. That’s kind of a problem:)

In rural Montana, post office boxes are the norm rather than the exception. This holds true for residential and business addresses. People stand over the trash slots at the post office and sort their mail into 2 categories: trash and probably-not-trash. You probably do the same at home if you don’t get your mail at a PO Box.

Because of this, I used several strategies to make the envelope less likely to be tossed out:

  • A real stamp was used. In fact, a Christmas stamp (the nutcracker one). It’s a little thing, but it matters. It makes the letter appear more likely to be from a real person.
  • Each envelope was hand addressed. To make it feel even more “real”, a green felt tip pen was used. Computer printed labels might work fine for people you already have a relationship with – but with no relationship, a pre-printed label is another check mark on the road to the trash bin, even more so if there’s a postal barcode.
  • Each envelope had a little Santa or snowflake sticker placed on it to the left of the address. Again, it makes it look a little more “from someone I know”, which contributes to more of them getting opened.
  • No return address was used. You really have to be careful with this one. If you already have a business relationship with the person you’re mailing, then the return address WITH your name is important. If you don’t have a relationship with them, the return address will likely become a criteria for tossing the mail, rather than keeping it.

Sweating the details inside the envelope

Inside, the letter was just one page long, printed on both sides. The letter was folded and inserted so that the front page would be seen first if the letter was opened traditionally (with the back facing the reader).

On the left side of the front page of the letter, all the board members are listed. Many are well-known in the community, thus establishing some credibility. The letter was personally addressed – not with a standard business lead in, but just with the person’s name. No business name. I’m writing to the individual.

The greeting is to the individual, not “Dear Sir” or “To whom it may (probably not) concern”. The latter two greetings aren’t even remotely personal. You want the reader to feel that you wrote the letter just for them, even if it is printed on a computer. That’s why…

The first line noted that I was only going to take 2 minutes of their time (yes, I timed it, it was just a hair over 2 minutes). I want them to know that this isn’t going to take long. I don’t want the letter set aside for later.

At the end, I hand sign the letter.

On many of them, I made a personal note at the bottom in that same green felt tip pen, usually to suggest an item for donation but sometimes just to make the letter more personal.

On the other side of the letter is a donation form that is already filled out with their contact info. I already have it in my database, why should I force them to re-write their contact info?

Remember, make it as easy as possible…

PS: A Sticky Situation

Just a little side note on the attention that is paid to the success of mail pieces: I received a letter promoting the Breakfast with Santa in Opelousas. It was closed with a 1.5″ long piece of scotch (ie:transparent) tape. I was curious if there was some testing behind the use of tape, so I asked my friend about it. It turned out to be a productivity issue. We laughed about the fact that we pay attention to silly things like that, but it illustrates the level of thought that has to go into every aspect of your marketing message.

In this case, we’re talking about a letter, but the same scrutiny is necessary for any other media.

Be sure that you’re putting this much care into the delivery of your message – and in fact, the message being sent by the delivery itself.

Tomorrow – how could this piece have been improved?

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/ImportantLetter.mp3]

Ignore those 2 posts. Direct mail is dead. RIP.

With all that direct mail talk over the last couple of posts, I can just hear the eyes rolling.

After all, direct mail is dead, right?

Perhaps in your market it is. Or, no one needs to use it because other things work better in your market, or because everyone in your market uses it poorly.

Regardless of the reason, if you’re convinced that direct mail is irrelevant – or at least no longer useful – in your market, those last couple of posts were a big waste of your time, right?

Psst…Think about them again, but replace “direct mail” with “email”. Or “face to face sales”, “telephone”, “television”.

Likewise for radio, newspaper ads and any other media you use to communicate with your clients and prospects – including Twitter, blogs, video and other social media tools.

After all, if this message wasn’t carefully crafted to be of use to you…you wouldn’t likely be here.

Each of these tools are simply another way to have or start a conversation with a person.

Never, ever forget that.

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/DirectMailIsDead.mp3]

A few exceptions for those 5 direct mail mistakes

Our discussion from a couple of days ago (yes, the last 2 days were insane!) about direct mail mistakes was far from complete. We could discuss tools, techniques, strategies and such about direct mail for days, maybe longer.

None of us have time to do that, but I do feel obligated to elaborate on the five direct mail mistakes and discuss some additional issues on these topics.

Stamps vs. Indicia

While I don’t recommend the use of indicia, if you carefully plan your use of indicia, you can get away with it.

For example, if you’ve already established a relationship with a client and you’re sending a monthly newsletter, using bulk mail indicia makes financial sense IF you’ve cleaned your list using CASS software (or a service) or if you’ve mailed to that list in the last 2-3 months using a stamp.

I recommend to clients that if they want to use bulk mail indicia, they should do so on a quarterly rotation for a monthly newsletter. IE: first month, use a stamp. In months 2 and 3, indicia will be OK as long as they are updating their list with the return/change info that comes back on returned mail from month 1.

A different type of mailing might require a different plan, so don’t assume that my newsletter mailing postage rotation schedule is perfect for every kind of mailing. It isn’t.

Deliverability is still a concern, so again, make sure that this mailing isn’t something that’s going to assure your ability to make payroll this week:)

Sending the same mail to everyone

The only exceptions to this that I can come up with are things like “Hey, I’ve sold the company and I’m moving to Costa Rica” letters. I’ll be testing this in the future:)

Measuring Response

I really can’t imagine a day when I wouldn’t mention this. Except for the Costa Rica letter. That’s one that I wouldn’t care about measuring. But…the buyer should.

Follow-up

One of the things I didn’t have room/time to mention in the 5 mistakes post that it is CRITICAL to make sure that you don’t look like a putz by sending the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th mail pieces in your mailing sequence to a person who responded to the FIRST mailing.

It sends such a message that you aren’t paying attention and that the mail isnt…personal. Put things in place so that you can avoid doing this – it’ll pay for itself in postage and printing saved, much less in aggravated clients and your reputation among them.

Response percentage vs ROI

Russ took me to task – a little bit – about my assertion that response percentages are meaningless, noting that “response rates indicate how well your campaign is working“.

It depends. If you get a 20% response, but you lose money on the campaign, did it work?

On the other hand, he noted that “All responses count, even the â??take me off your mailing listâ? requests (data that shows how to increase the quality of your mailing list!).” which I completely agree with.

All in all, we agree but from perhaps different perspectives.

First, you have to keep in mind that a mailing’s goal might not be directly financial – ie: it might not be a sales piece. In that case, your ROI is measured by asking yourself: “For this customer, did the mailing piece accomplish its goal?”

And in that case, the response percentage might prove to be of the same usefulness as the ROI.

In fact, I made that comment about response rates being meaningless in hopes that someone would challenge me on it (thanks Russ).

ROI *is* still most important, but response percentages are one of the things that you simply have to sweat. You have to test (that goes back to the measuring issue) carefully so that you can determine what improves response.

For example, you might test to see what the difference in response is between a letter with a printed, barcoded label and one with a hand-written address, for example. Assumptions are cheap. Testing is accurate.

And then there’s conversion – but that’s another whole set of discussions on its own:)

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakesPart2.mp3]