Database-Driven Creative Solutions (1,598 words)
Spilling the beans: How much is enough … or too much information … to do the job?
As a creative professional, it's my job to advise clients on what is the right amount of messaging for what they want to accomplish in the mail. While many clients come to me with a format in mind, I never feel the decision is absolutely final until I've asked two questions:
- What do we really need to accomplish with this effort?
- What would we like to accomplish with this effort?
The answers to these questions may dramatically alter the size of the piece and the quantity of messaging that you send your prospect.
You need to directly aim at the target and not get pulled off track with extraneous messaging that will slow down prospects' comprehension of what you're offering. On the other hand, you need to allow for enough information and that special extra touch, or the romancing of prospects, to set yourself apart from other messaging—to not only attract their attention, but woo prospects to make the purchase or respond to your offering.
This is one instance in which psychographics come into play. I call it "intelligent creative," and it's developed around your audience's wants and needs, and other psychographic conditions. It plays out in both business-to-business (B-to-B) and business-to-consumer efforts to spend just a little extra time providing your creative team with that information, rather than just stopping at demographics.
I'd like to share a few short case histories that show how reduced messaging provided breakthroughs for direct marketers.
Adaptec Easy CD Creator
Adaptec (now Roxio) sold a product for copying music from a variety of sources, such as out-of-print records, to CD. Its product was first sold using a direct mail package that was a very successful effort. However, when it was time to send an upgrade message, its problem was that the customers were happy with the software as it was, and the upgrade didn't provide many new features.
Rather than trying to repeat the success of the direct mail package, we decided to do a self-mailer and keep the message short and direct, but still grab the audience's attention. We determined that the customer who upgrades is an early adopter, who would want to have the latest and best. This concept served as the basis for the self-mailer's message.
Our messaging on the outer also was timely—we based it on the impending millennium and the ruckus in the media surrounding that, with the headline "Forget the Millennium. Forget Armageddon. Forget the Giant Asteroid. On September 1st, even the newest CD recording software will be history." We then followed up with an offer prominently displayed on the outer panels. Again, we looked to the psychographics for our offer, and developed a $10 MusicCash certificate—knowing that our customers were music enthusiasts.
Inside, the slightly oversized and colorful four-panel mailer broke the upgrade features into digestible chunks: brief paragraphs, big subheads, a bullet-pointed sidebar, and a features chart—so that in a glance, prospects would see what was in it for them.
The response far exceeded our expectations—20 percent—particularly since prior research told us that more customers would have followed the lead to the store to make a purchase, even without the offer.
The key to the success of this self-mailer, we believe, is that we didn't try to re-sell the audience on the software they love already. Instead we grabbed them with a bit of market- and time-appropriate humor, plus a fun offer that was in proportion to the $79 price of the product, and told them just enough to get them moving.
The Wayfarer's Walking Experiences
When a company has a product that is visual and experiential, such as travel, it's hard to limit what is mailed to prospects in terms of pictures and messaging. But again, prospects who may purchase a walking tour are busy folks by and large, with money to spend when they take time off.
The Wayfarers recently had moved to the U.S. market after successfully selling in Europe for many years. Its key prospecting tool was its catalog. However, the catalog was proving to be a pricey lead-generator, and the client was seeking alternate ways to capture information and keep in touch with its prospects (who may be making a purchase in years to come, but not necessarily in the year they receive the lead-generating promotion).
Being an avid traveler myself, I'm on some lists for tours and travel experiences, and had a good idea of what we were facing on the home front. When I received simple postcards from travel groups, I didn't see enough to move me into action for that travel experience. So following a bit more research, we suggested a more complex self-mailer.
The brand/look of the existing catalog was on target for our audience, so our self-mailer—a roll fold—didn't sell specific tours or try to be a mini-catalog. Instead it described The Wayfarers experience by breaking it down into the elements the targeted traveler treasures: gentle adventure, pampering, excellent accommodations and cuisine, new friendships, individual care, and memorable experiences.
We enclosed a tipped-on reply card, so prospects could keep the brochure without destroying it, either when they responded to the offer or passed along the effort to a friend. It's important to note that this market saves promotional materials for future travel planning.
And reply they did—at an astonishing rate, even to cold lists. We not only captured information as they responded, but we discovered people who were ready to tour that very season—paying for the mailer many times over. We now have a strategy to continue … to both expired names in the house list and more rented lists.
Brevity was the key to the success of this mailer. Where the catalog contained too much information, the self-mailer wooed prospects by showing them the destinations in glorious color. We romanced prospects with messaging that virtually had them walking with companions in the hills of Tuscany, but we didn't try to sell them specifics in this contact.
Lead generation in a high-tech environment is often a challenge, because the level of technical information is extraordinary for many of these products. Even in other B-to-B direct mail efforts, it's tempting for the product managers to try to tell the whole story in the first contact.
Here are some dangers lurking in that approach:
- You'll tell too much, which may result in readers putting off dealing with your mailing until they have more time.
- The more you tell, the more technically perfect it has to be, and rarely is a terrific copywriter also highly proficient in technical detail. Readers look over the information and select 'no' when they see something technical that isn't quite right.
On the other hand, if this is an effort to generate leads that could turn into sales worth thousands of dollars, your prospect will need to know a good deal of detail. That's why the seminar mailing is the best friend to the B-to-B marketer with high-end products and services. Seminars, such as the one developed by software company Informatica, are a terrific way to create an instant-learning environment and generate conversation about your product that will lead to sales.
From a creative standpoint, we had a bigger challenge. We needed to convey the event as exciting and useful.
While we were short on psychographic data, we interviewed our client about the expectations people would have going to this seminar. Then we accessed some photos of our main speaker, a dynamic fellow with a reputation for breakthrough ideas. This gave us the visual tools to create a mailing that stood out in our prospects' mailboxes.
The messaging outside and inside was relatively brief, not too technical, and concentrated on what matters to the recipient—performance, better decision making, integrated strategic measurement, etc. These hot-button words for this industry were just what the prospects needed to say yes to this seminar. The response was so high, Informatica took the show on the road and produced three more in different locales. And the leads who attend the seminar are converting solidly into big sales for Informatica.
The keys to the success of this self-mailer that high-tech marketers can apply to their efforts:
- set your sights on how and when to start the more technical conversation;
- empathize with recipients and their perception of a seminar, i.e, showing it to have a dynamic speaker;
- limit messaging to the seminar and what prospects will get out of it, rather than trying to sell the product in the mailer; and
- learn the hot buttons and liberally use them in the mailer to continue enrolling prospects into attending.
As a final word, in all cases, the reply forms were faxable as well as mailable, and there was a toll-free number and a Web site landing page. The reply forms were simple and did not ask more than a few questions, to keep it easy to respond. This is also an essential part of the chemistry of a mailer to a busy audience.
So, now I invite you look at your own mailings—in particular, your lead generation and upgrades to existing relationships—and think about how less information might provide more of an opening for conversation with your prospect.
Carol Worthington Levy is a founder and creative director of MarketingBank in San Jose, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her Web sites: www.marketing-bank.com and www.worthington-levy.com.