Depending on a Little Drama
When M. Lee Smith Publishers decided to test a one-shot mailing effort against its standard forced free trial program (FFT)an effort of up to eight mailings to a single prospect over several monthsit believed a dramatic approach was the way to go. By this we mean that the Brentwood, TN-based company sent a 9" x 12" envelope printed wall-to-wall on the front with an arresting image of a human resources professional distressed over discovering that her employer was being "slammed with $650,000 in damages .... because she failed to take one simple HR step." The mailing's objective was to increase the paid subscriber base to the Pennsylvania Law Letter.
"We wanted to see if we could generate better revenue to cost ratios with a single package," says Pete McPherson, Internet and creative services marketing manager, M. Lee Smith Publishers. Because he had some list rental sources that would not allow FFT marketing, he had to take a step back and develop a one-shot campaign. "Something we haven't done for outside lists in a while," he says.
The dramatic effect was considered necessary since Smith's target market is inundated with offers for seminars, software, etc. "This image is one that HR professionals can relate to," says McPherson. "Even if a company has never been sued for an employment law violation, or perceived violation, the risk is always there ... we live in a very litigious age."
Inside the mailing, potential subscribers find a letter, order form, brochure including testimonials, business reply envelope, green HR Hero Line sign-up card (which is Smith's weekly e-zine) and sample newsletter (250PEEMll1102).
As for why a sample newsletter was included, McPherson says it was because it is very cost effective. "For example, we publish an eight-page monthly for HR professionals in Ohio, and we partner with Ohio attorneys to write it. We found that those professionals can quickly see that the newsletter is targeted to their concerns, issues and jobs," he explains. Another reason for the sample newsletter is that it offers exposure to law firms writing the newsletters. "Most states have rules governing the type of marketing attorneys can use to expand their client base. By providing a sample issue, we get firms' names in front of thousands of potential clients, which is way beyond the paid subscriber base."
What kind of results has M. Lee Smith experienced from this mailer? According to McPherson it's a little too early to tell. "We're still getting orders in and haven't started the post-mortem, but so far it looks pretty good ... not great," he concedes.
Regardless of the outcome, McPherson is confident Smith would do a similar mailing again. "We'll always use a mixture of direct mail pieces to sell new subscriptions. The FFT campaigns cost between $4 and $6 per prospect, and we mail to many prospects," he says. "Alternatively, we will wrap a marketing piece around a sample issue and mail it flat, and sometimes we'll mail the 9" x 12"s.
We are fortunate in that we have a state- of-the-art printing and mailing operation in-house, making our mailing options greater."