It's the Design, Stupid!
I used to troll for clients by running a little ad in the back of Target Marketing magazine that offered a free critique of readers' direct mail packages. In fact, I still run the thing, even though anyone that responds is probably not a client I want.
Direct mail professionals don't need my critique. They know to test and let the marketplace critique their efforts in a very real way.
But I'm fascinated to see what folks out there are doing.
When someone asks for a critique, I never say whether the piece is good or bad, or whether I like it or not. Long ago, I realized I can't judge good direct mail. It judges me.
If the mailing works—brings in orders, inquiries or donations at an acceptable cost per order—it's good direct mail. As a direct marketing journalist, my job is to find those efforts that are working and try to figure out why.
What I do in the free critique is point out where the mailing breaks accepted rules.
The Sam's Club free-standing insert (FSI) I received in my Inquirer last Thursday broke a ton of rules.
It's OK to break rules, but only if you know the rules you are breaking—and why.
The Sam's Club people obviously didn't.
My wife, Peggy, and I live in a 16-foot wide 1817 row house in Center City, Philadelphia. We don't have a lot of space, so we don't buy a lot of stuff or large quantities of food.
A number of our friends swear by Sam's Club and Costco. For example, whenever the church puts on a dinner or reception, committee members head to Costco and load up on very good food at low prices. Other friends go on joint food buying expeditions and then split up the hoard.