Do You Really Want $25 Worth of Salt?
Home Depot has partnered with GE and Cargill salt to promote a home water-softening system ($734 uninstalled).
A very simple, four-color, lead-gen self-mailer was sent out to Home Depot's customer list (390HOMDEP0902). The addressing panel urges the respondent to "Visit your local Home Depot at [address and phone number lasered here]." The teaser:
Softer water starts with the FREE test strip inside.
The back panel teaser is simple and bold:
Get whiter towels, cleaner fixtures, spotless dishes and softer skin now at The Home Depot. Find out how inside.
What you see here is the entire insideheadline, little strip that you peel off and dunk in water. If the strip color from your water matches one of the ugly brown colors on the scale, your water is hard.
I preface this by saying that I do not pretend to judge good direct mail; good direct mail judges me. I can, however, put myself inside the head of the recipient and come up with some concepts that might be changed to make the mailing more successfulall based on the accepted, proven rules of direct marketing.
Rules that are being followed:
1. Outside teaser promising all the many benefits is strong.
2. Interactive mailings ("Use this free test strip") are involving.
3. To sell a high-ticket item ($734 installed), it is appropriate to use a two-step (lead-gen) approach.
Rules that are being broken:
1. Seattle guru Bob Hacker suggests with lead generation, "The less you tell, the more you sell." The reason: You do not want to give the prospect any reason to say no. And a $734 price in this scary economy is plenty of reason to dismiss this offer.
2. It seems to me that with a water system such as thisin which water passes through a lot of saltmany health benefits also must accrue. Presumably gook and chemicals are filtered out as well as the water being made softer. Nowhere is this mentioned. An opportunity to generate fear and salvation is lost. When my wife Peggy and I bought such a system 20 years ago, we paid $1,800; this would indicate that the Home Depot system is a good deal. If I were making this offer, I would make this point also.
3. The instructions on how to use the strip are in mousetype. In a traditional one-step offer, it is essential to tell the prospect exactly what to do to respondin large, easy-to-read type. A single line of mousetype tells the prospect what to do: "TOTAL HARDNESS: dip test strip into water sample for 3 seconds." What kind of water sample? How much water do I use? All this should be spelled out.
4. My sense is the real deal-killer is the offer of a $25 rebate for Cargill salt. Suddenly flashing through my head is the image of dealing with huge bags of salt, which is not a pretty picture. Plus it implies I will have the regular extra expense of buying salt.
5. No mention of a low monthly payment. It sounds like I have to come up with $734 cash on the barrelhead. When billed to a credit card, it might cost $30 a montha far more manageable number when people are seeing their 401k's in the tank and fearful of layoffs. To sweeten the offer, GE might offer to eat the finance charges.
6. Where the address of the local Home Depot is lasered, it would be easy to also include the names of one or two Home Depot associates the prospect could ask to speak witheither in person or on the phone to make an appointment. This would take an impersonal self-mailer and put a warm body at the other end.
In short, the purpose of a lead-gen effort is to get the prospect to pick up the phone or come in the door so a knowledgeable sales rep can close the deal. Filling a person's head with a $734 price tag and images of a hernia caused by hefting 50-pound bags of salt breaks a lot of common-sense direct marketing rules.