How to Make High Profits From Low-volume Mailings
Direct mail is a numbers game. We send out hundreds of thousands of letters or e-mails, but only expect a tiny percentage of prospects to respond.
One of the consequences of mailing to so many names is that we're constantly trying to cut costs. Obviously, if you can get into the mail for a nickel or dime less per package, you can save a lot of money.
This cost-cutting mind-set makes excellent sense when you're doing mass mailings, but it can absolutely kill you if you're mailing to a tiny list of important people. You see, a small mailing means you can afford to spend a lot more per piece and really make a tremendous impression.
With a budget of $2 to $15 per package you instantly can cut through the clutter and stop prospects right in their tracks. Instead of being handcuffed by standard envelope formats, you can afford to send creative three-dimensional packages that are guaranteed to get opened.
Let me give you some specific examples of how spending a bit of money on low-volume direct mail campaigns can generate fabulous results.
1. A Sybase invitation to a private breakfast briefing.
Back in the mid 1990s, when Sybase wanted to tell important prospects about the advantages of client/server computing, they decided to hold a series of small breakfast sessions.
At these by-invitation-only meetings, knowledgeable speakers would make brief presentations in an informal, relaxed setting.
There were too many prospects to call on the phone, and a standard invitation letter seemed hopelessly flat. Instead, I suggested that we send Sybase's key clients a small box with a specially designed label that read:
INSIDE: A special gift and an invitation from SYBASE
Inside was a handsome coffee mug bearing the Sybase logo. Sitting on top of the cup was a multi-fold invitation. On the cover of the invitation to breakfast was the headline:
Sybase would like you to have this cup.
On October 4th we'll pour the coffee.
The mailing, which contained additional information, was a tremendous hit and quickly filled up all available seats.
2. An Intel invitation to a press reception.
When Intel launched its i860 64-bit microprocessor, you can be sure it did more than simply fax out press releases. In fact, it invited the entire technical press corps to a lavish reception at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Intel called on me to write an invitation that would draw reporters to the big event. Intel enthusiastically told me that this chip "would knock people's socks off." That explains why I sent every reporter on the contact list a little box containing a pair of black wool socks. The wrapper around the socks simply read:
On February 27, Intel will knock yours off!
The package also contained an invitation complete with driving instructions.
I might add that this mailer was so successful, it was mentioned on the cover of The San Francisco Chronicle's Business Section. The blurb read " . . . Intel said the chip will 'knock your socks off' - and included extra socks with the invitation to the unveiling, to be held at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco."
That's the kind of impact you can have when you spend some money on three-dimensional mailings that beg to be opened!
3. An American President Lines mailing to hot prospects.
Some years ago, American President Lines (APL) came to me with an interesting problem. It wanted to set up sales presentations with a small number of companies that shipped perishable cargoes all over the world. APL wanted to prove that it was an expert at transporting cargoes like fruits, produce, seafood, poultry, flowers, etc.
How do you get your foot in the door with a company that is fanatical about product freshness? My answer was to send each executive a beautiful, fresh, exotic orchid in a lovely glass vase bearing the APL logo. The cover of the
accompanying note said:
When it has to arrive in perfect condition . . .
Inside was the pitch for a personal meeting. The logistics of getting fresh orchids to everyone were daunting, but the mailing results were fabulous!
Now before you tell me that you don't have the same fat budget for fancy enclosures that Sybase, Intel and American President Lines do, let me argue that you don't need a ton of money to make a big splash. Only a little imagination. Let me give you an example:
A good friend of mine produced slide shows for large corporations -- motivational programs, new product launches, top executive speaker support, etc. He wanted to tell Fortune 1,000 companies about his services and asked me to write him a high-impact letter that would generate a bunch of hot leads. My friend explained that his company faced a lot of competition, and he desperately needed to differentiate himself from the crowd.
Here's what I did: I had him produce 1,000 35mm transparencies, (the kind you put in a slide projector tray). Except these slides were all totally blank. I had my friend glue one of these slides to the top of each letter, right above the salutation.
I immediately began my pitch by making the point that everyone who produces slide shows starts with the same, identical blank slide. What makes the difference between a boring, lifeless slide presentation and an exciting, memorable event is the creativity and experience of the firm selected to produce the show . . . the ability of the producer to create a seamless flow of attractive images that inform, motivate and sell.
In other words, I didn't write the usual cliche-ridden letter that most of my friend's competitors sent out. (You know the kind I'm talking about . . . "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Barbara Smith and I represent a company that's totally committed to the success of your next presentation . . .")
Instead, I grabbed the reader's attention with the glued-on blank slide, then rolled into the copy.
I'm happy to say that the letter I wrote for my buddy generated a whole bunch of hot leads. and he was delighted.
So what's the bottom line? Simply, that every direct mailing you create doesn't have to be a five-piece, #10 package. If you have a small list to mail to, you can spend a little more, add a new dimension to your package (literally!), and dramatically increase your response rates.
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for software marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.