Insert Media Buying Guide: Thinking Outside of the Mailbox
Given the howls of agony coming from direct marketers feeling the sharp stab of the recent postage rate hike—not to mention the confusion over the new shape-based pricing system—now is a good time to look at a classic form of direct response marketing overlooked by many: inserts.
There are several different types of inserts—including statement stuffers, package inserts and catalog bind-ins—but for now, let’s focus on newspaper FSIs.
FSI is short for “free-standing insert,” which are those colorful brochures that fall out of newspapers. They offer a cornucopia of stuff—everything from grocery specials to sales on electronics, gardening and remodeling products and services, low-cost check reprint services and address labels, even travel deals.
“Big box” stores like Target, Home Depot and other local, regional and national merchants love ‘em. There’s a reason for that: FSIs are a perfect way to drive traffic (or get a toll-free phone order or Web order) without sticking a stamp on the offer or hoping a mailing is delivered in time for a weekend sale. Instead, the FSI is inserted into a newspaper, then delivered to a paid subscriber or along a geographic carrier route.
But FSIs are not the sole province of huge retailers. Given the segmentation possibilities offered by many newspapers, FSIs are worth consideration by nearly any size business for at least two reasons. First, you benefit from postage savings; FSIs are about 10 times cheaper than traditional direct mail. Second, you can target your insert. You can choose saturation placement or segment your market through delivery zones or ZIP codes.
One unique advantage of FSIs, notes Linda Kelley, president of CB/m Inc., a Bloomington, Minn.-based direct response advertising agency, is that the advertiser can control not only the creative that’s distributed, but also the day of distribution. For one remodeling client, timing makes all the difference.
“We found out we should always distribute their FSIs on Mondays,” Kelley says. “People have spent the weekend at home and, come Monday, they’re sick and tired of their house and ready to hire the remodeling company.”
Historically, insert media have been used for lower-end consumer packaged goods. But, as Kelley points out, many people “open and buy,” and inserts have sold many high-end products and services. Marketers who know who their best customers are and can identify that demographic geographically, can use FSIs to deliver their offer to good effect.
So, What About FSI Creative?
FSIs are a short-copy, offer-driven media. You must grab prospects immediately and tell them what’s in it for them. In many ways, according to copywriter Steve Wexler of the Steve Wexler Creative Group, successful FSIs are structured like catalog pages or full-page ads. That means big offer, big headline, big photo, fat-free copy.
Three more elements of a successful FSI include:
1. Use the strongest offer possible. Instead of an offer that says, “Remodel your kitchen and you’ll feel better about yourself,” go for emotional impact with “Remodel your kitchen and your friends will wonder how big of a raise you got.” Premiums and special, time-limited offers also boost response.
2. Don’t bury the price. If you’re selling extremely competitive products on price, point out the savings. And add a 30- or 60-day buy-back guarantee, e.g., “If you find it cheaper somewhere else in the next 30 days, we’ll refund you the difference.”
3. Don’t let the newspaper company do your creative. Hire a broker or use an agency or freelancer that specializes in FSIs, and hand the newspaper the finished digital artwork.
Finally, FSIs are their own niche, so if you want to test this medium, hire experts to maximize your return in terms of sales and/or leads as well as the knowledge you glean from this postage-free medium.
Lea Pierce is the founder of Wine Country Wordsmiths. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.