Tell a Good Story
Every time I read a general press newspaper article or magazine feature that bashes direct mail, be it directly or indirectly, it bothers me. Not because some of the gripes about direct mail aren't validit can invade people's privacy, flood their mailbox unnecessarily and be less than fully targeted-but because most of these "journalistic" pieces rarely present any of the positive aspects of direct selling.
You don't have to be in the promotions industry to know that no one is going to toot your own horn for you. In an industry frequently under attack for its shortcomings but increasingly relied on for its benefits, direct marketers really need to connect with customers and communicate the efforts they make to support the world around them.
For example, this month's issue contains a detailed look at the impact direct mail production has on the environment and provides steps direct marketers can take to improve their paper, ink and printing method selections (see "Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Direct Mail," page 18). Making such changes as switching to a paper containing post-consumer content or printing with water-based inks does not need to be a quiet act of corporate citizenship. Rather, it's the kind of positive story that you can share with prospects and customers; tell them your letter is "printed with soy ink," or that you use recycled paper. World Wildlife Fund, for example, has reported that it reaps benefits by way of response and customer goodwill by putting recycled logos on its direct mail efforts.
According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 65 percent of marketers used 10 percent post-consumer fiber content in at least some of their direct mail campaigns in 2003. Whether all of these firms are letting recipients know of their efforts is another twist. In "The DMA Environmental Resource for Direct Marketers," the DMA offers the following suggestions for communicating your environmentally friendly efforts to your prospects and customers:
* Be specific about your actions. Tell consumers that you've printed on "20
percent post-consumer content recycled paper," not merely on "recycled paper."
* Position your efforts in a humble, gracious manner. Note that your company is "doing its part" to protect the environment, not "saving the world."
* Continue to make improvements that you can share with customers. Environmental protection is an ongoing concern, not a one-and-done decision.
So, don't be afraid to step up to the plate and tell your customers that you are not just a sales-oriented operation bent on papering the planet with your direct mail efforts. Let people know that you have their interests in mind, too.
P.S. - Attending DM Days in New York at the end of June? Please stop by the Target Marketing Group booth, #819, and get a free demo of the Who's Mailing What! Archive's relaunched online search tool. See you there!